Do I Really Need an Expensive Chef's Knife? AMA #16
Plus, more thoughts on vinegar.
Some great Qs this week. A reminder: EVERYONE can hear my answers, but only paid subscribers will have access to that email address.
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This Week’s Questions:
I have a question about chef's knives. Websites often tout expensive chef's knives from Germany, Japan, etc. It's easy to spend many hundreds on a knife. However, when I worked in a NYC fine dining restaurant (as a bartender), I noticed that the chef and cooks mostly used cheap, white plastic-handled chef's, petty and boning knives from the restaurant supply store. They kept them nice and sharp, and honed constantly. I rarely saw an expensive knife in that kitchen. Q: are the restaurant supply store knives as good as the expensive ones?
I found your vinegar video to be super insightful and eye opening - thank you! I was naive on Balsamic and now I feel educated. A couple of follow up questions. You mentioned some vinegars you store in the refrigerator but most you store in the drawer. I always put my vinegar in the fridge - can you comment on the best way to store open vinegar? And how long would you keep an open bottle before it's likely bad? (or is that a concern?). Also, I would love it if you could share some of your favorite recipes or tips for dressings with sherry vinegars or the Saba.
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I’ve seen some really inexpensive (on a knife nerd’s scale) knives that punch way above their weight class and some really expensive knives with terrible geometry that give you a blister and wedge in everything. When you find a good one though…
There’s a real joy and excitement that comes from using an expertly crafted chef’s knife. That doesn’t necessarily mean expensive. Just GOOD. Something that glides through food like the cutting’s already been done. A knife that releases the potatoes rather than stacking them like vacuum held hockey pucks on the other side of the blade until inevitably tossing them off the board and into the floor. A blade that has you wanting to julienne something when a rough chop will do. A good knife can sometimes be all it takes to get you into the kitchen, and a bad one can keep you out.
You may not need an expensive knife, but if you avoid kitchen tasks because you don’t want to bother with the knife then you definitely need a BETTER one.
(If you’re a total knife novice, look for one that at least lists the steel type. It probably doesn’t matter which steel it is as long as they bother to list it. Like VG-10, BD1N, Super Blue, ZDP-189 etc. “German steel, surgical stainless steel, and high-carbon stainless” aren’t real things. Run away.)
I'm so clumsy, I worry I'd cut my fingers off if I actually had a really good super sharp knife!