Tools of the Trade: Knives

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I own a small library of books on the subject of bartending. Some of these books are geared toward the professional bartender, while others are written for the home mixologist. But regardless of the intended audience, almost every book I own heartily recommends that we use paring knives for cutting fruits and garnishes. The Art of the Bar, The Joy of Mixology, The Craft of the Cocktail, Larousse Cocktails, The Bartender’s Black Book, they all say the same thing: that a 4-inch paring knife is the right tool for the job.

But for my money (and the safety of my hands), there’s no better knife than a nine-inch, serrated, offset-handled sandwich sword.

sandwichsword.jpg

Forever used in sandwich shops and delis, the sandwich sword is the neophyte’s knife that can turn on a dime in the right hands with just a little practice.

See, I don’t trust small knives. They’re vertically-challenged, which means that the height of their blades is short, so cutting requires razor-sharp precision. And that’s something I don’t always have during the middle of a busy Friday night, if ever. Let’s face it, wet hands and a sharp knife are kind of a scary combo. And the offset silicone handle is easy on the the hands and knuckles.

Another reason I prefer my knife to theirs it that a four-inch blade doesn’t work well with larger items like pineapples and grapefruits, so those fruits end up coming out looking butchered. And for the few that have ever worked with me, you know how particular I am about my garnishes. Sloppy angles, dented fruit and torn peels are a thing of the past with the old sandwich sword. My garnish trays are always full of fresh fruit with crisp, clean edges.

Citrus peels are often thick and sometimes full of grit, which will dull a blade quickly. But my sandwich sword is serrated, so it keeps a usable edge for longer. I can still straighten the edge with a steel I keep behind the bar, but once it’s passed a certain point I don’t mind throwing it out and getting a fresh one. They’re only ten bucks.

Am I the only one out there who uses a monster like this? Let me know in the comments.

30 Replies to “Tools of the Trade: Knives”

  • Chris says:

    Glad to see I’m not the only one who slings one of these things about (though I occasionally use a 6″ santoku as well)…

    I got into food & drink working in a high-end deli – the bread knife is indeed a suprisingly-marvelous tool.

    Cheers!

  • Tiare says:

    Agree on the serrated bread knife.

    During my past years in the kitchens i`ve experienced a few of these “tiny blade slipping and slicing into my hand in the middle of a rush” things and i`m more careful now.

    The bread knife does a good job and the serrated edge helps start the cut nicely.

  • Mark says:

    I just use one of our restaurants old school steak knives that has a serated blade the full length of the blade. Its about six inches and works perfectly

  • Brendan says:

    A cool experiment to show the way serrated knives affect foods is to dice 2 peppers. One with an off set serrated slicer and one with a sharp standard santuko or chefs knife. Sweat the two in separate pans and watch the juices run out of the serrated pepper. As the serrated knife passes through the fruit or vegetable it makes lots of small tears that cause this weeping during cooking, making it a pour choice for anything that will be cooked, but an excellent choice for foods served raw, like garnishes. As the serrated knife passes trough your lime you are exposing more of the flesh which will pass on the intensity of aroma that is the reason you put the lime on the rim in the first place. And for juicing, your serrated knife has started the process for you!

  • That’s some great information, chef Brendan, thanks for writing in!

  • The Scribe says:

    In professional kitchens, everyone has their own knives and other small tools and woe betide anyone who touches, let alone uses, another’s knives. It seems to me this is an excellent model for bars, especially as you begin to find more professional “bar chefs.”
    Cheers. – S

  • Ryan says:

    I’ll throw my vote for the 6.5″ santoku, the only time I’ve used a different knife in the past two years is when it’s dirty and I don’t feel like washing it. Holds an extremely sharp edge and I have never had trouble carving with it, plus the shape makes it naturally easy to avoid slipping and cutting yourself.

  • John Hoffman says:

    I’ll have to throw in with the serrated crowd on juicing and wedges, but note that my clumsiness (or is that laziness?) makes me pull out the santoku for cutting the uber-thin slices that can look nice floating.

  • Scott says:

    I’m glad to read someone else is using the big bread knife. I’ve used this same type knife for ten + years. If the guys in the kitchen steal it I steal it back. Then hide it better.

  • Jason Harms says:

    Hi Jeffrey,

    Thanks for sharing this. Interesting knife you use for your fruits. I stick to the original.

    In terms of tools of the trade, I run a small website on all types of knives http://whatsthatknife.com

    thanks again,
    Jason

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