October 1, 2018
Knife Essentials: How to pick your knives for your home.
Our passion for hospitality isn’t limited to large special events. We love to cook and serve fabulous food at home too. And we love to help others step up their home cooking game!
Does the quality of your knives really matter?
Yes. A lot. Good knives are safer and are more likely to avoid mishaps. They’re faster and will save you time. They are also a key gateway to better overall results in the kitchen. Admittedly, as with most things, there comes a point where extra spend doesn’t buy much more function or longevity. But there is still a big difference between cheap knives (that won’t perform and won’t last) and quality knives (that will). If you’re serious about cooking, it’s worth making an investment in your knives.
What knives should you own?
If you visit a cutlery shop or start perusing options online, you’ll be quickly overwhelmed with options and could quickly spend a lot of green. Our recommendation is to start with the basics. With just a few select knives, you’ll be ideally prepared for nearly all kitchen tasks (and still completely serviceable for the remainder too).
It’s much better to have 3-5 great quality knives that will see a lot of use, versus a 18 piece block set of mediocre knives (most of which will just take up space). If you cook a lot and want to add more knives to your arsenal, you can add these one by one over time as your desire and budget allow.
We recommend making your initial investment on the following key knives. If you can afford to invest in 5 knives at once, excellent. If you can’t, start with the first three listed here and add the others later.
Chef’s Knife. Aka Cook’s Knife, this is the most commonly used knife in the kitchen. Features a wide symmetrical blade that tapers to a point. Ideal for a wide array of chores including, chopping, slicing, mincing, etc. Sizes range from 6” -14”. We find that 8” or 10” are most popular / easy to use.
Serrated Bread Knife. Straight or slightly curved blade, often with a single sided edge. Some bread knives are offset which help avoid knuckles hitting the counter or cutting board. Not limited to bread, these knives are also great for slicing fruits with a hard rind and/or soft interior. Sizes typically range from 6” - 12” and we prefer them 9” or more.
Paring Knife. Probably second only to the Chef’s Knife in versatility and frequency of use. Perfect for peeling, julienning, garnishing, and other tasks that require delicate precision. For your first and go-to paring knife, opt for a spear point or sheep’s foot style (put off buying a bird’s beak / tourne style until later or never). Sizes will vary, but will be shorter. We prefer 3-4”.
Utility Knife. Found with both straight and scalloped edges, utility knives could be considered filling the gaps and overlapping the uses between your chef’s knife, paring knife, and slicing knife. Excellent for slicing soft fruits and vegetables. Sizes typically range from 5-8”, with 6” being very common and our recommendation.
Carving / Slicing Knife. While perhaps not used as much as the other core knives listed above, when you have a large whole muscle meat (roasts, whole poultry, hams, etc.) to serve, these are invaluable. Blades are typically straight edged and relatively thin. Granton edges (hollow ground sections along the side of blade to create space and reduce drag) are common and popular on carving knives. Sizes vary and shorter lengths (9” - 12”) often have pointed tips while longer lengths (14”+) often have rounded tips.
Other useful knives.
For many cooks - especially home cooks, the knives already listed will suffice for nearly all applications and needs. That said, there are lots of other styles out there that can be helpful (or just fun to collect). Options include:
Boning Knife. Just like sounds - ideally suited for removing meat from bone, skin, and other tissues. Boning knives are generally either classified as flexible (great for staying close to bones and getting into odd shaped areas) or stiff (great for making straight cuts and jointing).
Santuko, Nikiri, Gyoto, and other Japanese style knives. Increasingly popular in Western kitchens, these knives are often alternatives to the traditional Chef’s Knife or Utility Knife. Typically these are single edged, and ground to a narrower angle than European style knives. The narrow angle is sharper and slices better with more precision, but requires more maintenance. Unique blade styles offer different ergonomics and function which many chefs prefer for certain tasks - especially very thin slicing and chopping.
Cleaver. Not common in home kitchens, since these are thick and heavy knives designed to chop through thick meat and bone when butchering. Also great for opening lobster shells and other similar tasks.
Cimeter. The staple knife for professional butchers, but not commonly used in home kitchens.
