Fair review of the best chef knife
In the kitchen you always use a knife whether you are cooking or setting the table. This is the only tool you cannot do without preparing food. You should know that knives were used plenty of years before. There are evidences that they were applied about two and a half million years ago being made of sharp stones. The progression of human being is connected with ability of a man to cut up meat for storing it. The time passed, the tool was improved. Nowadays we have a range of knives of various size, form, and purpose. The cooks use simple and complicated cutting techniques achieving the best results in culinary art. You need to know some of them if you want to make your dinner beautiful and looking like made by a professional. Among all that diversity probably the most important one is a chef’s knife which should meet the particular standards.
A chef’s knife is an equivalent of a Swiss Army knife for home cooking – this item is ready to perform any task you have to do. It is a tool with a large, long and tall blade applied in a great variety of cutting techniques. Originally it was designed for disjointing cuts when the torque is required to make the perfect slices avoiding connective tissues and cartilage.
General production process
If we speak about classic chef’s knife it is made of sheet steel delivered to the factory already prepared for blades meaning that sheets are of the due thickness. The blades are formed by heating, pressing, upset forging and appliance of other technologies. The steel blank is processed further on to get toughness and corrosion resistance. It is cooled and heat-tempered. In the long run the ready blade is finished by a skilled professional in order to hammer out all the warpings. Then the robots usually continue to create the blade with rough contour which is grinded and sharpened by humans usually. Then it is put on a handle. The wooden ones are glued and riveted; the plastic ones are melted. Then all the edges are smoothed with particular equipment.
A bit of history
Everything starts from globalization causing the rapid increase of international trade and extension of national cuisines throughout the globe. Everybody gets new experience including use of new cookware needed for preparation of strange dished. And of course you can find a lot of innovations in the culinary appeared that very time. In order to cope with all those foodies, you need a chef’s knife which is good for different styles of cooking. This tool is a confident winner in evolution. But when was it invented?
And that was the time when a human applied a sharpen stone to make different utensils. In due course it was improved. Soon stone knives were polished and the bone or wood handles were attached. When metal was discovered in Southwest Asia the metal knife appeared around 3,000 B.C.E. They used copper, later combine copper with tin during the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age brought another valuable material – iron.
The most powerful producers are located in German and Japan. As a result we have two traditions which are quite different. By the way, the knife gets its name from the French.
German vs Japan
Japanese chef’s knife is available in various sizes, types of material, shapes, and blade forms. The Japanese want to have only perfect tools for every purpose. They design shapes of blades for specific tasks. The traditional Japanese chef’s knives usually include a single sharpened edge looking like a sword. But the contemporary cutlery is double-beveled and looks just like the Western patterns. Still there are the differences concerning the following points: thickness, shape, angle, weight, and type of steel. This cutlery cannot boast of its strength. But the knives are designed for fast and precise moves just like ancient Japanese weapons. By forging a sharp side of edge, the producers achieve the best results in cutting the foods without much effort.
Germans chef’s knife is durable and reliable in various undertakings. Its blade is made of softer steel that is why they are not as sharp as Japanese ones. But they are sturdy and easy to maintain. Perhaps you will sharpen them more often. The blades are usually sharpened to around 10 degrees and they have wide bevel compensating the lack of sharpness by being cross-functional and having better weight. German knives are heavy, which the professional cooks usually choose sue to their ability to do hard work.
In the end, every of the above kinds is characterized with benefits and weak points. We cannot state which one is better. The choice is the matter of preference and cooking methods applied.
- German knife has angle from 20 to 22 degrees. Its blade is curved. The form makes it easier to apply the rocking style of cutting. Its weight varies from item to item, but compared to the key rival it tends to be heavyweights. These tools are usually thick enough and made of rather soft steel from 56 to 58 on the Rockwell scale.
- Japanese knife is characterized with the angle equal to any performance between 12 and 15 degrees. The shape differs from the above offering a straighter edge. This construction suits for slicing and chopping. They are lightweight. If we speak about thickness, it is thin and often bolster-free. For these knives hard steel is used with 60 to 61 on the Rockwell scale.
