Equipment Corner: Chef’s Knives
“A kitchen without a knife is not a kitchen.”
– Masaharu Morimoto (Japanese chef, best known as an Iron Chef on the T.V. shows “Iron Chef” in Japan and America).
So true! A sharp, high quality knife means more control and less slippage when cutting raw food, with nice consistent cuts and slices, and this all means it is much safer!
Your chef knife is your work horse — designed to perform well at many different kitchen tasks, rather than excelling at any one in particular. It can be used for mincing, slicing, and chopping vegetables, slicing meat, and disjointing large cuts.
Blade Buying Guide:
Don’t just go online and purchase the first knife you see. A high quality chef knife can last you a lifetime so it’s worth spending some time researching and trying out options.
It’s all about how the knife feels in your hand. If it’s not comfortable to hold, you’re not going to use it. It has to be balanced in your hand, like an extension of your hand.
I recommend going to your favorite retail cooking store and holding the different knives. Pretend you’re using it to chop, slice, and dice and talk to the salespeople to learn more.
Choose a chef knife with a blade length you’re comfortable with — either 8 or 10 inches long.
The kind of metal the knife is forged with varies. It could be a European blade or a Japanese blade. The different metals all have different characteristics of sharpening and holding an edge. Here are a few of the different metal materials available.
- Carbon Steel: Holds an extremely sharp edge which is great for a clean cut, but carbon steel can also lose its color easily and can transfer that color onto your food. Carbon steel is also known to react with eggs, onions, and acidic foods, so it can leave a metallic taste on your food. Not really what you want…
- Stainless Steel: This metal is soft which makes it a poor choice for a chef knife. The weakness of the metal makes it difficult to maintain the sharp edge you need for specific cuts. Again, not the best material for a chef knife…
- High Carbon Stain Free Steel: This material has the best of both worlds…it holds a sharp edge like carbon steel, but doesn’t rust, corrode, or stain the knife or the food you’re preparing.
I recommend the high carbon stain free steel metal with a Rockwell hardness of 56/57. The Rockwell scale determines the hardness of a material based on the depth of indentation under large loads and preloads.
This can be an expensive purchase, but keep in mind that it’s an investment. Like I said, these are the bread and butter of your success in the kitchen, and if you get a high quality knife, it can last a lifetime.
But how many knives a person should have? I figure It’s like potato chips…it’s hard to have just one! You’ll need a small knife for pairing jobs, a serrated knife for breads, a fillet knife for boning, as well as the necessary accessories to make your knives last.
My full set of Shun knives.
Here is my suggestion for your first full knife set:
- Chef knife (8-10 inches)
- Paring knife (3.5 inches)
- Utility knife, serrated (6 inches)
- Fillet or boning knife (6-7 inches)
- Matching knife guards or wooden knife block
- Wet stone or honing steel
For your chef knife to perform at its best, the blade needs a little TLC:
- Respect the blade and safety first. Keep your blade in a sheath or butcher block to protect the integrity of the blade, and always pass it handle first.
- Cleaning a knife always means handwashing, no dishwasher.
- Sharpen your knife on a water stone (a.k.a. Wet stone or sharpening stone) to keep it as sharp as possible for the longest time possible.
- Cutting board material should be wood or rubber – no glass or ceramic boards to keep blades sharp.
Chef Gerrie’s Notes:
Personally, I prefer a Japanese high carbon steel blade because they have a thinner blade and are lighter than European models. European blades are usually thicker and heavier for heavy duty use like breaking down whole pork loins, roaster size chickens, whole turkeys, and big root vegetables.
Both models are great quality, but for me and my small hands, the weight of the European blade would wear me out after a day of butchery.
Shun knives are my go to brand. It was an instant love fest when I saw and felt these beautifully crafted, sexy, and OMG feel-good knives. They balance well in the hand which alleviates fatigue, and their light feel can keep me in the kitchen for hours.
Check Shun out and they will guide you to a retail store near you so you can hold and feel the difference of a precision instrument. Shun also protects your knives with their warranty against manufacturing defects, and they will sharpen your blade anytime.
Bottom line, a high quality knife is a precision instrument. Remember to choose a high quality knife, take good care of it, and it will be a pleasure to use for years.
Check this article out 25 Tips and Tricks about Chef’s Knives-Every Chef Should Know by Bladesto.