Every professional kitchen has its share of powerful food processors, but at the end of the day the chef’s knife is the most valuable tool in cook’s arsenal. It is never far from her hand. So what are the components of the true chef’s knife?
Between 6 and 12 inches long, most chef knife blades are made of stainless steel with a high carbon content. This blend of metals helps to keep the edge sharp for a long time but also won’t rust or stain like regular carbon steel. Blades can be made from anything, including ceramic, titanium or even plastic. The term is sometimes incorrectly used to refer to the actual cutting edge.
How the work gets done. The angle of the cutting edge is important, and very sharp edges are kept sharpened at between 10-15 degrees,(meaning a 20-30 degree angle). Keeping the blade sharp on a chef’s knife is an entire industry in itself. A Granton edge refers to a series of shallow indentations along the edge which are designed to stop food from sticking to the blade. Granton edges are common on santoku knives but are also seen on chef knives.
Right at the end of the blade and possibly the most fragile part of the knife, the tip is used to quickly cut through small items such as onions.
A chef’s knife spine runs along the top of the blade opposite the cutting edge. It supports the entire blade and as a rule of thumb, the thicker the better. As a chef will many times rock the knife back and forth using the other hand on the top, a spine should not have any sharp edge.
The bolster is the thick portion of steel located at the top of the handle. A thick bolster helps keep the chef’s hand from slipping down onto the blade and provides additional balance to the knife. The presence of a bolster usually indicates that a steel knife has been forged rather than rolled or stamped from a sheet of metal.
Most chefs do not grip then entire handle but rather pinch part of the blade. However, the handle is of course very important-it must be comfortable and fit the chef’s hand. As they will generally work in wet conditions, a good handle must also be non-slip.For years, chef’s knife handles were usually made entirely of wood. However, wood can harbor bacteria that can spread and cause food-related illness. Since knives generally should not be put into a dishwasher, no
sterilization occurs during cleaning.
Nowadays, most wood handles are actually a composite of wood and another material such as a plastic resin. This is called a stabilized laminate and it allows the knife to retain the high-quality look of rich wood yet stay relatively bacteria-free. Knife handles are also made of plastic, rubber or entirely stainless steel. While steel handles are easy to keep clean, they add a lot of weight to the knife which can be tiring for the chef.
The extension of the piece of steel that makes up the blade into the handle is called the tang. The tang provides needed strength where the handle meets the blade and helps provide additional balance. If the tang reaches all the way to the base it is called “full tang.” The best chef’s knives are almost always full tang.
Located at the rear of the blade where it joins the handle, the heel is usually The widest part of the knife. The cutting edge at the bottom of the heel is used for splitting hard items lobster shells or bone.
These are the (usually) metal studs that attach the tang portion of the knife to the handle, and is most commonly found in wooden handles. The tops should be smooth and completely flush with the handle surface.
The best chef’s knife will contain high-quality components, of course, but some chef knives do not contain all these elements. For example, Global knives do not have rivets-seeking instead to appear as one seamless expanse of stainless steel.
Check out our reviews on the following chef knives: