What is a Chef's Knife? Do I need a Chef's Knife? Different types of Chef's Knives? We answer these questions and every other you might have about Chef's Knives.
A chef’s knife is the universal knife used by everyone in the kitchens of this continent, whether they are private home cooks or professionals working in the kitchens of this country: It is required for and capable of being used for nearly all tasks. When cutting vegetables, meat, or fish, when weighing herbs, or when chopping, this large, wide, and pointed knife bring absolute joy to the user.
- What is a Chef's Knife?
- Differences and Advantages compared to the Santoku
- Chef Knife Blades: A wide Range of Steels to advanced Ceramics
- Pro and Cons of different Blade Steel
- Buying criteria for the Chef's Knife
- How to take care of a Chef's Knife
What is a Chef’s Knife?
On a broad scale, there are three different multi-talented knives: the Japanese Santoku, the Japanese Gyuto (a fantastic all-rounder with a strong emphasis on meat), and the traditional European chef’s knife (all-rounder). The latter, in particular, deserves further examination.
Even in the earliest days of European culinary culture, a knife had to be a multipurpose instrument. On the plate, we Westerners traditionally chop our meal into bite-sized pieces, as is customary. The use of a knife that is not intended for small-scale cutting or chopping, but rather for portioning coarse food of any kind, is recommended for this purpose. It should not be overly sensitive. In order to accommodate this, the European chef’s knife is fairly heavy, measuring approximately 8 inches (ca. 20 cm) in length, and has a blade height at the handle of 1.5 inches (ca. 4 cm) to 2 inches (ca. 5 cm).
Its high blade has a distinctive profile, as well as a distinctive cross-sectional shape. In the tip, a strongly increased cutting edge meets an almost straight back of the blade, which is curved throughout its entire length.
When it comes to traditional knives, the blade is narrower at the handle end than at the front end, and the handle end is usually blunt: this is known as ricasso. Forged specimens of high quality are thickened at this point, forming what is known as the bolster, which serves as a serious and stabilizing transition from the blade to the handle and center of gravity of the universal cutter. In any case, the chef’s knife does not cut over the entire length of the blade, but the fingers of the cutting hand are protected.
In the handle, the line of the blade spine is carried over from the blade. The handle’s shape also reflects the instrument’s purpose as a durable working tool; it is frequently intended to be very firm to the touch while also being easy on the hand and wrist.
Despite its versatility, the European chef’s knife is not the only type of kitchen knife that we are familiar with, despite the fact that the phrases are sometimes used interchangeably.
Differences and Advantages compared to the Santoku
When compared to its Japanese cousin, the most noticeable variation is the fundamental shape of the blade and the direction of the bevel (cutting edge): In comparison to the Japanese Santoko, a European chef’s knife has a cutting edge line that is curved more towards the back (medium to back pointed). European-style chef’s knives have a unique shape that is ideal for filleting and skinning meat, as well as for general cutting duties. Among the characteristics of the Santoku are its blunt-angled tip and a blade back that is firmly contoured at its front end (wading point). The Santoku form is particularly well suited for the very delicate chopping of vegetables and meat, as demonstrated above. It is, on the other hand, completely ineffective for filleting and peeling. The European chef’s knife is superior in this situation. In the event that you cut and fillet a large amount of meat and fish, you should consider purchasing a Gyuto, which is also quite ideal for this task.
The rocker or cradle cut, which is a highly common cutting method for chef’s knives, is enabled by three characteristics:
A longer blade, a stronger curvature of the bevel at the front, more weight with the center of gravity at the bolster, and a stronger curvature of the bevel at the front. However, the cutting edge of the knife remains permanently in contact with the cutting board, while the hand that holds the knife moves in a circular motion from top to bottom to front. The other hand holds the food to be cut in the claw grip and, with the knuckles resting against the knife blade, pushes it toward the cutting edge, slice after slice, as the claw grip is applied. It can, however, be chopped or cut just as effectively with a fine chef’s knife.
