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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Knives

Frugal Kitchens 101
Knives are a fundamental tool in the kitchen. There are many styles each designed for a specific purpose. There is also a myth that you must by expensive knives for decent kitchen results. Did you know the number one accident in the kitchen is caused by dull knives? It's true! So today's Frugal Kitchens 101 will discuss some of my views on kitchen knives, what I like and what I don't like from a frugal perspective.

As a newlywed setting up a kitchen, I knew very little about knives other than I knew I needed a paring knife and a butcher knife. As my cooking skills increased I realized the importance of a serrated knife. Other than that I really did not pay much attention to my knives. Over the years I would pick up a knife or two that struck my fancy at yard sales or the resale shops. I'd use the sharpening steel on them, wash then casually put them in the large knife holder in the silverware drawer. A few years and I discovered knife blocks. The knives were moved from the silverware drawer to the knife blocks. About 5 years ago I bought a set of knives on a whim and have been into upgrading my knives ever since. Fast forward to 2009 and I now have a very defined vision of my knife preferences, how I use them and how I store them.

The knife set I bought on a whim was Cuisinart Continental 8-Piece Stainless Steel Knife Set. It included 8-inch chef's, 8-inch bread, 8-inch slicing, 4-1/2-inch straight utility, and 3-1/2-inch paring knives, plus 10-inch steel, shears, and storage block. What attracted me to this set was the hand feel and the fact they are all one piece with no cracks for food to hide. This set has proved to be a very good performer that keeps a nice edge but they are only part of the knives I use. Here's a few things I've learned about knives:

  1. hand feel - If the knife does not feel right in your hand the first time you pick it up, don't buy it. You will need different knives that fit the hand of those who cook in your kitchen. The feel includes the shape of the handle and the weight of the knife.
  2. stainless steel - German steel is preferred because it keeps a good, sharp blade longer. However, there are some good knives coming out of Brazil, Japan and Mexico. Avoid knives made in China due to inferior stainless steel. Some of the high end respected knife manufacturers are now putting out a lower end knife often referred to as "international". Avoid these as the stainless steel is of lower quality and the knives are stamped.
  3. forged vs stamped - Forged knives are cut from a larger piece of stainless steel giving them a higher quality than stamped knives that are simply punched out of a piece of stainless steel.
  4. handle - My preference in a handle is a one piece all stainless steel knife with no wood or plastic handle. On knives without this option I like fully riveted and prefer wood over plastic. Properly looked after both wood and plastic handles will give you years of dependable serves but from experience if the handle gives while you are using the knife you can get quite a nasty cut.
  5. cost - Surprisingly for the home cook knives do not have to cost a lot of money. My Cuisinart set cost $60 at a liquidation centre! Sam's Club has a 2 piece package of NSF® Suduko knives with German steel blades for $12.76. Canadian Tire® carries the Wiltshire® Professional series at rather decent prices. Expect to pay more than a knife bought at a dollar store but you don't have to break the bank either. By all means if you decide to buy high end chef's knives do a bit of research first.
  6. don't buy a knife set - Yes I know I bought one but in all honesty had I know then what I know know I would not have bought a set. The reason being of the set only one or two will see regular use while other pieces will see little or no use.
  7. buy frugally - Do a bit of research then keep a summary list with you. You would be surprised at what knives you can find at yard and estate sales. Know what to look for so you get the quality you want. Check the liquidation stores. Buy online or shop the sales. There are a lot of great online deals if you know what you are looking for. If possible check the feel of the knife at a kitchen supply store first so you know you will like the knife. Keep in mind that you have been using the less than perfect knife for the past 10 years, so waiting for a good sale is not going to make a huge difference aka buy only what you want at a good price!
Knives need to be cared for properly to give you years of dependable service. Caring for knives cost little more than a couple of minutes of time after use and a bit of common sense.
  1. hand wash - Your prep knives should always be hand washed. Do not put them into the dishwasher that can cause nicking the blade as well as wood handles drying out enough to crack and plastic handles to crack.
  2. care - Sharpen your knives after each heavy use or more often as required and be sure to hone the blade. A good knife sharpener will cost about $25. Sharpening puts a good cutting edge on your knife while honing keeps the edge straight.
  3. storage - Do not store in the cutlery drawer where they can come into contact with other knives or get knocked. Store your knives in a knife block or on a metallic strip to protect the blade.

1 food lovers commented:

cassandrasmom said...

This article could not have been more on time for me since I am taking a knife class this week. We were told to bring our favorite knife and I was worried that mine was not good is a suduku 7 inch blade that I use all the time...paid all of a $1 for it a few years ago.

One thing I do love is my shark...I am not a skilled knife sharpner by any means and I have runned knifes trying to get them sharp until I got my Sameri Shark...all you do is run the blade through it, there is no way to mess it up and sharped at the wrong angle. It was $10 to buy which is not very frugal to me but I discovered that in saving my knifes and not ruining them anymore I actually sort of saved money by not having to buy new knifes.

In all the cooking classes I have taken they stree the importance of keeping your knifes sharp. I am also asked if I am knife trained...which is why I am taking the knife class this week.

Thank you for the great read