Also known as a cook’s knife, a chef knife is a cutting tool used in food preparation. Over time, the Chef knife has evolved from a kitchen tool used to slice and divide meat. Today, the chef knife is a kitchen knife that can be found in every kitchen – professional or home. Getting the best out of a knife goes further than buying the right tool.
An understanding of the several parts and how they affect the knife’s functionality is important. In this article, we will explore several parts of a chef knife, so you can know what to pay attention to when looking at options to buy.
The Blade of a chef knife
A chef knife has two main parts, namely the blade and the handle. However, these major parts are further divided into several other parts. The strongest chef knives are made of high carbon steel materials that retain their edges well and can be honed to ultra-sharp levels. This is not to say that normal carbon steel chef knives are not good. In fact, many professional chefs prefer them because they are easier to re-sharpen. Now, let’s take a look at the different parts of a chef knife’s blade.
The Point and Tip
The blade is arguably the most important part of any knife, and chef knives typically taper to a pointed end. It encompasses the part of the blade furthest away from the handle. Technically, the point and tip are two different aspects of the same part, but many confuse them with each other. The tip is that section of the blade farthest away from the handle, while the point is where the blade’s spine meets with the edge. If you ever need to make holes with your chef knife, you would use the point. The tip, on the other hand, is used to cut food items into the finest bits.
The edge is the most functional part of the blade, as it does the actual cutting. It is the visibly sharpened part of the knife that runs from the heel to the point of a chef knife. Cutting edges are ground into different styles, depending on the purpose of the knife. However, chef knives typically come with hollow-ground edges that make for smooth and clean slicing, dicing, chopping, and more. These edges are typically not robust enough for heavy cutting tasks like meat hacking. Nevertheless, they are always ultra-sharp for basic kitchen cutting tasks.
The spine is the part of the blade exactly opposite the edge. It is the unsharpened part that also runs from the point to the heel of the blade. The spine should be the thickest part of a knife, and it is a given that the thicker a blade’s spine is, the stronger the blade is. Thick spines imply less resistance and improved balance, but some low-end knives maintain a constant thickness from the edge up to the spine.
This describes the end part of a knife’s blade, just before the handle. It provides additional strength and combines with the bolster, in some cases, to make the knife a more stable tool to cut with. Some chef knives have heels that extend into full bolsters to provide more safety for the user. The heel section of the blade is perfect for cutting hard foods like nuts, chicken, and carrots.
The Handle of a chef knife
The handle is one part of chef knives that gets overlooked too often. For comfort and durability, you should consider the design and material. It goes without saying that any decent handle should come with an ergonomic design that’s comfortable to grip and cut with. More than the design, however, the handle material also affects usability. Wood, pakkawood, polymers, metal, and rubber are some of the commonest materials used. These materials offer different levels of comfort in ergonomics and durability in water resistance and heat resistance.
The tang describes the part of the unsharpened part of steel that extends into the handle. Chef knives forged as a single metal piece running the entire length of the knife are the most stable options to buy. When the tang runs through the handle to the end, it is called a full tang. A full tang design ensures optimal stability and balance for those with little or no experience with chef knives. Partial tang knives do not have the metal running through the whole length of the handle, and as such, they are not as strong or balanced as full tang models.
Differentiating the heel of a chef knife from the bolster can be quite confusing, but the highlight is that the bolster is considered a part of the handle, while the heel is considered a part of the blade. The bolster is usually a noticeable crosspiece at the point when the handle meets the blade, and it is in place to keep your hand from sliding down to the blade. In addition to protecting your hand, it serves the purpose of providing additional strength and countering shear forces that can cause the blade to break, especially when it not full tang. While a bolster implies some added weight, it is an important protective feature that amateur/beginner chefs should look out for in a chef knife.
In typical chef knives, handle fasteners can either be rivets or screws. Handles that are molded wholly from plastic or metal do not need fasteners, but most chef knives feature two pieces of material that need to be joined together. Rivets are very stable and functional, but the downside is that they are not easily removable. If they ever come undone, or you require a full replacement handle, you’ll need some effort to get them off. Screws, on the other hand, afford the opportunity to remove and replace your handle easily. With screws, you can easily take off the handles for more thorough knife cleaning.
So, What You Should Consider in a Chef Knife When Buying?
Whether you are a professional chef looking to add a decent knife to your collection or an occasional cook looking for the perfect cutting tool for your kitchen, here are a few things to consider.
1. Choose a full tang blade
Partial tangs cannot compare to full tangs when it comes to balance, and you most definitely want to choose a stable and well-balanced knife for your kitchen cutting tasks.
It does seem like 8-inch chef knives are the commonest in kitchens all around the world – there’s a good reason for that. A smaller chef knife will offer more control but will not cover as much volume, while a longer knife gives away some balance.
Recommendation post: Shun Classic 8-Inch Chef’s Knife
You have the option of going for a forged or stamped knife. Forged blades are the most durable, but they come at a higher price compared to stamped blades.
For the blades, choose a knife with a carbon steel blade. Stainless steel blades can also be sufficiently durable, but not as much as carbon steel blades.
We’ve discussed almost all there is to know about the anatomy of a chef knife and the functional effects of each part. Certain parts do not apply to all chef knives, but it wouldn’t do any harm to learn about them. Hopefully, you now know what to look out for when choosing a chef knife for yourself. If you found the article helpful, do well to share it with friends and family. Also, feel free to drop your thoughts down in the comment section.