The following are what I'd call specialty knives. They belong in the "you may never need these but they might be nice to have" category.
Features: A lightweight, bolsterless, thin blade whose spine curves steeply to the point.
Uses: It should be used to cut small items only. It is not useful for most chef's knife applications.
Let's get the confession out of the way—I rarely use mine! The good folks at Korin, a premier source for Japanese knives, told me that it actually originated in Japan and was made for Japanese women who wanted to cook Western-style food. One of the major housewares stores in America brought it to our shores. The rest is history.
No doubt the Santoku was then popularized by Food Network chefs and was often touted as an all-purpose knife. Bosh! There is no such thing as an all-purpose knife. Why would knife manufacturers bother making so many different knives if one knife could do it all? I find the Santoku to be too short and too light to use as a chef's knife (even if it were heavier it would still be too short), and too wide to use as a paring or utility knife. I could probably fabricate a chicken with it if I had to, but it wouldn't do well as a filleting knife.
If you want one in your wardrobe, and in case you have never heard of a Santoku, here are three. (Top photo, from top to bottom: Victorinox with no Granton edge, LamsonSharp, and Henckels.) By dint of its handle, the Henckels has more weight. but the weight is all in the handle and the blade is still too short for my liking.
Features: Blade length varies according to manufacturer, from 7 to 9-1/2 inches. Heel width: 1 inch.
Uses: Slicing quiches, pies, tarts, thick sandwiches, and baguettes.
One look at this knife will tell you how it got its name. A scalloped-edge blade is set below the handle, making this the ultimate big-bellied knife with plenty of clearance for your fingers when you want to section things like pies or quiche, or cut bread.
Features: The blades are usually offset and have an etched or fluted side to prevent sticking.
Pictured above are, from the bottom, three styles of cheese knives, by Forschner, Wusthof, and LamsonSharp. The Wusthof and Forschner knives are best suited for hard cheeses; the LamsonSharp, for softer cheeses. I have lived many, many years without having a cheese knife, using a utility knife for the soft varieties and a scalloped-edge knife for harder cheeses.
Above the cheese knives are two tourne (or bird's beak) knives and two crinkle cutters for preparing crinkle-cut vegetables. The former are by Calphalon and Messermeister; the crinkle cutters are by Wusthof and F. Dick.
A tourne knife is used to prepare those small, football-shaped, seven-sided potatoes, carrots, or turnips that come with your rack of lamb.
Mastering Knife Skills
The Essential Guide to the Most Important Tools in Your Kitchen
- by Norman Weinstein
- Photography by Mark Thomas
- Stewart, Tabori & Chang 2008
- Hardcover with jacket; US $35.00
- ISBN-10: 1584796677
- ISBN-13: 9781584796671
- Excerpt reprinted by permission.
This page created July 2008