As an avid gardener, food preserver, and almost-vegetarian, I chop a lot of veggies. And, I have amassed a lot of paring knives, ranging from expensive to dead cheap. (In fact, my favorite paring knife is one that DH picked up at a big box retailer when he was out of town on business; I think he said it cost $3.) On top of that, like most brides, I registered for the obligatory butcher block knife set when we married. So, like most people of my age, I now have a drawer full of knives, each supposedly doing a different job, and each taking up space and having cost money.
All I needed to start was a santoku knife.
The santoku knife, as you see above, is a Japanese-inspired (the real ones are Japanese), relatively flat-bladed knife with these little divots along the side. The divots are what is magic; they keep the knife from sticking to the food, and therefore you can slice much more easily through whatever you are cutting. Although I gather it is primarily a vegetable knife, it is definitely my first choice for cutting cheese or meat these days. In fact, I usually don't put this one in the dishwasher but instead just wash it off and put it back in the drawer. (I know, I know: you shouldn't put knives in the dishwasher at all. But I am usually too lazy not to, so I have to work with my own reality here.)
I wish I had known about the santoku knife earlier, before I started amassing a collection of knives for all occasion. If you are reading this and just starting to amass kitchen tools, I recommend you acquire knives in the following order:
- A santoku knife. Pick a medium sized one that fits comfortably in your hand.
- A paring knife. There are still a few things too small to do with the medium santoku.
- A bread knife. The serrated edge will cut bread, cake, and other such things.
- A set of (usually six) steak knives. This gives you good meat knives for four people with two left over to use to cut meat in the kitchen.
Fast: Your "fast" benefit here is that you will have a far easier time cutting things with a santoku, so you save time there. You also will have an easier time finding it in a drawer if you limit your knives.
Cheap: I got the above knife for about $7 at Meijer. You can spend a ton, but you really don't need to. (Don't tell the foodies I said that!) If you are starting out, you can probably get the first three knives for under $25 total; this is a good thing to put on your wish list too, if you have people wanting seasonal hints.
Good: Limiting clutter with a good-feeling tool is always a pleasure.