shunknife.jpgWe spent this past weekend in a tranqil cabin on a lake (ahhh). Cooking was a big part of the weekend, and although the kitchen was relatively well-equipped with the basics, we realized very quickly that there was one thing that would have made it even better -- one solid, sharp chef's knife. One sharp knife is better than several dull ones, and it can make up for the lack of other tools, like a vegetable peeler.

If you are stocking a kitchen for the first time or are looking to upgrade, save up some money and buy yourself a good chef's knife. When you're shopping for knives, buy the best you can afford -- a high-quality knife may run you upwards of $80, but consider it to be a long-term investment (provided you take care of it). Look for a knife with a full tang -- the portion of the metal that runs through the handle and to which it is attached. A chef's knife is generally in the neighborhood of 6 to 10 inches long, with an 8 inch knife being the most common. Make sure you handle the knives in the store -- you will want a knife that feels balanced in your hand, comfortable and solid in your grip, and generally like an extension of your own hand. We'd recommend a Global 8'' chef's knife ($89), a Wusthof 8" chef's knife ($95), or a Shun 8" chef's knife ($119). Go to a store and pick each one up to see what you like or dislike about each, and go from there.

Once you've purchased your knife, you will need to keep it in good shape, which involves keeping it sharpened. We've given you a few suggestions about where you can get that done in the city, but wanted to give you two updates. First, Henry Westpfal has been forced out of their old location (a developer is building condos in the old space), and they are slated to move to 115 West 25th Street "in about 3 weeks." Call 212-563-5990 before you go just to check. Second, for the Brooklynites, Brooklyn Kitchen now offers knife sharpening for $3.50 per knife up to 8", a bit more for longer or damaged blades.