Chef's Knives, Innovative
We ask a lot of our chef's knives in the test kitchen. We want one that's versatile enough to handle almost any cutting task, whether it's mincing delicate herbs or cutting through meat and bones. We want a sharp blade that slices easily, without requiring a lot of force. We want a comfortable handle that doesn't hurt our hands or get slippery when wet or greasy.
We've tested 30 knives in recent years, and we know what we like. But manufacturers have recently begun offering new designs that challenge many of our assumptions about the classic chef's knife. We've seen unusual handle angles and blades, ergonomic designs for reducing hand fatigue and improving grip, and a variety of other features that promise better handling and easier cutting. Would any of these prove to be a real improvement?
A good handle should virtually disappear in your grip, making the knife the oft-cited "extension of your hand." The knives in our lineup featured handles shaped like metal triangles or wedges, handles tilted upward, handles covered with spongy plastic or pebbled polypropylene, and handles with ergonomic bumps and bulges. We found that metal handles became slippery when wet or greasy, as did textured polypropylene handles. The slick plastic grip was heavy and uncomfortable, making the knife feel "angular and awkward."
One knife we did like had a handle that rose in a 10-degree angle to keep knuckles clear of the cutting board. This provided leverage for hard cuts, but there were some complaints about the exaggerated rocking motion during mincing. A second innovative handle that really won testers over has a short wooden handle that arcs downward, with a pronounced bump on the belly. The metal bolster is cut away to help fingers grip the blade and mercifully extends over the sharp spine to protect the fingers. The wood did not become slippery, and testers reported that the knife felt natural and maneuverable as they worked. A nice touch: The bottom of the bolster stops 1/2 inch short of the knife's heel, allowing it to pass completely through a sharpening device.
Some blade innovations were also successful. Thin profile knives avoided the impact of wedge-shaped knives. While a wedge-like blade can be useful for jobs like splitting open a heavy squash, it can rip food and make slicing slower and
Overall, while we found plenty to admire among the top-rated innovative knives in this test, we remain hard-pressed to pay a premium—sometimes as much as $175—for their innovations.
The nonslip grip and narrow, straight blade let testers remove the smallest bones with precision and complete comfort. Perfectly balanced with enough flexibility to maneuver around tight joints. The low price was a bonus.
Hefty in weight, this knife was a solid performer when removing poultry bones, and the handle was easy to grip, even when covered in chicken fat. Piercing silver skin was a challenge since the tip wasn’t sharp enough and the long narrow blade produced slightly jagged cuts.
|Recommended with Reservations|
The sharp tip performed well when removing silver skin, but it was too flexible when maneuvering around poultry joints, leaving testers feeling a lack of control. The heavy handle was slightly unbalanced and became slippery once covered in poultry fat.
Designed to replicate a samurai blade, this expensive knife was a disappointment. It struggled to pierce the silver skin, although long cuts were smooth and even. Minimal flexibility and extreme curve got in the way when maneuvering around joints. The smooth handle was hard to grip and slippery.
The large, cumbersome handle reminded testers of an outdoors knife for fishing and hunting. The blade was too wide to maneuver around joints and it struggled to pierce silver skin. Unlike other knives, this boning knife could only slice in one direction, making intricate cuts around joints difficult.
The blade was so flexible it led to erratic cuttings; testers said the knife was hard to control. The blade was not sturdy enough to maneuver around joints and the lightweight handle felt flimsy and unbalanced.
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