To cook well, you need three things: fresh ingredients, simple techniques, and a few, high quality tools. Like anything, having the right equipment makes doing the job that much better. Whether it's a well seasoned pan or a casserole dish that's been passed down through the generations, great kitchenware makes cooking a joy.
A Chef's knife is the single most important tool in any kitchen, and is used in the creation of virtually every dish. A sharp knife means more control and less slippage when you cut, leading to safer, more consistent slices. Plus, cutting with a sharp knife is just more fun! From mincing garlic and fine herbs to breaking down that tough butternut squash you got in your CSA, a truly sharp chef's knife will help you get the job done.
Choosing a Knife
For such an important piece of equipment, it's worth doing a little digging to find a knife you love to use. There are a lot of great knives out there with lots of different features, but in the 18 months we spent designing the Misen Chef's Knife, only two things mattered most, steel and feel:
Steel: In general, harder steels are better because they can hold a razor sharp edge longer. It used to be that you had to choose between hard, carbon steels that rusted with any moisture, and softer stainless steels, but modern technology has allowed for high carbon stainless steels to be produced that are very hard and still resistant to corrosion. The steel we use is a Japanese high carbon steel called AUS-8.
Feel: You can have the best steel in the world, but if the knife isn't comfortable to hold, you won't use it. A good knife will feel balanced in your hand. Bolsters are optional, but we opted to include one in the Misen knife because it added so much comfort and support while cooking. Find a blade length you're comfortable with (between 8" and 10" are the most common but some people prefer slightly less), and be sure to hold it with a proper "pinch" grip.
Caring for your knife
A quality knife can last you a lifetime, but it's a precision instrument, not a blunt tool. To perform at it's best, every knife needs a little care. Here are a few common best practices you can use to keep your knife cutting sharp:
Cleaning: Always wash by hand with soap and water, and dry thoroughly. The high heat, harsh detergents, and general banging around that happen in a dishwasher are all bad things for your knife.
Sharpening: All knives, no matter how good, go dull eventually. In our experience, using a whetstone is the best way to get your edge back in top form, but if you're not into the whole 'sharpen by hand' thing, you can always send it out to the pros.
Storage: Our suggestion would be to cover the edge using a blade guard, but whatever you do just don't throw your knife in a drawer unprotected!
Cutting Board: Using a quality cutting board will keep your knife sharper longer. End-grain wood boards are best, followed by rubber. Marble and glass cutting boards are too hard for knives and can seriously damage the blade's edge.
Choose a good knife, care for it, and it will serve you well.
Misen is an online company making a single, high quality Chef's Knife for less, and is live on Kickstarter for just 48 more hours! Check them out here: http://kck.st/1Gnmkf9