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Point: The sharp and thin part where the knife’s spine and edge meet. It can either be straight, rounded, or angled. This part is used for slicing small food items into thin strips, making incisions or slits, and piercing.
Tip: The part nearest the point and is the first third of the entire knife blade. Together with the tip, this part suits delicate slicing and cutting or separating food into small portions.
Spine: The blunt side of the knife and also the thickest part of the blade. Spine thickness influences a knife’s balance and blade strength. A thicker spine means a stronger blade but a heavier knife, which is perfect for chopping but not for more intricate slicing tasks.
Edge: Opposite the spine is the knife’s sharpened side also known as the edge. Knife edges are specially designed to easily slice certain food items. Straight edges are best for tough vegetables or meat while serrated knives suit softer fruits and bread.
Heel: The widest rear part of the blade and is located close to the bolster. As it is the strongest portion of the blade, the heel is typically used for cutting hard ingredients like root vegetables and squash. It is ideal for knife tasks that need greater force and pressure.
Bolster: Also called the collar or shank, it is the thick metal band found just before the knife handle. This part gives the hand better balance and control while cutting. It also keeps fingers from sliding down the blade especially when the hand is wet.
Handle: Provides protection and grip. While some knives come with single moulded metal or plastic handles, most knives have two pieces of handles called scales joined by rivets to cover the tang.
Tang: An extension of the blade and is covered by the handle. A full-tang knife means its extension is riveted through the entire length of the handle, making the knife more balanced and durable. A partial tang knife on the other hand has less power but is lighter and more economical.
Rivets: Found on the handle and are used to attach the tang to the knife scales. The number of rivets used varies. However, it is important that the rivets are smoothly flushed to the handle surface to prevent hand irritation and build-up of food debris.
Butt: Found at the very end of the handle, where the tang ends for full-tang knives. A strong and stable butt is ideal for tenderising or grinding ingredients.
Features of a Knife
Some important knife features that you need to know include how it was constructed, edge form and type, and the materials used to make its blade and handle.
Forged vs Stamped Knives
Knife blades are either forged or stamped, with each method having its own distinct characteristics that directly affect a knife’s overall quality, performance, and cost.
Usually has a bolster
Extra thick and durable
Holds its edge longer
Ideal for intensive kitchen use
Usually has no bolster
Thin and tends to flex
Easier to sharpen
Ideal for more delicate tasks
Process: Forging is done by roughly shaping heated steel using the pressure of a drop hammer. The moulded steel is then further hammered into shape then honed into its final form by machine.
Strength: The presence of a bolster is one indicator that the knife is forged, although not all forged knives have this part on the blade. Forged knives also have a full tang and are generally thicker and heavier than stamped ones, making them stronger and more balanced.
Value: Forging knives takes a long time, involves a series of laborious steps, and requires a higher level of craftsmanship. Thus, in general, forged knives are more expensive. However, as they are more durable and designed to last, they are also worth the investment.
Process: Stamping is done with a hydraulic press or die cutting the knife blade out of a sheet of steel, quite similar to how cookie cutters work on a sheet of dough. The cutouts are called blade blanks. Each is then tempered then honed to give it a sharpened edge.
Strength: Unlike forged knives, stamped knives do not have a bolster. Their blades are also flatter and thinner, making stamped knives significantly lighter, perfect for users with smaller hands or those who find it difficult to lift a heavier forged knife.
Value: Stamping is a faster method than forging, which makes stamped knives less expensive. In terms of quality and performance, forged knives are more balanced than stamped ones. Manufacturers address this through innovative design, technology, and good choice of materials.
If you take a closer look at a knife’s blade, you will see a subtle incline that runs down towards the edge. This is the bevel and is formed as knives are honed or sharpened. The knife’s bevel or angle therefore determines its sharpness.
Strength: As this type of knife is only honed on one side, it is easier to give a single bevel knife a smaller and ultra-sharp edge. This feature is useful in certain prep work that needs a higher level of slicing precision.
Uses: Single bevel knives are favoured in Japanese cooking as it is easier to make cleaner cuts of sushi, for example, with these extremely sharp knives. This knife works well with other delicate food items like fish, meat, and seafood. Japanese chefs who showcase their knife skills by making unbroken ribbon-like cuts out of vegetables like radish also use a single bevel knife.
Care: To keep single bevel knives sharp, they are best sharpened at a 15 to 17-degree angle. Only one side needs to be sharpened although they can be quite delicate. Sharpening them properly, especially with a whetstone, may need some time and practice.
A double bevel knife has angles formed on either side of the blade. This type is common in most German or Western-style knives.
Strength: Double bevel knives may not be as sharp as their single bevel counterparts but they are also more robust and easier to use for the average home cook. With both sides having a sharpened edge, double bevel knives also suits left and right-handed users.
Uses: Home and mid-level restaurant cooks usually favour this knife. It is perfect for almost any chopping task and do not require a high level of expertise. You can also do more sophisticated cuts with a double bevel knife with a bit of time and practice.
