Carving the Thanksgiving turkey or Christmas ham is a symbolic ritual that signifies a celebration is underway. As I started formulating my plans for the holiday season, the majority of my lists revolve around food, cocktails and desserts. Once the menus are established, I move on to tableware, accessories and the like. My mind wanders and I reflect back to holidays past. In my family, we’re all very particular as to the specific knife used for the bird or dessert pie. We still laugh about my grandma using the long serrated bread knife to reach across the table to sweep up a chunk of butter for her bread.
All knives are not created equal. Proper cutlery require an investment and should be considered an everyday luxury and not only during the holiday season. I was introduced to Chef Michael Garaghty, Executive Chef at WÜSTHOF and he was gracious enough to share with me some fundamental knife tips for the holiday and beyond. He’s been with the company since 2012, a blink of an eye considering they have been in business for over 200 years. Before our interview I tested the WÜSTHOF 3-Piece Plum Charcuterie & Cheese Set and really enjoyed the experience. WÜSTHOF makes a gorgeous product.
Tips for carving a turkey can be viewed in the video at the end of the article.
WÜSTHOF Established 1814
In 1814, Johann Wilhelm Wüsthof and Johann Abraham Wüsthof opened a shears factory in Solingen, Germany. The shears business eventually led to the production of pockets knives, a status symbol for every man, under the third generation of the Wüsthof family. By the fourth generation the business had expanded once again to include all kinds of forged shears, bread knives, vegetable knives, and butchering knives.
Two-hundred years ago I fancy the technology of forging a knife to be much different than now. When I ask Chef Mike to share how the WÜSTHOF process has evolved over the years he too agrees it’s hard to envision what it was like back in the day. “Today, it is hard to imagine what working conditions and technologies were like 200 years ago when crafting the first WÜSTHOF knives. Then, knives were crafted in grinding workshops that were small, cramped and damp places lit by candles. Waterpower from a dammed pond drove grinding stones, with perhaps one or two laborers adding to the effort. This is what we called a factory back then, but it was from these humble beginnings that the company grew, through hard work and diligence. Over time, WÜSTHOF continued to expand and began to manufacture pocket knives, daggers, table knives and more.” Imagine the process of grinding the metal on a wheel without safety glasses or dust respirator and rudimentary tools. All knives produced one at a time. Incredible.
There is no record of the exact length of time it took to make a WÜSTHOF knife back in the 19th century compared to now, only to the present technologies used by their factories under the direction of the seventh generation of the family, Viola and Harald Wüsthof. Chef Mike says, “The newest technology that WÜSTHOF currently uses in crafting knives that ensures superior sharpness is known as PEtec and it helps accelerate the process of effectively crafting our gold-standard blades. Our engineers developed this new sharpening technique, PEtec, which guarantees that our blades are sharper than ever before and retain their edge for a longer period of time. Each knife is forged with passion and diligence and we constantly strive to create products that continue to evolve and be updated with the best technology – that is the challenge we set ourselves with at Wüsthof.”
Secret to Seven Generations of Success
In general the number of businesses that reach the 200 year mark is small, relative to the total number of companies in business world-wide. In a study done by Bank of Korea back in 2009, there were 5,585 business around the world, over 200 years old. Of these, 3,146 are in Japan, 837 in Germany, 222 in the Netherlands, and 196 in France. Chef Mike says an enthusiasm for technology is at the crux of their ongoing growth and sustainability. “What is WÜSTHOF The secret to sustaining a business for seven generations is embracing innovation and modern technologies throughout the years and keeping fresh ideas and concepts at the forefront of achieving success, while never losing sight of the traditions and heritage that have allowed us to thrive for so long. At WÜSTHOF, our three core values are passion, diligence and perfection, all of which embody how each knife is hand forged and crafted at our facilities. Currently, WÜSTHOF is one of the leading knife factories in the world with over 360 employees and remains family owned and managed, currently by the seventh generation of the family.”
As times change so has environmental awareness. Chef Mike assures WÜSTHOF has “a long tradition of environmental awareness at WÜSTHOF. Our production facilities in Solingen are amongst the most modern in the world, and our production methods are continually improved to increase our energy efficiency, use of raw materials, as well as limit wastewater contamination and reduce emissions of CO² and other gases. Our commitment to sustainability is constantly being pushed further and further each day, and we are proud to produce our knives responsibly.”
