A Chefs Knife is a multi-functional blade that boasts a wide range of utility in the kitchen. Despite the name, you do not have to be a professional chef to find various ways of making excellent use of this knife. While many knives that are found in the kitchen are specialized for a specific use (think a butter or steak knife), a true Chefs knife is ideal for use in a wide variety of prep and cooking tasks. This knife excels at everything from chopping up vegetables to slicing through tough slabs of meat.
The blade on a true Chefs knife is large, generally around 8 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide, perfectly balanced, and usually non-serrated. A wide variety of materials can be used to makeup the blade of the knife, from carbon and stainless steel, to a ceramic or laminated element.
Materials To Consider
All of the knives that we recommend for use are made from stainless steel or as marketers declare, a “high-carbon” steel. Do not be confused by this fancy jargon. All steel is infused with carbon and all “stainless” steels have very similar amounts of carbon that might vary by only 1 percent or less. There is not a dramatic difference (as far as the amount of carbon present) between stainless steel and high-carbon stainless steel, it is simply a branding term.
On the other hand, however, there is a rather big difference between “high-carbon stainless steel” and just plain old “carbon steel.” Carbon steel lacks a healthy dose of chromium (10.5 to 30%)—which is the element that allows stainless steel to resist corrosion. This is an important differentiator. The more that you use a knife, the more it will need to be washed. Thus, carbon steel can degrade and rust rather quickly, whereas stainless steel tends to hold it’s quality better over time. On the other hand, high caliber carbon steel can take a finer/sharper edge and hold it for a longer period of time than most stainless steels. Those are a few things to consider when considering which quality of knife to purchase, and what might be most appropriate for your prepping and cooking needs.
It certainly is not an easy task to settle on which company produces the top of the line chefs knife. When it comes to sourcing high grade steel and then applying skilled craftsmanship in producing a well balanced knife, only a select few companies tend to rise up and meet the quality standards to produce knives at the highest level. While it is possible to walk into into any kitchen store or visit any website and be bombarded with an almost overwhelming dearth of options, it pays to invest in a knife from a well respected and established brand. Here are a few of the brands that you should be considering when looking to purchase your next chefs knife.
Zwilling J.A. Henckels has been perfecting their craft since the 1700s, and trust us when we say that they know knives. They have grown to become one of the largest knife manufacturers in the world, with an impressive track record and product list. They produce over 24 different types of knives, with a prototype that benefits the chef of any skill level.
Wusthof is another major German knife maker that many pro chef’s absolutely swear by. They consistently produce knives of the highest quality, and have done so for years. Over 200 years, in fact. Wusthof has been family-owned and run since its inception, so you can be sure that they know exactly exactly what they are doing when it comes to the craft of knife making. Both Wusthof and Henckels are manufactured in Solingen (along many other blade makers) which makes it and Germany at large one of the knife-making capitals of the world.
Messermeister knives, also rooted in (surprise, surprise) Germany is another company that manufactures high quality blades in the town of Solingen. While Messermeister is not as well-known of a brand as Henckels and Wusthof, they are no less celebrated for their fine quality of craftsmanship when it comes to their products. They use a forging process for their blades (Meridian Elite is drop-hammer forged) that is classical in it’s style of manufacturing that give their knives a retro look with a high-quality performance and feel.
Global, one of the newer companies on our list, revolutionized the kitchen-knife world in the 1980s by creating a series of high-performance knives that were (and continue to be) on the cutting edge of performance while remaining incredibly affordable. Like traditional Japanese knives, they are extremely light to wield with a thin and razor-sharp edge. While aesthetically they resemble Japanese blades when it comes to the overall shape and design, they often owe as much to Western tradition and influences as they do to their Japanese stylings.
Where To Shop
These days there are almost an overwhelming variety of options when it comes to purchasing kitchen products. You can walk into any kitchen or home goods store and expect to find a reasonable selection of chefs knives. That being said, here are our recommendations of the best websites and retailers that have the highest quality of available products for the most affordable prices.
This should come as no surprise. Amazon has a massive inventory of chef’s knifes as well as all other kitchen products. Typically prices are cheaper than retailers and you can usually find deals directly from suppliers. While it can be a little overwhelming scouring through all of the merchandise, amazon makes it easy to read reviews before you buy.
Rapidly emerging as the go-to store for home cooks and designer kitchenware, Sur La Table is an ideal place to find your next Chefs Knife. With plenty of inventory options and brick and mortar locations all across the United States, visiting a store will allow an intimate and hands on experience for finding the perfect knife that one might find missing when attempting to purchase online. Pro tip: keep an eye out for scheduled “demo days” that happen often at the store which helps to showcase new products and accessories.
Known for its high end collection of kitchen products, Williams Sonoma is surely a place you can find the chefs knife of your dreams. Known for high quality products and manufacturing, this retailer is a go-to option when it comes to finding and comparing knives from various companies and brands.
Global Chefs Knife
The versatile chef’s knife is perfect for everything
Care And Maintenance
As a blade used as frequently and for such a wide variety of tasks, it is essential to properly clean and store your chefs knife. This is a knife designed for everyday use, and as such, wear and tear can take a serious toll on your chef’s knife when it is not maintained in the proper way. Dulling of the blade, chips and nicks, and general loosening are all breakdowns to keep an eye on when it comes to your Chefs knife. As such, there are a few general rules to abide by when it comes to properly maintaining your blade.
A chef’s knife should be cleaned properly. Although many knives these days are technically safe for use in a dishwasher, you should ALWAYS wash your blade by hand. A dishwasher can be an unpredictable environment, and a blade risks dents and scratches that can nullify it’s effectiveness when not washed with care. The sink, a sponge, and some dish soap can be a Chef Knifes best friend. That being said…
Do NOT leave your knife in the sink. Once cleaned and dried, promptly remove your knife from the sink, as it can ultimately rust or become damaged if not kept in a dry, uncrowded space. Additionally…
DON’T store your knife in a general utility/utensil drawer. These knives are big, and need proper care and space. You should have a knife rack or sheath that appropriately houses your individual blades once cleaned. As with the sink, a utility drawer is a disaster waiting to happen. The crowded nature of these drawers can risk the blade becoming nicked, dented, dulled or worse…a nightmare waiting to slice into your hand when fumbling around for utensils.
Keep your blade well oiled, and sharpen often. As mentioned, Chef Knifes are going to be on of the most used utensils in your kitchen, and as such, are prone to becoming dull over time. A dull blade can be unsteady and unsafe, so make sure you keep them well maintained, but don’t go over board. A general rule of thumb is to try and sharpen your blade about 1-2 times per year. Anything more is overkill, and anything less can leave you with an ineffective knife.
Use a cutting board. Seriously. We know that it can be tempting to quickly use whatever surface is available for a quick chop. Granite or marble might seem to be the perfect surface to support your knife, but don’t be fooled. Aside from being terrible for your knife, it can also cause damage to expensive surfaces that were never meant to support pressure from a sharp blade. Additionally, those surfaces can prove too hard for your knife, and as a result can dent or knick the edges of your Chefs Knife.
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