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There is a wide variety of kitchen knife choices. They come in different designs, steel, form, size, patterns, and the list goes on and on.
Finding a suitable kitchen knife
Before finding a suitable kitchen knife, you have to specify what you plan to do with it. In most cases, you will be cooking a wide variety of dishes at home, but the menu at a restaurant decides what knife style is suitable for a professional cook.
The Chef’s knife or also called the all-purpose knife
The most recommended kitchen knife is an all-purpose knife, a knife suitable for a wide variety of cuisines. But, of course, each cuisine and cook have its preference. Therefore I recommend an all-purpose knife which is usually ideal for a wide variety of tasks. However, each cuisine has its so-called all-purpose knife, and each of those knives will shine more than another for that particular cuisine.
Note: The Chef’s knife or also categorized as an all-purpose knife, has many variations. The strength of these kinds of knives is the versatility that the knife has. The following knives can be categorized as all-purpose knives: Nakiri, Chinese Vegetable Cleaver/Slicer, Chinese Dual Purpose Cleaver, Santoku, Bunka, Gyuto, (Western) Chef knife.
Info: The Nakiri knife is advertised as a vegetable knife, but that does not mean it can’t be suitable for another task than vegetables. It is a slimmed-down Chinese vegetable cleaver which we call the “Chinese Chef’s knife,” but then with a different steel type and most likely has a rounded front.
You will have your preference for what you plan to cook at home. It can be Italian, French, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, etc. The cuisine you plan to cover has a significant impact on which knife is more suitable for you. An easy example to see the differences in cuisines is with the fish dishes. In Japan, they eat raw fish (not pre-seasoned or smoked), requiring extreme sharpness to keep the fish fresh. That is why Japanese knives go for sharpness over durability. In western cuisine, we mostly eat cooked fish filets with no heads attached and only the filet with all the bones removed. Since the fish is cooked, we don’t need extreme sharpness to preserve the raw fish textures. In China, they don’t eat raw fish. Even cucumbers are mostly cooked before they eat them. Their fish is scaled, and they will steam or deep fry the complete fish with skin, head, tail, and all the bones still intact. For presentation purposes, they even chop the head off.
Note: This is a small example to explain the differences in traditional cuisines and how it impacts the knife preference. Now with modern cuisine, we smoke raw fish. And also, with the fusion cuisines, we can now see a shift in flavor palates. Even in China, they are currently serving salads in their fusion kitchens. Mostly the “Millennials” are shifting towards a fusion cuisine. Traditional cuisines still have their place, but you will see more and more fusion cuisines. Traditional cuisines are getting slimmer and slimmer, and if nobody want’s to take the tradition over, it will eventually die out. For example, the Millenials in Japan still love sushi, but they also love Italian food. So they modified their Pizza with the flavor palate of Japanese people, and therefore it is a fusion between Italy and Japan.
Fusion cuisines and knives
With the fusion cuisines, we now see many modified knives suitable for a wider audience. For example, we are slowly shifting to the Japnese-made knives in the West, and the Japanese cuisine became more popular across the western countries. Still, in Japan, the home cooks are cooking more and more western-style dishes, so the western-influenced Japanese-made knives are getting more popular in Japanese households (you will slowly see more western fusion cuisines). With this shift in preference, we can choose between a fusion of western knives with Japanese or Chinese-styled knives.
Info: When I first started as an apprentice Sushi cook in Europe, it was pretty much impossible to buy a good traditional Yanagiba. With the rise in Japanese Sushi and Ramen popularity in Europe, we can finally buy more traditional knives. We had to bulk order and import it directly from Japan in 2008. Years later (approximately 8 years later), we could finally buy more traditional Japanese knives. Still, we shifted from traditional sushi to a fusion sushi & grill restaurant adding California rolls, chicken in your sushi rolls, etc., to accommodate the western flavor palette. Nowadays, we slowly shifted to double-ground knives since the menu has been changed drastically.
A Japanese kitchen knife for every function
The depth and variety of Japanese cuisine are reflected in the knives that the Japanese chef use. They have a specific knife for the sole purpose of preparing a specific Japanese specialty: sushi, grilled eel, buckwheat noodles, etc. And they also have a variation of knives based on the region and how they prepare the specialty. You have Kyoto, Nagoya, Osaka, Tokyo, Kyushu, Kansai, Kanto-styled knives, and knife techniques.
Info: Other countries like China also have regional knives specifically designed for a specific region.
Japanese professional chefs have a variety of specialized knives (Usuba, Deba, Yanagiba) specifically designed to prepare a Japanese specialty dish. As Japanese Chefs prefer sharpness over durability, you see that the specialized knives are all single ground sharpened on only one side. But with the fusion of western influence and Japanese tradition, they now have double-ground knives sharpened on both sides for added durability. The double-beveled knives are more suitable for a wider audience.
What knife style is good for you?
Western chefs and home cooks don’t need those specialized knives. Therefore we can now choose other styled knives like the Western Chef’s Knife/Gyuto, Chinese Vegetable Cleaver/Slicer, Chinese Dual Purpose Cleaver, Santoku, Bunka, Nakiri.
Maintenance & safety
It is essential to keep your knife sharp. You will perform your task faster. It is also safer since you have more control and less resistance. You can hone your knife with a honing rod or sharpening it with a whetstone. A honing rod is a quick and simple solution to maintain your knife sharpness. Since a honing rod does not sharpen but realign the edge, the sharpening effect will eventually fade away. Your only solution is to recreate a sharp edge with a whetstone or let a professional do it for you when that happens.
Never put your knives in a dishwasher! Hand wash them and dry them with a kitchen towel and let them air dry before storing them.
Note: A complete Maintenance Guide is coming soon…
You can leave your questions in the comment section below.
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