A European professional chef’s knife is more flexible, somewhat thicker overall, and tougher than a Santoku or Gyuto, and it is made of high-quality stainless steel. As a result, it can handle enormous and heavy objects such as pumpkins without breaking, and it will not take offense if you do not take offense right away. Its tip can also be used for piercing and cutting, which is impossible with a Santoku because of the shape of the blade.
If we are talking about steel hardness, the blade steel of chef’s knives is frequently less hard in favor of stability, and consequently less sharply grindable than the steel used in Japanese kitchen knives. Cutting work necessitates a little more effort because their ogival wedge angles are only 20 to 25 degrees, which means they are slightly crowned. The larger total weight more than makes up for this. Furthermore, even as a beginner, you will find it easier to learn the admittedly more regularly required sharpening than it will be to remove a hard and brittle Santoku blade from its sheath.
Chef Knife Blades: A wide Range of Steels to advanced Ceramics
As previously stated, European chef’s knives, which frequently have a hardness of little more than 58 HRC, are typically fashioned with softer, less cutting, but more durable knife steels. Meanwhile, various producers have improved specific alloys, forging, and honing procedures to the point where there is enough variety for every need and price.
Pro and Cons of different Blade Steel
Extra hard non-stainless Yasuki steels, such as a typical White paper Shirogami or Blue paper Aogami, are uncommon in European or American chef’s knives. Premium manufacturers, on the other hand, now employ good carbon steels such as HRC 60.
Advantages: Carbon steel knives are extremely hard for optimum sharpness, and they also cut effectively, are simple to sharpen, and are reasonably priced.
Disadvantages: The upkeep necessary for rust protection, and especially the brittleness, are antithetical to the idea of a simple everyday knife for hard labor. A nick or a broken tip can rapidly render a nice piece unusable.
Suitable for you if cautious handling and anti-rust care are not an issue, and you place a high value on sharpness and edge retention at a low price.
The right knife for purists and enthusiasts.
Stainless Knife Steel
Chef’s knives with stainless steel blades are excellent to good for everyday use, depending on the manufacturer.
VG MAX, VG12, VG10 (V-Gold-10), VG5 from Japan – listed in descending order of carbon content and hardness. Or the good-value X50 CrMoV15 blade steel. They all stand for modern steel qualities, with a balanced relationship between ease of maintenance and good cutting properties.
Advantages: Almost all steels are corrosion-resistant, durable, and cut-resistant, and this is true for virtually all of them. The greatest characteristics, then, for a classic European or American chef’s knife.
Disadvantages: Although the quality is good to very high, the sharpness is not the best, and it requires a bit more regular touch-ups.
If you are seeking a chef’s knife that is both sturdy and indestructible at a fair price, this is the knife for you.
The true all-rounder for occasional to professional cooks.
Three-layer Damascus Blades
This blade consists of a hard, partially non-rust-resistant core steel, which is strong and partially non-rust resistant. Two outer layers of rolled lamination are used to create the Damascus appearance. There are not many classic European chef’s knives in this style left in the world. The European premium producers frequently go straight to “genuine” wild Damascus. The entire blade is made up of multiple layers of Damascus and thus has an impact on the cutting qualities as well as the overall look of the knife.
Advantages: At the cutting edge, the hard core steel with suitable sharpness is exposed. The Damascus steel outer layers add a little to the blade’s flexibility and corrosion resistance, but more to the blade’s admittedly interesting appearance.
Disadvantages: Very sharp edges are brittle and susceptible to breakage, with or without beautiful-looking damask layers. Rolled laminate with a high-quality core layer comes at a cost; everything else is of no practical use in this context.
Suitable for you if you like Damascus graining and want to spend a few euros more for good core steel.
The Damascus knife is a source of inspiration for many cooks who have an eye for aesthetics.
Genuine Damascus steel: Hand forged
Wild Damascus steel is made up of many layers of repeatedly folded and hand-forged steel grades, which mix the qualities of many different steels to create a unique alloy. Typically, a very hard, brittle steel is coupled with slightly harder steel in order to combine the advantages of both steels or to compensate for flaws in either steel alone. True Damascus knives, manufactured in the traditional manner, exhibit the characteristic grain all the way to the cutting edge, which also benefits from the combination.
