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How to Choose a Chef's Knife
Finding the Best Chef Knife
The Chef’s Knife is arguably the most important knife in your kitchen, bosting a versatility like no other blade, this single knife can help you get a lot done. Known as a ‘cook’s knife’ in some circles, most versions range from 6-12”, featuring a broad blade tapered to a point, and capable of tackling most tasks.
Given the importance of this tool, care and consideration are warranted when deciding which make and model is the best chef knife for your needs.
In this Vertoku guide, we’ll cover every detail you need to evaluate when choosing a chef’s knife. From the type of steel to how it was made, we’ve got you covered.
Without further ado, let’s dive right in shall we?
The Right Weight
Weight is important. You want something that feels solid in-hand, yet comfortable over long periods of time without causing too much hand fatigue. Those dealing with thicker or denser cuts and food items may want to err on the heavier side, while those dealing with more delicate foods, or who work with their knife for hours on end may prefer a lighter model. A good range is between 180-240 grams (6.35-8.5 oz.).
TIP: If you’re buying online and cannot hold the knife in person, find a knife you already own that is similar in weight to get a better idea. Or test out a generic cheap knife in-store at your local big box store.
Balance is one of the key features that sets professionally engineered high-quality kitchen knives from ‘cheap’ mass-produced models. The right balance invokes confidence, improves skill, enhances efficiency and performance, reduces the risk of injury and hand fatigue.
A well-balanced knife is like a good dance partner, anticipating your every move and adjusting to make your motions fluid, smooth and effortless.
Turns Out, Size Does Matter
Although largely up to personal preference there are some logical reasons why you may want to lean towards the longer or shorter end of the spectrum. For reference, most chef’s knives are between 7-10 inches, with those in the 8” range being among the most popular.
Hand Size: Yep, your anatomy plays a role here. For example, those with petite hands may find that the larger 9-10 inch models feel a bit unwieldy or awkward to maneuver.
Intended Use: If you often cook with larger food items or in bulk, a larger knife blade can really come in handy. While a shorter blade offers a bit more precision and grace.
Other Knives in your Cabinet: This is an often forgotten consideration. For example, if you already have a good Santoku, you likely don’t need a smaller chef’s knife due to the overlap in performance. But a large chef’s knife might help you bridge the gap between the Santoku and larger tasks. On the other hand, if you don’t have a Santoku, a chef knife of medium size is a good general all-purpose option that covers a lot of ground. Be sure to also check out our latest article, How to Use Chef Knives.
It goes without saying that the handle should feel safe, secure and comfortable in your hand. The design should be ergonomic so as to reduce wrist strain. It should also provide ample clearance on the underside so that you don’t scrape your knuckles when chopping.
TIP: Some blades have indentations or molds intended to increase grip. However, if your hand doesn’t align perfectly with these, they can cause more problems than good. They also can make precise delicate maneuvers more difficult or awkward.
The Type of Steel Used
Cheap stainless steel is the hallmark of mass-produced low-quality knives. One dead giveaway that low quality steel was used for production is the lack of disclosure about the blade’s steel.
By contrast, Vertoku uses a superior blend of High Carbon VG10 Damascus Steel with 66 layers (impressive to say the least). As you can imagine, this performs lightyears better than a cheap stamped stainless-steel blade from Target.
Professional grade cutlery is commonly made from VG-10 steel. This unique Japanese-grade steel is well-known for its’ durability, superior edge retention and impressive sharpness.
Forged VS Stamped Chef Knives
Forged knives are superior in every way to cheap ‘stamped’ knives, yet the majority of seemingly good quality chef knives on the shelves of big-box stores are ‘stamped’.
Stamped knives are made by a hydraulic machine press, ‘stamping’ out the form of a knife in a metal mold. These are easy to make, fast to produce, and cheap.
Forged knives by contrast, are made from heated steel hammered under a drop hammer, and compressed under pressure. From there they undergo a ‘honing’ process to get the right shape and edge. The result is a superior blade that is highly durable, impressively sharp, and perfectly balanced.
Finding the Best Chef Knife Doesn’t Have to Be Hard
Despite the vast selection of options at your fingertips, with a little guidance and research, you can quickly cut through the noise and find a chef’s knife that you’ll be proud to use for years to come.