It's easy to become seduced with the latest kitchen gadgetry, which is most likely to end up in the back of a drawer with missing pieces. Now the knife, there's no prep, no installation, just pick it up and you're off and it's a lot easier to clean than a food processor. Besides, food processors, can't make those clever little culinary creatures out of vegetables or fruit.
There's a lot to consider when purchasing a Chef's knife. First and most importantly is the type of blade. A good quality Chef Knife should have a tang that goes completely through the handle. Here's a rundown of the advantages and disadvantages:
Carbon Steel Blade - They're tough and have a great edge, but the blade becomes discolored when using it on acidic tomatoes and fruits. They also have a tendency to rust.
Stainless Steel Blade - They don't rust, but they don't keep a sharp edge either.
High Carbon Stainless Steel Blade - They’re tough, don't discolor and hold an edge. The carbon adds strength to the stainless. They also cost a bit more.
Titanium Blade - Better than steel and much more wear resistance. Best for boning and filleting.
The handle of a Chef's knife is equally as important. The four most common type of handles are made with wood, plastic, composite or metal.
Wooden Handles - Traditionally, Chef Knives handles are wooden, but in a commercial food service setting, many local health departments prohibit their use because bacteria can grow in tiny cracks. The handles can also become warped or cracked when introduced to liquids.
Plastic Handles - Micro-organisms can't seep in and grow, but because the plastic is lightweight, plastic handles can't provide a correct balance. The handle can also dry and crack.
Composite Handles - A composite handle is made with laminated wood composites integrated with resin. It looks and feels like wood. It's easy to handle and is as safe as plastic, plus it's dishwasher safe. Probably your best bet when considering a high quality, durable and lasting handle.
Metal Handles - They don't provide a good balance because the handle is too heavy and if the handle gets wet it becomes slippery.
Point – The point is where the edge and spine come together. It's most often used for piercing.
Tip – The tip is the forward part of the knife and includes the knife point. It's useful for detailed or delicate cutting.
Edge – The edge is the cutting part of the blade. It extends from the point to the heel of the knife.
Heel - The heel is the widest part of the knife. It's used for chopping harder foods like carrots, nuts and chicken bones.
Spine - The spine is the top of the knife blade, opposite the knife edge.
Bolster - The bolster is the band that joins the blade of the knife to the handle. The bolster provides balance for the knife and also helps to protect your hand from getting in the way of the knife's edge.
Tang - The tang is the extension of the blade that goes through the handle.
Scales – The scales are the part of the knife that creates the handle. Scales are often made of synthetic material or wood. Two scales are typically attached to the tang with rivets.
Rivets – The rivets are metal pins used to join the scales to the tang to form the handle.
Butt – The butt is the end of the knife handle.