Choosing Kitchen Knives
For anyone that plans to prepare food at home, having the right set of kitchen knives is very important. Unfortunately, most people do not know what to look for when choosing kitchen knives, so they simply do one of two things. They either assume all knives are the same and they buy the cheapest set available, or they assume price equates to quality and they purchase the most expensive set on the shelf. Neither of these approaches is conducive to finding the best knives for their situation.
Comfort - When cooking at home, you need a knife that you feel comfortable with. What works well for one chef may not work for another. Different knives have different weights and come in different sizes with various feels to them. A knife needs to feel balanced in your hand, and should not be difficult to maneuver. What exactly determines a well-balanced knife is largely dependent upon the size of the person’s hand that will be using it. Some knives are designed for bigger hands, while others are better suited for more petite hands.
Purpose - Another important aspect of choosing kitchen knives is determining what the knives will be used for. A chef at a high end restaurant will likely have a different use for his or her knives than someone that cooks sporadically at home. Different knives suit different needs, and the only way to know which knife is best for you is to know what you need your knife to do. Vegetables, fruit, meat, and bread all require different knives in their preparation, so it is best to find a set of knives that can handle all normal kitchen applications.
For instance a Chef’s knife, used primary for chopping, has a wide blade which provides clearance for ones knuckles while gripping the handle. Boning Knives are shorter, with narrow blades and are used separate meat from bone. A Butcher Knife had a bull nose or raised blunt end to provide additional weight aiding the butcher when cutting through large pieces of meat. Paring Knives are used to peel and come in several blade styles. Some knives like the Santoku or Santoko will slice, dice, carve or mince and are a chef’s favorite.
Quality - Quality is very important in kitchen knives. All knives are not created equal. However, you do not need to purchase the most expensive knife either. Chances are you can find a set of kitchen knives that meet both your budget and your standards in quality. A knife should feel balanced in your hand. It should not be too flimsy or too heavy. The better knives typically have a tang (the part of the blade that continues into the handle) that runs throughout the entire handle. Knives of lesser quality often have short tangs and a handle that is weakly attached to the blade. This results in a poorly balanced knife that is difficult to maintain.
Maintenance - Proper knife maintenance is essential to having quality kitchen knives. Therefore, when choosing kitchen knives, it is wise to also purchase knife sharpening equipment. A well maintained blade can perform at a high level for a very long time. Many people assume that their knives are no good, but the truth is they just need to be cared for properly. The blade should always be protected when it is stored, and knife sharpening equipment should be used to keep the blade in its top condition.