Choosing kitchen knives can be a difficult task, with many stores simply offering boxed knife sets or knives that cannot be held before purchase. Many home cooks find this to be one of the major problems in buying a kitchen knife as the user must be comfortable when using the knife, meaning the feel in their hand is the main source of information about the quality and choice of the correct knife.
Technology has made the choice of knives far greater than it was in the past, modern cooks now have a wide variety of choices in price, size, weight and construction methods when choosing their perfect kitchen cutting partner. Understanding the differences in construction and the different styles is key in making an informed decision about which knife to buy.
Despite needing to know the differences between each knife style the most important factor when purchasing a knife is to feel comfortable in using the chosen knife. Each cook has different ideas and needs in their knife, size and weight often play a key role in choosing a new kitchen knife.
Construction: the parts of a knife
Modern kitchen knives are constructed using three distinct methods, which are forging, sintering and block manufacturing. Forged knives are usually seen as the best quality as they are pounded into shape using hot metal and high pressure construction techniques, but these are also the most expensive knives. The cheapest option is to purchase a knife using block construction, when the metal is ground into shape from a single piece of metal, this usually gives the lowest quality blade and complete knife construction. Sintering is often used to construct knives in the eastern style, where a blade is constructed and welded onto the tang that connects blade to handle and provides a middle price point.
Buying a kitchen knife: What to look for
When purchasing kitchen knives it is important to determine which size of blade and handle feels comfortable for the user. A general rule of thumb is that larger knives of ten inches or so are better suited to those with larger and stronger hands, those with smaller hands often feel more comfortable with an eight or six inch knife. Holding a kitchen knife and playing on a cutting surface with it is often the only way of knowing how the knife feels to the individual cook.
One term often used with kitchen knives is balance, celebrity chefs often refer to balance being the most important point in choosing a knife. This term refers to how the knife feels in the hands of the cook, whether the knife feels heavy at a certain end and difficult to use. This is all part of the individual feeling of kitchen knives, with each individual needing to feel comfortable in holding and using the knife they choose.
Buying a kitchen knife is an individual process, with no two cooks sharing the exact same ideas about a kitchen knife. The need to feel comfortable with a knife should overcome all other concerns, with the chosen knives being those that are the simplest for the individual cook to use.