You might not be able to master the art of French cuisine in one day (hey, even Julia Child didn’t), but you can purchase a single item that will make the task a lot easier. A good knife, according to chef Eric Pansu—who studied under the inimitable Paul Bocuse and now oversees his namesake brasserie in Paris’s Hotel du Louvre, part of Hyatt’s Unbound Collection—might just be the most important (and most personal) tool in a home cook’s kitchen.
So before you impulse-order that one you’ve been getting Instagram ads for, take the time to find a knife that truly suits you. “We all have a different knife that corresponds to us,” Pansu explains. His set was given to him when he first began culinary school, and he’s kept them through his long career: a testament to making a single good investment.
To find the perfect knife, you’ll want to hold it and test it out. But first, Pansu has a few guidelines to help you narrow down the options.
What it should look like: A single piece, not two parts—the handle must be incorporated into the blade. The blade itself should have several layers of metal and be very resistant to corrosion.
How much it will realistically cost: Between $150 and $300.
How it should feel in your hand: You should be able to get a good grip, and it should be heavy enough to slice through hearty vegetables properly.
The ideal make and material: Japanese and German blades are the best, in my opinion, and I recommend stainless steel.
How to care for it: Wash it with soap to disinfect it, and sharpen it once a year. To maintain the knife’s sharpness in the meantime, use a sharpening rifle—but good knives won’t require a lot.
How long it should last: If it is a good knife and well maintained, a lifetime.
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