Monday, November 22, 2010

Sustainable Tool: The Santoku Knife

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:
  1. A santoku knife.  Pick a medium sized one that fits comfortably in your hand.
  2. A paring knife.  There are still a few things too small to do with the medium santoku.
  3. A bread knife.  The serrated edge will cut bread, cake, and other such things.
  4. 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.
That's it!  If you are just setting up housekeeping, you can certainly get by a long time on just the first two, then add the last two.  You only need specialty knives, like a meat cleaver, if you are doing a specialty job frequently.  For example, I would keep my strawberry knife with the little curved tip, because it does such a good job of hulling strawberries and cutting stem ends out of tomatoes with minimal waste.

The Analysis

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.
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  1. love my santoku too, though I'd forgotten what it's called. Thanks for the post, and Happy Thanksgiving!