FROM BASIC TO EMBELLISHED, GOOD KNIVES ARE THE WORKHORSES OF THE KITCHEN
From lightweight, basic must-have knives for the outdoor kit to fancy yet functional chef-worthy cutlery that adorns the stylish kitchen, the kitchen knives we use to prepare our meals come in every shape and size. Having a good selection of knives and keeping them sharp is critical for any kitchen.
And in this instance, “kitchen” can mean that well-appointed focal point of the home where family and friends congregate to share a meal and good company.
Or it can mean a folding table outside your tent or a frying pan on a wood fire with a nearby log on which to sit.
No matter what type of kitchen you’re in, makeshift or marvelous, good kitchen knives are an important part of it.
On family camping trips, I am the chief cook and bottle washer. No, I’m not a great cook. But early in my marriage it was my concession that if we were to go on these camping trips, I would cook the meals and do the dishes.
I keep a bin of frequently used camping equipment for family trips. Much of it is related to the camp kitchen: old pots and pans, utensils, potholders, can opener, cutting board, and such.
In this bin I keep several sharp, lightweight knives that are relatively inexpensive. If they can’t do the job, I replace them.
Sometimes, knives are pressed into service for kitchen chores that their designers might never have envisioned, yet they perform admirably.
I recall a fishing trip in Canada a few years ago when our group gathered in one of the rented cabins for the evening meal. We were having steak, which shows you how well we were doing with the fishing.
The kitchens of the cabins were stocked with utensils, but the knives, like many of my own kitchen knives, were very dull from neglect. I carried a Buck Woodsman fixed blade hunting knife on my belt that trip.
It was a knife that could handle most any task, yet it wasn’t expensive or hard to replace if I lost it or dropped it overboard. I took out that Buck knife and began using it to cut my steak.
Everyone noticed, and that knife soon made the rounds as everyone asked for a turn with it to cut their own steaks. The Buck Woodsman as a kitchen knife? Why not?
Here are some other knives that pull KP duty from companies you might not expect:
Spyderco offers much more than its popular folding knives with the famous Trademark Thumb Hole. The company’s Murray Carter Collection includes both the Itamae and Wakiita series of kitchen knives.
These are excellent, well-crafted knives that are very attractive as well. Mike Searson in the previous article has been working with the Wakiita Funayuki, while I’ve been putting the Itamae Funayuki through an extended test.
Its size and shape make this a go-to knife for so many kitchen tasks. Also in each series is a Nakiri, Gyuto, Petty, and Bunka Bocho.
“… ‘kitchen’ can mean that well-appointed focal point of the home … or it can mean a folding table outside your tent or a frying pan on a wood fire …”
The difference between the two series is that the Itamae features a laminated steel—a Aogami Super Blue core sandwiched between layers of SUS410 stainless steel, while the Wakiita knives are made of CTS BD1N stainless steel.
I have a Wakiita Nakiri too, and it’s proving to be exceptional for processing veggies.
While I would probably keep the Murray Carter Collection knives in the home kitchen, Spyderco makes several budget friendly, lightweight knives that I’m adding to my family camping kit.
I find the Z-Cut knives to have excellent handling qualities. The handle is offset and above the blade, making this safe and easy on the knuckles. They come in either blunt-tipped or pointed with your choice of plain or serrated edge.
Likewise, the Counter Puppy comes with either a plain or serrated edge. This little knife has little stylized “puppy feet” on the handle, allowing it to stand upright to keep the blade clean and safe.
Spyderco’s 4.5-inch Utility Knife is one I know I’ll be reaching for regularly in preparing my camp meals.
While I have both plain and serrated blades in my kit, with one of multipurpose kitchen knives such as this, I find myself reaching for the serrated knife more often. And no one does a serrated edge better than Spyderco.
If I’m backpacking or otherwise traveling light, I might not be able to take dedicated kitchen knives along. In those cases, an EDC blade that can also handle meal prep is ideal.
The Spyderco Siren is such a knife. Its 3.6-inch blade is made of LC200N steel that’s one of the most corrosion-resistant steels out there.
So, it won’t mind being washed repeatedly. The grip has a very coarse, aggressive texturing. That stands to reason as the knife was originally designed with kayak fishermen in mind.
But that texturing works well when the knife is pressed into service handling messy kitchen chores.
Yes, Benchmade now has a kitchen cutlery line. The company’s first offering is the Table Knife Set and it would be a perfect addition to either you home kitchen or the counter at your cabin getaway.
