RH Amar – French’s & Frank’s

Big Boys Toys: Chefs’ Knives

Be at the cutting edge of kitchen technology.

Lazy puns aside, a chef’s knife is often one of his most useful and prized pieces of kitchen equipment.

A well-made chefs knife, treated with proper care, can be with you for decades, and can significantly reduce preparation time and the risk of injury.

The variations in style are almost boundless, and can very o‡en come down to simple preference as expressed by the chef. There are, however, several factors which seem unequivocally to affect the overall quality of the knife. We asked our Twitter followers to suggest their favourite brand of knife and were overwhelmed by the number of responses, as well as a few insights into what makes the perfect knife for them.

Clearly, the balance of the knife is high on chefs’ list of priorities and, short of balancing everything on the market delicately on your index finger, there are a few indicators which can be used to identify whether or not a knife is likely to be well-balanced.

Of primary concern is the length of the tang. This is the portion of the knife contained within the handle, and each length represents different advantages and disadvantages. Full tang (as opposed to partial tang) introduces significantly more weight to the handle of the knife, which is o‡en very light compared with the blade. This brings the centre of mass of the knife closer to the hand, which allows the chef more control and flexibility when chopping and slicing. It also improves the durability of the blade, allowing it to cut through harder materials with a lower chance of breakage.

A clear favourite brand amongst our followers was Global Knives, who opt, instead of a full tang, for a hollow handle filled with the exact amount of sand required to achieve what they consider to be the perfectly balanced knife. The benefits regarding control are clear, but what of the risk of breakage when confronted with more resistant materials? Partial tang knives are known for being significantly less durable than their full tang competitors, but Global Knives appears to mitigate this disadvantage by grinding the knife edge to a much more acute angle than the standard bevelled edges of most Western knives. This improvement in the sharpness of the knife should mean that less force needs to be applied when cutting.

If not properly cared for, however, the lack of a tang and bolster could make the knives liable to breakage, to potentially bloody effect. Beyond these mechanical concerns, other features of the knife are largely cosmetic, though they do carry some functional benefits. Ceramic blades, for example, stay sharp for significantly longer than their stainless-steel or carbon-steel counterparts, but run the risk of being broken if used improperly. On the other hand, the so‡ftness of carbon steel allows it to be ground to a much more acute angle, resulting in a far sharper knife.

You might also consider the shape of the blade. Historically, French and German styles have dominated the market, with a curved blade perfectly suited to a rocking motion whilst chopping. Recently, however, Japanese-style blades – which are far straighter – have risen astronomically in popularity. Ultimately, this distinction boils down to the way you chop your veg, and whether you think one style is more attractive than another.

With proper care, almost any knife suited to your specific needs and preferences can last for years on end and, as demonstrated by our effusive Twitter followers, can come to be one of the most important tools in your culinary arsenal. Just remember to do your research before investing!

Top 10 brands according to our Twitter followers:

  1. Wüsthof Ikon
  2. BlackRock
  3. Global
  4. Kai
  5. MAC
  6. F.Dick
  7. Kin
  8. Güde
  9. Chroma
  10. I.O. Shen

Top 10 Chef’s knives (The Independent 2012)

  1. Kyocera Ceramic
  2. Naifu D67
  3. ProCook Classic
  4. Joseph Joseph
  5. Kai
  6. Global
  7. Lakeland Select
  8. Sheffield
  9. Veritable Sabatier
  10. Welch
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