Well-Loved Knives

A million years ago, when I showed up to Crate & Barrel with a clipboard to register for our wedding, I very religiously recorded SKU numbers for all the shiny cooking gear before me, dreaming of the day in the not-so-distant future that these items would replace our dusty old cooking gear. Nowadays, I put a premium on that dusty old cooking gear — the utensils and pots and pans and spoons that wear the prized patina of use and love.

In that spirit, then, I’d like to discuss cutlery, specifically my six favorite knives, a veritable motley crew of different brands, shapes, ages, and prices.

1. Chef’s Knife Miyabi 400fc (8-inch) Like a good tennis racquet, I’ve always thought a chef’s knife should feel like an extension of your own arm, which is another way of saying: It’s personal. This Miyabi was a gift, something that seems crazy to me because I’m so particular about them — weightwise, lengthwise, the way the handle molds to my fingers — and it’s the one I reach for first no matter what the task. As with most long-lasting good-quality knives, it’s pricey, but for serious cooks, or serious wedding register-ers (yep, coined that word), I would not discount it. ($170)

2. G-Fusion Knife, New West KnifeWorks (8-inch) This knife was also a gift, from me to Andy. I bought it for him after Hunter Lewis, the food editor at Bon Appetit at the time, told me he didn’t go anywhere without his. There are all kinds of wonky design reasons why the pros swear by it, but mostly I appreciate that it has heft without bulk. I usually reach for this when the Miyabi is dirty or otherwise occupied, but with it’s long, slender blade, it’s my first choice when slicing a roast chicken, a pork loin, or anything one might classify as a hunk of meat. ($269) (Don’t worry, the next few are cheaper!)

3. Utility Knife, PureKomachi 2 (6-inch) $12 As astute readers may recall, we bought this high-carbon stainless lightweight as a “starter knife” for Phoebe when she was eight or nine. So much for that idea! Andy and I fight over who gets to use it and it always seems to be in the dishwasher. At this price, I’m not sure why we haven’t bought a spare. ($12)

4. Serrated Paring Knife, Victorinox (4-inch) I guess technically you’re supposed to use these as steak knives, or as flatware when you’re confronting a mega pork chop on your dinner plate. We own four of them for that purpose, but I use them for just about everything else, too: slicing any kind of fruit, supreme-ing oranges, cutting tomatoes, de-stemming kale. Bonus: They come in a rainbow of colors. ($8)

5. Paring Knife, Wusthof (4-inch) Andy bought this for me as a congratulatory gift after I took my GMAT in 1995. (At the time, we were in our first entry-level jobs and a good-quality Wusthof knife was my idea of living large.) My business school dreams have long since evaporated, but my little Wusthof is still going strong, which is an amazing thing if you really think about it. I’d buy another one again in a second, but it doesn’t seem like I’ll ever need to. ($20)

6. Serrated Wood-handled Bread Knife, Victorinox (10 inches) This is one of those utensils in my kitchen whose provenance I’ve completely forgotten. I just know that it’s always been there and when it’s not, I panic. In it’s 25+ year tenure, it’s sliced Friday night challahs, Saturday night baguettes, and too many Sunday morning bagels to count. Note: Mine is 9 1/2 inches, the one I linked to was the closest I could find, size-wise. ($70)

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12 Comments

Raising The Capable Student

Do you sharpen them yourself? The idea of that freaks me out, so I take them to Sur la Table when they advertise the knife sharpening guy is there, but I feel like a little bit of a sellout for not being brave enough to do it myself.

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Divya

Agree with previous poster. How do you sharpen them? How do you care for them to make it last so long? You stick them in the Dishwasher? My knives don’t last as long.

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Carinna Harding

I have a question which knife do you use to cut meat? I was so glad to see this post because my knives need to be replaced. I was always told the utility knife was for meat and not the chef’s knife. Do you have an opinion? Thanks!

