Knives are designed with specific jobs in mind and matching the right knife to the task makes the process of prep and cooking easier and more efficient. Investing in a proper set of knives is essential for kitchen safety
You can start your knife collection with a simple solution of buying a set, or you can choose to buy your cutlery individually, and gradually build a comprehensive set. The following are guidelines for every stage:
How do you decide which is best: a set versus a couple of key knives?
Ask yourself how much prep work you tend to do when cooking. If you spend quite a bit of time preparing meals, then having the right set of knives for each type of task is essential. However if your cooking style tends towards simple slicing and dicing, one or two versatile knives should suffice.
If you tend to use the same knife for most food prep chores, which should you own?
Versatility is the key, and there are two great knife styles to choose from; the 8"chef knife or the 7" Santoku knife. Both knives offer excellent slicing, dicing and mincing capabilities, with the curved edge of the chef's knife has a more fluid motion while mincing. On the other hand, the Santoku style is about an inch shorter than the chef's knife and designed with a thinner blade and more rounded tip which offers better control for beginners. The decision between the two will be a personal choice. If possible, hold both styles in your hand (and use a pretend cutting grip or motion) prior to purchase to determine what feels right for you.
You may also find a starter set works best. Starter sets usually consist of three basic knives: a 3" paring knife, a 5" utility, and an 8" chef's knife. This will cover you for most basic food prep work.
You are comfortable using different cutlery knives, but don't consider yourself a gourmet chef, what should you own?
You'll want more than a starter set and should consider anywhere from an 8-piece set on upwards to a 22-piece set. An 8-piece set generally includes these extended basics: 4" paring knife, 6" utility knife, 5" serrated knife, 8" chef's knife, 8" bread knife, kitchen shears, a sharpening steel and a block to store them in. Larger sets will include a variety of serrated knives, steak knives, carving, boning plus other sizes.
You have the basics and are ready for an extended collection:
Once you own the basics, you can begin to specialize and add on to your cutlery collection by buying open stock (individual) pieces. At this point, consider adding: a carving knife; a cleaver; a boning/fillet knife; a tomato knife; cheese knives and a set of good steak knives.
Now that the quantity question is settled, what should you know about quality?
After determining the number and types of knives you are looking for, it's time to address issues of quality and design. You may have noticed that the quality of knives varies greatly, this is due to differences in construction (i.e., forged vs. stamped), design and materials. A quality set of knives is viewed as a lifelong investment.
A well-made knife is expected to last a lifetime, and in many instances, manufacturers stand by their products with warranties that promise exactly that.
What are the different methods of knife construction?
||Construction Method Used
A forged knife is one that has been created from a single sheet of steel or metal. It is heated and hammered into shape.
Defining features of a forged knife include a "bolster" or wide lip of metal where the knife meets the handle; as well as a full tang or partial tang.
The tang is the metal shank of the blade that extends fully or partially inside the handle. The tang gives the knife a well-balanced feel when in use and provides excellent durability. Often times you can look at the side or spine of the knife and see that the metal continues through the handle.
The process of forging is more labor intensive than other types of construction and therefore more expensive to produce.
Stamped knives are made with blades that have been pressed from sheets of steel or other metals in a cookie-cutter fashion.
Stamped knives are not created in one, continuous piece of metal (i.e., no "tang"), and therefore lack the balance of a forged knife.
These knives feature thin, light blades, fitted into the handle and they require a firmer grip and more pressure (than forged knives) when in use.
Stamped construction is a less expensive process.
Computer designed knives that feature a serrated edge; also referred to as "Never Needs Sharpening" knives.
While that may be true, the blades will eventually dull and because they cannot be sharpened, they will need to be replaced.
In this construction, multiple layers of softer steel are clad to the outside of a super hard, VG Steel core.
The blade is tapered so that the edge of the knife reveals the VG Steel. Think of it as you would sharpening a pencil so that the lead is exposed.
Knife blades are typically made from steel, but other materials may be added.
A strong metal that sharpens to a fine edge.
This metal tends to discolor when used with acidic foods such as tomatoes or citrus fruit.
Carbon steel also runs the risk of rusting if not completely dried after usage.
An excellent metal, but it does not keep a sharp edge as well as carbon steel. This metal requires more frequent sharpening.
Stainless steel will not rust, which means caring for this knife will require less effort.
|High Carbon Stainless Steel
This composite metal offers the best of both worlds: a strong metal that will hold a sharp edge, while resisting rust and discoloration.
These are higher-end knives.
The "G" in VG stands for Gold, meaning the metal that sets the "Gold Standard" for cutlery.
This steel is produced in Japan and prized for its ability to maintain a very sharp edge and withstand rust.
VG10 Steel is different than VG Stainless Steel and VG1 Steel. VG10 is the higher quality in this category.