There is a period when I saw a blade simply as a sharp hunk of metal used to occasionally cut up some veggies. Not anymore. Besides knives created specifically for very exacting tasks (e.g. tomato knives), there are other major differences. Could it be a European-style knife or perhaps a Japanese-style knife? What kind of edge does the knife have? What style of handle does the knife have?
In this short article, we’ll consider the various surfaces a blade can have. That standard surface, the most common texture for the flat of a blade. On more elaborate knives, however, there can be different textures. To improve their performance, knives might also be dimpled, hammered, or work with a textured steel like Damascus.
The typical, smooth steel on the flat of the blade is easiest to produce for some manufactures. An all-natural product of the grinding process, it’s easiest to just machine polish a flat working surface and make that the flat of the blade.
A problem with the perfectly smooth surface is that food sticks to it more readily, especially wet foods, which most foods will be. Everyone who’s cooked before knows how annoying it is to own to scraped bits of minces garlic or slices of tomato off the side of a knife. For this reason the textured surfaces were developed.
These knives are often incorrectly labeled “hollow ground” knives. This is an inaccuracy since hollow ground actually refers to a model of knife edge, to not the grinding of hollows into the blade.
Dimpled knives are becoming more and more common. These knives have little hollow dimples ground out from the blade, usually quite near to the edge. The concept behind these little pits is that they trap air inside, preventing food from staying with the blade. The resulting cuts are smoother, easier, and it’s much simpler to gather the meals after cutting.
An old-school version of the dimples, a hammered blade has been deliberately dented and textured during manufacture. The resulting uneven surface has a similar effect to the dimples, trapping air and preventing food from staying with the flat of the blade. This feature is more commonly seen in Japanese-style knives, especially high-end traditional Japanese knives.
Damascus steel is a smoother, layering of steel found in several varieties of knife, though it’s most typical among Japanese knives. As a smoother steel, Damascus is normally used to clothe a tougher, more brittle steel useful for the core and edge of a knife. Since it is comprised of several layers of folded steel, Damascus steel doesn’t routinely have an easy finish. Instead, it has a rough, textured surface that acts much like the dimpled or hammered steels above. Air is trapped in the tiny valleys of the steel, preventing food from staying with the blade during cutting.
Textured Blade vs Flat Blades
Textured blades are best useful for slicing and chopping tasks that aren’t producing very small pieces. Mincing and very fine chopping are better left to a set blade. The reason being tiny pieces of food can get lodges in the dimples or imperfections of the blade, and are even harder to get them out. The exact same bits may stay glued to a set blade, but they’re easy enough to just swipe off.
Textured metals also need a tad bit more attention when cleaning. Not only do bits of food get stuck included, but they can be harder to identify when cleaning the knife. Water may also get trapped in the little reservoirs, increasing the opportunity of rusting or discoloration.
These blades are superb at any slicing job, however, and it’s worth having one of them around only for making fine cuts other knives may not handle quite so well. Should you keep a slicing knife and a cutting knife, make sure to only hone the slicing knife with a ceramic or glass honing rod. A metal honing rod could change the qualities of the edge.