Buying the best inexpensive kitchen knives

EVERYDAY CHEAPSKATE

I believe the ideal kitchen is minimally furnished. By that, I meant it should contain an adequate supply of excellent-quality, highly useful cookware and utensils.

If that doesn’t describe your kitchen, it’s time to take inventory and dejunk your cupboards and drawers so that each piece of equipment is used often, performs adequately and has its own place. That kind of simplicity is beautiful.

With that in mind, today I want to offer a little advice on knives and some considerations for when you’re ready to purchase knives for yourself or for a gift.

The best knives are made of high-carbon stainless steel and are finely honed, perfectly balanced and expensive — a single chef’s knife of this stature can easily run $500 or more! While knives should be a once-in-a-lifetime investment, I think it’s a mistake to spend a lot of money on them. It’s more important to invest in knives that can be sharpened and for you to then keep them sharp. You could buy the best chef’s knife, but if you won’t maintain it there’s no point in buying it. A dull knife makes you work harder because you need to exert greater force, and you can ultimately hurt yourself.

An excellent starter set that will handle all of your needs is a 3-inch straight-edge paring knife for peeling fruits and vegetables and cutting small items; a 5-inch utility knife (or sandwich knife) for slicing small items like cheese, fruits or sandwich ingredients; an 8-inch chef’s knife for slicing, chopping and mincing; and a honing device and steel for maintaining your sharp edges between professional sharpenings. A long serrated knife is a luxury. You’ll be glad to have one for slicing French bread, fresh tomatoes or a prime rib roast because they have a gripping quality that allows you to cut paper-thin if necessary.

BEST INEXPENSIVE KNIFE STARTER SET: Wusthof PRO 5-Piece Starter Knife Set. Made in Solingen, Germany, Wusthof is a highly respected brand of high-carbon steel cutlery. It is considered top of the line by professional chefs. This set includes a cook’s knife, paring knife, bread knife, steel and an eight-pocket knife storage roll. This basic set may have all the knives you ever need, though you can add to it with Wusthof Open Stock Cutlery in the future. You simply cannot find a better value than this beautiful basic set of knives. It costs about $95.

This set would make a perfect gift for any home cook or aspiring young chef.

BEST INEXPENSIVE HOME KNIFE SHARPENER: Wusthof Precision Edge 2 Stage Knife Sharpener. Good knives should be sharpened professionally once every year or two. Between sharpenings, however, you will want to keep those blades honed like a razor’s edge. Safe and easy to use, this two-stage knife sharpener requires nothing but a few easy strokes to keep blades sharp. Its V-shaped cutting head with two crossed carbide blades quickly puts an edge on knives. It costs about $20.