These are configured as heavy-duty steak knives, but you’ll find yourself using them for food prep and not just for the place settings at the table.
The 4001 Table Knife Set consists of four American-made, 5.13-inch blades of CPM154 stainless steel with clip points and Benchmade’s proprietary 14-degree SelectEdge that includes some forward serrations for versatile performance.
Each set comes in a handcrafted red birch box excellent for storing the knives and attractive enough to display on your countertop.
The knives feature black G10 handles, but you can change that as this set will be available through the Benchmade Custom Knife Builder Program, which allows you to customize your knives with several blade finishes and handle options.
Victorinox, of Swiss Army Knife fame, has extensive kitchen knife offerings for the beginner to the professional. A good place to start outfitting your camp or kitchen is with the Victorinox Swiss Classic 4-Piece Kitchen Set.
This set includes multipurpose kitchen shears, universal peeler, tomato and table knife, and a Santoku.
There are wood-handled carving sets great for everyday kitchen use or you can step up to the company’s Grand Maitre line of cutlery.
For the camp kitchen, Victorinox recently introduced the Swiss Classic Foldable Paring Knife. It features a 4.3-inch folding blade that locks open. It’s available with either a plain or serrated edge.
An alternative is any of the knives in the company’s plastic handled Fibrox series.
Victorinox offers a good selection of utensils and flatware too. And every camp or kitchen needs a good cutting board.
Victorinox sells the Allrounder Cutting Board in medium and large sizes. They’re made of eco-friendly wood fiber that won’t damage your knife blades.
TOPS Knives is renowned for its large and small rugged fixed blades. But the company offers some kitchen-appropriate knives too.
So not only can you fend off that hungry bear, but you can skin it, butcher it, and turn it into a hearty stew or casserole.
Knives in the company’s Dicer series include paring, steak, slicer, chef, and bread knives. They feature CPM S35Vn steel and contoured blue and black handles of laminated micarta and G10.
While not part of the Dicer series, the TOPS XXX Dicer should be part of your kitchen. It’s a cleaver-like blade that can chop, dice, slice, and make do as a spatula if necessary. It has a red and black G10 handle and is made of 440C steel.
Rarely am I without a Case knife. So, why should it be any different in the kitchen? Of special note is the company’s Household Cutlery line that includes the 9-Piece Block Set.
This set includes wooden block holder, steel, chef’s knife, slicer, bread knife, boning knife, clip-point paring knife, Santoku, and tomato slicer.
The handles are solid walnut, and the blade steel is the company’s Tru-Sharp stainless steel.
For meals on the go, Case has the Hobo, a folding knife with spoon, knife, fork, and bottle opener.
Cold Steel built its reputation on knives for martial artists. The company’s Commercial Series of affordable, hard-use knives would serve well in any camp or kitchen.
Offerings include boning, butcher, skinning, chef’s, and filet knives as well as a cleaver. The steel is German 4116 stainless steel. The handle is synthetic Kray-Ex for a sure-handed grip.
If limited to just one in this line, I’d choose the Western Hunter with 6-inch blade and its available plastic sheath for all-around use.
BEAR & SON
I’ve had one of the company’s Bowie knives for years. It offers steak knife sets too. Four knives come in a set. They’re made of 440 stainless steel, and you can get them with either rosewood or India stag bone handles.
“Sometimes, knives are pressed into service for kitchen chores that their designers might never have envisioned, yet they perform admirably.”
ESEE is geared toward bushcraft, survival, and rescue. Many of those knives by virtue of their versatile designs can handle kitchen tasks as well. The ESEE CR2.5 is a wonderful little knife for small game and kitchen duties.
The ESEE JG5 is based on the historic Nessmuk knife with its 4.9-inch oblong skinning type blade and sculpted Micarta handle.
The Expat CL1 Cleaver is a beast of a blade for kitchen and camp work. All feature 1095 high carbon steel, so they’d demand a bit of attention, but that’s no problem.
The Gerber Flatiron is unusual in that it’s a folding knife with a 3.6-inch cleaver-shaped blade. It built with 7Cr17MoV steel and has a frame lock.
This is another blade that seems destined to be put into action on the camp kitchen cutting board.
I’m sorry if I missed one of your favorites. There are so many knives out there that are either designed for kitchen work or, like my Buck Woodsman, could serve well in that capacity when needed.
The idea is to make good meals an integral part of your life’s adventure. So, get cookin’.
Bear & Son: BearAndSonCutlery.com
Cold Steel: ColdSteel.com