The kitchen is very much like a battlefield. The objective is to combat hunger as effectively as possible. The need to make the most of the resources you have is largely dependent on the skill of your generals and soldiers, who in the kitchen are your chef and his or her cooks. Also, just like in the battlefield, there are several weapons of choice available in your arsenal. If there were the samurai of old in battle, in the kitchen there is the chef knife.
The chef knife, sometimes called the cook’s knife, was originally designed to cut through tendons to separate joints in the meat. It evolved into the all-around utility knife that it is today and is used for a variety of purposes. This include chopping, slicing, dicing and mincing. The chef knife is favored because its design is not as cumbersome as the butcher’s knife allowing precision cuts yet it is strong enough to disjoint cuts of beef or pork.
For the home chef who likes to cook for leisurely purposes without the pressure of cooking for a battalion of people, the chef knife can pretty much be the only knife you will need to use for food preparation. Here are a few things to look for that makes a great chef knife.
The primary reason for purchasing a knife is to use it to cut and prepare food as easy as possible. This can only be accomplished if the knife carries the necessary sharpness needed for the job. A good chef knife not only comes extremely sharp out of the box but also remains so and stays sharp long. It is for this purpose that ceramic knives have been favored recently because of the amount of time they stay sharp. It’s important to get the right blade too, with the majority of chef knives being straight edge blades, rather than serrated blades found on most steak knives.
Maximizing the knife’s capabilities can only be accomplished if the knife can be handled well in your capable hands. Take note of the balance of the knife. The weight should be distributed evenly between the handle on the back part and the blade up front. A chef knife usually carries a blade of 8 to 10 inches in length, anything longer than this makes it hard to make it an all-purpose knife. The handle is also very important because it dictates how the knife moves while you’re doing your slicing and chopping.
Build Quality and Material
Today’s chef knife is made from a variety of material. The standard stainless steel knife is an often preferred choice. Ceramic knives are also starting to become very popular because of the precision sharpness they carry along with the fact that it takes nearly their entire lifetime before it goes dull. If you are looking at a stainless steel knife, which comprises about 90% of knives on sale you will want to look for forged blades rather than stamped blades. The price may cost a bit more but they will last longer and they are more flexible.
If the primary purpose of your chef knife is for home cooking use and you intend to use this as your mainstay, all-around kitchen tool it is essential you not scrimp on what to spend. In addition to that, since you will be using it for a variety of purposes you may want to go for the stainless steel knife instead of the ceramic knife. Check out our other article here on Caramel Toast, which compares these 2 knives and highlights their pros and cons.
For overall value as a home chef who won’t be using these knives for professional purposes, you’re better off using a nice quality stainless steel blade. Look for one with a forged blade with no serrations on them and this should keep you happy for the next few years.
That rounds up our guide to getting a decent chef knife without breaking the budget. We’ll devote some future articles to go into more specifics to help you out in your kitchen. So until then, let’s get cooking!