Edge in the Kitchen: The Ultimate Guide to Kitchen Knives-How to Buy Them, Keep Them Razor Sharp, and Use Them Like a Proby Chad Ward
Why are most of us so woefully uninformed about our kitchen knives? We are intimidated by our knives when they are sharp, annoyed by them when they are dull, and quietly ashamed that we don't know how to use them with any competence. For a species that has been using knives for nearly as long as we have been walking upright, that's a serious problem. An Edge in
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Why are most of us so woefully uninformed about our kitchen knives? We are intimidated by our knives when they are sharp, annoyed by them when they are dull, and quietly ashamed that we don't know how to use them with any competence. For a species that has been using knives for nearly as long as we have been walking upright, that's a serious problem. An Edge in the Kitchen is the solution, an intelligent and delightful debunking of the mysteries of kitchen knives once and for all. If you can stack blocks, you can cut restaurant-quality diced vegetables. If you can fold a paper airplane, you can sharpen your knives better than many professionals.
Veteran cook Chad Ward provides an in-depth guide to the most important tool in the kitchen, including how to choose the best kitchen knives in your price range, practical tutorials on knife skills, a step-by-step section on sharpening, and more——all illustrated with beautiful photographs throughout. Along the way you will discover what a cow sword is, and why you might want one; why chefs are abandoning their heavy knives in droves; and why the Pinch and the Claw, strange as they may sound, are in fact the best way to make precision vegetable cuts with speed and style.
An Edge in the Kitchen is the one and only guide to the most important tool in the kitchen.
Though humans have been using knives for about two and a half million years, you'll be hard pressed to find as succinct and complete a collection of wisdom on the topic as this masterful volume from cook and writer Ward. He covers nearly everything, from construction and general knife care to proper storage and sharpening, giving cooks all the information they need. Detailed instructions on how to use the most common knives are bolstered with photos that thoroughly illustrate key techniques like dicing, chiffonade and julienne, as well as the lost art of cutting up a whole chicken. Though enthusiastic about his subject, Ward maintains a refreshing level of sanity throughout, reminding readers that they really only need three knives-a chef knife, a paring knife and a bread knife-to accomplish the vast majority of tasks. Better yet, Ward offers recommendations for budgets under $100, as well as reliable sources for custom-made kitchen knives (which "can be had for about the same price as you'd pay for the more pedestrian stuff"). Those looking for in-depth descriptions of every knife imaginable and/or detailed butchery instructions will not find it here, but those interested in upgrading or maintaining a reliable set of knives will find this book as indispensable as the tools themselves.
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Edge in the Kitchen, An
The Ultimate Guide to Kitchen Knives�How to Buy Them, Keep Them Razor Sharp, and Use Them Like a Pro
So You Wanna Buy A Knife
Buying a good knife or two can be a little like buying your first car. It seems intimidating and expensive. There's a lot of mumbo jumbo and very little clear information. There are a lot of people with a lot of very strong ideas about what you should want, need, and desire. Some of them even have good intentions. Very few of them are unbiased and objective.
Much of the problem comes from well-meaning teachers and writers who just haven't kept up with what's going on in professional kitchens, much less metallurgy labs, knife makers' workshops, or manufacturing facilities. It's much easier just to repeat what has been written before or what is taught in an introductory knife skills class. If a prestigious culinary school teaches something, it must be true, right?
No. While certain knife skills are timeless, knife technology isn't. We've put a dune buggy on Mars, yet many knife skills teachers are still clinging to fourteenth-century technology and beliefs. The advances in knife steels, knife production, sharpening methods (based on actual science and experience—what a concept), and kitchen gear make the "common knowledge" about kitchen knives look like medieval dentistry.
There are several myths about knives that you'll find in nearly every weekend knife skills class, magazine article, and online resource. I'm sure you've heard them by now:
- You need an array of knives to deal with all of the jobs in the kitchen. And of course you'll needa knife block to keep them in.
- You must buy a forged knife. Forged knives are far superior to cheap, stamped knives.
