A hollow ground blade is a knife blade that has been ground down to create a characteristic concave, beveled edge along the cutting edge of the knife. This effect is accomplished by starting the grind below the midpoint of the knife, creating a small wedge with concave sides that is extremely sharp and very easy to care for. Many mass produced knives are made with such blades, since they are also easy to create in a factory and consumers like to have knives that can be readily sharpened.
The “grind” of a blade refers to the way in which it is cut to prepare it for polishing and sharpening. There are a number of different grind styles, all targeted at the potential application of the knife; a hollow ground blade is one of the most common types. Once a blade has been ground, it is shaped for life, and further adjustments are accomplished with sharpening. In rare cases, a knife may be re-ground, but this is not often called for or even possible.
When a hollow ground blade is made, a grinding wheel is used on the lower half of the knife to take a convex scoop out of the blade. The cutting edge is at the bottom of this scoop, and it is extremely sharp because it is so fine. In cross section, the blade looks rather like an old fashioned pen nib, with a solid upper section and a delicate, fluted base. This base is easy to grip with a sharpening tool such as a whetstone, making sharpening it very easy.
This type of blade does have a serious downside, however. It tends to be brittle and fragile, because it is so thin, so it cannot be used for heavy tasks such as chopping or cutting dense foods. The knife is appropriate for fine cutting tasks, like skinning, butterflying meats, and cutting sushi. By using the blade appropriately, a chef will prolong its life.
In all cases, when a cook selects a knife, he or she should look for one with a solid blade that is made from high quality metal. If possible, shoppers should go to a knife store in person so that they can pick up and handle the knives. A buyer needs to make sure that the handle feels right in his or her hand, and that the knife feels balanced when held. A cumbersome, awkward blade will not be easy or enjoyable to work with. Knives should not be run through the dishwasher, as this can cause them to dull. Cooks should get in the habit of wiping their knives dry after washing to keep the blades in good condition.