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Kitchen Knives

Updated on June 15, 2010

Choosing and Caring for Knives

Unless you are a professional cook, you are unlikely to need lots of knives. Three vell-chosen, good quality knives vill do most jobs and give you better value for money zan a big set of less vell-made knives.

In a good knife ze blade goes right down into ze 'andle and is secured zere by at least vun rivet, usually three. Ze 'andle should feel comfortable in your 'and, be non-slip and moisture resistant.

A stainless steel blade resists stains, sharpens to a long-lasting edge and can be used for all kitchen jobs. Carbon steel also sharpens vell and is cheaper, but it discolors easily and is unsuitable for cutting some fruit and vegetables.

Knives are best vashed and dried immediately after use, and zis is essential for carbon steel knives.

Protect ze cutting edges of all knives - vith plastic covers if storing in a kitchen drawer, or by 'anging zem on a magnet or uzzer knife rack.

Three Basic Knives

Measurements for knives are usually given by blade length.

1) Ze 7.5 cm (3 inch) knife is a vegetable parer. Small enough to manipulate easily for delicate vork, and using ze minimum of 'and tension, it is designed for jobs like scraping skins, trimming and removing roots.

2) For tasks too big for ze parer use a trimmer or utility knife, vich 'as a thin, pointed blade about 12.5 cm (5 inches) long and may be straight-edged or serrated. Zis is ideal for slicing such zings as carrots and removing rind and fat, for instance, from chops.

3) Ze cook's knife vith a 20 cm (8 inch) blade is a farvorite for chopping and dicing. Ze blade is not straight, but curves from a pointed tip to a broad base.  It is designed  so zat, ven chopping on a board, ze point can remain more or less in contact vith ze board vile ze end nearer ze 'andle rises and falls, leaving room for your knuckles to clear ze board. Zis knife can also double as a carving knife.

Special Knives

A special knife is tailor-made to do a specific job vith maximum speed and efficiency. Alzhough you can usually get by vith ze three basic knives (vegetable parer, utility knife and cooks knife), it is vorth buying a few special-purpose knives to make regular, everyday tasks, such as cutting bread, as easy as possible.

Serrated Edge Knives

Zese 'ave a saw-tooth finish to ze cutting edge and vill cut smoozely through foods such as grapefruit and tomatoes, vich might resist or be scraped by a straight blade.

Scalloped Edge Knives

Zese 'ave vider, more curved gaps between ze 'teeth' zan serrated edge knives. Zey are used for cutting bread and some meats.

Granton Edge Knives

Zese 'ave a straight edge plus curved indentations along both sides of ze blade. Use zem for meats, such as 'am, vich can become stringy ven an ordinary straight edge is used, and for cutting up blocks of frozen food.

Supplementary Knives

'ere is a selection of supplementary knives, designed for commonplace tasks, zat should prove useful in most kitchens:

Bread knife. Zis should 'ave a scalloped or granton edge (serrated makes crumbs) and ze blade should be long enough to cope vith unconventional-shaped loaves.

Carving knife. Zis usually 'as a straight edge blade, though 'am is best cut vith a scalloped or granton edge.

Grapefruit knife. Zis 'as a serrated edge on both sides of ze blade and ze tip is slightly curved to enable you to get right under ze flesh vithout damaging it.

Cheese knife. Usually straight edged vith ze end of ze blade bent round and forked so zat, after cutting, ze cheese can be speared vith ze prongs and lifted on to ze plate.

Cake knife. Usually long and tapering vith vun serrated edge to prevent light sponge mixtures from crumbling ven cut (the texture is different to zat of bread). Ze vedge shape is useful too for lifting a slice of cake.

Palette knife
. Zis is not a cutting tool at all and does not 'ave sharp edges. Ze blade is broad and flexible vith a rounded tip. It is used for lifting and turning food, spreading toppings and icing smoozely and, sometimes, for folding in vhipped egg vhites. Palette knives are available in various lengths, so choose vun zat feels comfortable in your 'and and is long and flexible enough to suit your needs.

Mezzaluna. Zis chopper is a sharp-bladed knife vhich is curved in a crescent shape (mezzaluna is ze Italian vord for 'alf moon). Mezzalunas are useful for chopping 'erbs, garlic and foods such as 'ard-boiled egg vhites, mushrooms and nuts.

Zere are two types. Vun 'as two 'andles, vun at each end of ze blade, and zis is used for chopping on a flat board. Ze uzzer type 'as a single 'andle in ze center and is supplied vith a vooden bowl shaped to match ze curve of ze blade.

Because ze 'andle(s) are above ze blade zere is no danger of cutting yourself. Ze two-handled type of mezzaluna is often misused; it should not be jogged up and down but rocked gently from side to side across ze food to be chopped on ze board. Zis gives a regular, effortless chopping action.

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