The kitchen knives are one of the tools that we use in our daily lives: we cut, peel, chop, but… you know if you use the most suitable for each case and food?
Choosing the right kitchen knife set for each situation will make a big change in your kitchen experience. It will be more comfortable, you will get better results and you will carry out your tasks faster.
THE HILT OR HANDLE OF THE KNIFE
The first thing that is usually observed is what material is the handle:
WOODEN HANDLES OF KITCHEN KNIVES
A handle made with good wood is very comfortable and also, although wood is a porous surface, it is currently pre-treated so its use at home is not problematic.
HANDLES WITH RUBBERIZED COATINGS
Some grips have a good quality, soft-touch, rubberized coating. This is especially comfortable for long periods of use. But if this option is chosen, it is preferable that the material is not porous to avoid the problems that bacteria can cause.
There are also knives with metal handles, good looking and well-balanced weight, but they have the disadvantage that the knife can slip from a wet hand while cutting.
Many of the inexpensive knives have handles made of plastic materials. In general, its weight is not balanced, making it difficult to use when used for a long time.
There is also a handle made of a very resistant and high hardness material called POM or Polyoxymethylene (handle in black), which should not be confused with the one used in cheap knives since this material gives it a higher quality finish than the plastic.
Currently, Micarta (Celeron or Phelonic) has also been introduced to the knife handle material options. This material is made with sheets of resin and cloth or paper, subjected to high pressure and temperature, giving rise to a material that is highly resistant to shocks, changes in temperature, humidity, and corrosion in general. In addition, their designs are very versatile and original thanks to the wide variety of “mixes” that can be made.
HANDLES IN OTHER MATERIALS
Finally we find other materials that are used for the handle that can be of very high quality (silver and gold, deer antler, woods or exotic roots etc.). This type of finish is rare in the kitchen knife and more common in the table knife although some high-end knives such as the Japanese Shun, Damascus, or some of the Mac, use pakka wood.
What is suitable for all types of handles is that the shape is ergonomic to facilitate grip and that the handle has a suitable finish; since if the grip is not perfectly polished and finished, it tends to produce unpleasant “pinches” in the fingers or in the hand during its use.
TYPES OF KNIVES AS THE BLADE IS INSERTED INTO THE HANDLE
Another thing to consider about the handle is how the blade is inserted into it. This is one of the important criteria to decide while choosing the best knife set for your kitchen. It is technically known by the name of “casing”.
There is always a part of the blade that is inserted into the handle and this part is known as “rib” or “tang”. Taking into account how the spike is, there are three types of terminations:
- FULL TANG or COMPLETE TANG: In which you can see the complete metal tang up to the end of the knife handle. Generally, it will have three rivets that adjust the grips that are on both sides of the tang.
- Knives with these characteristics are considered of higher quality since their tang is actually the continuation of the blade in a single piece and this is usually almost the same thickness as the blade.
- HALF TANG or PARTIAL TANG: It is a similar type in which the blade extends into the handle but only half or 3/4 of it.
- They also usually have 2 or 3 rivets that hold the scales on both sides of the shank.
- HIDDEN or HIDDEN SPIKE: This type of spike is not at all visible through the handle, since it is inserted into the material that composes it. Although it is the continuation of the blade in a single piece of metal, this part is worn down to achieve a thinner continuation of the material, and can even give it the shape of a spine to improve its grip on the handle.
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In addition to the characteristics of the handle, the overall weight and balance of a knife are important. The easiest knives to handle are those that have been manufactured with these factors in mind. But if we focus on the weight, it is the blade that has the greatest influence in this regard.
TYPES OF BLADE THAT CAN BE FOUND IN A KNIFE
There are two basic types of blades: stamped and forged.
- The stamped blades are manufactured by melting different metals and are shaped with a press tonnage.
- The forged blades are those that are part of steel is set to red and is shaped with a (manual) hammer or a hydraulic hammer (machining).
Stamped-blade knives tend to be less expensive than forged-blade knives.
The three most important qualities of a blade are its cutting ability, the ease of resetting it once dull, and its resistance to rust. These qualities are the result of the good quality of the steel, the correct applied heat treatment, called quenching, and the adequate performance of the subsequent manufacturing processes. They must be built with specialized machinery that does not degrade the metallographic structure achieved by heat treatment.
PARTS OF A KNIFE KNIVES BLADE
Defense or guard
Some knives have a metal part adjacent to the handle called the “defense” or guard, which helps balance the weight of the knife, as well as protecting the hand of the user.
A knife with an integrated metal guard and a blade and tang in one piece is a knife for many years of use.
Another part to consider is the “loin.” This is the edge directly opposite the cutting side of the blade, that is, the cutting edge. Forged knives have a thicker back because the cutting part of the blade is chamfered, which is not the case with a stamped knife whose thickness is generally more uniform. The tenderloin is occasionally used to crush or crunch things you don’t want to cut.
Tip and edge of kitchen knives
The point is the front quarter of the blade and it is with the part that the most delicate work is done. While the edge runs from the point before the guard and it is with the part that most of the cutting work is carried out.
