Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Specialty Knives

You can't have food without proper tools for preparation. Well, that's a lie. You certainly can. But ever since the first cro-magnon man picked up a stick to use as a crude implement (i.e. to poke his friend Oog in the stomach while out of immediate hitting distance) humanity has embraced tools for their ability to impress our friends while breaking as little sweat as possible.

Today, we've got a two-for. We not only look at the single-purpose tomato knife but we also extrapolate this experience to understand ceramic knives and their place in your kitchen.

The warning about ceramic knives is that much care must be taken to ensure you don't chip the blade. This includes not only careful handling and storage but also limits your applications of the blade to only vertical cuts. That nifty trick where you smash a clove of garlic with the fat part of a chefs knife? NOT ON YOUR LIFE with a ceramic knife! That bend you put in a blade while filleting fish or carving a bird? Not unless you want to stress-fracture your blade.

Right off the bat we've ruled out a large portion of a cooks arsenal. But what about a super-sharp paring/small slicing knife? Again, this won't fit the bill for many strenuous paring tasks but a dedicated small, precise slicer is something that everyone could use. Thus, the decision was made: ceramic tomato knife.

I've heard admonitions before about caring for specialty cookware. I've seen an entire set of Calphalon non-stick cookware go to the dogs; some before it's time, some due to natural wear and tare. So from the start I knew exactly how to handle this blade. It had it's own place in the knife block; there is a knife block portion of the drying rack. And I wasn't going to ask it to do any slicing that would jeopardize the blade. This was always going to be treated as a precision tool.

Hopefully you can tell from the above picture, but after three or so years the knife has noticeable nicks in the blade, despite my careful handling. Given that, ceramic knives get a vote of No Confidence; they are too delicate for a kitchen environment.

Onward to the tomato portion!

So how do they rate as a tomato knife?

On one side is a thin slice from my normal chefs knife. On the other the results of the tomato knife. I actually don't remember which cut was which; I just know that both slices were darn precise and almost indistinguishable. (things aren't looking too good for the tomato knife!)

Really the biggest value in having a tomato knife is that after a long day of cutting and chopping your chefs knife will lose some of its edge. Instead of stopping and re-honing/sharpening, you can grab another knife from the block for some quick delicate work.

All in all, it's not a necessary tool even if you have a constant supply of tomatoes in the back yard (there are still two good ones on the vine as I type this).


  1. Tony, Tony, Tony... first, I have to tell you how much I LOVE that pig bowl. LOVE it. Where did you find it? (email me, puleeze!)

    But, secondly -- thanks for the post. I always use a serrated knife for tomatoes, which actually works perfectly well. I guess you saved me a few bucks :)

  2. Lo: I believe I got both the ceramic knife and the pig bowl from the Tuma Cookery... but I could be wrong... so I'll have to check with my wife.