Jarret Hughes has held numerous cooking positions at cafes, diners, and family restaurants.
He takes a "keep it simple" attitude toward cooking, preferring olive oil to truffle oil.
Jarret strives to inform readers about the history of various foods while offering professional
advice regarding food purchase and preparation.
"The hardest thing in life to learn is
which bridge to cross and which to burn."
A wise, old chef once told me, "The most useful tools you will ever possess
in the kitchen are your own two hands." He was right. Without a hand, it would
be extremely difficult to use what he called the next most useful tool — the
If your current knives can barely make their way through warm butter, it's
time to buy some new ones. Hopefully, this article will help you understand
the different types of knives, as well as what to look for when purchasing
Common knife types:
With so many different types of knives, it's difficult for consumers to understand
which types to buy. Some of the most common knife types include:
Chef's knife (a.k.a. French knife, cook's knife) — This is the king of
all knives. A chef's knife is used for a multitude of tasks, including chopping,
slicing, and dicing. These knives vary in size, but most people are comfortable
using one between seven and nine inches.
Paring knife — A paring knife is used for peeling and trimming. Since
paring knives are smaller than chef's knives (usually between three and five
inches), they are often used for cuts where more finesse is required.
Bread knife — This knife has a serrated blade and can be used for cutting
low-carb bread, tomatoes, and other things that have a tendency to "squish."
Slicing knife — These are usually a tad longer and thinner than chef's
knives. Slicing knives are most often used for carving cooked meats.
Boning knife — These knives are used to remove raw meat (usually chicken
or beef) from the bone.
Fillet knife — Similar to slicing knives, fillet knifes are thinner than
most other knives. These knives are used to fillet fish.
Cleaver — A cleaver is used for heavy-duty chopping. Rectangular and heavy,
cleavers can be used to cut through bones with ease.
Infomercial knife — For all your aluminum can and shoe leather cutting needs.
Of course, there are several other knife types including the utility knife, sausage
knife, decorating knife, trimming knife, and peeling knife. However, for most people,
counter and drawer space is at a premium. Why spend the money on twenty knives you'll
never use? In reality, an adequately equipped kitchen only needs a handful of knives.
The key is in knowing what to look for so that you purchase a few useful, high-quality
knives rather than a slew of cheap, useless ones.
What to look for:
Before you even start looking at knives, you need to set a budget. Buying knives is a
lot like buying a new car. There are several different brands and models that vary
widely in price. If you had $20,000 to spend on a car, chances are you wouldn't go
shopping for a new Lexus. Instead, you do a little research and shop for cars that
are in that $20,000 price range. You may end up spending much more than you want to
if you don't set a budget for knives upfront.
Once you've set a budget, you can start thinking about what you want to buy. Are you
looking for a set of multiple knives or do you only need a couple of knives to serve
a specific purpose? Again, I believe that it's better to buy one or two good quality
knives than a whole block of cheap knives. In fact, unless you have a budget of $400
or more, I wouldn't recommend a block of knives. Instead, start out by buying a high
quality chef's knife. If you have money to spare after buying that one, a paring
knife should be your next purchase, followed by a serrated knife. For the majority
of your cooking needs, these three knives will serve you well.
As far as brands go, I highly recommend two-Wüsthof and J.A. Henckels. Both of these
knives come from a place called Solingen, Germany, which has long been recognized for
quality knife production. Of course, there are several good brands of knives out
No matter which brand you choose, be on the lookout for the following qualities:
Blade — Knife blades can vary widely in size. A chef's knife, for example, can
range anywhere from five to twelve inches. A good rule of thumb for a chef's knife is
to buy the longest blade that you feel comfortable holding. Make sure you pick up the
knife before buying it. After all, you wouldn't buy a new car without a test drive! Most
good quality consumer blades are made from high carbon stainless steel. The phrase "high
carbon" usually helps distinguish a superior blade from an inferior one. Of course, some
knives are made from titanium, but they are often even more expensive than their high
carbon steel counterparts.
Knife handles — I don't recommend wood handles. They look good when you first
buy them, but they are difficult to maintain and usually end up looking bad after a few
years. Again, it's important that you pick up a knife and hold it in your hand before
buying it. Make sure the handle feels comfortable to you. Otherwise, move on to another
Tang — No, I'm not talking about the space drink. The best type of knife to buy
has something called a "full tang." This means that the knife blade material runs all
the way through the length of the handle. In other words, the knife doesn't stop just
after entering the handle (like some lesser quality knives do.) Full tang knives are
the most durable type you can buy. To make sure your knife has a full tang, just take
a look at the handle. Can you see the metal going all the way around the outside of
the handle? If so, it's a full tang knife.