Care: Sharpen double bevel knives between 20 to 30 degrees. Sharpening two sides can take some time but is generally easier to do.
Types of Edges
Certain edges are designed to match certain types of food. While there are many types of edges available, the most basic ones are straight, serrated, and granton.
Straight: The most common type of knife edge. This is also the most versatile among other knives as it can handle a wide range of ingredients, from soft fruits and meats to tough vegetables. A plain edge knife is also ideal for peeling as it gives clean, smooth cuts without fraying. This type of edge is common in chef’s, paring, and boning knives.
Serrated: Has an edge similar to a saw. The gap in between serrations as well as the size of the tooth vary. This knife is typically used to slice food or ingredients that have a tough exterior and soft interior, like tomatoes and bread. The serrated edge pierces through the thick skin so as not to deform the shape of the food.
Granton: A type of straight edge knife that has shallow grooves or scallops along the sides. These create small air pockets that prevent food from sticking to the blade. This is useful for soft and moist ingredients like raw fish, cheese, meat, and cucumbers. Granton blade is a common feature in santoku knives, but can also be found in some carving, paring, and chef’s knives.
Types of Steel
Steel is the main ingredient in knives. Several other metals contribute to its hardness, durability, edge retention, and resistance to various factors.
CROMOVA 18: Specially developed steel for Global knives. “CRO” stands for chromium which makes the knives stain resistant, and “18” indicates the percentage of this metal present in this type of steel. “MO” or molybdenum and “VA” or vanadium give the knife great edge retention.
X50 CrMoV 15 Stainless Steel: Special type of steel commonly used in knives by German producers. “X” indicates the presence of stainless steel, “50” stands for 0.5% carbon content for blade hardness, “Cr” for stain resistance from chromium, “Mo” for enhanced hardness and corrosion resistance from molybdenum, “V” for wear and tear protection from vanadium, and “15” stands for the 15% chromium present in the steel. Wusthof knives from Germany are made of this type of steel.
VG10 Stainless Steel: Also known as V-Gold 10, this super steel is prized for its high carbon content (approximately 1%). Knives made with this steel are significantly harder and are easier to maintain or sharpen. However, as carbon however is more prone to rust, VG10 knives are typically clad in layers of softer stainless steel for corrosion resistance, plus the added beauty of a Damascus finish. Yaxell Ran, Yaxell Zen, Yaxell Mon, and Kasumi use this particular steel.
VG-MAX: An improved version of VG10 stainless steel which is exclusively used for Shun Premier.This contains more carbon for strength and chromium for wear and rust resistance. This also has tungsten, resulting in fine-grained steel with extreme sharpness.
SG2 Stainless Steel: A micro-carbide powdered steel with an extremely dense grain structure. This makes the steel very hard and highly resistant to chipping or breaking. The metal elements in SG2 are significantly increased over VG10. Its best feature is the unmatched combination of superior edge performance and durability. This is also why SG2 is currently considered the world’s best steel for kitchen knives. Miyabi Birchwood, Yaxell Gou, and Yaxell Super Gou Ypsilon use this exceptional steel.
Types of Handles
The handle is important for stability. The material used for making it is important not only for aesthetic purposes, but also for comfort and durability.
Wood: One of the most commonly used materials for making knife handles. Aside from its durability, the natural grain and colour of wood give the knives their unique character. Purely wooden handles have grown less common because of their tendency to trap bacteria and lose shape when immersed in water. Today, wood is usually combined with other materials. Pakkawood, for example, is a composite handle that feels like wood but highly warp-resistant.
Plastic: A popular choice for a handle as it is durable, easy to clean, water resistant, and makes for generally less expensive knives. Because it is a lightweight material, plastic-handled knives are great for more intricate cutting tasks and excellent for transport or outdoor use. Plastic handles may, however, break or crack when exposed to extreme temperature changes. Some types of plastic used for knife handles include anti-slip fibrox, durable nylon, lightweight resin, and textured polypropylene.
Stainless Steel: Low-maintenance and waterproof, as well as the perfect material to provide balance to longer knife blades. As the blade is seamlessly fused to the handle, it leaves no room for food debris to build up. Knives with stainless steel handles are generally heavier. Stainless steel handles may also feel slippery when used with wet hands, which is why they are designed with other elements that provide a more secure grip.
Which Knife Suits You?
Determine your needs, use, budget, and skill to find the knife that suits you best. For instance, while forged knives are more durable and perfect for intensive kitchen use, home cooks who usually do basic knife work may find stamped ones just as ideal, not to mention more economical. Professional chefs who work on specific cuisines would favour the sharpness of single bevel knives, while the average home cook may find double bevel ones easier to handle.
Learning about different brands may also be helpful when choosing a knife. It can give you an idea about their specialty, warranty or product support, and other important information. Finally, have a feel of the knives in your hand whenever you can.