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Milly's 101: Knives

Milly's 101: Knives

Your chef’s knife is just about the most essential piece of equipment in your kitchen. It’s really important to choose the right knife in the right size (be it German or Japanese) and to care for it which means keeping it clean, sharp and safely stored.

The difference between German and Japanese knives is mostly in the manufacture and the angle to which they are sharpened. Simply put, German knives (Zwilling Henckels, Wusthof, WMF) are made of softer metal making them easier to sharpen but also easier to blunt. They are also, generally heavier, of thicker steel and sharpened to a 20 degree angle.

Japanese knives by contrast are harder and can be sharpened to a 16 degree angle. If you value sharpness and precision and often spend hours chopping and slicing, you might gravitate towards a light, sharp Japanese-made knife that keeps its edge for longer. The blades are thin, super sharp, and hard, meaning they hold their edge for longer (so you won’t have to sharpen them as often). They excel at precision slicing. They require sharpening less often but they can be less forgiving when dropped and more likely to chip when used as a cleaver (and who hasn’t done that!). Their hardness also makes them brittle, meaning they’re more prone to chipping or snapping if used improperly.

The most popular knife in both ranges is the 20cm Chef’s.  It suits most people size wise and can be used for almost any kitchen task. Gaining popularity though is the Japanese Santoku. At around 18cm, it’s a great all purpose kitchen workhorse, suits just about everyone (unless you’re really tall) – our favourite is the Shun Classic but most German brands now do a santoku so you’ll be able to find one to match your set.

Caring for your knives:
At Milly’s, we recommend cleaning your knives by hand, with a sponge, hot water and dish liquid. Not only is this important for safety reasons, but it also helps prevent rust, staining, and corrosion—yes, even on stainless knives. (a knife definitely does not belong in a dishwasher, which will blunt them and shorten their lives, damaging not only the blade but also the handle). If you have a carbon steel knife, make sure you dry it very well or it can rust.

Steel your knife every time you use it and every six months or so either get them professionally sharpened (at Milly’s) or use a pull-though or electric knife sharpener. We don’t recommend diamond steels at all as they really do shred your knives by removing too much metal.

Store your knives in a benchtop storage block, on a magnetic rack on the wall or in a special draw dedicated to this purpose. This provides good protection for the edges of your blades where they are secure and won’t rattle around.

Keep your knives clean, sharp and stored correctly and they are investment that will keep paying you back for many years to come.

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