Construction of a chef’s knife
You probably love your chef’s knife, because it is able to do well with various tasks. That is why it is important to choose the best version of it taking into consideration all the essential factors influencing the process and result. We are going to tell you how to pick sides and buy the best knife just for you.
First of all you should know its parts and understand their functions. Regardless of quality and price this type of knife is made of the same parts in a basic option. Following all the details of the anatomy of a knife, you will understand the principle of its efficient work better. So, let’s list all of them:
- Blade is a working part of the knife usually made of steel or some other materials being able to cut when sharpened. In its turn it consists of a tip, point, spine, edge and heel. The size and shape vary from knife to knife and determine the cutting manner and its functions in general.
- Point is an area of the blade located almost on the tip and usually needed for piercing and scoring of the food.
- Tip is an area extending the first third of the edge and needed to slice or cut thin neat pieces of foods.
- Edge is a sharp cutting side of a blade. It starts at the point and lasts till the heel.
- Heel is the base of the blade being the widest and strongest part of it. You can use it for cutting hard ingredients.
- Spine is the side opposite the edge, the spine is the thickest part of the blade. The thicker the spine is, the more stable the blade.
- Handle is a clear and important part of a knife. It may be of different shape, made of various materials. The only condition is it should be comfortable to hold in a hand.
- Bolster is an area that increases the stability of the knife. It is located just between the handle and the blade.
- Tang is a part of a blade in the place of connection with a handle. There is a partial tang extending not too much through the handle and a full tang passing through the whole handle.
- Butt is a bottom of the handle.
- Rivets are not the necessary component. But when the construction of a knife includes them, they fix the tang to the handle being small metal rounds.
There are heavier chef’s knives in German style made of soft steel and light Japanese ones produced from hard steel alloys. We should not compare them in order to consider, what approach is better. Both variants have the advantages and the choice is the matter of preferences. Being rather different mostly in experience you hold a knife and move it in the hand, these types of material are still the best solutions for chef’s knives. The harder steel is, the more durable the cutlery, but it can be not so easy to sharpen it due to dullness.
In addition a very hard edge can require more care because it gets brittle and can break. Though, the nowadays technologies are aimed to mitigate such risks making alloys more reliable due to Molybdenum or other ingredients, which provide very hard but flexible steel. A softer steel alloy is not able to provide as sharp blade compared to a harder one, but the knives made of it can be re-sharpen simpler and they are preferable for complicated cutting splitting chicken breasts with bones for instance. Summarizing we should say that harder steel is sharper but can be broken and softer steel is tougher. The hardness is determined within the Rockwell Hardness Scale. So, when you choose the cutlery, turn your attention to this performance.
Why do you need a chef’s knife?
Perhaps you have never had a knife set and all this time were using cutlery of general purpose. Now you have decided that you want a chef’s knife. Why do you need it? What will you do with it? We sure that you know the answers on these questions but still we are going to remind you the situations when it is the best choice for you. Of course, you are recommended to try a range of models in retail. Just take them with your hand, hold for a while and feel whether it is comfortable or not. You can even come to see your friends and ask them to try their knives.
So what tasks a chef’s knife solves? You can do almost anything with it, at least the most frequent operations. You can prep vegetables, chop herbs, and trim meat. There are more specialized items but still you can do without them if you have the right chef’s knife. Though, even in this case there are particular features which do matter, that is why even within this type of cutlery you have to choose again. For example, you need different blade if you often do boning chicken thighs or rather cut steaks. The smaller knife (between 5 and 6 inches) is better for the first cooking method and the longer knife will manage to do the latter operation. Working with vegetables will be satisfying if you use a chef’s knife (8- or 10-inch length). Being long enough the blade can cut vegetables of different sizes and shapes. The largest cutting edge is good for pumpkins, celery roots and other such big products . But you should understand that such a huge knife demands confident skills from a cook and is not good for other everyday jobs. By the way, if we speak about material of blade, we should mention that sometimes it is reasonable to choose the ceramic one if you want to cut the frozen butter like a sot one.
