Lately, J has been doing most of the cooking in our house. I have been swamped with work and not only has he had more time on his hands, he has taken this opportunity to expand his culinary skills. He has read, watched and learned an immense amount over the past six months and really stepped-up his game when it comes to cooking. Consequently, we have been the lucky recipients of some amazing meals. During our kitchen overhaul, J bought a few new knives and wants to share his findings with you. Not only has he found an economic solution, it’s a superior one at that.
J here: I ❤ Chinese chef knives. No longer shall I daydream of owning an $800+ set of German Wüsthof knives when only two or three of these babies will perform just as well or better at a tiny fraction of the cost. I only paid $41 for these three knives including a sharpening stone (+ ~$15 for shipping) and I’ve barely touched my $275 set of Anolons in weeks. No, I’m not crazy. I have my reasons:
Control – Even though they appear large and unwieldy, a little time & practice with them will prove how nimble these are. Since they are a sizable weighty hunk of metal they will do most of the work if they’re sharp enough. No need to force downward pressure on the blade because they just glide through nearly everything with little effort. It’s important to place your index finger on the side of the blade rather than holding it with a full grip like a hatchet. Watch chef Martin Yan give a tutorial and show off his sublime skillz: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HV8FPk5qN9k
Safety – With a big rectangular cleaver I know where all of the knife is at all times. I’m never going to get caught by a stray tip because the knife turned. With a normal knife as I put my knuckle parallel I can’t lift the blade too high or I could cut myself but if I lift my finger too high it will be over the top of the spine. With the cleaver the sky is the limit as to how far I can lift. I raise my knuckle just above the food and I have ~4 inches of leeway before my knuckle is over or under the knife.
Value – When your knife only costs $10 it’s hard to worry too much about destroying it. Two of these knives are stainless steel which require very little maintenance. The one on the bottom is made of carbon steel which will practically rust in your kitchen when it’s raining outside (not really). Clean it immediately after using, then wipe it COMPLETELY dry. Wipe a few drops of cooking oil on it to inhibit rust. The advantage of carbon steel is how wickedly sharp it can be, while the stainless are a bit tougher to keep a super sharp edge on. if your carbon gets a little spotty just rub some Barkeeper’s Friend on it to take off the rust. Good as new. It’s very similar to cast iron cookware which is also an incredible value. If somehow I lost all my worldy possessions and had to start over, a couple Chinese chef knives and a cast iron skillet would be among the first purchases I’d make. Of course you can spend $40 or even $400 on a Chinese chef knife. If you got it flaunt it.
Bad-assedness – These things just look the business. Not only could I scare off any solicitors or Jehovah’s Witnesses answering the door with one of these in hand, but they just look so bad ass hanging in my kitchen on a magnetic strip. I also feel like I’m in a kung fu movie or something when I’m only chopping onions to feed the family.
The three knives have different functions. The thickest cleaver at the top is for heavy duty bone chopping. The middle one for cutting thicker items like pineapples and hard root vegetables. The carbon steel knife is for ultra thin slices of veggies or boneless meats.
Here’s where you can buy 2/3 of these knives and a sharpening stone.
• The thick meat cleaver I bought at a local Asian grocery store for $13 and there was only one left. You can buy a similar one here: http://wokshop.stores.yahoo.net/meatcleaver.html
• The middle stainless knife is a Winco KC-101 I bought on Amazon for $10: http://www.amazon.com/Chinese-Cleaver-Wooden-Handle-2-Inch/dp/B003HESNR8
• The carbon steel veggie knife was purchased online from the Wok Shop in San Francisco: http://wokshop.stores.yahoo.net/vegcleav.html
Make sure you buy the large sharpening stone too: http://wokshop.stores.yahoo.net/sharston.html
Here’s a video on how to sharpen them. Make sure you soak your whetstone first: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIycmyzrcF0
So that’s J’s take on these knives. I want you to focus on that magnetic knife strip. That’s where I come into the picture. A couple of weeks ago I was shopping with one of my BFF’s and we hit the Kitchen Collection store in an outlet. I had printed a 20% off one item coupon before I left because I knew I was going after a particular magnetic knife strip. It was marked at $13.99 online but when I got to the store, the tag was marked $11.99 and I ended-up getting it for $10.31 with the coupon and sales tax. After that we headed to a new casino that had opened a few miles away where they were giving out $15.00 in “free play”. Now, make no mistake, I am too cheap to be a real gambler but if they want to give me $15.00 to play with, I will. I managed to make $12.41 real money on my “free play”, so it paid for my knife strip with a couple of bucks to spare. As J mentioned above, all-in-all, this knife upgrade has cost us $41.00. Along with our $9.99 IKEA cutting board, we have certainly enhanced our kitchen.
What about you? How do you get the most bang for your buck in the kitchen? Any good tips to share?