Let’s get a couple of things cleared up from the off here; we’re looking at function, not aesthetics. Furthermore, we’re comparing like for like; we’re not putting a boning knife up against a cleaver.
So, now we have before us a dozen chef’s knives. We’ve selected them for our preferred style of cutting and holding, and we’re about to meaningfully engage our ingredients in battle on the chopping board. What will set them apart?
Geometry, materials and comfort. And the secret sauce.
What characteristics make a comfortable chef’s knife?
We’ll start off with comfort, as that’s the easy one. If, after a good 30 minutes or an hour of having your way with a box full of leeks your hands hurt, then that’s not a very good sign.
The knife should feel balanced and light. It should go exactly where you want it to. Your knife shouldn’t rub, catch or slip from your grasp – and neither should you have to hold it too tightly.
As an aside, for this reason and because of the importance of hardness (as we’ve discussed before) we very strongly believe that knives can only be properly assessed after at least a full day’s work with them – so bear that in mind next time you’re scouring the interweb for reviews.
Does knife blade geometry affect quality?
And so on to geometry, a great deal of which manifests itself as comfort, so we’re covered on that aspect. For the blade itself, it’s about the line of the cutting edge – does it rock and slice and dice and cut smoothly and meet the chopping board consistently and comfortably? It does? Good.
While we’re at the business end, let’s have a look at the bottom couple of millimetres of the blade. The knife edge should be sharp and symmetrical, and we’d hope to see an angle of around 15º on the bevel, because our Savernake steel is good enough to take it.
But if we’re trying to force an inverted pyramid through our carrots, we’re not going to have a good time. We believe that one of the single biggest differences between a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ knife is the thickness of the blade immediately behind the cutting edge – something which is nearly .75mm thick will require twice the cutting force as something .3mm thick, while delivering a starkly poorer slice.
What’s the best knife material?
Now, all this geometry can be achieved with a cheap bit of steel and any old rubbish for the handle. But if you want it to last and to deliver chopping nirvana day-in, day-out, then you’ll need a knife made from premium materials. Good steel at the right hardness and a handle material that you find pleasing to the touch and functional will equate to the perfect chop.
Above and beyond all of this is the secret sauce; passion, skill and devotion.
On the one hand, you can have access to the finest cellars and food halls of Fortnum & Mason and Harrods to prepare your own supper. On the flipside, you can go and experience the mind-blowing wonders of somewhere like the French Laundry.
The difference is not the ingredients or the intent, or maybe even the recipe – the difference is in the maker and the making. As it is with dinner, so it is with knives.
Why don’t you create your own Savernake custom knife? You design it, we handcraft it. Alternatively, peruse the entire Savernake Knives range and don’t hesitate to get in touch if we can be of assistance.