Knives are highly personal. Just like cars, mattresses, cycles and underwear. Everyone wants and needs something different; everything will feel different to each person.
As I said in my first book, Quantum Leaps, kitchens are meant to be functional places….. that form over substance needs to be avoided where possible, although thankfully you can often enjoy both. Never has this been truer than with knives. The chances are that the perfect set of knives for you is made from one of each of the main brands. Rarely will one manufacturer make an entire set that each is perfectly weighted and balanced for you.
There are a few things to look for in a good knife. Firstly, don’t expect to put it in the dishwasher. The agents used in machines are aggressive and it just isn’t the environment for a good blade. It needs to be forged in a single piece of stainless steel. This helps with weight, balance and feel but also stops things getting into the handle and makes it easier to clean. You’ll also need a good sharpener, preferably one designed for the knife in question. All of this means that if its cheap, then it probably doesn’t tick all the right boxes – but a good set of knives should last a lifetime. Incidentally, a more scientific view is that generally the better quality and better forged the blade, the longer it’ll hold its edge – i.e. remain sharp. Cheaper knives blunt easily. A sharpening rod or steel helps keep the edge, but to truly keep it sharp you’ll need a whetstone and/or a professional!
The downside is that all this could leave you with an eclectic selection of knives in an otherwise well co-ordinated kitchen. In which case, if there is a real need for conformity, then there are two brands to look at and try for a complete set.
The first, and is my chosen brand for my own knives, is Global. They are a Japanese manufacturer with a Samurai sword heritage, so the workmanship on the blade is excellent. They are forged in one piece and have a unique and iconic design. They are weighty which I like, but others may not get on with – and they come with a premium price tag.
I’ve used Henckels out and about in others’ kitchens and they are a good blade with a more moderate price tag; there’s nothing wrong with them, far from it, I just prefer the weighting of the Global in my own hand. I’ve equally heard others prefer these over the Global for the same reasons, but I’ve never heard a bad thing beyond personal preference.
Either way, if you’re serious in the kitchen, this is one of the most important investments you’ll make and it’ll repay you dividends.