The Kitchen Knife
The kitchen knife is one of the most used tools in the kitchen. Almost all of your food preparation begins with cutting is so much easier with the right knife for the job. A good kitchen knife may be costly but it’ll serve you cooking well. Good knives, properly taken care of, should last forever. When equipping a kitchen for the first time, or when you are adding to your current kitchen knives, you’ll want to know which knives are best and what to look for.
Know Your Knife
Tip- The first third of the blade (approximately), which is used for small or delicate work. Also known as belly or curve when curved, as on a chef’s knife.
Cutting Edge– The entire cutting surface of the knife, which extends from the point to the heel. The edge may be beveled or symmetric.
Spine- The top, thicker portion of the blade, which adds weight and strength.
Heel- The rear part of the blade, used for cutting activities that require more force.
Bolster– The thick metal portion joining the handle and the blade, which adds weight and balance.
Spine– The top, thicker portion of the blade, which adds weight and strength.
Rivets- The metal pins (usually 3) that hold the scales to the tang.
Heel – The rear part of the blade, used for cutting activities that require more force.
Tang– The portion of the metal blade that extends into the handle, giving the knife stability and extra weight.
Butt– The terminal end of the handle.
Look for a knife that is rated excellent or very good for handle comfort and balance. Make sure the knives feels comfortable and are a good weight. A lightweight knife is great for speed and precision, but a heavier one can be better for more solid foods like ginger and nuts. The balance is important to make the cutting action more effortless, good knives don’t have too much weight on the handle of the blade. Some handles may be adapted to accommodate the needs of people with disabilities or left handed people. For example, knife handles may be made thicker or with more cushioning or a slight difference in the handle shape.
- Wood handles provide good grip they are slightly more difficult to care for as they must be cleaned more thoroughly and occasionally treated with mineral oil. Most wood handles, especially those of ordinary varnished hardwood, do not resist water well and will crack or warp with prolonged exposure to water. They should be hand-washed for that reason.
- Plastic handles are more easily cared for than wooden handles and do not absorb microorganisms. However, plastics may also be less resistant to ultraviolet damage and may become brittle over time, resulting in cracking. Some plastics are also slippery in the hand. The material is lighter than most other materials, which may result in a knife that is off-balance or too light for some tastes.
- Composite handles are made from laminated wood composites impregnated with plastic resin. Composite handles are considered by many chefs to be the best choice because they are as easy to care for and as sanitary as plastic, they have the appearance, weight, and grip of hardwood, and are more durable than either. They often have a laminated, polished appearance, and may have intense or varied coloring.
- Stainless steel handles are the most durable of all handles, as well as the most sanitary. They are very slippery in the hand, especially when wet. To counter this, many premium knife makers make handles with ridges, bumps, or indentations to provide extra grip. One disadvantage of some all-metal handles is that knife weight usually goes up considerably, affecting the knife’s balance and increasing hand and wrist fatigue. Knife manufacturers, most notably Japan’s Global, have begun addressing this issue by producing hollow-handled knives.
Knives are forged or stamped.
- Forged knives, which tend to be higher priced, are made in an intricate, multi-step process, a single piece of molten steel alloy is cut and pounded into the desired shape and pounded while hot to form it, so as to realign its molecular structure and make it stronger and more resilient. The blade is then heated above the critical temperature (which varies between alloys) and tempered the desired hardness. Forged blades are generally less flexible than stamped and they are less apt to bend over time. After forging and heat-treating, the blade is polished and sharpened. Forged blades are typically thicker and heavier than stamped blades, which is sometimes advantageous.
- Stamped knives are made from cold rolled steel and literally cut with a cookie-cutter-type machine, then heat-treated for strength, then ground, polished, and sharpened. They are usually the same thickness throughout, except at the cutting edge.
Kitchen knives materials.
- Stainless steel knives are the least expensive. Stainless Steel, also called SS, can rust if not cared for, but it can withstand much more causal care than High-Carbon steel. SS is harder, will hold an edge longer, but is harder to sharpen.
- Carbon steel is more expensive, but the metal is harder and simpler to keep sharp, although it can rust. A knife made from a single piece of steel – and better still, hand-forged (although this costs a bomb) – will last you a lot longer than cheap, thin knives with clumsy handles covered in plastic.
- High carbon stainless steel normally refers to higher-grade, stainless steel alloys with a certain amount of carbon, and is intended to combine the best attributes of carbon steel and ordinary stainless steel. Most ‘high-carbon’ stainless blades are made of higher-quality alloys than less-expensive stainless knives. Carbon steel is normally easier to sharpen than most stainless steels, but are vulnerable to stains and rust. The blades should be cleaned, dried, and lubricated after each.
- Ceramic blades, which are 10 times harder than carbon steel and they don’t rust. They are extremely lightweight, and they don’t need to be sharpened, but they can chip or break if care is not exercised. Ceramic knives are very hard and will maintain a sharp edge for a long time. They are light in weight, do not impart any taste to food and do not corrode. Excellent for slicing fruit, vegetables and boneless meat because they do not react with any acids or oxidizer in your food.
