How To Choose the Best Knife for Your Kitchen
There are few tools as important to a well-stocked kitchen as an excellent set of knives.
Finding the best set of knives is essential even if you’re a novice in the kitchen. Don’t know where to start? We’ve got you covered.
How sharp should a knife be?
A sharp blade is the hallmark of a great knife. The material, construction and brand of the knife all influence its sharpness.
Certain materials retain their sharpness better than others. Stainless steel makes a sturdy, reliable knife because it’s strong but can be sharpened to a fine point. You’ll also find knives made from zirconia or zirconium oxide, which is a superhard ceramic. These deliver precise cuts and stay sharp longer than steel.
Carbon steel is also a popular choice for professional chefs because it holds its consistent, razor-sharp edge better than other materials. Plus, this makes carbon steel knives easier to sharpen, which is crucial for those clean, precise cuts.
A knife blade may be stamped or forged. Stamped blades are cut from a piece of metal before they’re filed down and attached to the handle. Forged blades are shaped from a single bar of steel by heating and pounding it into shape. Forged blades tend to be heavier and more durable. They also stay sharper longer.
Many steel knives on the market feature ice-hardened blades. These go through a process that enhances their strength and sharpness. An ice-hardened blade is great for those looking for a thin, razor-sharp and lightweight blade that will last a long time.
There are many knife manufacturers out there—some, of course, are better than others.
While the most important factors when choosing a knife are your cooking needs, its material and its construction, you’ll almost certainly get a high-quality blade when you purchase a chef’s knife made by renowned masters such as Bob Kramer, Zwilling J.A. Henckels, Global, Wüsthof, Shun and Miyabi.
Which style is better for a knife: German or Japanese?
Kitchen knives come in two main styles: German and Japanese.
German knives are best for tougher chores, and Japanese knives are ideal for more delicate work.
If you’re not a professional chef, you may not notice the subtle differences between these two styles. But each has its pros and cons based on your needs and preferences.
Japanese knives are usually made from harder steel, which means they tend to be sharper than German blades. They slice through fragile foods without crushing or tearing them. Japanese knives are also typically lighter than German knives due to the tapering of the blade inside the tang. This makes them ideal for more precise knife work.
German knives are generally heavier than Japanese ones. Most feature a full-tang construction, which means that a single piece of steel runs the full length of the knife. Look for a sturdy German knife if you tend to do more heavy cutting rather than fine, detailed knife work.
How many knives should you buy?
Your budget, kitchen space and the types of foods you cook will dictate how many knives you may need. If you can only afford one piece, make it a high-quality chef’s knife. After you’ve gotten comfortable using it, you’ll have a good idea of what you’ll need to add to your collection.
If you spend a great deal of time whipping up eclectic meals, you might want a variety of knives. A chef’s knife won’t have a serrated edge, so you might need a separate bread knife. They’re also harder to use when making smaller, more intricate cuts—in that case, you’d want to consider buying a paring knife. Still, investing in high-quality pieces will serve you better than having a large collection of mediocre knives.
In fact, you should have a top-notch sharpener to maintain the blade on your chef’s knife and the others in your collection.
Testing your new chef’s knife
Once you have your knife in hand, give it a thorough test–drive. Cut a variety of foods with different textures, such as:
- Fresh herbs
- Dried herbs
Try a variety of techniques. Dice an onion. Julienne some carrots. Carve a turkey. You’ll get a feel for the knife that fits best in your hand and works like a charm in your kitchen.
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