The knife is the most important and also most dangerous tool in the kitchen. When you have one that works well for you, you can feel comfortable preforming many essential kitchen tasks with ease and without injury. Remember you can’t cook if you don’t have the proper tools. The knife is one of the most essential tools and it has the ability to make your experience in the kitchen easy and pleasant or dangerous and time consuming. Here are the things you need to know to get you the best tool for the job.
1. It’s all about you:
The most important key to choosing the perfect knife for you is how it feels in your hand. Think of the knife as an extension of your arm. You hold on to the knife with your hand; the weight and pressure of your arm and knife combined preform the task. Therefore the perfect knife for one person may not be the perfect knife for you. There are many different styles, weights, shapes, materials and handle varieties that all play a part in this. It should feel comfortable, balanced and secure when you hold it, and if chosen well should support you in how you cook.
2. Picking the blade, Stamped and Forged Knives:
The terms “Stamped” and “forged” have to do with the quality of the metal and how the knife is made. This will contribute to the weight and the longevity of the knife as well.
(4 varieties of Forged knives)
Forged knives – are made in the process of heating and cooling, which shapes the knife and makes the metal stronger. A forged knife tends to be a little heavier, better balanced, and sturdy. The metal does not have much flex to it and the knives usually have a bolster (a notch at the end of the blade before the handle that protects the fingers). Forged knives are made of harder metal so usually are harder to sharpen but keep a good edge longer. Because of how these knives are made, they are more expensive than stamped knives. If taken care of properly, a forged knife will last a lifetime.
(a set of Stamped knives)
Stamped knives – are made from a sheet of metal that is stamped into a blade shape as if with a cookie cutter and then a handle is attached. A stamped knife tends to be lighter in weight, and has a bit of flex to it. The metal is lighter and softer so it is easy to sharpen but also does not keep the sharp edge very long. To keep a good edge stamped knives will need to be sharpened more often and will breakdown faster than a forged knife. Because of how these knives are made they are pretty affordable.
Note: The strongest and usually most well-balanced knives are forged from a single piece of steel that runs the entire length of the knife through the entire handle. The section of steel inside the handle is called the “tang”. The tang adds strength and balance to the knife. If it runs all the way to the end of the handle, it’s called a “full-tang.” If the metal only extends half-way into the handle it is called a “partial tang” or “half-tang”. If there is no metal in the handle, these are simply “no-tang” knives. In my opinion if you are going to invest in a forged knife, invest in one that is a full-tang as the overall quality of the knife will be better and the handle will be less prone to cracking.
Some knives have synthetic comfort handles so the tang may not be visible.
(you can see the full tang of the knife in the handle here. This adds balance and strength.)
A Forged knife is good for a person who really wants a quality knife and has the money to invest in one, and the willingness to take the time to care for it properly. To keep them in good condition forged knives should always be hand-washed. Never put them in the dishwashers as the heat and soap there damage the knifes handles and dull the blades.
A Stamped knife is good for a person who wants a really lightweight knife or if they are not interested in taking extra steps to properly care for the knife. These are great for picnics, camping and fishing, college students, so that if they get damaged, dull or misplaced they can be inexpensively replaced. They are good if you are on a tight budget or if you like to have an abundance of knives.
3. Style and Shape Matter:
There are many different types, shapes and styles of knifes. Each specific knife is designed for a particular task. If you want to invest in a new knife start by choosing a Chef’s Knife. The Chef’s knife is the most common as it is the main workhorse of the kitchen ranging in size from 4in to 18in in length. Again, you must choose the length and weight that is comfortable for you. A knife for a 6ft man is going to be very different from the one for a 4ft woman, but they can both have the same quality of knife.
Also take into consideration the material the handle is made of. It could be metal, synthetic, wood, plastic or even bone. Notice if it is too wide, narrow, heavy, or thin for your hand. It should be comfortable, well-balanced and secure in your hand so you are less likely to accidentally slip while using it.
Want to know how to keep your knife in good condition and upgrade your kitchen experience? Read more here.
Want more techniques and secrets about the perfect knife for you and how to use it making food prep fast and easy? Join me at my next class – The Cutting Edge – and I will answer all your questions in person.