Tools for cutting, slicing, chopping and grating are the workhorses of the home kitchen. I’ll share the tools I simply can’t live without and offer some lessons learned for anyone just starting to build their cooking kit or looking to expand one.
Do you love browsing the kitchen aisles at HomeGoods or go gaga for all the gadgets at Williams-Sonoma? I do to! I’ve purchased some duds, balked at price tags, and have gone through my fair share of non-stick pans. What I’ve come to learn is that sometimes you just have to invest in a good piece of equipment and know when good enough is…well, good enough.
In part one of the Kitchen Essentials series, I’m covering sharp things: tools we use for cutting, slicing, chopping and grating.
Cutting, Slicing, Chopping: Knives
Without a doubt, the most important tool in my kitchen is my beloved chef’s knife. I’ve had my current knife for almost 20 years. Over time, I’ve added to that collection as I was able, sticking to two manufacturers — for investment pieces and for practicality.
This is one item I would not purchase without first holding in my hand. It’s important to feel its weight and balance. Would you be comfortable using it on a daily basis? Does it fit like a glove?
Can you get away with only a chef’s knife? I’d say yes. Would it sometimes get frustrating? Probably. With that said, there is no need to buy a huge bundled set of knives unless you are absolutely in love with the brand and it’s a great deal. I would urge you to examine each knife you’d like to have and purchase only the ones that feel right to you.
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These are the essential knives I use in my kitchen (in order of most used):
- Global Classic 7” Chef’s — the workhorse!
- Victorinox Fibrox 7” Santoku — this is the one I pack when we go camping!
- Global Classic 3” Pairing — perfect for peeling, coring or fine work
- Global Classic 4.25” Utility — my go-to for cutting meat away from a whole bird or pork shoulder
- Global Classic 8.75” Bread
- Victorinox Fibrox 12” Slicing — great for slicing big slabs of brisket or torting a cake
If you’re going to invest in some good knives, you’ve got to maintain them. A dull knife is a dangerous knife!
I’ve been through several iterations of knife sharpening tools and have even sent them out for professional sharpening. So, what’s the best tool for the job? The one you’ll use! I am not an expert on the subject, but here’s what I understand:
- Whetstones / sharpening stones are ideal for sharpening, honing and setting the edge of your knives. These require practice, refined technique and multiple stones in varying grits.
- Electric sharpeners usually come with 2 or 3 set of slots (like varying grits), usually set at an angle, that you pass your knife through.
- Manual sharpeners may come with multiple slots as well that you pass the knife through, but requires you to apply an adequate amount of pressure to correct or hone the knife’s edge.
- Honing steels + stones aren’t adequate for correcting a knife’s edge if it’s been warped from use, but are great for tidying up the edge between proper sharpenings.
My current tools are a honing block and an electric sharpener, a Chef’s Choice Hybrid 250, that I absolutely love! Whether my knives need a little touch up or more intense maintenance, I’ve got the tools to get the job done.
For the full 411 on knife sharpening, check out this article from Cook’s Illustrated!
Other Sharp Things: Peeling, Slicing, Grating Tools
I can’t wholeheartedly call these essential because you can probably make do with a nice set of knives, but peelers, graters and mandolins can make easy work of foods you can’t or don’t want to use a knife for.
With the exception of the mandolin (that comes in various price points), these items are fairly inexpensive compared to other kitchen tools. This is great since you do need to replace them from time to time. Can you believe I used the same peeler for about ten years before replacing it? Seriously. Once I got the new one, peeling potatoes became magical!
These are the other sharp things I use in my own kitchen (in order of most used):
- Microplane Zester Grater — I use mine on citrus, ginger, garlic, and cheese
- 4-Sided Box Grater — because I usually buy block cheese, this guy gets a workout every time I need shredded cheese, but is great on vegetables, too
- Kyocera Mandoline — makes beautiful, even slices (like the radishes I’ve eaten on my avocado toast all week)
- Oxo Good Grips Swivel Head Peeler — ergonomic and straightforward
I hope you found a takeaway from reading about the tools for cutting, slicing, and grating. In part two of Kitchen Essentials, I’ll visit just about everything else from cookware to cutting boards…and more!
Recipes to Put Your Cutting, Slicing + Chopping Tools to Work
- Easy Sheet Pan Nachos with Chorizo + Sweet Potato
- Curried Butternut Squash + Granny Smith Soup
- Steak Sliders with Caramelized Pears, Onions + Gorgonzola