If you are an experienced chef you will understand the importance of choosing the right knife; not just for the job but also personal to you. A knife is simple, right? It is used for cutting, slicing and dicing etc. However not every knife is perfect for every chef. There are different aspects of a chef’s knife that must be looked at before deciding which one is right for you.
Understanding the anatomy of a kitchen knife goes beyond knowing that the sharp end is the blade and the smooth end is the handle. When choosing your first chef’s knives you need to understand the intricacies to ensure that you make the right decision.
Components of a Chef’s Knife
1. The Edge
This is the name given to the sharp part of the blade. The edge determines how effective the knife is when used; along with the skill of the person wielding the knife. If the edge is slightly curved it will make the rocking action required for chopping and mincing easier. Obviously the edge should be kept sharp for the knife to be used effectively by using a sharpening steel, a sharpening stone or an electric sharpener.
2. The Heel
In some models the heel will be the thickest and most broad area of the blade. If the task requires more force and strength such as cracking ingredient’s hard exteriors or cutting tendons, it is the heel that should be used. A well designed heel will allow a consistent and steady rocking motion.
3. The Bolster
Some knives do not have a bolster whilst others are more prominent. Bolsters are only found on knives that have been forged as opposed to stamped, although not all forged knives will include this feature. It adds weight and balance to the knife and while some chefs feel that a bolster adds a certain stability, the final choice is entirely personal to what feels the most comfortable to hold.
4. The Handle
Again, the handle relies mainly on the personal comfort of the individual chef. Your hand should not feel strained whilst gripping the knife and your knuckles should not make contact with the chopping board whilst slicing, chopping or rocking.
5. The Spine
This feature is the uppermost part of the blade. Chef’s knives should include a taper at the tip of the spine to aid you when finely cutting ingredients or piercing.
Now that you understand the components and anatomy of a quality chef’s knife you must discover which of the many styles of knives available on the market is best suited to your personal needs.
Hints and Tips when Choosing your Chef’s Knife
If you are a new chef it is best to begin with an 8 inch knife as it is easier to use for multiple functions such as dicing, chopping and slicing etc. A 10 inch knife is required to carry out jobs that require more resilience such as breaking down meats. Although a 10 inch knife may be suitable for certain tasks it may feel clumsy and intimidating for a new chef so should not be used as an all purpose, everyday knife of choice. A smaller 6 inch knife will give easy manipulation and precision for smaller tasks but will not be suitable to use on large kitchen jobs.
When lightly holding the knife in your hand it should feel stable and even. If the knife tips too much toward the blade or too much towards the handle, the balance is not quite right and may make certain tasks a little more difficult.
This should be of your own personal choice and what feels most comfortable to work with. You may find that a lighter knife is more efficient for delicate tasks while a heavier knife provides more strength for the jobs that require more force. To find the perfect weight for you, firstly assess the comfort of the varying weights and then trial run some day to day tasks and motions to allow you to choose which is most preferable for you personally.
With a full range of manufacturers available, finding the perfect knife is easy. Hailing from different countries of origin and with features and benefits individual to each brand, there's plenty of choice. While some chefs may have a preferred brand, others may choose to judge each knife individually on its own merits. With knives from leading brands such as Sabatier, Dick, Wusthof, Victorinox, Gustav Emil Ern, Chef Works, Tsuki and Hygiplas your ingredient prep is in safe hands.
Finding the right cook's knife for you can seem like a daunting task especially as the decision is a personal one therefore asking people’s advice and opinions is futile. By understanding the basic elements of a chef’s knife you will be able to break through the complexities to locate the perfect kitchen knife for you.