How to Check the Quality of a Chef's Knife
When buying knives for a kitchen, whether you're a professional chef or just looking to buy knives for everyday cooking, it's always a good idea to know what you're getting for your money. There are countless knife brands ranging from basic to high quality, and you need to know that you're buying something that suits your needs - at the right price.
Here are some ways to tell the quality of a knife or knife set, to give you a better idea of what you're getting for your money. This article is worth reading whether you cook for a living, or you're looking for a new knife block for your kitchen.
What are knives to you?
Of course, the first thing you'll want to check on a knife is the blade quality. The packaging on the knife, whether it's sold individually or part of a set or a block, will have lots of information about the knife itself. Look for these key features of a good quality knife blade:
- Is it carbon stainless steel?
- Does it contain Molybdenum Vanadium? This is one of the finest chromes in steel for a knife which gives the blade stronger and harder.
- How long is the guarantee? Some knives are guaranteed to last 10, 20 or even 30 years. This guarantee means that if your knife breaks or fails in some way, you can get a full refund. The sales assistant will tell you that your receipt is the guarantee for your knives.
The blade itself is important, but the handle also plays a very important role in the quality of a knife. A knife where the blade runs right into the handle is an excellent choice; knives that don't have this feature have a higher risk of the handle snapping off. If the steel runs right through the handle like in this picture, it's a sturdier blade all round.
Are you buying the knife for yourself or as a gift? For some people who have trouble with their grip, there are knives designed with easy-grip handles. Brands that offer this feature include Laser Soft Touch and Gripi. Gripi's blades are slightly better quality, but Laser Soft Touch blades are serated, which means they never need to be sharpened.
A lot of shops that specialise in kitchenware, such as ProCook or Amefa, have a small demo area with a chopping board, where you can slice vegetables and test the knives. If you're thinking of investing in some knives, don't be shy to try out the demo area and see how the handle feels, and how easily the blade cuts through the vegetables. You can be told so much about a knife, but the only way for you to know is by trying it out yourself.
The Rockwell Rating
A great way to check the quality of the steel in the blade is to see what the Rockwell rating is. The Rockwell scale measures the hardness and strength of the steel.
Let's take a V-Sabatier knife as an example. V-Sabatier are good knives that are popular for most kitchens. The Rockwell rating (as you would see on the packaging) for a V-Sabatier knife is 55HRC. The British standard is 52HRC. Another example is a Japanese Midori knife. These are fantastic knives, folded and manufactured in the same way as a samurai sword. The Rockwell rating for the Midori knife is about as good as it can get without the steel getting brittle, and that's 60.
If you're looking for a high quality knife, anything between 55 and 60HRC is a good rating. Between 50 and 55 is good for a decent kitchen knife.
There are some great "starter" knife sets that are perfect for someone who's moved into a new home, or someone who cooks now and then who just needs some replacement knives.
Cucina are an affordable and decent knife set; in a 15 piece block, you get steak knives, a sharpening steel and a pair of scissors as well as the basic knives included in a block. They're usually between £35 and £45 ($60 to $75 US dollars).
V-Sabatier and Kyu are examples of slightly higher quality knife sets, with a higher Rockwell rating and longer guarantee.
For chefs and professionals, brands such as 1839 and Midori are an excellent choice. The knives come individually (you cannot buy them as a set), and they have a much higher quality handle and steel. 1839 knives have rosewood handles for extra luxury.
There are many more brands and types of knives out there, and your choice will depend on your personal taste. In short, remember to check the rockwell rating, try out the knife if possible, and pay attention to the quality of the handle. Check how long the guarantee is, and hold onto the receipt in case of trouble. Knives are an important part of cooking and sometimes quite a big investment, so be sure that you're getting something good for your money.