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Knives 101

One of the most important tools in the kitchen is the knife, which is a worthy investment for any cook. A knife begins with a single piece of metal that is stamped or forged into the desired shape. Forged knives are made from a single piece of molten steel and beaten into shape. Stamped knives are cut by a machine and generally less expensive than forged.

Knife blades can be made of different metals with benefits and drawbacks. Carbon steel blades are easily sharpened due to their soft consistency, but tend to discolor over time. A stainless steel blade will not rust, corrode or discolor and is very durable; however, it’s a bit more difficult to sharpen.

The most commonly used metal is high-carbon stainless steel, which resists corrosion and discoloration, and is easily sharpened. A newer material being used for blades, ceramic zirconia, is also extremely durable.

Knife handles are often made of hard wood infused with plastic and attached to the blade with rivets. There are also molded polypropylene and stainless steel handled-knives that are attached to the blade without seams or rivets making them more durable and longer lasting. Here are the essential knives for any kitchen:

French Knife (or chef’s knife) – This kitchen workhorse does everything from mincing garlic and chopping onions to cutting a whole chicken. The knife tip can be used for trimming, peeling or scoring foods, while the flat side of the blade can be used to crush garlic. A good blade length is about 8 inches.

Utility Knife – An all-purpose knife with a 6- to 8-inch long blade. This smaller version of a chef’s knife is used for cutting fruits and vegetables, or carving poultry.

Paring Knife – A short knife with a rigid blade about 3 to 4 inches long. This easy-to-handle knife is best for detail work, such as peeling and cutting garlic, soft fruits or boiled potatoes, and hulling strawberries.

Boning Knife – A knife used for the intricate work of trimming silver skin from tenderloins, removing the breast from a whole chicken or separating meat from the bone. The thin blade can be either flexible or rigid with a length of 5 to 7 inches.

Serrated Utility Knife – This knife is good for a variety of tasks, including slicing tomatoes and cutting bread. The blade is slightly flexible and between 10 and 12 inches long.

DID YOU KNOW… that it’s easier to cut yourself with a dull blade than it is with a sharp blade? It’s a good idea to have the right tools and know-how for sharpening knives. A steel is a slightly abrasive steel rod that hones, or straightens, the blade’s edge. A steel does not actually sharpen the blade, so they need to be sharpened periodically. A sharpening stone (a flat brick of synthetic abrasives) and other knife sharpening tools are used to keep knives sharp.

You can stop by the Meat Department to have your knives sharpened for free (serrated knives excluded).