How to Choose the Right Kitchen Knife, Tips from Blade Expert Eytan Zias

In our third and final video with ‘Knife Master,’ Eytan Zias, and food expert, Josh Ozersky, we learn what knives you need to kill it in the kitchen and what to look for in a blade.

Zias, owner of the Portland Knife House, carries mostly Japanese or Portland made knives because of their quality. As he explains to Josh, “There is nobody competing with them in terms of quality. German knives have their place but don’t sharpen well and Japanese are not about the handle, they are about the steel.” Sorry Germany!

Here are some expert tips from Eytan regarding blades:

These days, your most basic Japanese made knife will out-perform anything coming out of Germany. Knives are almost as much about angles as they are about steel.

Generally speaking, for your all purpose chef knife/santoku, the thinner the blade the better it will sharpen and perform. Therefore, a $40 thin blade Victorinox will outperform a $100+ Henckels.

The three knives you must have are:

  • Chef Knife – 8” is the standard, but will vary according to personal preference. This is the knife you will be doing 90% of your work with and is your biggest priority.
  • Paring Knife – 3”-4 “, meant for smaller “in the hand” tasks such as peeling or coring.
  • Bread Knife – “8-“10, a serrated knife is a must for bread – crusty bread will dull any plain edge knife no matter the quality so there you need a saw edge.

And if you would add two more:

  • Boning Knife – 6”, a must for butchering tasks such as whole chickens, or anything that involves removing meat from the bone.
  • Slicer – 10”+, used for slicing and portioning meats and fish – length is important here in order to reduce the amount of strokes used and get cleaner cuts.

Stay away from the traditional single bevel “sushi” knives unless you are doing your own waterstone sharpening and have a use for one – these knives are very task specific (not all purpose!) are higher maintenance, and require more skill to use.

Carbon steel knives are generally recommended for people doing their own sharpening – the benefits of carbon are that they sharpen better than stain resistant blades – but since they are not rust/stain resistant, the higher maintenance might outweigh the benefits for most people.

Things to ignore when choosing a knife:

  • What feels sharper at the store does not mean a better knife (the first honing/sharpening will even everything out – so go for the better steel).
  • Balance is only important when you hold the knife the way you are going to use it (the traditional “balance on one finger” test is meaningless).
  • More weight is not a sign of quality.
  • Be prepared to maintain your blade – there is no knife at any price which does not require regular honing/sharpening.