Honing your skills

Tribune critic


By Chad Ward (William Morrow, $34.95)


By Norman Weinstein (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $35)

What it is: Taken together, these two books amount to 454 pages on knives: what to buy, how to hold, how to sharpen, how to use and what sort of cutting board to use them on. Who knew knives could be so complicated?

Well, actually anyone who has ever gone shopping for a kitchen knife -- so many styles at such high prices -- or felt frustrated at using a knife that didn't quite seem to work right will understand why these books are encyclopedic in scope.

Praise (and quibbles): As you might expect, these two books extensively overlap each other. The authors tackle the same topics and even quote many of the same experts. The crucial difference comes in tone and the visuals.

"An Edge in the Kitchen," whose subtitle is "The Ultimate Guide to Kitchen Knives," has the confident and almost sassy voice of its author, Chad Ward. He's a writer and cook who offers an online knife sharpening class on eGullet.org. Ward is passionate; he knows his stuff and wants you to know it too.

Norman Weinstein is a chef-instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City and his "Mastering Knife Skills" has a cooler, more educational vibe. This book, subtitled "The Essential Guide to the Most Important Tools in Your Kitchen," is by far the more handsome book. Page after page is adorned with sharp full-color photos clearly illustrating every knife grip and cut. Particularly useful for the novice cook are the pages on how to cut up fruits, vegetables, meats, poultry and fish. The book also comes with its own DVD so you can watch Weinstein demonstrate cutting techniques. The segment on cutting up a chicken is particularly good.

By contrast, Ward's book is smaller in size and plainer in presentation. Black-and-white photographs are augmented by a center section of full-color photos; they help tell the story.

Why we think you'll like it: Either book will give you an edge in buying, maintaining and wielding knives. What you learn will save you money, time and, possibly, a finger or two.




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