I tested highly-rated chef’s knives by dicing, slicing and chopping a variety of foods over the course of years.
In the end, a razor-keen all-rounder that can handle any job, two classic workhorses that are excellent for tough tasks, a scalpel-sharp tool for those demanding surgical precision, a wonderful featherweight knife and a best-value pick. Read on to learn what makes a great chef’s knife. A knife is probably the only kitchen tool you must use every single time you prepare food. Even a stove can be optional-you can do without it to make a salad, say, or tartare, but a good chef’s knife is indispensable.
About two and a half million years ago, some pre-human ancestor used a crude stone blade to cut up a carcass. The ability to cut up meat, share it, store it and carry it, allowed us to consume more calories and to relate to each other differently. Our tools got more sophisticated and our cooperation improved-the whole progression of human history sparked by the knife. For the purposes of this story, I limited the testing to eight-inch, Western-style or hybrid Japanese-Western chef’s knives with a list price under $200, though most cost significantly less than that.
The much-simplified big picture is that if you are looking for an all-purpose 8-inch chef’s knife-one that’s in a reasonable price range and carried by most retailers-you have a choice between heavier, German-style models (like Wüsthof), which are usually made with slightly softer steel alloys (“alloy” just means a mix of different metals), or lighter Japanese-style models (like Shun), which are usually made with harder steel alloys. A harder steel holds a sharper edge for a longer period of time, but can be more difficult to sharpen once it does get dull.
Molybdenum, for instance, is often used to give a very hard steel more flexibility. Speaking very generally, a harder steel is sharper and more delicate, while a softer steel is tougher. If you’re shopping for a knife, you can ask where it falls on the Rockwell Hardness Scale. Low to mid 50s is on the softer end, mid-50s to low 60s is hard.
Article credit: Food & Wine
Photo credit: I Like To Waste My Time