It's inevitable: The first time you're inspired to whip up, say, that colorful caprese salad you coveted on Pinterest, you start by wading through a drawer full of corkscrews to find a solitary knife with a dull six-inch blade.
Upon use, the tomatoes explode when sliced, and the mozzarella comes apart only after what seems like hours of prolonged hacking. Your caprese is "rustic," you tell yourself, but you know it could've been prepared more delicately with a chainsaw. Worry not -- you're no culinary monster; you just need the right knife. (Even Eric Ripert would have a difficult time cutting carrots into a fine brunoise without a decent blade.)
Here, we present a quick guide to the must-haves and how to use and maintain them.
From left: Classic 6" Utility Knife by Shun available at Crate & Barrel, $94.95, CrateandBarrel.com; 8" Classic Chef's Knife by Wusthof available at Williams-Sonoma, $129.95, Williams-Sonoma.com; 9.5" Chef's Knife by MAC available at Whisk, $185, WhiskNYC.com; 31/2" Paring Knife by Wusthof available at Williams-Sonoma, $39.95, Williams-Sonoma.com
The Power of a Good Knife All Blades Are Not Created Equal. Here Are The Best.
Chef's knife Invest in a hardy 10-inch chef's knife, perfect for chopping, slicing, and dicing. The blade should be made of stainless or carbon steel. Good mass-market knives are stamped; smaller-scale knives are typically forged. When shopping, handle a variety of knives in your palm. Even if you've never held a good chef's knife before, the ideal one should feel at ease in your hand. Shun Premier 8" Chef's Knife, $179.95; CrateandBarrel.com
Wusthof This German company produces superbly made knives that are available in nearly every decent homewares store. They last forever, and you'll want to use yours every day. Wusthof.com
Middleton Made This cult knifemaker in South Carolina makes each of his fine implements by hand. Unless you head to the Palmetto State you won't be able to test-drive them. No need. Some of the country's best chefs, including Sean Brock, have already done that for you. MiddletonMadeKnives.com
Global Japanese company Global began making blades nearly 30 years ago, and it was one of the first to spark the American obsession with Japanese knife-making. The brand's modern design highlights its obsessive focus on detail and craftsmanship. Global-Knife.com
Photo courtesy of brands (Knives, Boards)
Steel Yourself A sharpening steel is the best way to keep your knife's edge from dulling. Be warned: Learning to sharpen good knives at home requires lessons and regular practice. Draw each side of your Western-style knife at a 20-degree angle across the steel each time you go to use it. This hones the blade, realigning the edge so it cuts well and prevents you from having to sharpen your knives too often.
Zwilling J.A. Henckels Twin Profection Sharpening Steel, $100; Amazon.com
Photo courtesy of Henckels, Shutterstock (Knife Point)
Block Party From fine art to hipster sea mammals, these six boards are a cut above.
From left to right: 14" Edge Grain Teak Cutting Board By Proteak, $27; ProteakStore.com - 22" Whale Hipster Cutting Board By Epricurean, $35; EpicureanCS.com - Folding Cutting Board By MoMA, $16; MoMAStore.org