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Do Your Knives Say You're a Good Chef?

"Pack your knives and go," host Kathie Lee Joel tells the latest hapless chef school graduate ousted from Bravo's reality TV competition "Top Chef." Knives are the tools of the trade. The right knife serves as the extension of the chef's hand, according to certified master chef and culinary school instructor Ron DeSantis. Consequently, knife selection, use, and maintenance is the mark of the professional. Nothing screams amateur like knives that have lost their edge; dull knives are a kitchen accident waiting to happen.

The Culinary Bottom Line: Buy the Best Knives You Can Afford

If you're a serious chef, you'll want a knife that's made from a single piece of forged steel, not a blade that's stamped out of sheet metal. Your chef's knife needs to have some serious heft to it, if it's to last.

Steel keeps its sharp edge and a good knife can last the length of a chef's career. That's why the best knives come with a lifetime guarantee.

Must-Have Knives for the Cooking School Graduate

If you're looking for a knife for a gift--for yourself or for the chef school grad--and you can only choose one, then buy the chef's knife. This 6- or 8-inch knife is an all-purpose kitchen workhorse. Add a serrated knife or bread knife next, then a smaller paring knife.

Of course, if you're giving the knife to someone you love, tradition says you must include a packet of sugar so the sweet offsets the sharp.

Knife Care

A dull knife will defeat even the best cooking school graduate, slipping when least expected. You're far more apt to cut yourself with a dull knife than a sharp one, chefs insist. Have your knives professionally sharpened. Throw out knives with cracked handles or gaps between the handle and the steel, as these harbor germs.

Well-maintained knives speak volumes about you, the chef. "When you have a good knife in your hand, you feel it," chef Marcus Samuelsson tells the Boston Globe. "It's the instrument for a chef."

Sources:

  • "For chef, knife is finely tuned instrument," by Emily Shartin. The Boston Globe (MA) (Aug 07, 2005).
  • "Newsday, Melville, N.Y., Shopping With column," by Laurie Squire. Newsday (Melville, NY) (Oct 09,2005).
  • "When your knife is sharp, food preparation goes smoothly," by Candace Renalls. Duluth News-Tribune (MN) (Feb 09, 2004).
  • Top Chef