By Jeannette Ordas of Everybody Likes Sandwiches*

People often ask me how to outfit their kitchen without having to spend a lot. It's a topic I know a lot about. I have a tiny 8 foot by 6 foot kitchen (wall to wall), apartment-sized appliances (alas, no dishwasher!) and half of my kitchen was outfitted at the thrift store (including a couple Le Crusets - oh la la). So when I get emails from people wondering what they should buy so they can start cooking, I just tell them why wait? Use what you have, get the essentials and don't worry about the rest.

Today I'm writing about knives. People have a lot of opinions about what constitutes a good knife and you can get all the specifics over HERE. But for me I just need my knife to cut something without much effort.

The most important knife in my arsenal is the chef's knife. It has a long blade (about 8 to 10 inches) and it's great for chopping up onions, slicing tomatoes and a capable of a variety of kitchen tasks. Want an all-purpose knife? This is it. I own 3 of varying sizes and quality so that I've always got one at the ready. Two of my chef knives are from Ikea and they came together as a pair. I think I paid $5 for both of them, yet they've been with me for 15 years and still do a bang-up job. The other is a fancy Henckels which I got as a gift for my birthday a few years ago. It's heavier and it holds it's sharpness a bit longer and the quality is obvious.

Next up is the bread knife. A serrated blade is it's most recognizable feature as the serrated edges cut beautifully through a hard crust and a soft interior. These blades should be long enough (8 to 10 inches) so that they can manage through a loaf of your homemade pride. While I've wielded some fancy bread knives in my past, at home I'm quite content with the Chinatown cheapie I inherited when I married my husband. It's a bread knife, it slices bread. And apparently people use it to cut tomatoes too.

The last essential knife would have to be the paring knife. Mine is pink and comes from Switzerland. It's cheap and cheerful and I use it almost as much as my chef's knife. Small and sharp, the paring knife is probably responsible for most of my kitchen mishaps (keep bandaids close at hand!). Perfect for dicing and mincing small items like garlic or ginger.

Keeping a knife sharp is really the whole point of everything. A dull knife not only smushes tomatoes but crushes spirits as well. If you have fancy knives you should probably take them to a specialist, but I swear by my knife sharpener. Mine is by Henckels and it's small, easy to use and affordable (about $20). And it was the best thing to ever to happen to the life of my kitchen. A few passes and my dull, lifeless knife becomes a lean, mean, killing machine (well, not literally).

That's my knife primer 101. Have your own suggestions and comments? Let me hear them! Obviously everyone is going to have their opinion on what makes a great knife, but my main concern is just to get people into the kitchen. So get the basics and start chopping!

* Hey there! Follow my blog? Well, check out my newly redesigned site as I've moved from Blogspot onto WordPress and into my own domain.

Jan Halvarson


The Hip Hostess said...

I have to have Sharp Knives!!! Since the darling daughter introduced me to Ceramic, I don't know if I can ever go back. A little pricey but worth every penny.
It IS the sharpest knife in the drawer! I've got my eye on the little pink one. Every girl should have a pink knife, don' ya think?

Coco Cake Land said...

yay Jeannette! my hubby is obsessed with keeping our knives sharp. I gotta agree wtih ya, knives are the best.

Also, nice score on Le Creuset at Value Village!! i've inherited two pieces from family members myself too. Yay!

Joanne said...

Good knives are a must! I love your serrated bread knife, the handle is awesome and what woman can't resist the pretty pink knife!

I have quite a nifty collection of chefs knives given to us by our dear friend as a wedding gift. Having lived in Japan for 3 years, this guy knows his knives. Despite the fact that I have never sharpened my knives since I received them 3 years ago, they are still sharp, but probably can use a bit of rejuvenating.