The One Cooks Knife You Need

When I first got interested in cooking I was involved in a business that supplied restaurants. I had the opportunity and misfortune to be involved with the inner workings of some of the country’s finest eatery’s first hand.

Apart from learning how to brew coffee like a true barista or the importance of removing the bitter tomato seed from bruschetta, I learned what constituted a great Cooks Knife and how to use it.

The Arsenal

So being young and overpaid I bought 3 Cooks knifes - 32cm,26cm, and 20cm. I bought a 7cm peeling and a 9cm paring knife. A 23cm carver for the roasts, a big bread knife, an 18cm fish filleter and to round it out a 16cm boning knife. I kept them all in a professional wrap and rolled it open with pride as I chose which particular blade I would enter that days battle with.

Over time the filleting knife found it’s way into the fishing tackle box, my sister inherited one of the bigger cook’s knives, the smaller ones disappeared and the others may be at the bottom of a drawer somewhere.

Cooks Knife
Wustof 20cm Cooks Knife

I purchased a variety of brands but the very first knife I bought was the Wustof Classic 20cm Cooks knife and it’s the one knife I still travel with and use today.

In the kitchen if I need to peel an apple I’ll never go and find a purpose made knife for peeling. I’ll use this knife (or most likely a plastic peeler). If I need to slice some meat from the bone or butterfly a steak or dice, chop, mince, julienne, crush garlic, slice bread or tomato’s, fillet a fish, smash lemon grass with the spine, cut vegetables, poultry, meat and fruit then this knife does the lot.

Part of the reason one knife is all you will ever need is to do with time. Learning to use a knife properly takes time and unless you are a full time kitchen professional it is unlikely your hand skills will ever develop well enough to handle all the different styles of knife with dexterity. Tiger Woods, the golfer, is renowned for having the best short game in the world. (short game = the little shots around the green). He reports that wherever possible he uses just one club, his sand wedge, for all these shots.

All Rounder

The Wustof Classic cooks knife is the perfect all rounder. The 20cm length means it can cut virtually anything, from slicing whole beef rumps to dicing the finest of onion or using the tip to trim the inner flesh from vegetables. The curve of the blade is ideal for mincing leeks, chives, parsley etc. while the front of the blade is useful for chopping onions, mushrooms, vegetables and the like. The spine of the knife can break up small bones and shellfish or crack a coconut. The heel of the knife can muscle through firmer cuts while the wide flat blade can flatten, crush or be used to lift chopped food.

I have had mine for over twenty years and I use it every day. It has cooked for weddings and functions and has probably travelled 50,000km. I use a quality steel to keep the edge keen and I use it often while I am cutting. I have it professionally sharpened about once a year, it costs about eight dollars, and the thing just won’t give up. It just holds its edge forever.

Wustof History and Knife Manufacture

Wustof knives are a 7th generation family business started in 1814 in Solingen, Germany where the knives are still manufactured. The blades are forged from a proprietary steel alloy made from stainless, chromium and molybdenum for stain resistance and carbon and vanadium for hardness and edge retention.

The knive is forged and tempered from one piece and has a full length tang to which the very durable synthetic handles are firmly riveted. This is a knife built to last a lifetime.

The 20cm (8inch) blade seems to accepted throughout the cooking industry and by most people I know as the best allround blade available. Any bigger and things start to get a bit cumbersome and heavy. Big knives look great in the kitchen but I bet you grab this size knife every time you want to work. 20cm is a nice extension of your arm and a useful and manageable weight.

Going the Distance

My Wustof Classic 20cm has had a shocking life. Someone, in an attempt at using the steel, proceeded to take great big half moon chips out of the blade. I had to have it professionally ground back to get all the dings out. It’s been dropped, levered cans open, bounced across the Gibb River Road in the back of a 4WD, cut on every surface known to man and generally been mistreated. Yet it just refuses to give up its edge. The thing just stays sharp with the barest of attention. If I lost my knife I would buy the identical blade in a shot and I bet it would perform exactly the same. Hell, these people have been making knives for 200 years.

Tip: if you are going to store your knife in a wooden knife block turn your knife upside down. It keeps the edge away from the bottom of the groove. Result - knife stays sharper for longer and the block doesn’t chop out.

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