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How to pick the right kitchen knife

Buying knives might seem like a no-brainer, but it is actually really important to get the right knife for your hand. Here are a few tips on how to pick the right knife for your kitchen.


(image: DFD)

What you should look out for when picking a knife:

Size, contour and material of the handle
It should fit comfortably in your hand. If you have smaller hands, a slimmer handle will likely offer a better grip and be easier to use. The material of the handle shouldn’t feel too slippery or rough.

Weight of the knife
It shouldn’t be too heavy or light for you. Your hand will tire easily with a knife that’s too hefty while one that’s too light may not be suitable for handling hardier foods like pumpkins and watermelons. Also consider what you’re comfortable with – some prefer a heavier knife as it falls with more force while others prefer a light one that is easier to manoeuvre. 

Balance between the handle and blade
For a chef’s knife, the handle should not be much heavier or lighter than the blade, while for a pairing knife, the handle can be slightly more weighted than the blade as that makes peeling easier. Get a feel of the knife at the store: hold the knife in your hand and make a cutting action, preferably on a chopping board. Buying knives online is not advisable unless you are unfamiliar with the knife.

Length of the blade
The blade should not feel overly long or short for you. Chef’s knives come with blades that are between 15cm to 24cm while paring knives have blades ranging from 9cm to 15cm. 

What makes a good knife?

Be sure to pay attention to these details.

  1. Tang
    Go for a full-tang knife, where the steel of the blade extends all the way to the end of the handle. Besides being more sturdy and durable than a partial-tang knife, it offers better control and is effortless to use.
  2. Bolster and finger guard (or choil)
    This should feel smooth and not cut into your thumb and finer in any way.
  3. Spine
    It should be smooth with rounded edges, instead of straight ones, which makes it easier on your hand when you rock the knife back and forth to mince food.
  4. Blade
    If you frequently cut up hard foods, pick one with a slightly thicker blade. But if you prepare mostly vegetables, seafood and boneless meat, a thinner blade would suffice.

This article was first published in Simply Her, 2015. Our experts for this article are:

  • Cath Fleet, trainer at Expat Kitchen 
  • David Lim, managing director of Razorsharp
  • Ryoichi Kano, chef de cuisine at Lewin Terrace
  • Lua Chang Yung, culinary instructor, Diploma in Culinary & Catering Management at Temasek Polytechnic
  • Goh Hock Quee, senior lecturer, Diploma in Culinary & Catering Management at Temasek Polytechnic
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