At some point before I became a real adult, someone older and wiser told me I should always have a good knife in the car. Not for safety, but for picnics. So with summer knocking at our doors, it's time to make sure we're all prepared for eating out in the wild.
Last weekend, I gathered eight hungry picnickers together to test eight knives. We took our work seriously, slicing hard salami, a baguette, hard and soft cheeses, tomatoes (had to spring for some green-house grown in order to bring you this detailed report) and other assorted vegetables. We also opened a lot of wine.
If, like me, you believe a picnic needs wine, you might require your picnic knife to have a corkscrew. In my field tests with these eight knives, three could complete the task but I actually fell in love with a couple knives I wouldn't mind keeping in my glove-box even though they won't pop a cork. Isn't there a party trick where you take a sabre to a wine bottle?
The knives, ranging in price from $11 to $100, all had merits. Some were pretty, compact and sharp (New West Knifeworks); some were light, safe, and good on a tomato (Kuhn Rikon); a few made me feel like a bad-ass picnicker with their heft and woodsy aesthetics (Swiss Army Hardwood and LamsonSharp Bâtard).
For value, versatility and portability, my favorite was the Bâtard Knife (pictured directly above). It's big, but its two features (knife and corkscrew) fold into a beautiful wood and metal base. The blade is serious enough to cut through bread and tomatoes, and the corkscrew is full-size. At around $22 it's a great value.
I also love the New West Knifeworks mini parking knife. It's compact, and the fusionwood handle just screams outdoorsy dining. The blade is incredibly sharp, and was able to tackle small tomatoes. As for bread, you're going to have to rip it. As for wine, you'll need a separate corkscrew, or that sabre trick up your sleeve.
- Opinel No 8 Carbon Steel Folding Knife This is the classic. I don't know where I got my Opinel, I think an old roommate left it behind. Yes, the carbon steel blade rusts a bit if you don't care for it, but it feels so French, and it's light and has a locking blade, all without compromising on design. At $11.50 you shouldn't really resist. (OpiKnife.com, $11.49)
- Bâtard Knife with Folding Wood Handle This knife won my heart. It's heavy, the blade is big, and I love the way it feels in my hand. Lacking a straight-edged blade, it may not cover all the bases, but I feel pretty confident that with this knife on a picnic, we will eat, and drink, in a civilized manner. If the reverse side of the serrated blade were sharpened and thus able to slice through cheese... okay, maybe that wouldn't be the most safe design. (LamsonSharp, $22.50)
- Wüsthof Classic Ikon Crème Hollow Ground 3 1/2" Paring Knife This is such a pretty knife. I'm a sucker for a white handle and wanted to include one plain paring knife in the line-up just to make the point that a well-sharpened paring knife comes in handy when dining away from the kitchen. It's worth having an extra to keep in the car or in your backpack for impromptu lunches on lawns and if it's just a good paring knife that you want, I might say that this one makes a pretty picture and slices really well. (BedBathandBeyond.com, $69.99)
- Victorinox Swiss Army SwissChamp Hardwood I wanted to try this Swiss Army knife because it was wooden and that seemed like a nice touch for a picnic. It's your basic (although higher-end) Swiss Army with anything you'd need on a picnic and way more. Because there are so many tools, they are all pretty small, so don't expect a paring-knife size blade to cut through your brie. However, if you need to scale a fish or do your nails, you'll be prepared. (Swissarmy.com, $100)
- Victorinox Swiss Army Picnicker Built for picnics, they've thought of everything: corkscrew, serrated knife, bottle opener with wire stripped, toothpick, and even tweezers, which I appreciate for the deer ticks. (Swissarmy.com, $41)
- Kuhn Rikon Serrated Paring Knives These knives, which come in a range of colors to coordinate with your picnic blanket, get the job done. The blade handles a range of foods with ease. The non-stick coating is supposed to add a level of ease, ensuring that foods release from the blade more easily. I wasn't sure about that. They have plastic handles so they're very light. They're not my top pick only because I try to have as little plastic in my life as possible. I'll trade the convenience of a lighter load for a wood or metal construction. And since this knife doesn't come with a corkscrew, you'll be making up the weight anyway. (SurLaTable.com, $11.95)
- New West Knifeworks Mini Paring Knife This company makes gorgeous knives in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. They are lovingly made and very compact. The bonus for al fresco diners is that each of their knives comes with a leather sheath. I almost want to wear it on my belt. (NewWestKnifeWorks.com, $45)
- Shun Classic Utility Knife (pictured below) Too bad this only comes in a set of two knives (although the accompanying paring knife is a fun one to have at home) because this knife is so sharp, so well-made, so whimsical, it's just about perfect for a picnic. The scalloped edge cuts tomatoes and soft fruit. It can sort of handle bread, but its blunt tip makes it great for spreading condiments and cutting through soft cheeses. This is a showpiece that actually works really well. (Williams-Sonoma.com, $79.95 as part of a set)
- Messermeister Paring 4" Edge Guard Knife Cover You're going to need an edge guard if you carry a knife like the Shun, Ikon that isn't made with picnics in mind. (ChefTools.com, $1.99)
Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. While some of the products reviewed are the author's own, the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf did provide some of the products for testing and review purposes.