What Makes The Perfect Chef Knife? A Short Guide

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Chef Knife
Photo by Kevin Doran on Unsplash.com

What does a chef look for in a knife and what should you take from his requirements for your own kitchen? We take a look below. 

What’s the best knife material? 

As we have discovered throughout our long history of devising sharp-cutting implements, the material used to craft a knife determines its quality. Most kitchen knives these days are made from some type of metal, but good quality knives can be crafted from other materials as well, like ceramics.  

Here is what you should know about the best knife crafting materials available today.  

Carbon steel

Our favorite kitchen knives today are forged from carbon steel, an especially durable metal alloy, or a combination of iron and other elements. It is the carbon content that makes steel such a hard metal that will not bend or misshapen as easily as other metals will.  

Carbon steel knives are especially popular for kitchen chefs who will make high demands of their kitchen utensils.  The only downside to carbon steel knives is their tendency to rust if not properly cared for.  

Stainless steel

This is one of the most common types of materials used in the creation of kitchen knives. Stainless steel is reliable metal and affordable material for the crafting of a wide range of kitchen utensils including top-quality kitchen knives. 

Unlike carbon steel, stainless steel resists rusting and corrosion. But it is a softer metal than carbon steel and thinner knives with poor quality manufacturing may bend. 

Damascus steel

Combining the flexibility of stainless steel and the hardness of carbon steel, Damascus steel was designed for the finest scimitars and shamshirs in the age of the Caliphates. The core is carbon, so your blades will not bend, but the exteriors are more flexible steel which is also resistant to rust. 

Of course, you can’t forget the considerable aesthetic value of a fine set of Damascus steel chef’s knives. But the quality, performance and beauty of such a tool will also come at a considerable price.  

Ceramic 

In some areas, ceramic knives have been making a great impression. In addition to being highly attractive, they are razor-sharp, light as a feather, and considerably inexpensive. They will also never rust or require sharpening.  

As you can imagine, ceramics are not as durable as metals and these blades will most certainly chip and shatter if treated with anything but love and respect. This could be a great option for smaller knives, but for your primary chef’s knife, choose a durable metal.  

What are the characteristics of a good Chef knife? 

A good knife can be identified by the following characteristics. Consider these when you shop for your chef knife set.  

Judge it by its size 

You will need a different size and shape to your knife depending on the use and purpose of the knife you are looking for. 

Chef’s knife — the chef’s knife is designed to handle all the heavy lifting in the kitchen and can cut, slice, and mince everything from meats to mint leaves. You should consider something at least 8” long, a good size for all types of projects.  

Paring knife — a smaller blade needed for a variety of smaller and more detailed tasks, like cleaning shrimp, cutting and fruits and even sculpting watermelons. You will need something between 3.25” to 4” long.  

Bread knives — bread can be large and long, so get a large 8” or better still 10” serrated beauty for slicing bread. 

Watch the weight 

A good quality knife will have some heft to it, but it should also be well within your capacity to wield and use effectively. There are many different schools of thought on whether heavy or lightweight is best, but it all comes down to the way you work in the kitchen. The best chef knife for you is the one you can use comfortably.  

Embrace balance 

There should always be an equal weight in the handle as in the blade. If you find that the knife is too heavy at one end, the use will also be uncomfortable after any extended period of time. Hold the knife in your hand if you can and get a feel for the balance of weight.  

what makes the Perfect Chef Knife
Embrace Balance. Photo by Jason Briscoe on Unsplash.com

Prioritize comfort 

Some blades are made from a single piece of steel made from blade to handle. Even though a steel blade like this may seem very attractive, they are not always the most comfortable things to hold.

You will be using your kitchen knives every day so it is a good idea to choose something you will be comfortable using. Don’t buy something that will not be a joy to use.  

Keeping your knives in good condition 

Proper maintenance will ensure the knife always performs well. After you have received your knife and introduced it to your cooking scene, it will be up to you to make sure it is always ready for optimal performance.  

Here are some tips for keeping your knife looking and functioning its best.  

Sharpen often — most importantly, keep your knife properly sharpened. This helps to keep the blade properly conditioned.  

How often will you need to sharpen the knife? That depends on how much use you are getting, as well as the type of material of the chef’s knife. Stainless steel will need more sharpening than carbon steel and ceramic blades may not need any sharpening at all.  

Store with intention — Don’t just throw your knives in the “knife drawer,” proper care requires that you store these items with intention and purpose. A magnetic strip is one of the best ways to protect the blade and avoid accidents.  

However, you choose to store your knife, make sure they are not getting knocked around or ground against anything else.  Hand wash every time — your knives may say they are dishwasher safe, but all professionals know that you never place your prized chef’s knife in the dishwasher. It simply makes them more prone to damage and shortens their potential life span. Hand Wash your knife before carefully towing it on the magnetic strip or knife rack.

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