Opening presents on Christmas day is my least favorite part of the season. Not only do I hate to shop but surprises make me very uncomfortable. Social skills are not my strong point since I have Autism and how to respond to a gift gets in the way of the pleasure of receiving them.
So it was with trepidation and some major urging to get me to sit down and open presents on this particular Christmas morn. To my great delight resting under the piney bows of the Christmas tree was a practical gift, one that will last me my lifetime and beyond. It was a large set of beautiful kitchen knives. Oh how I have grown to LOVE those knives.
Knives are the most important tools in the kitchen as you chop and slice your way through three square meals a day and one comes to appreciate good ones. Ones that conform to the hand, the weight and balance just right, and slices smoothly and easily. This leaves ones mind freed to be inspired. After all recipes are only a starting point to creativity.
Many of you don’t know it but you are using a plow horse to do the job of a cutting horse — to use a simile. It is why I bring my own knives when working with others in their kitchens, just as chefs do. I have been blessed to have a husband who ranks a master in knife making. He understands metallurgy and forges his own blades. He also has worked over 20 years with the commercial knife industry and has an intimate knowledge of products from various companies. This includes kitchen knives. Though kitchen knives are not his canvas of choice and therefore I will never have one of his creations, he knows what makes a good one. To a lesser degree, I do also.
You don’t have to have an entire set of knives, just a few really good ones will do. Personally I have three I use over and over again, others less often. Three that is of a certain style but of those three styles I have two of each. I hate a dull knife and my knife sharpener, a.k.a. husband, does not always get to the task as fast as I need and I do LOVE a good sharp knife. But quality does not remain if not properly care for them so lets go over a few do’s and don’ts for your kitchen knives.
**A knife should not be left with food on it and never be left wet. Slice a tomato, rinse it under hot water for a few seconds, dry it, and put it away. Slice cheese, put a few drops of dish soap on the blade, place under the hot water tap, wash with a cloth, and dry thoroughly. Food left on the surface erodes the metal. It takes only a minute to clean a knife so use it and clean it right away.
**Never leave a knife in a humid environment. Not only is it a safety issue to leave a knife in a sink full of soapy water as you dive in and risk getting cut but sustained humidity will rust your knife, even stainless steel ones. Stainless is a combination of metals – two of which are nickel and carbon. The nickel resists rust and is shiny but given enough time it will succumb to rust erosion. Carbon is included because though it easily rusts, it adds strength and ease of sharpening – two musts.
I like wood handles for their feel and beauty. Water is especially damaging to them and eventually the handles will swell, split, separate from the blade if left wet. I treat the wood on mine occasionally with an oil to keep them in prime condition.
Never, ever, ever put a knife in a dishwasher! If you are placing your knives in a dishwasher, not only do your knives end up sitting with food on them that is eating away at the metal but they remain wet for far too long. The longer a knife remains wet and dirty, the more the quality of the steel deteriorates. Dishwasher soap is formulated to eat away food on a plate and it will over time eat away your steel too. As for wood handled knives. You don’t put your wooden spoon in a dishwasher so why put a wooden handled knife? Over time it will cause it to split and separate from the blade.
If the food, heat, and water, doesn’t kill your knife, then the clanging against other utensils will. It chips away at the blade even if you can’t see it without a microscope. Also knives are hard on the dishwasher itself. They are meant to cut after all.
What I’ve learned is that a quality chef never leaves his precious knives for anyone else but himself to clean. Many carry them home at night. They are the most important tool they own for the kitchen. And if that isn’t motivation enough, they cost a small fortune. I know each of the knives in my set are worth hundreds each.
You may be telling yourself, “Mine aren’t worth much so why go to all this trouble?” First of all, tools deserve respect. Secondly, a task you do day after day, year, after year deserves the right kind of tools. It amazes me that a man will spend a fortune on a gun he uses a few times a year but not on a knife he uses daily. Or a woman on a dress or shoes she uses maybe once a year or once a month but not on a knife she uses multiple times a day in the kitchen. Believe me, they are worth the price. Even before this set, I had a few good knives. That means now I have a lot of good knives. I can do more kitchen tasks using the proper tool and the task becomes far easier.
Buy the right tools for the job and you will thank yourself many times over.
Then take care of those tools and they will last a very long time, if not a lifetime. Good knives are definitely worth paying a price for and taking care of.