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Choosing the Right Kitchen Cutlery
Kitchen knives come in all sizes and shapes. Each small variation results in a different use. There are long ones, short ones, wide ones, narrow ones, curved ones, angled ones and the list goes on and on. They are made from carbon steel, stainless steel, stamped steel ceramic or even plastic. The better knives are balanced so as they are being used they do not feel awkward. By awkward I mean they feel heavy or light at the pointed end. Proper balance eases the strain on the user. Grips or handles have made great advances further easing the strain on the user. Sharpness is also a key factor in easing the strain on the user. The type of edge used for a particular cutting or slicing project is very important.
The size and shape of the knife determines its primary use. The cook’s or chef’s knife is used for the heavy duty cutting needed in the kitchen. It is normally a longer, heavy constructed knife that will handle the abuse of the overzealous cook. Slicing, dicing, and chopping are some of the primary uses of the cook’s knife. The slicing knife is for use in slicing food such as ham or large cuts of meat. The Bread knife normally has a thin serrated blade. The serrated blade allows it to easily slice through a loaf of bread or a tomato without crushing or tearing. The steak knife is normally a smaller version of the slicing knife, designed for individual use. The knife used most often by any cook is the paring knife. It is a small knife that is easy to handle and can be used for cutting, peeling and dicing fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, etc.
The way knives are constructed determines several things. There are several types of material used in the manufacturing of the blade material.
Carbon Steel blades are made from iron with about 2% carbon. This blade is easily sharpened and holds its edge well. The down side of this is they tend rust if they are not dried immediately after washing. Over time they obtain a dark color considered to be the sign of a quality knife. The higher the percentage of carbon to iron, the better the blade.
Stainless Steel blades are made from an alloy of iron with 10-15 % chromium, maybe some nickel and molybdenum with only a very small amount of carbon. This type of material cannot be sharpened as sharp as the carbon steel blade, but it is very resistant to staining and discoloration. Some people think the discoloration imparts a flavor into the food.
High Carbon Stainless Steel blades combine the best of both worlds. They do not discolor like the carbon blades, but they can be sharpened to a keen edge that is long lasting. They do not impart any flavor into your food.
Titanium alloy blades are lighter and more flexible than steel blades. The carbon in the alloy allows them to be heat treated so they will hold an edge well. They do not impart any flavor into your food, either.
Ceramic blades are made from ceramic. They are extremely hard and will hold their edge for a long time. They will cut the glaze on a dinner plate and should only be used on a cutting board. The down side is that they must be professionally sharpened.
Plastic blades are not very sharp and are specialized in the use in the kitchen. They are used to cut vegetables so they don’t turn dark.
Laminate blades are made by layering different materials together. The number of possibilities is endless. The only way to decide if you want one of these types is to buy and try.
Steel blades are either forged or stamped.
Forged blades are made in a detailed process that takes a lot of time and is accomplished by skilled craftsman. I will not go into detail here, but this type of blade is more often than not preferred by chefs.
Stamped blades are designed to be made in mass. The quality of the metal used is such that it can be worked quickly into a finished product. This type of knife is less expensive than the forged one, but it must be replaced on a regular basis.
The Business Edge
The type and design of the knife edge determines how it should be used.
Flat ground blades are tapered from the backbone to the edge. This blade is very strong but is heavy.
Hollow ground blades look a lot like the flat ground except starting about halfway up the blade it is ground into a concave shape. It is weaker than the flat ground blade but has the advantage of being lighter.
The Serrated blade looks like a saw. It is ideal for cutting things that are hard on the outside and soft on the inside. It actually tears the food rather than cutting, so it should not be used for all kinds of food.
The handle of your knife can be made from an array of different materials. The basic handles are wood, plastic, composite and Stainless Steel.
Wood handles are made from hardwoods. Wooden handles are the most attractive and do not become slick when wet. Some individuals claim the porosity of the wood retains bacteria and refuse to use them. This is up to the individual as whether this factor is included in the decision process.
Plastic handles can be molded into almost any shape you can imagine. The modern plastic handle has evolved into ergonomically designed units designed by a computer. They fit your hand nicely, but a lot of pole people complain about the “one-size-fits-all” concept. Also, plastic handles can be slippery when wet.
Composite handles incorporate the best of the wood and plastic materials. They are easy to care for and some chefs will use nothing else.
Stainless Steel handles are by far the most durable. They are the most sanitary but can be tricky to handle when wet. Manufacturers form them with bumps and finger grooves to help eliminate this problem.
This information is not by any means everything there is to know. It should give you the basic information you need to make a qualified decision. There are many variations to the ones listed. Choosing your knife will be determined by several factors. How often will you use a particular knife, what will it will be used for, and how much are you willing to spend are just a few of the things you should look at. Hopefully the information given will give you a basic understanding and an idea of what you might look for when purchasing your kitchen cutlery.
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