Chef’s Knife Buying Guide
If you are unfamiliar with the various types of knives available on the market, are unsure of what type of knife you need, or simply do not know how to select the best version of your preferred kitchen knife, it can be very beneficial to begin your search by informing yourself about all of these things. This article is designed to help you figure out if a chef’s knife would be useful in your kitchen and, if so, to help you find the right chef’s knife for you.
What Is a Chef’s Knife
Also known as a cook’s knife and a French knife, a chef’s knife is a large knife originally used by chefs and butchers to separate meat at its joints. This may be why the popular horror movie props falsely earned the name “butcher’s knife” despite the fact that the term butcher’s knife was originally used most often to describe a cleaver.
In more recent years, the chef’s knife has become more like an all-purpose knife and is the favorite of many home and restaurant chefs. Its ability to chop, slice, dice, and mince makes this knife the perfect addition to any kitchen. So, what should you look for when purchasing a chef’s knife?
A Sharp Knife Is Important
It should seem obvious that you will want to find a sharp knife. Despite how obvious this may seem many people appear to miss this point, somehow. A sharp knife is actually important for your safety. Many beginners shy away from extremely sharp knives – especially when working with large knives – because they are afraid of chopping off their fingertips or slicing into their flesh. While you should always be careful to handle any knife with care, it is important to know that a dull chef’s knife is actually more dangerous that a sharp one.
Therefore, you will want to be sure that you purchase a chef’s knife which is not only sharp when you buy it, but will also stay sharp and sharpen easily. For this reason, I suggest purchasing a high-carbon knife. High-carbon knives sharpen very easily and will hold their edges for quite a while, especially when treated appropriately.
Many people prefer stainless steel knives, simply because stainless steel has become a popular metal for many other purposes. Be aware, though, that stainless steel will not hold its edge as long and will be more difficult to sharpen. Ceramic blades are another option you may want to consider. Ceramic blades hold their edge for an incredibly long time, but are also brittle and require specialized tools for sharpening.
Western and Asian Edges
You may not know this, but chef’s knives are constructed differently in western countries (such as European and North American countries) and Asian countries. The major difference in their construction is the angle of their sharp edges. Western knives usually feature a cutting edge which has been sharpened to a 20-degree angle. Asian knives are sharper, sharpened to a 15-degree angle.
Considering that I just told you a sharper knife is better, I am sure that you can easily deduce that I suggest selected an Asian model with a sharper angle. Of course, if you have selected a knife with a steel blade and are confident in your blade sharpening skills, you could always sharpen an American blade to a sharper angle. Either way, it is important to be aware than different knives may be sharpened at different angles.
A Strong Knife Is Important
You want to feel as though it is okay to place your weight on your knife without worrying that it will bend or snap in half. For that reason, I suggesting finding a knife made from a strong metal. High-carbon metals are generally quite strong (stronger than stainless steel) but each type of metal differs slightly.
Companies have very interesting ways of marketing things and can make even the most low-quality knife sound as though it will be the one which lasts you a lifetime and helps you effortlessly cook as though you are a top chef.
When looking for a strong knife, I suggest actually handling the knife. Pick it up. See if it feels heavy or light. Of course, you will not want your knife to be so heavy that your wrist grows weak and tired after cutting a single onion. Still, heaviness signifies strength as well, so try to find one with a decent weight. Try to bend the blade. If the blade bends, even the slightest bit, put the knife back. Don’t even bother wasting your time on it – it will disappoint you.
If you are purchasing your knife online, take some time to read my reviews and consider reading some consumer reviews as well. See how well this knife has actually stood up to the pressure of use and get this information from an un-biased person (someone who isn’t working for the company that made the knife).
Get a Grip
A firm, stable and comfortable grip is extremely important when working with any knife, especially a large knife such as this one. As you can see in our Use and Care guide, you will often be working with your fingertips very close to this knife’s cutting edge. It is essential that you maintain control over the knife as you are doing you work – no one wants to lose a finger. You may not think it can happen to you, but it can. Even experienced, well-trained chefs have lost fingers and required stitches in the palms of their hands from time to time.
Although I am generally a fan of knives fully forged from a single piece of metal, I also believe in the importance of incorporating some sort of grip onto the handle. As I use my chef’s knife to slice and dice everything from onions and tomatoes to potatoes and garlic, I find that my hands often grow slick, slimy, sticky, and wet at times. The juices from the foods I am cutting get all over my hands and affect my ability to grip my knife effectively.
It is for this reason that I tend to steer away from metal and plastic handles. Personally, I prefer handles made from some sort of rubber or silicone. I also like handles which have had rubber or silicone ridges added to them – the extra texture makes them even easier to hold onto.
I also want to quickly mention the shape of the handle. Clearly, handles which are thin or have sharp edges will make it difficult for you to maintain a comfortable grip. You may be tempted to purchase one with finger grooves since they look as though they will make it incredibly easy to hold onto them. Something you will want to consider, however, is that you are likely to hold this particular type of knife in more than one way, because different cutting tasks will require different techniques.
Stick With the Curve
You may have noticed that some chef’s knives are flat and some are curved. I highly suggest purchasing one with a slight curve. The curve is what will help you control your knife as you use it to accomplish different tasks. In fact, one of the most basic techniques (the rolling technique) depends upon this curve.
Take Your Time
I know that all of this information can seem overwhelming. Luckily, I have already gone through and applied these criteria to the most popular chef’s knives on today’s market and included that information in the reviews I have posted on this website. Take your time to read through those reviews. Take your time to learn more about chef’s knives. Most of all, take a deep breath and remember that you will be using this knife often. It is smart to take the time to research something you will use every day, especially when that something can be dangerous if used improperly.