A chef's knife, also known as a cook's knife, is an essential part of any kitchen. These are also different from Santoku knives.
A chef's knife can be used for chopping, mincing, and slicing all types of foods. While other knives may be more specialized than the chef's knife – such as boning or fillet knives – it would not be possible to do many of the fundamental tasks in the kitchen without a good quality chef's knife.
In this article, we give you an overview of what to look for when buying a chef knife and add some crucial information to know when it comes to a chef knife – let's dive deep into the topic.
What is a chef knife?
A chef's knife is a kitchen knife with a long blade that usually measures 20 to 30 cm (7.9-11.8 inches) in length and 1 cm (0.39 inch) to 2.5 cm (0.98 inches) in width, which is typically used for cutting large cuts of meat or slicing vegetables. It is the most versatile of kitchen knives and can be used for a multitude of tasks.
However, for all its versatility, there are certain limitations to using it and therefore a cook should also have other types of knives in the kitchen – such as a paring knife or cleaver.
According to the type of kitchen and the skill of the cook, a chef's knife can be used for anything from cutting small fruits to separating meat from bones. It is also used to crush garlic cloves and as a general-purpose knife for slicing bread and other foods.
Combining a good chef knife with stainless steel or nonstick cookware is something that should be given the right amount of thought.
Chef Knife parts
There are many different types of chef knives on the market that vary by brand, style, quality, and price range but they all have several common components which make up their basic anatomy: a handle, blade, bolster and tang. Let's take a closer look at each component.
1) Handle – The handle comes in two main styles; it can be either shaped ergonomically to fit comfortably in the hand of the user or it can be shaped to provide a large surface area for gripping. The latter is common on expensive chef knives or those used in professional kitchens where work is done under extreme pressure.
2) Blade – The blade has 4 main sections: heel, bolster, spine and tang.
The heel – which may come with a small indentation known as a ‘belly' which makes it easier to make smooth cuts in vegetables and other ingredients; should also be thick enough to withstand heavy pressure when cutting through larger pieces of food. It will usually taper gradually until reaching the bolster.
Bolster – this part of chef knife anatomy helps hold the blade and handle together and adds a distinctive style to the appearance of the knife. The bolster can be made from different materials such as steel or simply molded plastic; it also has a practical use as it helps keep your fingers safe while cutting into hard surfaces such as bones or frozen food. The width of the bolster will vary depending on what type of knife you are buying, with heavy-duty knives being thicker in this area than those designed for regular household use.
Spine – This part of chef knife anatomy is located opposite the heel and usually ends right before where the blade starts to taper. It is here that you will find information about the manufacturer, brand name, country of origin, and sometimes even an indication as to how many times the blade has been forged (although this information is not always reliable). The spine may also have additional features such as thumb or finger scallops cut into it to make the gripping of the handle easier.
Tang – the tang is located in chef knife anatomy where your hand grips the blade. It should be smooth so that food does not get stuck to it during use. In a high-quality chef's knife, the tang will run through the bolster and partway into the handle; however, cheaper knives often won't feature this full tang construction and instead have a rat-tail tang, which only extends halfway or less into the handle. This type of construction doesn't offer much grip and can even be uncomfortable for some people depending on the way their hands are shaped. Cheaper knives also frequently have plastic bolsters, which do not add any weight to the knife (making it feel lighter in your hand), but they can crack and warp if exposed to heat over long periods.
3) Handle – The handle is one of the most important parts of chef knife anatomy because it has so much contact with your body, so you want something that will be comfortable for hours at a time. It is usually made from wood or plastic although more expensive models may feature handles made from other materials such as copper or even animal horns; however, these types of handles are very rare and quite often impractical.
The shape of the handle depends on personal preference but I would recommend avoiding square or rectangular handles which don't feel comfortable in the hand. Instead, choose round or D-shaped handles which balance out the weight of the knife and make it easier to use for prolonged periods.
If you are thinking about buying your first professional chef's knife, then I would strongly recommend that you avoid molded plastic models as they do not offer much grip at all and often feel quite slippery – even if they have been coated with a non slip material such as TPE.
How to choose the best chef knife for you?
One of the most important factors when choosing the best, high quality quality chef's knife should be safety. This is why it's so important to look for models that have full tang construction, a sturdy bolster, and replaceable blades (which are not the same as sharpening). It shouldn't rust easily either or you will have to resharpen it more often.
Another crucial aspect is comfort; if you spend hours preparing food daily then you need something that won't become uncomfortable and start to feel heavy during use. A good chef's knife will also hold its edge between 20 and 30 times longer than cheaper knives, which means less time spent having to keep replacing it.
Considering chef knife safety
Chef's knives are one of the most useful tools in any kitchen. Finding a good quality chef's knife is important to do all kinds of cooking and preparation – especially when it comes to safety in the kitchen.
A chef's knife is an extremely sharp piece of kitchen equipment so it needs to be handled with great care at all times. When holding it, always remember that the blade can easily cut skin just like any other sharp object; have your other hand on the handle right away when putting down or picking up a chef's knife so that if there is any contact between the two hands whether through accidental slippage or dropping it while transferring weight, then no harm will come to either.
What's the difference between a chef knife and santoku?
A chef's knife is a single-edged all-purpose cutting instrument designed for preparing vegetables, meat, fish, and all other kinds of food in the kitchen. Santokus are a form of Japanese chef's knives that are similar in shape and design to Western Chef's knives. However, there are subtle differences and you should know them before buying one. The most noticeable difference is that the Santoku knife has a much more curved blade.
The shape of the blade is also different when compared to Western chef's knives with the Santoku having a wider blade that is flatter and not as tall. Overall, the design elements of Japanese knives are quite different from their Western counterparts so it's important to know what you're getting ahead of time if you want to purchase one.
Tips on how to care for your new knife
It is important to keep your knife in good shape if you want it to last a long time. Here are some tips on how you can care for your chef's knife:
1) Wash and dry the knife immediately after use. Never leave wet chef's knives lying around as this will encourage corrosion over time.
2) If the blade gets stained or rusty, then hold it under cold water while gently rubbing the affected area with the coarse side of a sponge until the rust is gone.
3) To clean dirt build-up off the serrated edge of your blade, soak it in soapy water and let it sit overnight. Then remove excess soapy residue by scrubbing with an old toothbrush before washing thoroughly with warm water and drying with a cloth.
Final thoughts on what a chef knife is
In conclusion, a chef's knife is a must in any kitchen. With many brands and styles to choose from, it is important to do your research before making this type of purchase.
Even when buying a cheaper model, you still want one that is well-made so that the handle and blade don't fall apart or snap, which will cause injuries. Don't forget about things like comfort and safety while using your chef's knife as this will be something that you'll have to get used to immediately upon purchasing one, especially if you're currently using an older non-ergonomically designed knife.