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The Knife Rack

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Between Blocks and Boards

By Micah Cheek

JK Adams for webWhen I met Kristine McCutcheon from Larch Wood Enterprises, I spoke without thinking. I asked, “Can you talk to me a little bit about these cutting boards?” McCutcheon was quick with the response. “These aren’t cutting boards, they’re butcher blocks.” Lots of consumers treat butcher blocks and cutting boards as synonyms, but differences in grain, thickness and structure can inform what a board can handle. “They have different structures for different purposes. Boards are for serving and blocks are for cutting,” McCutcheon added. She went on to explain how different types of boards are designed for different tasks.

Traditionally, butcher blocks are made with end grains. An end grain faces towards the top of the board rather than along its length. Wood is made of individual fibers, and when the end grain is facing up, all of those fibers are standing vertically. On the molecular level, the knife’s edge cuts between these filaments rather than across them. This can be demonstrated with spaghetti. If you have some dry spaghetti standing vertically, and some lying down horizontally, it’s easier to put a knife through the vertical strands, because the knife moves between them rather than having to cut through. Over time, this means fewer deep cuts and grooves in the board’s surface, as the wood fibers close up around knife incisions. Many butcher blocks are also thicker, to insulate against the impact of a knife. Some boards, like the Traditional Butcher Blocks from John Boos, can measure 10 inches thick and come equipped with legs to stand on.

While the butcher block is designed for heavy chopping and fabricating, cutting and serving boards are made for more gentle use. Cutting boards are usually made with the grain going lengthwise, rather than up and down. This makes for a harder surface to cut on, but highlights beautiful long lines along the wood grain. These boards also tend to be thinner than butcher blocks and light enough to carry to the table. As this build requires less cutting and fabricating, edge grain boards tend to be less expensive as well.

Two seasons ago, JK Adams redesigned its butcher blocks with features to make it easier to navigate around the kitchen. “On our end grain boards, we tried to add more features. [We added] silicone feet to protect countertops, juice grooves, and handles or undercuts that allow someone to move or carry them around a little easier,” says Jon Blatchford, CEO of JK Adams. These changes further blur the line between blocks and boards, making a block that is easy to carry, which makes it easy to serve on. There is some discussion on how grain alignment can affect a knife’s blade over time, but Blatchford notes that for knife edges, the grain orientation matters less than the material itself. “Hardwood is the key,” he notes. “[Compared to] plastic, bamboo or synthetic materials, hardwood tends to be the best on a knife blade and is the most sanitary.”

The care and maintenance regimens for cutting boards and butcher blocks are very similar. In addition to hand washing and immediate towel drying, all wood boards need to be conditioned with mineral oil or a food-safe, wax-based wood conditioner. “The more you oil them, the better they’re going to be,” says Blatchford. “You’re truly making an investment that you’re going to only make one time if you treat them well.”

Microplane Debuts New Grip’n Strip Fruit and Vegetable Peeler

MicroplaneGripMicroplane®’s new Grip’n Strip, an innovatively designed vegetable and fruit peeler, joins the company’s growing collection of sharp and efficient premium kitchen gadgets. Crafted in two blade styles — Serrated and Straight — and three colors, including black, red and green, the Grip’n Strip will be available in September 2017 for a suggested retail price of $7.98.

The Grip’n Strip features a unique multi-positional round shape that makes it possible to grip the tool any way that’s most comfortable for the user. Perfect for anyone, whether right or left-handed, the Grip’n Strip’s ergonomically wide and circular design also makes it an ideal tool for people with arthritic hands. Fast, efficient and simple to use, the Grip’n Strip’s razor-sharp twin blades swivel and self-adjust to the surface of each ingredient being peeled for optimum results. Grip’n Strip’s serrated blade features sharp teeth that firmly grasp and efficiently peel the smooth skin of soft foods, such as tomatoes, kiwis and peaches. The straight blade version of the Grip’n Strip effectively peels an array of vegetables and fruits with thin and thicker skins, such as potatoes, carrots and cucumbers. Incorporated into the new prep tool is a small protruding piece that effectively removes potato eyes and other blemishes.

Dishwasher safe, the Microplane Grip’n Strip comes with a reusable, hand-washable cover to protect the blade in storage. For more information, visit www.microplane.com or call toll-free 800.555.2767.

T-Fal Comfort Cutlery

T-fal Comfort Knife Set for webT-fal has introduced a new knife set and block. This T-fal Comfort Knife set features high carbon stainless steel blades for everyday use, in a set that will complete any kitchen. The ergonomic handles are designed with a “comfort zone” specifically positioned at the two touch points, bolster and underbelly, for optimum grip and control. On top of that, the end of each handle is marked with blade type for hesitation-free selection during food prep. Hand washing is recommended for these knives.