And one more moment: you chef’s knife should correspond to cutting style you use more often. So for rocking methods you should prefer a Western-style chef’s knife, for chopping the santoku will be better.
How should you select chef’s knives?
Once again you are recommended to narrow down the field first concentrating on the size of the blade. And you can do that by testing the knives, remembering which cutting techniques you usually apply and what dishes you cook the most frequently. It may take you some time meaning that you hardly can make your mind from the first day of your researches. If you have such a possibility (for example, turn to friends which have the needed cutlery), you should cut, dice, slice and do everything that can be done when it is bought. This is the best way to estimate its value, otherwise just gather the information, ask the consultants and do not forget about security.
You should understand that in this case the price is the matter. The best cutlery just cannot be cheap. But the cost does not always guarantee the high quality. So, be headful of recommendations of the experts and find out more about reviews of the users. It will be good if you buy the wheel grinder or sharpening stone at once to ensure that you’ll be able to sharpen the blade when it is dull. You can hone it between the sharpening and make the steel surface smooth. Thus it is important to have all needed tools for the maintenance.
And remember that holding a knife is absolutely important stage of choosing. It should feel right – there are no other words to explain this impression. That is why you have to find a store where you can take the knife with your hands. There are some places where the “test-drive” is possible. During testing pay your attention to a handle, your grab and comfort when holding this kitchen tool. The size of a handle should be appropriate for your own hand. Too small handle may cause cramping because you will have to curl your fingers too much. When estimating the blade take into account the quality of material, corrosion resistance, length, sharpness, thickness and other features. You should know that forged and stamped constructions are available. The first variant is better for a chef’s knife. Cutting edge should be smooth.
Another characteristic to regard is weight. The golden mean is expected here. If it feels too heavy, the hand will be overloaded. If it is too light, it won’t cut through foods with ease and without much your efforts. There is a standard for a chef’s knife length – it is eight inches. But you can find shorter or longer. That depends on your taste while balance must be always. The experts say that balance is subjective thing. Still it is easy to check it putting a knife in the point of connection of blade and handle on a finger trying to counterpoising. And remember the more resistant a blade to mechanical damages and wear the better its edge retention.
When you think about purchase of the best chef’s knife, probably the best solution is to start with a brand and only then to choose a knife within the assortment of one or two producers offering the most appropriate properties and price. We’ll list some of the world known and reputable manufacturers.
In 1980 this brand appears at the market with revolutionized collections of the kitchen-knives with high performance and very fashionable. The affordable prices made them extremely popular. Following the best traditions of Japanese cutlery the producer managed to create very light, thin and sharp blade adding the Western design to these characteristics. Promising the knives balanced to perfection the producer provides seamless constructions of exceptionally hard, tempered and heat treated high-quality steel.
This is a German trademark started in 1981. Now it provides very sharp knives, which can sustain comparison with big-name brands. And there are chef’s knives produced in a 9-inch size – perfect compromise. The light blades protect a cook from getting tired too fast as a result of intensive cutting.
This producer offers perfect rather heavy knives with hard and broad blades, which are characterized by sharp cutting edge. You can do almost anything with them regardless of the level of mastership. It is easy to cut vegies, chop herbs, dice and slice meat and fish. If you know the cutting techniques, you can allow rocking or circular motion. Every model can boast of the highest quality.
Being the premium German brand, this manufacturer produces its cutlery from one piece of tempered high-carbon, stain-free steel providing the hard durable and sharp knives. This particular steel alloy allows easy maintenance of the end product.
The brand has its own production in Japan and use Japanese steel as raw material but its chef’s knives are equipped with a blade shaped in Western manner. Perhaps you will feel a lack of style in their design but surely you will appreciate their sharpness. The producer suggests a wide range of product lines.
How to use it correctly?
When you prepare meal you are just not able to arrange the things without a chef’s knife. This item of cutlery can be used almost for everything. You can chop vegetables, slice cheese, cut meat and even crush the species. And the most important requirement to this tool (which is chosen in accordance with the above recommendations) is to be sharp and the only expectation from the user is to have excellent knife skills. What does it mean?
