Good Knives Make Canning Easier

September 2, 2010(updated on October 3, 2018)

knife rack

Earlier tonight, I drove down to Pumpkin Market (a fabulous little shop that primarily stocks food that is locally farmed, raised, grown and produced) and picked up 100 pounds of roma tomatoes. I have a four-day weekend coming up and am going to be spending most of that time applying myself to these tomatoes.

The bulk will be canned whole, but there’s also quite a lot of chopping for salsa, slicing for dehydrating and dicing for pint canning in my future. In preparation for this canning marathon, I’m gathering jars, restocking my lid supply and making sure my go-to knives are sharp.

salsa prep

I believe that knives are the unsung heros of the home canning kitchen. When I talk canning equipment, I always mention funnels, jar lifters and sturdy stock pots, frequently failing to mention the paring and chef’s knives that make it all possible. Thing is, having good, sharp cutlery makes an incredible difference in your canning experience, as well as the quality of the product you produce.

As you can see from the picture at the top of this post, I’m a fan of knives and I have a wide variety. I particularly love a good paring knife and up until recently, my favorite one was that orange-handled Messermeister one you see next to the black-handled shears. It cost about $6, held an edge nicely and was easy to spot in a sink of dirty dishes. But then, some new knives entered my life.

grape tomatoes

Back in June, while I was up in New York attending the Fancy Food Show, I met a representative from CUTCO at the Food Fete. I told her about the volume of canning I do and she thought I should try their knives. Soon after, she sent me their Kitchen Classics Set*. It includes a slender chef knife, a trimmer (it’s become my go-to knife for separating melons from their rind) and a compact paring knife.

Before trying these knives, I’d always been a little bit scornful of CUTCO products. Mostly, it was an aesthetic thing. I thought those molded plastic handles were kind of ugly. But having spend some time with them, I am now a total convert. They are so light and comfortable to hold. I find that they are now the knives I reach for first.

Photo courtesy of CUTCO

The folks at CUTCO have been nice enough to offer one of my readers that same Kitchen Classics set they sent me. To enter this giveaway, leave a comment on this post and tell me about your favorite knife (paring? chef? Santoku?). All entries must be received by Saturday, September 4, 2010 by 11:59 p.m. After that time, comments will be closed. I’ll do my best to post the winner promptly.

*Disclosure! They sent it to me at no cost, in the hopes that I’d use it and review it. However, I only talk about the stuff I truly like, so had these knives been lackluster, I wouldn’t be raving about them here.

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407 thoughts on "Good Knives Make Canning Easier"

  • I use my chef’s knife the most. I try to keep it sharp and take good care of it. I’d love some good smaller knives. My steak knives have gotten pretty beat up because I grab them for small jobs and utility. I’d live to give that CutCo pairing knife a try! (PS. I’m currently recovering from a bad cut received while cleaning my chef’s knife. I’ve learned new respect for sharp knives! Be careful out there!)

  • I use them all. I mostly match the size of the knife to the size of items I’m cutting. Tonight I gave the paring knife a workout on the cherry tomatoes (now in the dehydrator).

  • I love little paring knives. They come in fun colors and are so very small and useful. I usually steal my roommates huge knife when I’m cooking, though.

  • I saw your knife selection and was in envy heaven. Honestly I love tools and the notion of knife variance makes me realize that though I spend 80% of my time with a chef’s knife I love having knives that have a specific skill. That said my serrated bread knife is golden and is an irreplaceable tool.

  • I just like my cheap but good Forschner Victorinox 10 inch chef’s knife. I keep it really sharp and it never lets me down.

  • I feel like an idiot because I don’t even know the correct knife lingo. The one I use in my kitchen all the time is a pretty short knife with a nice serrated edge. Some miracle blade knife my sister gave me. pretty sad, huh.

  • I love, love, love my Henckels 6″ chef’s knife. International classic style, it’s the perfect size for my hands. Use it for almost everything! Which means I now really need to get it sharpened… :p

  • My Global chef’s knife is my most precious kitchen posession. I could sorely do with some quality paring knives. I’ve never had a good one.

  • I love my Victorinox scalloped edge paring knife the most, though I use my Chef’s knife even more. My dad turned us on to this brand and they are great!

