The chef knife is essentially the hallmark of the cooking world, deemed by both professional chefs and cooking enthusiasts as one of the best kitchen instruments that you can own. The chef knife is a versatile cutlery instrument capable of handling a wide variety of cooking tasks, from chopping and mincing vegetables, slicing fruits into thin, elegant pieces, to cutting through strong, thick chunks of meat.
How to Choose a Chef Knife
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Even though some people might feel intimidated by its size and structure, the chef knife is actually extremely easy to use, with a decent learning curve. It is the epitome of the old saying ‘’easy to learn, hard to master’’, which is why both professional cooks and amateur cooks find it satisfying. Since there are so many variants and models of knives, we have compiled a list of tips and advice to help you make the best choice possible. Here is how to find the best chef knife, and what to look for.
1. Check a Wide Variety of Stores and Read Reviews
The first step to finding the perfect chef’s knife is to look for a reputable cutlery or cookware store that has a wide assortment of variants and sample knives that you can try on the spot. Ask for several knife samples, a makeshift cutlery board and see whether or not it fits comfortably in your hand.
If you are still not sure if a particular knife is good for you, you can search the internet for more information. For example, if you are looking for technical details and professional reviews, you can check out ChefKnivesExpert, a reputable source where you can find a wide variety of comprehensive buying guides and tutorials. Remember, nobody is rushing you to make a decision – which is why you should take the time to do the proper research.
While most chef knives are, from a structural standpoint, relatively similar, these features might differ depending on the origin of the knife. For example, German chef knives are known for their crushing and slashing power, while Japanese chef knives are suitable for tasks that require a certain finesse.
Regardless of what local version you are going for, here are a few criteria on which you should base your purchasing decision on:
- Handle – ideally, the handle has to be constructed in such a way that it will make the knife feel like a natural extension of your arm. You should be able to grasp it without struggling too much, and it should not slip out of your palm when it is wet.
- Sharpness – the best brand chef knives come sharp right out of the box. To test its sharpness, grab a piece of paper and run the knife through it. If the cuts run in swift, clean motions, with slight, gentle curvatures, then you can safely assume that the knife is properly sharpened.
- The heel – the broadest part of the knife. It is designed for tasks that require great force, like cutting through tendons or hard vegetables.
- Bolster – alternatively called collar, shank, or shoulder, it is the heavyweight part between the blade and the handle. It ensures safety and cutting momentum.
3. Structural Considerations
Once you have analyzed the elements that we have presented in the previous entry, there are a few more characteristics that you should look for. These factors are related to the weight, size, and balance of the knife. Here are a few brief explanations:
- Most chef knives (and coincidentally, the most popular amongst chefs) measure approximately 20 centimeters. According to them, knives of this size are versatile and have an easy learning curve. While a 25 centimeter knife might be better from a quantitative standpoint, they might feel a tad uncomfortable and can become even unsafe in the wrong hands. This is not say one size is better than the other – it all comes down to your own cutting and cooking style, as well as the tasks that you are using it for. However, if you want an extra level of agility and momentum, you might want to go for the 15 centimeter variant.
- While most chef knives are similar in terms of weight, some localized versions (German chef knives, for instance) tend to be a tad heavier.
- In order to accurately judge the balance of the chef knife, grasp the knife as tightly as you can. If the weight falls in either direction (towards the back of the handle or the blade), there is a high chance that the balance is off.
In today’s world, chef knives are almost ubiquitous, and you can find them in pretty much any kitchen across the world. Their versatility, ergonomic designs and easy learning curve make them one of the most popular kitchen instruments, lauded by both professional chefs such as Jamie Oliver, and amateur cooking enthusiasts. If you want to try one out for your own and purchase it, make sure to read through the tips presented in this article to see if a particular knife is the best fit for you, and you will surely make the right decision.