First of all you should hold the knife the right way in order to get maximum control under the process. Find the position when the knife is balanced and stable. You should allow it a kind of falling on a cutting board or foods. The way you hold the knife impacts on your safety and ability to achieve the best result. In order to ensure that you hold a chef’s knife as you are expected to, put your thumb and index finger on the place where the blade enters the handle, while all the rest fingers should be placed around the handle. That is the most convenient grip.
You probably do not even think of it before, but it matters which area of the blade you use to cut the foods That attitude provide safety and the best results. So, there are four segments: tip, point, spine and heel. The point is a sharp end of the blade. You should apply it to score or pierce foods. The tip includes point being a little bit longer slipping into the edge. You can perform delicate tasks with it. The heel is a very rare part of the blade. It is usually thicker and perfect for cutting hard foods like carrots. If you want to scrape vegies or vanilla bean seeds, apply a spine. But you should not practice this method with the sharp side of the blade of your chef’s knife. That is fair in the case when you try to scrape the knife against anything, because this action will cause the dullness of the blade. If you cannot refuse this, as we have already mentioned, use the spine. It is already dull but rather appropriate for this cutting style.
And another thing you should not do is to cut with a knife that needs to be sharpened. That is a matter of safety as far as a dull knife is a dangerous cutlery. It is natural that even the blade of the best chef’s knife gets dull in due course in particular when you use it intensively. In this form it does not cut the foods but rather slips being able to get out of hand and cause injury. Ensure that you use sharp chef’s knife and do not be lazy to grind it if there is a need in it. The frequency of this procedure depends on proper maintenance as well.
You know that a sharp chef’s knife cuts in a proper way, provides safety and allows you to do without much effect. That is why you are to re-sharpen it as soon as it is needed but you should do it regularly ending with thorough polishing thus you make it possible to get benefit from all its advantageous properties. For that purpose you can apply sharpening steel, machine grinder, sharpening stone or just a hand sharpener. Anyway you should follow the further recommendations:
- The knife blade should be regularly ground without any exclusion in order to continue the life of the cutting edge. Thus the pauses between the sharpening will be longer.
- It is really important to hone the surface of the blade after it was grinded with rough material. You should do it every time. Use a felt wheel or very fine sanding belt.
- When you allow the steel becoming hot during regrinding or polishing a blade, it leads to losing of cutting force of the knife. So, ensure that this process is under control.
- Do your best to provide an optimal blade profile when applying a sharpening stone. It should run in a proper way.
Caring for the chef’s knife
In order to last lifetime of your chef’s knife, you should comply with recommendations of the manufacturer. But we can emphasize five points of your maintenance plan which are very important indeed. You already know that you should handle the knife in a correct way now you should clean it in accordance with the rules and store at the places which are safe for the blade. When buying a cutlery you pay your attention to material it is made of. That is why spending your money you invest in steel usually, which is the most popular variant. The producers use the steel alloys containing various components, which provide the particular characteristics being vital for such a thing as a knife. The steel alloy of high quality helps to make the perfect cutlery with easy caring. So, let’s start.
First, do not clean knives in a dishwasher because you may cause the corrosion, discoloration, pitting out due to contact of the blade with active chemicals and then you can damage the surface, scratch it and turn the edge. These two big risks will bring all the advantages of the knife to nothing. Refusing a dishwasher you should clean it with hands, soap and hot water. Then dry it at once with kitchen towel. By the way the specialists insist that you should not use boiling water only hot one. And turn your attention to the type of steel if it is a carbon one, it is not rust resistant absolutely and that indication for reducing the contact of the knife with water. Some cooks even oil it after cleaning to prevent corrosion.
Secondly, cut only on a cutting board – this will allow you to continue sharpness of a blade. Forget about cutting on countertops, stone or concrete surfaces.
Thirdly, the storage demands your attention as well. There are special wooden boxes designed for storage of knives. But even if you have no such, you should ensure that the blade doesn’t damaged by other things, avoid its contact with any object. This requirement is also about throwing a knife in a sink or drawer.
