Knives out

Knives out

The joy of cutting vegetables with a very sharp knife is part of enjoying the cooking process, writes Vivek Phadnis

Ask a chef or anyone who is passionate about cooking — he or she is most likely to have several knives. Be it the western chef, paring or peeling knives, the cleaver or the Japanese santoku, nakiri, deba, usuba et al, owning a set of knives is imperative for those who love cooking.   

Owning several knives is about using the right knife for a specific cutting job rather than one knife for cutting everything. In this, the Japanese are very particular about the knife they use for a specific chopping task.  

As someone who loves to cook, I find that the process matters as much as the final outcome. And the joy of cutting vegetables with a very sharp knife is part of enjoying the cooking process.  

Having said that, the important thing here is that a knife needs to be really sharp all the time. A common misconception is that a sharp knife is dangerous. It is the opposite actually. A sharp knife will sink into the vegetable easily, while a blunt knife is more likely to slip off the vegetable surface and injure the user. 

Apart from safety, just imagine trying to cut a ripe tomato with a blunt knife. The tomato will get messy with the flesh and juice all over the cutting board.  

Talking of a sharp knife, the process of sharpening is an art in itself. It takes understanding of the type of steel the knife is made of and different types of sharpening stones. With a double bevel knife, both sides need to be sharpened and also evenly along the length of the blade. Sharpening too much on one side will leave a burr and the knife will not perform at its best. Sharpening a knife is a fantastic and fun process, but takes a long time to master because it is a fine craft. 

There are some very expensive and exotic knives out there with high-quality Damascus or Japanese steel. They might mostly be for professional chefs and one need not spend astronomical amounts of money to buy these. But a couple of thousand rupees for a good knife will be money well spent. A knife made of good quality steel will hold its sharpness for a longer time. It is no wonder that an inexpensive knife will have to be sharpened repeatedly.  

The other important ritual after using the knife is washing, drying and proper storage. The worst thing to do is to use the knife and toss it into the sink to be washed later. If the knife is made of carbon steel, it will get rusted in no time.  

Collecting kitchen knives is a fun thing to do. Spending money on them is one thing, but these knives need to be really looked after for that great cutting experience time after time.  

(The author takes refuge in food after a tiring day with cars and gadgets.