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Kitchen Secrets - The Tool You Shouldn't Do Without

Kitchen Secrets - The Tool You Shouldn't Do Without

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Published by Marty Richardson
There is something to be said for collecting kitchen tools. My mother cannot throw any gadget away! Needless to say, the drawers are so full of tools that you can't even open them. Then, when you wiggle the drawer open, you have to empty half of the drawer to even see what's in there....and there's no way you can get them all to fit back in after you're finished!
There is something to be said for collecting kitchen tools. My mother cannot throw any gadget away! Needless to say, the drawers are so full of tools that you can't even open them. Then, when you wiggle the drawer open, you have to empty half of the drawer to even see what's in there....and there's no way you can get them all to fit back in after you're finished!

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Published by: Marty Richardson on Oct 30, 2009
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Kitchen Secrets - The Tool You Shouldn't Do Without

There is something to be said for collecting kitchen tools. My mother cannot throw any gadget away! Needless to say, the drawers are so full of tools that you can't even open them. Then, when you wiggle the drawer open, you have to empty half of the drawer to even see what's in there....and there's no way you can get them all to fit back in after you're finished! Can you relate? But I digress. The most important tool in your kitchen is a knife. After 27 years of chopping, slicing and dicing around the globe, and owning two dozen assorted knives...I have a suggestion for you regarding the most important tool in your kitchen drawer. My mom has a knife drawer, which you enter at your own risk, because knives are pointing in both directions and some of the blades are facing up! On the other side of the kitchen is a knife block filled with a knife set, most likely purchased for a Mother's Day long gone by. Enough bustin' on my Mom's kitchen! The point of this article is to tell you that it only takes three really good knives to perform most kitchen jobs. And "really good" in this instance, does NOT mean really expensive! I want to discuss the "anatomy" of a knife, so you can comparison shop, or evaluate your own collection. Let's start with the most important part of the knife...the blade. The most common types of metal used in kitchen knives today are carbon steel, stainless steel and high carbon stainless steel. Carbon steel is a composite metal that is typically inexpensive, holds a good edge and is easy to sharpen. The downside is that they can rust and chemically react to acidic foods and onions, which means they are high maintenance. Stainless steel blades are more difficult to sharpen, and tend not to hold the edge as long as carbon steel, but they will not stain or corrode. Taking the best characteristics of both materials, and combining them, led to the high carbon stainless steel knife. It does not rust or corrode and can be easily honed to a razor's edge. So, when you shop for your first, or your next set of knives, remember that the quality of the knife blade is of primary importance. The second distinction to note about knife blades, is whether they are forged or stamped. Forged blades are made by heating up the metals, molding, and pounding it into the shape of a knife, then it's ground and sharpened. The stamped or machined blades are cut out of sheet of metal and ground into the shape of a knife, and then heated. So what's the difference? Forged blades are more substantial, better balanced, hold an edge longer, but cost more. Stamped blades are lighter, and inexpensive, but need more frequent sharpening. The difference extends through to the handle too. Forged blades have a "tang", which extends to the end of the handle and is typically secured by three rivets. It also has a "bloster", which is a thick finger guard where the blade meets the handle. These two features help to balance the knife and contributes to the overall weight of the knife. With repeated sharpening, the blade is worn down, but the bolster remains

unaffected, meaning half of the blade no longer makes contact with the cutting surface. Stamped blades typically don't run the length of the handle and some times the attachment loosens causing problems. They also have no bolster, which is why they are lighter and less balanced. Without the bolster, the entire blade can be sharpened. With regards to the handles, size does matter! If you have dainty little hands or large bear claws, chosing the right handle is a matter of preference. I suggest you pick up the knife before you buy it online. It may not have the shape that fits your hand comfortably. Sanitation and resistance to water are two more considerations. Time for a quick rant on how to wash your knife! Although most knives are made to be dishwasher safe, I recommend that you hand wash them for three reasons. First, the agitation of the dishwasher exposes the blade to potential damage. Second, the high temperature and humidity inside the dishwasher may eventually cause the handle to separate from the blade, and the third reason is safety related. Dishwasher features vary between machines, but often, there is no place dedicated for this purpose. Also, be sure the knife is NSF(National Science Foundation) certified, which means it is safe to use and has passed sanitation standards. The single most important knife is your Chef's knife (or Cook's knife, or French knife). This one knife, properly handled, can be used on 9 out of 10 cutting jobs from chopping delicate herbs, to that juicy onion that brings tears to your eyes, to butchering bones for homemade stock. The second, is an all purpose paring knife. This smaller knife has a much shorter blade of 4 inches or less. There are many jobs in the kitchen that require more detail and knife control like peeling round fruits and vegetables, segmenting citrus, and deveining shrimp. The blade is also more flexible than a chef's knife. The third, is a serrated, or bread knife. This is the highly specialized knife of the group. Due to its saw-like blade, they always seem to be sharp. The wavy cutting edges create multiple surfaces which are equally effective for cutting through the crusty exterior of a loaf of bread as well as the soft interior. Tomato and eggplant skins can also be particularly challenging to conventional blades if your knife is slightly dull. There are many other specialty knives that you can buy, but most of them are specifically for meat processing. A boning knife, for instance, has a long, thin flexible blade that is useful for cutting through joints, trimming silverskin, and separating flesh from the bones. Slicing, or carving knives make it easy to carve thin slices from large roasts. Cleavers are generally used for processing bones for making stock. Now, being a professional chef, I tended to buy very substantial, expensive, imported blades by Wustof, Henckels and Tojiro. No one was allowed to use my knives, as most cost more than $100 each and I have owned some of them for more than twenty years. Over the years, I have used countless numbers of brands and styles of knives, and I'm passing on what I've learned to you.

There are four basic factors to consider. First, how much money are you willing to spend on kitchen tools. Second, how much use will the knife get and on what types of food? Third, will you sharpen your knives regularly and what will you use to do that? Finally, how does the knife feel in your hand? Obviously, these questions suggest that buying the most important tool in your kitchen comes down to your choice! If on the other hand, you think that is a cop out... My recommendation to you, is to buy a trio of Forschner Fibrox knives, a Chef, a Paring, and a Bread knife. All three of these knives can be purchased for less than $70 total. They have been highly rated by Cook's Illustrated magazine and they are commonly used in many commercial kitchens. The handles are slip resistant, even when wet. The blades are stamped out of high carbon stainless steel. They are certified by the National Science Foundation, and they come with a lifetime guarantee. They would be a great choice if you are just starting out, or don't want to spend a small fortune. I love my "high end" knives, but that comes down to what I'm used to. Buy the best knife you're willing to afford that has the right feel, then learn how to clean, sharpen, and otherwise, care for it, because if my Mother's kitchen drawer is any indication...you could own that knife for the rest of your life! Marty Rich has been a professional chef for more than 27 years. He is dedicated to helping everyday people, like you and me, learn to create easy, simple meals with the freshest of ingredients. For more information on organic living please visit http://www.chefmartyrich.com.

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