What Makes A Good Chefs Knife?
German Chefs Knife, French Chefs Knife, Japanese Chefs Knife?
Does A Quality Handle Matter?
We Help You Decide!
Should I Care? What Style Chef's Knife Is
Best For Me?
For most people, the chef's knife, or Kitchen Knife, is an indispensable tool for preparing food. The Best French, German, or Japanese Chef's Knife is the one that's right for you! It can peel, slice, dice, chop, and help get any meal ready for cooking in a timely and efficient manner. But why is this workhorse so good at so many tasks? Let's explore.
You DESERVE A Good Chefs Knife-
"The kitchen knife, cook's knife, chef's knife, santoku, or gyuto is the most used single tool in the house for many of us. To be continually disappointed by dull, cheap knives is something I can't understand. If you cook for yourself or your family, you DESERVE a great kitchen knife!"
It takes a bit of thought and design, testing and planning, to produce a good chef's knife style. The edge needs enough upward curve, or "belly," to facilitate the rocking chop motion familiar to most professional knife users. There should also be a small flat on the edge profile back toward the heel or handle end to let you know that you've reached the end of this chop stroke and are ready to begin another. The quality handle should nestle in the palm of your hand with a little swell to provide a firm grip. It should also give a solid hold when using the pinch grip, my favorite! And, of course, there must be enough clearance under the handle so your knuckles don't bump the cutting board!
There are three major schools of thought, and styles of chefs knives(or kitchen knives, or French knives). They have some similarities and a few differences. Read on:
GERMAN Chef's Knife--
The German style of chef's knife is thick and heavy, with the edge curve (belly) beginning somewhere behind the midpoint of the blade length. These knives are for heavier tasks and they're built tough.
FRENCH Chef's Knife--
French chefs knives are somewhat lighter and thinner, with the belly beginning well forward of the midpoint of blade length. This style of knife was so common in French restaurant kitchens that the entire style is often just called a French Knife or Kitchen Knife.
JAPANESE Chef's Knife--
Japanese knives are thinner than their European brethren and have slightly different profiles and names. Two styles might come to mind when comparing to chef's knives, though. The Gyuto is similar in length, not so tall, with only a slight belly toward the tip. The Santoku has a gentle curve to the entire length of the blade, much like a chair rocker. Typical of Japanese kitchen knives are the non-stainless carbon steel chefs knives with very high hardness, 63-65HRc.
Many mass-produced chef's knives from MAJOR knife making companies gloss over the type of steel they use. Sure, they will tell you "premium stainless", or "high carbon", but almost never the exact composition, or even the hardness they ran it to. The steel, and the heat treatment of that steel, are forever the heart of your knife. You have the right to know WHICH steel, and WHAT HARDNESS it is. All of my stainless steel chef's knives are made of AEB-L Stainless steel (unless you request otherwise), developed for the razor blade industry and sold by Uddeholm Sweden. It has a very fine grain and carbide structure, good stain resistance, EXCELLENT toughness, and can easily reach working hardnesses of 63HRc and more for kitchen use, which is my goal. With a manageable cost per blade, good edge retention and very easy to sharpen, I believe AEB-L to be the right choice for most kitchen knives. Having said that, my duty as a Custom Knife Maker is to craft the knife you want, and that is why we offer a variety of steels. We offer three high carbon steels, two high carbon stainless steels, and three tool steels from which to choose for the home kitchen or professional environment! Included are AEB-L, CPM MagnaCut, CPM M4, A2, D2, 52100, 80CRV2, and 26C3.
One of the major benefits of custom made knives is simply this. All knives sold by Keith Nix Knives are cryogenically treated with Liquid Nitrogen. Learn why HERE!
The great and world renowned bladesmith Devin Thomas says this on AEB-L:
From Devin Thomas at devinthomas.com:
"Few know what AEB-L steel is, and those that do, only have heard that it is similar to 440B or 440A. The only similarities between AEB-L and 440B or 440A is the amount of carbon. The fact that AEB-L has only 12.8% chromium by weight compared to the 16-17% in 440A and 440B makes the steels quite different. AEB-L is more similar to a stainless 52100 than 440A. A copy of AEB-L called 13C26 is made by Sandvik. AEB-L naturally forms what is called the K2 carbide, the harder of the two chromium carbides, compared to the K1 carbide, which is formed in steels such as 440C. The K2 carbide is about 79 on the Rockwell C scale, compared to 72 for the K1 carbide. Through proper heat treatment, AEB-L has fine, evenly distributed K2 carbides. AEB-L lies almost perfectly on what is called the "Carbon Saturation Line", which means that all of the carbides formed are precipitated carbides, not primary carbides like are formed in 440C, and there is more carbon and a similar amount chromium in solution as compared to 440C. Primary carbides are very large. So, through a balanced composition, AEB-L has excellent toughness, edge retention, workability, ease of sharpening, and ease of polishing.
AEB-L was developed for the razor blade industry, is a stainless steel capable of high working hardness and extremely keen edges. An air hardening steel, it is one of the toughest stainless steels available. Cryogenic treatment in liquid nitrogen adds to strength and hardness."
I make my knives with a gentle "soft drink bottle" shaped handle I designed, with a palm swell to fit into your hand and help with grip. It's definitely easier to hold on to, and easier to know where the knife is in your hand. For home chefs I use your choice of wood for aesthetics, as the wood adds warmth and another layer of beauty to the work. The wood has been stabilized, or impregnated with a polymer resin under alternating vacuum and pressure, then baked at a specific temperature to harden the resin. This makes the wood far less likely to swell and shrink with changes in moisture and humidity.
All my handcrafted kitchen knives can be customized to a length suitable for your style. We're far more concerned with making a knife that fits your hand, than holding onto to some time worn tradition of what a French Knife or a Gyuto should look like! I've made chef's knives out to 10", and as short as 6". Petite Chef's Knives are available from 5.5"to 7" and from 2" tall to 1.5" tall. We WILL accommodate your needs!
All custom made kitchen knife handles are finished with a blend of oils and hardeners designed originally for gunstock use, called Tru-Oil. It is a hard use finish to further protect the wood and define the unique grain and colors of your handle.
Finally, I believe the difference between a good chef's knife and a GREAT chef's knife is in large part dependent on the thickness of the blade itself. Chef's knives are slicers, and as such should have a thin blade, ground and sharpened to a low angle for parting veggies and meats with little effort and great precision. Our Japanese knifemaking brethren are so right about this aspect of knifemaking.
We offer many styles of kitchen knives at Keith Nix Knives including paring knives, boning knives, cleavers, carving and slicing blades, Japanese knives, and petite chefs knives. Take a look at the online store now, Just click here!
More FREE Learning!
Click here to learn about knife steel properties and how alloys alter them!
Click here to learn about knife types and styles.
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Thanks for reading,