I remember the first time I saw a chefs knife. My sister was about to begin studying hotel & catering management at Cathal Brugha Street in Dublin. As part of the items she had to buy like uniforms and books, were knives. I can still see the leather bound satchel being unfolded with all the knives laid out. Even then I loved the idea of having my own set. Despite being an avid home cook, I’ve always used bog standard commercial knives. Their shortfalls really becoming apparent in recent years as I have introduced a more plant based balance to the kitchens menu. After doing almost a year vegetarian, the chopping and peeling was taking its toll on my wrist while consuming way too much time thanks to bog standard knives. And so about 3 years ago, I asked my big brother David, who is a qualified butcher and a seller of knives, what I might do? His reply was to sharpen the knives before I use them. (A very typical answer from an older brother and sound advice) . So I invested in the tool for the job and the knives worked a bit better, all the while pondering investing in proper knives considering the amount of chopping I do.
So when a parcel arrived just after Christmas this year, from my brother. I was dumbfounded to be staring at not one, but three Friedr Dick Red Spirit knives. Just in case your not familiar with Friedr Dick Gmbh & Co, Tradionsmarke der Profis, they are making knifes since 1778 and are master craftsmen in the world of good knives. You can salivate over their full range on http://www.dick.de or on their Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/Friedr.Dick. Take a special moment to check out the Carbon Spirit I just discovered.
The three knives are perfect for a busy home kitchen, a Santoku, a chefs knife and a paring knife. (Some women love diamonds and shoes, I love kitchen kit.) I have spent the past few weeks playing with them on all kinds of things, veg, meat, fish etc, to get a feel for them before I shared my thoughts on if they cut the mustard or not, excuse the pun. Before I begin, my criteria for their success was, the feel to hold, the sharpness and functionality, as in multipurpose or not. I knew the quality was exceptional and of the highest German craftsmanship standard. A warrior could use these steals.
I’m going to start with probably the most common of kitchen knives, the pairing knife. This knife is used for peeling, trimming, chopping and slicing. In a knife block is the smallest one. Pairing knives have short blades, an even straight edge and small handles. The Red Spirit Pairing Knife (8174709 3½” ) is so light. The Asian style round handle has a beautiful texture like leather even though its not leather and just the faintest ridging. Thus making it a pleasure to hold when working in comparison to wooden or even plastic handles. The steel appears to be ground fine to give a slim blade, with a serious cutting edge. This is one sharp knife. Even though its main purpose is to peel and slice. Out of curiosity, I used it to trim meat and membrane from ribs. Its tip went through it like melted butter. As the knife is so light to hold, you do need to get use to it in terms of grip and control.
The rounded handle is unlike what I normally use which is more curved. However, I found my wrist didn’t tire as much as normal because the pressure required for chopping was nothing at all. In addition my wrist wasn’t slightly tilted as can happen with a shaped handle. You could say my hand posture was better, if there is such a thing. As the knife is so sharp, it’s really important that you are careful due to the lightness of the knife itself. Chopping tough veg like potatoes, parsnips, onions was no challenge for this blade. I even managed to cut butternut squash, which is no mean feat. It’s a little beauty of German craftsmanship without a doubt.
The second of the 3 knives and probably my favourite is the Santoku (81742 18K 7″). Not a standard knife in most Irish kitchens, but it certainly should be. The Santoku, or Santoku Bóchó as its also known, meaning “3 virtues” or “3 uses”, is a standard knife in most Japanese households. What a pairing knife is to a European kitchen the Santoku is to a Japanese one. Why? Well, because its primary use is to thinly slice seafood for sushi. However as its name dictates it has more than one use. The blade is different from a chef knife in that it has dimples along one side to ensure fish or meat do not stick to the metal. The Japanese think of everything! Its blade is also wider more robust which makes scooping up whatever you have chopped easier. Nor does it go to a fine point, rather a slightly tapered blade with a drop point giving more precision. The Red Spirit Santoku (81742 18K 7″), is a solid knife. The blade tells you it means business.
