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Cooks everywhere value their knives. They cannot perform well without their tools and in most cases serious cooks own their knives and transport them in special containers (mostly tool boxes).
The chef’s knife, like all other cutting tools is a descendant of utensils used a million years ago. While the bone, a piece of wood, or primitive stone hatchet of pre-historic times may not seem to have much in common with glistening stainless steel, they do have in common two factors – a sharp edge and hard substance.
A knife consists of a blade and a handle. Each blade has a tip, back, cutting edge and bolster. The handle may be wood (and riveted) or plastic, full-, half- or ¾ tang.
Some cooks like wooden handles; others prefer plastic. In all cases a handle must fit the hand of the individual.
The quality and basic material of a knife’s blade is most important. Steel (80 percent iron, and 20 percent other elements) is still one of the best metals for knives. Most manufacturers now use stainless steel. There us a wide range of knives: chef’s knife, boning, paring, turning, filleting, carving, bread, decoration, tomato, cake, salmon slicer, cleaver, just to name a few.
Always try out a knife before making a purchasing decision. The handle must sit snugly in your hand and always buy knives that are appropriate for your hand size.
Several German, Swiss and French manufacturers are world famous (F. Dick, Henckels, Wuesthof (Germany), Victoria (Switzerland), Sabatier Pere et Fils, and Sabatier Freres (France) enjoy world fame. Henckels set up a plant in Brazil for entry-level knives, and a few other manufacturers operate facilities in Portugal. It is best to stick to famous and well-established brands. They are reliable and backed by guarantees and warranties.
Quality knives are expensive and must be regarded as investments. Once acquired, they must be cleaned properly and well maintained. A dull knife is dangerous. Always use a sharp knife. Before each use, steel your knife in an attempt to “true” the edge, which realigns the molecules of the blade and maintains the accuracy of the edge. Depending on the frequency of use, knives must be sharpened using a sharpening stone or professional rotating stone.
Sharpening stone and oil result in the sharpest and most accurate edges. Dry-honed knives lack focus. Worn edges do not cut they shred and tear.
Before each use, steel your knife with quality steel furnished with a guard. If you buy quality knives and maintain them well they will outlast you and your professional life.
Article contributed by Hrayr Berberoglu, a Professor Emeritus of Hospitality and Tourism Management specializing in Food and Beverage. Books by H. Berberoglu
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