Good kitchen knives give a new dimension to cooking. But which or which kitchen knives should we choose, and how do we make them last?
Knives have been around longer than we have been able to travel between continents. So they have been invented in parallel in different places on earth for the same application, but with completely different designs.
Today, a knife is not only a tool in the kitchen, but it has also become an interior detail and status symbol. Many people spend a lot of money on their kitchens and kitchen utensils and exclusive kitchen knives are often allowed to hang in front so that they are visible. Therefore, it has also become more and more focused on the appearance of the knives.
World champions in creating good kitchen knives are the Japanese. Their knives are mythical and a blacksmith in Japan has a high status. Japanese kitchen knives are generally harder and sharpened at a steeper angle than European ones and therefore have thinner tips. There, too, the aesthetic design has a long tradition.
When it’s time to buy a new kitchen knife, it’s not easy to choose from the endless variety on the market. The knives are large and small, long, short, narrow, more square in shape, with straight edges, sharp saw teeth or wave-shaped. There are different materials in blade and shaft, make and price ranges and they have different uses.
What is the first thing to consider when choosing a kitchen knife?
The reason is that you should choose a kitchen knife that feels good in your hand. You will hopefully live with that for the rest of your life. At least if it’s a more expensive knife.
What distinguishes an expensive kitchen knife from a cheap one is the steel, the handle and the time it takes to manufacture. A cheaper knife often has softer steel than a more expensive one. The Japanese are generally tougher than European, they use a more hardened steel. When choosing kitchen knives, the old motto usually holds that expensive is better than cheap.
However, the purpose of a kitchen knife is to cut bread, meat, fish, and vegetables, and as long as you keep it sharp, it works okay. If you are only interested in the function, you can thus come a long way with a cheaper kitchen knife. But it also often ends up in the dishwasher automatically, which causes both the shaft and the blade to get worn and damaged.
A kitchen knife should never be run in the dishwasher. If you are afraid of it being washed by hand, dried and hung up, it will last longer.
What you are happy with is not only controlled by how good a kitchen knife is, but how much better it is compared to the old one. And there is another dimension to consider when choosing a kitchen knife – that cooking is a creative occupation.
When it comes to the weight of kitchen knives, they were previously considered to weigh more than today.
But there is really no chef who wants the knife to weigh an extra hectare when working with it.
Chef knife, fillet knife, and bread knife
Nakirin has the same area of use as the chef knife, ie cutting meat and vegetables, it just looks different. The stripes in the Nakiri knife show that it is made of Damascus steel – an advanced method of applying many layers to the knife so that it becomes harder and can be thinner. The Japanese also have another variant Santoku.
A knife that has evolved from what we usually have at home is the bread knife. Traditionally, it has had pointed peaks, like a saw.
But the bread you cut with it will definitely crumble a lot. It actually works better with wave-shaped tops. When you try a really good bread knife you will be surprised.
The bread knife is usually the last to be replaced in the kitchen equipment. It is a kind of saw and therefore does not become dull in the same way as a regular knife.
Fillet knives in Europe are thin and flexible, so the blades are soft. In Japan, they are stronger, completely blunt in the blade and only ground on one side. The area of application is the same and the result is just as good. But different countries use different technologies when sharpening.
Ceramic or steel?
Ceramics are tougher than steel, which makes it last longer. However, it is harder to grind and the recommendation is that a ceramic knife is replaced when it becomes dull. It is particularly suitable for vegetables and fruits that easily darken as this process takes longer when the vegetables have contact with ceramics compared to steel.
What kitchen knives should you have at home?
At a minimum, you should have four knives in the household. A chef knife, a smaller peel, fruit and vegetable knife, a medium-sized knife for onions, herbs and smaller meals when the big one feels a little clumsy, and a bread knife. In addition, you should have a cheap kitchen knife that you can be used at a slightly tougher time, like dividing the crab or the lobster. The cheaper knives are softer and often withstand the handling better. Hard cured knives are sharper and better in many ways, but also brittle if you cut through bones, for example.
Sharpen the knife
The most important thing about a kitchen knife is that it is sharp. As the knife goes down the cutting board, the outermost part of the knife folds slightly, which means it should be reset – every time after it has been used.
Sharpening steel looks like a long rod with grooves on both sides. You put the knife closest to the handle, angle it slightly and pull it toward the top. Then you do the same on the other side and do so three to four times. Keeping the kitchen knife with the sharpening steel is like cleaning the shoes – it must be done often. When you sharpen the knife it is like soldering the shoes.
The decay of the kitchen knife begins on day one when you have used the knife. The most devoted have a grindstone at home and grind themselves, but the smoothest thing is, of course, to hand in and have a professional take care of them.