- Laminated Knife blades are both hard, but brittle steel which will hold a good edge but is easily chipped and damaged, with a tougher steel less susceptible to damage and chipping, but incapable of taking a good edge. The hard steel is sandwiched (laminated) and protected between layers of the tougher steel. The hard steel forms the edge of the knife; it will take a more acute grind than a less hard steel and will stay sharp longer.
- Titanium knife blades are lighter and more wear-resistant, but not the hardest metal They are more flexible than steel.
- Plastic blades are usually not very sharp and are mainly used to cut through vegetables. They are not sharp enough to cut deeply into flesh making the good for a child to learn with.
- Damascus, are very costly mottled knives are made from carbon steel core, surrounded by layers of soft and hard stainless steel, which results in an extremely hard and razor-sharp edge.
The Knives to avoid new or second-hand:
- There are ads that say their knives don’t need to be sharpened but what they do not say is when they lose their edge, you’ll have to throw them away, they can not be sharpened.
- Check for signs of poor joining or welding, in the blade and handle, which may cause a weak point and cause the knife to bend or break, as well as trapping food and breeding bacteria.
- When a knife is left unwashed knives in the sink or put in a dishwasher, the knife will be stained and become dull. Knives will last as longer if you hand wash and dry. All knives require regular honing. If you do not want the maintenance to consider an inexpensive disposable knife.
- Avoid a wobbly handle, loose parts, or protruding rivets (the round metal pieces that secure the blade to the handle). If the rivets aren’t flush, they could irritate your hand or trap food, creating a breeding ground for bacteria.
- Any knife with broken tips or chips in the blade can not be repaired or sharpened.
- Knives with wooden handles that have started to crack or degrade (to prevent this, never put them in the dishwasher).
- Blades with a separate piece of metal (called a collar) attached at the point where the blade meets the handle. These knives are not well made and tend to come apart easily.
The 4 Essential Kitchen Knives that do 90% of all cooking jobs:
Chef’s knives are also known as a cook’s knife or French knife, are the number one workhorse in all cutting tasks in the kitchen. Everything from slicing zucchini to chopping meat, slicing, trimming or carving. The common chef knives ranging from 6 inches to 10 inches, the average 8-inch blade has about a 2-inch width and slightly curved edge. That curve helps you rock the blade back and forth when mincing. Chef’s knives typically come in either the French or German style. German chef knives have a more continuous curve to their blades, while the French style has a flatter edge and more pronounced curve right at the tip, neither design is inherently superior, so it is just a matter of taste.
Paring Knife is an all-purpose small plain edge blade knife 3 to 4 inches long used for general light-duty jobs, peeling fruit or potatoes or hulling and slicing a strawberry and deveining a shrimp, removing seeds from a jalapeño, or cutting intricate garnishes. It is similar to a chef’s knife but smaller, a good all purpose knife. Avoid using a paring knife to cut hard vegetables, such as carrots, beets, or parsnip, they cannot easily slice through these foods, where you may increase the pressure or tighten your grip as you’re cutting. Paring knives are ideal for children use when they first start learning to work with knives, it allows their little hands to have more control.
Serrated Knife or Bread Knife, usually is 8-10 inches, long and with a wavy, saw-like serrations blade to allow for even and precise slicing. The serrations of these knives cut well without needing much downward force. Serrated knives cut much better than plain-edge blade knives when dull, and they do not require frequent sharpening.A Serrated Knife is especially useful for cutting bread and soft fruit or vegetables, such as tomatoes and peppers, or also particularly good on fibrous foods such as celery or pineapples, watermelons. The jagged edge can grip and cut those exteriors, while the flat blade of a chef’s knife would slip and slide across the surface. Serrated knives should not generally be used with fish or meat, as the blade can damage the structure of the flesh.
Knife or Filet Knife or Boning knife the same knife, just with different names. A carving knife is often a little longer than a chef’s knife, but far narrower, and without the chef’s knife’s customary curve. These knives tend to be quite long—between 6 and 11 inches—and exceedingly narrow with a flexible blade. This allows the knife to easily curve under the fish skin, or remove the silver skin on beef tenderloin up or boning fish, meat, or poultry of any size, whether a 3-inch-long anchovy or a 150-pound side of pork. The thinner blade allows for thinner cuts, and the length of the blade encourages a sawing motion used in carving. A carving knife must be razor-sharp to produce minimal friction on the meat, allowing you to cut easily and cleanly against the grain. A carving knife should not be used to cut through bones, but rather to cut around bones.
How to Sharpen a Knife with a Honing Steel or a Whetstone
The edge of a knife gradually loses its sharpness, which can be restored by sharpening. Knives with smooth edges can be sharpened by the user; knives with any form of the serrated edge should ideally be sharpened with specialist equipment. The essential tool for your knife is a honing steel, which is a rod made of steel or ceramic, which is designed to keep your knives at their peak sharpness for as long as possible. Knives should be honed every time you use them, but because honing doesn’t actually sharpen the blade.
Running your knife along a steel does not sharpen knives, but instead straightens the blade, while a sharpener the blade and realigns the teeth on the blade, which leads to a sharper edge and thus a cleaner cut. A honing steel is about 30 centimeters (12 in) long and about 6 mm to 12 mm (¼ to ½ inch) thick.
Whet Stone (Also know as Wet Stone)
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