This is the seventh installment of The Cutting Edge’s new article series: Hot Kitchens, Hot Knives! Cooks and foodies almost love geeking out about their knives as much as they love food (and at times, even moreso!), so we’ll be sitting down with chefs, kitchen crews, and bloggers all across the world to ask them about their knife collections and the culinary workhorses that they know and love. Check out this series every Tuesday if you want to find out what kind of heat the guys and gals in the kitchen are packing in their knife rolls.
If you’ve ever been stumped for cooking ideas for your wild game, Jamie Carlson’s blog, You Have to Cook It Right, is a lifesaver. Though venison steaks and wild boar sausage are great standbys, they can get kind of dull — especially if you’re as good of a hunter as Carlson is. His dishes are imaginative and versatile, ranging from sesame pheasant to wild game charcuterie. Even if you’ve never hunted or eaten wild game in a serious way, Carlson’s enthusiasm for hunting will inspire you to get cracking on your duck shelter ASAP.
Naturally, he’s got quite a respectable arsenal of knives. More on that after the jump!
Soleil Ho: Can you tell us about your first hunting trip? What hooked you on hunting?
Jamie Carlson: I first went hunting when I was six years old, when my dad and grandpa would take me out duck hunting. I would sit in the boat all day and when I would get restless dad would give me an old BB gun and have me practice shooting at an old wooden goose decoy. I was officially hooked on hunting when I was about 9 and my dad let me use a single shot .410 and I shot my first duck. My grandmother showed me how to properly pluck it and dip it in wax to get all the feathers off. Then she cooked it for me and I was sold. Hunting for my own food was awesome.
SH: What inspires your cooking techniques and recipes?
JC: For me there is nothing better than having someone tell me that they don’t eat wild game because it tastes bad. These people have had bad experiences with wild game because it wasn’t cared for properly or cooked correctly. When my wife and I first got together, she told me that she wouldn’t eat it because it was terrible. I told her that you have to cook it right, and she told me that her last boyfriend said the same thing: he cooked it right and it was awful. I convinced her to try it one more time and she loved it. I always tell people that at the end of every recipe I have ever read, not one of them has said, “When done, it will taste terrible.” I like to change people’s opinions about wild game.
SH: How big is your kitchen knife collection? Your hunting knife collection?
JC: I don’t have a lot of kitchen knives — just some very well-made, high-quality knives that do the job. My Wustof classic holds an edge really well and can take a bit of punishment as well. I also have found that a Rapala fillet knife is a great kitchen knife for getting rid of silver skin and cutting up a cantaloupe. As far as hunting knives go, I have an entire drawer full of knives that I have bought and didn’t live up to their hype. I have finally settled on a few that I think are the best. In the field for gutting deer I love the Outdoor Edge Swing blade. It has a long thin blade with a ball on one end and then swings around to a full blade on the other. I can gut a deer in about 2 minutes with it. For breaking the pelvis I like a small bone saw that cuts through the pelvis without rupturing anything inside. For filleting fish I only use one knife, Leech Lake fillet knives are hands down the best fillet knives I have ever used. Flexible blade and sharp as hell.
SH: What are your favorite brands? Why?
JC: I am really not a brand guy, more of a function guy: if it works for what I need it to then I will use it. But while I was in the Army, I found that SOG and CRKT are probably my favorite knives. I always have a SOG Fielder or a CRKT M-16 on me.
SH: What do you look for in a good knife?
JC: Durability. I am really hard on my knives. I butcher between 6-10 deer every year and countless smaller animals so I need knives that can handle a beating. In the kitchen, I need something that fits my hand and can hold an edge. I tried out a lot of different knives and found that I liked the Wustof classic the best. They aren’t flashy but they do the job.
SH: Do you have any knife buying and maintenance advice for home cooks and new hunters?
JC: Don’t get stuck in a rut and feel that you have to get a certain type of knife. There are thousands of knives on the market and you should find one that you are comfortable using. I am also a huge believer in the Woodman’s Pal; I think anyone who spends any amount of time in the woods should have one. I use mine to break down deer, cut shooting lanes, and chop wood when camping. It is the best tool I own.