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Italian steak and kitchen knives
You have set you mind to become a serious home cook or you just wish to have the right equipment in your kitchen: a set of quality kitchen knives is what you need for a good start.
Your first question will be … what is exactly a quality kitchen knife?
A good knife is one that you will regard as an extension of your hand, a loyal friend and a trusted helper that will follow your progress in the kitchen for many years.
It will be made of a good quality steel and handle so as to last for a lifetime, it will be well balanced and well designed so as not to tire your wrist, it will be very sharp and stay sharp for a long time.
Knife making is absolutely an art. Look at knives from well-known and well-regarded brands so that you can be sure that these basic requirements are met. On thatsArte.com you’ll find only high end Italian kitchen knives and steak knives handcrafted by skilled artisans who have been creating cutting tools for centuries.
Once you are sure about the knife maker, then it’ll be a matter of selecting the right type of kitchen knives for your cooking needs. Read below for some helpful tips and you’ll see that it is not too hand to make the right choice!
Types of kitchen knivesTop
You can find a special knife for any cutting need but the truth is that you do not need many knives in your kitchen. Our recommendation is to start from the essential kitchen knives and go on adding to your collection knives catering for specific cutting needs.
ESSENTIAL KITCHEN KNIVES
It’s a sturdy knife with a broad blade that curves upward to allow the knife to rock for fine mincing, and a thick blade spine for extra weight and strength.
You and this knife will do most of the kitchen work together. You'll use your Chef’s knife for most of your chopping, cutting, slicing, mincing and dicing chores. It is a practical and versatile knife, commonly sized 14-15 inches. Most professionals call their chef's knives their babies every once in a while and they recommend learning to master the regular size before using a smaller Chef's knife.
Ideal for small, intricate work like peeling, coring, larding, a paring knife is a lightweight cutting tool with a thin blade that usually tapers to a point. You may want to keep more than one, with similar or different blades, because they come in so handy!
Simply no other tool does the job of a bread knife. Its long, serrated blade is designed to slice perfectly through the softest brioche or the crunchiest country loaf without smashing them. Actually, it’s just as great to slice super ripe tomatoes without squeezing them.
We suggest to drop a pretty penny on a good bread knife: it will be a life companion as a serrated blade maintains a sharp edge for many years.
VERY USEFUL KITCHEN KNIVES
Slicing knife and Carving knife
The differences between a slicing knife and a carving knife are really minimal. Unless you are an experienced carver you may want to own only one of them.
Both have slim, long blades with a fine cutting edge and a pointed tip, designed to aid in cutting meat away from the bone. The slicing and carving knives are used to cut clean, even slices of cooked or smoked meat, poultry and fish. The exception? The roast beef and the Italian prosciutto that need a round tip.
Their intimate friend is the carving fork that is used to anchor the meat while carving. In fact, a slicing/carving knife often comes with its carving fork.
Tomato knife and Citrus knife
The tomato knife is definitely a useful tool whether or not you love tomatoes. It is a medium-sized, handy and versatile knife with a serrated edge for cutting easily through any fruit or vegetable with a thick skin and a soft flesh. Ideal for sausages and cheese as well.
The difference with the citrus knife? It is only in the forked tip useful to for picking up slices of food.
Roast beef and Prosciutto knife
A knife you’ll see in every Italian home and restaurant, the ham slicer has a long, thin blade with a round tip
designed so that the meat will cut smoothly and not be torn as it is being sliced. No other knife can be used to cut thin, even slices of prosciutto but if you do not have an Italian ham handy you’ll find out that this knife is equally invaluable with roast beef, roast pork, smoked salmon and fish for sashimi.
USEFUL KITCHEN KNIVES
A mid-sized tool used for miscellaneous light cutting, the utility knife cuts food items that are too large for a paring knife but too small for a chef's knife, such as fruit and vegetables like cantaloupe, onions, cucumbers. It usually has a straight blades with plain edges and is sometimes referred to as "sandwich knife".
A boning knife is definitely a tool for professional home cooks. Several design features, such as a slim, characteristically curved blade with straight cutting edge, help with boning meat, fish, and poultry.
Flexi fish filet knife
A fish filet knife is typically flexible for easily separating the skin and bones from fish. Its pointed tip is used to cut in around the fish bones.
Kitchen knife edgesTop
Straight or smooth edge
Most of our kitchen knives must have a straight edge to produce smooth, clean cuts on both hard and soft food. A straight edge knife will lose some of its sharpness with time. If you have purchased a good one, it will be easily sharpened with a sharpening steel.
