Arguably the most important tool in any professional or home kitchen, chef’s knives can accomplish almost any cutting task from slicing a pumpkin to dicing a shallot with ease. Food blogger Eshé Brown of Foodie Eshé compares two premium chef's knives from Japanese knife makers Yaxell and Global. Not sure which one to choose? She'll help you make up your mind!
All-purpose and versatile, chef’s knives are an essential item to have in your kitchen armoury. Whether it’s for chopping up vegetables, filleting fish or dicing onions, chef’s knives can handle it all.
Yaxell Zen 20cm Chef’s Knife: Well balanced and strong – ideal for heavy-duty tasks
The first knife out of the box was the Yaxell Zen VG10 Damascus, a 20cm long chef’s knife (RRP £130) made in Seki, Japan; a city famous for manufacturing Samurai swords.
Crafted with an impressive 37 layers of Damascus Steel, a VG10 steel core (the gold standard of stainless steel) and a full tang, the Yaxell Zen Chef’s Knife is designed to be razor sharp and durable.
The tang is the bottom portion of a blade that extends down into the handle, and is essentially the backbone of a knife because of the way it holds the whole thing together. The Yaxell’s full tang ensures it won’t loosen at the handle over time or develop stress fractures and break.
The spine of the blade has a polished square edge, and there’s a beautiful hammered mottling effect along both sides. This not only makes Yaxell chef’s knives stand out visually, but it also has a practical use, reducing stickiness when food meets the blade. Despite its weight, it is excellently balanced on all sides with no tipping experienced whatsoever.
The handle is 12.5cm long and made from Micarta, a high-pressure textile with resin, anti-bacterial, anti-shrinkage and waterproof properties. It also has a stainless steel bolster with 2 rivets to secure the blade.
Holding it, the grip feels good. It feels comfortable, solid and secure and doesn’t slide about easily. However, it is weighty which makes it little intimidating and could be too much if you have small hands. Although, as soon as I used it, I could see the advantages of its weight.
It glides through meat and vegetables with little to no effort at all, but where it really excels is in heavier duty tasks. When chopping through a firm butternut squash or a sweet potato, the Yaxell Zen’s weight helps it to fall with more force. Cutting through more delicate and fiddly items (e.g. gutting fish), it feels clunkier and probably a little too big for the task. Dicing onions quickly is a breeze though, and slicing tomatoes or meat is managed with ease too.
Global G-2 20cm Chef’s Knife: Light & nimble – ideal for slicing vegetables thinly and gutting fish
The second chef’s knife I put to the test was the Global Cromova 18 Stainless Steel G-2 (RRP £162.49); also Japanese-made, but with some very different features to the Yaxell.
Hand-forged in Niigata, Japan, the Global chef’s knives are made from exceptionally hard, high-carbon stainless steel, ice tempered and hardened to resist corrosion.
They are much lighter than the Yaxell chef’s knives, with a hollow handle filled with sand, providing precise control and balancing the weight of the blade. Global chef’s knives also have a square-edged spine like Yaxell, but both the spine and the edge of the Global blades are slimmer.
Just as sharp as the Yaxell knife, it tackles tomatoes and courgettes without any trouble at all, but its lack of weight means it struggles more with the heavier duty items such as butternut squash. However, where it does better than the Yaxell is in gutting fish, where its lightness enabled me to be more nimble and precise in my cuts.
Its design is both striking and practical with a stamped steel feature along the handle, and a seamless finish from the blade right the way to handle, preventing food and dirt from getting trapped and keeping things hygienic.
It’s hard to say which knife is best because they both suit different purposes. I think I’d choose Yaxell chef’s knives for heavier duty chopping tasks and Global chef’s knives for meat and fish. I am told chefs keep knives for different purposes and I think I'll follow suit.
If you’re now considering purchasing a chef’s knife, I would say it’s best to either buy a cheap knife, sharpen it a few times and then throw it away, or invest in good quality knife and really look after it.
If you decide to invest, regular maintenance is the key, sharpening little and often using a whetstone. You’ll also want to keep your knife in either a knife block or the storage box it’s sold with. Whatever you do, don’t throw in a drawer at home with other knives that may rub against the blade and blunt it!
Finally, if you need sharpening assistance you can also bring your knife into a Steamer Trading store and they will sharpen it the very same day for just £5. Find out more about the Steamer knife sharpening service.
Words and images by Foodie Eshé, an accomplished food blogger and photographer based in Brighton.