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Anyone with a top-notch kitchen knife will tell you that good knives make cooking a real joy instead of another weeknight chore. The best kitchen knife is sharp, durable, and versatile, with a high-quality blade, and a handle that fits comfortably in the palm of your hand. We reckon a great set of knives is just as important as a good frying pan. So, resident kitchenware nerd and Cosier writer Elese has combed the web to round up some of Australia's favourite kitchen knife brands.
How we picked
A good knife makes the world of difference to your cooking, but it's hard to know where to start. Luckily for you, Cosier writer Elese (yep - still here) has years of experience selling kitchen knives. While I do have a soft spot for certain brands, fairness is key to the Cosier ethos. To make sure I gave the options a fair go, I started by checking CHOICE, Australia's biggest consumer advocacy group, to see what they'd reviewed.
Turns out CHOICE also has good taste in kitchen knives, though there were a few brands I hadn't heard of. I cross-checked by looking at reviews on ProductReview.com.au. As it happens, Aussies have strong opinions about kitchen knives, so I made note of some of the best-rated products, and started slicing lesser-regarded brands from the list. After doing some virtual window-shopping, I crossed some of the less-available brands off. That's how I ended up with my top picks for Australia's best kitchen knife set.
Features to consider
While you might think a chef's knife's is a chef's knife, there are plenty of different options to cater to different cooking styles. Here are some features we think will help you decide.
Regardless of who you are and how you cook, everyone needs at least a chef's knife and a paring knife. Beyond that - it's up to you. Here are some of the most common kinds of kitchen knives.
- Chef’s Knife - a chef's knife, also known as a cook's knife, is the workhorse of the kitchen, with a rounded edge for a smoothing rocking movement as you slice.
- Paring Knife - small and indispensable, paring knives are lightweight knives used mostly for cutting fruit and vegetables.
- Utility Knife - somewhere between a paring knife and chef's knife, these versatile knives are ideal for trimming fat or carving meat, as well as your usual veggie prep tasks.
- Carving Knife - like a utility knife, but longer, with a pointed tip for making tidy work of a roast.
- Bread Knife - a bread knife has serrated edges so you can slowly draw the blade over softer foods like bread or tomatoes without crushing.
- Santoku Knife - similar to a chef's knife, but with a flat blade and lighter handle for finer prep tasks.
- Cleaver - the slightly terrifying older cousin of a chef's knife, the cleaver is ideal for heavier butchery tasks.
German or Japanese
There are broadly two kinds of kitchen knives to choose from - German, or Western knives, and Japanese knives. German knives are usually heftier, with full-tang blades that make them weigh more than Japanese knives. Full-tang means the steel goes right from one end of the blade to the farthest end of the handle for a stronger knife. The blade angle on German knives are usually between 15 - 20 degrees, and they're ideal for preparing dense, bulky items like pumpkins or beef. These knives have curved blades to help rock back and forth over food to achieve a fine texture.
Japanese knives are often lighter and thinner than German knives. They're best for precision work because they're much more maneuverable, with fine, deft blades for things like fish, sushi, and vegetables. They don't always have a bolster (the thick part of the steel before the handle), which reduces weight. This also means they're weaker at the hilt, so they're not ideal for cutting large, dense foods like sweet potatoes. The thinner blades on Japanese knives mean they're at a finer angle than German knives, so they're sharper, but may need more regular sharpening.
As a hard and fast rule, kitchen knives are not meant to go in the dishwasher. The heat and movement of the dishwasher will wear your knife faster, making for blunt knives that aren't safe to cut with. Some brands make 'dishwasher-safe' knives, but this tends to be a feature of less expensive brands. Gentle hand-washing is always the best way to clean a knife.
Good kitchen knives are rarely cheap, but there's a great kitchen knife for every budget. At the lower end of the price range, Kiwi or Victorinox knives are good options. Well-known brands like Global and Wusthof make excellent knives for mid-range budgets, and you can expect to spend between $100 - $300 a knife. In this range, you'll see the best value with a set, and can expect to pay between $300 - $1,000 for a reasonable knife block.
At the upper end of the scale, you'll find handmade knives, speciality knives, or premier ranges from big brands, setting you back anywhere from $400 to prices in the thousands.
Most knives are made from stainless steel, which is more resistant to rust. This is because stainless steel is a metal alloy, with other add-ins like chromium, iron, or carbon for strength and stain resistance. Carbon steel knives are also very popular, though they're susceptible to rust if you don't dry them carefully after each use.
Damascus steel knives are made from different types of steel hardened together for a tough, yet very sharp blade. These knives often have beautiful patterns as a result of the combined layers of steel. Ceramic knives are also an option, though they're prone to chipping or shattering. They're light, but need a special tool to sharpen them.
What you get if you spend more
Ever wondered why people spend $300 on a chef's knife when they could grab a $20 bargain? Here's why.
Once you've used a higher-quality kitchen knife, it's difficult to go back. Pricier knives tend to last much longer, holding a sharper blade between honing. If you invest in a good knife, it'll last you a lifetime if you take care of it. It's cheaper in the long run to buy a few good knives that last 50 years, rather than buying several knives every few years.
To keep your kitchen knives in tip-top shape, aim to get them professionally sharpened once every few months. Kitchenware stores and specialty knife sharpening services usually do this for around $5 - $15 per knife. You'll also get a better result by sharpening them at home with a whetstone or steel at least every couple of weeks, if not more regularly.
If you spend $500+ on kitchen knives, it's likely you've purchased a set or a knife block instead of a single knife. A knife block is an economical way to buy knives, and it's worth noting brands count the block and knife accessories in the 'pieces' of the set. This means a 7-piece set could have only 5 knives, with a knife block and sharpening steel making up the other 2 parts.
Expensive knives are usually pricey because of the materials they're made with. Higher-end knives like Shun use Damascus steel or other steel composites, designed to be harder while retaining a fine, sharp blade. The handles on higher-quality knives are generally made from wood instead of plastic - which is usually better for the environment, too.
Pricier kitchen knives often have much more thought behind the manufacturing process in comparison to cheaper knives. Their handles tend to be more ergonomic for a comfortable grip, and they're less prone to breaking, chipping, or shattering. If you spend a bit more, you're also likely to end up with a beautiful knife you can be proud of for years to come.
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