Overview of a Kitchen Knife
Good kitchen knives are forged from the best steel and they are the home gadget used in the kitchen that makes food preparation quite easy and fast. Both professional and amateur cooks will agree with me on the importance of a good kitchen knife. Equipping your kitchen with the best steel for kitchen knives is not an option but a necessity.
Professional chefs take pride in their cutting techniques and this often impress people but the secret to their quick and graceful cutting lies on the little metal in their hands. Knives play a vital role in the achievement of any chef.
Therefore, to make a successful career as a chef or to prepare good food at home it is essential you choose the best steel for kitchen knives.
There are different kinds of steel for kitchen knives available in the market as there are different purposes for each knife. You don’t want to use a knife meant to chop, for slicing or the one’s meant to dice vegetable to dice meat.
When sourcing for your knife, you should also watch out for inferior knives. Nobody wants to go for knives that lose their sharpness easily and become dull upon little usage.
The kitchen knives usually have different characteristics that make them better than the other available products. Knowing the right way of choosing the best knife for your kitchen is important for the success of your job.
Anatomy of a kitchen knife
The handle of a knife is the comfy part that holds the blade. This is the only friendly part of the knife that accommodates any error from the person holding it. The handle house the tang riveted into it.
While sourcing for a good kitchen knife, it is important you get a good feel of the handle before purchasing the knife. The handles are made with different kind of materials. The handle could be made of wood, stainless steel or plastic.
Wood handles are now out of fashion and they are not safe in terms of health concerns. Wood handles if not well-managed can house bacteria. Stainless handle is very good and durable except that they don’t provide good grip and can slip when wet.
Plastic handles are the order of the day. They are easy to clean and hold up well but can crack when exposed to high temperatures.
The tip of the knife is the pointed sharp edge of the knife that does most of the cutting. The shape of the tip varies in most knives. It could be straight, rounded or slant. This tip is also good for making incisions on pork chops of chicken breast. While handling the knife you have to be careful with the tip, it’s quite dangerous.
Knife Cutting Edge
The knife cutting edge is the most important part of the knife. It extends from the heel to the tip of the knife. The cutting edge is used to slice, cut or chop food items in various forms. The knife edges are in different grinds. The grinds include Granton edge, serrated edge, hollow edge and straight edges. A knife with a sharp cutting edge is more effective.
The tang is the steel of the knife that extends into the handle and used to provide balance for the knife. A good knife as its tang extends fully to the entire length of the handle.
The tang is placed between the handle and held together by a rivet. There are knives whose tang don’t extend fully in the handle and these provide balance and light weight for the knife. Full tang is best as they assure balance and durability.
The butt of the knife is the end of the knife handle and the opposite of the tip. For a full tang knife, the butt is where the tang ends. The butt is not totally useless as supposed.
The butt can be used in tendering or grind ingredients if it is stable. It’s best to go for knives with stable butt construction.
The spine is the top of the knife opposite the cutting edge. It is quite thicker than the cutting edge and gives strength to the knife.
This part of the knife as smooth, blunt edges, to allow users grip with thumbs or forefinger when pressure is needed to be applied on the knife. The spine also helps users have control when handling the knife.
The bolster is a protective piece of metal at the end of the steel blade. It is found between the heel and the handle. The bolster can only be found in forged knives.
The bolster works handily with the tang to give balance to the knife and control of the knife to the user. It also prevents the user hand from slipping across the blade.
Bolsters are one of those things you want to watch out for when buying a kitchen knife.
The heel is the rear portion of the blade, opposite end of the tip. This part of the knife is used to cut thick or coarse products where more force or pressure is required. It helps in making faster, efficient cut when necessary.
Types of kitchen knives
This write-up should give you an insight when purchasing knives. It is necessary you know what you want to use the knife for. Each knife is designed for a particular purpose. There are no knives without its usefulness.
Use this article to carefully understand the purpose of each steel in the kitchen knife before purchasing any knife so you won’t have to stock your kitchen with knives that can’t be useful for your kind of cooking.
Boning knife as the name implies is kitchen knives used to separate meat from a bone. This knife makes it easy to work with meats.
This knife has a narrow blade, that curves inward to give you precision control when removing meat from the bone. It ranges from 4 inches to 8 inches. A boning knife is sometimes used by experienced butchers for shaping, denuding, and seeming boning meats, lamb legs, and filleting fish.
The best part of a boning knife is the ability to help you make straight, precise cut without wandering.
