With our airwaves packed with celebrity chefs, Americans are proving to have a solid appetite for what Julia Child would call cuisine—at least on television. For those of you who have yet to trade the remote for a silicone spatula, and have only sweated over soufflés, syrups, and sautés during the finale of Top Chef, we offer a sage bit of culinary wisdom: Get a good knife.
Our knife research began with a turn of the dictionary’s page. We found that knives, and those with the calluses to prove countless hours logged in at the cutting board, have a language all their own. The heel, for instance, is the rear part of the blade used for more forceful cutting. The spine is the thicker portion at the top. Scales are the two pieces that make up the handle. The butt is, frankly, the butt. The vocabulary isn’t just zoological. A full tang isn’t referencing the astronaut drink but rather a blade that extends through the end of the handle, providing both durability and balance.
Armed with our newly acquired taxonomy, but faced with a baffling array of blades (from the wee paring knife to the daunting cleaver), we narrowed our selections to the chef’s knife. This multipurpose blade was derived from its samurai-descended cousin, the santoku (literally “three good things,” referring to slicing, dicing, and mincing), and offers the widest range of functionality.
Josh Epple, co-owner of one of the oldest butcher shops in California, Drewes Bros. Meats, graciously agreed to test our knives’ (pork) chops. Price and material are important factors to consider, but there’s no substitute for real-world experience. Luckily, roasts and fillets abound at Drewes, where Josh and his crew put our cutlery to the test.