Not many things say “I’ve got this” like a good quality knife in your hands while you prepare your bae a meal, gently slicing away with a super sharp blade.
A good knife is an asset, and you could own and use it for life. It could be your household trademark. Instantly recognizable! Knives age and wear as you use, care for and sharpen them, which adds to its character.
This character becomes part of the home and your presence when preparing a meal. Holding a great knife at the braai is a bit like holding a mike on stage, everyone is waiting for your next move!
Holding the same knife in the kitchen will give you that experienced look while your guests watch in awe.
To make sure you shine with your knife, we caught up with KZN-based professional chef and knifemaker, David Hoelher from Hoehler Handmade Knives.
This chopping, slicing and cutting fundi gives us the inside scoop on all things sharp and pointy and helps you understand the fundamentals of buying, using and caring for your kitchen knives.
Three must-have knives to cut through anything:
1. 8-inch or 21cm chef knife:
Knives are measured by blade length, from the tip of the point to the heel. This go-to, standard-size chef knife is the workhorse on your chopping block.
Chop perfect potato wedges, transform a cucumber into wafer-thin slices, effortlessly cut a carrot into perfect slithers and cube butternut without breaking a sweat. There is no job too big or too small for this guy.
2. 4-inch paring knife:
This nifty, little multi-tasker is ideal for delicate, close-up work. Use it to take off the ends of strawberries or tomatoes and all those other small-scale cleaning and neatening jobs.
3. Serrated knife:
Pastries, cakes, bread – all things sweet and delicious can be cut with a serrated knife. Easily cut through the crispy crust of that straight-from-the-oven ciabatta or glide through your freshly baked chocolate cake to present the perfect slice, everytime.
Good quality is going to cost:
You are not going to find a high-end knife for R50. Price will determine the quality of the knife. A decent 8-inch chef knife will cost between R1000 to R3000.
Go with well-known brands such as Miyabi – born from the land of the blade masters in Japan.
Known for making elegant, high-class products, these razor-sharp Japanese knives are the perfect investment to guarantee a life of cutting bliss.
Don’t have the time or patience to look for each knife separately? No worries. You can speed things up by opting for a knife set, however don’t be a scrooge if you choose this route.
Invest in a reputable brand such as Zwilling – you know you can trust anything that says “made in Germany”.
The bonus with a knife set is that it comes with a storage option such as a knife block, giving you an instant, one-stop complete knife setup.
No cleaning shortcuts
There is an old Japanese proverb that says, “when a bladesmith makes a knife, he puts a piece of his soul into that knife”.
Now, you wouldn’t put your soul into a dishwasher, which brings us to rule number one: no knife, regardless of what the manufacturer says, should ever go into a dishwasher.
Best care is to wash the knife with soapy water after use, dry with a towel and store away on a knife rack, knife block or whatever your preferred storage method is.
Keep things sharp-sharp
All knives will go blunt eventually – no knife will stay sharp forever. So you will have to familiarise yourself with sharpening a knife. David’s recommended method is a Japanese water stone.
There is a fair amount of technique to it, which can be mastered with some practice.
YouTube is your friend – there are plenty of videos to teach you the step-by-step method to sharpen your knife with a Japanese water stone. To test if your knife is back to its sharp self, hold up a sheet of paper and let the blade glide through the paper under light pressure.
If it does not cut through the paper effortlessly, go back and sharpen the blade some more.
Watch out what you chop on
It’s not just about what you are chopping with, but also what you are chopping on. Chopping boards are very underrated. You can’t achieve decent quality cutting if your chopping board is not up to scratch.
A quality, hardwood cutting board that is quite heavy to prevent warping is ideal.
Make sure your cutting board is stable and won’t move around while you are cutting.
Cut like a pro
So, you’ve bought your fancy knives, but how do you use these ultra-sharp blades without losing a finger? It’s all about the grip.
When holding your chef knife, you want to feel the blade between your fingers. Place your hand on top of the handle with your thumb and index finger resting on either side of the bolster over the heel (the widest section of the blade) while your other three fingers curl around the handle.
Make sure to hold the item you are about to cut using “the claw”. To do this, tuck your fingers inward, making sure your knuckles are exposed to the blade, not your fingertips.
Tuck your pinky finger and thumb inward to prevent these fingers from getting in the way of your knife and the food you are about to cut.