The One Kitchen Tool Valerie Bertinelli Can't Live Without

If you really only could choose one, what's the kitchen tool you couldn't live without? If you're anything like celebrity chef Valerie Bertinelli, it would be a really simple item. We're not talking standing mixers and immersion cookers — nothing that requires an electric connection or a battery. Might it be a whisk? Well, in a pinch, a fork would do. Or maybe a measuring spoon? Come on, you can tell a tablespoon from a teaspoon in the palm of your hand. 

Actually, according to Bertinelli, it's a knife. Think about it: You could have a kitchen stocked with every fancy cooking gadget known to mankind, but without a good knife, you're dead in the water. "You can't do anything without it," Bertinelli commented in a Food Network roundup. We have to agree. Try dicing a fresh tomato with a dull knife. Or trimming beef with bargain-brand cutlery. No matter how you slice it, if you're making any recipe without a good quality knife, you're probably going to end up with a bunch of mush on your cutting board.

The one knife you can't live without

In a perfect world, we'd have a full set of chef-quality knives tucked away in our kitchens, but that's an expensive indulgence. So what should you choose if you can only have one good knife set? Or better yet, what's the perfect knife to start that professional-grade collection you've always dreamed about? Food and Wine posed a similar question to Coutelier, a well-known, chef-owned knife store in New Orleans. Co-owner Jacqueline Blanchard had a ready reply: Santoku. No, it's not a brand — it's the Japanese term for an all-purpose knife that's as good at chopping vegetables as it is at carving meat.

Doing a quick Google search, you'll find a range of prices. A 7-inch Shun Kaji Hollow-Ground Santoku knife at Williams-Sonoma is listed for $313 (currently on sale for $229.95). At the other end of the spectrum, Crate & Barrel lists a 5-inch Santoku knife at $9.95. That's right. Nine dollars and ninety-five cents. And it has an almost-perfect 5-star average rating based on 76 consumer reviews.

Now if we keep playing that perfect-world fantasy, you'd have a full collection of professional-grade knives and get so good at cooking you even make it to the "Top Chef" finale. But, as Padma Lakshmi takes a deep breath, sets her sad eyes on your face, and tells you it's time to pack your knives and go, you know that damn right you'll pack your knives. You can't live without them.