Kitchen knives are among the most used tools in the kitchen. Not only will a good quality knife make kitchen tasks faster and easier but it turns regular home cooking into a pleasurable experience. This is also why serious chefs invest only in serious kitchen knives available in the market. And so should you even if you’re just a beginner, an expert or somewhere in between in the kitchen.
Investing in the best kitchen knives whether ala carte or by set is not simple but it doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive either. No matter your budget, you can find the best options by first knowing what you need and by doing your homework. To further make the search a breeze, we have here a definitive guide about kitchen knives.
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Anatomy of a Kitchen Knife
Because knives eventually become like extra limbs when you’re cooking regularly, it’s only right to also fully know the tool’s anatomy. From tip to handle, each part has distinctive features and functions you should know about to help you choose your options well. Below are parts that make up a kitchen knife:
- Point – The part at the very end of the knife opposite the butt which is often used for piercing.
- Tip – This refers to the first third of the blade which can be used for precision cutting, quick slicing and other delicate tasks.
- Spine – This is the top thicker and un-sharpened portion of the blade opposite the cutting edge.
- Cutting Edge – The sharp edge of the blade which extends from point to the heel.
- Blade Face – This is the wide and flat part of the blade which may appear flat or hollow ground and is often used for crushing food.
- Bolster – This part adds balance and weight which is usually only present in the best knives.
- Handle – This is where you grip the knife which ideally should be comfortable and slip resistant.
- Tang – This is the part of the blade that is sandwiched and attached to the handle.
- Butt – Opposite the point and is the farthest part of the handle.
Key Factors to Consider
Knowing your kitchen knife’s anatomy is just one part of the picture. In order to make your investment truly count in the long run, there are key factors to consider including:
- Craftsmanship – When buying the best knives or any type of knives for that matter, how it is put together is a crucial factor. In other words, the brand you choose matters. There are several brands renowned for their world class quality you can check out to ensure superior craftsmanship.
- Design – Knives also vary in terms of design and style. Excellent choices are those that have every part seamlessly connected together to create a finely tuned tool. Common styles may be Western, Japanese or a hybrid of both.
- Material – The type of material is another important factor to consider as it has significant effects on the knife’s price and performance. Blade and handle materials vary from option to option and your job is to find out which one offers the best performance at a price you can afford.
- Construction – The best kitchen knives should be well constructed. Whether the process used is forging or stamping, it should show in how the knife looks and how it feels good when handled. Forged knives generally offer the best quality but stamped knives are cheaper and should do well enough for basic kitchen tasks.
- Durability – To make the investment count, it’s important to consider your option’s durability. The longer the knife will last in terms of cutting edge and use, the better it will be. This factor is usually a result of the right blend of materials, craftsmanship, construction and design.
Top Knife-Makers in the Market
In the same manner that there is no one-knife-fits-all options, there is also no such thing as the best brands but there are a few key players in the knife-making business you can rely and trust. These brands have been around for decades making all types of knives featuring world class quality. They include:
- Henckels – Considered as one of the largest manufacturers of quality knives, Henckels is a German brand that has proven time and again their different lines of kitchen knives are worth the money considering the unparalleled quality and superior craftsmanship.
- Wusthof – Giving Henckels a run for their money is Wusthof, another German brand which has been around for around 200 years. The brand is widely popular for their classic chef knives models that are at par with what Henckels can offer.
- Victorinox – Not from Germany but from Switzerland, Victorinox is popular for some of the best-selling kitchen knives in the market. The brand is renowned for its perfect blend of quality and performance at a price many home cooks can afford.
- Global – Another name you can trust is Global which hasn’t been around as long as the other brands but has certainly successfully revolutionized the way kitchen knives are made. Global is popular for lightweight and very sharp knives.
- Messermeister – Another German brand, Messermeister does not operate as largely as Henckels and Wusthof but it stands on its own when offering quality knives that are affordable and long lasting.
- MAC – With famous chefs endorsing this brand, it’s no surprise why the best MAC kitchen knives are among the top choices in the market. Knives from this brand are manufactured and designed Japanese-style which means that products usually sport a combo of harder Japanese steel alongside a Western-style blade.
Types of Kitchen Knives
Whether you’re a beginner or an expert in the kitchen, you only need three basic essential knives to get most of the job done. You can opt to add and expand the collection as you go along but here are the ones you must invest in:
- Chef’s knife – This is the most used type of knives in the kitchen. Designed for general purpose tasks like daily chopping, slicing, dicing and mincing, chef’s knives feature blade lengths from 5 to 10 inches. Classic options are models with 8-inch blades but pick whatever is comfortable for your hands.
