Joy of Cooking co-author Ethan Becker and I have been hanging out together at trade shows and hunting camps for close to 25 years. During that time, there was always one subject that came up in our conversations over and over, “When are you going to have your own line of kitchen knives?” Given that just about every celebrity chef on the list has their name on a cutlery line these days (Martha, Martha, Martha, what were you thinking!), it seemed only logical that the editor of the bestselling cook book in the world would, too. But I also know that Ethan has tried very hard to make that happen with a number of cutlery companies over the years. As many of the big names in the business have learned the hard way, it is a larger challenge than you would think for a knife company that normally specializes in outdoor/sporting blades to successfully break into the kitchen cutlery market place. There is simply a much different marketing and distribution system for the two types of cutting tools. So I was a little surprised when ESEE became the first knife company to actually have the honor of producing an official Ethan Becker line of kitchen blades.

Designated the “Ethan Becker Signature Cooking Knives Series 1,” the boxed set consists of a 7-inch Santuko, 6.75-inch Chef, 5.75-inch Santuko, and a 6-inch Utility. All have soft, non-slip Santoprene handles and flat ground blades of German DIN 1.4116 stainless steel hardened to an Rc of 55-57. The set it made in Taiwan with a suggested retail of $148.81.

Santuko Fan

Having spent time in the kitchen with Ethan, I know he is a big fan of the modern santuko pattern culinary knife. It has also become my standard mid-range size go-to blade for a wide variety of cutting tasks. That said, I’m not quite sure why he chose to make these knives so close to each other in size, as there seems to be a fair amount of overlap in their potential uses. There really isn’t that much difference between the 7-inch Santuko and the 6 ¾-inch Chef.

All of the knives in the set have very thin blade stock and came with excellent factory edges. It being the summer gardening and stocking up for winter season on our homestead, the Becker knives were promptly put to use on a wide variety of fresh produce. I especially enjoy grilling satay and shish kabob type recipes that require cutting both meat and vegetables into small chunks that can be threaded on the skewers. Any of the four knives worked well for the task, but the larger Santuko and the Chef were probably my favorites. I also do a lot of fresh Thai curry pastes when I have access to homegrown peppers, kaffir lime, and coriander root. Here, the shorter Santuko worked well for slicing and dicing small quantities of each ingredient that goes into the mix. Later, when I was freezing sweet corn for cold weather soups and stews, I found this same knife was perfect for slicing the rows of grain from the cobs.

Ripe Tomato Test

For many, the ultimate test for a kitchen knife is how well it slices ripe tomatoes and, by the way, I don’t count those rock hard store bought ones, only homegrown garden produce need apply. Anyone that tries to convince you that you need a serrated knife for this simply hasn’t been using a properly sharpened blade. Serrations tear the fruit apart, a sharp edge parts it cleanly. It also helps to have a very thin blade like that provided by the Beckers. Given the fact summer time means a lot of fresh BLT sandwiches around our home, I had plenty of opportunity to put the Beckers to the test. Any of these knives will easily slice a tomato just as thin as you could ever desire.

While the handles did offer a good secure grip, they seemed a little bit small to my hand. All of the knives proved to be no problem to resharpen on either a diamond surface butcher’s steel or a ceramic rod. I know there are those in “foodie” circles that are going to say 55-58 Rc is too soft for a kitchen knife, but it is a good compromise between edge holding and ease of resharpening. After all, that legendary carbon steel butcher knife your grandmother used was probably more like 50-52 Rc.

I understand there are more models in the planning stages for this series. My suggestion would be to spread the sizes out a little with, say, a 10-inch chef and something like a 4-inch paring. It would be hard to find someone more qualified to design culinary blades than Ethan Becker, so anything he comes up with will probably be worth a very close appraisal. For more information please contact 256-613-0372;

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