The 10 Best Mezzalunas
No Knife Left Behind
To this end, a lot of culinarians amass huge collections of tools both new and old.
It's no secret that the most fun parts of being a chef are lighting things on fire and playing with knives.
It's no secret that the most fun parts of being a chef are lighting things on fire and playing with knives. To this end, a lot of culinarians amass huge collections of tools both new and old. Modern technology provides cutting-edge metal alloys that help knives keep a razor edge long-term, but some of the most classic tools in the kitchen have withstood the test of time. The profiles of the most popular styles of chef's knife, for example, can be traced directly to much older French, German, and Japanese roots. The culinary field, itself, actually dates back to prehistory, when our ancestors began to build additional brain matter likely thanks to the widespread adoption of cooked food.
So, when you see a cleaver hanging on the wall that looks like it was born in an ancient, Chinese, mountaintop forge, you can bet there are some similar antiques lurking in a drawer nearby. After all, if it lasts for decades of professional use, it's safe to say it was made with care and attention in the first place and that it's a useful tool, no matter the current food trends.
Most effective cooking methods are well-established. We've known for a while how to properly chop, sauté, and emulsify ingredients. Traditional French techniques have made up a huge chunk of culinary school curriculum ever since aspiring chefs first stepped foot inside a classroom. So we can have faith that there's a place in the kitchen for old-fashioned methods and tools.
Shoot For The Moon
Many pros will attest that the most useful knife in their kit is their standard chef's knife. This go-to knife generally consists of a straight blade about 7 to 10 inches long with a tapered point. It's true that this simple blade can tackle a lot of different jobs in the kitchen. But specialized tools can make particular tasks far easier, and sometimes, the old implements are the best ones.
That brings us to the mezzaluna. Inspired by old world prep cooks and named after the Italian word meaning half moon, these interesting tools tend to look more suited to hand-to-hand combat than mincing produce. Nevertheless, the mezzaluna has held up over time and continues to have value in a cook's toolbox.
It's true that this simple blade can tackle a lot of different jobs in the kitchen.
There are a few reasons this unique knife serves a great purpose. It's incredibly effective at chopping herbs, for example. Yes, small and moderate amounts of fresh green aromatics can be chopped with a regular knife. For starters, using a mezzaluna makes these jobs faster because each hand is used to make cutting downstrokes, while a chef's knife uses its tip as a fulcrum, making it far less efficient.
The mechanical advantage doesn't just increase speed, though. The handles on these tools let you cut with more overall downward force while expending less energy. So if you're faced with a huge pile of herbs to process and you want to save your wrists some trouble, this is how. Otherwise, you might end up rocking your santoku back and forth until your hands get sore. Similarly, half-moon blades are great for home chefs with joint pain such as arthritis, thanks to how easy they are to grip.
Another reason these are well-suited to rough chops like herbs, dried fruit, nuts, and even chicken salad is their durability. Every time the blade of your chef knife suddenly hits the cutting board, it's pushed slightly out of true. Rapid mincing of herbs can quickly dull your blade without frequent honing. The mezzaluna's curved blade never slams violently against the cutting surface the way a straight blade does. Add in an increased thickness and a one-sided bevel, and they tend to hold up very well where other, more common knives would wear down.
As you may expect, mezzalunas do not excel in precision cutting. But that highlights one of their strengths: cuts, like the heritage of the knife itself, are simpler. The textures are rougher and the prepped food isn't as refined and perfect as you might expect from a Michelin star restaurant. And it's this rustic experience that's the cornerstone to some amazing meals in European cuisine and beyond.
So Many Knives, So Little Time
You'll notice right away that while all the options feature rounded blades, that's where most of the similarities end. There are small, one-handed models that work well for turning a pile of greens into a chopped salad with just a few strokes. Some of the most popular, larger models operate with both hands, giving you that added leverage and making your job much easier.
Some of the most popular, larger models operate with both hands, giving you that added leverage and making your job much easier.
Even the handles vary greatly; some are fixed like that of a knife, some are round knobs that provide extra power, and some even swivel closed when not in use to protect the blade. Most pizza places use an extra-large version of the mezzaluna to slice their pies in seconds, but even the medium-size half-moons work perfect on a pizza at home. Speaking of pies, any of the single-bladed options will work great for cutting sweet, warm, gooey, pecan or cherry goodness.
As with any knife, you need to keep these clean and sharp in order to maintain high performance. Most modern knives have a double bevel, where both sides of the knife's edge are ground and honed to meet in the middle at a sharp point. Some mezzalunas use only a single bevel. Only having one side ground to sharpness can keep food from sticking and building up on the flat of the knife during use while also keeping the knife in true. This is most important to remember when sharpening, as you should only sharpen the beveled side of the knife edge. But as long as you keep the blade honed and safely hung after it's cleaned — and not in a drawer where it could get nicked or otherwise damaged — you'll have an effective, old-fashioned, and high-quality tool at your disposal.