Here we will answer some of the most commonly asked questions relating to knives - all our store staff are expertly trained on knives, so if you have any questions that are not addressed here, please do ask in your local store, or contact our Website Customer Services, and they will be happy to help and advise however they can!
"German or Japanese – which are best?"
Neither one or the other is ‘better’, both types of kitchen knife are very different and perform better in different cooking situations. Ask yourself what kind of cooking you do. If the answer is that you cook plenty of roast dinners, stews, casseroles and traditional British dishes then a German or European knife will be best for you as its strength and weight will help to cut up tougher meat and stiffer vegetables with ease. If you’re an adventurous cook who prepares dishes from all over the world with delicate flavours; or if the presentation of your food is very important then the fine slicing performance of Japanese kitchen knives is what you need.
"Is a heavier knife better?"
Only if you are strong enough to use it. Weight is not an indication of the quality of a knife. A heavy kitchen knife will be great for cutting large tough vegetables so you may want to have one really weighty blade in your set. It is important that you handle a large selection of knives when you are considering your purchase. Choose the one that has the right amount of weight behind it to suit the way that you cook.
"How long will a knife last?"
A good quality knife may still be in regular use in over 30 years time. By caring for your kitchen knives and storing them properly they should be a lifetime investment. Careful sharpening is important to preserve the life of your kitchen knives. Be sure to use the correct sharpener for your style of knife to ensure a longer life span of your knife.
"What is Rockwell Hardness and will it make my knives better?"
The Rockwell Hardness Scale is used to measure the hardness of any material on earth. Diamond scores 100 and talc, the softest solid substance on earth scores 0. A high Rockwell hardness is not an overall indicator of the quality of a knife. A kitchen knife with a high score will have a hard edge. It will be extremely sharp and hold its edge for longer than one with a lower score. Hard materials are brittle so the edge of a hard knife will be more delicate and susceptible to nicks and chips than a softer tougher knife. Knives with a lower score will still be extremely sharp. The slightly softer steel will require re-sharpening a little more often but this will be much easier to achieve than on a harder steel knife. The lower scoring knife will be tougher and better able to soak up heavy use than a harder, higher scoring blade. Quality European knives are generally made from knives with a Rockwell Harness score of 56-58 whilst more delicate Japanese blades rate from 59 upwards.
"Why is a fully forged knife a good thing?"
In a fully forged knife the blade, bolster and tang are all shaped from a single piece of steel. This means that all of the forces involved in cutting are spread evenly across the entire body of the knife making the knife very strong. Heating the steel tor red heat makes the crystals in the piece of steel align in the optimum position to make the knife strong. Rapidly cooling the red hot steel hardens the material for great cutting performance whilst accurate tempering makes the knife tough enough to withstand the harshest of kitchens.
"I’ve heard of Sabatier knives, aren’t they supposed to be some of the best?"
Once upon a time this was true but today thing are much more complicated. Sabatier knives originally came from two top quality foundries in Thiers in France belonging to different branches of the Sabatier family. The use of the name predates intellectual property and trademark laws and therefore isn’t protected. There are well over one hundred different ranges of knives around the world bearing the Sabatier name. They range from a few top quality French makes to cheap Far Eastern models.
Genuine, high quality Sabatier knives only come from Thiers in France and should have this either printed on the packaging or the knife.
"I’m left handed can I use any knife?"
Thankfully there are very few kitchen knives that you won’t be able to use. Any non-serrated knife will perform equally well in your left or right hand. Serrated knives and particularly bread knives might be a problem as the serrations are only ground into one side of the blade. This causes the knife to veer off course leading to slices which are thin at the top and thick at the bottom. The good news is that specific left handed serrated knives are available. To check whether a serrated knife is left or right handed, hold it by the handle as if you were about to cut something. If the serrations are on the right of the knife its right handed, if they’re on the left, it’s a leftie. For serious oriental chefs we can even supply left handed sashimi knives and debas.
"My parents insist that carbon steel knives are far better than stainless steel ones – is this true?"
Not that long ago almost all kitchen knives were made out of carbon steel. It’s very easy to sharpen a carbon steel knife to a superb edge but sadly they don’t stay that sharp for very long. Carbon steel knives go rusty quite quickly so they need careful cleaning and gentle oiling before you put them away. Modern stainless steel knives, particularly Japanese kitchen knives can be sharpened to a finer, sharper edge than carbon steel blades. A stainless steel knife will hold its edge for much longer too. We appreciate that many people are still devoted to their carbon steel knives which is why we carry a selection of them at Steamer Trading.
"My knives are blunt – how do I get them sharp?"
You need to invest in a kitchen knife sharpener. A draw through model will have your knives sharp again in no time and with minimal effort. Many draw through sharpeners have two sharpening slots, a rough one to reshape the edge of very dull knife and a smooth one which will but a lovely sharp finish onto the knife.
"I’ve got a chip out of my knife – can it be fixed?"
There’s no way that the chip can be filled in again but the blade can be ground back to smooth out the damage. It’s far easier than you might imagine to remove small nicks and chips from the edge of a kitchen knife. A rough whetstone is the best tool for the job as this will quickly remove material from the knife edge and get rid of any chips. Work the knife on one side until the chip is half gone and then continue working on the other side until the chip has vanished. This will keep the edge of your knife nicely symmetrical for even cutting. Finish by sharpening on your knife on a smooth whetstone and you’re back in business!
"Will the dishwasher harm my knives?"
Most kitchen knives will come to no serious harm from being washed in a dishwasher once in a while. Continued dishwashing may result in corrosion spots, damage to aluminium rivets and dulling of the cutting edge. Knives with wooden handles should never be put into the dishwasher. A combination of the water, heat and chemicals will ruin the finish of the handles and is very likely to make them crack. Always refer to the manufacturers care instructions, as they may differ between brands and ranges.