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Splurge or Save on Cutlery Knives

What Influences Knife Prices


Quality Cutlery Knives

Quality Cutlery Knives

Photo © Mifflin
Before you can consider whether to splurge or save on kitchen knives, you need to understand the differences in knife composition and how they affect the bottom line. This will help you muddle through the vast range of knife prices to find a set that meets your needs and budget.

While you can generally feel the difference quality makes in a knife just by holding it in your hand, how well the blade will hold its edge or how long it will last, is not always that evident. Since most consumers don't usually conduct handling comparisons in the store before buying knives, it's best to know the qualities of a good knife, to get the best value for your money.

Knife Blade Composition

The blade of course, is the most important knife component. It affects cutting performance, as well as durability and handling. Knife blades are either stamped - cut or punched from a sheet of steel, or forged - metal is shaped or formed after being heated. A forged blade is much stronger and more expensive. This type of blade is easier to sharpen and holds its edge longer.

Blade materials include various composites of steel and the higher the steel quality (such as in German or Japanese steel), the more durable the knife. A high quality stainless will also reduce the risk of pitting and staining. Ceramic knife blades are a different breed altogether. They're pricey and require special care and storing.

Knife blades are either partial or full tang. A full tang blade that extends into the handle is the best. It gives the knife balance and durability.

Blades can have various serrated patterns or have a straight edge, with or without a bevel. A serrated edge is great for slicing bread or tomatoes and this blade type usually stays sharp a long time. Unlike a straight edge, serrated blades usually are not sharpened because the process is very tedious and requires special sharpening tools. They are however, more economical. On the other hand, a straight edge knife can be sharpened and the blade restored as required.

An extension of the blade and a component that signals a better knife and increases the value, is a well-defined, comfortable bolster.

Basic, Simple Knife Sharpening

Knife Handle Construction

Once the preferred handle, wood has lost some popularity of late, mostly because of the care needed to keep this natural material in good condition. A wooden handled knife should never be subjected to long periods of excess heat or water, nor should it be cleaned in a dishwasher.

For this reason, more durable poly composites or stainless handles which may or may not be more economical depending on the specific construction, more easily fit into our busy homes. Some compositions look and feel like wood, but are easy to care for. A smooth, stainless handle is considered the best type for inhibiting bacterial growth, since this design is easier to wash and has no crevices.

How the handle is attached to the blade is important for a durable knife. A knife with a full tang, attached to the handle with three rivets, is the preferred design. Handle shape affects control as well as comfort. Before buying quality knives, I'd recommend handling them to see how they fit and feel in your hand.

Learn more about knife handle compositions in Just Handle it!

A Well-Balanced Knife

A high quality full-tang knife will be constructed to achieve a perfect balance in the hand. Ultimately, balance affects control which in turn improves performance and safety. This is one knife detail that is well worth the extra cost. A cheaper knife, though functional, will not usually be well-balanced.

Knife Brands & Prices

As with other consumer goods, a major brand name can be considered a status symbol and it's no different with knives. In other words, paying at the extreme high end of the price range for good knives, does not necessarily guarantee better performance than what you would get with those in the mid to high range.

So, Should You Splurge or Save on Knives?

When you're faced with your first knife purchase, consider your needs - whether singles or a knife set would be more practical. Regardless of whether you're a chef-in-training or simply want functional kitchen tools to prepare meals, quality knives do improve performance, will last longer, are more comfortable in the hand and are often safer.

However, not everyone can afford a pricey set of knives and you can always upgrade your set, or even singles as the budget allows. Some households have functioned for years with a basic, economical set of cutlery knives. When buying starter knives, you can often find cheaper models with at least full-tang blades, bolsters, sturdy handles and stainless compositions. And though serrated blades are very handy, a straight edge can more easily be sharpened. When buying knives, remember to factor in the cost of essential knife accessories such as storage, a knife steel and one or two cutting boards. Proper knife storage is extremely important as it helps to protect the edge, as well as the knife point.

When you do upgrade to a better quality knife, you'll immediately know it. As with 18/0 and 18/10 flatware, or single-layer versus encapsulated cookware, you can feel the difference quality makes, see improved performance and enjoy your investment for years to come.

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Learn About Ceramic Knives:

Ceramic Knives:

Ceramic knives can also be considered specialty knives simply because of their different nature, since their use and care differs from the traditional steel kitchen knives. There's also less choice when it comes to ceramic knives and it's essential that you know what you can do with one and how to care for them.

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