The most frequent question I have been asked over the 23 years of selling kitchen knives is “which is the best knife?”.
Despite the myriad charts published in the media by journalists every year, the countless opinions posted on websites, forums, and thousands of reviews everywhere you look – the reality is that the answer is subjective, NOT objective. It is like asking which is the best car? The answer is different for everyone. If comfort is the most important wish it might be a Rolls Royce, for speed it might be a Ferrari, for running cost it could be an electric Ford, to impress may be a Bugatti and so on. The best is one that satisfies as many wants within your budget and it is different for everyone.
A kitchen knife, above all else, is a tool. As such, the most important quality should be functional but for many, it is how a set of knives look or match their kitchen.
Any good knife should be sharp when new, so functionality is the capacity to hold the sharpness (ONE), the ease with it can be kept sharp (TWO), the ergonomics for prolonged use without causing stress (THREE), and finally the aesthetic (FOUR). Of course, there are so many other considerations that may be more important to you.
For most professionals and passionate cooks, generally the order of preference is ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR whilst for most domestic users it tends to be FOUR, ONE, TWO, THREE. I think this is because the former group sees the knife as a fundamental tool to achieve their goal to create great food, whereas the second group wants a tool that not only functions well but also reflects their persona and lifestyle.
The price of knives spans a huge range. The entry point for a knife (170 to 180mm multipurpose) that should satisfy the basic requirements detailed above is around the £50/70 mark and at the top end of performance around £500. Like everything, price to performance is a diminishing return. A £100 knife may perform twice as well as a £50 one, but a £500 may only perform 20% better than one that costs £300. It takes more and more effort (therefore more cost) to extract minute levels of further performance.
Fundamentally, the price is reflected by the following:
- The raw material to make the blade.
- Method of manufacturing.
- Material of the handle, finishing, packaging, etc.
- Brand reputation / celebrity endorsement etc.
- After-sales service
- The list is endless.
Over a regular series of blogs, I am going to give my understanding of these subjects and how they affect the performance, quality and value of the most important tool of the kitchen.