For me as a chef a knife is an extension of my hand which I work with on a daily basis. Knives are very important to me and it fills me with happiness when I treat myself to a new knife or when people who know me give it as a present to me.
Good knives are an investment and if taken care of in a proper manner they will last for a life time. Good knives are certainly not cheap but well worth the investment.
There are decent knives out there like Global which are pretty to look at with their “cutting edge” design and made from steel that is softer and hence lighter than traditional high-carbon steel knives. Their edges stays razor sharp if you sharpen them frequently with a whet-stone. Many stores will offer traditional German made Wuesthof or Henkel knives which tend to feel heavy in your hand. They are good for bone, or crustacean shell, or heavy duty work. Then there is a class for the more professional chef who likes to worship his/her knives. A western-style “Misono” is a very good every day professional kitchen knife or “Nenox” whose handle is made out of quince wood which is an art object in my opinion – and has a price tag of several hundred dollars.
Taking care of a sharp edge:
Aside from the knife itself, you must buy a whet-stone to get that razor sharp edge on your knife. Korin (www.korin.com) offers a DVD which explains how to use one, but usually the stones come with instructions. They are either lubricated with oil or water. Use only either or, switching does not work. They are around $50. In addition, I highly recommend using a diamond steel for around $40 or a porcelain which can cost three times as much, but give great results. A steel is a stick like tool which keeps your knife sharp by realigning the edge on the knife, during your cutting action. It takes a little practice to use one. With these two tools you should be in business to take proper care of your knives. I keep my knives in individual plastic guards or wrap them in a dry kitchen towel to protect their edge. Also do not forget to cut only on a plastic or wooden cutting board. NEVER cut on the kitchen counter or a stone surface. This will ruin your investment.
So which knife do you really need?
A chef’s knife is the one that will be doing the majority of your work. If you plan to fillet fish you will need a somewhat flexible blade -- mine is about 8” long. A paring knife is handy to do work with smaller kitchen products like fruits, vegetables, etc. If you decide to take on the work of whole animal parts you will need a boning knife.
My favorite stores for knives
First I want to advise you not to buy sets because half of the knives in the set will get dusty in your drawer. www.william-sonoma.com is great for the home cook. If you want professional “show off” knives visit www.jbprince.com, or for high end luxury items for chefs and knife freaks you must visit www.korin.com.