  • DH had a set of the Cutco knives when we met and I have to say they aren’t bad, we still use them a lot. However, my favorite knife is actually my sister’s Wustof chef’s knife. (I truly covet that knife.) I also love the paring knife that I inherited from DH’s grandmother, it has a stainless steal handle (easy to rinse all the juice off when you are doing a marathon peach peeling session) and is just the perfect shape and size. I’d love to win this set for my MIL who doesn’t own a decent knife. A good basic set would make her life a lot easier and hopefully happier.

  • I love the chef’s knife my husband found in a little shop….it’s fantastic. I do love my mini paring knives. I have small hands and while his big, heavy knife is amazingly sharp…I like a small quick, light paring knife….I just wish they were better quality.

    Now I know what brand to look for….

  • My general go-to knife is a paring – I just like a smaller blade. However, this could be because my chef’s knife has not held up well/was on the cheap side…pick me, please :).

  • Well…preface this by saying that I just use what we have, and have never thought about knives before…but my go-to knife is a Hampton Forge chef’s knife. I sharpen it pretty religiously, and use it for EVERYTHING, bread to onions to cheese to peaches!

  • My favorite knife would be a serrated trimming knife. I use it for everything i do in the kitchen. However, that is a very limited range of things. My wife enjoys being in the kitchen more on a daily basis. I just help with the canning.

  • I have had a paring knife for years some gave me, I use it all the time along with my chef knife. I would love to receive these new knives.

  • I have a 7 inch chef’s knife that I received as a Christmas gift a few years ago. I use it for a ton of things now.

  • My favorite knife is a ECKO flint stainless steel knife that belonged to my mother. I can remember using this knife when I was learning to cook as a child. It has nicks and dings in the blade near the handle, from where she whacked it on stubborn jars to break the seal, the handle is starting to wear from 50+ years of use, yet even though I can only remember sharpening it once in the nearly twenty years I have had it, it never fails to cut or slice with gusto!

  • Waaay back in 1996, one of my students (I taught trumpet lessons back then) was selling Cutco knives as a summer job. I was moving to Philadelphia at the end of the summer and figured, if I was going to have only one knife, (I had nothing in the way of kitchen utensils) I should have a decent one. Since I could only afford one, I bought the one I figured would be the most versatile. 14 years and 6 apartments later, It’s still my goto knife. I cut almost everything with it.

  • My favorite knives are the Santoku – different sizes for different jobs. I also have an offset serrated knife I love to use to skin fish.

  • I so agree that a good kitchen needs good knives. That said, I have a couple of favorites that sit in the chopping block. Those are my first go-to knives. however, I have no idea what brand they are. I do have one larger paring knife from pampered chef that I use quite often. I have never really owned really good knives.

  • Global 8″ chef’s knife! I actually interviewed to sell Cutcos at one point. I decided I didn’t want a sales job, but really wanted a set of the knives! I’ve never found them for sale, though.

  • I love my Cutco knives. I have the 9 inch chef, which is fantastic and I also love the serrated boning knife. They are just excellent!

  • My favorite is my chef’s knife. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s decent. Most of my other knives would fall under “cheap” (though thankfully not “flimsy”). I might be more fond of my Chef’s Mate sharpener than of any of my knives. It did cost more than any of them…

  • As much as I love to cook, I am pretty lacking in the equipment area. I have a few workhorse pots and pans (cast iron), and a few garage-sale knives. For my needs (which is cooking more than baking), I can almost always rely on my chef’s knife. I’ve been cooking for about 15 years, and that’s still the type of knife that I use daily. I own a butcher’s knife, a serrated knife, and a few miscellany, but they hardly get used. I would certainly love to expand my repertoire, but until I can afford to do so, it’s just me and my chef’s knife at the cutting board, chopping away!

  • I’m so excited to read this!! I am a long-time canner living in Southwest Michigan where we grow everything except citrus. Which means that I do a lot of canning because there’s so much available here. I have been using a set of Miracle Blade III for about 10 years and have realized during this canning season that I have to start looking for better knives.

  • My favorite knife is an old wooden-handled chef’s knife I inherited from my mother’s kitchen. I have no idea what brand it is, but it feels so good in my hand.

  • I AM DYING for a set of Cutco! Its all that my momma uses – and I have a walmart knives…dont really do the trick!

  • I’ve used Cutco for about 5 or 6 years now and LOVE them. Don’t plan to ever use another brand.

    Last year, we sent them back to be re-sharpened and inspected and only had to pay shipping.

