Thursday, February 19, 2009

April Fool's cut-up

Every year at about this time I start missing Salt Lake. Of course, this is only because this is the time of year that I instinctually began plotting my April Fool's mayhem on my Mother. I feel really fortunate to have a Mom with such a fun sense of humor. A lot of Mom's out there would most likely get irritated with the tricks the four of us pulled on her all the time. I think Andy and I really were the instigators of the highest levels of pranking torture for her as I have many memories of Andy finding snakes in the yard and using them as his weapons of mass destruction. Obviously, being in Oregon really puts a damper on my April Fool's tricks. I'm completely convinced that one of these years, I'll find a way to get her though.

I find it outrageous and depressing that there are so many cooks out there who don’t have good knives. While I don’t think anyone really NEEDS a full set of amazing knives, I do think that having one or two that are really nice is worth the money. In my mind, the best knives out there are Shun brand knives.
These are a Japanese knives that are made in the same fashion as Samaria swords. The knife starts as a very thin layer of what is called VG-10. What is impressive about this material is that not only is it wicked hard and durable but it also holds an edge for a long time because it carries properties similar to memory foam in the sense that it will bounce back from each time it smacks a cutting board. On top of the VG-10, they add 16 layers of forged steel to each side (32 layers total plus the VG-10 in the middle makes the knife 33 layers thick). This gives the knives a beautiful, wavy pattern but also adds stability and strength to the knife.
The important thing to understand about these knives is that the VG-10 has a really high carbon count. The carbon count is how they measure the hardness or strength of the knife. Honing steels generally have a very high carbon count but with Shun knives, you need to make sure you get a Shun steel, otherwise instead of the steel honing the knife, the knife will cut into the steel. Very fascinating stuff.
When purchasing a knife, it’s always good to know what kind of knife it is, a German knife or a Japanese knife. At the sharp edge, German knives are at a 22 degree angle. Japanese knives are at 16 degrees. While German brands like Henkels and Wusthof are very nice knives, they will not be as sharp or hold their edge as long as any Japanese knife on the market for that reason. A sharp knife will always be a safer knife to use as well as it is less likely to slip of the edges of any found foods and will instead slice right through them. The handle of the Shun is made of Pakka Wood. It’s essentially a fusion of white birch (dyed black) and plastic resin. They are a beautiful and comfortable knife to hold.
A lot of people have a hard time putting the money into a Shun knife which I certainly understand but with a lifetime guarantee and free sharpening for life, I will always recommend these knives to any cook, regardless of skill level.

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