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Every good cook needs a good knife. This is the one you reach for first, even before you start assembling your ingredients.

But what makes a good knife? The most important thing is the blade. All blades today are made of stainless steel. The thicker the blade and the heavier, the better. The other important factor is that the shaft of the blade should go right through the handle. A good blade needs regular sharpening and will last a lifetime.

Poor quality knives have thin, pre-sharpened blades that are stuck into a plastic handle. When you use them, they bend easily. When they go blunt, you throw them away.

Next, you want a size that suits you. This varies from person to person. Some people like bigger knives and some people like smaller knives.

Go through your kitchen drawer right now and find all those knives that are too blunt to slice a tomato. Push your thumb against the blade. If it bends, throw it away. If it doesn't, sharpen the blade.

If you end up throwing all your knives away, you'll need to buy a new one. Don't be bewildered by the choice you have when you go shopping. There are specialist knives for almost every kitchen purpose. If you bone chickens often, you'll want a boning knife. If you're a grapefruit addict, you'll want a grapefruit knife.

But if you're going to have just one perfect knife, then the one to choose is a Chef's Knife. It is worth spending the extra money to make sure you get the best quality.

It is usually quite a large knife, about a foot long. Even in its largeness, it comes in different sizes. These tend to be wider sizes, rather than longer sizes. Choose the size that you find most comfortable.

The important thing is the shape of the blade. A Chef's Knife blade looks a bit like a bayonet, or a slightly lopsided Gothic arch, although it's only sharp on one side. The tip of the knife is pointy, and the base is very wide. The blade is smooth, not serrated, but it cuts through bread and tomatoes as easily as it cuts through vegetables, meats, and cheeses. In fact, if you have a good Chef's Knife, you probably won't even need a bread knife or a carving knife.

The blunt side of the blade is quite thick, and that's important too. It means you can use the back of the knife to flatten chicken breasts, for example, into schnitzels. Just open out your chicken breast and beat it down to the thickness you want. You can also use the back of the knife to tenderize frying steaks.

Price is a good pointer to quality. The more expensive knife will have the better, thicker blade. And if you're buying just one perfect knife, you can afford the better quality.

One last tip: Store your knife in a special wooden knife-holder. This will help keep the blade sharp for longer. Knives that are in the same drawer with other cutlery go blunt sooner.