Bird’s beak knife
Bird’s beak knives are curved pairing knives but with a shorter blade than a paring knife. It is otherwise called a tournée knife (tournée means to cut into football shape). It is 2 to 3 inches long.
This knife is commonly used for cutting and peeling of fruit and vegetables. It features upward curve on both the cutting edge and the top edge that makes peeling around a fruit easily.
Bird’s beak knife is a type of utility knife and should be present in every kitchen.
Ceramic knives are durable and rustproof knives. This knife maintains its sharpness for long before getting blunt.
Ceramic knives are basically used for slicing, mincing, and chopping. They cannot be used on hard materials such as bones as this can result in breaking of the knife.
Also, if the knife falls accidentally or hits a hard tiled floor it may break apart of the blade. Ceramic knives are quite sharp and can even cut through a shoe, it’s advised you use with extreme care.
Cheese knife as the name implies is a type of utility knife used to cut through soft or hard cheese. This cheese knife can either produced through the narrow blade or short wide blades.
This knife can also be used to cut through citrus fruit or garnishes like pickles, onions or cherries as required.
The major use of the cheeses knife is for cutting cheese as cheese is mostly served whole. When the cheese is served and begins to harden, this knife is best to cut it.
Chef’s knife also called Cook’s knife is one the most commonly used knife in the kitchen. The knife ranges from 6 inches to 14 inches.
The chef’s knife is an all-purpose knife that is used for chopping, slicing, mincing, and dining. This knife features a wide blade with symmetrical sides. The spine of the blade gives it strength and balance.
The blade comes in sizes. It’s best you choose the blade size according to your hand size as this helps with handling. You can also add a bolster to prevent the knife from slipping. Chef’s knife is a must for your kitchen.
Santoku knife is a Japanese knife that is composed of the Chef’s knife and the Cleaver. This knife is quite similar to the chef’s knife in most function except for the difference in shape and construction.
Santoku knife has a wider blade, thinner in thickness, shorter in length, and curves up at the end. The Santoku is used for chopping, dicing, and slicing of food into fine pieces.
This knife is a bit expensive to purchase as it is precision made to be well-balanced for ease of handling and control.
Oyster knife is one of those work-specific knives. This knife specific function is to open the hard shell of oyster or clam to remove meat. Oyster knife is short, sharp and strong.
The knife is inserted into the shell, twisted and break the shell apart, the knife is then used to cut through the oyster muscle and membrane. Every oyster knife has a round shield on its handle to protect the users’ hands from the sharp edges of the shell and also houses the thumb for a better grip on the knife.
The oyster knife comes in diverse styles, which includes; new Haven, Providence, Boston, Galveston, and Frenchman. Oyster knives are good for seafood Chefs.
Fillet knife is also a work specific knife that is used majorly to prepare fish. These knives are 6 to 11 inches long and are very flexible.
The flexibility and narrowness of the knife make it possible to move easily along the backbone and under the skin of fish. Fillet knives are basically fish knives.
A cleaver knife is a dual-purpose knife. It can be used to chop vegetables and meat. A cleaver can be further classified as a meat cleaver or a vegetable cleaver. A vegetable cleaver is known to be a finer knife than a meat cleaver.
The knife is thick and as a beveled blade which makes chopping of vegetable or meat easy. a cleaver knife can also be used to open lobsters.
The knife comes with a hole on the top end of the blade and this makes it easy to hang.
Sashimi knife is also a Japanese knife like the santoku except that the sashimi knife is used majorly for slicing and dicing not for chopping. The knife is 16 to 18 inches long with a thin and sharp edge.
The knife is not made for chopping as this task dulls the knife easily. Sashimi knife is best used for slicing of vegetables, fruits, and dicing of fish.
Slicing and carving knife
The slicing and carving knife are used interchangeably; they only have a little difference. These knives have a long thin blade, although slicer is always longer than carvers.
Slicing knives are used to slice through cold meat and this is quite easy because of their smooth sharp edge.
The carving knife works well to slice through hot meat such as roast beef or pork. Slicing knife comes in various sizes and this can be measured in the width of the blade, the length of the blade and the flexibility.
The length of the knife is a major concern when using a slicer while the length does not matter when using a Carver.
A utility knife is a lightweight miscellaneous knife. The knife is 4 to 7 inches long which is larger than a paring knife and smaller than a Chef’s knife. The blade of the knife is either straight or serrated.
A utility knife is used in our everyday cooking to cut cucumbers, large apples, and smaller squash. This knife also works well for herbs, vegetables, and fruits.
