The more you know about kitchen knives, the more fun you’ll have shopping for cutlery for your own collection or gifts. Today at CHEFS Mix, we’re answering basic questions about knives and how to choose the best ones for your kitchen.
Your Turn: Kitchen knives are a popular topic for cooks and bloggers. After you read today's post, let us know what other questions you have about knives. Please contact us in the comments section or by email at CHEFSmix@CHEFScatalog.com.
How much should I spend on kitchen knives?
Your budget is always an important consideration. If you choose a top brand, you’ll do well regardless of which knives you buy. A beginning cook or casual cook may be pleased with a less expensive set of knives. Gourmet cooks, on the other hand, may consider their knives a lifetime investment and prefer premium cutlery for their kitchens.
What are the parts of a knife?
A knife is more than a blade and handle. When shopping for a kitchen knife, you’ll see or hear terms like “bolster,” “edge” and “tang.” To help you understand these terms, we defined the key knife terms you’re likely to run across.
Top Image: Anatomy of a Knife
Bottom image: Unfinished blade for stamped chef's knife showing a full tang (image courtesy of Wusthof)
What is a forged knife, stamped knife and laser-cut knife? Which is the best?
A forged knife is made from a bar of steel that’s heated until soft and then hammered into shape by an artisan using a forging hammer and die. Because its blade contains more metal, a forged knife holds its edge longer and requires less sharpening than a stamped knife. A forged knife also has a bolster that adds weight and improves the knife’s balance. Forged knives are more expensive than most stamped knives due to their time- and labor-intensive manufacturing process.
Stamped knives are cut from sheets of rolled steel cookie-cutter style. They are lighter than forged knives and may or may not have a bolster. Because their blades contain less metal, stamped knives don’t hold an edge as well as forged knives which means you may have to sharpen them more frequently.
Laser cut knives are a variation of stamped knives. A laser cuts the blade from sheets of rolled steel. Laser-cut edges are more precise and sharper than the edges on stamped or hand-ground blades.
Most top manufacturers like Wusthof and Zwilling make both forged and stamped knives. Shun specializes in making forged Asian-style knives. If you stick with a well-known brand, you’ll get high quality knives regardless of the type you buy. If price is a consideration, remember that forged knives are generally the most expensive.
Which type of knife – forged, stamped or laser-cut – is the best? The answer usually comes down to price and personal preference. We all have different-sized hands, cooking styles, prepping needs and knife skills. The best way to choose a knife is to hold it in your hand and see how it feels. Is it too heavy or too light? Does it feel balanced or blade-heavy? Is the handle comfortable enough for chopping marathons? Then, test the ones you like best to see how well each performs everyday tasks like chopping, mincing, slicing, dicing and carving.
What are the differences between Western-style and Asian-style knives?
The main difference is the thickness of the blade edge. Western-style knives (chef's knife, above, left) have a thicker edge (around a 20-degree angle on each side of the blade) and Asian-style knives like the Santoku (above, right) or Nakiri have a thinner edge (around a 15-degree angle on each side of the blade). Because their blades contain more metal, Western-style knives are heavier than comparable Asian-style knives.
What are the basic knives most cooks need?
Most home cooks do well with these basic kitchen knives:
Do I need specialty knives?
Using the right knife for the task improves your efficiency and results. The versatile chef’s knife excels at a variety of prepping tasks. But, when it comes to precision tasks like deboning chicken, filleting fish or cutting ham into deli-thin slices, a boning knife (above), fillet knife or carving knife comes in handy. If you find that your cooking activities often include a special task or two, consider adding a specialty knife to your cutlery collection.
Should I buy a cutlery set or knife block set?
Cutlery sets offer a great value for the price with significant savings over buying individual or open stock knives. Sets range from starter sets (chef’s knife and paring knife) to complete collections. Knife block sets include both cutlery and a knife block for storage.
How should I store my knives?
Storing knives properly protects blade edges and prevents injuries. You have many storage options including a knife block, knife case or roll, in-drawer tray, original box, original presentation case and magnetic bar. If you store individual knives in a drawer, be sure to cover each blade with a sheath or guard to protect the edge and prevent accidental cuts to fingers and hands.
How do I take care of my knives?
Your kitchen knives require care and maintenance to keep them sharp and ready to use. Here are some important steps to take: