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Knife enthusiasts, prepare for the ultimate blade porn in writer, broadcaster and restaurateur Tim Hayward's new definitive guide to knife types: Knife - The Culture, Craft and Cult of the Cook's Knife.
Part reference guide, part 'nerd out' on knives, Hayward's book stretches to over 200 pages of accessible facts, tips and stories about one of the most important, and potentially lethal (he reminds us) of domestic tools, with a broad enough perspective to appeal to both professionals and interested cooks.
The fascinating stories behind 40 knives from around the world evolve, from the trusty British bread knife to the top dollar Japanese yanagiba. And whilst Hayward admits to being too 'British' to suggest knives have a "spirit," he does reflect on the relationship that can evolve with knives, whether it's sentimental value from a knife that has endured years of re-shaping over generations or the social context of a blade as a mirror of food culture.
This is the book that will help you understand your knives, as well as encouraging you to look after them better. As Hayward says, "All knives in the world are held, gripped and moved in the same way around the world and once you understand that you understand all the ways in which knives are designed and why."
See his tips below on how to buy and look after a knife.
All images: Chris Terry
Tim Hayward's Top Knife Tips:
How to choose a knife?
1. Go into a decent cook shop or a decent knife shop, get advice and try the knife out.
2. Find out the most comfortable – the knife should feel like an extension of your hand (you'll know it by its feel)
3. Understand how easy or difficult it is to keep and edge on the knife and if you want to get involved in knife sharpening.
4. Learn as you go and if in time that knife doesn’t suit you, buy another one.
5. Alternatively get one specially made for you – by playing and testing the knife you can get it adjusted to fit you by grinding off a bit more metal.
Learning to Use a Knife:
1. Do a knife skills course or follow one on the web. See Tim's knife grips tips here.
2. Learn how to slice celery, carrot, onions, etc – you can learn from the web, or follow Tim's tips here.
3. For the rest of your life, every single time you cut and practice you will get better and faster.
Top 3 Personal favourites
1. Wüsthof - "in a professional kitchen, because it’s bombproof and it’s superbly efficient in its job."
2. Yanagiba - "at home, a Japanese style lighter knife, which I find much more delicate to use."
3. Old Sabatier chef knife - "because it's imbued with sentimental value (now on its third generation of family)."
Current Favourite Artisan Knife Makers:
(in no particular order)
1. Bob Kramer, UK
2. Bleinham Forge, UK
3. Joel Black, UK