Naifu Offers an Edge in the Kitchen


On Selected Knives

Naifu Offers an Edge in the Kitchen

Blanche Vaughan – Food writer and Chef

garlic knife

It’s a popular concern that old skills and working methods are dying out. The mechanized hands of machines, factories and large production units are replacing the job of the artisan craftsman. There is truth in this, but the mindset that insists that anything made in a factory (as opposed to a workshop) cannot be ‘crafted’, fails to consider some of the products that successfully combine the best materials with the latest production techniques.

Despite centuries old traditions of knife manufacturing in Europe, the eyes of the connoisseurs now look to Japan, where traditional knife making techniques which date back to Samurai sword production, are still practiced. However, like anything hand-made in a world of machines, the time and expense of these products puts them way outside the budget of most consumers. Added to this, knives (however expensive they are) need to be maintained to stay sharp. A skill that many home cooks struggle with.

In response to this, the Naifu range has been developed by Michael Schneideman, founder of cookware emporium Divertimenti and the man responsible for introducing the Magimix into the UK in the early ‘70s. They combine the razor sharp, flexible qualities of layered Damascus steel (which gives the distinctive mottled pattern, like the surface of flowing water) with a durability that maintains the all-important ‘edge’. They are easily sharpened using a Naifu sharpener which has rotating ceramic wheel which you gently stroke the knife across, every few weeks or so, or after heavy use. A tool like this will continue to serve you for as long as you need it.

The steel used in their production is folded and forged using traditional methods, which show the marbled pattern of the numerous layered sheets throughout. (D67 printed on the side of the knife refers to the number of layers of steel used to make the blade). This creates an enduring hardness, as opposed to stamped knives, which are cut out of a sheet of steel which eventually will become brittle and refuse to keep an edge. Tests have shown that these knives exceed the maximum requirement for ‘cutting performance’ and ‘edge retention’.

What is the first implement you reach for to prepare a dish? Sharp knives have always been associated with professional chefs, but as a basic tool for cooking, everyone needs one. When you see a white coated chef speedily reducing a pile of vegetables into slivers and dice, or a mound of herbs transformed into green specs, the secret (along with a bit of practice) is the sharpest edge of blade, the balance of the handle and the rhythm and precision it allows.

As a chef, I have always appreciated the pleasure of using a good quality knife. The truth is, a sharp and well-balanced tool makes preparing the ingredients part of the pleasure of cooking. Yet when I pick up a poor quality chopper, where you need to stab a tomato to break the skin, or it bounces off the outside of an aubergine, it feels like a clumsy stuggle. Imagine being a tailor with blunt scissors to cut cloth or a butcher struggling to slice through a piece of meat? A bad workman blames his tools; a good workman wouldn’t tolerate bad ones.

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