A penny for your present, or mind my fingers! Tips to help you chose the right knife to give as a gift.

 ioshen and JNC chefs knives

A good chef’s knife is a wonderful gift for the foodie in the family. However, there are several considerations before deciding how best to set about gifting such a personal present.

First off what suits you may not suit the person that you are buying it for. All knives feel different when handled, factors such as hand size, height, strength and ability all affecting what might suit.

Beware the knife as a fashion statement. knife shape and type go in and out of fashion and just because its trendy doesn’t mean it suitable for the individual being gifted. When I first started teaching cooking skills the trendy option was a seriously light weight knife. All well and good if you are very adept at wielding your knife, but for those new to the skill it was downright dangerous – a momentary loss of concentration….. and suffice it to say that I saw some very nasty cuts indeed. A weightier knife will remind the user that it is there.

On trend at the moment is the oriental style knife. However, it is worth noting that many of these knives are made with the western market in mind so they handle pretty much like a classic French or German made chef’s knife, allowing for that elegant rolling, chopping action. Don’t discount these latter beautifully made knives – they may be just the thing for you.

I know they look generous but please veer away from the box set – Unless you are seriously into cooking most of the knives in the set will never be used, or worse be inappropriately used (and therefore increasing the chance of accident and injury). It’s worth spending a bit more on one good knife. Indeed – you only need two working knives in food preparation – a good chef’s knife and a paring knife. Other types of knife such as filleting and boning knives can be added to your repertoire later if you really think they are necessary – and anyway it’s another present for another day.

A knife is a relatively expensive purchase but cheaper imitations, from personal experience, don’t handle well, the cheaper blades are thick ensuring bad habits and cutting techniques, and they don’t sharpen well. On this latter point, counterintuitively, you are much more likely to slip and cut yourself with a blunt knife. You want a well-honed blade that will sharpen well and allow for a graceful and easy technique. It’s worth the outlay as a good knife should last a life time properly cared for. They become good friend and companions.

And finally – there is a superstition around gifting a knife that you may want to take heed of. The saying goes “Gift a knife with a penny attached or you risk it, “severing your friendship, or your fingers”. I learned about this superstition from a friend. To my dismay on gifting her a knife she adamantly paid me a penny (friendship and fingers still intact).

So how best to set about giving a knife as a gift?

At Stirring Stuff, we recommended that when buying a knife, you go to a good kitchen shop or department store, or better still to a dedicated knife shop. The most important thing is that you ask to handle a range of knives, getting a feel for their weight and how they balance in your hand – its that personal.  Most good stores will have a locked cabinet of higher end knives. Don’t opt for something already boxed and sealed or you might be disappointed when you get it home. Click here for more information.

The best idea is to gift a voucher so that the giftee can chose what’s best for them. If the shop that you want to go to doesn’t offer gift vouchers, then get creative and make your own card of promises. You can even attach your penny, thereby warding off superstitious trouble. What’s more you can make a day of going to purchase the knife together – take in lunch or even a knife skills course.

Japanese Knife

Links to great  knives and shops that sell them:

Local independent cook shops often hold a good range of chefs knives and are a good place to begin your search.

I.O.SHEN – A great selection of fabulous knives.  They also provide a range of fantastic sharpening solution, and an  engraving service to get you knife personalised. You can find your nearest stockist on their website store locator. We used a range of I.O.Shen knives at Stirring Stuff.

Japanese Knife Company . A Shop with a story and some very beautiful knives. We also used a range of their knives at Stirring Stuff. JKC are passionate about their products and will help you to choose the best knife for your needs and budget. They sell knife sharpening equipment and offer a sharpening service and a knife sharpening course. They also offer knife skills courses and supply gift vouchers.

Steamer Trading  holds a good range of chef’s knives including i.o.shen and a good of classic French and German makes. Well worth a visit. They sell gift vouchers in stores.

Stirring Stuff teaching videos will be starting in the new year, beginning with knife skills. One step at a time we will teach you how to use, care for, and sharpen your knives. Each lesson will be linked to appropriate recipes allowing you to practice each skill in your own time. Sign up to the page to receive notifications.

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