    Very pleased, and I’d love a few more 🙂

  • Hi Marisa! First off, I absolutely love your site. I have recently embarked on a canning adventure, and now I’m hooked! My favorite knife in my kitchen is my Pampered Chef Santoku knife. It is perfectly balanced in my hand and makes chopping so easy. The size seems perfect for any and all kitchen jobs.

  • I love my Wustof Classics, but I especially love my 12″ Long Slicer – I think of the shop in Paris where I bought it, everytime I pull it out of the drawer.

  • I have been looking to purchase good knives for awhile. This would solve that issue! Have been enjoying your blog, thanks.

  • Ohh I would absolutely LOVE to try these!! I try to cook from scratch as much as possible so I do so much cutting and chopping that I could definitely put these knifes to work! 😉 My favorite type of knife is probably my Santoku because it is a very multi-purpose knife, although I am also quite fond of my bread knife because if I have that out, it means I’m about to slice into my freshly baked bread! 😉 Thank you for doing the contest! 🙂

  • I lost my paring knives in a recent move, so now I use my santoku for everything. I miss having a paring knife so much.

  • I really love my Messermeister knives, I love their heft and balance. My particular fave is the paring knife. I don’t use it terribly often, but there’s simply no substitute for a paring knife when you absolutely need one.

  • My favourite knife is a bread knife, one that won’t squish, saw’s nicely, and is a companion to all my baguette, cheese and jam eating I do 🙂

    As for heavy chopping, I prefer a heavy chefs knife that takes some of the strength out of tough raw squashes.

  • I use a Victornox Fibrox Chef knife that I bought for $29 bucks. It’s a great knife. It got great reviews by a couple cooking magazines several years ago. It’s the only knife I own except for a little black plastic handled paring knife also by Victornox. I understand CUTCO knives are great and that they last forever.

  • I don’t have a favortie knife and that makes me very sad. It’s been an issue I’ve been considering for quite some time now. All my knives have come from thrift stores or cheap “starter packages” that my boyfriend or I got when we first moved out on our own 8+ years ago. This post was helpful though! I am deciding that my Christmas gift to myself this year might just be a new set of GOOD knives, so what the hey…maybe I will win them here? Who knows. 🙂 I do love a good paring knife though…I have one cute one with apples on the blade that might not work the best, but it sure is cute.

  • I love my Kitchenaid chef’s knife! I’m totally clueless about sharpening knives, but it has stayed sharp for years. My brother-in-law sold cutco knives for a summer a few years ago. They’re a little pricey for me, but they’re great knives!

  • My favorite knife is a chef’s knife. I use it for everything – rarely do I reach for a paring knife, and then only for truly delicate tasks. My old buddy is in need of replacement, though.

  • My two faves are a super cheapy little light weight paring knife that literally cost less than $1 at the grocery store (they came with either white or black plastic handles!) and a Gehring utility knife. The blade and handle on the Gehring are one piece with a wonderfully shaped and comfortable handle.

    Sure! I would love to win a nice set of new knives! Most of my knives are dull, the point is bent, they are too heavy, or too something else. But they all do get used, at least from time to time.

  • I have these knives and they are the ones I use all the time. They are great! I would love to give a set to my daughter and daughter-in-law for Christmas!

  • My favorite is my med size utility which I received for a wedding present. But it badly needs sharpening. I would love to win these!

  • My favorite is a chefstar paring knife, but would love to try the Cutco! I have just started canning and am enjoying your site!

  • I have two Cutco knives–the big knife and the smaller serrated one, not the paring knife. I can’t say they’re my favourite, but they definitely hold the edge. Problem is: the handles are slippery. Slippery handle does not equal love with a very sharp knife.

    I have a good Santoku knife, and love it. Also fantastic kitchen shears. Keep both nice and sharp, and I’m a happy canner.

  • Every once in a while, my mom puts a little Victorinox knife in my Christmas stocking. I LOVE them–they’re the size of a butter knife, have a rounded tip like a butter knife, but have a super sharp serrated edge. They’re perfect for slicing sandwiches, slicing a tomato, or absentmindedly throwing in my bag for a picnic or eating lunch at work. They fill a niche that even my “good” knife set has left out.

  • My favorite knife is a 6″ Wusthof santoku knife that I got as a wedding present. It’s the perfect size and so nice and sharp! The rest of my knives, I think I bought at Target, so they’re not so great… I could definitely use some new ones!

