Ittosai

Foodie nightmare: You over at someone’s house or maybe on a trip somewhere and you’ve been tasked with cooking dinner for your friends.  You hit the kitchen up and do a quick scan of you’re working with.  you check  to see if there’s a gas burner, decent pans, and cooking utensils you can actually use.  You apprehensively check the knife drawer/block: you know it’s not going to be good.  There’s a glass cutting board next to it. Those poor knives.

Oh god. Is that a rusty miracle blade? Even worse-  are there Cutco knives in there?  FML.

Call me a snob.  Do it. I think the state of kitchen knife ownership in the average american household is a travesty.

Look, don’t get me wrong, I’ll make due with shitty kitchen equipment when I need to cook.  Some of my most entertaining dinners have been in such situations. But that won’t stop my from turning this post into a PSA.

Don’t let your friends buy shitty knives. It’s dangerous.  Most of America’s shitty knife buying is predicated by a combination of mis-information by marketing machines and a lack of wanting to maintain knives.

One of my favorite food blogs, Cooking for Engineers, decided to test myriad kitchen knives of various qualities and costs.  It made for an awesome, eye-opening piece of digital literature. Check it out here.

You may have noticed a few rather shocking bits of information from that piece:  Cutco’s chef knife costs an absurd $110 and was the worst in terms of performance. That’s more expensive than the Global, Henckels, and the Wuhstof chef knives that were tested.

But y’know what? It’s probably the best-selling knife on there. Why?  Because your neighbor’s son went door to door selling them and guilted you into buying it, that’s why.  Go back to the article and look at the Forschner chef knife.  Forschners are made by Victorinox, are bombproof, and have fantastic Fibrox handles that don’t slip when wet.  Did I mention the chef’s knife is 1/3rd the price of a Cutco knife? Yup, $30 buck.  It gets better: you can buy a 7 piece Victorinox knife set (with a block) for LESS than the price of one crappy Cutco knife.

I yearn for a food culture revolution in the average household.  It isn’t about buying expensive stuff.  It’s about buying high-quality, reasonably-priced tools that turn the mandatory action of cooking into a more significant, pleasant one.

There’s something beautiful about a great knife.  It’s a tool with who’s singular function can be used in countless ways.  It’s the simplistic marriage of form and function-  a handle and a blade.  Look at all the things you can do with it.   Being able to cut things is something we’ve taken for granted for millenia, but the significance of it doesn’t escape me.  Feeling a sharp knife slice through something effortlessly speaks to me. It’s a testament to the value of craftmanship.

Last week I headed to Korin Trading Company to do some birthday knife shopping.  If you’re not familiar, Korin is a sort of Mecca for Japanese knives and cookware.  We were greeted by Saori san, owner of Korin. She’s an absolutely fantastic person who has a very deep, passionate knowledge of Japanese knives.  Many heavy hitters in the NYC food scene go straight to her for their knives.

I was on the hunt for a beautiful Western-style Japanese knife as a birthday present.  Saori San showed me a host of gorgeous knives, including Nenox’s, Masanobus, MACs, and their proprietary brand, Togiharu. As a side note: if you’re looking for a fantastic set of hand-finished Japanese knives, Togiharu is a great place to start.  You can find a 3 piece set for $267 which, ahem, costs less than three Cutco knives and is decidedly much sharper.

After holding and trying a few different knives Saori San handed me an Ittosai Kotetsu chef’s knife.  Case closed. Perfectly balanced, the handle fit perfectly in the gorilla mitts that I call hands. the pattern of the folded damascus steel hypnotized me .  I had to have it.  I got the 8 inch chef’s knife and a 5 inch petty knife.  Saori then generously threw in wooden sheaths, a fantastic cutting board, a sharpening stone, and a DVD on sharpening.  I was over the moon.

As we rung everything up, their in-house sharpener took the knives and touched up the edges.  As I was told,  knives are about 85% as sharp as they could be when they come from the factory.

I brought them home and started murdering some vegetables.  they glided through everything i could find in my kitchen: radishes, onions, sweet potatoes, leeks, tomatoes,peppers, and (of course) pork. Totally worth it.  To be honest, I enjoy looking at them almost as much as I like using them. can you see why?

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