I am a self-proclaimed kitchen knife snob.
It's my parents' fault, really. See, I'd always been somewhat afraid of knives. When I first started cooking, I wouldn't even chop an onion--I made Andy do it! But my parents have this [great little local knife store](http://www.heimerdingercutlery.com/) that they love so they OF COURSE got us a starter knife or two as a wedding gift. And once I made my first cut with that blade, I was hooked. When you have a sharp knife, it's actually a lot less scary than a dull one, because you're not having to labor and position your fingers to get through whatever you're trying to cut. No, when you press down, the blade cuts, et voila! A chopped onion.
The tricky thing with knives that I've learned is that even excellent brands make cheaper versions to sell at big-box stores. So that Wusthof knife block you bought at Target? It might not have the same quality Wusthof knife that you could get at a chef's store. And then even within the Wusthoff brand there are divisions! The knives I own come variously from the Wusthoff Classic line, Wusthoff Gourmet, and Wusthoff Grand Prix. Who even knows what they all mean!
You really don't need as many knives as come in a knife block. I have a few knives that I use all the time:
- a paring knife
- a chef's knife
- a serrated "sausage" knife (that also works well on bread, tomatoes, meat, etc)
- and a slightly larger paring knife (some websites seemed to call this a "slicer" or "sandwich" knife)
I also have a little ceramic paring knife that I LOVE. Honestly, I mostly bought it at first because it was cute, and inexpensive, but it's actually a great little knife.
I keep them all in an in-drawer knife block rather than one that takes up precious counter space, and it works pretty well for my purposes.
One thing I've learned about knife care is that there's a difference between honing and sharpening. Honing, what you can do at home with a so-called sharpening steel, straightens the blade of the knife. As you use it, the blade naturally bends *just* slightly, making it so that when you cut, the blade isn't necessarily dead-on. So, by honing it, you re-align the blade, and it is effectively sharper.
Sharpening, on the other hand, actually creates a fresh edge for your knife. The blade can be dulled by use--coming into contact with cutting boards, etc--so having this done professionally every so often is not a bad idea. I always wash our knives by hand, and I take them to [The Cook's Warehouse](http://www.cookswarehouse.com/) once a year to be sharpened. It costs some money, but compared the price of the knives it's negligible and will make them be of service for much longer! (Unfortunately the ceramic knife can only be sharpened by the company that sells it, which is in Japan, meaning you have to ship it. So that one might not be happening.)
(P.S. Another tip is that glass cutting boards are hell on your knives. Wood is really the best, but plastic is better than glass.)
So there ya go. A little glimpse into my kitchen habits, and a brief primer on good knives.
**What's your favorite kitchen gadget?**