When you start out in the culinary world, you want to have all the cool toys. In fact, if you happen to go to Culinary school you may spend a significant amount of money on a set of knives... and while it is fun, the only knife you TRULY need is a Chef's knife... which by the way is what makes a chef's knife such a GREAT gift.
Unlike every other knife, a Chef's knife is good for it all... be it slicing, dicing, chopping or mincing. The point of a good knife is for it to be pleasurable, precise, and effortless. A Chef's knife is a tool that you will use every day, so its worth spending a few bucks on a good one... but you should also treat it with love and care.
A good quality knife will last decades if you look after it well so it’s well worth investing a bit of time in getting the right one.
HOW MUCH SHOULD A CHEF KNIFE COST?
You can spend as little or as much as you want for a good knife. There are uses for knives worth as little as $10 as well as for $10,000 pieces. At the end of the day, the price of something is determined by how much someone is willing to pay for it.
We believe a good starting knife should not cost more than $100 and that anything above $250 is a luxury. In fact, this is the criteria our friends from the Grill Master's Boutique used when looking for knives.
The price of a knife is primarily determined by the quality of the steel used and the craftmanship. Good blades will usually be of Carbon Steel (sharper, harder to maintain, prone to rust and chipping) or Stainless Steel (loses sharpness but as indestructible as a knife can be). The good news, is you do not have to choose as you can find something that is a blend... for example "high-carbon stainless steel" which offer the best of both worlds.
For us, the best blades are those made with VG-10 steel and of course. Damascus steel. In fact, those are the ONLY knives sold at the Grill Master's Boutique.
VG-10 steel is usually referred to as super steel. It is a very high end stainless steel. It has vanadium which gives it extra toughness. This steel holds an edge really well. It is also very rust resistant. It has a carbon content of 0.95-1.05%.
Damascus steel is the most unique, and the name actually comes from the technique of folding steel by a complex process... Damascus steel is recognize by its wavy patterned design. Aside from its sleek look and beautiful aesthetics, Damascus steel is highly valued as it is hard and flexible while maintaining a sharp edge. Arguably VG-10 blades may be superior to Damascus Steel blades (it depends on the materials of the Damascus blade). However, possessing and utilizing a Damascus steel blade is more about personal style and respect for the time and process to develop such a blade.
If a knife is hand-crafted that will also be reflected in the price. Like everything in life, the smaller the supply... the higher the price. Making a high quality knife, a forged knife, is hard work. Particularly Damascus steel and multi-layer VG-10 blades.
Some knives are made with a cookie-cutter mold and model. Those can be excellent, but less unique. The best and most unique knives are usually forged by hand and this is a much more involved process. Forged knives usually present a better balance and also present a higher price point.
Last but not least may also pay a "premium" for certain brands. When you buy from a known brand, you’re paying for the expectation of quality, warranty and customer service.
There is also a "retail premium", If you go to a store, like Sur La Table or Williams-Sonoma you are going to be paying a significant retail markup. If you buy online, you will usually save a bit of money but lose the chance to actually "handle" the knife before buying.
Some experts consider the handle to be the third important factor. We digress as we find the handle to be part of the craftmanship and everyone will enjoy a different handle. Good handles will have a good grip, be solid and use high quality materials. Most higher end brands will only use excellent handles.
WHAT SIZE SHOULD MY CHEF KNIFE BE?
The most popular knives for home use are 8 – 10 inches in length. However, you want a knife that will be comfortable to use. The size of your hands and your height will make a difference.
We recommend a knife that is roughly the same length of your forearm. But if you are looking for a gift you can usually go by the persons height.
If you are less than 5'4" you should keep your knife small, 6 inches is the preferred size of the blade. The most common knife that will be perfect for most users will be 7-8 inches.
Experienced users who are tall and have big hands will certainly enjoy larger knives, 9-10 inches.
Anything above that will most likely be cumbersome. Anything smaller will probably just feel right, but will leave you wanting. Note that the smaller the knife, the easier it is to control it.
WEIGHT IS IMPORTANT
The weight of the knife is almost as important as the blade. You usually want a knife that is light, particularly if you are going for precision. However, heavier knifes can be more comfortable for larger users.
STYLE IS IMPORTANT
There are MANY styles of knives out there. We find the traditional Western "Chef" knife (aka: Gyuto) to be the best bet for every day use and are great for everything.
The Santoku is the "Japanese Style Chef knife" is Japan's take on an all-purpose knife. However it doesn't have a curve to the blade and you can't really "rock them". Santoku knives are best used for slicing, dicing, and mincing. They’re often shorter and thinner than your chef’s knife, meaning you’ll be a bit more agile as you work. This helps combat hand fatigue and compensates for the fact that you have to actually chop and not rock.
For the "traditional" home chef or American chef, either knife will work well although we do prefer the Traditional Chef knife (aka: Gyuto) over the Santoku style. That said, why not have one of each?
OUR CHOICE OF KNIFE
At The Grill Master's Boutique we work with Tojiro, which is one of the top 5 kitchen knife manufacturing brands in Japan, but is rarely exported. The company has been making knives for over 65 years and the expertise and craftmanship can be traced back to the 17th century.
The Tojiro factory is actually open to the public, you can experience how these highly skilled blacksmiths, led by knife-master Tomo Matsumura, make these beautiful knives from scratch.
We find Tojiro knives to offer one of the best value propositions in the market of high end chef knives. Knife experts and professional chefs around the world consider Tojiro to be up there with the leading brands in the world. Tojiro offers a good quality knife at a great price, they look awesome, feel great and are authentically Japanese.
READY TO BUY A KNIFE?
Check out the knife collection at the GrillMaster's Boutique