As any job that requires tools e.g. mechanic has spanners and wrenches, a carpenter has chisels and a block hammer, when you start your career out as a trainee in any kitchen as a chef; you want to have the correct tools for the job.
Because of its value in the kitchen, it is extremely important to choose the right knife, as that will become you favourite piece of equipment and investment. I can assure you, your knife will be with you for as long as you have a career as a Chef!
Size, Brand and Material
So how does one go about choosing the correct one when there are so many different varieties out there to choose from? There are household names and there are the cutting edge brands that one will see advertised in catering / kitchen equipment catalogues, outlets and shops. Making the right decision can be a daunting task, as there are so many options to consider. Stainless Steel or Carbon Steel? What about the Ceramic Type? Different knife sizes? Japanese or European? Which are forged?
When browsing around, don’t be afraid to ask to handle them. Try all sorts of different types. Try large, small, light, heavy, tapered, rounded end, etc. Start by holding the knife at the tip of the handle so that your thumb and forefinger rest comfortably on the base of the blade. Hold it firmly and feel if it is comfortable in your grip. Does it feel too heavy or too light? How’s the grip? Does it feel balanced? Hold it gently in your hand. Do you find the blade too heavy or does the knife carry most of its weight in the handle?
Is Heavier Better?
The weight of your knife is very important, if you are in the kitchen a lot, as you don’t want to tire yourself with a large knife. At the same time, a heavy knife will have more power to cut through tougher, hardy vegetables and even bones. Relative to the weight is size. Most chefs prefer a 9-inch chef’s knife. It’s a manageable size that is not too heavy and yet sturdy enough to do most kitchen tasks. A larger blade gives you more surface to work with. There are smaller sizes too, 6- to 7-inches, but generally I would recommend you stay in the 8- or 9-inch range.
I have an assortment of various chef’s knives, as I like different styles for different applications. I tend to go through phases as to which knife I prefer to use for a specific task. With a sharp chef’s knife and utility/paring knife, one could have majority of your kitchen tasks done.
Western Knives vs Japanese Knives vs German Knives
Here’s a comparison to keep in mind when choosing the correct knife for you.
- European knives are generally heavier and have thicker blades. As it is used so frequently, its value is easily overlooked. They are designed for sturdy tasks and for heavy use.
- German knives have a slightly rounded blade.
- Japanese knives have a thinner blade and are usually lighter. They may not perform some of the heavier tasks as well, but they are precise, light and keep their edge better.
Once you’ve found the chef’s knife you are most comfortable with, always remember that a good knife is nothing with a dull edge. So let’s keep it sharp and safe!
“A kitchen without a knife is not a kitchen.” – Masaharu Morimoto