Knife Info 101

When I began at Sur La Table I had no idea what made a knife nice, especially not what made a knife special enough to spend hundreds of dollars on a single piece. Now I know that there are so many different kinds of steel, and they all perform differently. A great knife is one of the most cost-effective ways to upgrade your cooking experience. Prep work will go faster and your cuts will be nicer, easier, more precise.

Shun Sora and Global

When I chatted about the new additions to my kitchen, I mentioned that the Japanese steel is sharper and will hold its edge longer. Simply put, Japanese knives can be sharpened to a much more acute angle than German knives, and will stay that way longer, however one must be more careful with them because the sharpness of the steel translates to hardness, and tendency to chip. German steel is softer, more malleable, which dulls more quickly but sharpens up nicely, and doesn’t chip (unless something really drastic happens). Many cooks have one or two of both kinds.

For this reason, someone who has made a real investment in their knives should get the proper honing steel, as well. A German honing steel, for example, isn’t a hard enough metal to clean up the edge on a Japanese knife. A Japanese steel is harder than a Japanese and German knife, however, and can be used for either of them. There are inexpensive ones out there. How do you know if it’s time to use a honing steel? Carefully draw your finger down from the spine of the knife and past the sharp edge of the blade. If you feel a little catch or hook at the edge, it’s time to hone. Never, ever check the sharpness of a knife by feeling the sharp edge with your finger–they can be sharper than you think!

Holding a Knife

If you don’t know already, here’s an awkward picture of how to hold a knife. Pinch the point where the blade meets the handle. Then wrap the rest of your fingers around the handle to form your grip. This puts the knife in line with your whole arm, and relieves the wrist of unnecessary work. If it feels weird, do your prep work while holding the knife this way for a couple of days, then try the “old” way. My guess is that the old way will now feel more awkward and unwieldy!

As far as choosing your new knife, the best thing to do is find an opportunity to try out several brands, shapes, and styles. My store lets customers test them, and I have seen other kitchen stores that also provide this option. If they don’t have any food for you to chop, at least take the opportunity to wrap your hand around the handle and fake it. The weight and handle should feel good. There’s not really one “best” knife for everyone, that’s why there are so many options out there!

And a quick & dirty review of my choices: I love the two I chose. They are both light yet well balanced.

  • Global is a favorite brand of those in the restaurant industry because they are durable and a cinch to keep clean (since they’re all one piece). Some people don’t like the handle because they’re so unique and seem a bit small, but I really like it, especially for a small knife life my nakiri. This is and will continue to be my go-to prep knife for small jobs.
  • The Shun Sora line just came out. They are not only less expensive than Shun Classic but the bright reflective steel should resist rust/patina more than the damascus pattern of the Classic. It cuts like a dream through everything. We made tacos the other night and cutting lettuce, tomatoes, and even cooked steak (medium and well done) was effortless. I look forward to many happy years together with this knife ;)

What kind of knives do you have? Are you in love with them or are you interested in upgrading?

The Small Print: I wasn’t paid or perked to write my knife posts, in fact I bought these knives with my own cold hard cash after lots of hemming and hawing about what to get. I did use an employee discount. Lots of bloggers get free stuff in order to write reviews; I am not one of them. 

Instagram Fridge

This was such a simple project, and I’m in love.

A few weeks ago I realized that I hadn’t ordered any prints of my instagram photos in over a year, so I took advantage of a fall sale and ordered 60+ prints through the Postal Pix app.

The stack sat in my kitchen and I flipped through the pictures many times, but wanted to display them somewhere! I have a little scrapbook I started with instagram pics in it but I didn’t feel like scrapbooking. I did feel like throwing away all the expired coupons, takeout menus, and storing away old thank-you notes from my fridge, though… so I took an idea that has been done in 1,000 blogs before mine, and ran with it.

It started with cleaning off the side of the fridge and then cleaning it thoroughly with windex. Kitchen surfaces can get so grimy, can’t they?

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Then, I spread my prints out on the kitchen counter and started taping up photos in a grid. There’s about a centimeter (give or take) between each photo. I made sure to mix light, dark, and vibrant photos evenly so the eye isn’t drawn to any one area too strongly. One tip for a cohesive looking collage is to use one or two filters all the time, instead of always going with a different one, so the color wash is similar on them all.

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This was such quick and relaxing project. I love looking at photos and reminiscing. I completed the whole thing before my mug full of tea even had time to get too cold. Now I spend a ridiculous amount of time in my kitchen gazing at my loved ones and remembering great times.

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It also serves as an antidote to all the stark white, too!

5 Awesome but Totally Unnecessary Kitchen Tools

File these under “For the person who has everything.”

Like the title says, these things are awesome, but if you don’t have them… you will probably still live a wonderful and fulfilling life.

5 Awesome but Unnecessary Kitchen Tools

  1. An ice cream maker is totally unnecessary but awesome to have. Case in point–we got one (not the one pictured) and have made ice cream a few times by now! The one pictured plays ice cream truck music when it’s ready, and since it has a compressor, cools itself down instead of having to store the drum in the freezer. Nice features, if you can afford them.
  2. Copper cookware will last forever and is the best conductor of heat–but that kind of luxury has a price! The set shown will cost about a grand.
  3. Using a juicer is a great commitment that one can make towards their health. If I were to buy a juicer, I would get this one. It gives you a little bit of fruit/veggie pulp (read: more of the nutrients) while still taking some pulp out so the smoothie is still drinkable.
  4. An espresso machine. Yes, I have a Nespresso. No, I don’t need it. Yes, it’s awesome. Enough said? Stop looking at me like that!
  5. Novelty fruit tools. Okay, I lumped these together. People have been eating fruit perfectly fine for thousands of years without fancy tools! I mean… at one point I’m sure people used rocks and sharpened sticks to make yummy fruit goodness happen. However…. I know from experience that if you have a whole bag of cherries that you want to be pit-less, and fast, that investing in a cherry pitter is a big step towards time and sanity.

Anything you care to add?? Or, do you think any of these items are necessary? Share your opinion in the comments!