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Kitchen Knives – How to choose the right ones for you.

Kitchen Knives – How to Choose the Right  Ones for YOU

© Astrid – 2012

Kitchen Knives (or Cooks’ Knives) are usually a mixture of different metals, the usual ones being:

  • Carbon steel – to give a razor edge but are high maintenance
  • Stainless steel – to give strength and rust resistance – need a lot of sharpening
  • High Carbon Stainless steel – combines the best  attributes of Carbon and Stainless steeldon’t rust, strong and keep sharp for longer.
  • Molybdenum – to give greater flexibility
  • Vanadium – to give durability and toughness.
  • Titanium – when added to the two above, this gives a very hard blade, that stays sharp longer than steel and makes the knife easy to sharpen.

In recent years Kitchen Knives have been introduced to the kitchen that are made of a Ceramic substance – many made of a material called Zirconia. This is second only to diamond in its level of hardness, but is lighter than steel.  These knives, often of Japanese origin, slice easily through food, and retain their sharpness for longer than the conventional type of Kitchen Knife. But they are brittle, and will break if dropped on to a hard surface.

Basically, it comes down to this – Points to Consider:

  • Choosing a Kitchen Knife, or set of knives, is a very personal thing. How to choose the right ones for YOU, not your partner or your mother, but for YOU.  How important are good knives in your kitchen?  Do you just want one or two that do all the jobs for you?  Or, like many, do you want particular knives for specialised functions, such as boning or filleting?
  • The other important point we found out when selling knives is that often in a household the man wants a big, chunky Chef’s knife, at least 22cm or 24cm in length, and quite heavy to hold, whereas the woman generally has a smaller hand, and a normal 20cm (8 inch) Chef’s knife will suffice for most chopping jobs.
  • In the past, Sabatier was the name most people associated with classic Kitchen Knives but the name was sold and companies can buy the licence to use it which resulted in a vast mixture of good and bad Kitchen Knives under that name.  So only buy from good cookshops which can tell you about the quality of the individual knives.
  • Check whether the Knife has to be hand-washed and oiled (i.e. Carbon steel) or whether it can be just washed, or put in a dishwasher. Personally, I always wash my knives by hand, because I know I will want to use them again quickly.

If you want to start a collection of Kitchen Knives, and how to choose the right ones for you gradually, these are the ones we would recommend. In order that you can see what I am talking about I have highlighted the knives names in blue and if you click on the words it will take you to our favourite quality cookshop, Divertimenti , show you the knife and give you more information :

Small paring or utility knife–  approx. 10cm (4 ins)

Cooks knife – approx. 16 cms (6 – 7 ins)

Cooks Knife– approx 20cm  (8 ins)

Cooks Knife– approx 22cm – 24cm (10 – 11 ins) 

Carving Knife and Carving Fork

 Steel– Ceramic, diamond or ruby (or a whetstone)

There are many specialist knives e.g. Santuku (Japanese style chunky rounded edge ‘Cooks Knife), Boning knife, Filleting knife, Cheese knife, Cleaver, Flexible Palette knife, Birds Beak knife, Salmon Slicer, Serrated Cake knife, and these can be added when and if needed.

The knife companies also make very good small gadgets and personally I like to use these.  When I have time, I love playing about with food, enhancing it (Erik says I’m playing with my toys).  My personal choices are:

  • A Zester – to gently scrape the zest from a Lemon or Orange in thin, small strips.
  • A Melon Baller –  I have different sizes, for Melon Balls, or tiny ones for decorative work – also an Oval Melon Baller
  • A Cannelle knife – To create channels down such as cucumber, lemons etc by peeling off small lines of the skin.
  • A Tomato knife – super sharp to cleanly cut Tomato slices.
  • A Peeler – a basic peeler for potatoes and vegetables – classic shape or swivel shape.
  • A Mezzaluna (double handle) – brilliant for chopping herbs and salad leaves finely.
  • Pizza Wheel – only good quality ones are sharp enough to cleanly cut through pizzas.
  • Knife Block or Magnetic Rack to hang on wall – Never put good Kitchen Knives in a drawer – they will rub against each other and become blunt much quicker.

So, I hope that has helped with the question ‘Kitchen Knives – How to choose the right ones for you’. I will keep updating this, with different types of knives and the different ranges.

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