The handle is once again rounded giving a good grip, however has more steel on the top and bottom. The short handle is perfectly proportioned to the blade itself. This is good because it gives the user a sense of control over the blade when chopping. Some knives rock with a curved blade, this doesn’t. I have small hands, so having that sense of control over the blade is important. Unlike the pairing knife the Red Spirit Santoku has a little weight to it without being clunky. Although it can perform nimble slicing, it’s not nimble in itself. The blade is super sharp. There is a good reason why it is used to thinly slice seafood. This is made for precision. I tried it out on a head of white cabbage and the results were amazing. Not even the Magimix could slice this thin. Which brings me to why it is my favourite. I have sliced through pounds of meat, vegetables of all shapes and sizes. Chopped every kind of herb I can find and this beauty does it all in lightening speed with precision.
My prep time has been literally slashed by half if not more. More importantly, my hand and wrist didn’t even feel that I had whizzed through butternut squash, potatoes, leeks, meat etc. The amount of pressure you need when using the knife is minimal. So therefore the usual pressure or tension in the arm and wrist are not required. When you chop a lot of veg, that is important believe it or not. It certainly has many virtues. Considering its origins in Japan along with their ethos of no waste in the kitchen and organized cooking. I can see how this is a must have knife there. Likewise, I feel its a must have knife here, even more so than the pairing knife. If you’re a vegetarian, get one of these. I assure you, your wrists will thank you for it as will the veg.
Last but by no means least, the big daddy, the chefs knife. Yes I finally have one, and with my name on it to. A lovely little touch from my big brother if I do say so. A little welling of the throat and tear of joy was shed. But I digress. Back to the business at hand, literally. The chefs knife is a longer blade from the other two as well as being slightly curved going up to a point unlike the Santoku where the knife point is at the bottom. Having checked the spec on the knife. I found that the blades are ground very slim with the cutting edge polished. It is a thing of beauty and slightly intimidating at first glance. It is a big knife. That said, it is a chefs knife and surprisingly easy to handle once you know how to handle it for the job you are doing. For example, when chopping herbs, the curve of the blade allows a rocking motion compared to meat where the gliding /slicing motion is best. The style, shape and thickness of the blade allows for ease to change the motion as needed.
The handle is also thicker and gives great grip as well as being slightly heavier than the previous knives. Herbs love this knife. Its really easy to handle when chopping as well as being built for speed. But I really think it comes into its own when it comes to meat. It glides through meat, cutting, trimming and chopping prep time to minutes, seconds even. It is a knife that takes a bit of practice using to know how the curve falls when rocking or chopping to ensure your fingers stay attached. lol! However it handles beautifully like a good German car. The craftsmanship is so good, the steel blade is excellent quality and the finishing makes the user very secure in the knowledge they have a professionally crafted knife for the task. I say that as small handed woman holding a big knife and all my fingers still intact.
They ticked every box. I have been left with the resounding belief that if you cook, invest in not a decent set of knives but in a really good knife or three really good knives. Yes they are expensive, costing anywhere from €60 – 100 each. But they will last you a lifetime if you look after them. Taking a lot of the hard labor out of your kitchen creations. So where can you get these beautiful knives? Well, if your in Ireland or the UK you can contact McDonnell’s Catering suppliers on (353 01) 6778123, via email on Davidcullen@mcdonnells.ie or via their website http://www.mcdonnells.ie, ask for Dave. Tell him the Bendy Fork sent you. (Such an Irish thing, he’ll get a laugh out of that). On the Friedr. Dick Gmbh & Co website, http://www.dick.de , they have a list of the countries that have suppliers, as well as their entire range to drool over. When I look at their website I feel like a Viking looking at the arsenal of weapons being crafted over hot fires and stone. Sometimes a kitchen can be a battle ground. Me against the skin of a butternut squash. But not now. I have chosen my weapon, it is of beautifully crafted steal and will slit open anything on the board in one movement. Thank you, my brother, for my blades of steal. I am a real kitchen warrior now. The potatoes are shaking in their basket.