- Paring knife – Smaller than a chef’s knife, the best paring kitchen knives are handy and indispensable for smaller and delicate tasks that require greater precision. This is perfect for jobs like peeling, trimming and when dealing with small fruits and vegetables. Blade length typically ranges from 2 to 4 inches.
- Bread knife – In addition to two versatile kitchen knives, you’ll also need a serrated knife or a bread knife for purposes like slicing or cutting breads, roasts, soft fruits and vegetables without squashing or tearing the food item. This type of knife usually has about 9 to 10 inches of blade with serrations for clean cutting and slicing.
Other Knives to Add to the Collection
As you grow more serious with your cooking and have a yen for trying out recipes that require special skills, you might also want some specialty knives handy. Here are possible additions to your collection to consider:
- Carving knife – It features long and thin blade which prove to be handy during special occasions when you have cooked meat, fish or poultry to cut and carve.
- Boning knife – This knife has a narrow blade that curves inward thereby making it easier and more precise to cut meat or poultry around the bone.
- Santoku knife – Great for mincing, dicing and slicing, a santoku knife sports a combination of a cleaver and chef’s knife’s features.
- Cleaver – This is a heavyweight type of knife designed for cutting through meat, poultry, vegetables or fruits with a single stroke.
- Steak knife – As the name suggests, the best steak kitchen knives are rarely used but worth investing for perfect slicing or cutting of carefully prepared steaks.
- Tomato/Cheese knife – Add this to your collection if you find yourself dealing with cheese and tomato often. The knife prevents tearing and cheese sticking to the blade.
All about the Blade Material
While all parts of the best kitchen knives have their respective functions, it is the blade that matters most and the type of material affects performance, price and durability. When shopping around, below are common blade materials to closely look at:
- Stainless steel – Knives made of stainless steel are keenly priced but would need more maintenance like regular sharpening to maintain top performance.
- Carbon steel – Compared to stainless steel knives, carbon steel contain higher carbon steel hence more expensive and feature sharp blades that are easier to maintain.
- High carbon steel – Knives made of high carbon steel has even greater amount of carbon than regular carbon steel which means better quality, longer edge retention and more durable.
- Ceramic – Options made of ceramic are harder yet also lightweight which means easy to handle and maneuver. Ceramic knives are also able to retain its razor-sharp edge for a long time.
- Damascus – Blades made of damascus are also known as laminated blades which feature a carbon steel core and layers of stainless allows on the outside. The combination of materials makes the edge harder and super sharp when grounded right.
- Titanium – Knives made of titanium are usually lightweight and durable. Titanium is generally combined with other metals like silver or diamond and other materials like ceramic.
Types of Cutting Edge
The best kitchen knives for a variety of needs also come with different cutting edge styles. Here are four cutting edges that are most common in the market:
- Plain edge – Majority of knives have plain or straight edges which means no serrations or scallops along the blade edge. This is great for general purpose tasks. The blade may require more frequent sharpening to keep the edge at tip top shape.
- Scalloped edge – As the name suggests, blade have scallop curves in its edges that remain sharp even without frequent sharpening. It’s great for cutting delicate food items without tearing or mashing.
- Hollow edge – Blades with hollow edge have indentations near the edge creating pockets of air. This design avoids from clinging to the blade hence great for cutting cheese and similar food items.
- Serrated edge – The best serrated kitchen knives feature downward wavy peaks along the edges. The peaks are the ones that accomplish most of the cutting tasks leaving the troughs in between sharp and requiring less sharpening or maintenance.
Two Methods of Blades Construction
Aside from material and the type of edge, another important factor to consider when comparing and perusing blades is the type of construction. Blades made of steel are generally manufactured either by these two methods:
- Forged – Blades that are forged are considered to be the best in quality because they go through an intricate process involving multiple steps and manual labor. The blade is taken from individual pieces of metal, subjected to extreme high heat then molded and shaped accordingly. The results are blades that are heavyweight, durable and balanced.
- Stamped – Blades that are stamped are usually taken out of a flattened sheet of cold-rolled steel. The material is then heat-treated to make it stronger followed by more processes like grounding, polishing and sharpening to create less expensive knives with reasonable quality.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to the best kitchen knives in the market, there is no one best brand, design, style or model. At the end of the day, it still boils down to your needs and budget being met perfectly. Prior to finalizing your choices, it is imperative to know your cooking style and purposes.You certainly don’t need to break the bank to make your investment count but you do need to keep key factors in mind when shopping around.Above are the most important details to consider when buying your kitchen knives. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned home cook, this definitive guide about kitchen knives should help you wade through the plethora of choices in the market.