What knives are needed for your kitchen?

This is a guest post.

In many discussions about cookware, the question about what cookware is really necessary for the kitchen comes up frequently.  Everyone likes to talk about their favorite sauce pan, skillet or even Dutch oven.  But with all of these different pots and pans, the one essential topic seldom comes into the discussion.  And that is knives.

Probably the single most important tools a chef or chefwannabee can have are good, sharp knives combined with a cutting board and a means of sharpening those knives.

Now the mixer, blenders and other appliances along with pots and pans are needed for the completion of most any recipe. But everything starts with cutting and preparing the ingredients.  So what knives do you need?

There are many to choose from and one approach is to select a good set of 6 to 8 pieces as this will provide most of what you will need.  But similar to buying sets of pots and pans, you may get some things that you either do not like or will not use much.

The thing to do is to think about the things  you like to do and how you like to work in the kitchen.  Then select the items  that match what you do.

With this in mind, I can offer a few suggestions however. Start with the three kitchen knives that cover most of our cutting tasks:

  • Chef’s knife
  • Paring knife
  • Serrated bread knife

The chef’s knife is the work horse in the kitchen and can be used for most every job.  They are available in lengths from 6 to 12 inches. But the 8 inch knife is the most popular and probably most versatile.   But get one that is comfortable and easy to manage when slicing and chopping.  The chef’s knife has a rounded edge so that it can be rocked back and forth to quickly chip things

The paring knife is shorter ranging from 3 to 6 inches.  The primary use is for peeling, slicing small items and other detailed work.  These come with either a curved or straight blade.  Select the one that fits your hand and eye bests.

The serrated bread knife has a tooth like edge that can saw through foods with a hard exterior and softer interior such as French b read but works will in slicing squash, fruits and cabbage also.  These knives usually range from 9 to 12 inches.

There are other useful knives as well such as a carving or slicing knife for meats, filet knife or the recently popular Santoku knife.  But the basic three will get you through most of the basic  activities in the kitchen.

Some useful things to remember with the use of your knives:

  • Always use a cutting board and avoid using them on hard surfaces such as glass, granite or marble.  The newer polyethylene plastic cutting boards are easier on the knives and easier to clean than even wooden options.
  • Keep you knives sharp by using a steel or stone with every use or at least once a week.  A sharp knife is safer to use than one that is dull.
  • Do not put knives in the dishwasher.  It is harsh on the surface of  the knives and there is increased danger of getting cut in getting the knives out.

Lastly, selecting good quality knives pays in the long run as they will last a lifetime with proper care.  As an example, Fissler has recently announced a great set of knives that combines German engineering with Japanese artistry.

William Sullivan is a personal chef and recommends stainless steel cookware or cast iron cookware.

Pillsbury To The Rescue

candy_bar_pieAs many of you know already, I am doing Christmas Eve dinner at my house.  Now, last time I did this, I catered it.  This year we are making dinner.  I have never ever ever made a turkey in my life.  I have never made real mashed potatoes either (I am great at instant though!  LOL).  Needless to say, I am a tad worried about Christmas Eve dinner especially now that my husband has informed me that he didn’t take off (if looks could kill . . .).  However, in this insanity I call my life, there is one thing I can count on.  Dessert.

I have to thank Pillsbury for making dessert so much easier for me.  I’m all about easy cooking, and once again, they have come through for me.  Did you know that Pillsbury has pie crusts?  All you need to do is roll them out in your pie pans!  How much easier does it get than that?  Now, they also save you when you are looking for an easy pie to make for dessert too.  By checking out Pillsbury‘s website, you can find a ton more pie recipes.  How does this one sound?

Candy Bar Pie

Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Start to Finish: 3 Hours 40 Minutes

Crust
1 Pillsbury® refrigerated pie crust (from 15-oz box), softened as directed on box

Filling
5 bars (2.07 oz each) chocolate-covered peanut, caramel and nougat candy
4 packages (3 oz each) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter

Topping
3 tablespoons whipping cream
2/3 cup milk chocolate chips

Heat oven to 450°F. Place pie crust in 9-inch glass pie plate as directed on box for One-Crust Filled Pie. Bake 5 to 7 minutes or until very light golden brown. Cool while preparing filling. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.

Cut candy bars in half lengthwise; cut into 1/4-inch pieces. Place candy bar pieces over bottom of partially baked crust. In small bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Beat in 1 egg at a time until well blended. Add sour cream and peanut butter, beating until mixture is smooth. Pour over candy bar pieces. Bake at 325°F for 30 to 40 minutes or until center is set. Cool completely on cooling rack, about 2 hours.

In 1-quart saucepan, heat whipping cream until very warm. Remove from heat; stir in chocolate chips until melted and smooth. Spread over top of pie. Refrigerate 2 to 3 hours before serving. Cover and refrigerate any remaining pie.

Do you have any tricks that you use for your pies?  Any time saving tips like using Pillsbury Pie Crusts?

Tip Of The Day

a small plate with a serving of mashed potatoes

To mash potatoes, use a hand masher, a potato ricer, or for a smoother result, an electric mixer.  Be sure not to overbeat your potatoes.  Otherwise, they will become thick and pasty.

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