If You Buy One Chef-Grade Knife, It Should Be This One
If you've never splurged on a high-quality knife, the prospect of doing so can feel daunting. Home cooks, myself included, are often intimidated by choosing a knife out of thousands, all of which seem to serve different purposes and many of which seem much more expesnive than what you're emotionally prepared to spend.
We've been chatting with Jacqueline Blanchard and Brandt Cox, the two knife-obsessed chefs behind the boutique New Orleans' knife store Coutelier, about how to best care for the knives you already have. But the more we spoke with them, the more we wondered: If there was one type of knife a home cook should splurge on, what should it be? Ideally this knife would work in many different cooking contexts, whether chopping onions or trimming off chicken fat, and ideally it would be excellent quality, but somewhat affordable.
Blanchard recommends a Santoku knife. "Santoku," which means "three virtues" in Japanese, is a general-purpose knife that does the trick with just about anything, including both meat and veggies. Good Santoku knives usually cost anywhere from $100 to $500, depending on the make, though you certainly don't need to splurge on the most expensive. (Here's one excellent variety Coutelier sells for $220, and here's a solid starter option on Amazon for as $36.)
"It’s good for everything," says Blanchard. "The edge is a touch flatter. It’s more of a chopper than a rocker."
If you, however, like to rock when you cut—working the knife back and forth rather than lifting it—you may want to consider a Gyuto knife, which she says also works for most people.
As for choosing a size, you can't go too wrong, though definitely make sure to hold a few to see what feels more comfortable.
"A lot of people seem to be trending to a smaller Gyutu size," she says. "People are switching to 7-inch Gyutos. It’s a little smaller, slimmer, has a little more rock to it."
Knife experts will tell you that buying a high-quality knife will pay off for the rest of your life. Plus, there are several unexpected but glorious benefits to having sharper knives, including (but not limited to) keeping more nutrients in your food, crying less while chopping onions, and cooking more frequently.