How to Choose Kitchen Knives
It has been said that a knife to a chef is as personal as a violin is to a violinist. The weight, shape and balance are important features that chefs consider when purchasing a new knife. The groove of the handle has to fit and sit comfortably within the palm and grip of a chef's callused hands.
The first knives were made from sharpened flints, before evolving into blades made from bronze, and then iron. Today, in a standard set of knives, we find more than just a cook’s knife: there are the essential boning, filleting, paring and turning knives too. All of these are indispensable to a chef and designed to perform specific duties. Of the greatest importance is the type of blade, which varies from each manufacturer and can include several different materials. Below, we introduce the distinctive characters of titanium; high-carbon stainless steel; ceramic and high carbon steel knives and give you tips on how to take care of them.
Titanium blades are lighter, more durable, and more flexible than steel, and are good for boning and filleting work. Some titanium knives are combined with another carbon steel to give it more weight and sturdiness. One such example comes from the Kasumi Titanium line.
High-Carbon Stainless Steel
The best of stain-resistant steels, these blades are a combination of carbon and modern alloy metals. They have the edge, sharpness and durability of carbon steel blades but will not corrode or stain. Most high quality kitchenware is made of this material. Brands that use it include Wusthof, Victorinox and Global.
Made from zirconium oxide ceramic, these blades are extremely hard and will maintain their sharp edges for months. However, disadvantages include being brittle and vulnerable to cracks if dropped; they also require diamond-sharpening tools once the edge eventually starts to get blunt. The Kyocera brand is one of few excellent ceramic knife brands on the market.
High Carbon Steel
The toughest material of all, this is also the best performer when it comes to sharp edges and near-effortless cutting. The blade takes on a sharper razor edge than stainless steel. The only downside is that it tends to rust and discolour easily. An example of carbon steel knives would be the Sabatier Au Carbone range.
Kitchen Knives Care Tips
- While wooden chopping boards seem to have lost their popularity to plastic boards, they are actually better for your knives as wood is a less abrasive surface.
- Before and after each use, give the knife a few quick glides or strokes on a sharpening steel. This helps maintain the smooth sharpness without having to use a stone, which actually grinds the knife and leaves the edge rough and uneven.
- Keep the knives sharp at all times. It is more dangerous cutting with a dull knife than a sharp one. If the knife does not glide through a tomato easily, and instead causes the seeds to spurt out, it needs to be sharpened.
Photography by Justin Loh