Bob Kramer, Carbon steel, Chefs Knife -


It was 2011. Late in the year, maybe November. We were mooching through The Grove in LA, doing some shopping, enjoying the autumn warmth.

I'd had a few trips to Los Angeles that year so I knew my way around the markets. The Apple Store beckoned – those guys understand experiential retail. But across the tiled courtyard, a well-known kitchen shop caught my eye.

We wandered in and methodically worked our way through the store.

A guy was chopping vegetables in a professional manner. He knew what he was doing alright. As we watched, we caught his eye and he asked in that friendly Californian drawl if we wanted to try his knife. My partner had a go and he offered some tips to speed up her style. She got better, fast.

The knife was a dream. We just had to have it. Even in the smaller nominal amount of $USD, it was still a big number. About the same price as it is today in fact.

We've carried that knives across countries, and through numerous shifts. It's been sharpened, only by us, and with stones bought at the same store. Its patina speaks of constant use.

It is, of course, the Kramer 8 inch Carbon Steel Chef Knife. A decade on and it remains our personal favourite kitchen knife. It's won many accolades – been crowned Knife Of The Year numerous times by reviewers, cutlery chains, and culinary experts.

We are planning to bring a Kramer 6 inch Chef Knife into our test stock so we can ship it around New Zealand for Chefs, Cooks and Foodies to try out and return, with no risk and at our cost. We'll let you know in our newsletter when we launch this service.

Owning a carbon steel knife is a bit like having a pet. They need constant care and attention, so a stainless steel or damascus version might be better suited to your lifestyle. If you do go carbon, you'll be rewarded with ease of sharpening and good food release, plus the pleasure of watching it age gracefully.

Caring for your Carbon Steel blade

The steel composition in a carbon steel knife is quite different from stainless steel and requires proper care. Gently washing with soap and thoroughly drying your knife immediately after each use is a good place to start.

Do not place it in the dishwasher as that will harm the blade and cause the handle to crack.

After washing, keep your knife in a universal block, on a magnetic bar, or in a plastic edge guard. Or place it back into the knife box it arrived in and store in a dry drawer.

Carbon steel knives have a tendency to react with highly acidic foods, such as lemons or tomatoes, which will cause the steel to turn dark gray to black if the acids are left on the blade. To avoid discoloring, rinse and wipe the blade immediately after cutting highly acidic foods. Stay vigilant.

It's very important to wash and hand-dry thoroughly after each use. As the steel is exposed to different elements, it will begin to naturally oxidize, or patina. Over time, this patina will act as a protective layer against rusting and discoloration as well as enhancing the beauty of these handcrafted masterpieces.

Some people want to force a patina to keep the color even, but we just clean and dry our carbon knives and let the patina develop naturally. Many, including us, find the slightly uneven colour aesthetically appealing.

To force a patina, use a paper towel and rub vinegar evenly across the blade on each side. Let the vinegar sit for 5 minutes, then rinse off the vinegar and hand-dry thoroughly. Re-apply as many times as needed to generate an even color. Do not let the vinegar dry on the knife. We also suggest using a few types of mustard mixed together and applied evenly, rested and then wiped clean as per the vinegar treatment.

If your blade already has a patina in some areas, those areas will be farther along in the oxidation reaction and the color will be darker. To remove rust, water stains or unwanted patina, take a used scrubbing sponge with a little bit of detergent and rub lengthwise. If that doesn't work, take the same used sponge and use a powdered scrubbing compound. If that still doesn't work, use a new scrubbing sponge with cleaning compound. Beyond that, you will need to use a polishing kit.

To keep your wood handle in good shape for many years and prevent dryness or cracking, we recommend a polymerized linseed oil. It's a food safe oil which will harden. Apply a small quantity with a paper towel, and let it soak into the wood for 20 minutes before wiping off the excess. Allow to dry completely before storing.

Routine maintenance is essential for a high efficiency knife but it will pay you back with a lifetime of pleasure.