Kitchen Knife Sets - What You Need to Know
Are you tired of trying to saw your way through items in the kitchen with battered and beat-up pieces of steel that you've had for longer than you can remember? Do you have trouble sharpening your knives or keeping them sharp after honing the blades? Does the thought of a long day in the kitchen make you want to curl up into a ball and cry? If so, then chances are you're using a cheap set of cutlery. Either that or you spent way too much for a worthless set, another common occurrence when people don't research kitchen knife sets prior to starting the hunt.
Kitchen knife sets are no joke. Well, yours may be, but that's going to change soon isn't it? Using the knowledge you gain from reading this article will keep you from making the same mistakes scores of people make daily when shopping for kitchen utensils. I'm not going to tell you what sets are worth your while since I already do that in other sections of this site. What I am going to tell you is how to narrow down what's good and what isn't, based on a few basic qualities.
There are few, if any excellent sets of knives for less than $100. Most sets in this price range are going to be made of stamped metal, and they aren't made to last more than a few years. If you get a decade out of one of these sets, you're either really lucky, or you're using really dull knives that should have been replaced years ago. It isn't until you get into the $100 to $200 dollar range that you start to see some decent sets, and even then it's hit or miss. Get up into the $300+ range and you'll start to get into the high-end cutlery that will make cutting tasks seem less like chores and more like fun. That's not to say that you won't be happy with the less expensive kitchen knife sets, it's just likely that you'll be more happy with one of the higher-end ones.
Stamped Vs. Forged
While there are hundreds of variations as to the exact methods through which blades are made, we're going to focus on the big picture and solely look at stamped vs. forged blades. A stamped piece of steel is one that is cut from a large roll, usually as the roll goes down an assembly line. Stamping allows the manufacturer to cut blades out of thinner pieces of steel, making knives made from this type of manufacturing process lighter and generally less durable than those that are stamped. This isn't always the case, and there are some high-end manufacturers who have very good blades that are stamped.
Forged knives, on the other hand, are made from a single piece of steel that is repeatedly heated, formed and cooled. For this reason, they are generally heavier and more durable than those that are stamped. They are also perceptibly heavier, so if your hands tire easily, you may want to consider hunting down one of the few good kitchen knife sets that is made of stamped metal.
Full Tang Vs. Partial Tang
The tang, not to be confused with the powdered drink we were all forced to choke down as children, is the piece of metal that extends from the blade into the handle. A full-tang is one where the tag extends all the way to the end of the handle, while a partial tang stops before it reaches the end. With full-tang construction, the handle is attached to the tang with 3 rivets, which ensures the tang is not going to easily break free of the handle. Partial tang blade are usually glued to the handles, and they are more likely to come detached from the handles.
There are few things other than steel that blades can be made of so we'll explore them first. Ceramic can be honed to an extremely sharp edge but is not able to withstand being dropped. Titanium has also seen some use as of late. This super-strong metal is resistant to breakage super-strong. It's also expensive, so you'd be better off buying a comparable set of steel knives. Stay away from kitchen knife sets that have a titanium coating, as you'll lose the titanium after a few sharpenings.
Now for the big dog...Steel. Most knives sold today are made of some sort of steel. Carbon steel is harder than regular steel, which is too soft to make good knives from. Stainless steel has nickel and other alloys added to it to prevent staining of the blades. It won't make them bulletproof, but will make them more resistant to staining than other types of steel. High-carbon stainless gives you the best of both worlds, and is the material of choice for most high-end manufacturers. You often see them touting proprietary blends of steel with number codes attached to them like VG-1 or 404A.
The most important thing to note when researching kitchen knife sets is the Rockwell hardness scale rating. This rating is abbreviated as Rc and can usually be found on the box the set comes in. If not, it's usually available at the manufacturer's website. Most knives fall between 50 and 60, with the steel at the lower end of the scale being softer and prone to rolling and the steel at the upper end of the scale being harder and more prone to shattering.
Prior to going shopping, do a little research so you can be sure you're getting the best knife set. If you're ready to buy now, click on the link below to go directly to Amazon.com to start pricing knife sets: