Ladies: prepare to swoon. Gents: prepare to meet a bad ass knife that will make you, too, want to slice, dice, and chiffonade. Let me preface this post by saying that, until I met my beau a few years ago, my experience with knives was limited to very small paring knives with very sharp edges. My family (a long line of incredible cooks), swears by these mini-knives, which we buy in bulk on trips to India, and uses them for everything from meats to veggies, from mincing to chopping. And they seem to do just fine with them. I think it's because they don't mind hard work. I, on the other hand, struggle with that concept.
Enter Blake, (aforementioned beau), who actually taught me the proper technique for mincing onions and mashing/mincing garlic, along with the joys of a chef's knife. It opened a whole new world for me, and though my sisters and mother and nieces refuse to adopt large knives (admittedly, they are scary), I can't live without. So, when the beau gifted me THE top of the line Wüsthof Classic Ikon 8" this weekend, though at first frightened by its size and silently wondering if this was a message to cook more, I was flattered that Blake likes my cooking and supports my passion, and most importantly, excited to get to work. And, of course, I melted when I saw the note attached to the wrapping paper (albeit jotted on a post-it note...):
Yeah...he's a keeper. On to the knife, though. It is unlike any other knife I have every met. It has a firm grip, a lot of weight to it, and it makes that shanking (is that a word?) sound when it hits metal. It's edge is obviously razor-sharp. You do not want to be on this knife's bad side.
So, lovingly, I removed the knife from his casing this morning, and I gave him a whirl. (Yes, it's a "he" - there is nothing feminine about this knife at all). I foraged in the fridge to see what cut-worthy things I had on hand, and I decided on the following items: a mango, broccoli, an onion and a tomato. These are items that I often have a hard time cutting. I always chalked it up to the vegetable/fruit itself, but perhaps with the right implement, I could slice these animals up without issue. And so began the test.
I began with the broccoli. I was surprised when the Classic Ikon cut through the broccoli stalk like butter. To make sure I hadn't given him a wimpy broccoli, I tested with my old knife, and found it more difficult to slice through with that one. The Ikon was performing well in test #1. Within about a minute, I had chopped the small head of broccoli and the stalk.
Next up: mango. Mangoes have always been a pain to cut, although my mother always makes it look so easy. People have different ways of cutting mangoes, but I usually slice wedges all the way around. Admittedly, my mango was ripe and prime for slicing, but the Ikon made it a quick job. I have to admit that my old chef's knife didn't fare too badly on the mango either, but the Ikon allowed me to get closer to the pit and salvage all the mango that I could. I think that has something to do with the weight of the knife allowing me to better sense when I've hit the pit? Not sure.
On to the tomato. You may think this is a silly challenge for a knife - not a challenge at all, you might be thinking. But I disagree. Tomato skin is hard to cut through because of its rubbery quality. A dull knife will get you nowhere. A Wüsthof Classic Ikon will get you where you need to go - fast. My old knife did pretty well with the tomato as well, though, so I can't give the Ikon too many points here.
And now, the real test: the onion. Onions can be a pain to cut with the wrong knife (or without contact lenses... when I switched to glasses I was astonished to find how much I cried when cutting them!) First, I sliced/diced. I have never had so much precision with a knife. In one horizontal and one vertical run with the knife against the onion, I had very thin sliced/diced onion pieces that would usually have taken me a couple takes with any other knife. And then, the mincing. This was heaven. I minced that onion in something like 30 seconds. It was a beautiful thing.
I haven't tested the Ikon on meats yet, but I have a feeling it will fare just fine. So what makes the Ikon so special? Well, according to a Wüsthof expert, it carries a couple special features that it's sister, the Classic (no Ikon), does not:
- The precision bolster at the bottom of the blade allows the entire length of the blade to be sharpened
- The blade is designed to more naturally fit your hand
- The way the steel is cut decreases resistance by 20-30%
- Has serious weight to it, which I think makes for more precise cutting
- Has a polished and finer edge, which also decreases resistance
At about $150, this is no small time investment, so if you make it, you should take care of it. Here are some tips on knife care and safety that I've learned from Blake over the years.
Knife care and safety tips
- Always keep your knife sharp! Invest in a sharpner
- Do not let your knife sit in a metal sink or in water (don't want it to rust).
- Always hand wash your knife - never use the dishwasher.
- When washing your knife, hold the knife down (as close to the bottom of the sink as you can without touching it) and away from you. That way if you slip, you are less likely to have your hand fall onto the knife. (This makes more sense when you can visually see it, but I couldn't take a picture and wash at the same time!)
- Store your knife in a knife block or in a knife tray in a kitchen drawer.
Bottom line: if you are getting into cooking, or even if you are a veteran home chef, invest in a great chef's knife. I highly recommend the Wüsthof Classic Ikon 8", but I'm sure there are other great ones out there. Which are your favorite?