Serrated or scalloped edge
A serrated edge is used with anything that has a tough skin or crust and a soft inside, as it penetrates easily without tearing. Typically a long scalloped blade is needed for bread and cakes and a shorter serrated edge for tomatoes, citrus, sausages, cheese and some shell fish.
A good serrated blade will maintain a sharp edge for many years.
Table and Kitchen knife bladesTop
Blades are either forged or stamped. The belief that forged blades are inherently better than stamped blades is still widely held but not necessarily true due to updated manufacturing processes. Today forging and stamping are just two different manufacturing processes which lead to different knives.
Forged knife blades
A forged knife is a true example of blacksmith art. Only a very skilled and well trained craftsman can handle the forging process that consists in heating a single bar of steel and pounding it with a hammer into a knife blade. This process is repeated several times in order to temper the steel and enhance its strength and flexibility. When the craftsman has achieved the desired specifications, the blade is ground and sharpened.
Forged blades are usually thick and pretty heavy, with a bolster to separate them from the handle. The bolster is intended to balance the blade and to serve as a finger guard.
Stamped knife blades
In a stamped knife the blade is cut out from a large sheet of steel into the shape of a knife, and then heat treated twice to align the steel structure. The treatments with very high temperatures deliver hard and light blades which can be sharpened with great precision. They will hold their edge for a long time but you may have a hard time but sharpening them at home.
Should I buy a forged knife or a stamped knife?
Forged knives and stamped knives have different characteristics. It’s important you learn about them before making your decision but you may want to keep in mind one thing: if the quality of the steel and the handles is good and the brand is well regarded you don’t have to worry about the blades being forged or stamped. You want to purchase the knives that are just good for your needs as they’ll be with you for a long, long time!
Forged knives have a weightier feel as they are usually thicker and typically heavier by several ounces than stamped knives. They usually have a bolster, a thick divider between the handle and the knife blade which provides a counter-balance to the weight of the blade and improves control.
The stamped blades are thinner, lighter but not less performing.
Balance & ergonomics
If the weight of the knife is properly distributed between the handle and the blade you will be able to work without tiring your wrist for many hours. Experienced knife makers know this principle very well and create their knives to score well on balance and ergonomics, or the way the handle fits the natural shape of the hand for a comfortable and easy cutting.
Forged blades tend to be softer than the stamped blades because of the lack of high heat treatment, which means that they will not be quite as sharp as comparable stamped blades but the benefits to this are that they are easier to sharpen at home.
Stamped blades can be made into super sharp knives and will keep their edge for a longer time. The drawback is that you may really have a hard time sharpening a stamped blade at home.
Forged knives require the talents of a blacksmith to become perfect cutting tools. They are time and labor intensive, so they are more expensive than stamped knives.
As they require a higher degree of craftsmanship, they are often “worshipped” by professionals and experienced home cooks.
Parts of a knifeTop
The words you may want to be familiar with before purchasing a knife are the following:
Forged knives as well as high end stamped knives always have a full or partial tang, which is the section of the steel blade that is covered by the handle. The tang is a must in quality knives as it provides strength, helps balance the knife, makes it much more durable and easier to use it.
A full tang extends all the way to the end of the handle. Sometimes it is well visible and the handle consists of two slabs, often termed scales, which are attached by rivets to the sides of the tang.
A partial tang stops halfway into the handle and is usually not visible. It is often used for a better knife balance when the handle is made of a heavy material.
A bolster is the thick knob of steel at the junction between the handle and the visible section of the blade. It’s always there in forged knives, which are heavier then stamped knives, as it contributes substantially to their balance and improves their control. You can sometimes find it also in stamped knives, where it is used as a finger guard.
Rivets are the cylindrical metal studs that keep the handle securely attached to the blade.
Table and Kitchen knife materialsTop
The materials a knife is made of and the way they are processed determine its quality.
Don’t go for just any stainless steel. Its most important characteristics - corrosion, resistance and hardness - are strongly impacted by the chemical composition of the raw material and the heat treatment it receives.
The best knives are made of high carbon stainless steel, as it offers enhanced durability, better rust and stain resistance and holds its sharpness much longer than common stainless steel.
It’s easy to fall for natural handles. Ox horns, boxwood, buffalo horns, olive wood, ebony … fine natural materials with a wonderful touch and feel , they are luxurious treats for any home cook.
They are quite expensive and do not age as well as synthetic handles. Needless to say, they won’t survive the dishwasher!
Over the last few decades, synthetic handles have replaced natural ones and increasingly improved their aesthetics and performance. High quality synthetic handles have some benefits: they have a good resistance to impact and shock, their pore free surface is very hygienic and they are dishwasher safe, although we are not huge fans of knives going in the dishwasher (read our use and care tips).
By Tiziana Manzetti