Knives Buying Guide
Each knife is crafted with a specific task in mind, to help you use them comfortably and effectively. From the tip of the blade to the hilt of the handle, knives are designed to take care of specific tasks, shaped to slice through their designated materials with ease and to be handled with comfort.
Anatomy of a knife
A blade's bolster helps to give the knife balance and weight that makes it easier to use, and helps to keep fingers out of the way of the blade.
The tang is the part of the blade's body, but cannot be seen, as this is the section used to attach the blade to the handle. There a two different types of tang: full and half.
Full tang knives have a tang which runs the full length of the handle, which provides added strength and a balanced weight along the whole of the knife. Since the tang is secured for the whole length of the handle, this offers a great selling point for the professional cook or anyone looking for long wearing heavy usage knives.
The tang in a half-tang knife extends only part of way length of the handle, from half way to three quarters. Half tang knives are suitable for general work.
How knives are made
Fully forged knives are strong, durable and of the highest quality, as the blade and tang are made from a single piece of steel, which is heated and shaped. A forged knife has a wider lip on the end of the blade that meets the handle. It helps to act as finger guard and balances the weight of the knife.
Stamped knives are machine made. Cut from a sheet of stainless steel and heat treated to harden and add durability. They offer good value for money, but lack some of the strength and durability of fully forged knives.
Taper ground knives are manufactured from a single piece of metal, tapering from the handle end to the blade tip and from the knife spine to the blade edge to create a strong and precise cutting edge.
Hollow ground knives are ground just on the bottom half to create the cutting edge.
Cook's knives are great all-rounders, so make versatile and essential additions to your kitchen. Available in a range of sizes, a cook's knife can handle a variety of chopping tasks from meat and vegetables to finely chopping herbs and nuts.
Carving knives have long flexible blades, either plain or serrated, with a fine sharp tip that is ideal for freeing meat from the bone.
A bread knife must be able to slice through soft or crusty loaves without squashing their soft centres, so they are equipped with a serrated or scalloped edge.
Santoku knives originated in Japan and are made for slicing, dicing and chopping, with a distinctive dimpled blade that help to release sticky food and thin slices.
Utility knives are small handy all-purpose blades with a serrated edge. Ideal for cutting and trimming meat and larger vegetables, at around 13cm in length they are easy to handle.
Paring knives are your best ally for the preparation of small, soft vegetables or fruit. Small and light with a firm blade, the sharp point at the end provides the precision needed for extracting seeds and pips.
The standard material used in knife making, stainless steel does not rust but it does require regular sharpening to keep the blade in good condition.
Very hard and maintaining their sharp edges more easily than stainless steel, carbon steel knives can be susceptible to rusting if they are not dried straight after washing.
Ceramic blades are 10 times harder than carbon steel but much lighter. They also retain their sharp edge for longer, so they will very rarely need to be sharpened. These knives are prone to chipping if not stored correctly, so always use a protective sheath to prevent damage.
Does my knife need sharpening?
If you're asking yourself if your knife is sharp enough, you've probably noticed it is no longer performing as it used to. If your blade doesn't cut quickly and cleanly, it needs sharpening. If you want to test your blade further, there are a couple of tests you can perform.
- Slicing paper
Hold a piece of paper in the air and using the centre of the blade, slice downwards. If you can slice the paper effortlessly with your knife and it doesn't catch and tear, your knife is sharp enough.
- Slice a tomato
The skin on a tomato is tough, but if your knife easily slices with almost no downward pressure, it is sharp enough.
How to sharpen a knife
How to sharpen using a sharpening steel
Place the knife blade against the tip of the sharpening steel at an angle of approximately 20 degrees. Pull the knife down and across the steel, following a slight arc. Repeat this action on the back of the steel to sharpen the other side of the blade. Repeat 5-10 times, alternating the left and right side of the blade.
How to sharpen a ceramic knife
The knife sharpener rest will hold your blade safely and sets up the required 20 degree angle. The sharpener is held horizontal to the worktop with the placing the cutting edge of the blade at the handle end onto the sharpener. Move the blade, using light pressure, in a circular pattern, moving towards the tip. Repeat 3-4 times.
How to store and care for your knives
To keep blades protected they should be stored in a knife block or magnetic wall rack and always use on a smooth surface such as a wood or acrylic chopping board. Using knives on glass, marble or granite boards can blunt the blades quickly.
Most knives are dishwasher safe. Remove and dry at the end of the cycle to prevent corrosion. However if knives are washed by hand and dried they will stay sharper for longer.
Always refer to the manufacturer's guidance for any specialist advice regarding your specific knives.
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