A chef’s knife is one of the most crucial tools in the kitchen. It’s easily the most important tool in any chef’s arsenal. Despite the multifarious tools around the modern domestic and commercial kitchen, nothing can compare to the feeling and the results of slicing and dicing your meat and vegetables before a big cooking session.
Great knives can cost hundreds, even thousands of dollars. However, it’s entirely unnecessary to spend this amount in order to achieve world class performance. There are plenty of reasonably priced alternatives that they deliver stunning performance that any master chef would be thrilled to use. Let us consider some of the vital factors that can help you choose the right chef knives.
Type of Knives
There are different categories of knives. The main types of knives include Chef knives, paring knives, and bread knives.
As the name implies, this knife is meant for “professional” use. There are the primary tools used by every cook. These knives can be used to slice, dice, chop, and dissect all types of foods. From the toughest meats to soft vegetables, chef knives will get the job done.
This knife is used to cut soft foods like fruits. They are mainly for delicate tasks.
Bread Knife/Serrated Knife
This knife is mainly used for, as the name implies, cutting bread, cakes, and similar foods.
Without the right knives with the appropriate sharpness, your cooking experience can become frustrating. Choosing a knife that fails to cut what you want is as good as having two left shoes. Related to the sharpness of the blade is the length of time the knife retains this sharp edge.
The Material of the Blade
The better the material from which a blade is made of, the better the knife is. Many of the good qualities of the best cheap chef knives are a result of the materials of the blade. Conversely, many negative qualities of a knife stem from the materials of the blade.
Most blades are made of alloys of metals. This makes them more durable, sharper, lightweight, and so on. Before choosing a knife, it is vital that you consider the materials of the blade. The materials of the blade are usually chosen from the options listed below:
- Stainless steel
- Carbon steel
- Damascus type
- High carbon stainless steel
Stainless steel is the most common material used in making the blades of knives. Stainless steel is a mixture of chromium or nickel and carbon. The carbon content is low. This alloy has distinctive advantages. For example, it is resistant to corrosion. They are straightforward to produce, and as a result, are found in the cheapest knives on the market.
Stainless steel blades are easy to clean and maintain. However, once they lose their initial edge, it is difficult getting them to be as sharp as they used to be. Most folks choose knives with stainless steel blades because they require little maintenance and are cheap.
Carbon steel is one of the best materials for making blades. This material is obtained via a mixture of carbon and steel. It can be forged to have a thin edge. Carbon steel blades have a wickedly sharp edge that lasts for a long time.
The downside of blades made of carbon steel is the high level of maintenance required to keep it in optimal condition. Carbon steel blades are susceptible to corrosion. It stains more easily than stainless steel. And despite their sharpness, they break easier than stainless steel blades.
A carbon steel blade needs to be cleaned and thoroughly dried so that corrosion is eliminated. If you do not have the time or patience to frequently and thoroughly clean your knives, then you should stay away from carbon steel blades.
Damascus type does not refer to a material but refers to a process. It is a complex process of producing knife blades. Damascus forged blades are some of the best blades you can buy. They are sharp, durable, and deliver overall unforgettable quality.
This process involves beating the alloys or metals into repeated folds. By forming layers on layers of a metal or a combination of metals, the result is a blade that delivers superior performance.
High Carbon Stainless Steel
These blades combine the best features of carbon steel blades and stainless steel blades. These blades are very sharp, durable, lightweight, and generally, are the best materials for making high-quality knives.
They are resistant to corrosion, they hold their edge for a long time, and they can be efficiently sharpened. There aren’t any flaws with these blades. However, they also require maintenance (probably because of carbon steel in them). Hence, after washing (do not use a dishwasher), dry them thoroughly, and store them in the right place.
Most high-quality knives are made of high carbon stainless steel materials.
Ceramic blades are not as popular as the other types of blades. They are extremely sharp and hold an edge for longer than any other material out there. They are also safe for food since ceramic is nonreactive.
However, for most folks, the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. Since it is made of ceramic, it suffers from fragility. If dropped, a ceramic blade will likely shatter. If used on very hard foods, or in a bad way, they can get chipped or cracked. Although it holds an edge longer than any other blade, once the edge is lost, you might have to return it to the supplier for sharpening. Using a normal sharpener will damage it.
Size of the Knife
Most chef knives have a blade length of 8″. This is neither too long nor too short. It is a perfect compromise. However, you might require knives that have longer lengths. The longer the knife is, the greater the amount of food it can cut at a go. A shorter knife offers more maneuverability but does not cut as much volume as a long knife.
The Handle of the Knife
Aside from the blades, the handle of the knife is a vital consideration. You have to consider the shape and design of the handle. You will also need to consider the material the handle is made of.
Knife handles are made from different materials. In the reviews above, you discover that some have wooden handles. Others have plastic or composite handles. Others have metal or rubber handles.
To choose the right handle for you, it is recommended that you physically hold the handle. That way, you can feel whether it is comfortable or not.
The handle can make or mar your experience. Handles are not as durable as the blades of a knife. Although a knife can be listed as “dishwasher safe” by the manufacturer, one of the reasons why manual washing is recommended is because of handles. They usually can’t take the stress of going through a dishwasher.
If you wash them using a dishwasher, you will observe that they rapidly deteriorate. This occurs while the blade remains intact. Thus it can be frustrating having a perfectly fine blade but a broken handle.
Ease of Use and Maintenance
The knife you choose must be easy to use. Cooking is a chore already. Thus you shouldn’t make it harder by choosing a knife that isn’t easy to use.
You also need to consider the level of maintenance the knife will require. Remember that knives that have carbon blades require more maintenance than stainless steel blades.
Furthermore, ensure that you have a dry, safe place to store the knife when it is not in use.
The Weighting of the Knife
The weighting of the knife is different from the weight of the knife. This refers to the distribution of the weight on the knife.
The distribution of the weight affects the balance. A poorly-balanced knife will not make cutting enjoyable. It offers less control and will affect the precision of cutting. You can judge for yourself the balance of the knife. Grip the knife and move it around. Make cutting motions and observe how the motions feel.
A Cut Above
There are different types and brands of chef knives on the market right now. They come at different prices and offer various features. You don’t need to spend your entire bank balance to get a great chef’s knife. As long as the materials are high quality and the weight distribution is good, you can be confident you’re getting a knife that’ll meet your kitchen needs.