Cuts Like a Knife - The Definitive Kitchen Knife Guide for the Home Chef
Have you ever wondered why chef’s guard their knives like treasure? Having the appropriate tool for the job makes food prep a breeze, whether you’re a professional or a one pot wonder.
With such a range of brands, materials and blade shapes available, buying new knives can be overwhelming. We’re not all experts, and sometimes it can be confusing to know which knife is best suited to which purpose. In this piece, we’re going to do a bit of a deep dive to unravel the mysteries surrounding choosing new knives.
Talk the Talk
Before we jump into the nitty-gritty of knife selection, let’s learn the lingo so you can talk knives like an expert:
1. Full Tang or Half Tang?
No, we’re not announcing a reboot of a ‘90s hip-hop band, and nobody has any burning desire for you to Wang Chung tonight. A full tang knife consists of a single piece of metal running from the end of the handle to the tip of the blade, with the two sides of the handle pinned to the metal. Half tang knives have a piece of metal that runs the length of the knife but is only a portion of the width of the handle. What do kitchen knives and lemon squash have in common? The more tang, the better!
2. Forged or Stamped
Forged blades are made from a solitary piece of steel that is heated, shaped and sharpened. They are generally heavier, more expensive and maintain their edges for longer. Stamped blades have been machine stamped from a sheet of steel before being ground, polished and honed. They have the advantage of being lighter, which is a significant preference for many, as that helps ward off sore wrists caused by high-frequency use.
The balance of the knife refers to how it rolls from its base to its tip on the board. A well-balanced knife should do this with ease, delivering a comfortable, back and forth rocking action that makes for fast cutting. As a rule, forged blades are usually better balanced than stamped blades.
4. Blade Material
Manufacturers construct blades from:
- High-carbon stainless steel – most top-of-the-range knives are made from this hardy material. It is high quality, long lasting, but generally more expensive.
- Ceramic - professional quality. They are harder and lighter than stainless steel and do not require sharpening. However, they can be prone to chipping.
- Stainless steel – there are different grades of stainless steel available. Without getting too technical, price invariably correlates to quality. Better steel is more durable and holds its edge.
5. Handle Material
Handles are typically made from stainless steel, wood or plastic. Stainless steel is ideal as plastic and wood will deteriorate over time. It’s crucial to ensure that the join is well made; otherwise, it can break, or allow potentially harmful bacteria to collect.
Now that you speak fluent knife, it’s time to look at pairing your blade with the right application!
The Right Tool for the Job
Do you currently use one knife for every situation? Everybody has their favourite kitchen weapon, and the temptation is there to wield it for every culinary battle. However, as comfortable as you might feel, you may be making your life more difficult as you go about the daily task of whipping up delicious meals. Choosing the right knife will make prepping quicker and more enjoyable. We’ve put together a breakdown of some of the commonly used items:
Paring or Vegetable Knife
The paring knife’s small size makes it easy to manoeuvre in your hand when peeling, trimming or coring fruit and vegetables. Perfect for sectioning oranges or slicing a mushroom.
A utility knife is a general-purpose knife and can be used for most small everyday chopping and cutting jobs.
The thinner blade allows for you to cut meat more precisely and produce thinner slices than a utility or chef’s knife. The longer it is, the less workout your arm will get sawing off slices of ham.
Originating in Japan, the name means “3 purposes”, which refer to the three functions that Santoku are perfectly designed to perform: slicing, dicing and mincing. Santoku knives are recognisable by their distinctive sheep’s foot tip, which curves to a steep angle along the spine of the blade and results in a relatively linear cutting edge.
Boning or Filleting Knife
A thin, flexible blade, which assists when cutting along the bone of a roast or filleting a fish. Many home chefs may not own a boning knife. However, if you want to bone a leg of lamb, a boning knife will save you a significant amount of time.
This ubiquitous item is found in almost all kitchens – it is perfect for chopping up meat, hard vegetables like potatoes and pumpkin, and nuts but can also be used for precision cutting and chopping up herbs. The flat blade is also handy for crushing garlic. Conversely, as they tend to be somewhat larger, they are not always the best choice for smaller, more delicate operations.
The bread knife’s serrated edge allows you to saw through a fresh loaf without squashing it. But you might not know that your bread knife can also do double duty to slice through soft fruits like a tomato. But wait, there’s more! Whip out this knife if you are divvying up a delicate pastry.
It is a common misconception that a honing steel will sharpen your knife. It straightens the blade but does not make it any sharper. It is good to hone your knife once a week if you cook regularly. To keep your blades slicing through produce like a prized Hattori Hanzo, speak to your local knife store, butcher or seek out a professional knife sharpening service.
Now that you have your knives battle-ready, ensure to keep them well-protected in a knife guard or knife block. This will ensure that they remain sharp for as long as possible. The added bonus here is that if you opt for a knife block set, you can take advantage on deep discounts compared to purchasing knives individually. Check out our outstanding range of high-quality knife block sets to select the style and combination that’s right for your kitchen.
Oh, and if you order in the next 15 minutes, you’ll receive a free set of steak knives!