Archive for August, 2010

Honing a Knife Blade

Steve Efren asked:

For those who are new to the world of knife sharpening, often the most challenging part is knowing when to stop. How do you know when the knife is sharp enough? How do you get it to that point?

When sharpening a knife, sharpen until you see burrs. Then, turn the knife over, and sharpen the other side. The honing process will remove these burs, but they are important. Burrs are the only way to know that you have removed enough of the metal to sharpen the blade.

Once the blade has been sharpened using the rougher grit of your sharpener, stone, or file, then you will need to refine the blade. This is usually done with the opposite side of the sharpener, which has a smoother grit. Honing the blade can also be done with a leather strop. Simply repeat the process of sharpening the knife with this finer grit.

Some experienced knife sharpeners test the sharpness of the blade against an object. These may range from cutting across a nylon paint brush, to shaving the hair on your arm, to testing it on your thumb. If testing against your thumb, hold your thumb parallel or perpendicular to the blade and carefully slide the pad of your thumb across – not down – the blade. It can take quite some time to get a feel for this method, however, and you should not try it as a beginning knife sharpener. If you do it incorrectly, it is possible to slice your finger open. Another test is to hold the edge lightly against your fingernail, at about a 30 degree angle. Press down lightly. If it begins to cut into your nail, it is sharp. If it slips, the blade is dull. This can also be done using a pencil, a plastic pen, or another relatively soft solid object.

These tests, however, will not determine whether the edge has a burr or other imperfection. Burrs are naturally caused by the sharpening process. They are thin projections on the very edge of the knife. Usually, they are pushed left or right due to pressure in the sharpening process. Sometimes they point directly off the edge of the knife; this is called a “wire edge.” Because the burrs are very thin, this may seem like a very sharp edge. However, it is too thin, and the first use of the blade will break it off, leaving you with a very dull knife. If you seem to be getting very sharp knives after you use your knife sharpener, but they become dull within just one or two uses, this may be the culprit.

The easiest way for beginners to see burrs on the knife edge is to hold the blade up to the light. The light should bounce off the blade uniformly, except for where there is a burr. It can also be felt using your fingernail, although again, you should avoid using your fingers to test the blade of the knife unless you know you will not cut yourself.

High Quality Knives Are the Foundation of the Kitchen

Steve Dolan asked:

A good set of knives is the foundation for any serious kitchen. It is simply not possible to be a serious cook, to produce superior meals that will impress and delight your friends, without a set of kitchen knives that work with you, not against you. If you use ill-suited knives, or just poor quality knives, you are only making things harder for you in the kitchen. If you are an aspiring cook, or an accomplished cook who is just simply tired of making things more difficult than they need to be, this article will help you put together a set of quality kitchen knives.

Your First Kitchen Knives: The Basics

The single most important knife in your kitchen, and the starting point for any collection, is the Chef’s knife, sometimes known as the Cook’s knife. As the name suggests, this is your general all-purpose knife, able to do everything from mincing to chopping to slicing and to dicing. The Chef’s knife has a gently slopping blade and is usually around 8 inches long. The next knife you should invest in is the little brother to the Chef’s knife, the paring knife. The paring knife is basically just a smaller version of the Chef’s knife. The paring knife is designed for more detailed or intricate jobs than the Chef’s knife. A paring knife usually measures around 4 inches long or shorter. The third knife you should purchase to complete your basic set of kitchen knives is a bread knife. The bread knife should ideally be about the same size as your Chef’s knife, but instead of a straight blade, the bread knife will have a serrated edge. A knife with a serrated edge resembles a saw blade, with the blade having a series of u-shaped cuts into it. The bread knife is obviously great for slicing bread. It is also useful however, for cutting food that would be squashed from the pressure of a straight blade.

After you have established your basic collection, the possible additions to your collection are endless. You could buy a myriad of larger knives such as cleavers (large rectangular knives designed for cutting through bones and joints) or smaller knives such as tomato knives, utility knives or even grapefruit knives.

