Five Knives You Must Have
“How many knives are enough?!?”
That’s the question my wife always asks me when I bring home another new knife! I have not counted all the knives I personally own at the moment, but I could give it a pretty good guess that it is around 75. Yes, you’re right, I’m obsessed! And yet, I know some chefs that have double that amount!
So how many do you really, really need? That all depends on the kind of work that you are doing. Do I really need 75? Of course not…I happen to have multiple, multiple sets of the same thing! Some were gifts – after all, what else do you give a chef at Christmas?! I was actually even given, as a gift, the former kit that students at Le Cordon Bleu Portland used to purchase, an entire set of knives that I’ve never used, just for being a part of their culinary advisory board.
I have a butcher cleaver, but I really don’t do much work that needs it. I’ve got dozens of utility knives, tomato knives, quail-boning knives, ham slicers, etc. that rarely see the light of day.
If I were starting out all over again, I would plan on probably five or six basic knives, the best quality that I could afford, ones that fit great into my hand (which might mean they don’t all come from the same manufacturer! Don’t get caught into that trap – find the best knife that feels best to you for each task!). A chef’s knife, either traditional French style or a santoku are a must, they are the workhorses in the kitchen. Personally, I like an 8” chef’s knife, and most santoku knives are 7” or so. This is the knife that I’ll do all my chopping and mincing with.
A serrated knife is indispensible for breads. Even though I don’t use it very much, a paring knife is necessary for small prep work. A long slicing knife is my choice for cutting steaks out of primal cuts like New York’s or Prime Rib, and I use it to cut fish as well (which saves me from buying a scimitar, which is typically used to skin and cut fish – though I probably have one around somewhere in my collection!). Last but not least, a boning knife is necessary for breaking down chickens or any other meats that have bones.
So what’s the answer?! One knife can manage most tasks, but show me a chef that only has one knife! Based on my explanation, five knives are sufficient for nearly all tasks. So know, knowing that, what will I do with my other seventy?!