Quality Cutlery Defined
When looking for your next knife set, it's imperative that you seek out quality cutlery. A high-quality knife is a precision cutting instrument, making quick work of even the most arduous cutting task in the kitchen. On the other hand, using a cheap set of knives can make even simple tasks nigh on impossible. Instead of cleanly slicing through the food items you're trying to cut, a cheap blade is dull and will rip and tear its way through the food. This will result in damaged edges and uneven cuts, which is OK when you're cooking for your family, but can be embarrassing when you have guests over.
When it comes to buying quality cutlery, you have to be willing to put up a little extra cash than you normally would. You can opt to get a decent set for between $100 to $200, or you can go all out and spend anywhere from $200 to thousands of dollars on a high-end set. The more money you decided to spend, the better quality you're going to get, and quality is what you want in the kitchen.
Why Buy Quality Cutlery When You Can Spend Hundreds Less On a Cheaper Set?
The number one reason is safety. Cheap, dull knives are hard to cut with, forcing you to exert much more force with every cut. The more force you apply, the more likely the blade is to slip out of control, and we've all seen what a moment of inattention can do in the kitchen. Chopping, mincing, slicing and cutting will be a breeze with a good knife set. Cheaper knives are also more prone to breakage, which can lead to catastrophic injuries.
The other reason to spend the extra money on a good set is one most people don't take into consideration. You are going to save money in the long run by spending a little extra money now. That's right, spending more money now will save you money in the future. Cheaper knives are made of cheaper metal that is more likely to break or bend. It is also more likely to discolor and rust. Spending money on a more expensive set that could potentially last a lifetime if cared for properly will save you from having to replace multiple cheap sets over the course of your life.
Check the Handle First
Handles can be made from a variety of materials, with the most common materials being wood or plastic. The cheaper knives with plastic handles tend to crack or chip easily, and it's not uncommon for the handle to fall apart before the knife does. There are sets of quality cutlery with polyresin handles, you just have to make sure you're not getting the cheap plastic that is prone to breakage.
Just above the handle on most knives is the bolster. You want a good bolster (see image above), as it helps to balance the blade against the handle. Even more important is the fact that it will protect you from cutting your fingers if your hand slips down the handle. Anyone who's tried to cut slippery items like chicken knows how important a good bolster is, as it has likely saved you more than once from cutting yourself. Surprisingly, there are knives out there that don't have bolsters, and if you see them, steer clear of them at all costs.
Knives with wooden handles were the most popular choice for many years, but have recently fallen to the wayside in favor of stainless steel or polyresin handles. If you decide to go with the classic look of a wood-handled set of knives, you're going to want to pay attention to the number of rivets in the handle. Quality cutlery will have at least 3 rivets holding the handle together. This will ensure the knife stays together, and that there are no gaps for food to work its way in between.
While blades used to be strictly made of steel, there are a number of new types of metal and even ceramics that blades are currently being made of. We'll get into steel in a moment, but first let's explore the other materials blades can be made of. Titanium has seen some use the last few years, but it's a trend that should soon be forgotten. Titanium is not a good material to make knives from, as it isn't cost efficient or durable. Ceramic blades have also gained popularity the last few years because it can be honed to an extremely sharp edge. There's a corner of the market that appreciates ceramic, but most home chef's would be better served with a regular steel knife set.
Steel has been the metal of choice when it comes to blades for thousands of years, and for good reason. It is durable, resists rust and is able to be honed into a sharp edge. There are a number of types of steel that is used to make kitchen knives. High-carbon steel is stronger and more durable, while stainless steel is resistant to rust and discoloration, High-carbon stainless steel gives you the best of both worlds, as it is stain-resistant and able to stand up to the rigors of daily use.
One item most people don't take into consideration when looking to buy quality cutlery is the Rockwell Hardness Rating (HRC). This is a rating of the hardness of the steel, determined by forcing a diamond tipped probe into the metal. You ideally want a rating between 45 and 55. Steel with too low of a rating will dent and bend too easily, while a rating over 60 will get you steel that can shatter if too much force is applied to it. Stainless steel will usually be softer than high-carbon steel. Harder steel will be more difficult to sharpen, but should be able to be sharpened to a finer point.
Putting It All Together
Finding quality cutlery isn't a problem, it's deciding which brand of quality knives to buy that's difficult. Luckily, there are a number of sites on the Internet where you can find unbiased reviews of the knives you're interested in. Go to the best knife set section of this site or click on one of the manufacturers in the sidebar for more information. Alternatively, you can click on the banner below to go straight to Amazon to read what customers are saying about the various brands of knives available.