There are three kinds of paring knives, each with a specific purpose. The classic paring knife with its tapered tip is perfect for carving out the eye of a potato or the blemishes on a peach. The bird's beak paring knife has a hooked blade, used for peeling and shaping fruits and vegetables. The straight-edge version, or sheep's foot parer, is ideal for slicing vegetables such as carrots and zucchini.
   
 
While many knives are "dishwasher safe," it is always best to hand wash fine cutlery. The dishwasher's agitation may cause damage, certain detergents may produce spotting on the blades, and the intense heat is not good for the temper of the blade.
   
The utility knife is an all-purpose tool that is often referred to as a sandwich knife. It peels and slices fruit and vegetables and even carves small meats. Allow your knife to do the work. You should not have to exert too much pressure for the knife to work properly.
   
 
Balance is important when choosing a knife. An unbalanced knife will force you to work harder and exert too much force, which will decrease the amount of control you have. The knife should feel comfortable and well balanced in your hand, from front to back as well as side to side.
   

 

A santoku knife is a general all-purpose chef's knife originating in Japan. The blade is typically five to eight inches long, and can be flat or have a granton edge. The word "santoku" in Japanese means "three good things," a reference to the cutting tasks it performs best: slicing, dicing and mincing.
   
 

The most efficient cutting technique is a fluid, forward cutting motion instead of straight up and down movements. This method allows the knife to do the work.

   
 
When selecting fine cutlery, shape and size of the handle do matter. The handle should be ergonomically designed to fit the hand perfectly. The handle should feel secure, it should not be a struggle to hold on to it safely. It should hold its shape and not separate from the blade.
   

 

Never allow fine cutlery to soak in water. The best practice is to hand wash and dry the knife immediately after use. This is especially important when the blades have been used on fruit or salty food, as these can cause staining - even on stainless steel.

   
 
Even the best of blades will quickly dull if they come in contact with metal, glass or formica. A wooden cutting board is the ideal cutting surface to preserve the edge of your knife.
   
 
The most effective method for maintaining a fine knife edge is to use a sharpening steel that is 2 inches longer than the knife you are sharpening. Using a light touch, draw the edge of the knife across the steel in a sweeping motion at a 20 degree angle.
   
 
A sharpening steel does not really "sharpen" the knife. Using a steel properly actually takes the rolled over edge off a knife - in effect straightening or realigning the knife blade, restoring its effectiveness.
   
 
The best knives are made of forged steel - metal slabs that are heated, hammered into shape then put through hot and cold treatments to create a durable blade. This process maximizes internal strength while discouraging breakage.

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