As a chef, purchasing your knives is reminiscent of Harry Potter choosing his wand--the knife chooses you. Like Harry's wand, the choices between forged or stamped knives, wood or plastic handles is entirely up to the wizard chef. You may even want to bring some vegetables to the store with you to try it out in action.
Though there are several types of knives designed to tackle a variety of tasks, the chef's knife (also called a French Knife) might be one of the most prized and personal possessions a chef can have in the kitchen. Known as the ultimate multi-purpose knife, a chef's knife may as well be an extension of the chef's hand. Whether mincing garlic, slicing tomatoes or cutting meat, expert chefs wield these knives with such dexterity that many of their movements resemble that of a trained surgeon.
In this buying guide, we'll walk you through knife construction including the anatomy of a knife, commonly used materials found in commercial knives, knife types and much more.
Before purchasing the right knife for you, it helps to have a basic understanding of its construction. All knives fall into two categories: stamped and forged, with the only primary difference being that forged knives feature a bolster. Don't know what a bolster is? Read on!
Learning about the anatomy of a knife is key to understanding how to use it properly and finding the best make and model for you.
When it comes to knives, everything is about personal preference. You'll find no difference in performance when it comes to forged or stamped knives, but rather, a difference in weight. Some chefs swear by a stamped or forged knife, which is greatly determined by the way the knife feels in one's hand. Read on to learn more about forged and stamped knives:
Kitchen knives are made from a variety of steels, which vary in durability and performance. Iron and carbon are the main components that make up steel, but it's the addition of chromium, which increases hardening ability and stain resistance (and it should comprise 13% of the total steel in order to meet the industry's standard of "stainless steel"). Other elements like vanadium, molybdenum and manganese increase hardness, durability, and reduce brittleness of the steel.
In a commercial setting, however, you'll find that most knives are made from the following types of steel:
Knives come in a variety of styles and weights. While the blades of knives are almost always made of stainless steel, the knife handle material may vary greatly. There's no right or wrong answer when it comes to knife handles—it's a matter of preference. You want a handle that feels comfortable in your hand, in both shape and weight. The handle should also never feel slippery when wet, and it should give your knuckles enough clearance on its underside as you chop.
Read on to learn more about popular knife handle materials:
You might think that a chef's knife is all you need in the kitchen, and in some ways you're right. But there's no denying that some knives are better suited to the task at hand than others. When specialty and precision goes hand-in-hand, consider adding more specialized knives to your library for consistent, perfect cuts each and every time.
Like all large investments, your knife will have a longer life if you properly care for it. It should go without saying that your knife should be washed and dried after each use. In addition to keeping your knife clean, you also have to keep it sharp. Knife blades will naturally lose their sharpness and edge with each use—however, how quickly you need to sharpen and hone your knife is dependent on the quality of the knife itself.
So what is honing?
Honing describes the process of bringing the blade edge of your knife back to center. Over time, the edge of your blade will naturally become misaligned. A honing rod (also known as a sharpening steel) is used to correct the edge without shaving much of the actual steel off. Because you're bringing the blade back to center, your knife may appear to be sharper even though you didn't sharpen it—the blade is just better aligned to cut through food properly. Many chefs hone their knives frequently, often before each use.
Before honing your knife, it's important to know whether your blade is made in the German/western style of knife or if it is an Asian style of knife. Most western knives typically feature about 22 degrees on either side, making the knife very strong. Asian knives, however, feature a blade edge around 16 degrees on both sides; that's why many Asian style of knives utilize a stronger quality of steel to increase its durability.