am 26. August 2008
I own two books on kitchen knives and knife skills, this one and Weinstein's Mastering Knife Skills. Chad Ward's book is the best of the two by its breadth and wealth of information and is objectively a very good book.
Physically, the book is a medium sized hard cover, well edited. There is a number of good B&W pictures through the book to illustrate specific points, and there's a central section of 48 pages of glossy color pictures depicting specific knife techniques (battonets vs. julienne, onion, tomatoes, cutting a chicken, butterflying a piece of meat, skinning salmon, carving a turkey, steeling a knife, several sharpening methods, etc).
The book is organized as follows:
1 - Choosing the right kitchen knife:
This section is about 90 pages, so it's a sizeable part of the book. The author goes through the various knife types, costs, etc. Generally, Chad advocates staying away from knife block & sets, and explains that a home cook can do most everything with 3 knives: 8" to 10" chef, paring, and a serrated (or scalloped) bread knife. So his recommendation is to get the best of those. What is really helpful is that the author gives specific recommendations for all budgets - below $100, $200, or "the sky's the limit". Too many books just say "get what feels best". Chad goes beyond this to give a range of specific endorsements. This part also includes 10+ pages on cutting boards and how to take care of them.
2 - Kitchen knife skills:
This section is about 30 pages but also has most of the color pictures in the center section. This is where the key knife skill concepts are explained, how to hold the blade and the item to be cut, etc. This is similar to other knife skill books, but with one major improvements which is a few recipes to practice the skills. Those recipes are really welcome, and because they are basic recipes that can be used as base for a number of varied dishes, they are great recipes to include in this book.
3 - Knife sharpening:
This section is about 70 pages and covers the theory & science of knife sharpening as well as specific reviews and advices for several methods. Chad reviews the sharpening of Western as well as Japanese style knives, and several sharpeing systems (e.g., Spyderco, EdgePro, etc).
At the end of the book are several pages of resources to buy knives, boards, sharpeners, etc.
In short, I think this is a complete book that covers the key concepts of knife skills, but also addresses knife selection and care. If you buy only one kitchen knives & skill book, I would recommend it.