Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Staying A Cut Above the Rest

A good knife is the most important piece of equipment in your kitchen. If it’s uncomfortable to hold, too long, too short or … heaven forbid … dull, cooking can become a chore. When I go camping or away to a friend’s place where I know I will be cooking, I take my knives with me. My friends think I’m a bit obsessive (only a little bit true) but if you’ve ever had to suffer through using a dull dollar store knife while slicing tomatoes you’ll know I’m speaking the truth.

But buying a decent knife is just the beginning. Storage of your knives is equally important. Chances are you have a drawer in your kitchen that looks just like the one on the left. Sure it looks tidy enough, but how safe do you feel reaching your hand inside to grab a knife? And assuming you find the knife with your three-fingered hand, how sharp do you suppose it will be? Even if it’s a really good knife the amount of time it’s spent in that drawer bumping up against other metal objects will take the edge right off it.

There are many good inserts for your drawers that can keep your knives organized and sharp and your fingers safe. The larger image shows a slotted knife block, which is the most common. It uses the least amount of space per knife, and can be combined with other drawer inserts if you want to be really organized. The only downside to the slotted storage is the knife is resting on its edge. (You know how to use a knife steel, right?) Some manufacturers address this problem by making inserts that are specific to a set of knives, giving each knife its own little resting spot. How cute …

If you don’t have the drawer space in your kitchen to dedicate to your knives, you’ll need to store your knives out in the open. Anybody who’s been to a garage sale has seen the knife block shown here. Big and solid or something more creative (that’s called “The Ex” by the way) they do a terrific job or organizing your knives and keeping the edges protected. However, a number of people I know don’t like them because of the potential for food waste to get trapped inside the knife slots. I’m assuming they don’t clean their knives before they put them away.

I’m a magnetic strip guy myself. Mounted to the wall typically beneath your upper cabinets, the strip keeps your knives well organized and out where you can see them. It’s not for everybody … people with ugly knives for example … but it reminds me that I’m in a working kitchen. If you’d rather not have your knives on the wall, there are magnetic knife blocks that will sit on your countertop that achieve a similar result.

The main thing to remember is that your knives deserve respect. Store them properly and they will last longer and always be where you need them.


Brenda Lynn said...

Arne, I am with you on the knives, if they aren't sharp, it is so frustrating! My sweet 78 year old daddy sharpens my knives when he comes to visit me. He does it the old fashion way with a sharpening stone or as he calls it a whet rock. It is one that he bought for me almost 33 years ago, so when he came to visit, he could always sharpen my knives. It was one of those items that actually was listed on my divorce papers last year as being mine. He has taught my 23 year old daughter how to do this. I guess that I should have learned, but I have always used it as a way to tell if it had been too long between his visits. If all of my knives were getting dull, it had been too long! I love to sit and visit with him while he is sharpening them for me, it has always been special time for the 2 of us.

Thanks for letting me trip down memory lane this mornng.

Brenda Lynn

Arne Salvesen said...

Brenda Lynn,

Sounds like your dad & I would get along well. Thanks for a great story.

DecorGirl said...

Excellent post. I hate seeing those drawers like your first pic. There are so many great options.

I have the knife drawer insert but I confess, when we first saw "The Ex" three years ago in Toronto - we had to have it. It is cool, useful and a conversation piece. However, it is currently in a closet because it takes up too much counter space and is a grime magnet.

Arne Salvesen said...

DecorGirl ... re: The Ex. I strongly dislike gimmicky accessories for that very reason: they inevitably become thrift-store fodder.

Thanks for visiting!

Ryan Fasan said...

Thankfully there's another knife freak out there. I'm a closet chef... The only reason I didn't get into it professionally is because I didn't want to lose the joy of just cooking. I call it my 'mental floss.'

Most of my steel is Japanese. My SHUN blades being personal favorite go-to's.

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