14 February, 2010

Vintage Sunday: My Favorite Knives

Good knives are essential to cooking.  Everyone has their favorite brands, and that's cool with me.  Personally I don't care if a knife is from Shun, Henckles, Wusthof, or whatever.  What's important to me is that the blades are suitable for the job I'm doing, and that they hold a razor-sharp edge with little effort.  Accordingly, I have a selection of knives from various manufacturers.  They're not a fancy master chef's matched set of hand-hammered Damascus steel blades, but they do what I ask of them, and they sharpen nicely.

But of all my various knives, I have two very old, carbon-steel blades that I turn to again and again for certain jobs.  Both of them were obtained at estate sales, and both are older than me.

The first one is a slicing knife, commonly referred to as a "ham slicer."  It has an untapered 1⅛-inch wide blade that extends 13 inches from the handle, full-tang costruction, with walnut handles darkened with time and use.  Its thin, flexible blade is made of carbon steel (not stainless) and like the handles has darkened with age and use.  I touch up the edge now and again with a butcher's steel, but I rarely have to put a real edge on it because it holds up so well.  This is my go-to knife for slicing deli meats and cured charcuterie.  It glides through a leg of prosciutto or a chunk of my capicola like a light saber through Luke Skywalker's wrist, and it makes it easy to cut paper-thin slices you can practically read a newspaper through.  I bought it from the estate of a retired butcher.  A guy who had arrived at the estate sale a few minutes ahead of me bought every knife the man owned except this ham slicer, and I grabbed it immediately.  I don't really care that I didn't get the other knives, because this one has served me so long and so well.

My other vintage knife is a 50-year-old 8-inch slicing knfe - an "Old Hickory" brand carbon-steel knife by Ontario Knife Company of upstate New York.  This knife is one of the best carving knives I've ever used.  You can slice a roast turkey breast so thin your kids will cry when you put the slice on their plate.  It's ideal for slicing salamis and pepperoni, and it's the one knife I use for carving everything from kielbasa to London broil, to pork roasts and rotisserie chickens.  And one of the best things about this knife is you can still get one - they've been in production for more than 100 years and they are still being made, right here  in the USA.  And they're affordable.  A brand-new 8-inch slicer just like mine will set you back less than ten bucks online.

I love my knives.  But I love these two best of all.


1 comment:

tree ocean said...

Nice read, thanks for sharing! ONe of my favorite knives was a 10 inch french knife I bought used from the knife man. The guy who supplies local restaurants with knives and sharpens then. It had a plastic handle. (teflon?)

One memory of the knife was when I was raising a litter of Bullmastiff puppies. They could go from the kitchen into the back yard, and after one dinner I went into the kitchen to see the male (of course, snicker, snicker) running in through the back door with the handle of said french knife in his mouth and ten inches of blade sticking out the side and the pack hot on his heels. No one was decapitated, and despite the chewed handle I used that knife for years. I finally retired it because there was no way to properly sanitize the toothmarks.