Now that’s a knife!Posted: June 3, 2011
With all due respect to Crocodile Dundee, we don’t all walk around with an all-purpose bowie knife. For people who don’t chase down gazelles for a living , cutlery is confined to the kitchen. When you find yourself facing the decision to purchase one or more pieces, you can feel like a fish out of water. Not unlike our friend Mr. Dundee.
There are many considerations: price, manufacturer, type of knife…the list goes on. However, we consistently tell our customers that the most important characteristic in choosing a new knife is “feel.” If it feels awkward or tough to manage, you won’t use the knife or, worse, you’ll use it incorrectly. Along with that, we recommend knives that have:
–A full tang, which is where the metal flows straight through the tip of the knife, all the way down the handle.
–Some version of an extended warranty. Well respected manufacturers tend to have no trouble standing behind their work.
–Quality materials. If the previous two points have already been met, it’s likely this one has, as well.
We have narrowed what we carry down to a few categories. Today, we’ll check out different materials; steel, carbon and ceramic.
Fante’s selection of steel cutlery breaks down into two sub-categories: stainless steel (which most home cooks are familiar with) and carbon steel.
Each has their pros and cons. Stainless steel cutlery offers easier upkeep and non-reactivity. Carbon steel is reactive to foods, and will develop a patina over time. Pure carbon knives also take a sharper edge than stainless steel knives. However, this can be like splitting hairs for home cooks, who many times will not notice the edge difference. Both high-quality stainless and pure carbon knives produce a great edge. Again, the true test comes down to feel.
What is stainless steel?
Stainless Steel is a common name for metal alloys that consist of 10.5% or more Chromium (Cr) and more than 50% Iron (Fe).
Although it is called “stainless”, a better term for it is “highly stain resistant”. A somewhat dark metal, it looks bright because it reflects light.
What about carbon steel?
The higher the carbon content, the less formable and the tougher the steel becomes. Its hardness makes it suitable for things such as cutting edges, and other high-wear applications like plow blades. Carbon thus helps makes the edge easier to sharpen, and helps retain a sharp edge longer.
The biggest differences in working with carbon steel knives versus high-carbon stainless steel knives is upkeep and cleaning. Carbon knives must be stored totally dry, since rust will form much easier on these. Also, ‘honing’ your knife is a must with just about every use of a carbon steel blade. Of course, with both types, we recommend hand washing. Keep them out of the dish washer!
We carry the Therias et L’Econome brand of Sabatier cutlery, a respected name in knife manufacturing for 6 generations.
-very, very sharp
-very,very,very minimal upkeep
The blades are also chemically inert and will not break or shatter if dropped (contrary to what you may think, this is not your grandma’s ceramic). The brand carried by Fante’s, Kyocera, boasts a base material of zirconium oxide, which was originally developed in industrial applications where hardness, wear resistance and non-reactivity are necessary. Metal components don’t quite reach such standards.
When buying a knife, research is certainly important, but how the knife feels in your hand is paramount. Be sure to read up, but also visit your local kitchenware shop (cough, Fante’s), and check out the selection for yourself. Ask questions, but most importantly, take the knives for a test-mince. You’ll be happy you did.
We haven’t even scratched the surface of knife information. There are other important factors such as upkeep, maintenance and choosing the right knife for the job. Check back soon for more information on upkeep, an in-depth on how knives are made and more. In the meantime, for more, check out this helpful link from our friends at EdgeCraft, which debunks some myths about high-end cutlery.