Sunday, June 8, 2008


From Things Cooks Love: Implements. Ingredients. Recipes.

Boning Knife
A boning knife has a thin, narrow, curvaceous blade about 6 inches long and ½ to 1 inch wide. Because boning requires considerable dexterity, the handle should fit and feel comfortable in your hand.

Carving Knife and Fork
Also called a slicing knife, this knife has an 8- to 12-inch-long, narrow, slightly tapered blade and an easy-to-grip handle. Knives designed to cut through cooked meat and poultry are tapered to a point at the end. Knives for slicing smoked fish or ham are a bit longer, with a straight edge and a squared-off end. A meat and poultry carving knife is often sold in a set with a two-pronged fork, for holding the meat steady while it is being carved.

Cheese Knife
A number of distinctive cheese knives are available, each suitable for different types of cheese. One popular design has an offset blade, which angles down from the handle before straightening out to a length of about 5 inches. This knife works with soft, semisoft, and semifirm cheeses. Another model, also for soft cheeses, has large perforations in the blade that prevent the cheese from clinging to it and a sharp scalloped edge that ensures a tidy cut. Another useful knife is the Parmesan knife, which has a stubby, spade-shaped blade and a sturdy, oval wooden handle. It efficiently cuts such hard cheeses as Parmesan and aged Gouda, Asiago, and provolone into jagged chunks.

Chef’s Knife
The chef’s knife is covered on page 9 in “The Basic Kitchen,” but here you’ll have a chance to think about adding more chef’s knives to your knife block. For a novice cook, a small chef’s knife (8 inches) is usually perfect. But if you are a more adept cook with greater knife skills, you might find a chef’s knife with a longer blade more practical. Chef’s knives can be as long as 14 inches, but a 10-inch knife is more than adequate for home use. You might also consider adding a smaller (6-inch) chef’s knife for your kitchen as well. Before buying, always hold the knife in your hand so you can judge the weight, balance, and comfort of the handle. Simulate the rocking motion of chopping before buying to decide what feels most comfortable.

The extra-strong, wedge-shaped, sharp-edged blade of a meat cleaver is designed for cutting through bones, but this large knife can also be used for many other tasks, such as halving acorn squash, cutting apart a slab of ribs, or smashing a garlic clove. There are also vegetable cleavers shaped like wide squares available that are designed primarily for cutting vegetables. These are not durable enough for cutting through meat bones. Whichever one you choose, make sure to buy a cleaver with good heft for both efficiency and versatility.

Paring Knife
Owning paring knives in a variety of sizes and styles eases tasks in any kitchen. Two styles, the straight 3-inch blade and the bird’s beak blade, are described on page 10. Among other types is one designed specifically or vegetables, called a standard parer, which has a curvaceous blade and sharp upward tip and looks a little like a miniature boning knife. Yet another type has a narrow, triangular 3-inch blade that is useful for such small jobs as slicing handheld strawberries or mushrooms.

Poultry Shears
Heavy-duty kitchen scissors are a versatile and indispensable kitchen tool (page 10), and some of them are sturdy enough to cut through poultry bones. However, true poultry shears are always stronger. There are several models on the market, so be sure to look for some or all of the following features: a curved blade for getting around and into chicken joints, a cushioned handle that permits a firm grasp, a notch at the back of the blade for keeping the bones in place while you cutdown, a serrated bottom blade for extra cutting power, a strong lock for keeping the spring-loaded blades safely closed during storage, and made of stainless steel that is dishwasher safe.

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