Every cook needs a good knife. It's the one thing you can't do without in the kitchen. If you can only have one good knife, a chef's knife is what you want. The chef knife is the workhorse of the kitchen and your most essential cooking tool. A chef's knife typically has a blade between 8- and 10-inches long and is the most suitable for the greatest variety of tasks. A high quality chef's knife will run you between $100 and $200 (or considerably more!), but if properly taken care of it will last a lifetime.
What should I look for in a chef knife? There are two main factors you should be aware of.
1. A good quality knife will be from a high carbon steel. High carbon steel will take and hold a sharp edge.
2. The knife handle is very important. There are wood handles, synthetic handles, even metal handles - in a variety of shapes and styles. The most important thing about the handle is how it feels to you. Pick it up in the store, hold it. How does it feel? You will use this knife for hundreds of hours over its lifetime. The handle should feel comfortable, balanced, and solidly attached to the blade.
So, what are some of the best chef knives? Here is a list of my favorites.
Another Japanese company, Shun blades are made in the Damascus style with VG-10 super steel which is covered with sixteen layers of high-carbon stainless steel. VG-10 super steel is composed of carbon, chromium, cobalt, manganese, molybdenum, silicon and vanadium. This type of blade has a nonstick quality. The D-shaped handles are made of black pakkawood (available in right- or left-handed models.) A very beautiful knife and a favorite of Alton Brown, host of the Food Network's Good Eats.
Global is a Japanese knife company that produces some very beautiful, yet functional knives. A favorite with professional chefs, the blades are extremely sharp and perfectly balanced. They are made from cromova 18 stainless steel, which holds its edge longer than other steels. The knives are also very lightweight, which reduces hand fatigue. The handles are a metal extension of the blade with dimples for a non-slip grip.
Wusthof is a very reputable German company that has been making knives for a very long time. Their knives are thick and heavy in the German style and will stand up to the most brutal punishment in the kitchen. The blades are high carbon stainless-steel which sharpen easily. This is another traditional favorite of professional chefs.
All New West knives are beautiful, hand-crafted knives with elegant wooden handles. I really love their Fusionwood 2.0 line made with powder metal super steel CPM S35VN combined with the revolutionary plunge ground, tapered tang blade - modern metallurgy meets old world craftsmanship. The metal blade technology creates a carbide rich, super fine grain structure with performance characteristics much greater than traditionally wrought steels.
The Fusionwood handle consists of layers of dyed veneers of select hardwood which are then impregnated with a proprietary engineering grade resin. Since the resin is pulled into the wood using a vacuum process, there is no surface treatment to deteriorate.
A German company, Henckel five-star knife blades are made from friodur ice-hardened stainless steel. These blades are very sharp and hold their edge for a long time. The handles are ergonomically designed and made from polypropylene for a very comfortable grip.
Sabatier knives are made by the 150-year-old French company, Theirs-Issard. The blades are pure carbon steel, which make them softer then most blades. This means the blade is easier to sharpen to a razor sharp edge, but you have to do it more often. Also, 100% carbon steel will oxidize and rust if exposed too much to water. French knives are more narrow than their German counterparts.
This American company produces some of the sharpest knives around and is recommended by such famous chefs as Charlie Trotter, Thomas Keller, Hubert Keller, and Nobu Matsuhisa. The blades are made of high carbon chrome molybdenum with vanadium. The knives are narrow in the French style, but are light and flexible like some Japanese knives.
Another high quality knife produced in Japan. The blades are 440 Molybdenum for long lasting sharpness and ease of sharpening. The handles are comfortable water-resistant wood. A favorite of many professional chefs.
Do you have a favorite knife or a favorite brand? Do you have good story about your knife? Share your opinion with others.