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The Skinny on Knives

One of my favourite things to help customers with at the store is finding the perfect knife to get them started in the kitchen. Because there are so many options out there, I thought it would be helpful to put out a brief guide to knife buying. So, without further ado, here are a few things to look for.

Although it may be tempting to save a few dollars on a cheaper option, I highly recommend spending a little more on your knives. A few indicators of a good quality knife are as follows

-Country of manufacture:

While many countries make wonderful knives, there are 2 that are world renown. As a rule of thumb, you’re pretty safe with a knife that comes from Germany or Japan.

-Full Tang:

A term describing German style knives with the metal of the blade running the full length of the handle (Usually indicated with rivets). This insures proper balance in the knife, as well as sturdiness

-Warranty:

Any good knife, when cared for correctly, should last a life time; look for companies who honor that time frame.

Price:

A good starter chef knife can range between $150.00 and $250.00. The cost can certainly be higher, but for a starting knife, you should be just fine in this range.

Now this doesn’t necessarily mean dropping a $1000 on a knife set. For starting out, you’re better to begin with a few great knives. If you are looking for the most effective piece to spend your money on, there are 2 options for a wonderful all purpose knife.

-The Chef’s Knife (French style)

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This is the most common knife in a kitchen due to it’s versatility. It has enough weight to cut through tough objects like squash, but a fine point for small things like mushrooms as well. It’s curved blade creates a rocking motion, which is ideal for quick, consistent chopping.

-The Santoku (Japanese style)

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Gaining popularity due to exposure on cooking shows, the santoku originated in Japan. Though they are a Japanese style, santokus are available in German or Japanese steel (more on that later). The little divots along the edge of the blade, referred to as a gratton or hollow edge, allow the food to fall away from the blade by breaking the suction. Because of it’s flat edge, the cutting motion used is more of a pulling back rather than the traditional rocking motion of a chefs knife.

Every knife company has a different method of creating their knives. That being said, the majority of knives can be separated into 2 basic types

-Forged Steel

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Commonly referred to as “German steel”, it is formed by pouring molten metal into a mold, then cooling, shaping and sharpening it into a blade. It has a lower carbon content than Damascus steel, making it easier to sharpen, but quicker to dull. The lower carbon content also means the blade is less likely to pit or snap.

-Folded Steel

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Commonly referred to as “Damascus, or Japanese steel”, it is produced by folding a large sheet of metal over and over creating layers in the steel. Because of the folding technique, the metal can have a higher carbon content, allowing the edge to last significantly longer, but making it harder to sharpen. Folded steel cannot be sharpened on a regular honing steel or pull through sharpener. Specialty tools are required. Due to the strength of the blade, it is possible to make it much thinner, therefor much lighter.

Hopefully these tips have helped you in your knife buying, but remember a good knife is just the start! Tune in next week for care and maintenance.