A well-chosen knife used correctly makes short work of every cutting function from kitchen to campfire. But take one look at the options and prices and you may decide to skip it again this gift-giving season and keep using what you have. We turned to Chef Jordan Coffey for help.
First of all, purchase a knife made of high-quality steel. "Most chefs use German or Japanese knives," says Coffey, chef of American Harvest Eatery, who recommends looking at Forschner (now part of Victorinox), Wusthof and Shun brands.
Typically, Coffey continues, German knives are made of hard, heavier, fortified steel, "which I prefer," he says, and Japanese knives are lighter and softer, which makes them more durable but "easier to screw up -- over sharpen, wear down, ruin the edge angle. For home use, the integrity of a good quality German knife will be easier to maintain."
Coffey does occasionally go to a big-box kitchen store to purchase a knife, but he says, "I get the ones in the glass case, sold individually, not the sets in boxes on the shelf."
To get started, Coffey recommends an 8- or 10-inch chef's knife. "I have nine or 10 knives for boning, fileting, paring, and so on, but the chef's knife is the one you have to have. If you have the skills, you can pretty much do anything with it. I use a simple knife (style), flat, no pivot, in the $100 to $200 range."
That doesn't exactly narrow the field way down, though. For more information, both Consumer Reports and America's Test Kitchen provide excellent online information about brands and styles, including such features as edge angles, composition of the steel, grip material and design, blade shape and tang (basically, how much blade is in the handle, and the more the better) balance and bolster, price and more. ?Ultimately, the choice comes down to personal preference, usage requirements, hand size and willingness to maintain the blade. To protect your investment, Coffey says, make sure you sharpen it correctly, at the right angle, with the right tool. "Watch a YouTube how-to video to put a proper edge on the knife and not ruin it trying to make it better," he says.
Then, once you have hand-washed, air-dried and carefully stored your great new knife, gather up the old favorites and put them in their new home -- with the camping gear.
For more information, visit http://www.americanharvesteatery.com; http://www.consumerreports; and the "Equipment Reviews" tab at http://www.americastestkitchen.com to watch the current season's four-minute chef's knives video.