The Chef’s Knife

First things first. . .

I believe that having the right tools and equipment makes any activity easier and more enjoyable. So, before we can talk about cooking I think we should talk about the chef’s knife. It makes sense, right?

When discussing kitchen tools there’s no skipping the chef’s knife. Think about it, to prepare food, you chop, slice and dice. If you don’t have the right knives all these tasks become cumbersome and time-consuming.

And the one knife that you always go to for food preparation is the chef’s knife.

The chef’s knife is the work-horse, the most utilized tool in the kitchen. Which is why it’s not unusual to see it getting replaced time and time again when other knives remain in mint condition. Which is why you should invest time and money in buying the best quality chef’s knife.

When you start shopping for that perfect chef’s knife—one that will make slicing, dicing, chopping, and mincing more pleasurable, precise, and effortless—it’s important to identify your personal preferences and it is that for that reasons you have to a knife for yourself. What one person finds comfortable will not necessarily be comfortable for you.

Size

The 16cm chef’s knife can offer an element of agility, like that of a paring knife, but does not perform well with volume or when slicing through something large, like a watermelon. The 20cm chef’s knife is the most popular among home cooks because of its versatility. The 23cm blade can cut more volume but may feel intimidating.

The tang

The tang is the unsharpened metal at the end of the blade that the handle attaches to.

Is the knife made up of one solid piece of steel from the point to the handle? Are there any signs of joining or welding, particularly in the hilt of the knife? The joining is a weak point in the knife and knives with joining or welding should be avoided because they are more likely to bend or break at this joining point. The best knives are visibly made from a single piece of steel from the point to the handle.

Weight

Try several knives to find your ideal knife weight. Some knives are a bit weighty and others a little on the light side. Choose the weight that feels right to you.

Balance

Grip the knife by its handle and if it feels uncomfortably weighted toward the back of the handle or toward the blade, then it probably isn’t right knife for you. An unbalanced knife will make you work harder. A well-balanced knife makes any cutting action easier and requires less effort. A knife shouldn’t feel unstable or create strain on the arm.

The bolster

This is the thick portion of metal where the blade and handle meet. It should be solid, easy to clean and well joined. It is meant to balance the knife and keep your fingers from slipping. There shouldn’t be evidence of a weld or join, because the joint is a weak point and the knife might bend or break at the joint. If there are any gaps, not only will this increase the weakness of the knife but it can also trap food and breed bacteria.

The handle

A good handle is one that feels comfortable and ­secure to you and not slippery when wet. There should be enough space on its underside that you don’t bang your knuckles as you chop.

The blade

The blade is commonly made of carbon steel, stainless steel, tool steel and alloy steel. Quality knives are made high carbon steel knives. High carbon steel knives are strong with a sharpness that is easy to maintain, also they will not discolour or rust. Avoid knives that claim to never need sharpening. They are not very sharp to begin with and they cannot be sharpened, meaning that when they lose their edge they will need to be thrown away.

The spine

This is the top portion of the blade, and it typically has squared edges. The edges should feel polished with no sharpness or roughness, which can potentially irritate your gripping hand. The spine should also taper at the tip.

The edge

The best knives are smooth as though polished with no sign of corrosion in the metal. The cutting edge should run the full length from tip to the hilt. Serrated chef’s knives should be avoided for general use such as vegetable and meat chopping as they can be very unsafe, being more likely to slip than cut. They cannot be sharpened and they saw rather than slice. A gentle curve from the tip to the heel can help the knife smoothly rock back and forth during chopping and mincing.

Lastly, a good chef’s knife should be sharp right out of the box.