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Before You Before You Buy Kitchen Knives - Kitchen Knife Buying Tips

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Whether you're shopping for cutlery knives for the first time or choosing to upgrade your current set, these buying tips will give you an idea of what to look for in a knife and will hopefully help make your purchase a satisfactory one.

Single Knife vs a Knife Set

There are often savings to be had buying a knife set, rather than buying singles. A set often includes a knife steel and handy safe storage - accessories that can add up. Some opt for a budget set and then add a professional quality knife or set as the budget allows. This strategy gives you all the essentials initially with upgrades to follow. Specialty knives such as a Santoku or cheese knife, are not usually included in a knife set and must be purchased separately. Since quality construction can increase the price considerably, be budget-wise when shopping for these essentials; you can always upgrade later.

Essentials Knives

To be able to pare, cut, slice and dice, you need the basic knife essentials which include:
  • Two sizes of paring knives - to core fruit, peel and slice vegetables and other tasks
  • A utility knife around 6" long - for slicing meat and vegetables, plus various chopping needs, usually with a non-serrated blade edge
  • A serrated utility knife - handy for slicing tomatoes
  • A bread knife - long serrated blade for slicing bread and buns
  • A Chef's knife - has a long sharp blade for slicing meats, dicing, chopping.

Specialty 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.
Steel Specialty Knives:
  • A bread knife - has a long serrated blade for clean, even bread slices or for slicing buns. While some would consider a knife bread an essential, others choose to forgo this knife entirely
  • A Santoku - a versatile knife for chopping, slicing, cutting
  • A boning or fillet knife - has a flexible blade to remove meat from bone, slice tomatoes, or fillet fish
  • A cheese knife - a short wide knife with a cut pattern in the blade, that makes it easy to release the cheese when slicing.
  • Steak knives - sold as a set, these serrated knives easily slice through steak and other tough cuts of meat

Knife Blade Construction

Knife construction can impact handling as well as durability. A full tang blade extends from the tip of the blade to the end of the handle making the knife stronger. And when the handle is attached to the full tang blade by three or more rivets, the knife is considered very durable. While you may not notice a difference between a stamped or forged blade, a forged blade is sharper and quality-constructed. Hardened steel blades are desired for strength and durability.

Knife Handle Construction

Composite or resin handles are often the cheapest and easiest to care for as they can be placed in the dishwasher. They're also very durable, while wooden handles though preferred, require more care to keep them from drying and cracking. Stainless steel handles are more durable but can feel cold in the hand and can become slippery when wet. A combination of stainless and non-slip materials is ideal for comfort and function. A well defined bolster helps balance the knife. When buying knives, take time to handle them to ensure a good fit in your hand which is crucial to safe handling.

Knife Accessories

In order to keep knives in top condition, you need a knife sharpener, a knife steel or sharpening stone. Though it requires a little practice, sharpening a blade with a knife steel is fairly easy and will restore the edge. To keep the blades from pitting/staining, always dry knives completely before storing.

Safe Knife Storage

While you can place sharp knives directly in a drawer with other utensils, doing so creates a hazard with a high risk of injury. The safest way to store knives is either in a knife block, on a knife magnetic strip, in shields or guards, stored in their presentation boxes or in a specially designed knife holder. Knife blades will retain their edge longer when safely stored.

More About Knife Care

Knife care tips:
  • Always carefully hand wash sharp knives and dry completely
  • Protect knife tips from dings and breaks
  • Use only as intended - never use a knife to open a can, remove staples or other uses
  • Store safely
  • Keep out of reach of small children
  • Serrated knives may/may not be sharpened - follow manufacturer's recommendations.
  • If you must use a dishwasher, place knife points down to avoid injury
  • Knives with wooden handles should not be washed in a dishwasher

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