This year, as you’re packing your bags to go home for the holidays, don’t forget your knives! Okay, so maybe that’s crazy. But only because your knives likely aren’t any better than your family’s. Let’s change that! Because I’m not kidding.
I really am bringing my knives with me to visit my in-laws this Christmas.
And I’m sure there are all kinds of jokes you could make about that, but it’s just to cook a scrumptious feast for them. Promise.
See, all of our family lives two states away, so I don’t get to cook for them much. And I LOVE cooking. And more than that I love cooking for people.
I take after my mom, who is pretty sure that they left out the sixth love language: FOOD.
I absolutely love making holiday dinners, they love not having to. It’s a win-win.
But cooking in someone else’s kitchen is like driving someone else’s car.
Everything’s kind of the same, you can do it, but something about it is just unfamiliar enough that you have to think a little harder about it.
I’ve cooked in a lot of kitchens in my life. I’ve worked in several restaurants. When I was the head chef in a retirement community, I was occasionally sent to other facilities to fill in. When I was in culinary school, I was invited to host a grand opening at a McDonald’s, where we had to create upscale hors d’oeuvres only using the components of actual McDonald’s menu items.
And I’ve cooked at a lot of different friends’ and family members’ homes.
Given that cooking is my hobby, my passion, and my profession, I know not everyone is going to have the same tools I have in my own kitchen.
I have a carefully curated collection of cooking utensils, but I can get by with Dollar Tree whisks and spoons and spatulas, or even none at all.
I love my Cuisinart cookware, but I can still cook a delicious meal in the flimsiest pots and pans.
But I can’t get by with a dull, flimsy knife.
I mean I can, but every time I have to, I’m reminded just how crucial a good knife is, and I wonder how so many people do get by without one.
Did you know professional kitchens don’t even have knives in them?
Truly. If you were to walk into the kitchen of a restaurant after hours when all of the employees are gone, you would find all kinds of gadgets and appliances and tools and utensils, but you likely wouldn’t be able to find a single knife.
A chef’s knife kit is a huge part of who they are, and something that they care for religiously.
Each chef has their particular brand and style that they praise as the best ever.
But I’m not only a professional chef, I’m also a thrifty housewife.
And as such, I’m not about to go spend well over $100 on a single knife just because it was carefully forged following the same eight-thousand-year-old tradition as samurai swords.
But I also know better than to expect a $5 knife to really get the job done.
My all-time favorite knife is around $40. And sure, I could get an entire 30-piece set at Walmart for less than that, but I guarantee you I would never even use most of those knives, and the ones I did use would not work anywhere nearly as well as my one chef knife.
In fact, I could replace that entire 30-piece knife set with just 3 knives.
#1 – The All-Powerful Chef Knife
The 8-inch Victorinox chef knife is the holy grail of knives. It can do it all. The edge has a perfect curve to it for chopping and slicing, but it also has a nice narrow point so that it can be used for finer jobs like filleting, peeling, and carving too!
And this week I’m giving one away for free! Follow @finch.hollow on Instagram and see my stories for details! The winner will be announced Saturday, December 4th, 2021!
#2 – A Small, Sharp Paring Knife
Although you can use the 8-inch Victorinox chef knife for everything, there are some things that work much better with something smaller.
A paring knife is great for peeling apples, cutting grapes in half, slicing avocados, and other precise jobs.
In a pinch, I often even use mine for non-cooking tasks in place of an exacto knife.
If you want to buy a knife set that will actually serve you well for decades, skip the huge sets, and instead get the Victorinox chef bundle, with a chef knife, a paring knife, and a honing steel. I actually have two chef knives and two paring knives, rather than a bunch of specialty knives.
#3 – A Serrated Bread Knife
In general, serrated knives are extremely overrated.
If you keep your other knives sharp, the teeth aren’t necessary. A good, sharp chef knife will slice through an onion or tomato like butter, without the need for the sawing motion of a serrated knife.
But no matter how sharp your chef knife is, there’s one task that it just isn’t great for. Cutting bread.
I bake all of our bread from scratch, and I prefer an offset bread knife to give me really good leverage. If you bake a lot of cakes and often cut them into thin layers, you may prefer a long straight blade with a slight curve to it in addition to the serrations.
If you don’t do a whole lot of either, you could look for a more inexpensive version, but a large knife with large serrated teeth is always good to have around.
These three knives are all you need for nearly everything you’ll ever need to cut, but there are a few other knives I own for very specific tasks.
A Larger Chef Knife
The 8-inch chef knife is a favorite because it’s so versatile, but I actually have and love a 10-inch chef knife instead. It just gives a little more room to chop through a large onion, slice many stalks of celery at once, or cut into a melon with ease.
A Medium Sized Utility Knife
Because I use a larger chef knife, I have a medium utility knife for the things that need more precision but aren’t quite suited for the tiny paring knives, especially things like trimming a chicken breast. The 8-inch chef knife can handle all that a 10-inch chef knife AND a medium utility knife can, the two separate knives can just do them a little better.
A Bird Beak Paring Knife
The curve of this interesting knife is especially good for peeling apples or tomatoes.
A Serrated Paring Knife
This one is definitely not a necessity, but when you do need it, it’s nice to have. I honestly use it so rarely that I can’t even think right now of a specific task that it’s good for. I just know that when I do come across something that needs a serrated knife but not a giant bread knife, it’s good to have around.
And those are the only knives I own.
8 knives, 6 types, and only 3 that get used regularly. That’s all you need.
Don’t forget, this week I’m giving one an 8-inch Victorinox chef knife for free! Follow @finch.hollow on Instagram and see my stories for details! The winner will be announced Saturday, December 4th, 2021!