Are you a Pot and Pan cook? Or a Knife cook?

In “Pot on the Fire”, John Thorne insightfully pointed out that “Cooks, at least serious cooks, can be roughly divided into two major groups: pot cooks and knife cooks…… it is a matter of which serves as the lodestone of their kitchen – the piece of cookware that, in case of a fire, they would run to rescue first…”. Going by this definition, it is not how much I have spent on pots and pans vs knives, and it is not about what is on my “To-Buy” list. Instead, it is about which tool makes the closest connection to me.

By this definition, I am a knife cook.

About two months ago, I moved into a very nice temporary apartment. It has a 24 hour front desk,
a nice balcony view, a comfortable bedroom….etc. You get the idea. The kitchen is nicely furnished. However, the quality of its cookware and knives was lacking.

It has thin disk-bottom stainless steel cookware,

and it has serrated knives with a glass cutting board.

I immediately knew that I could work with the below average quality pots and pans, but I would have a difficult time using these knives and a glass cutting board. I went back to my old residence and picked up exactly what I needed the most - one chef knife and one wood cutting board. (Later on I found out these serrated knives have absolutely no cutting edges. I couldn’t cut bread or tomato wit them – even though they are serrated).

So what about you? Do you make a closer connection to you pots and pans or to your knives?

Knife cook for sure :hocho:

Cool. I found it as well :knife:

I would say I’m a knife cook . But that could be debated . I love my Wusthoff . But my CI and a couple of inexpensive pots and pans work for me . Nothing to brag about, but together they cook up some impressive meals . It’s not them it’s me .

1 Like

Hi, Chem:

I would run into the burning house for both.

I’m curious… I’m not aware of any top-level chefs who feel more closely connected to their knives, and I’ve yet to read of this dichotomy elsewhere.

Who are the knife-centric star chefs?


1 Like

I’m clearly a pot and pan cook, Chem,

and I can easily get carried away. The only two I really need are a 10 in. fry pan w/lid and a 2 qt. saucepan w/lid, but I’ve got cladded SS, nonstick 10", omelet nonstick 9", and an ECI crepe pan 11"; cladded saucepans from 1 1/2 to 3 1/2 qt.–and a whole library (or should I say “batterie”) of pots: ECI dutch ovens, round and oval, 8 oz. to 7 1/2 qt., Le Creuset and Staub. I’ve got a poacher/saute, a saucier, a stir fry ECI “perfect pan”, a brazier, a Coq au Vin pot, a Bouillabaisse pot, a paella pan, a double boiler with a porcelain insert, several steamers, teakettles and teapots, stone wear . . . .see what I mean about getting carried away?

I also enjoy working in the kitchen with knives–but I don’t have to. My bread, meat, vegetables and even salad mixes can come presliced, prepackaged, and/or frozen at the grocery store. Part of the hobbyist cook in me is to do as many of these things as I can at home–and I do–and I love it.

But color me Pot and Pan!


Well, I assume some chefs have a closer connection to their knives than their pots. For many people, if you tell them to use this pan instead of that pan, they are fine, but if you tell them to use your knife instead of their, then they feel uncomfortable.

Needless to say, most sushi chefs are closely connected to their knives. I believe even other Japanese cuisine chefs (beside sushi) are fairly connected to their knives. It is a bit of “the chicken or the egg”, but in Japan, most chefs bring their own personal knives to work, whereas in US, the restaurants often supply the kitchen knives. This is either the cause or the effort of the difference.

Again, it is a bit of the chicken or the egg. Do Japanese chefs learn to care about their knives because they learn to personalize their own knives or do Japanese chefs make connection to their knives and therefore there is a culture for them to bring their own knives to work… that will be difficult to say.

Knives. It pains me to cook with bad knives.

When I read glass cutting board in your initial post,it made me cringe!

I won’t even start on the cheap knives…


<----- Obviously.

1 Like

Hi, Chem:

Yes, isn’t that obvious? We could also probably agree that pizza and BBQ chefs tend not to be pan-centric.

I think the stars in Western types of cuisine are more likely to be BOTH pan- and knife-centric at home, and either pan-centric or NEITHER in their restaurants.

I just don’t find Thorne’s dichotomy very useful, I guess.

Where I find your OP interesting is how we think of ourselves, and what we care to learn about, obsess over, love and invest heavily in. Having owned a custom Kramer, made knives, and worked in a packing plant, unless I win a Powerball ticket, I’m not likely to even want a block full of the “best” knives. For that kind of money, I could have, e.g., an Anti-Griddle, Rotovap and a commercial salamander. But I completely understand that other people might consider a $1,000+ knife essential and a value.