And more details:
- Using a knife with different foods demands different care for example contact with fruit or other acid a blade should be washed immediately. Though in any case the knives should be washed at once after use.
- Though, we recommend refusing of a dishwasher, many producers declare their products as a dishwasher safe and if you decide to take advantage of this opportunity, pay your attention to detergents – they should be accepted by the cutlery industry.
- And store the tools only in a dry place avoiding any penetration of water including together with other kitchenware.
- Again escape soaking of the knives with wooden handles. You should clean them with warm soapy water without damping or the wood wells up.
- And of course you are expected to use a knife for the purpose intended, forget about using it s lever, screw driver or a can opener.
- When trying to sharpen the blade use a sharpening stone with plenty of water to prevent losing the edge because the steel gets too hot. The same result must be achieved grinding on a band machine but without water. Just watch this moment.
- After sharpening use a fine grinding material or felt wheel to polish the blade.
- Even after careful grinding when a wheel runs smoothly providing an even edge, the burr can appear which you should hone thoroughly using a hand honing stone. But do not over hone.
The best knives
Now we want to highlight some models which are surely worth a look.
- MAC MTH-80 Professional Series. Its length is 8 inches. The blade of carbon steel alloy is decorated with dimples. The knife is made in Japan and consists of a hard, sharp blade and a wooden handle. It is comfortable to hold it and secure to use. The sharpness of a razor is provided by MAC particular technology. The blade has a thin and acute angle, which makes it very sharp. It is quite hard, but not brittle due to molybdenum added to alloy. As a result the blade is rather flexible. Being light and well balanced it is very easy to control. You’ll succeed in cutting tomato or orange without crushing them, cutting onion in neat dices without much efforts. All the benefits including efficient blade shape, razor-like edge and comfortable handle prove this model to be one of the best chef’s knife. Of course if you compare it to German ones, you’ll find the lack of certain properties but in general this is a perfect cutlery in Japanese style.
- Global G-2 is a 8-Inch model of traditional chef’s knife in classical style. This will satisfy the cooks preferring lightweight cutlery which is easy to care for. It is sharpened simply without requirement of particular skills and knowledge. The whole construction is made of metal including a handle with dimples for a comfortable grip. By the way, the handle is hollow with sand inside for proper balance. that you don’t really notice while you’re using it. You should decide for yourself if it is good for you as far as the steel material of a handle can be slippery when you cut meat, for example. But most users prove it to be easy to control and to manoeuvre.
- Mercer Culinary Renaissance has 8 inches in length. This is the USA family-owned brand. This chef’s knife is produced in well-known German style. Here they use the forged steel of high quality. Being very efficient it costs not too much. Being clunky in a hand this knife is able to overcome any difficulty. You can cut up chicken with it in a perfect way as well as slice tomatoes and juicy fruits. The handle is wooden without whistles and bells.
- Shun Sora 8-inch. It is designed in Japanese style being very light and efficient. It has a very hard thin blade with a particular shape – there is a tapered long tip. You can apply any cutting technique with this knife even those which are not meant for it. The handle is plastic and that is not to everyone’s taste but you have a choice and that is good. The value is affordable.
- Messermeister San Moritz Elite. The length is 8 inches. This is not the cheapest choice, but in general the price is affordable. It is able to be helpful a lifetime. It is made in Germany of high carbon steel being easy to sharpen holding its edge for a long time. Moreover, it is already razor sharp when you buy it. The handle is made of polymer and extremely comfortable with a superb surface. The benefit of this material crack and break resistance which is true even when it is submerged in water continuously.
- Victorinox in rosewood is a budget variant with decent quality options and beautiful wood handle. The construction is stamped that is why the cost is lower compared to other analogues but it maintains a decent edge. The handle is filled in with a full tang and riveted to it. It is allowed to be cleaned in a dishwasher. In general this is a good chief’s knife at a good price.
All the above and other marvelous models are available here. Just look through all the offers and compare them applying knowledge you have got from this article. It will allow you buying the best chef’s knife for your needs and conditions. If you’d like to master your cooking skills and enjoy the preparation of the food, you should regard your cutlery and find the best solution for your skills and environment.