I’m talking basic here. Like as basic as you can get basic. The two key tools are …a good chef’s knife and a cutting board.
You are either thinking, “duh!” or squirming in your chair because you know you don’t have ‘good’ ones.
As we start the preparation for Thanksgiving, I’m putting these out there so if you don’t have these two tools, you can add them on your shopping list – and have them in time for Thursday. I swear it will make life so much easier!
So what makes a good chef’s knife and cutting board? And why does it matter?
It matters because the dread of preparing a meal is usually the reason you don’t do it. Right? It takes too long. It’s too much work. I don’t have time. It’s overwhelming.
You know the best and cheapest way to health is making your own food. You have total control on the quality and the method used.
Let’s get your kitchen geared up so meal prep is easier, faster and, dare I say, fun!…Oh, and SAFER too!
I have seen people cutting vegetables with everything from a steak knife to a bread knife. And if they actually have a chef’s knife it is so dull, it’s like a butter knife.
If this is you, don’t worry. You are not alone. I was guilty of all of these at one point. Now it’s a little scary and painful to watch.
Your chef’s knife is your best friend in the kitchen. You are going to spend a lot of time with it – cutting, mincing, chopping. You need to pick a good one and take care of it.
There are a lot of specialty knives that serve a good purpose but don’t serve as a good all-purpose, chop-your-vegetables type of knife.
The steak knife is too small and awkward to effectively and efficiently chop. It wiggles a little too much when cutting a hard, raw vegetable and would get lost in the pile of greens.
The pairing knife is way too small for cutting most vegetables. It wins over a steak knife because it is sturdy and strong. But it still falls short when chopping or mincing greens like kale or parsley.
The bread knife is too long and too straight. It doesn’t let you rock the knife back and forth. A bread knife can be useful in slicing a tomato with thick skin… but if your chef knife is sharp, it can handle it.
You want to be Goldilocks and get a knife that is “just right” — not too big, not too small.
A chef knife should feel comfortable in your hand. It should feel sturdy and you should feel in control. An 8” inch chef’s knife is about right for me. I find anything bigger or smaller feels awkward.
I have a 7” Wusthof Santoku Knife and 6” Kyocera Ceramic Knife. Fancy. But you know what? They sit in my knife drawer. They are both a little smaller than I like. And there is a little bit of feeling they are too fancy to use everyday and that I have to save them for a special occasion. Maybe I’ll pull them out to prepare Thanksgiving dinner.
My knife of choice is an 8” Dexter. It came with the hubs when we got married. He had 3 Dexter knifes. And those are the ones I like to use. (You can get one on Amazon for $27.)
It would be ideal if you had at least 2 good chef’s knives. That way you can get help in the kitchen. 🙂
You also want your chef’s knife to be sharp.
A sharp knife is safer to use than a dull knife. It sounds counter intuitive but it’s true.
The easier the knife cuts through your vegetables the less chance that you will need to force it through. When you force a knife, there is a chance the knife will slide, skip or jump…accidentally… onto your. finger. Ouch.
The way to keep your knife sharp is by running it on your knife sharpener before and after each use. And by “use”, I mean each meal preparation. I’ve heard that a honing steel rod is better than the pull through kind.
The edge of the knife is made up of tiny little bristles. The bristles bend with use. The sharpener acts like a comb and combs them back into a nice straight smooth line. You want to swipe the knife along the honing steel several times on each side.
Getting all your knives professionally sharpened every couple years is also a good idea.
This would be the place to start if you’ve had your knife for years and don’t use sharpener regularly and have never had it professionally sharpened. If you live in Marin, there is a knife truck/guy at the Sunday San Rafael Civic Center Farmer’s Market.
Get your knife sharpened! You will fall in love with it. But be careful handling it, like when you wash it, because it will be super SHARP!
You should have at least 2 large cutting boards in your kitchen. The operative word is LARGE. A cutting board should be at least 8”x11”. But a 12”x18” is best.
You want enough surface area to be able to rock your knife back and forth without it falling off the edges.
The little 8”x6” boards or cheese boards are not big enough. Those are good for serving or cutting 1 piece of fruit but not for cutting something like an onion or mincing parsley. The surface area is simply not big enough for it to be safe … or comfortable.
You should clear the cutting board after cutting each vegetable. Put the scraps in the compost and the cuttings in a bowl. Again, you always want as much surface area as possible.
You can read my friend Irina’s article about choosing the safest cutting board here.
A good chef’s knife and cutting board are only the beginning.
If you want more personal help setting up your kitchen or moving past where you are get stuck trying to eat healthy, I’d love to help you.
I am opening 5 spots for a new 2-hour VIP Set-Up Your Thriving Kitchen Session and a 4-week Eat Healthy & Thrive Package where we will focus on the tools you need to get the right food on your table and get you past being stuck.
I am offering a 20% discount until Monday, November 30.
I am running to meet some friends at the farm to pick up our Heritage Turkey.
Have a wonderful holiday!