Advice on kitchen knives
- 1. What kitchen knife do I need?
- Large knives
- Small knives
- 2. What parts does a kitchen knife consist of?
- 3. How does the blade determine the quality of my kitchen knife?
- 4. What is the difference between a European and Japanese kitchen knife?
- European and Japanese knives
- 5. How does the hardness affect the quality of my kitchen knife?
- 6. How do you maintain a knife?
- Sharpening knives
- Storing knives
- Cleaning knives
1. What kitchen knife do I need?
What kitchen knife you need depends on what you want to use the knife for. We've listed the 6 most commonly used kitchen knives in a table. We'll compare the different knives, so the choice will be easier for you. Do you want a small knife to peel vegetables or a large knife to cut meat and fish? All you have to do is determine what you want to use the knife for, and what ingredients you're going to cut.
Chef's knife and santoku knife
- 20cm long on average
- Large and wide blade
- To cut meat, fish, vegetables, and herbs
- 20cm long on average
- Long and narrow blade
- To cut and carve meat, fish, poultry, and game
- 22cm long on average
- Large and serrated blade
- To cut and saw bread and soft food
- 10cm long on average
- Small and sturdy blade
- To cut, peep, and shell fruit and vegetables
- 10cm long on average
- Narrow and pointed blade
- To cut and peel vegetables, fruits, and herbs
- 8cm long on average
- Small and narrow blade
- To cut, peel, and garnish vegetables and fruit
2. What parts does a kitchen knife consist of?
When purchasing a kitchen knife, pay attention to the properties of the parts of the knife. Each type of knife has its own specifications, which suit the use.
3. How does the blade determine the quality of my kitchen knife?
Kitchen knives consist of a handle and blade. On some knives, the steel of the blade goes through the handle and is attached to the handle. These knives are die-cut. They were cut from one piece of steel and then sharpened. On other knives, the blade and handle are forged from one piece of steel. These knives are more expensive, but they're a lot harder than die-cut knives and more durable,because of the heat used to make them.
Every type of knife has a different type of blade. The blade shape and length depend on what you cut with it. The blade can also be fitted with dimples or holes. These prevent ingredients such as raw meat or soft cheese from sticking to the knife when you're cutting.
The edge of the blade is smooth or serrated. A blade with a smooth edge cuts cleanly. A blade with serrated edge is usually intended for ingredients with a hard crust, such as bread, or firm meat, such as steak.
Handle and blade together
The handle and the blade are made of one piece of metal. These are called forged knives. A special type of forged knife is a damask knife, which is made of Damascus steel. It consist of many layers of steel that are forged together. Industrial Damascus steel is cheaper than expertly manufactured Damascus steel and is often used for kitchen knives.
Separate handle and blade
The handle and the blade are attached. You often see a transition point, such as a weld seam. The handle can be made of different material than the blade. Ceramic blades are a good example of that. An advantage of a ceramic blade is that it's not susceptible to rust, but they are less durable.
4. What is the difference between a European and Japanese kitchen knife?
The cut determines the sharpness of the knife, among other things. In addition to uncut blades, like a palette knife, there are two kinds of double-sided, sharpened blades: European and Japanese.
European blades usually have a sharpening angle of 20 degrees per side, while Japanese blades have one of about 15 degrees. A narrower sharpening angle gives the knife a sharper cut, so you can cut with great precision and ease. This narrow sharpening angle is possible because the steel of Japanese knives is harder than the steel of European knives. Keep in mind that harder knives are more fragile.
European and Japanese knives
- Sharpening angle: 20 degrees
- Hardness: 56-58° Rockwell
- Less durable
- Sharpening angle: 15 degrees
- Hardness: 58°+ Rockwell
- More durable
5. How does the hardness affect the quality of my kitchen knife?
The blade of a knife usually consists of different types of metal that have been treated a certain way, and determine the hardness. This value is measured in Rockwell (HRC). The higher the value, the harder the steel. Hard steel means that your knife will stay sharp longer and less material is lost when sharpening. A disadvantage of very hard steel is that it's more likely to break. In general, knives with a high hardness are more expensive, but also more durable. It's an investment you'll enjoy for years to come.
- 56° Rockwell: cheaper to buy, dull faster, easy to sharpen, less likely to break
- 56-58° Rockwell: European knives, stay sharp long-term, likely to break
- 58° Rockwell: Japanese knives, stay sharp long-term, likely to break
6. How do you maintain a knife?
You can extend the life of a kitchen knife by maintaining it well. That's the only way it will provide desired result time after time. But how do you maintain knives the right way?
It's best to sharpen your kitchen knife once a month. It does depend on how often you use the knife and what the hardness of the knife is. Knives with a low hardness are more vulnerable and wear faster. You'll have to sharpen them more often than knives with high hardness.
There are 2 tricks to find out if you have to sharpen your knife.
- Visual inspection: point the knife with the cut to the light. Do you see the light reflect across the entire blade? You have to sharpen your knife.
- The tomato test. Your knife has to be able to cut a tomato in one movement without denting the tomato. If the tomato doesn't change shape, the knife is fine. If it does, you have to sharpen the knife!
A pull-through sharpener always sharpens your knife at the right angle. There's only one way to pull your knife through the sharpener. The pull-through sharpener consists of one or more cutting discs with a fine or coarse grain. You can easily sharpen the knife by pulling the blade along these discs. You don't have to put pressure on the knife. Repeat this movement 10 to 15 times. Sharpening a knife usually consists of two steps; sharpening and polishing.
A whetstone, or sharpening stone, can make sure your knife is very sharp. Often, a whetstone has a coarse and fine side. Always use the rough side to sharpen and the fine side to polish. Whetstones are made of abrasive grains. These abrasive grains sharpen nicely. If your knife is very blunt, you'll have to put the fold back in the blade. You can do so by sharpening the knife on the coarse grains, and then sharpen the knife on a fine grain.
In addition to sharpening tools, you can also choose a honing steel. These aren't suitable for sharpening knives, but can remove small burrs in the cut. This way, you can easily remove imperfections. A honing steel should be larger than your knife to achieve the intended result. Place the tip of the honing steel on a firm surface and hold the handle. Pull the knife from the back of the blade to the tip in 1 smooth motion. Make this movement 5 to 10 times on each side of the blade. Now, your knife is ready to carve.
A good knife deserves good protection. For your own safety, but also for the knife. Never store your kitchen knives in a drawer or cutlery tray. If it touches other (steel) kitchen utensils, the knife becomes blunt faster. A knife block, magnetic strip, or protective cover are three ways to safely and neatly store your knife.
Kitchen knives will keep up well if you clean them the right way. If you don't, the knife can rust and the quality of the blade will reduce. Moisture, heat, and salt are bad for your knife. We advise against cleaning your knives in the dishwasher.
If you still want to clean your kitchen knives in the dishwasher, put the knife in the dishwasher with the blade upwards, so that the water runs straight down and rust formation is reduced to a minimum. After using the dishwasher, you should always clean and dry the blade.