  • I have a little paring knife with no name other than “my little knife” and I can’t even remember where I bought it! But, it’s a little workhorse and I reach for it often. 🙂

  • Oooh! Good knives are absolutely the often-unsung heroes of the kitchen. Crow all you want about the joys of fresh seasonal ingredients or the richness of beef stock made with cracked bones – but rarely does a photo caption or blog post add “. . . . courtesy of my beloved and super-sharp knives.” I have a set of Wusthoff knives that my dad bought for me on eBay that I adore and appreciate, all the more since I wandered into Kitchen Kapers and saw how much they cost! I had to keep them in my room when my former roommate and her boyfriend kept using them to cut open plastic packages or scraped the sharp side along the cutting board to dump foods into the pot. We both thought the other group was crazy! My favorite is the short chef’s knife, as it has the pointed edge to allow for precise cuts and mini-slits (such as when readying a leg of lamb for bits of garlic and rosemary pre-roasting) that I just can’t do with the santoku. Of course that could be due to my less than polished knife skills. Nonetheless, I stand by my six inch chef’s knife!

  • i too love my shun santoku knife, i also love my shun paring knife. i wonder sometimes if i love them more for the look than the function…

  • My favorite is my paring knife, as it’s my only one that’s properly sharp! All my other knives are junk, so this sounds amazing!

  • It is humiliating to say this, but my “As Seen on TV” ginzu knives have worked well for a decade. However, they are old and I would kill for a set of really good quality knives—so thanks for the opportunity to win!

  • I LOVE CUTCO!!! I was actually a representative, but I lost my pairing knife some where along the way, so I would love to get another one! I love, love, love my petite chef’s knife–it feels so great in my hands!!

  • I’m a hand-to-mouth grad student, so I can’t afford the greatest of knives (I’m currently using an old Cuisinart set that has seen better days) but my roommate used to have a J.A. Henckels knife that I LOOOOVED.

  • Pick Me! Pick Me! Currently my Go-To knife is a FoodNetwork (i know, i know…) knife that is shaped like a chefs knife- but significantly smaller. It’s what I reach for, for anything from Strawberries to onions to anything else. To make this drawing even better- Tomorrow (Sept. 4) is MY BIRTHDAY! It’s also International Bacon Day 🙂 PS- I love your blog- I’ve already canned 70+ quarts of tomatoes this year, 8 qts of applesauce, and tomorrow I’ll be working on more applesauce and canning whole tomatoes. A set of CUTCO knives would sure help!

  • I have my Mother’s knives that she used for years. She has been gone since 1993, but I still use them. They are wooden handled Old Hickory and in need of a good sharpening, since I have never sharpened them. YIKES! I am in my 50’s and I can remember my Mother using these as far back as I can remember, so they are really old. We used to can fresh veggies from the garden all summer…what sweet memories…

  • I have to admit that my knives are dull in both senses – they “lack luster” and lack a sharp edge. I have some serrated edge knives too. I think I might be a little afraid of the really sharp knives. Also, I hate to sharpen them, feeling that is a job for professionals. Another confession, I want to put the knives in the dishwasher or at least not worry if I stick one in the dishwasher inadvertently.
    My favorite knife is a 10 inch chef’s knife, which I use a lot for chopping, slicing and most everything else. In my opinion, everyone needs one of those and a good bread knife as well. But for canning, I think a small paring knife is a good tool, for peeling and trimming.

  • My favorite is a $6.99 Chicago Cutlery Santoku. If it didn’t have a silver handle as opposed to the rest of the Chicago Cutlery’s black my mom convinced me to buy when I moved into my first apartment, though I probably wouldn’t care! My garden’s tomato plants have run me out of jars this summer, so I wish I could send you my overage from Iowa to use in new ways!

  • Oh, I have dreamed and drooled over Cutco knives for YEARS! Right now, my favorite knife is a bright green paring knife that I found at a Chef’s shop somewhere but it stays really sharp and cuts tomatoes, so it’s in my top 5 kitchen tools for sure. Still doesn’t line up with Cutco though!

  • My fathers old Chef knife. My father was a professional Chef for pretty much his whole life. I watched him use those knives all my life growing up they were like a part of him. The blade of the Chefs knife has been sharpened so many times the blade has to be 1/3 of its original width now. When he died his knives came to me and I use them every day, and every time I have to use his steel to sharpen the Chefs knife the sound takes me back to sounds and smells of the many kitchens I sat in over the years watching my Dad work.

