The chef’s knife is a general utility knife used in food preparation, also called a cook’s knife or a French knife. Most chef’s knives have a blade that is 8 inches in length, although modern ones are available with blades that range from 6 to 14 inches in length. Regardless of the blade length, a chef’s knife is the “go-to” knife designed to perform well at a variety of kitchen tasks like mincing, slicing, and chopping meats and vegetables, as well as disjointing large cuts of meat or seafood.
A good sharp chef’s knife is important to have in your kitchen. Choosing the right Chef’s knife for your kitchen should depend mostly on personal preference, but more often the price turns out to be the major deciding factor. The good news is that chef’s knives have a tremendous range in prices from under $20 to over $300. When investigating your options, I recommend that you invest in a good quality chef’s knife from a trusted brand that will serve you well for many years instead of going for the best (or lowest) price. This is because investing in a quality blade will allow you to prepare your meals more efficiently with better knife handling and less effort. In turn, these benefits will reduce the amount of time you need in preparing ingredients and hence the amount of exposure to “volatile” ingredients like onions.
To make things complicated, different chef’s knives are constructed from several different materials such as carbon steel, stainless steel, titanium, ceramic, and even plastic. I’m not going to go into detail about each of the different materials, but within each different material of chef’s knife, there is also a wide range of prices. If you are concerned about spending too much on a knife, I suggest you choose one lower price chef’s knife for the tougher everyday tasks such as chopping carrots and other hard fruits/vegetables, disjointing large cuts of meat, or opening crab and lobster. Then invest in a better quality chef’s knife to have in addition to the cheaper one, to use for the more delicate tasks like butterflying shrimp and other meats, slicing onions, carving poultry, and trimming fat from meat. You will appreciate have a very sharp, good quality chef’s knife for these purposes.
Before I delve deeper into the topic of chef’s knives, you should be familiar with certain parts of the knife anatomy:
1 Point. This is the most fragile part of the blade and used for piercing.
2 Spine. The back edge or top of the blade. It’s the thickest portion of the blade.
3 Tip. This is the front portion of the blade, which is used for delicate carving and is curved differently in every knife.
4 Edge. This is the cutting surface or sharp portion of the entire blade, which is either straight or serrated.
5 Heel. This is the back portion of the blade where the most force can be applied for cutting.
6 Bolster. This is the thickest portion of metal (continuous with the blade) that ads weight and balance important when cutting.
7 Rivets. Although these pins are not visible in all knives, they serve to secure the metal to the handle. Rivets are typical of knives with wooden handles.
8 Scales. This is the handle material on both sides of the metal that can be made of wood, plastic, stainless steel, or a composite.
9 Tang. This is the portion continuous with the blade that extends into the center of the handle to give the knife stability, connection to the handle, and weight balance. Full tang means that the blade goes all the way through the handle.
10 Butt. This is the end of the handle, which is different for every knife. The butt of some knives is continuous with the metal blade, as it is with the Calphalon series shown here. In others it consists of the handle only, or a combination of the handle material and the metal.
I deliberately have two chef’s knives. I have the Calphalon LX Series Cutlery 8″ Chefs Knife that is the more affordable one.
Its blade is constructed of durable German steel with triple rivets. It has a fully forged blade, bolster and tang designed to give you full comfort, efficiency, balance, and superior strength. The handle is made from a Burmese walnut block, and it has a smooth texture and ergonomic grip. It weights 250 grams (8.8 ounces). The blade is 8 inches long from point to bolster, and 13 inches including the handle to the butt. I find this knife remains plentifully sharp even through regular use, and it does re-sharpen easily. From my experience, it cuts through carrots and apples with very little effort, and it’s sharp enough to shave meet into very thin slices.
I prefer to hone my chef’s knife at the end of every day just to maintain its sharp edge. However, it’s not necessary to hone or sharpen your knife absolutely every time you use it. I find that it stays sharp after long tasks; I have used it to cut a whole rack of pork ribs and it is still sharp after moving on to the next rack of ribs.
This LX Series Chefs Knife has a more “German” style blade, where the tip is more curved to allow for a good chopping in an efficient rocking motion.
I also own the Calphalon Katana Cutlery 8-Inch VG Chef’s Knife. The Katana series of knives features 33 layers of VG-1 Japanese stainless steel imparting exceptional sharpness and edge retention.
The ripples you see on the blade’s surface are high carbon rustproof “Damascus style” variegated surface. This wavy lustrous pattern is also seen in many swords and weapons of Oriental origin, but was first practiced in the city of Damascus (capital of Syria), and should not be confused with the process of damascening. In fact, the name “Katana” comes from the traditional Japanese swords worn by the samurai class, which were also constructed by forging high carbon stainless steel.
It has a unique integrated bolster design for smooth slicing and a straighter ergonomic handle made from polyresin. Polyresin handles give the more desirable appearance of wood without the associated sanitation concerns cracking/peeling problems associated with wooden handles. The integrated bolster give it a distinctive style with increased control and precision.
I find that the Katana Chef’s Knife is truly exceptionally sharp, and it has a feel of ease and versatility when cutting. The unbelievable sharpness comes from using the Honbazuke method, where the artisan hones the Katana knife to an angle between 9.5 and 12 degrees per side. The Katana chef’s knife is slightly heavier than the LX series knife, weighing 262 grams (9.2 ounces), but I find that it feels good and extremely balanced when holding it.
This Katana series chef’s knife has the “French” style blade, where the blade is straighter throughout its whole length to allow for easier slicing in a back and forth motion. This is actually a more traditional blade design.
I recommend that you find your best pairing of chef’s knives when outfitting your kitchen. I started my new kitchen with the Calphalon LX Chefs Knife and later purchased the Katana Series Chef’s Knife a few months down the road. I found it infinitely useful to have these two chef’s knives; sometimes when I’m preparing large feasts for many guests, I would designate the Katana for cutting raw meat and the LX chef’s knife for cutting vegetables.
However, if you are trying to decide between the two, I find that the Katana chef’s knife is far better in terms of ease of use, blade sharpness, and knife control. If you compare the profiles of these chef’s knives, you will see that the Katana knife has a straighter design as a whole, with a sloping handle. The LX series chef’s knife has a curvier design overall.
The Katana knife’s design allows for more proper knife handling and a more gentle cutting motion. I also like the Oriental appearance of the Damascus style blade. And although both chef’s knives have solid black handles, only the LX series handle is made from wood and hence has triple rivets. The most unique difference between these two knives is the direction in which the tang runs through the handle. In the Katana knife, the tang runs horizontally through the handle. The LX series knife has a vertically placed tang, which is the more common orientation.
Either of these Calphalon chef’s knives are great choices for any daily task in the kitchen. Calphalon is a trusted brand and the beauty of choosing this brand is that it provides professional quality for any home chef purposes without breaking the bank.
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