Monday, November 4, 2019

Bar Knives

For the purposes of cutting fruit for garnishes, just about any well taken care of knife will do the job. I've used oyster knives, serrated steak knives, 8-inch chef's knives, and weirder. A butterfly knife worked really well for me for years. A dollar store paring knife will do the job but it will dull or even break fairly quickly. Spend at least $10 on a good piece of stainless steel. Here's a guide of the pros and cons of different knife types. 

In terms of material make your choice wisely. Carbon steel is sensitive to citrus so avoid that. Some people prefer non-stick silicon-coated knives, which usually come in a variety of pretty colors. The coating allows the knife to be cleaned easier but constant use and sharpening removes the protective outer layer. Most are affordable enough to replace as needed. Compared to carbon steel, ceramics are actually wonderful. They will hold an edge longer, they don't rust, and are typically cleaner. They can't cut overly dense materials though, like anything frozen. Steel remains the most versatile. If you take the craft seriously and enjoy the ritual of maintaining your tools get something solid. If you're just keeping it casual, silicone coating or ceramic work fine. 

Length and shape are just as important. They are important with regards to most things. 3.5 inches is a standard for a fruit paring knife, but that is sometimes too small and makes cutting anything the size of an orange or larger rather tricky. It'd require multiple sawing cuts, which leads to a higher chance for error. Not the end of the world, but I go for 4 inches, it's still easy enough to finely maneuver. The purchasing of larger knives may be necessary for pineapples and whatever other custom needs you may come across. Go on, get a machete if you are doing coconuts. Just, please be careful and watch your fingers. 

Unless you were a professional chef at an Asian restaurant focusing in soba noodles in a past life, get a standard double-edged blade. With training, these can be handy for ice carving, but that's another conversation. And avoid serration to assure clean cuts with no stringy bits hanging off. 

The shape and curve of the blade are where things really get subjective. A nice point is necessary for detailed work. Get a good spear point and you can cut designs as if you were using a pen. The choice between a classic curved, Sheeps Foot (straight/flat edge), or Bird's Beak style are fairly subjective. Bird's Beaks are weird, you're not a French chef carving potatoes. Sheep's foot knives allow you to cut all the way straight down and have the blade be totally flush with the cutting board. These square-edged knives are typically beautifully sharp. They are unfortunately typically fairly small, expensive, and harder to find. Santoku edges are not perfectly straight but are very close. They are widely available in all materials and sizes. Rounded edges are common but are designed more for fine chopping and mincing in the kitchen.

Handles are another matter. The common chef knife handle material is wood, but you widely see plastics and synthetics used, occasionally metal. Naturally, when wood gets water or acidic components or what have you on it, it can corrode. They are widely agreed to be more comfortable though. Just don't put them in the washing machine. With synthetics, you can be more careless with their caring and maintenance and it will retain its durability. 

Regarding ice cutting knives, get dense folded steel. You'll need a smaller size for hand carving spheres or diamonds. Spend at least $70 and you will feel like you're cutting bits off a potato chip rather than a piece of brick ice. Cutting down large block ice into workable chunks is trickier. A decent bread knife will work to break down large blocks with the help of a mallet, roughly. We'll talk more about this in our ice section. My choice at home for detail work is here

Take care of your knives. So many of our bar tools are based solely on feel and really don't develop appreciable wear and tear. Knifes dull. Knives need care. Caring for your knives is a very meditative thing. Enjoy it. Appreciate your craft. 

- "A knife is not a weapon, a knife is not a toy; a knife is a tool and who uses a knife as a weapon, or a toy; is a fool."

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