  • Wow, I would love that set of knives. My favorite knife is the serrated one we have to cut tomatoes. I’m always using it for all kinds of things…I agree knives are the unsung heroes!

  • My go to knives are a pair ancient steel (not stainless) Sabatier knives. The 5 inch cooks knife I found in an “Op Shop” second hand for 20 cents when I was 14 (37 years ago) and my little paring knife was given to me by my grandmother 20 odd years ago. Neither looks like much and the blades do stain but they are always wickedly sharp.

  • I have a huge Chinese chopper which I love. But I also have some simple knives from a block set I bought over 15 years ago. I guess I’ve got a little overwhelmed at the choices and the costs to invests in new, much needed knives.

  • My Dad sold Cutco knives in college and we always had them growing up. They truly are wonderful knives. I hope I win, and good luck this weekend with those tomatoes. I’m doing peaches, pickles, and tomatoes myself.

  • I can’t recall the brand (and it’s worn off the knife from so much use) but I have this giant chef’s knife that was my mother’s and I pretty much learned to cook with it (and her) in the kitchen. I still have it and use it all the time!

  • My favorite knife ever was a chef’s knife that we bought at Dollarland on Levick Street. Sadly it go lost in a move. This so weird because last night I had a dreams about kitchen knives. All I remember is they were a set of Henkels with the named misspelled.

    I never would have thought to order a quanity of anything from a market like you did. I guess you could see about doing that with farmers market vendors too. Definitely something to keep in mind for future.

    Oh, Pumpkin, my sister likes them but I haven’t gotten the chance to go yet. I really want to try their black bean burger.

  • I’ve used the same Sabatier chef’s knife for over 30 years — my husband sharpens it for me, bless him, and it works. But I’m starting to look around for a small paring knife. Just because I’ve used one knife most of my life doesn’t mean that’s the best idea! I’d love to try the Cutco.

  • I was on a camping/fishing trip and needed a filet knife, or at least I hoped I would need it, and bought a cheap one with a plastic handle. When I got home, my wife liked how thin the blade was that it got taken from my camping equipment and absorbed into our kitchen knife supply. It gets used for just about everything, though the handle is beginning to fall apart and the blade has a distinct curve to it now. We’ve just never found a knife to replace it. In full disclosure, Marisa is our daughter, but I still want to win those knives. I hope family isn’t excluded from the drawing.

  • My favorite knife is a chef’s knife, but I desperately need to expand my “collection”. I’ve been chopping tomatoes this weekend and it’s been challenging, to say the least.

  • for a while it was a Santoku that came with a chefs knife that I left in the kitchen at my inlaws vacation home out west. bought it so I’d have a sharp knife to use while visiting. and that sankotu was a favorite for a long time. then I bought a cutco chef’s knife. now its a tie.

  • My favorite knife is a very old paring knife I got at a thrift store, obviously well loved before, and well loved now. But I would love new ones!

  • I have a great Santoku knife that I love, but I also recently got a CutCo knife/utensil called a sandwich spreader. It has a wide blade to spread things with a serrated side that’s great for slicing rolls and tomatoes.

  • My favourite knife is a big chopper my parents have at home. It’s monstrous, a huge cleaver, and it works perfectly for meat and larger vegetables. I desperately need new knives for my own life though!

  • 20 year old 8″ henkel chefs knife. I have a love hate relationship with it, as it isn’t very urgonomic in my hands. I can enough that my hands cramp up with the basic straight handle. At the end of a salsa, applesause or dill bean day my hands ache. I’m guessing the handles on those knives have been designed for people who use knives all day long.
    Sigh – I long for those knives.

  • Oh, our favorite knife is actually a set of two santokus we got as a gift before we were married. The grip is comfortable and they are suprisingly lightweight, and they have a slight curve, so they can be rocked to cut as well as the usual asian quick lifting style. The 5″ and 7″ are both go-tos for both my husband and I when cooking. We cook enough that we can always use more knives however. 🙂

  • I love sharp knives, and I hate when I go to someone else’s house to cook and their knives are dull. My favorites are an old chef’s knife (got it when we got married so it’s over thirty years old) that is thin enough to slice thinly, but heavy enough that I can cut through the bone in a chicken breast. My favorite paring knife is even older (my dad bought it…probably at the grocery store, so it isn’t a high quality knife) that is half serrated and half regular edge. It’s dull enough that I have no qualms about cutting things up in my hand with it and it was the first real knife that I let my kids use.