We Know: All About Kitchen Knives

What do I need to know in order to buy a kitchen knife?

Before considering how to buy the right kitchen knife, it is useful to understand the basic component parts of a knife. The sharp, front edge of the knife is called the blade. The handle is where you hold the knife. The tang is the part of the knife that descends from the blade and is enclosed by the handle. Some knives have an unsharpened extension of metal between the handle and the blade called the booster. The booster serves both a balancing and a safety function.

What are the manufacturing processes for most kitchen knives?

There are three basic ways to manufacture a knife.

  • Block knives are cut from a roll of steel and a mold. The blades are then edged and handles are attached to the tang. These types of knives are relatively inexpensive, poorly balanced, and quick to lose their edge. These are low quality knives.
  • Forged knives are made by heating steel and then shaping it with a forge machine. This method is used for knives with prominent boosters.
  • Sintered knives are made by fusing separately manufactured component parts of blade, tang and bolster. The sintering process is cheaper than the forging process. Sintering lends itself to great specialization, creating of some wonderful knives for the high end consumer.

What types of steel are used for the blade of a kitchen knife?

There are two basic types of steel available.

  • High carbon stainless steel is the best. It can take a sharp edge and maintain it after repeated use.
  • Stainless steel or surgical stainless steel is resistant to rust and staining but it does not maintain the best edge.

What can I expect when I buy a set of kitchen knives?

Four types of knives come in a store-bought kitchen knife set.

  • Chef’s Knife. This is the workhorse of the set. The Chef’s Knife is a sturdy 8 to 10 inches and can be used to chop, slice, dice and mince.
  • Slicing Knife. Equipped with a flexible, thin blade. This knife is ideal for cutting through main courses like poultry, fish and beef. This blade length also tends to run from 8 to 10 inches.
  • Paring Knife. This is designed for paring, peeling, fruit coring, and slicing. This knife is also good for fine work and filigrees. The length runs from 5 to 6 inches.
  • Utility Knife. Second in usefulness to the Chef’s knife. Good for the same things as the Chef’s knife but for cutting on a smaller scale. The blade length tends to run from 5 to 6 inches.

What else do I need to know when I buy a kitchen knife?

Some types of knives require more maintenance than others, and this depends on the manufacturing process used. Knives that need to be sharpened more tend to cost more. One can buy inexpensive knives that require less maintenance, but the trade off could be that the knives don't maintain their pristine sharpness. Another thing to remember is that the handle of a knife should provide counter balance in weight to the blade. The best thing to always do before buying a set of kitchen knives is to test it. Fitting a knife to a particular hand is more likely to lead to a happy buying experience then buying an untested set off the Internet.

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