You don’t wear a crisp white dress shirt when you’re dusting cobwebs out of the darkest corners of your basement, and I don’t use my Kramer-Henckels chef’s knife when I’m cutting carrot sticks for my daughter’s after-school snack. (For fun after-school snacks that your young chefs can prepare for themselves, visit our younger sibling site, America's Test Kitchen Kids.)
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Kramer-Henckels may sound like the name of a pediatric skin rash, but it’s not. Bob Kramer is a Washington-state craftsman who is one of America’s top knife makers (he holds the official distinction of Master Bladesmith). Kramer makes all kinds of knives, but his chef’s knives have created such a demand in the food world that he literally can’t make enough of them; there is an online auction process for his hand-forged knives, and they often sell for thousands of dollars. Luckily, Mr. Kramer has collaborated with the German cutlery company Zwilling J.A. Henckels to produce a series of knives designed to his exact specifications and manufactured by artisan knife makers in Japan. My knife is one of these Kramer-Henckels collabs and, in addition to being easy to find and buy online, it is a revelation in the kitchen.
The knife feels heavy in my hand but moves with precision and agility. The blade is impossibly sharp and yet feels incredibly safe because it does exactly what it’s supposed to do on every stroke. This knife minces onions with a glance and glides through butternut squash without a single grunt. I work differently with this knife in my hand, more thoughtfully and deliberately; this knife demands respect. I feel like a better cook when I use this knife. It’s a happy feeling.
Bob Kramer 8" Carbon Steel Chef’s Knife by Zwilling J.A. HenckelsThis gorgeous piece of craftsmanship gets three stars from our tastings and testings team for comfort, cutting, and edge retention.
So why don’t I use it daily? Because I’m afraid it would stop feeling so special and I’m afraid to break the spell. I take it out of its box on holidays, for preparing dinner-party meals, or whenever I feel like putting a little shine on my cooking. (And maybe when I feel like showing off.) I probably use this knife two or three times a month, and it feels incredible every time. Does a Ferrari still feel special if you drive it to the mini-mart to buy Drano? (Actually, maybe it does—I wouldn’t know.)
Listen, $300 is a lot of money for a knife. It’s more than I should have spent. But if you spend a lot of time cooking, you can’t put a price on something that feels so good.