Kitchen Basics: Essential Knives
and How to Keep Them Sharp

So here’s a joke for you. Why did the knife buy a new suit? He wanted to look sharp! Ok, lame joke aside, it does gets to a specific point (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun). Sharp knives are an essential component of a good kitchen. So today we are going to talk about kitchen knives: what you need and perhaps what you don’t. You might think that heading to the store and purchasing an all-in-one knife block with a set of 8 knives will have you covered, but it’s more likely that you have more knives than you need. Here is a short list of must-have cutting tools and what to look for when picking them out.

Chef’s knife

If we had to choose one knife and one knife only to have in our kitchen it would be a chef’s knife. An essential, all around tool, a good chef’s knife can serve you in the kitchen for years. Things to look for when picking one out: weight, balance, size (usually 8″ to 10″), sharpness, and construction of the knife. Weight and balance: does the knife feel good in your hands? If it’s too heavy you aren’t likely to want to pick it up. Does it feel too light? Find one that feels like something you can use without breaking.

When in doubt, test it out. Try chopping a variety of things: herbs, squash or melon (something with a tough rind), onions etc. Make sure that it’s sharp when you buy it (and keep in mind that it’s a good idea to purchase some sharpening tools to keep it sharp- more on this below). Other things to look for: how the knife is constructed? Does the bolster run all the way to the heel of the knife? This can be key to the knife’s durability and strength while cutting. Not sure how to decipher all this chef’s knife jargon? Head here to find out more.



Paring knife/serrated knife

Another great workhorse in the kitchen is the paring knife, which depending on your cutting needs could be your most used knife. Paring knives are super useful for cutting fruits and vegetables: mincing, paring, dicing and scraping (think removing those tiny seed from chili peppers). A serrated version of these smaller knives are great for cutting through fruits and veg that have a tough outer skin but are soft inside (think tomatoes, peaches). Larger serrated knives are great for slicing through things like warm bread (yum).



Kitchen shears/scissors

Ok ok, so these aren’t technically a type of knife, but you may find that you use this item just as much as your knives. Kitchen shears are so handy for things like cutting chicken, cutting perfect triangle pizza slices, cutting up leafy greens for a salad, cutting open packages and so so much more. Buy a pair, you can thank us later.


And that’s it. The list of essential cutting tools is short. There are other great options if you want to expand your knife repertoire, but we think you can cook up some serious eats with these basic tools in your kitchen. And you can free up your kitchen counter top space for other fun things.

Magnetic knife rack

Storing your knives safely and cleanly is important. The worst thing you can do to your knives (which you so lovingly spent time picking out right?) is to hide them away in a drawer where they can be chipped, dulled, and gather dust. The key is to store them in a way that keeps them separated, clean, and stable. A great option for this is installing a magnetic knife rack. It offers the function you need and it nicely displays everything so that you are motivated to cook as soon as you bring your AHO produce home. If storing knives out in the open screams “my kids are going to play with the shiny swords hanging on the wall” then check out these other great options for keeping your knives in tip-top shape.


Sharpening tools

Perhaps the most dangerous tool in a kitchen is a dull knife. The harder you have to work to cut, the more likely you are to lose control and this can lead to accidents. Keeping your knives sharp is essential and a few simple tools can help you do just that. A whetstone (photo 1) will keep your knife SUPER sharp. These come in a variety of “grits” and require a little learning to use, but once you do, you can sharpen your knives in no time. Honing rods (photo 2) are great for keeping the shape of your knife but don’t have the sharpening power of a whetstone. Ready to get started, here are some tips on sharpening your skills. (Sorry, the puns just keep flowing)! Happy Cooking!

Author AHO Kitchen Team

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