Hammer Stahl Gets Sharp about Knives: Introducing the Essential Five-Piece Cutlery Set for the Home Cook

Hammer Stahl, a company which manufactures professional-quality American Clad stainless steel cookware in Clarksville, Tennessee, has introduced a five-piece cutlery set with a knife block that can be customized based on a consumer’s cutlery preferences and budget. The new cutlery set includes the most essential and versatile knives needed to complete any home kitchen – an 8-inch chef knife, 3.5-inch paring knife, 8-inch bread knife and a 4.5-inch Santoku — as well as a beautiful bamboo knife block. Or, home cooks can choose to customize their own cutlery set to fit their individual cooking style.

“If you’re equipping your first kitchen or thinking of giving a great set of knives as a wedding or holiday gift, these are must have knives that simplify virtually any kitchen task,” says Bobby Griggs, Vice-President, Hammer Stahl. “We packaged them together because every kitchen should have great knives to fit any everyday need.”

While every home cook needs some great, basic knives, Hammer Stahl designed its new set to be incredibly versatile so that it is completely customizable. “Much like custom kitchen design, there’s nothing better than having a set of knives you know are personal to you,” says Griggs.

Customize Your Cutlery

Hammersthal1The preselected five-piece set is designed to be expanded and customized. The new cutlery block is designed to offer flexibility and customization. Whether you want to start small and expand over time or get the whole set right away, this block is right for you.  The front of the block fits a four piece steak knife set and four additional slots can be customized to fit other knife choices. “You can make it simple and fill out the entire block with the eight-piece completer set, which includes four steak knives, a 7-inch fillet knife, a 7-inch vegetable cleaver, kitchen shears and a sharpener. Or, you can pick and choose the knives and accessories that best fit your cooking style from dozens of different options.

The starter set includes a classic 8-inch chef knife, the most important knife in any collection, and is the go-to-tool for a wide variety of prep jobs, large and small. The 3.5-inch paring knife picks up where a chef’s knife leaves off. It’s great for detailed work like peeling, coring, mincing, and cutting small items, especially when a recipe calls for ingredients such as garlic or shallots.  The 8-inch bread knife can be used well beyond slicing bread. These serrated knives can take on almost any job not suited to the straight blade of a chef’s knife, such as tomatoes or pineapples or anything with a waxy, slippery surface. The 4.5-inch Santoku knife is one of Hammer Stahl’s most versatile knives. The word Santoku actually refers to the three cutting tasks which the knife performs well: slicing, dicing and mincing.

Hammer Stahl cutlery is heirloom quality and comes with a lifetime warranty. They are made in the tradition of the great German knife makers, but with a patented new design and a manufacturing process that allows them to be affordable. The cutlery is made from top-quality German X50CrMoV15 high carbon stainless steel. It is forged and tempered to precise specifications and a Rockwell hardness of 55 – 57 that provides a superior edge and lasting durability. Hammer Stahl knives are coveted by professional chefs for their razor-sharp cutting edge, hand-forged quality and quad-tang design, which makes them some of the more balanced knives in the world today. For information, visit www.hammerstahl.com.

Red Dot for Swiss Diamond Kitchen Knives

Swiss Diamond Knife Block SetSwiss Diamond is honored to receive Red Dot’s 2017 Product Design Award for kitchen knives. Swiss Diamond Knives were created by the Swiss Diamond’s own product development team, which includes professional chefs as well as experts from the cutlery and retail industries. The knives are manufactured with the highest quality German steel and feature an ergonomic handle and blade shape, which provides superior control and ease of use in the kitchen. Each knife undergoes an eight-stage process of grinding and sharpening, making the cutting edge super sharp and easy to maintain. With perfect balance and greater control, Swiss Diamond Knives are a kitchen essential for any cooking enthusiast.

Swiss Diamond Knives are available individually as well as in an assortment of sets from both gourmet stores and select online partners. Retail prices range from $29.95 for a 3.5″ Paring Knife to $495.00 for a Complete Knife Block.

The Red Dot Award, which originated in 1955, is established internationally as one of the most sought-after quality marks for design. Per the jury, “As an expression of a superior quality standard, Swiss Diamond’s kitchen knives offer functionality, comfort and long-lasting reliability.”

Kevin Seeley, director of national sales and business development for Swiss Made Brands USA, Inc. said, “This award reinforces the spirit of innovation behind the brand. We look forward to continuing that with Swiss Diamond XD, our latest, most advanced diamond-reinforced nonstick cookware line to date, which will launch Q4 2017.”

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