- A heavy knife is better than a lightweight knife. A heavy knife will do the work for you.
- A good knife will always have a full tang. In a quality knife, the handle slabs will be riveted to the tang.
- A solid bolster is a sign of quality. It's there to balance the knife and keep your fingers from slipping onto the blade.
Each and every one of these pieces of advice is outdated, outmoded, or just dead wrong. Like the "sear meat to seal in the juices" myth that has persisted since a German chemist dreamed it up in the sixteenth century, these knife myths persist in spite of the evidence and in spite of the experience of cooks, knife makers, metallurgists, engineers, and anyone who has ever stood in front of a cutting board for several hours dicing apples or cutting winter squash. Let's knock them down one by one by one.
What Do You Really Need?
So, what do you really need? I use a chef 's knife for everything. (I recognize that with forty-three chef 's knives on hand at the moment, I may not be a representative sample.) Truthfully, with a good chef 's knife and a paring knife you can do anything and everything you ever need to do in a kitchen. Throw in a big serrated bread knife and you'll own the world. Anything else is a convenience rather than a necessity.
Knives are fundamental. They are the first and most important tool in the kitchen. You need two, a big one and a little one. They must be sharp.
—Michael Ruhlman, author of The Elements of Cooking
Sounds like heresy, doesn't it? All of your friends have big blocks full of fancy knives, so that's what you want, too. Fine, you might want to expand beyond the Big Three, especially if you share your kitchen with someone else or if you do a lot of specialty cooking that would be easier with a dedicated style of knife. Or, like me, you might just really like kitchen knives and want to own a bunch of them. I'll clue you in on what's worthwhile and what is just filler. To start, how do you go about choosing your knives? More importantly, how do you not choose your knives?
Don't Be a Blockhead
You see them in the store. They are beautiful, with their sexy handles all lined up just so. You glance around and then surreptitiously fondle them, damning the safety device that keeps you from sliding the gleaming blade from the block. The salesman sidles up and in a throaty whisper says, "It comes with the sharpening steel and the mango slicer." You swoon. A mango slicer? Who knew there was such a thing? This must be a great set of knives.
Thus you are seduced. And like all victims of seduction, you know that not all is as it seems, but you don't care. You buy the big block of knives. It's a steal! You got nine knives, some kitchen shears, and a sharpening steel for the same price as just two knives down at the high-rent end of the store display. Thus begins a cycle of frustration and recrimination that will still leave you using just three knives. Three mediocre knives. Three knives that you don't like and aren't comfortable using. Three knives that will sit forlornly in the block with their unused siblings when you can't take it anymore and upgrade to better knives.
So, don't be a blockhead. Don't buy knives you don't need. Buy fewer, higher-quality knives and build slowly. Mix and match to suit your tastes and cooking styles. You'll be happier. Yes, you say, but with the set I also get a handy block to store my knives in. Yep, you do. Are you sure it's the block you want and need? Will it hold your knives when your tastes change or you come home with an exotic new knife? Probably not. We'll explore storage options a little later. Rest assured, we won't leave your knives without a good home.
Edge in the Kitchen, An
For a cook, knives are the most important tool in the kitchen—head and shoulders above anything else but the stove. Even when you have a bunch of knives in the block there are certain knives that you will always reach for.
—Russ Parsons, LA Times columnist and author of How to Pick a Peach
The Ultimate Guide to Kitchen Knives�How to Buy Them, Keep Them Razor Sharp, and Use Them Like a Pro. Copyright � by Chad Ward. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Meet the Author
Chad Ward has been a writer and cook for more than twenty years. To date, more than three hundred thousand people have taken Chad's online knife sharpening class on eGullet.org. His writing has appeared in publications such as Best Food Writing and Aviation International News. He lives in North Carolina.
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Great book on knife education - I learned a great deal about the topic, just as I had hoped to in buying this book. It is well written and packed with information. I highly recommend it!
Better than expected and the information is valuable if you are at all interested in knives and in need of background and skills.