Advantages: The blade combines the features of several different steels and retains its distinctive characteristics for many years to decades, even after countless sharpening cycles are performed on it.
Disadvantages: Hand forging is an extremely expensive process. The anticipated 10% even greater quality as compared to good mono steel knives costs many times more than the excellent mono steel blades.
Suitable for you, if for you the very best is just good enough and you are missing only this one dream knife.
Ultimate, uncompromising material of a universal knife for life: for extreme chefs.
Modern Ceramic Blades
Ceramic knife blades are mostly composed of white to dark gray aluminum or zirconium dioxide – a material that may be unfamiliar to some people at first glance.
Advantages: High-quality (!) ceramic knives are extremely hard and have unrivaled edge retention: resharpening is not available. Furthermore, these innovative materials are hypoallergenic and extremely inexpensive.
Disadvantages: The blades are not as sharp as steel blades. The main disadvantage is the brittleness, which increases the chance of blade breakage and nicking.
If you need a cheap, sharp, undemanding knife that does not have to do heavy lifting, this is the knife for you.
For occasional use, it is quite adequate.
Buying criteria for the Chef’s Knife
This is what you need to consider:
- For those who prefer the cradle cut over the chop and frequently cut meat, a universal European style chef’s knife is the best choice. The Santoku technique is more up-and-down than the other techniques.
- The right material is determined by the purpose and personal preferences. If you spend a lot of time in the kitchen and need something that is both sturdy and affordable, VG5 or VG10 stainless steel can be the ideal choice for you. You will discover what you are seeking for among the PM steels or authentic Damascus steels if you are more of a very ambitious hobby chef that appreciates excellent cooking culture as well as exquisite instruments.
- For beginners, a chef’s knife with a somewhat shorter blade and a prominent bolster is extremely useful for practicing with while cooking.
- In order to prevent the sticking of cuttings, dimples (regularly ground dents) or rustic hammer marks in the surface of the blade are used. Their utility is debatable, which is why they have a higher aesthetic value than they do functionally.
- It is virtually always ergonomic in design when it comes to the handle of high-quality chef’s knives: Try it out! Pay close attention to the material used for the handle. Oil should be used to maintain the appearance of the handle if it is made of real wood. Some of the best chef’s knives are available with high-quality plastic handles, while others are available in more contemporary all-metal designs.
- A solid sense of balance is especially necessary while using a heavier chef’s knife. The center of gravity should be exactly midway between the blade and the handle of the knife or sword.
- In general, we recommend that you pick renowned products that have a large number of significant user reviews. Even good material might be rendered worthless if it is improperly handled.
How to take care of a Chef’s Knife
- Above all, cut on a wooden or plastic board rather than a solid, hard surface.
- When it comes to blades, we do not recommend using a dishwashing machine. If you intend to use your Deba Knife for an extended period of time, it is best to clean it by hand immediately after use. If the blade is not made from stainless steel, lightly oil it. Traditionally, camellia oil is advised for this process. Also, do not forget to lubricate the wooden handles from time to time.
- For resharpening, do not use a sharpening steel or a non-ceramic sharpening rod. It is preferable to use a medium to fine-grained whetstone. Certain materials should only be sharpened by specialists or professionals using specialized tools. Consult the manufacturer.
- Never bundle or stack knives of high quality on top of or close to each other. Separately, store them in a knife block or on a magnetic bar to keep them organized.
Chef’s knives in the European style are all-purpose knives designed for everyday usage and have a characteristic cradle cut on the blade. As a result, invest in a high-quality brand knife because only such knives are truly enjoyable to use when cutting meat, vegetables, and herbs, and they will last for years. Choose the material that best meets your needs and preferences. Even for a relatively small sum of money, you can have high-quality Solingen products; however, if you prefer more superficial optics, you can spend a little more.
We have a page dedicated to the best Chef’s Knives for you. Please take a look at this very good Chef’s Knife Made in the USA! If you like to take a look at Japanese-style Chef’s Knives, we have you covered as well.