Having a sharp, comfortable knife facilitates so many things for the cook. A sharp knife allows for more precise and uniform cutting, less fatigue from use, less risk to you since less force is used, and the most important benefit: less crying from onions. Most likely a result of maintaining my own knives and becoming accustomed to that standard, it now feels like I’m slicing with a brick whenever I visit a friend and get to enjoy whatever knife set was cheapest at the department store last decade. Here’s hoping we can change that.
There are only two things most home cooks need to tackle their cutlery needs — a Victorinox knife and a honing steel. I’m not one to endorse a product or brand, but Victorinox knives, manufactured by the same company that makes Swiss Army Knives, are industry renowned as offering the best value for your dollar. In my experience, they need to be sharpened only once every three months for nearly daily use, which means that the typical home cook would only need to sharpen once a year — if that. Victorinox blades come in two models: the first, known as Fibrox, features a rubber-like handle, and the second offers a sleek rosewood model. Both offer superb sharpness and edge durability, but the rosewood is more attractive, designed to appeal especially to those who like to showcase their wares.
On the subject of honing steels — notice I don’t call them sharpening steels (that’s not what they do!) — don’t be wooed by claims of the “best” materials comprising these tools. For example, some people are enticed by diamond honing steels; they’re diamonds, after all! Diamonds are also used on drills that bore through the densest stone in the world, yet people think their relatively soft knives won’t be harmed at all. Suffice to say that using a diamond hone will tear your knife apart, literally, if you are not a pro with a steel. Stick with a stainless steel model and spare yourself the grief. You can pick up both at Holly Sales and Service in Scranton for less than $50, total. It may seem slightly steep for just two items compared to the knife blocks you can find on sale for $40 or less, but one solid Victorinox chef’s knife can do almost anything you would need to do, and last twice as long.