A utility knife can be used to meet every household activity.
A paring knife is another versatile knife like the Chef’s knife. It’s a straight, sharp blade with a length of 3 to 5 inches. It is mostly used for detailed cutting and cutting of shapes or designing on food surfaces.
The paring knife can also be used for peeling, coring foods, mincing of food. The knife is used for most kitchen activities.
A bread knife is also a work specific knife. It is used for cutting loaves of bread. This knife varies in size, from 7 inches to 10 inches.
The knife comes mostly with an offset handle design to prevent the knuckles of users from hitting the cutting board. The design of the knife could also be a serrated or straight edge.
Bread knives are best for cutting bread, either hard or soft as it prevents the bread from tearing or squashing.
Nakiri knife is one of Japanese super cool knife. It can cut vegetable paper-thin in just seconds! The knife is used mainly to cut vegetables and it’s really smooth while cutting the vegetable.
It has a straight cutting edge that excels at slicing when used in an up-and-down motion. Nakiri knife is very sharp, extreme caution should be exercised when using it.
A mincing knife is a rare kind of knife that can be used to mince or cut food. This knife is used to cut food into a smaller portion for seasoning sauces and soups.
Most mincing knives have a double blade which enables it to cut a variety of food into small pieces. A mincing knife is also known as Mezzaluna or Mezzaluna knife.
The knife as circular blades that are closely mounted on a handle and this will allow the user to roll the knife back and forth over the food for mincing to take place.
Best way to store kitchen knife
The best steel for kitchen knives can be stored in wooden or polyethylene blocks. Knife blocks protect the knives from damage, mostly the tip of the steel. The block also protects users from accidental injuries.
Cleaning kitchen knives need a lot of care and this should be done mostly by washing with the hands. The dishwasher is not good to wash your kitchen knife. While washing with a dishwasher, the knife can knock another item and could damage the knife.
Washing your knife with hands also extend the life of the knife as the harsh detergent in the dishwasher can dull the cutting edge of the blade. While hand washing the knife, do not place the knife in the sink with other plates as this could cause an accident.
After washing the knife, wipe it clean to prevent discoloration and damage to the blade. The steel of the kitchen knife should be dried immediately after being washed.
Best way to sharpen kitchen knives
A sharpening stone is a tool that is used to sharpen kitchen knives and other cutting tools. This stone is mostly rectangular in shape, with several inches thick. The stone is made with different kind of materials.
They are available in coarse and fine grit, the coarser the grit the more steel is removed when sharpening. Most stones are used with oil or water to help to sharpen, the water or oil serves as a lubricant.
The lubricant helps remove the metal dust from the pore of the stone when sharpening the blade. It is not compulsory you use a lubricant; most stones can be used without lubricant.
Another good tool to sharpen kitchen knife is the steel sharpener. Unlike the stone sharpener, this tool helps to realign the knife-edge when bent or slightly rolled.
When the knife is gritted across the steel, the knife will straighten and sharp again. The steel sharpener can also be used as a post knife sharpener.
After the knife has been sharpened on the stone, the steel will be used to remove the debris and any irregularity left on the edges of the blade. The steel sharpener could be diamond-impregnated metal or a ceramic.
An electric sharpener is a very easy and quick way to sharpen kitchen knives. The electric sharpener as sharpening stones which are made out of sapphire, ceramic or diamond plated materials. The sharpener as 2 or 3 stages of sharpening, this is dependent on the model.
The first stage is a coarse grind, while the last stage as a fine grind. Care should be taken while sharpening knives with bolster as the bolster will not allow you sharpen the heel of the knife.
While using an electric sharpener full attention should be paid to the machine as the sharpener tends to grind the blade than desired. For more tip on how to use the electric sharpener check here.
Tips for buying the best steel for kitchen knives
Firstly, go for kitchen knives that are comfortable for you. When shopping the best steel for kitchen knives, it is more practical, so you can pick the knife and hold it. Make sure it has a good grip and balances on your hands.
Secondly, check out for safety. A safe knife is a knife that its handle is well riveted to the blade. It’s advisable you go for knives with a full tang, as this assures balance and durability.
Lastly, I think you should know knives are sold in pieces or set, when you buy in set it is quite cheaper than buying in pieces. Here are few pieces you should watch out for when you buy a set of a knife: bread knife, chef’s knife, paring knife, utility knife, carving knife and a steel sharpening tool.
You can check our post on kitchen cutlery sets to know the type of knives used on the dining.