The most important tool on the kitchen? Even though chefs disagree about almost everything, most, if not all would agree that knives are the most important tool. Without their knives--their own personal knives--chefs would not perform as well as they do. It's like a professional musician who intimately knows how his or her own particular instrument plays.
Knives are the one thing in the kitchen that are absolutely worth spending the money on. A good knife will last decades and may even be passed down to the next generation. But how do you know which knives are the best? Does price really reflect the quality of the knife? This is often true of the knives that are seen in the more expensive cooking equipment stores. Can you spend $100 plus on a great chef knife? You bet.
A quality knife should be solidly constructed--it should feel solid and heavy for its size. The knife blade should be one piece that goes from the tip of the knife to the butt or other end of the knife. (This metal that runs through he handle is called the tang. In many knives this tang is visible. A knife that claims to have a 3/4 or 1/2 tang is a noticeably inferior knife.) The knife should also be well balanced so that it can actually be balanced on the side of a finger (on the flat part of the blade just above the handle).
The metal should ideally be a combination of carbon steel and stainless steel, which is called high carbon stainless steel. Both of these metals have positive and negative attributes and combining them takes advantage of the positive aspects of each metal. Carbon steel rusts and discolors but is easy to sharpen. Stainless steel does not discolor, but does not sharpen up very easily.
In our next class session, we will look at several popular knives that chefs use most, and what they are used for (chef knife, boning, paring, serrated, and slicer). We will also discuss how to sharpen your knives. Till then, keep cooking because practice is the only way to really learn this art!