In some types of knives such as santoku knives or a ham knife, oval “notches” called alveoli appear along the blade that is very useful, since they will prevent food from sticking.
TYPES OF MATERIALS FOR KNIFE BLADES
There are many types of materials and technologies for making kitchen knife blades. The different existing materials are:
Craft steels :
They are the ones used in the elaboration of the most manual cutlery.
- Carbon steel: the best steel for craft knives. It is not very resistant to rust and requires drying the piece immediately after use. It acquires sharpness quickly and easily and maintains it over time.
- BG42, ATS34 and 154CM stainless steel (all of them high-end steels): they have high edge retention and reach great hardness.
- Damascus steel: it is one of the oldest steels, more resistant and that better maintains the edge, being for that reason one of the most valued materials in cutlery. This steel is really forged by layers of different carbon content and other elements that result in a very resistant and flexible compound. The hardness, low brittleness, and cutting capacity come from this high amount of carbon and the different treatments to which it is subjected in hot forging and subsequent tempering.
Industrial steels :
- 440 or 420 stainless steel : It is more difficult to re-sharpen but holds the edge well and will not rust or alter with water or moisture.
Other Materials :
- Titanium: The blades made with this metal are stainless and have a weight reduction of up to 40%, compared to similar ones made of steel. Laboratory tests have determined that the metallographic structure of these leaves rejects bacteria.
- Ceramic: The great quality of this type of blade is its extraordinary cutting capacity, which is only comparable to natural diamond. The raw material with which they are made is a mixture of silica with zirconium oxide that is vitrified at more than 3,000ºC. Another advantage of this type of material is that it does not transmit flavors, but on the other hand, it should be noted that it is more delicate and easily damaged.
As you can see, there is much to learn about knives before venturing to choose, however, the user experience with each model will vary, so after knowing all the details, you should choose a knife that is comfortable in your hand and the best possible quality within your budget. It is better to invest in a good quality knife than in three of average quality.
At Alembique we have a wide selection of knives. If you want us to advise you in person, we will be happy to help you find the model that suits you and your needs.
By buying the right piece, your work will be easier when preparing your dishes and you will see a long-term saving of time and money.
THE EDGE OF THE KNIFE, SMOOTH OR SERRATED?
At a general level, knives can be separated into two large groups depending on whether they have a smooth or serrated edge. But it is already in this first division, where doubts begin when determining which edge is the best.
To facilitate understanding, we can divide all uses of the knife into two broad categories:
- Pressure cuts: It is the cut that is made by pushing the edge through the material to be cut. For example, when an apple is cut, the edge of the knife is pushed down the apple.
- Sliding cuts: This cut is basically made by sliding the edge of the knife through the material to be cut. For example, when slicing a tomato, the cutting edge slides through the tomato as you slice it.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE SMOOTH EDGE AND THE SERRATED EDGE
SMOOTH EDGE KITCHEN KNIVES
- They are best for pressure cuts.
- They offer better results for jobs such as peeling, carving or skinning as they mostly involve pressure cuts or the need for great control.
- They are most effective when you need more control, precision and perfect cuts, regardless of the type of cut to be made.
The softer the material to be cut, the smooth knives seem more effective for precision cutting.
If we need to cut by pressure, the smooth edge knives polished with coarse stone stand out for their versatility. Also, keep in mind that smooth edges are easier to sharpen than serrated edges, although serrated edges tend to hold the edge better.
SERRATED EDGE KITCHEN KNIVES
- Scroll cuts work best, especially on hard or tough surfaces, where teeth tend to tear and cut the surface easily.
- They are efficient on materials where the edge needs to go through the material faster and/or with greater force, such as frozen foods and foods with a stronger surface and a soft interior such as tomatoes or bread.
Part of the cutting power of serrated-edge knives are due to their format and even a serrated knife, despite not being very sharp, will generally be able to make a good sliding cut.
The serrated edges obtain their cutting power thanks to the fact that the highest points of the teeth are the ones that will first come into contact with the material and this implies a greater pressure per contact area than if the same force were applied to a knife of smooth edge. This allows serrated knives to more easily pierce the material to be cut
As a summary we would have:
|TYPES OF CUT||CUTTING SURFACE||SHARP|
|SMOOTH EDGE||Pressure and precision cutting (peel, carve or skin)||Soft surfaces||Sharpens easily|
|TOOTHED / SERRATED EDGE||Sliding cut||Very hard surfaces (frozen) or hard on the outside and soft on the inside (tomatoes or bread)||They take a long time to lose their edge|
We hope this post has been useful to you. Remember, choose your knives taking into account its general characteristics, the price you want to spend and also take into account the most common types of cuts that you are going to make.
In general, the ideal is to have a minimum selection of three to six knives; since the famous “knife for everything” is something that does not exist, but we will talk about this very soon in a future post… do not miss it !.
For today we are saying goodbye, proposing a little exercise: the next times you use a knife, stop and think for a moment about its edge, about what food you are using it and think about whether you think it is the right one. If in doubt, try a different edge, this will help you better understand your needs and make better choices in your future purchases.