The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

January 20, 2009

Can a Piece of Cutlery Jump the Shark?

Filed under: Cooking, Random Stuff — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 11:24 pm

Anyone who has seen me cook knows that sometimes I can be just a bit of a knife snob.  Trying to cut things with dull knives is something of a pet peeve of mine, and over the years I’ve dealt with my fair share of them.  Sure, you might run into a knife somewhere along the line that might be too dull to cut through an onion without excessive amounts of brute force, but unless for some odd reason you somehow accidentally found yourself trying to julienne something with the honing steel, there’s a good chance the knife will be sharp enough to slice, pierce, cut, rip, mangle or otherwise maim perfectly good fingers, most often the ones on your own hand.  I have found out from painful experience that this happens a lot more often than I would like it to.  Granted, I’ve managed to accidentally cut myself more times than I would care to admit even while using reasonable sharp knives , but usually I can (grudgingly) blame my own carelessness for those incidents.  If the knife is dull, it makes it a whole heck of a lot easier to just blame the equipment and call it good.

For the vast majority of my several culinary misadventures, my tools of choice have been the two knives pictured above.  These two chef’s knives are part of a block set of Faberware Pro Forged knives that I think I paid all of $25 for at Ross back when I was moving into my first apartment.  In total, the set came with five knives, a pair of kitchen shears, a honing steel and a block, although out of all those I rarely make much use of anything besides the two big knives in the set.  Although they could definitely use a good sharpening about now (it’s on the big to-do list I never seem to get around to actually doing anything on,) with proper honing after use and keeping them out of the dishwasher these knives have held their edges quite well over the years.  I have had far more expensive knives come out of the box much duller than these two, and I’ve seen other knives fall apart after much less use than I’ve gotten out of these.

Of course, in some circles, the old-fashioned chef’s knife has fallen out of favor, and for some time now, the Santoku knife seems to have replaced it in many kitchens.  In traditional Santoku knives, the design of the blade (which is designed to be flat, in contrast to the more rounded edges of the typical chef’s knife) is intended to allow for thinner blades to be used for more precise cuts, but the typical Western version of the Santoku knife borrows little but the blade shap, adds indentations in the side of the blade that aren’t present on traditional versions, and has to use thicker blades to make up for softer steel than that used on the typically very hard traditional Japanese versions.  Each different type of blade has its own merits, but I can’t help but think that most of the recent popularity of Santoku knives is more a result of their frequent use by various celebrity chefs than it is by any particular merit of the knife type over similar chef’s knives.   After all, if Rachel, Giada or Ina is using it, it must be good, right?  We’re talking about people here who practically sprint to the nearest mall and buy whatever Oprah tells them to, so  there’s a good chance they’re not going to be doing much comparison shopping for their cutlery needs.

Another part of the problem is that it seems like you can get away with calling anything a Santoku knife these days.  Case in point:

It would seem that someone here is trying to pass off that questionably useful piece of green plastic in the center of the picture as a Santoku knife.  Aside from the fact that I’m trying to figure out exactly who is was that decided you’re supposed to use a great big plastic knife to cut lettuce with in the first place (I guess you’ll maim yourself 18% less with one of those if you happen to be clumsy, careless, inebriated or otherwise incapable of wielding such a dangerous object while preparing food,) it is becoming increasingly clear that they’ll try to pass off just about anything as a Santoku knife these days if it means someone will buy the things.  Even a lot of “real” Santoku knives don’t seem to have much to do with the originals, and seem to be primarily cash-in attempts on the whole trend.  If they’ve reached the point where they’re making the things out of plastic and expecting people to actually buy the things, I think we can safely say that the whole Santoku knife trend has officially jumped the shark, hacked it to bits, sliced it to ribbons, chopped  the pile into an unrecognizable pulp and sold the stuff off as fish sticks in the frozen food aisle at your local grocery store.  You heard me, Santoku knives are officially done for.  You may all now go back to using real knives, except for those of you who shouldn’t be trusted with sharp pointy objects in the first place, in which case you should just order pizza delivery from now on.  Oh, and by the way, watch where you’re pointing those things…

1 Comment »

  1. uh–as I remember,it was the Tupperware people pushing sales of the plastic knife to end brown edges on your lettuce! It obviously sold well–a small item at over-rated in-home sales parties. Joy!

    Comment by RAS — September 20, 2009 @ 7:40 pm

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