I don’t know much about kitchen tools than these four bits of advice: 1. A chef friend told me, when buying knives, to buy the kind with the three metal dots on the handles. Those are the rivets so you know they’re made well and will endure; unlike the knives without the three dots that (often) see their blades slipping out of their handles. This has actually happened to me. 2. Don’t wash a wok. Just rinse it out with hot water so it gets seaoned. 3. Although I prefer them, don’t use wooden cutting boards because bacteria can imbed themselves in the wood. 4. Copper pots and pans – or at least the copper bottomed ones – are the best to cook with. It’s something to do with the way they get hot and/or retain heat. Plus, they’re aesthetically appealing.
Like I said, number 1 is advice given to me by a friend, my best man, who’s a chef. Number 2 is known tradition and technique. Number 3 makes sense but, honestly, I don’t know how valid a piece of advice it is. I mean, wouldn’t the bacteria die after washing the board? Number 4, I think, is something my brother-in-law (also a bit of a foodie but a lawyer by trade) said to me.
Anyway, I bring all this up because I’ve come up with my own piece of advice for starting cooks and those who’ve never used one. Here it is: get a ceramic knife.
Perhaps my culinary life was living under a rock but I’m, really, a very simple kind of cook. I know there are all sorts of knives for all sorts of purposes but, if I need to make an incision, I’ll get whatever knife does the job and get it done. Last November, however, we (my wife, son and I) were at a friend’s house and she was preparing a trial run of her Thanksgiving meal, albeit with a chicken. My wife helped her prep and got to use our friend’s ceramic knife. I held it but didn’t use it. The first thing that caught my attention was how sleek it is while also feeling very sturdy. I imagined fishermen having one on long hauls and carving their catch with a ceramic knife and eating the fresh, instant sushi off its edge. I could picture those same fishermen using the same knife against pirates and less than honest fishmongers who might consider cheating them out of a kilo or two of their catch’s weight.
I finally got to use one on New Year’s Eve when my wife returned home from a shopping trip to Williams and Sonoma. From some holiday shopping at what I call my Mother Ship, my wife earned a cash equivalent coupon for W&S and got me some cooking utensils, including an all black ceramic knife. Being all black, naturally, as an Asian male and martial artist to boot, I felt like I were a ninja and she’d just given me my own tanto. Anyway, I’d also just bought a huge slab of tenderloin and for the New Year’s celebration I was making a Korean feast that included Haemool Pajeon and Kalbi Chim. I didn’t have any short ribs so I used the tenderloin instead but, before putting it into the pot, I had to cut it up. And out came the ceramic knife, which, for some reason, I’ve started calling Black Mamba. Well, the knife went through the meat like a lightsaber through ghee. It’s the best knife I’ve ever used and it gets the job done.
Since New Year’s, I’ve used the knife for other things less glamorous than a glorious slab of meat, and it’s done the job every time. It’s some effective that, to be honest, I’ve been more focused on my cutting technique. I’d hate to slip with this thing because it’d surely take part of my finger off. I still have and sue my grown up set of knives but my Black Mamba is one that will go with me wherever my kitchen might be. My wife and son say I should audition for ABC’s The Taste. If I ever do, you know I’ll be packing Black Mamba in my kit bag.
So, while you may hear all sorts of other advice, all of which will be valid and given by more competent kitchen generals than myself, I do encourage you to have a ceramic knife. Using it, I couldn’t help from recalling the scene in Goodfellas when Paul Sorvino is slicing garlic cloves while in prison as he’s preparing to make pasta sauce. He says to slice it thin for the flavor. And, he’s slicing it with a blade; a good, old fashioned inch by inch and a half blade. Well, Black Mamba can cut as fine as that blade and it can also take on and handle huge slabs of beef. The precision and ease and fit (my fingers wrapped around the hilt like they were made for each other) are like no other knife I’ve ever used and, likely, like no other knife you have. I love to cook and create in the kitchen but I only like to prep. With Black Mamba by my side, I’ve started to love the prepping part too.
If you get one, though, treat it well. It’s ceramic so there is a certain element of delicateness to it. And, while I’ve been told they’re dishwasher safe (mine didn’t say on the tag), I believe you’ll maintain its integrity by washing it by hand.