What to look for and consider when buying knives.
Stamped vs forged construction? Stamped knives are made by cutting the knife shape out of a flat sheet of metal (like a cookie cutter). Forged knives are made by hammering heated bar metal into the knife shape. Once the basic shape is formed, both types of knives will be ground and honed to create the cutting edge. Stamped knives are typically thinner, lighter, lacking a bolster, and are generally less expensive. Forged knives are thicker, heavier, stronger, well balanced, and are usually more expensive to purchase. For most long lasting knives, we prefer forged construction. That said, for some knives (a long granton edge meat slicer or a heavily used and often replaced butcher cimeter, we opt for stamped).
Type of steel? Nearly all high quality knives are made from some type of high carbon stainless steel designed to strike a balance between hardness and durability, ease of sharpening and honing, resisting stain and decay, and cost. German steel (often 420 or 440 C stainless) is common for European style knives. It’s excellent at resisting corrosion, and very easy to sharpen. German steel is durable and holds an edge well, though not as well as some harder steels. Japanese steel (often VG-10 or San Mai) is common in Asian style knives and is increasingly seen in European styles as well. This layered laminated steel is exceptionally hard which offers excellent sharpness and edge retention. They can be more difficult to sharpen well and sometimes offer slightly less corrosion resistance compared to the German steel. As noted earlier, these steels are all striking a balance between different factors. The best steel for you depends on your personal preferences and priorities.
Handles? Wood handles are not only very comfortable, we think they’re the prettiest options. They can also last longer than the blade of the knife, but require more maintenance than other options. Stainless handles are popular for the seamless styling and the ease of maintenance. The notable drawback is than many stainless handles can become slippery when wet, though many steel knives have textured stainless handles to mitigate this. Synthetic resin and Polyoxyethylene (POM) handles are very common on riveted full tang knives. They’re very durable, easy to clean, and although simple, very nice looking. Plastic, nylon, and rubber handles are popular in commercial kitchens because they are affordable, easy to clean, and fairly durable. We don’t find them nearly as attractive as other options though and many home chefs want something with more aesthetic appeal.
Edge type? Straight edge (aka flat ground) is the most common and applicable. Granton edge (see the note on carving knives above) reduce drag and are very nice in certain situations. Serrated edges (aka scalloped) have small “teeth” which help to penetrate a tough exterior without pressure that might harm a soft inside. Hollow ground edges are are concave to create a very thin and narrow cutting edge. They are very sharp and wonderful for delicate tasks, but not recommended for heavy duty chores.
Edge angle? European style knives usually have a 20 degree angle which is great for edge retention and durability. Asian style knives have usually have a 15 degree (sometimes even narrower) which is excellent for sharp precision slicing.
Full Tang design? Full tang refers to the entire knife being a single piece of metal end to end. The core of the handle is simply an extension of the blade. This can easily be seen on knives where the core of the handle is the same metal as the blade and the handle material is double or triple riveted to the metal. In general we prefer full tang knives because they are sturdier, longer lasting, and more reliable. If you’ve ever had a partial tang knife break apart at the handle during use, you know how frustrating and dangerous it can be. Heavy full tang construction is particularly important for knives that see a lot of heavy use and cutting. For lightweight knives that will be used primarily for delicate tasks, this is less crucial.
Caring for your knives.
Always hand wash with warm soapy water after use, rinse well, and dry thoroughly immediately. Avoid leaving knives dirty for long, machine washing, and extended air drying.
Hone your knives regularly - practically with every use.
Keep your knives sharpened. Frequency of sharpening will depend on the steel, type of use, and frequency of use. See our separate post about knife sharpening for more info and tips.
Store your knives safely and properly. Though popular and convenient, we do not recommend traditional knife blocks. These take up a lot of counter space, tend to dull your knives, can collect hard to remove particles, and often encourage buyers to purchase more knives than they need. We much prefer a magnetic wall strip which saves space, offers easy access, is easy to clean, and when used correctly, doesn’t dull the blade. There are also some great in drawer solutions that can protect your knives. If you need to frequently travel with your knives (like us), a nice bag or roll with a soft interior is great. Individual blade protectors can also be well worth getting depending on how you store your knives.
