Knife Buying Guide
A good set of kitchen knives is a must in any kitchen but the choice can be a bit overwhelming. Knives are an essential and practical tool that will probably be used every day. Here’s a quick run down on what’s on offer to help you make an informed and educated choice about what’s right for you.
|Anatomy of a Knife About the Knife Blade Choosing the Right Knife for the Job Knife Care Knife FAQs|
First let’s look into the anatomy of a kitchen knife, so you can really understand how a knife is constructed
Bolster: Separates the blade from the handle, and acts as a safety guard between your hand and the blade.
Heel: Perfect for cutting firm foods.
Cutting Edge: The sharpened part of the blade. Useful for firm or soft food, mincing leeks, chives and parsley.
Tip: Great for small cutting, chopping small vegetables, onions and garlic.
Spine: Ideal for breaking up small bones or shellfish.
Handle: Made of plastic, bone, wood or metal
Butt: The back of the knife.
Blade: The main part of the knife, composed of many different parts. The flat surface can be used for crushing foods and lifting.
Kitchen Knife Jargon
Fully Forged: The best quality knives are made from a single block of steel. The blade and tang (which attaches the blade to the handle) are formed from one piece resulting in a super strong knife.
Full Tang: Refers to the metal section which runs right through the handle adding weight, balance and durability. Perfect for the serious cook.
Half Tang: The tang extends part of the way along the handle (from about half way to three quarters of the way). It's secured by rivets but the furthest away rivet from the blade is usually cosmetic. Good for general work.
Rivets: These are the pins which attach the handle to the full tang.
Taper Ground: This means that the blades are tapered or made narrower from the very back of the blade to the very front. This makes for the best quality of blade, giving you a smooth cut every time.
Hollow Ground: The blade is only ground at the bottom end of the blade, allowing for a finer blade edge.
Generally more expensive this knife has a higher carbon steel percentage and is easier to sharpen with a ceramic sharpener. However don’t put in the dishwasher as the material discolours and can react with acidic foods. Great for the traditional cook.
Reasonably priced and dishwasher safe stainless steel is perhaps the most widely purchased knife. However it won’t stay sharp forever and will need sharpened more often. Great for everyday use.
A very tough and durable knife material combined with the lightweight feel makes for an excellent knife. The blade will retain the sharpness for much longer than other materials, allowing you to cut through foods easily and effortlessly. Great for the professional chef.
Scalloped edge: The points of the scallops keep the scalloped curves nice and sharp. Ideal for cutting bread.
Fluted/hollow edge: The holes or indentations on the blade create tiny pockets of air which prevent food from sticking to the blade. Ideal for cutting cheese and extra thin slices, or chopping at speed.
Plain/straight edge: This type of knife edge needs to be frequently sharpened to maintain it. Very versatile for all sorts of chopping.
Serrated edge: Wavy blade with downward peaks and troughs in between that stay sharp. Perfect for slicing tomatoes.
Chef/Cooks Knife: Possibly the most useful knife in the kitchen. The chef’s knife is undoubtedly one of the most used kitchen with a tapered point, broad blade and deep heel. Perfect for chopping, slicing, dicing and even julienning (if you want to get fancy about it).
Carving Knife: The iconic knife used for Sunday roasts. It features a long and thin blade, to cut clean and even slices of roast meat and poultry. Size matters when choosing this knife so consider how large you need.
Vegetable Knife: Thin, strong blade with straight cutting edge and firm tip, specifically designed for fine slicing, peeling and cutting of fruit and vegetables.
Bread Knife: Freshly baked, warm, soft bread can be a nightmare to cut. This knife with its long, scalloped edge will cut the crust but not tear the bread, making it perfect for the job.
Kitchen Knife: Thin but durable, ideal for slicing fruit and vegetables.
Peeling Knife: This handy little tool can be used to peel a wide array of fruits and vegetables. It’s small and lightweight so easy to work with.
Utility Knife: A great all-rounder. Used for anything and everything from slicing cooked meats, chopping veg and getting that nice, clean cut on freshly made sandwiches.
Santoku Knife: Asian type knife. Santoku means, ‘three ways’, ideal for slicing, dicing and chopping meat, fish and vegetables. The hollow in the blade stops food from sticking when cutting.
Paring Knife: Small, lightweight and versatile knife with a slim blade. Ideal for intricate jobs such as peeling or de-seeding peppers.
All-purpose Knife: Perfect for a variety of tasks in the kitchen, from peeling, to slicing and chopping.
Cleaver: A butcher’s best friend. With their large, strong durable, rectangular blade they are ideal for chopping meat, preparing joints and cutting through bones. If you do intend to use a Cleaver for chopping through bones, be sure to get one with a durable blade.
Cheese Knife: Ever wondered what the holes in the blade are for? They make it easy to glide through soft cheese as it has nothing to grip to and the pronged tip allows the user to pick up the cheese and move it to plates easily.
Steak Knife: Every carnivore needs a steak knife in their kitchen. It must have a serrated edge, be razor sharp and comfortable to use with a good grip.
Boning Knife: There are two types of boning knife, one is sturdier for tough meats and the other is more flexible for deboning fish. A thin narrow blade, allows you to move around the fish with ease.
Filleting Knife: Makes filleting fish easy. Slim and flexible with a straight cutting edge, it will allow you to fillet meat or fish with ease and accuracy. For more control choose a knife with a balanced end cap on the handle.
Palette Knife: Perfect for working with and moving delicate foods that may break easily, such as pastry, fish, omelettes and pancakes. A good palette knife will always be broad and blunt with a flexible blade and rounded top
Electric Knife: A simple and effortless way to cut meat and chicken, perfect for Sunday roasts and dinner parties. Also a nifty tool for cutting a perfect symmetrical sandwich or taking the hassle away from getting the corn off the cob.
Professional chefs normally carry their own knifes. Why? Because they know their knives are good quality, have been looked after well and are sharp. There’s nothing worse than using a knife that is blunt, rusting or damaged in anyway.
If you‘re going to spend money on a good knife then taking care of it should be part of your routine each and every time you use it, it will pay back dividends.
Below we’ve listed some top tips to keep your blades sharp, protected and in top condition so that they will last.
Washing your knives
• Although putting knives in the dishwasher is not recommended some are dishwasher safe.
• Wash your knives in warm soapy water- very hot water can damage the metal.
• Don’t leave them in the dish rack to dry in case they get knocked around. Instead dry individually after washing.
Using your knives
• Use a wooden chopping board if using a metal knife as glass, ceramic and marble boards can damage the blade.
Storing your knives
• The best way to store a knife is on a metal strip or in a knife block to protect them.
• If your knife has a plastic or cardboard sheath-use it!
Sharpening your knives
• Sharper knives are actually safer to use. If you are using a blunt knife more pressure needs to be applied so there’s more chance of the knife slipping and possibly injuring you.
• Sharpen your knives when needed – it will give them a longer lifespan.