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Elizabeth

Dinner: A Love Story finally posted Knives: A Love Story. What a great morning read! Isn’t it beautiful how kitchen tools, almost more than anything else for those of us who cook, are tied into our sweet memories? I’d say the ones that hold the most memories for me are my Le Creuset saucepan I got for my wedding and a set of vintage coffee cups and plates I thrifted in high school, my first real grown up dishes.

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katie

The knives I feel closest to are the one’s in my mom’s kitchen I’m not close to a wedding registry, so I think my christmas list will include a wonderful knife. I just don’t know which one yet.

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a

Isn’t it amazing how attached we become to these wonderful tools? I lost a favorite knife last year, and have missed its presence in a way that is almost comical in its intensity. I had both a paring knife and a slightly longer–I think it would be called “utility”–knife that came in a set of maybe 5 bought for my first apartment. They were not all that good but had those micro serrations and could be put in the dishwasher. All but the 2 smallest are long given away, but they were perfect for so many uses. Not the ones I choose for “real” cooking, but my go-to knives for slicing fruit, cheese, etc…the daily use ones that put food in front of my (now-teenaged) children every night for years. I took the utility knife to a team tailgate in order to slice something onsite, and somehow it never made it home. Went back looking, contacted everyone involved to be sure it did not end up in the wrong bag, searched as if slightly deranged. I reach for it almost daily and mourn its absence. And while I have looked at Target et al (for it was that sort of knife), I don’t see it’s exact replica, and cannot quite bring myself to replace it with a lesser example. Silly? Probably. But I do think it’s amazing how much you can miss that perfect (personal as you say) extension of your own arm as if you’d lost just that!

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Catherine Beaudet

I have 2 knives that I go to constantly: My Chef’s knife and my Santoku. The 10-inch Chef’s knife was bought by me for me when I just couldn’t stand my parent’s dulling knives anymore (and begging them to get them sharpened fell on deaf ears). I have been very careful with this knife, keeping it clean and sharp with my own stone. And the price was great, only $50 CDN at my local grocery store (that was over 5 years ago now).

My 7-inch Santoku was purchased by me when I moved into my new place and it was the find of the century. I was in the local dollar store looking for funnels and a colander when I can across this beauty. Forged from one piece of silvery metal, light but not overly so, a blade so much sharper than I had ever felt… and only $2 CDN!!! SOLD!! This is my go to blade for everything these days, and a lovely sharpening stone on my counter makes sure that sharp edge stays sharp. For $2, I should have stocked up.

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melissa

We love the Victorinox paring knives too–but the un-serrated ones (word for that??). We have three, but for some reason can only ever find two at a time. They are the BEST for cutting apple slices (among many other things obviously).

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Charlie Cook

This post is so me! I love my knives (and other kitchen products) that I look forward to using each time. Using the right tool for the job goes a LONG way for making cooking and cleaning enjoyable. I noticed you do not own any Global Knives – they are amazing and worth considering if you’re looking at the Wusthof price range. Global doesn’t have a seam for the handle and for cleaning that makes a huge difference for me. No cracks for things to loosen or spots for food/bacteria to hide. Thanks for sharing! – Charlie, http://www.lemonbutterlove.com

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Bonnie

I’ve been using a hodgepodge of knives for the 20 years that I’ve been married, my favorite being a 10′ chef’s knife I picked up in a restaurant supply store 12 years ago for $20. That thing stays sharp forever. Anyway, on Christmas morning a couple of days ago, I opened a gift from my husband (who is a picky eater and doesn’t cook at all). Drum roll……..it was a set of Wusthof Ikon knives!! 8 and 10 inch chef’s, a bread knife, a paring knife, a utility knife, steak knives, and a block to hold them all. They are beautiful and his thoughtfulness brought tears to my eyes! I told a friend who said her husband would be in so much trouble if he got her knives for Christmas. Clearly, she’s not a cook. My first thought was “Well, Jenny and Andy will be properly happy for me.” :-) Happy Holidays!

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