Choosing a knife

It so depends on your hands and your technique. Contrary to what the weirdos on Telly tell you, there’s not one “correct” technique even though they’re all derived from the same four or five handling instructions.

That said, here’s some contemplations as to the right knife for you…

  • If you are familiar and comfortable with a whetstone you might want to look into the Chroma family of things. The steel is sharper when properly honed and sharpened and the wide blade allows for a triple bevel instead of the usual single or double. This assumes you know how to use a whetstone and aren’t afraid or too busy to do so.
  • If you’re the kind of person who schleps their knives to a sharpener every six months and has a honing steel just because it looks good hanging in the kitchen, you might want to look for something in the Forschner or Messermeister series which holds their edge much longer but suffers a little in the sharpness department.
  • If your knifes are subject to abuse (knife block, roommates, blister pack opening) Shun makes a good 8 inch Chef’s knife that survives a lot of that without dulling down every day. You’ll still have to hone it daily.
  • If you, like me, have had your hands in cold and hot things for way too long and have developed some measure of arthritis you’ll want to go with one with a pronounced slip. That’s the part where the handle ends and the blade begins. You then modify your technique slightly from pinching the blade to resting against the slip.
  • If you’re very new to knife skills (anywhere below the magical 2,000 hours I’d say) go with something that turns well in your hand so you don’t get cramps. A measure that was taught to me (and I found it eerily accurate) is to try to find a knife where the handle is about as wide (top of the knife) as the fist joint in your pinkie finger and high (side) as the first and half of the second joint of your middle finger.
  • If you still rest your hands or finger on the blade or handle you might want to consider one that has a rounded top of the blade and handle. Try to get away from that, though 🙂

Knives are a lot like cameras. The cheaper ones create beautiful work in the hands of a person who knows how to handle them, more expensive ones don’t really mask technique that much. Get something that feels comfortable and familiar, most good knife stores have a cutting board and some onions for you to check out the handling.

Personally, I am using this, a 301 Porsche Chroma ($399):

which has all the properties I am looking for. A pronounced slip, heavy handle, and large, rounded, top. It’s a triple-bevel so it’s really a beast to keep going (I spend a few minutes every week on my whetstone) but when it’s sharp it’s sharp and does precisely what I ask it to.

A good compromise for most is the Mac Professional ($129):

which has a nice handle and stays sharp much longer than the Chroma. On the other hand of the spectrum we have light and “stays sharp very long”, the Global series of knifes ($59):

No slip to speak of, very, very, light, and not as sharp as the Chroma but doesn’t dull much, either. Edge retention is a beast on this one.

Jonas M Luster