What Are The Best High End Kitchen Knives? | Jonas Blade

What Are The Best High End Kitchen Knives?

The high-end kitchen knife represents the most rapidly growing segment of modern custom knife making. Ten years ago, there were only a small handful of makers putting out decent work in this category, and only a few who truly specialized in it. Today, the high-end kitchen knife market is booming, and with so many makers out there it can be difficult to know where to begin.

Naturally, any high-end kitchen knife must, at a minimum, work. It has to function properly from an ergonomic standpoint, and it also has to possess certain technical characteristics that allow it to do its job. Some of this can be a little less than obvious to the uneducated customer.

Ergonomics are the easy part. Does the knife come to the hand in a way that allows the wielder to work comfortably and effectively? Much is often made of the “pinch grip” by experienced cooks, and in most cases, this really is the “correct” way to hold a knife. However, the right way to hold a knife comes down to the comfort of the person actually holding the knife. In considering a high-end kitchen knife, you should look carefully at whether or not the knife will rest in your hand the way you want it to.

A second major aspect of the ergonomics of any high-end kitchen knife is the shape of the blade. It is a mistake to think of this only as an aesthetic or style consideration. Rather, I would encourage you to think of the blade as a part of a machine. You are the motor, but if the blade is not shaped properly the knife will not run properly. The simplest example of this is the curvature of the edge from tip to heel. If the curvature is much too rounded—think of a half-moon blade, like a protractor—the knife will feel unstable and unwieldy. To make a rocking cut through something wide like a potato, the handle would need to travel from nearly vertical all the way to horizontal, or even further. If the curvature is too flat the knife may chop decently, but here again the rocking cut will be clunky and forced.

I have been tuning the curvature of my own high-end kitchen knife designs for more than a decade. I want each cut to feel smooth but definite, easy but controlled. I consider the height of the wielder relative to the height of the countertop so that the arm’s range of motion is appropriate. I terminate the curve at the heel so that the blade does not knock into the cutting boar at the end of each cut, and so that the angle of the wrist does not break a certain plane and cause the blade to walk laterally. There is a lot that goes into it.

There is one particularly common misconception about high-end kitchen knives that is worth addressing. There seems to be a perception that if a knife is not “hand forged,” that this means it is not of the highest quality. This is an outright mistake. The forging vs. stock removal debate has dragged on for decades, but the simple truth is that whether a knife was forged by hand or simply cut and ground out of a cold bar of steel is utterly irrelevant to the quality of the knife, quantitatively speaking. What does matter is that the best high-end kitchen knives will use quality materials and will address those materials properly during the crafting process. Assuming the maker has used good steel, the important part is called heat treatment. Heat treatment is the process that converts the relatively soft steel from the mill into a more rugged, hardened material that will cut like crazy and hold its edge as long as possible. Hand forging may possess a certain romance that stock removal or not, but if you are looking at high-end kitchen knives, the important thing to ask about is heat treatment. 

Of course, the aesthetics are not to be ignored. If you are paying top dollar for a high-end kitchen knife, you definitely want to make sure it looks the part. But here as always, aesthetics are subjective. Some people like a more rustic or rugged look. Others might prefer sleek and modern. Some like dark handles, some light. The list goes on and on. As a custom maker, I can design your knife to suit your tastes without compromising on the ergonomics or the other technical aspects of the work.

If you would like to know more about high-end kitchen knives as we discuss your own custom project, send me an E-mail and start a conversation. I am looking forward to working with you.

About The Author

Zack Jonas was born and raised in Massachusetts in the 1980’s and is still a New Englander today. With his growing love for art over the years, he took an introductory bladesmithing class at MASSart. It was there that he learned one of his most valuable lessons, which is that everyone has some insight worth learning. Today, he is a full-time bladesmith and feels incredibly fortunate to have found his calling.