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Chef Tim Says....

Sharp Holiday Gifts

Time to buy gifts. If you are stumped for what to get that cook in your life, think about something that will make their time in the kitchen easier and a lot more fun. As long as I have been cooking I still love getting new equipment, but none more than a great quality knife. This is an essential tool, but often people won't buy one for themselves.

There are a broad range of prices, but even at the lower levels - in the $40.00 range - you can find excellent quality. Like all other kitchen equipment you can spend a small fortune, but for most of us the extra money will not add all that much. Here are some ideas for your shopping list:

Knife sets

Knives are always important. I love giving them to folks because often people who are great cooks won't invest in good quality cutlery. Time and again I will go to a friend's house and their knives are terrible. A good basic set should have a chef's knife, a filet or boning knife and a small paring knife. The length of the chef's knife is one of personal preference but an 8 inch knife will work for most people.

This Zwilling J.A. Henckels Twin Signature 7-Piece Knife Set with Block is a great example of a reasonably priced set that comes complete with a chef's knife, paring knives, a sharpening steel and even kitchen shears.

The Henckels Twin Signature is of moderate quality and prices can increase dramatically from this level. They are a very reliable brand. I used Henckels knives for years and still have my first 10 inch Four Star chef's knife.

Of course, you can scale up from there pretty easily and spend a King's ransom on knives. If you are fortunate enough to have a King's ransom to spend, Michel Bras' knives are just the gift for you to give: Michel Bras 7-Piece Knife Set.

Knife choices

There are three basic knives that everyone should have:

Chef's knife

I used to use a heavy, plastic handled chef's knife but I now prefer an all stainless knife and my daily chef's knife is a Global 8-inch chef's knife. This is a lightweight knife that is extremely comfortable to use and would be a great complement to any serious cook's knife selection.

Both Henckels and Wusthof make fantastic chef's knives:

Zwilling JA Henckels Four Star 8 inch chef's knife

Wusthof Classic 8 inch chef's knife

Paring knife

I use a Henckels Four Star 4 inch paring knife almost every day. Almost any brand will do but the blade should be thin and slightly flexible.

Boning knife

This is essential for the serious chef. The blade should be at least 6 inches long and very flexible. This is a very reasonably priced boning knife: Zwilling J.A. Henckels Twin Signature 5-1/2-Inch Boning Knife.

A bread knife

While this is not essential, a serrated knife is a great help. It's perfect for slicing bread, of course, but also tomatoes and the like, and having one in the knife block is a treat for any cook.

A knife sharpener

This Chef's Choice knife sharpener is fantastic. I have had mine now for well over a decade and it works like the day I unpacked it. The less expensive two wheel versions are great.

Kitchen shears

Shears are one of those items that folks don't often think about but a good set of shears can make things so much easier in the kitchen. Many knife sets will come with them but here's an example of reasonably priced shears from OXO.

Whichever you purchase, choose one with a comfortable plastic handle and that is spring activated, so the default position is with the shears open. Most will have a hook to keep it closed for storage.



I almost never use a food processor for slicing because it is hard to clean up, bulky and doesn't make uniform slices. I love using my mandoline because it is quick, more accurate and easy to clean up.

For those less experienced a V shaped slicer like this OXO is a great choice.

More expensive mandolins don't always mean that they are better. The OXO products have come out on top in almost every review that I have seen.

Eat well, eat healthy, enjoy life!

Timothy S. Harlan, M.D.
Dr. Gourmet