As much as we stand by the chef’s knife as a can-do-anything tool, a few special-occasion situations are bound to arise: like hosting people and putting out a cheese platter, or arranging a raw-seafood bar. You wouldn’t necessarily set out an eight-inch knife for dinner guests to work with. We talked to experts to find the extra party knives that are actually worth having.
For rolling sushi at home
Fish is delicate and weighs less than other meat, which means you want a knife that slices with precision and won’t snag and tear the meat. Tim Cushman, of O Ya sushi and omakase in New York and Boston, recommends Kyocera ceramic knives — some of which are probably even cheaper than the cut of fish you’re working with. “They work really well with fish: The ceramic cuts through easily, and the fish doesn’t stick to the blade as much as it might on a metal knife,” he says. “In the restaurant, I use a lot of knives that I get in Japan. But for someone at home, the Kyocera knives are a good universal knife, and they hold a really good edge.”
Ceramic knives are known to chip more easily than steel ones, but they’re also known to stay sharp longer. Crucially, in this case, the material doesn’t glom on to fish meat, so you can cut tidy slivers.
For putting out a cheese plate
Cheeses vary in texture from gooey to crumbly, meaning cheese knives can get Über-specific. But as with regular knives, there’s an all-purpose cheese knife that you can buy, and it covers all of your cheese-slicing needs. “It’s what we would refer to as a hard-cheese knife,” says Elizabeth Chubbuck, a senior VP at Murray’s Cheese in New York. “It’s maybe a four-inch blade that has a forked tip, and the idea is that it’s sturdy enough to cut really hard cheese with it, like Parmigiano-Reggiano. That forked tip gives you a nice angle to notch chunks out of something like a clothbound cheddar or a really aged Gouda. And the blade itself is not hugely wide, which means that it also works for soft cheeses like Brie.” Chubbuck likes a model with a slightly serrated onyx-steel blade and an acacia-wood handle, from Be Home.
“You can get a good grip on it,” Chubbuck says of this handle, “which means you’re going to be able to go after those hard aged cheeses without losing control of the knife, or the cheese.”
Cheese knives tend to come in sets of three, but if we’re following Chubbuck’s advice and only looking at universal cheese knives, there’s also this stainless-steel version from kitchenwares company Swissmar — it’s just a dollar more than the Be Home one.
And if you’re gifting (or treating yourself), this leather-handled Ralph Lauren universal cheese knife comes with a marble cheese platter.
For shucking your own oysters
If you’re hosting — and not just watch-the-game hosting, or potluck-hosting, but, say, next-level hosting your friend’s engagement party — a bushel of oysters on ice is a statement centerpiece. Shucking them isn’t as hard as it seems, if you have the right tool. Justin Devillier, of La Petite Grocery in New Orleans, has been using the same white-handled Dexter oyster shucker for decades. He recommends the one with a rounded tip, which allows novices to poke into the shell without risking a knife going straight through their hand. “A lot of people throughout the years have sent me or given me different specialty oyster knives, and most of them are super good-looking, but the trusty white-handled Dexter is the one I grew up with and stuck to.”
Dexter-Russell makes a lot of variations on this little shucking device; this is the one Devillier swears by.
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