Kitchen Knife Buying Guide
Kitchen Knife Buying Guide
High-quality kitchen knives are a huge advantage in any kitchen. The better your knives are, the more versatile they will be, and the longer they’ll last.
While buying good kitchen knives can be expensive at first, you’ll be repaid for your investment by a longer functional life, and better results every time you use them.
High-quality kitchen knives also take a finer edge, which keeps you much safer in the kitchen, since a sharp knife is easier to control.
One of the most important advantages of high-quality knives is that you’ll know when they need to be sharpened, because they will have noticeable performance changes when they dull. Lower quality knives don’t have the same performance difference between sharp and dull.
High quality knives also tend to have better handles, with ergonomic designs that improve your grip and reduce fatigue when you’re chopping and prepping.
Whether you’re slicing a loaf of bread, chopping an onion or slicing a tomato, using the right knife can make all the difference.
Some knives can be used for many different types of food but others have very specific jobs.
They can vary widely in price so you want to think about your needs, do you eat a lot of meat or vegetables? Are you often making loaves of bread that need to be sliced?
The tip: The front part of the blade with a point where the spine and the edge meet. It is used mainly for scoring and piercing, and is an exceptionally important feature on a paring or a boning knife. On a chef's or a santoku knife, the tip serves as an anchor during chopping.
The belly: The part of the blade right after the tip. Knives with “curvy” bellies and small tips are usually better for slicing or chopping vegetables, as they allow quick, smooth rocking motions on the cutting board.
The cutting edge: The sharp part of the blade that is used for chopping and slicing. The edge can be smooth, as on a typical chef knife, or serrated, as on a bread knife.
The bolster: The thick metal part in the middle, where the blade meets the handle. The bolster adds weight and balance, and is seen more often on forged knives than stamped ones. At the same time, the existence of one may also make honing the knife a bit more difficult, as it stops the blade from running all the way through a sharpener. Whether there should be a bolster or not is really a matter of preference.
The heel: The rear end of the blade, close to where it meets the handle. This is the part that you can transfer the most force to. A sharp and strong heel can be very useful, especially on a boning knife or a chef's knife, as you may need it to cut through tough skin or some fibrous veggie at times.
The handle is where you’re supposed to hold the knife. Usually, it consists of two scales covering the tang, and may be fastened with rivets for extra security.
The handle can be made of wood, plastic, ivory; sometimes, it can come in one solid metal piece. The most popular material on modern kitchen knives is plastic, as the synthetic substance tends to be lighter than metal, more durable than wood, and above all, easier to mold, bend and shape for an ergonomic design.
You want a handle that feels solid, is easy to grip, and fits well in your hand. It should also have a weight that evens out that of the blade to some extent, so as to save your energy when applying a cut.
The tang: The part that extends from the blade to run into the handle of the knife. The tang may run through the whole handle (full tang), or only part of it (partial tang). Knives with full, thick tangs are more well-balanced, and are less likely to break at the handle.
If you plan to cut anything harder than tofu, always go for knives with full tangs.
The rivet: The metal pin used to fasten the scales and the tang. A good full tang knife usually comes with three rivets.
The butt: The part at the end of the handle. On bigger knives, the butt is usually covered with metal to increase balance, durability, and stability of the whole item. A large metal butt, however, may also add a bit of weight. That is why not every knife comes with one.
Knives should be washed by hand using a mild detergent and water. After washing, rinse with water and dry thoroughly with a towel.
Individual manufacturers should state whether a particular range of knives is dishwasher-safe or not.
Instructions to avoid dishwashers could mean that the handles are not dishwasher safe, but many manufacturers also advise that knife blades are susceptible to corrosion if exposed for too long to the damp, steamy atmosphere of a dishwasher, and may also be damaged by contact with other items in the dishwasher.
Wooden handles in particular are unlikely to be dishwasher-safe, as they can warp and split.
The sharper a knife is, the safer it is to use. For beginners, that may seem counterintuitive. Wouldn’t a dull knife have less chance of cutting you?
Not at all. The majority of knife accidents in the kitchen come from dull and poorly cared for knives. Because you’ll have to apply more pressure for each cut, the chance of slipping and cutting yourself rises sharply (see what I did there?)
A freshly sharpened knife will slice through smoothly, without resistance.
How do you know if your knife is sharp? Try folding a piece of paper in half, standing it up on your counter, and cutting it from top to bottom. If your knife struggles through that — or can’t even start the cut — it definitely needs to be sharpened.
If your knife can’t pass the paper test, you’ll need to decide whether to sharpen it yourself or take it to one of our shops for us to sharpen for you.
Appropriate storage is important in the safety of keeping knives.
Knife blocks come in a variety of shapes and materials, and perform the job of keeping knives all in one place on the worktop, storing the blades safely and preventing damage to the knives themselves. They typically incorporate a number of slots to hold different sizes of knife. Some knife blocks are sold empty and some are sold filled with a selection of popular kitchen knives.
Magnetic racks are an alternative to a knife block. A magnetic rack uses a magnetic strip with which to hold the knives in place. It can be mounted on the wall or inside a kitchen cabinet for greater safety.
If you keep single knives in a kitchen drawer, make sure you cover each one with a knife sheath to protect the blade and prevent accidents.
A chopping board is, like a good kitchen knife and a great pan, indispensable in any kitchen.
A good chopping board ensures that your knife edge and worktop won't get damaged.
There are a great number of chopping boards on the market, varying in the materials used, the size and the function of the board.
Ultimately, your board needs to be softer than your knife, so avoid glass, marble, ceramic and steel.
There are Pro's and Con's for wood, plastic, silicone and bamboo, which you can read about here...