As I was slicing up some plump, juicy tomatoes for my omelet this morning, I had to revel in the beauty of my chef’s knife. The study grip of the handle… the weight of it and how it made perfect incisions into my fruit with no resistance and no tearing…ah, this is beauty in motion.
A thought on a good chef’s knives (Insert whooping and hurrahs here out of love and admiration). This is the one tool in my kitchen’s arsenal I just cannot, I repeat, CANNOT live without. When I begin my culinary dance in the kitchen, my chef’s knife is an extension of my right arm. It is a jack of all trades - finely mincing garlic and herbs, slicing into a tender cut of beef, dislodging joints on chicken, shaving thin chocolate ribbons for a cake, dicing and slicing fresh fruit for one of my infamous pies. If I cook someplace other than my kitchen, I will take my chef’s knife with me to ensure flawless prep execution. Crappy pots and pans, electric cooktops, plastic disposable spoons, maybe a microwave as a the only heating element - I can handle. Bad knife? I’m finished. Sharp, carbon steel that is ready to do my bidding - that’s hot.
After reading this, if you’re now thinking, “OMG, chef knife, where have you been all my life?”, it’s okay. It’s never too late to add one of these beauties to your beloved kitchen. Let me help you with what to look for…
Taking one step back, the breakdown of how much you spend on tools in your kitchen ranks like this:
- Pots and pans
- Everything else
So when you shop for your knives, there should be no penny-pinching. Don’t do it - not worth the $30 saved! Trust me. :) I recommend that your chef’s knife should fall under these criteria:
- The blade should be made of carbon steel to ensure retention of a sharp edge. A DULL BLADE IS MUCH MORE DANGEROUS THAN A SHARP ONE. Many people think otherwise. I strongly disagree. Dull blades cause a need for additional downward pressure that may cause your knife to slip and cut your finger/hand (yowza!).
- The length of the blade should be 8” long and 1 1/4” in width. Too long for you? (Insert that’s what she said…) Okay, go shorter, but no shorter than 6 inches. The reasoning being is that you need the length to make sure that as you’re slicing, the tip of the knife will be able to stay touching the cutting board.
- Your knife should have a full tang. I’m not talking about the orange drink though. A full tang means that your knife (blade and handle) is one piece of steel. All good quality knives will have a full tang, so make sure you ask the salesperson if you’re unsure.
- Your knife should be balanced. The weight distribution of the blade and handle should be equal. If you were to hold the knife with only one finger where the blade and handle meet, if will stay balanced there.
As for brands, every cook has their tried and true, trusted brand or two. Mine are Wüsthof and Global. I like to use my Wüsthof for more heavy duty chopping of squashes, melons, etc. - German blades are more durable against basically anything that needs a little more oompf. For speed and precision, I like to use my Global knife because it has a very nice thin blade and is an overall lighter knife than Wüsthof. If you want to play around with a few brands to figure out which knife you jive with the best, I recommend going to a Sur La Table or Williams Sonoma store. They'll let you test drive any knife!
Once you get your awesome bo-bawesome knife, you’ll want to take it for a spin. Here’s a great video on basic knife technique for the home cook. I think this Tom fella and I see eye to eye on this subject matter.
Happy chopping, slicing, and dicing!