INTRODUCTION Click for Video
Knives, considered the most valuable tool of our profession, are often taken for granted and sometimes even abused. The basic care and use of the knife not only prolongs its life but also affects the final food product in both texture and flavor. Knives have been around since primitive man shaped and shear headed them from stone. The progress of knives actually parallels the progress of man from the Stone Age through the Bronze and Iron Ages.
Although flint was the stone of choice for knives of the Stone Age, bronze slowly replaced stone as the material of preference. Iron was actually known about prior to bronze, but it was very hard to work with. It is believed that these metals were discovered while primitive man was using the technique of heating larger stones to break them, or as the metals melted from rocks around their campfires. Even though evidence shows that iron was discovered as far back as 1432 B.C., it did not replace bronze (used 3000 B.C.) until around 600 B.C.
The cutler's craft, as we know it, dates back to the 10th and 11th centuries. Steel production started to develop about that the time in Germany and England. With the advent of steam-driven power in the 1830s and 1840s, factories and complexes which could grind and hammer steel began to spring up. This made knives affordable to more than just the upper class.
There are many types of knives, each designed for a specific purpose. A student or cook should study each knife to determine its specific use. For example, French or chefs knives are for cutting and chopping. The short narrow blades of boning knives are perfect for getting close to the bone in order to separate the meat cleanly. The long narrow blades of a slicer are ideal for making slices clean.
To understand the purpose for which a knife was designed, it is important to have a knowledge and understanding of the anatomy of a knife. The edge of the knife and how it has been made is the most important factor. The tempering, the materials, and the shape are all designed with the specific use of the knife in mind.