Knife handle & Kitchen Knife Balance point

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There are a lot of handle choices for each knife. Some work better on another. There is a preference from chef to chef and person to person. The handle choices are endless, but the most common handle designs are the standard western handle and the standard Chinese and Japanese handles.

Before deciding what handle is the best, you need to figure out your primary gripping style. Is it a pinch grip at the handle or the blade? A fingertip or a thumb grip? 

I can recommend the following universal handle that suits most gripping styles. 

The Octagonal and D shape handle for Japanese knives. 

Oval-shaped and round handles.

A standard western handle will work for all gripping styles, depending on the knife design. 

More manufacturers are making custom handles which only suit one gripping style. The Global Sai series is an excellent example of a forced pinch grip at the intended handle design for your thumb.

Note: I recommend the following gripping style for the Western Chef’s knife: the pinch grip. Since the overall blade design is suitable for a pinch grip, especially with the rocking motion from western cuisines, a fingertip grip is only recommended for slicing motions and less dense food. If you use a fingertip grip for a lot of chopping, you will put a lot of strain on your finger. Many Japanese chefs use the fingertip grip, especially sushi chefs, because they mainly slice instead of continuous chopping. I recommend constantly adjusting your gripping style depending on the situation and food. And that is why I don’t recommend handles with a forced gripping position.

The perfect Balance point

You often see people swearing that their knife and brand that they have has the best balance point. However, the balance point and where you want it differs from person to person. Your knife style, usage, and gripping preference determine where you want the balance to be for you.

There is no such thing as one knife that is perfectly balanced for everyone. I have a different balance point preference for specific knife styles.

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The point where you naturally hold/grip the knife is how I determine the balance point. From there on, you can determine if it is front, back, or middle balanced based on your preferred gripping style and where you hold the knife.

Giving you the following:

  • Pinch grip: Thumb and Index finger determine the balance.
  • Thumb grip: where the knife rest at the Index finger determines the balance.
  • The fingertip grip: thumb and middle finger determine the balance.

The following factor of where you want the balance point is more critical for cooks at work since they prep for hours doing the same task for 1 to 2 hours with the same knife.

Examples for my preference:

  • Yanagiba: Slicing towards yourself, front heavy.
  • Western Chef Knife: Back heavy, middle balance is okay. (I prefer Back)
  • Gyuto: Mainly slicing in Japanese cuisine, front or middle balance is oke. (I prefer Middle)
  • Santoku: up and forward motion (I prefer it in the Middle). Nakiri: middle/front balance (I prefer front heavy).
  • Paring knife: Since it is used off the cutting board and in the air. I want a back-heavy balance (handle heavy).
  • Utility knife: Middle or front (you are still on the cutting board, unlike the paring knife).
  • Boning knife: depends on what you debone if it is a chicken. I prefer middle/front (Japanese style Honesuki).
    • But with a boning knife, I would prefer a knife with a wider comfortable balance zone. Like with the chicken, the front/Middle balance is my preference. I prefer a back/middle balance zone when making a lamb rack. (so, by a simple handle grip, switch the balance shift with you). I call it a ”wider balance zone.”

And once you know the knife style and what you intend to use it on, you can decide what balance point you would personally prefer based on your gripping style and usage. For boning knives, we use them on and off the cutting board when we are maneuvering around the meat, so a wider balance zone is preferable unless you want something specific.

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