It’s important to remember that there is no “best chef knife,” only the best knife for a particular person or task. From a distance, a knife is just a knife. There’s a pointy bit, a sharp bit, and a bit that you hold. Is that an over-simplification? Absolutely. Quality chef knives are precision instruments, and the craftspeople who make them pay attention to the finest detail. Here we will look more closely at the edge of the knife.
There many different edges (or grinds) that can be given to a knife. In fact, there are far more than we could possibly cover here. But there are a few grinds that will be common in kitchen knives.
V grind – Now uncommon, the V grind was common in traditional French knives. This shape was a small sharp edge on the bottom of a V shaped profile on the blade. The blade always started broadest at the top, and thinned towards the edge. Essentially, the entire width of the blade was part of the “edge.”
Flat V grind – This edge would look like an arrow that doesn’t stick out at the edges if viewed from the tip. It’s a very common edge shape, but it requires a lot of honing to maintain its optimal edge. Most knives produced today use the flat V grind.
Hollow grind – On this edge, the steel of the knife starts at the edge and curves outward (think a V with its sides being pushed inward). The result is a very fine, sharp blade. But when it dulls, it dulls quickly and almost completely. Though a steel or stone can sharpen a hollow ground edge, it’s best to strop it regularly (like you would a straight razor).
Many chef knives are incorrectly labeled “hollow grind” knives because they have dimples along the edge. These dimples are little “hollows” near the edge of the blade meant to reduce cutting resistance. Many of these edges are actually flat V grinds
Convex grind – The convex grind is very difficult and is therefore not seen very often. The angles of the edge moving up into the flat of the blade aren’t flat but curved outwards. I’ve only ever seen these edges of very thick, heavy blades like cleavers.
Chisel grind – So named after the shape of a chisel tip, this is a far less common edge where one side of the edge is angled and the other is flat (or continuous with the flat of the knife) with only a very slight angle. This grind is most commonly seen in Japanese knives as it gives a very fine, flat cut.
Different chefs have different preferences when it comes to edges. There are also considerations like maintenance and the construction of the rest of the knife. A superior steel will let a more fragile edge stay sharper for longer, or a softer steel will take a wicked edge easily, but lose it again just as quickly. The choice is yours in the end.