Forged vs. stamped — The difference between forged and stamped knives is like
night and day. Forged knives are hand made using high heat to form them and stamped
knives are made from templated cutters. Forged knives are higher quality and more
expensive. You can usually tell the difference between a forged and stamped knife by
simply picking it up. A forged knife will usually feel heavier, but also more balanced.
If you still can't tell, just look at the price tag!
One last piece of advice when buying knives-stay away from ones that claim to never
need sharpening. These types of knives might as well be marked "disposable."
Knife care and storage:
A good knife can literally last you a lifetime, but you need to take care of it! Even
though many knives claim to be dishwasher safe, I would recommend against washing them
this way. First, the high heat can damage the handle (and even the blade itself.)
Second, if you leave dirty dishes in the dishwasher for more than a few hours before
washing them, food that's stuck to the blade can actually damage it. Take the extra
time and wash you knife (carefully) by hand in warm water with a mild soap. Be sure
to dry your knife thoroughly with a soft cloth before storing it away.
A good sharpening steel is essential for the care of your knives. However, the term
"sharpening" isn't really accurate. Over the course of using your knife, the blade
will bend slightly to one side or the other. It's inevitable. Therefore, you are
actually straightening your blade when you use a steel.
You should use a steel to straighten your blade on a regular basis. If you've never
used a steel before, don't be intimidated. Hold the knife in the hand you normally
hold it with and hold the steel (pointed straight up) with the other hand. While
holding the knife at a slight 20 degree angle, slide it down the steel. Move to the
other side of the steel and repeat with the opposite side of the knife. Do each side
of the knife no more than eight times, and make sure you are covering the full
length of the blade. Be very careful not to cut yourself! Go slow until you get
the hang of the motion-this isn't a race. After a little practice, the process
will go a lot quicker.
Eventually, your knife may need to be completely resharpened. This happens with
the blade bends too far to one side and/or becomes too weak to straighten. There
are some home sharpening systems on the market today, but if you don't want to
sharpen the knives yourself, there are experts you can go to. Ask your butcher for
Storing your knives properly is one step to keep your knives in good shape. There
are four primary ways to store your knives:
Knife block — There are several attractive knife blocks on the market today.
However, unless you are buying a full set of knives, your block my look a bit empty.
Magnet bars — These are magnetic strips that you can mount to your kitchen
wall. They work very well, but some people don't like the way their naked knives
look hanging on the wall for all to see.
Cook's case — This looks like a briefcase or attaché case. The case is
sectioned off inside to provide each knife a place to reside. Personally, this is
the method I prefer. The only downside is that the case takes up more room than a
knife block or magnetic bar.
Kitchen drawer — I don't recommend storing your knives loose in a drawer.
It's a great way to dull your knives and accidentally get cut as you dig around
trying to find that last twist tie.
Think of your new knives as a kitchen investment. And whatever you decide to buy,
make sure you are careful with your new knives! Chances are, they are much sharper
than your old ones.
Copyright © January 2004 Jarret Hughes and Low Carb Luxury
Title photo Copyright © 2004 Neil Beaty and Low Carb Luxury
Pork Chops Paprikash
Preheat broiler with rack 4 to 5 inches from heat.
- 2 teaspoons butter
- 1 medium onion, sliced very thinly
- 1 1/4 teaspoons paprika, divided
- 1 teaspoon garlic salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 (5-6-oz) bone-in center cut pork chops (about 1/2" thick)
- 1/2 cup well-drained sauerkraut
- 1/3 cup sour cream
Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Separate
onion slices into rings; add to skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, until
golden brown and tender, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of the paprika, garlic salt, and pepper over both sides
of the pork chops. Place chops on rack of broiler pan.
Broil 5 minutes. Turn; broil until chops are no longer pink in center, 4 to 5 minutes.
Combine onion with sour cream and remaining 1/4 teaspoon paprika; mix well. Garnish chops with onion
mixture, or spread onion mixture over chops and return to broiler. Broil just
until hot, about 1 minute.
Makes 4 servings — 4.2 grams of carbohydrate per serving.