A Buying Guide for Chef Knives
While Chef Knives are a necessity for professional chefs, they are an invaluable accessory in any kitchen as they drastically improve efficiency and quality of almost every cooking task. Once you've experienced working with high-quality chef knives it becomes a mystery how you could compromise for anything less than that.
Types of Chef Knives
- General Chef (or Cook) Knife: 6-14 inches long, up to 1.5 inches in width. The most multi-purpose knife, used for almost any task - carving, slicing, dicing, chopping and mincing..
- Paring Knife: up to 4 inches in length, usually resembles a chef knife in shape. Used for delicate tasks such as peeling and garnishing.
- Serrated Utility Knife: 4-7 inches long with a serrated edge. A versatile knife that is used for tasks such as slicing tomatoes and cutting bread. Its serrated edge grips well surfaces that otherwise tends to tear. It does not require sharpening.
There are numerous other types of chef knives. However, the 3 above types are a great start and would satisfy all daily home needs.
In addition to their distinguished functions, chef knives also differ in how they are constructed and the materials they are constructed with. While traditional chef knives are made from stainless steel it is also common to find ceramic blades that are known for retaining sharper edges longer than stainless steel ones.
Important Considerations When Buying Chef Knives
A fit of a knife to a cook is very subjective and depends on multiple factors such as size of hands and cutting technique preferences. Here are some guidelines you should consider when trying to decide which knife to buy.
- Balance and Weight: Simulate dicing or slicing motion (or, ideally, practice these in reality) to ensure that the knife is well balanced in your hand and does not feel like it's pulling forward or backward.
- The Handle: a secure grip on the knife is a critical factor. See that it fits comfortably in your hand and does not feel slippery or unstable. Also, make sure that your knuckles are not hitting the cutting surface when chopping or dicing.
- The Bolster: The connecting area between the blade and the handle. Ensure that its slope is comfortable for a pinch grip.
- The Heel: The broadest and thickest part of the blade. Used for tasks that require more force such as chopping through poultry tendons. Verify that the heel does not stop the rocking motion when chopping or dicing.
- The Spine: The opposite side of the edge, usually constructed with square edges. Since in many tasks your finger will rest on the spine, make sure that the surface is not rough and the edges are not sharp so that it does not irritate or cut your finger.
- The Edge: Preferably engineered with a gentle curve that allows a smooth flowing rocking motion.
We have analyzed reviews and feedbacks from various sources and summarized important insights regarding what's important for professional chefs and home cooks alike.
- If you have to compromise on a single knife, a 7-8 inch chef knife would be your best option. Except for inconvenience when working with large produce (such as a watermelon) it would provide the best answer for most day-to-day tasks.
- The right accessories can significantly increase productivity and convenience. Popular and inexpensive such accessories are magnetic storage bars and pull-through sharpeners.
- Blade sharpness is immediately compromised when it rubs against other metal utensils. Specifically, avoid bundling knives together in a drawer or compartment.
- Users who bought expensive sets often wind up using a small subset and regret not opting for buying the specific individual knives.
- Inexpensive serrated utility knives (such as the ones offered by Victorinox) are a great all-around choice for field conditions - camping, picnicking etc.
Here are some top brands preferred by chefs all over the world:
- Shun: Japanese style chef knives. One of the higher-end choices in the market. All knives are advertised to be handmade and inspired by the ancient tradition of samurai sword making.
- Zelite Infinity: knives constructed from a combination of Japanese VG10 Super Steel clatted with multiple layers of High Carbon Stainless Steel, resulting in long lasting performance and sharpness.
- Victorinox: From the makers of the original Swiss Army Knife, this is great value for a good price.
- Dalstrong: Offering side-by-side ceramic and stainless steel series. Considered to provide high value-for-money.
- Wusthof: a well-known and trusted brand, endorsed by many professional chefs.