1 Like

I love my knives but don’t spend anything close to that. Most of my Japanese knives are in the $100+ range or less. I spend my attention on maintaining the edge to maintain performance

Im not a collector

Both. Or neither. I’d rather have a pretty good knife and a pretty good pan than have one thing that’s great and one thing that’s terrible. I suppose if I only made plain omelets, or sashimi, I’d feel differently.

1 Like

I would say knife. I can make do with almost any sort of pan, but if I don’t have a decent knife I pretty much don’t bother cooking. Whenever I travel to a place where I know I will have kitchen access, I take my largest Wusthof with me (in my checked luggage, of course). I’m sure it has raised many an eyebrow at airport security!


Sushi chefs is obvious, but I also pointed out other chefs as well. Pizza chef may not be “pot and pan” centric if we really mean “pot an pan”, but they are probably more equipment centric than knife centric.

Thorne probably pushed the envelope a little much, but I think he was just saying that for some people are more sensitive/picky/care about certain cookware.

"and what we care to learn about, obsess over, love and invest heavily in. "

See, I think that is where Thorne’s point is interesting (or how I interpret it). It isn’t about which one we consciously want, but which one we subconsiously need, and sometime we don’t really know it until they are taken away from us. For example, I always thought I care about a toast oven as much as a microwave, and possibly a bit more for my toaster oven. Hey, I have a relatively expensive Breville small oven and a relatively cheap microwave. Guess what? During my move, I lost access to both for just a few days, yet I significantly missed the microwave more. Reheating become impossibly difficult and my entire cooking routine changed.

Sometime, something are so important, but we take them for granted. A freezer/refrigerator certainly has that role for me.

I don’t deny I like good kitchen knives. You know me. :slight_smile: But what I really found out during my stay at the temp apartment is that I can deal with poor quality pots and pans more than I can deal with poor quality knives. Now, you may argue that my poor quality cookware were not that bad (thin disk bottom cookware) whereas my knives coupled with a glass cutting board were just pure craps (no edge, and cannot cut or even saw bread or bacon or tomatoes). I suppose that would be a different topic. That is I find the poorest quality pots and pans to be more functional than the poorest quality knives.

Yeah, same here. I saw that glass cutting board and serrated knives and I said to myself. I must bring at least one knife and a small wood cutting board. Initially, I was just going to bring the wood cutting board, but I was glad that I bought the knife too because I didn’t know the serrated knives at the temp apartment actually have no edge at all (I didn’t test which I should have)

That’s a tough one, can’t figure it out. I have two knives and two pots that I love.

Actually, from everything you mentioned, it would be cutting board for me. Glass cutting boards are the absolute worst. We had to use one at a vacation apartment on a trip to NYC and the first thing we did was go buy a wood cutting board. I actually maintain my cutting boards and wooden utensils more than my knives. I will use a 10% bleach solution on the boards, then make a mineral oil and beeswax solution to soak the boards and all the other wooden handles, spoons, etc.

I didn’t want it to be this way, it just happened. I wanted it to be knives. I have so many but use only two 90% of the time. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to learn how to sharpen them properly, it just hasn’t clicked yet.

Those knives aren’t true serrated knives. Those are “forever sharp” knives. I know because I used those exclusively for a year after getting married (wedding gift). I find them useful for some purposes where I cut myself too often with real knives if I’m not focusing. From the ones you have pictured, the small knife is good for hulling strawberries, the medium one for pitting a mango, and the large one for cutting cakes. I once handed a sharp Henckels chef knife to someone to cut a cake. My cake dish was scratched and I was holding my breath as they were guiding kids’ hands to cut the cake. Lesson learned.

You are right. Now that you mentioned it, I do remember the forever sharp series. Unfortunately, these knives were no longer able to cut when I was using them. I wonder if the glass cutting board has rendered them useless.

Possibly. Mine are 10 years old and still perform as poorly as they did when I received them. You have to use bad knife habits with these, like sawing motions instead of slicing.

Hmmmm… Guess I’m a Kitchenaid & Cuisinart chef. If my kitchen was on fire & I ran back in, that’s what I’d grab. I have great knives but they’re all used & I paid $6 for the most expensive one. My best cookware is CI & it’s all stuff that I refurbished; maybe I paid $10 for the most expensive piece?


Knives. I am a minimalist and have just a few but each one is used frequently. When cooking elsewhere i can make do with not great pots and pans- but a bad knife I can’t manage.