Caring For Your Knives

Even if you have purchased only moderately priced knives, you should be interested in learning how to preserve your investment. Knives will become dull over time as they are used. Fortunately, you can take a number of easy steps to help prolong the life of your blades. The most important step is to never put your knives in the dishwasher; you kitchen knives should always be washed by hand with a mild detergent and then hand dried. The second step is to always use a cutting board; other surfaces can damage your knife blade. The third step is to have your blades sharpened by a professional. And finally, do not keep your knives in a draw with all your other junk – the knives should be keep out of contact with any other metal in a knife block.

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A Brief Guide to Buying Kitchen Knives

Deevan Aw asked:

When you are looking for a great kitchen knife set, you want to take into consideration cost, the material of the knives, the types of knives that come with the set, and the maintenance of the knives.

Cost is something that cannot be helped, in other words, your budget is your budget. However, keep in mind that a high quality knife set will last longer, maybe a decade, while a less expensive knife set will need replacement after maybe two years. A set will cost between fifty US dollars, and up to a thousand dollars or more for a top of the line set.

kitchen knives are generally made of one of the four following materials: stainless steel, carbon steel, laminated (combination of carbon steel and stainless steel), and ceramic.

The carbon steel knife is 99% iron, and 1% carbon. These knives are prone to rusting, though, and are higher maintenance than stainless steel knives. They are generally sharper though, than stainless steel, though also more brittle. Famous top manufacturers of carbon steel kitchen knives are Sabatier, Kikuichi, and Forshner but these knives are being discontinued and less common. Hardness on the C scale for Carbon Steel knives is between 60 and 62.

Stainless steel contains around 11% chromium, and is very well known as a material used for cutlery manufacturing. Type 420 and 440 stainless steel is used for cutlery, 440 being harder. 440 has a hardness on the C scale of 55. Within 440, there are three grades of steel used in cutlery. Going from more less carbon, and softer, they are A, B, and C.The famous stainless steel manufacturers include Global and Kasumi among the Japanese makers, and European makers like Wusthof.

Laminated knife blades will try to create a balance of the properties of carbon steel, and stainless steep by having a sandwich of the knife materials. Ceramic knives are even sharper than normal knives, but they are more brittle. Kyocera and Yoshi knives are among the ceramic knives available on the market.

Chef’s knife – This is the most important knife in the knife set and will be used for most general kitchen tasks.

Cleaver – This is used to chop and pound food. This is a heavy knife.

Bread knife- This is a special knife that is useful to cut tomatos, and bread without crushing it.

Fillet knife – This is used to fillet fish with a thin and flexible blade.

Paring knife – This is used to cut or peel small fruits and vegetables.

Steak knife – This comes either serrated or straight and is used on the dinner table for serving steak.

Maintaining carbon steel knives is more time consuming than stainless steel. After cleaning carbon steel knives, it is recommended to coat them with some vegetable oil, lightly, to prevent oxidization. Avoid putting professional knives in the dishwashing machine, with a high variability in temperatures and strong detergents, the steel blade and even the handle can get affected.

The sharpness of the blade may decrease if the knife is dropped in the dishwasher.

Once you are done using the knife, clean it immediately so that the quality of the blade is maintained. Once the knife is clean, it should be stored in a knife block made of polyurethane, or wood. Make sure to use a cutting board of the same material to protect the blade.

Knives can be sharpened with a sharpening steel which looks like a circular rod, or a block of stone called a sharpening stone. Modern electric sharpeners are safe to use on quality knives. When using an electric sharpener, make sure not to grind away too much of the knife. You need to sharpen your knives every three to six months.

kitchen knives

Forged Kitchen Knives Vs Stamped Kitchen Knives

Rob Ruark asked:

This article will aid you with the pivotal decision of whether you want forged blades or stamped blades for your kitchen knives. There is a lot of misinformation going around when you’re shopping for a new set of knives and it can be really confusing when all you want to do is slice or dice in style while preparing your food.

The myth all starts with the idea that forged blades are inherently better than stamped blades. The idea behind this is that forged blades steel molecules are aligned better and therefore give them much better cutting properties. The fact is this used to be true, but no longer is due to updated manufacturing processes. In the old days the only way to make steel was to forge it, now days knife manufacturers just go down and buy the steel pre-made.

