Knife Buying Guide

September 18, 2009
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Executive chefs, sous chefs, line cooks, culinary students, housewives, and just about anyone that’s ever prepared a meal all have something in common: the tools they use in the kitchen. Most novices, at-home cooks, and even respected chefs don’t need the expensive specialty tools sold at high end outlets to whip-up a meal. If every executive chef in the US were asked to pick the three tools they use most often during the course of their work day I’d be willing to bet one tool would find itself on every single list: a knife. Obviously, the shape and size of the knives would vary, but the fact is kitchen knives are one of the most essential culinary tools. That being said, it’s important to pick the right knife for the job. FORGED KNIVES VS STAMPED KNIVES: Forging is a method that involves heating steel or steel alloy at extremely high temperatures then setting and hammering the steel into a desired blade shape. Once the steel is forged into a blade it’s heat-treated, ground, polished and sharpened. The end result is generally a thicker and heavier blade that’s able to retain its sharpness longer while remaining properly balanced. Stamped knives are “stamped” or cut out of sheets of rolled steel. Although stamped knives are lighter and more affordable, they lack the quality and balance of forged blades and usually need to be sharpened more frequently. DIFFERENT STYLES:

Mundial Chef's Knives CHEF’S AND COOK’S KNIVES:

  • All-purpose knife
  • Vary in size (6-12 inches in length), 8 inch being the most popular
  • Wide, curved edge ideal for chopping, dicing, mincing, and slicing
Mundial Paring Knives PARING KNIVES:

  • All-purpose knife
  • Vary in size (usually 2-4 inches in length) and style (sheep’s foot, spear point, chef’s style, clip point, tourné)
  • Smaller size ideal for garnishing and peeling
Mundial Utility Knives UTILITY KNIVES:

  • All-purpose knife
  • Between paring and chef’s knives in size (6-7 inches generally most popular)
  • Useful when cutting non-solid fruits and vegetables, like oranges and tomatoes
Mundial Santokus SANTOKUS:

  • Commonly referred to as the “Asian Chef’s Knife”
  • All-purpose knife generally lighter, shorter (5-7 inches in length), and thinner than chef’s knives
  • Straighter, more blunted edge ideal for chopping, dicing, mincing, and slicing
Mundial Slicers SLICERS:

  • Primarily used for cutting and slicing meats
  • Long and narrow knife (usually 8-14 inches in length), often has a rounded tip
  • Long, flexible blade makes it easy to cut meat into thin slices
Mundial Boning Knives BONING KNIVES:

  • Used to separate bones from meat
  • Narrow blade (4 to 8 inches in length), either flexible or stiff
  • Flexible boning knives are great for fish and poultry, while stiff boning knives are better suited for beef and pork
Mundial Bread Knives BREAD KNIVES:

  • Serrated knife used to slice loafed bread or food with a hard outer surface and a soft center
  • Shorter and heavier than a slicer (6 to 12 inches in length)
Mundial Butcher Knives BUTCHER KNIVES AND CIMETERS:

  • Suitable for chopping, dicing, mincing, and slicing meats, as well as trimming and cutting joints
  • Long, wide knife with a breaking blade (8 to 12 inches in length)
Mundial Oyster Knives OYSTER KNIVES:

  • Used to pry open oysters
  • Short knife (3 to 4 inches) with blunted edge and tip
Mundial Cleavers CLEAVERS:

  • Used to cut through and split bones
  • Thick, heavy blade is rectangular in shape and very stiff
  • Light-duty “Chinese Cleavers” are similar in shape but aren’t intended for the same use

Choosing the correct knife for different culinary duties usually isn’t difficult. Obviously, it makes more sense to use a large chef’s knife to slice a watermelon than it does to use a small paring knife! There are other things to consider when choosing the right knife, though. The blade of a knife is extremely important, but the handle can’t be overlooked when deciding which knife to purchase.

Food-borne illness is a genuine scare in the food service industry so cleanliness keeps the doors of restaurants, bars, hotels, and other eateries open for business. An easy way to avoid contamination and keep the health department happy is to use knives with anti-microbial handles. These handles act as a safeguard against the growth and spread of microorganisms. Although there are a number of materials used for knife handles, in the food service industry it’s absolutely necessary to use a handle that’s going to reduce the risk of food related infection.

For more information on knives for your food service establishment, visit Mission Restaurant Supply!

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