Knives and Cutlery 101
Even more so than investing in fine china or crystal, ones cutlery is more than just good looks. Safety should be priority one. There is a luxury to using high-caliber knife in the kitchen or at the dining table. You make the first cut and you’re hooked. And hey, if you just want to feel like a Michelin star chef or Food Network cooking star at home, you need killer knives. Thank you to Chef Michael Garaghty for sharing his knife and cutlery tips!
When is the right time to invest in proper cutlery?
There’s not one specific time that’s the “right” time to invest in proper cutlery however, some occasions are certainly popular: weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, the holiday season, or when you are looking to update or build out your collection. Great cutlery makes a huge difference in the cooking experience.
What is the one knife that every cook should have in their kitchen?
The one knife that every cook should have in his or her kitchen is the Wüsthof Classic 8” Cook’s Knife (SRP: $187). This knife is the workhorse of the kitchen, or the essential kitchen knife. The Cook’s Knife is an indispensable all-purpose kitchen knife that can be used for chopping, mincing, slicing and dicing. Due to the weight and balance of the knife, it is also perfect for heavy duty work such as cutting thicker vegetables and meats. The knife can be purchased here.
How important is it to keep one’s knives sharpened?
Keeping a sharp edge on your knives is very important since a dull blade forces the user to compensate by adding additional force, which can be very dangerous. A sharp knife is a safe knife. There are multiple ways to keep your knives sharp by either using a steel, handheld or electric sharpener, or a whetstone – all of which can be found at any of our vendors.
What is the proper way to sharpen a knife and how often is it necessary?
Depending on your preferred method of sharpening you should only need to sharpen your knives every few months. You can use a honing steel, which does not remove any metal, on a regular basis for maintenance purposes to help keep the edge straight and lengthen the time between sharpening. We also recommend having your knives professionally sharpened every 1-2 years. We have some great tips on care and sharpening on our website, found here.
Is there a skill to using a knife?
When holding a knife, you should follow these three easy steps. First, allow the knife to balance gently in the palm of your hand with hand open. Next, place the lower three fingers of the hand you use to hold the knife around the handle with the middle finger on the bolster. The final step is that the thumb and index finger need to clasp the blade on the left and right sides. You can find more information on this at WÜSTHOF’s website, found here.
How does WÜSTHOF educate consumers on knife safety?
WÜSTHOF has created a knife skills academy that demonstrates to beginners and expert level knife users the “dos and don’ts” of holding and cutting with a knife, along with specific tips and techniques depending on the type of knife you are using in the kitchen for various cooking tasks. You can find all this information on WÜSTHOF’s website, found here. I also travel the country each year, speaking with consumers and demonstrating knife skills in-person. You can find me at upcoming events like Palm Beach Food & Wine in Florida from December 13 – 16 and Charleston Food & Wine in South Carolina from March 6 – 10, 2019.
How long do your products last?
If used correctly, WÜSTHOF knives are built to last throughout your lifetime. All WÜSTHOF knives also have a limited lifetime warranty against defects in material and craftsmanship and can be sent in to our warranty department should any issues arise with your knives. You can find more information on this at WÜSTHOF’s website, found here.
What types of knives make for the best gifts?
I would say that the two types of knives that make for the best gifts, especially for the upcoming holidays, are the Wüsthof 3-Piece Plum Charcuterie & Cheese Set or the Classic Ikon Four Piece Steak Knife Set.
The 3-Piece Plum Charcuterie & Cheese Set (SRP $120) includes a 5″ soft-cheese knife, 5″ sausage knife and 4” pâté knife perfect for savoring all the pleasures of a charcuterie, antipasti, cheese or pâté platter. Each knife features an elegant plum wood handle showcasing unique grain patterns and the set can be purchased here.
The Classic Ikon Four Piece Steak Knife Set (SRP: $529) embodies form and function to create these top-quality steak knives. Crafted in Solingen, Germany using a special alloy of high-carbon stain-free steel, the blades hold an extra-sharp edge. Each knife has a tang that extends the entire length of the handle for superb balance. Set includes four 4.5″ steak knives in a beautiful black presentation chest and can be purchased here.
Please be safe in the kitchen throughout the holiday season and beyond! Tell us about your experience with WÜSTHOF’s products by commenting below.
How to Carve a Turkey
Feature image by Sherrie Wilkolaski, WÜSTHOF product images courtesy of WÜSTHOF