Kitchen knives 101

So often we get caught up in the world of complicated recipes, worrying about the end point of our efforts in the kitchen. When it’s all said and done, having the best tools for the job can make a good recipe great. The team at Reviews.com recently took a look at chef knives to see what really makes these tools great in the kitchen. And while it’s safe to say that what’s “best” for every chef depends on a myriad of personal preferences, there are still some factors to keep in mind when finding the best chef knife for your needs. Their team took a look at the best selling knives on the market to help consumers get to the bottom of what works and what doesn’t.

A great place to start is to make sure you’re familiar with the anatomy of a knife. Unlike other kitchen supplies, a knife is something that you’ll likely have to experience in-store to see how it really works for you. Getting a good idea of the terminology used will help these conversations go smoothly and will serve you well in the future.

Knife Anatomy, the basics:

Point: this is the pointy part at the very front of the knife, where the blade comes together.
Tip: not to be confused with the point, the tip is the front half of the blade.
Spine: this is the blunt side of the blade that faces up when you’re chopping.
Edge: this is the sharp cutting side of the blade that faces down when you’re chopping. A Granton Edge is the dimpling on the edge that is designed to keep food from sticking.
Heel: this is the back end of the blade that sits closest to your fingers.
Bolster: this is the thick band of steel that is between the knife handle and the heel. Knives can have a full bolster or no bolster at all, which may impact the weight of the knife.
Tang: this is the steel that extends past your blade and into the knife’s handle.
Butt: just like it sounds, this is the very back part of the knife.

After getting a good idea of the names for the parts of the knife, there are some other questions to ask yourself as you try out different knives in your hand.

How long should the knife be?

This is a great question to ask yourself. A chef’s knife is a multitasking knife that can accomplish a multitude of different jobs in the kitchen. Most experts agree that 8” is a good length to shoot for: short enough to be dexterous with smaller jobs, but big enough to get through larger jobs. Indeed there is a huge variety in the shapes and sizes of knives available, but they have different purposes in the kitchen, and it’s important to choose the right type of knife for the right job.

Does the weight matter?

While it’s easy enough to throw out a number for the weight a knife should be, it’s really not that simple. One of the most important findings of this article is that the “best” chef knife will truly be up to the chef. A knife should be heavy enough to feel good in your hand, though light enough to be maneuverable in the kitchen. That means that the proper weight will be very different for a larger person with big hands and lots of muscle than it will be for a smaller person with less muscle and smaller hands. At the end of the day, it’s a good idea to get your hands on the knife before you make a decision.

What price range should I be looking at?

Again, this depends very much on who is using the knife, how frequently it’ll be used, and their ability to invest in one. A master culinary or chef who uses the knife on a very regular basis and invests heavily in their craft will likely want to choose a higher-end knife that falls at a higher price point. More of an investment typically means a higher quality tool, though there are budget options available that perform well, too. Those who are using a knife less frequently or perhaps only recreationally will be able to opt for a lower-budget model. Be discerning when choosing a lower-budget knife and only choose something that you feel the manufacturer stands behind.

Ultimately, they recommend the following knives:

Best Overall:

Mac Knives. Professional Series 8″ Mighty Chefs Knife: £159.00

Best for Experienced Cooks:

Kai Shun Damascus DM-0706 Chefs Knife 20cm Blade Length: £141.92

Best Starter Knife:

Victorinox 20 cm Broad Blade Swiss Classic Chef’s Knife: £41.63

To find what’s best for you, it may be best to check out knives in a store and ask as many questions as you need to feel comfortable with your purchase. To read more about Reviews.coms process and see which models they recommend, you can take a look at the full article here.