The Three Essential Kitchen Knives

A loud pounding sound radiating from the kitchen captured my attention and curiosity. Upon arrival, I caught my husband using my best French chef’s knife to jab frozen mango Tang out of my favorite clear plastic Kool Aid-style pitcher. I wasn’t too happy about the potentials of his act: breaking the knife; breaking the pitcher, cutting himself.

My husband is known for using kitchen objects to do the jobs of other tools. I’ve found steel whisks coated with cement, boning knives used as letter openers, egg turners as wallpaper scrapers, and butter knives bent from their stint as screwdrivers. (I try to credit these transgressions to his inventive, creative mind rather than his laziness to go to his workbench.)

My chef’s knife was fine, much to the credit of the manufacturer. I attribute its survival to the fact that it was made of high carbon stainless steel, the tang (blade steel) ran all the way through the whole handle, and it was the best chef’s knife I could afford (the three basic rules of buying kitchen knives).

My thoughts turned toward ways to protect my knives from future misuse. I could always downsize. I read somewhere that a cook really only needs to buy three kitchen knives:

Paring Knife
Blade between 2”-4” long.  Used for cutting fruits or vegetables and for making small or decorative cuts.

Serrated Utility Knife
Blade between 6”- 9” long.  Used for cutting larger vegetables, slicing larger foods, trimming/cutting meat. Note: A longer 9”-12” serrated blade bread knife will easily cut a crusty baguette or tomatoes.

Chef’s Knife
Blade between 6”-12” long that curves to a pointed tip. Used for chopping, dicing and mincing meat, vegetables, and anything else.

Of course, buying kitchen knives is okay for specialty purposes, too, such as boning, filleting, and carving. And then there is the meat cleaver.  I can’t imagine needing a meat cleaver any more, though, since butchers do the work for us quite nicely. Meat cleavers can be heavy and quite awkward. (The most important rule of thumb for buying kitchen knives is to buy what is comfortable in your hand.)

Maybe I should put my knives out of my husband’s sight!  I currently keep my knives on a wall-mounted magnetic strip. They don’t get banged around (unless you-know-who is looking for another tool), and I don’t waste valuable counter space using an ugly wooden knife block.

So that’s my new plan. Instead of buying kitchen knives to replace the broken ones, I will downsize my collection of kitchen knives to the three basics and hide them away. (Out of sight, out of mind, they say.)  But first I have to go to my husband’s workbench and take inventory of what kitchen knives I don’t need or use any more.

By the way, in the process of cracking up the frozen mango Tang, my husband broke the pitcher’s handle completely off and poked a hole in the bottom of the pitcher.  He repaired both with some miraculous glue stuff, and (you guessed it) a paring knife!

Happy cookbooking,


About Erin Miller

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