This is where the pivotal differences between kitchen knives start to form. The forged blades are heated up again pounded into the shape of a knife, and then ground and sharpened. The stamped or machined blades are cut or ground into the shape of a knife, and then heat treated twice to align the steel structure. The first heat treatment starts at 1400-1900 degrees Fahrenheit, leaving the steel brittle but very hard. The second heat treatment hits the blades at 400-700 degrees reducing both the brittleness and the hardness, but in turn making more durable blades.

As you can see the manufacturing processes are just different which leads to different knives. The forged blades tend to be much softer than the stamped or machined blades, because of the lack of high heat treatment. The benefits to this are that it’s much easier to sharpen at home, the knife will have a weightier feel, and you’ll have a bolster. The drawbacks are that it won’t be quite as sharp as a comparable stamped blade, and it won’t hold a comparable edge as long. The Germans who are the primary manufacturers using the forged method rectify this by sharpening to a 22 degree angle instead of a 16 degree used by most stamped manufacturers.

The stamped or machined blade benefits and drawbacks are in reverse of the forged. You’ll have a much lighter knife with no bolster, unless welded on, that’s extremely sharp, and durable. You may also have a harder time sharpening it at home.

In the end it all comes down to you the consumer, and which knife fits you the best. If you’re going to be slicing a lot of heavy vegetables and meats you may find the German forged Wusthof knives to your preference. On the other hand if you do a lot of Asian style cooking the high end stamped Global knives or Shun knives may fit you best.

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How to Select the Finest Kitchen Knives Possible

Jake Zertosky asked:

Kitchen knives can be purchased in upscale kitchen stores, in department stores, and in discount shops. There are some that are very high quality and hardly ever need to be sharpened and there are those that might be good for a while but need to replaced often. Almost every famous chef has a set of knives they market to the public.

There are two different types of kitchen knives. The first is the forged knife where the blade is made by pressing hot steel into a mold. The blade is then run through several machines or hammered out to take a specific shape. This type of blade costs much more money but they are balanced much better.

The other type of knife is a stamped knife which is made by cutting the blade from a single sheet of steel. After it is cut out the blade goes through a process where it is finished and sharpened. The stamped style of blade is thinner than the forged type and they tend to be a little unbalanced.

There are different styles of knives that must be in every kitchen. The first one is called the boning knife which is suitable for cutting the bone away from meat with a 5 to 6 inch blade. The narrow blade makes it easier to move and cut the meat from the bones. If the size of the bone is large then the knife should also be large.

A Chef. ‘s knife is a must have in the kitchen because you use it in so many various techniques. You can get a chef. ‘s knife in 6, 8, 10 or 12 inch lengths. If you have small hands do not expect to be able to control a 12 inch knife well. The smaller the hand the smaller the blade should be. Use a chef. ‘s knife to dice, mince, slice or chop.

A cleaver is a good knife to have in the kitchen if you frequently cut thick items or you need to chop through a bone. Cleavers resemble an axe with a thick blade that can reach 6 inches in length. Use a cleaver to pound food or to crush it and to chop.

It is advisable to always have a serrated knife handing to cut things that tend to have a hard outside and inside be soft like bread. The blade is notched or has teeth like wedges on the 5 to 10 inch blade. Other knives can be sharpened but a serrated knife can not so this is the one that must be purchased on a regular basis.

A carving knife is generally used to slice cooked meat. There are pointed tipped and round tipped carving knives. The blade is rigid and is usually around 8 inches long. The pointed tip is used to get around bone when carving. It most often comes with a carving fork that helps to keep food still while cutting with the knife.

Utility knives can be used for just about anything. The blade is usually around four to seven inches long and you can cut vegetables, apples and other fruit, garlic and herbs. On occasion you can find a utility knife with a serrated edge.

The smallest knife in the pack is the paring knife. This knife is used to cut small things like apple slices or small vegetables and more often to remove skin from potatoes or apples. Paring knife blades are slender and are 4 inches in length or less.

All of the above kitchen knives are a necessity in the kitchen and the expensive ones will work better for you and last a long time. They will balance well in your hand and you will have less accidents working with them. Make sure to purchase knives that feel like they belong in your hand and you will have a set that will last for many years.

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