Not all knives are created equal, and it’s important to know what to look for when shopping for this essential kitchen tool.
Whether you’re a kitchen novice or a world-renowned chef, one of the most important tools on your counter is the kitchen knife. Sharpening your simple knife skills will improve your kitchen experience by decreasing prep time, creating uniformity in your cuts, and reducing your chance of injury.
But before you start chopping, let’s break down the components of the humble kitchen Knife and discuss the importance of each. Knives are an investment, so knowing what you need from a Knife and how each part works will help you decide on the best tool for you.
The butt of a Knife, also called the pommel, sits very opposite of the Knife’s tip and, on well-designed Knives, is sturdy to help orient the tool in the user’s hand. A full-tang Knife runs completely through the handle to the butt.
The design and shape of a Knife’s handle makes or breaks the user’s experience. Two pieces of material—usually wood, plastic, or steel to avoid slip—called scales sandwich the extending material of the blade. A well-designed Knife has scales that consider hand ergonomics and intended use, though many collectors’ Knives feature decorative scales made of less-common material, like bone.
To keep the scales attached to the tang of a Knife, handle fasteners, such as metal screws or rivets, hold the handle together. Knives that have screws must be regularly tightened, but they make it possible to easily replace the knife’s handle if needed. Alternatively, rivets make replacing a handle much more challenging, but they are a cost-effective option when Knife-shopping.
The tang of a Knife anchors the handle and provides stability when chopping through firm objects. This unsharpened blade material can either be “full” or “partial”. A full tang runs the length of the Knife to the butt, while a partial tang does not. Full tang knives are stronger than partial tang knives and decrease the risk of damage when in use.
Pro tip: Some Knives, known as “hidden tang Knives”, may not reveal the tang at the butt of the Knife for aesthetic purposes, but their packaging will disclose this.
The part of a Knife’s blade known as the bolster acts as a buffer between the user’s fingers and the sharp edge of the blade. It’s weighty and thicker than the cutting portion of the blade, which makes it particularly helpful on Knives used to work with meat or fish, as pushing down on the bolster provides extra leverage.
When properly weighted, the bolster adds balance and strength to a Knife, and sloped bolsters encourage precision by allowing for a pinch grip. If you use an electric Knife sharpener, keep in mind that some bolsters can render a knife incompatible with the sharpener.
Where the blade of the Knife ends nearest your hand is the heel, an unsharpened portion of the blade which may or may not be present on your Knife. The heel of some Knives is covered by the bolster.
The unsharpened top end of a Knife’s blade, opposite the Knife’s edge, is called the spine. Usually the thickest part of the blade, the spine helps a knife withstand heavy pressure to reduce resistance as it chops. Some Knives, like a Fillet Knife, have a spine as thin as the blade’s edge for flexibility when maneuvering around small fish bones.
Whether you’re chopping onions or slicing bread, the edge of the knife is the part doing the most work. A Knife’s edge is sharpened but can be shaped differently for different uses. For instance, a serrated knife edge is jagged and good for slicing through bread without tearing it. Steak knives have a serrated edge to provide control when slicing cuts of meat. Flat edges, like on the blade of a Santoku, are extremely sharp and well-suited for making thin slices.
These often-confused parts of a knife have different purposes. A Knife’s point is its forward-most part of the blade where the sharp blade and dull spine meet. It’s not particularly helpful for slicing or chopping but can be used to poke holes if needed.
The tip, on the other hand, is the sloping edge of the blade nearest the point and is particularly useful when slicing soft vegetables quickly.
You’re now well-equipped to find the best Knife for your needs. Whether you’re butchering a whole chicken or simply slicing tomatoes, an understanding of your knife and all its parts will help you get the job done with ease.
High-quality Knives will possess all of these parts, while cheaper ones will cut corners by skipping full-tang or opting for cheap handle fasteners. Made In Knives have all of these qualities (and then some) so you know you’re getting a Knife trusted by both home and professional chefs.
Our line of high-quality knives includes basic knife sets as well as individually-sold options for all your kitchen needs. With choices ranging from wood to metal handles, varying blade lengths, and ergonomic designs, Made In Knives are made to last.