Parts of a Chef’s Knife


If you’re hunting for a top-quality chefs knife, then it’s helpful to understand the basic components of a knife and what qualities makes it durable and strong.

Forged steel is always preferable. The steel should run in one piece from the tip of the knife to the tang, or the part that’s secured within the handle. This one-piece construction will make the knife last for years without breaking or becoming disjointed.


The best chefs knives are forged from high carbon stainless steel, which is an extremely strong, hard metal that resists stains and rust. Hard steel is tougher to sharpen, but it already stays sharp for long periods. Some people like the softer carbon steel material because it’s easier to sharpen, but those knives go dull faster.

Length and shape of blade

Chefs knives are typically 8 to 12 inches long. The longer the blade, the more surface area the knife can cover in a single stroke.

You’ll notice some knives described as French- or German-style. French chefs knives have a flatter, more triangular blade which is ideal for slicing foods in a pull-back motion. German knives have a rounded blade that’s good for an up-and-down rocking motion, a faster, easier movement.

There are also special Japanese knives called santoku, which feature spaced-out dimples, or indentations, along the edge of the blade. These marks in the blade allow air pockets to form between the food and the knife, cutting down on friction and sticking.


Try handling a knife to see how easily it fits in your hand. Is the handle textured or contoured to prevent slips and provide comfort? It should be long enough to hold easily and provide proper balance to the knife.

Handles used to be exclusively made of wood, but now we recognize that there are disadvantages to that material. For one, wood can warp and crack if exposed to water for long periods. Also, wood is porous, meaning bacteria from food particles can grow in the handle or at the bolster where the handle meets the blade. For sanitary purposes, plastic or rubber handles are preferred for commercial kitchens. Of course, there’s always a compromise: wood infused with plastic resin, a composite that resembles wood but doesn’t pose hygienic risks.

Weight and heft

The longer the knife, the greater leverage you’ll have while cutting hard, large food objects. The heel, or widest portion of the blade, is responsible for cutting through carrots and other hard foods. You may prefer a hefty knife with enough cutting force to handle these tasks. Just be aware that a heavier knife will tire your arm out after extended periods of use.

Tang and rivets

Full tang knives are the best. Period. The tang may or may not be visible in the handle, but you can usually see the rivets, which secure the handle to the tang. They should not protrude from the handle or include crevices where crumbs and juices can get stuck.

Forged vs. stamped

If the knife has a bolster, or thick shoulder at the top of the blade, that indicates that the knife was forged from a big piece of steel. These types of knives are strongest, and the bolster keeps your hand from slipping or getting tired.

Stamped knives, in contrast, are made from a roll of sheet metal and aren’t as sturdy or long-lasting as forged knives. They do, however, have the advantage of being lighter and more comfortable to handle for long periods of time.

Brittany Rowland Brittany Rowland researches new developments in Appliances, Kitchen and CE products features with a vigor to which few would aspire… but someone has to do it. See more about Brittany

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