I’ve probably pointed it out before, but it has always seemed strange how little interest most custom knifemakers show in applying their state-of-the-art technology to kitchen cutlery. After all, these are the blades almost everyone actually uses on a daily basis. One of the small handful of custom knifemakers that have specialized in kitchen cutlery is Bob Kramer. Not only does he makes some of the finest cooking blades around, he has managed to make the difficult jump into the mainstream gourmet cooking market. It was probably only natural, then, that the hottest commercial kitchen line, Kershaw’s Shun, would choose him for their latest design project.
The line has opened with five different models: an 8-inch chef, 7-inch santoku, 10-inch bread knife, 4.75-inch utility and a 3.25-inch paring. There is also a matching 9-inch butcher’s steel and wood knife block for those going the full set route. All of the knives are made with a 3mm thick layer of SG2 stainless sandwiched between two pattern welded sheets of nickel and stainless steel Damascus. The handles are red and black Pakkawood. Prices range from $149.95 for the paring knife up to $339.95 for the chef and santoku models.
Kershaw sent TK one of the 8-inch chef knives for evaluation, as this is probably the most useful cutting tool in any kitchen. More than one professional chef has opined that all you really need for kitchen cutters is one good paring and a large chef combined with the skill to use them. With that in mind, I tried to use the test knife for as wide a range of cutting tasks as possible.
In The Kitchen With Kramer
Modern knife users have a choice between two general schools of chef knife design. The classic German blades tend to be heavy-duty cutting tools that you aren’t afraid to quarter a chicken or chop open a winter squash with. While their edges may not be as thin as some might like, a good German knife will stand-up to considerable abuse in the hands of cooks who have no special attachment to their cutlery.
Most Japanese style chef knives, on the other hand, are tools for people who have more reverence for a finely crafted blade. These new Bob Kramer Shuns are definitely in the later category. The thin, razor sharp blades will slide through raw meat and vegetables with incredible ease but they are not suitable for chopping on chicken bones, steaking out salmon, cracking open crabs and like chores.
Somewhere on the web I noticed a comment to the affect that the Shun/Kramer handles were too large. While I found the chef model fit my own hand very well, I can see where it might be a little thick for an average size woman. I also kind of wondered about the choice of black and red Pakkawood for the handle. It seems a little “loud” for a kitchen knife but, of course, it doesn’t hurt in the performance category.
At 2-3/8-inches at the base, this Shun is wider than the average chef knife. I consider this a good thing as it keeps the hand well clear of the cutting board and creates lots of curve in the edge between the heel and the point. This makes for great rocking cuts when dicing onions, peppers, carrots, and raw meat. As a test of its handling qualities, I also boned out chicken breasts and refilleted some fresh cod filets. The 8-inch blade proved to be a good compromise length that handles cutting tasks both large and small with ease.
By accident, I discovered another useful test for this type of knife, cutting BLT’s in two. This may not seem like a big deal, but think about how many dissimilar materials a knife has to go through in one clean pass—soft bread, green lettuce, crisp fried bacon, and tough skinned tomato. Having tried a number of different knives out of my block, the Shun proved to be the most ideal for the job. No more smashed sandwiches or having the tomatoes shooting out from between the bread slices.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, I rotate knives through the blocks in our kitchen about as often as the average SUV owner fills his gas tank. But once in a while I find one I consider a worthy of a permanent home there. The Shun/Kramer is one of those special knives.
Currently, the Shun/Bob Kramer line is an exclusive at Sur la Table kitchen stores. For more information please contact them at www.surlatable.com or call 800-243-0852.
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