April 4, 2013
Salt Lake Bride & Groom Love! | Food Theory Thursday
Utah's own awarded Caterer of the Year by the International Caterers Association
The film industry has the Academy Awards, the music industry has the Grammys, the television industry has the Emmys, and the event catering industry has the CATIES. The Catered Arts Through Innovative Excellence Awards are held annually to “recognize achievement of exemplary food production at an event”–in other words, food presentation that’s as pleasing to the palate as it is to your other four senses.
At this year’s CATIE Awards, Utah-based Culinary Crafts cleaned up big time. And we mean BIG time. Culinary Crafts was awarded Caterer of the Year by the International Caterers Association. Yup, our very own Culinary Crafts snatched up top honors at the event, beating out catering companies from as far away as South Africa. And that’s not all: Culinary Crafts also won the ACE award at this year’s Catersource conference, one of only five awards given out each year (four in the U.S. and one internationally). No caterer has ever won both of these awards, let alone a caterer from Utah.
We caught up with Mary Crafts, CEO and president of Culinary Crafts, to get her reaction on the big win:
I was dumbfounded when we won the Caterer of the Year award! I had my shoes off at our banquet table because I was not expecting to win–when they announced our name I thought, “I have to get my shoes on!” I was so shocked, I could hardly speak. It was amazing to be there and to win these awards. My first thought (after thinking about my shoes) was, “Text the team!” Everything we do is a team effort. These awards are for the many people at Culinary Crafts who work every day to bring excellence to the company and make sure we’re the best around.
We’ve always championed the incredible talents of stellar local vendors like Mary Crafts and the Culinary Crafts team, and we’re thrilled to hear the international community is taking notice now, too!
Congratulations Mary, Ryan, Kaleb, and the entire Culinary Crafts family! Mary, we’re popping a
bottle of champagne can of Diet Coke in your honor!
Thank you to Salt Lake/Park City Bride & Groom Magazine for the shout out and again! You are the best! We are just so thrilled to be able to bring this prestigious honor home to Utah and thank our team for being the amazing people that brought us here today!
Check out more on Salt Lake City, Park City, and Utah County catering on www.culinarycrafts.com!
February 14, 2013
Rustic Ranch Wedding Part 3 | Food Theory Thursday
Happy Valentine's Day everyone! Today, we have Part 3 of our Rustic Ranch beauty of a wedding and I just know you are going to love it! Today, we are focusing on the food and drink, which I must say, is ALWAYS my favorite part of the day! I warn you, viewing these images might leave you hungry! Check it out!
This canoe of vintage style soda bottles was one of my favorite details of the year. Whimsical and functional, guests DEFINITELY loved this special touch.
We also appreciated their nod to Utah's very own High West Distillery! The couple chose to make their signature High West Lemonade their signature cocktail - which is DELCIOUS, I must say!
The couple chose so many appetizers to really get their guests appetites going! Sweet Potato Fries with Utah Fry Sauce, Mini Cordon Bleus, Tortilla Chips with Avocado and Corn Salsa, Utah Smoked Trout Crostini, and Chipotle Shrimp with Cumin Spiced Cream were some of the offerings. So delicious!
The bride chose to create a family style menu for her guests which is always a great idea with these long tables which allow people to pass and share the dishes easily! Definitely one of our favorite dining style for sure!
Candy buffets are always a fun addition, especially when the couple picks their favorites to share!
Not only did the couple create a fun candy station, but they had a s'mores station, and bundt cakes instead of traditional wedding cake for their guests to enjoy!
This event was so much fun and we just LOVED all of the BEAUTIFUL details, the GORGEOUS venue, and FANTASTIC food that came together to make this wedding one of a kind - definitely not one to be forgotten any time soon! Thank you so much to Nikki and Mike for letting us share in this extraordinary day! Happy planning everyone!
Check out more on Park City, Salt Lake City, and Utah County catering at www.culinarycrafts.com!
Photos by Logan Walker, A Pepper Nix Photographer