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ChefTalk Knife buying, selection and care guide - Page 5

post #121 of 123
I thought I might throw two cents into the pot here for a first post. I've been cooking seriously at home for about 10 years and am enrolled in my local tech school's culinary program where I guess I would be labeled a second year. My previous career was in metal casting and I have a BS in metallurgical engineering. My perspective on knives may be a little different than everyone else's since I approach it from a metal and engineering view rather than a culinary view. Probably not right but some things I just can't shake.

In my opinion, a forged knife is hands down the best knife, ignoring brands, styles, size, etc. Of the forged knives I am a big fan of pattern welded steel often erroneously referred to as Damascus steel. Forging gives a knife wonderful strength, elasticity and crystal alignment that can't be done by stamping. The advantage of a pattern welded knife is that two or more different metals are forged together. At a microscopic level this gives a serrated edge with wonderful sharpness that in a sense re-sharpens itself as the edge wears since the different metals wear at different rates. My third favorite knife and quickly becoming my number one favorite is the sintered powder metal knife. Like the pattern welded knife it creates a microscopic serrated edge as it wears so it is brilliantly sharp. The fact that it is sintered allows for the use of some higher tech metals that are not available any other way.

I am opposed to buying a knife kit as I believe in buying the best knife for the job that is in my budget. My first knife was a Lamson-Sharp 10" Chef's Knife. GREAT knife. My only regret is that is isn't longer, but I didn't know that at the time. It's forged and made in the US. It didn't really come into its own until I began sharpening it myself with my two sided water stone and put a slightly narrower angle of edge on it. I use this knife every day in school and at home.

My second knife was a Nenohi Nenox G-Type Petty  5.9" (15cm) as I wanted to try one of the Japanese knives. This is a PM made knife and has an edge that boggles my mind. Some days I use this knife more than my chef's knife because it cuts so well and feels so good I don't want to put it down. This Japanese knife is a little harder to sharpen but once you get your technique down, it isn't a problem. One thing I learned from both of these knives is that sharpening them yourself will give you a better, sharper edge that lasts longer than what you got out of the box.

Third knife wa
s a Ittosai Stain-Resistant Layered Steel Santoku   6.4" (16.5cm) as I wanted to try this new to me style and it was a pattern welded knife I could afford. Great knife but not as good as the other two. I really have not bonded well with this style but if I want to cut thin slices of onion, tomato or potatoes, this is a good one to use. But it normally stays at home rather than at school. Sharpness and edge retention is in between the Lamson and the Nenohi.

Next knife was a Glestain salmon slicer. I rarely use or require this knife but when I do, there is nothing better. Very sharp out of the box and I have not sharpened it yet. I am a little nervous about sharpening a 12" blade. Not sure as a culinary student when or if you would need to purchase one of these, definitely not at my school. It was a celebratory reward for myself.

Last knife I bought was a Misono Hankotsu for ripping up chickens. This was my first venture into single sided Japanese knives. This is a very heavy and menacing looking knife. Makes me feel like I should join the French Foreign Legion. While the edge out of the box is sharp, it isn't very good. It is not consistently sharp along the length of the edge. As before I think that sharpening this knife myself will get the maximum performance out of it. I just have not done it yet. I have to watch my DVD on sharpening first since I have never sharpened a single sided knife before.

For honing I use an F.Dick flat multi cut steel and highly recommend it. I don't do the razzle dazzle knife honing routine that every cook does. I think it is BS. I slowly pull the knife, at the proper angle, along the full length of the knife across the steel. After each pass I feel for a burr with my fingernail. If the burr moves to the other side then I hone that side. If I don't feel a burr on either side I don't bother honing the knife. I can usually hone a knife with three or four slow passes, though a knife that was used hard may need a few more. I hone them in the morning and then forget about it.

My recommendation for a first time purchase is to buy a good but not great nor cheap chef's knife, middle of the road. In my opinion, hands down, the Japanese steel is superior. But there is nothing wrong with the other's either. I highly recommend Lamson Sharp. Wustoff and Henckels are good too, but I would be sure they are forged. I have not been impressed with Dexter. Messermeister is better than Dexter. Regardless, this is a learning knife to learn technique, beat on, mess up sharpening, break the tips, etc. You won't be out much. Even an old Chicago knife is a good starter. Stay away from the cheap stamped Chinese crap. I don't like metal handles like Global but I think that is more of an individual preference, they are good knives. Buy a good steel and learn to use it. Buy at least a two sided stone and learn to use it, especially correct edge angle. I don't like oil at all but that is probably a personal preference. Do not ever ever ever rely on or use one of those pull sharpeners like fishermen use or an electric sharpener. Nothing will ruin your knife faster.

All the above is strictly my opinion as a metallurgist and culinary student but I hope it is helpful to someone.


post #122 of 123

All of this information is really fantastic. I'm a home cook, not a chef, but i'm trying to figure out what I value and prefer in a knife.

I currently have an 8" global chef's, because it was on sale and i liked how it looked, frankly. but lately it just feels too small. I'm cooking a lot more at home, cutting up chickens more frequently, and i just want more knife. I tend to use the chef's for most tasks, though I have a couple forschners for stuff like boning and paring.

i have really big hands, and i pinch grip. the global now seems better suited to my wife, who is smaller than me, and enjoys the global.

I really like how the global has kept its edge though. i've had it sharpened professionally a few times in the 2 years ive had it, but i've decided that i need to learn how to maintain my own knives. i've bought a 1000/6000 waterstone, a fine ceramic steel, and some guides, and have done a bit of reading, planning on making a weekend event of going through the knife drawer.

but once i get those skills down, i definitely want a 10" chefs. I'm not averse to going with a mac pro, but they are more expensive than i'm comfortable with. thinking of a tojiro dp, but some on here have mentioned that the handles are not for everyone. i'm also considering a nogent sabatier, but have no experience with carbon steel. i'm trying to keep it in the $100-$130 range.

unfortunately, there are no cutlery stores anywhere near me, so it's hard to try before i buy. any suggestions or comments would be welcome.
post #123 of 123
Where to start?

Global Handles:  It would be stupid to say that size isn't your problem with Globals.  However, a lot of people grow to hate them and I suspect there's more to it.  In any case, you should certainly have a comfortable knife.

Tojiro DP:  Perhaps it's not so much that the DPs aren't right for everyone as that I don't like them for me.  Despite the fact that they've gone through some serious price increases and are no longer anywhere near the bang for the buck they once were they're still good knives.  They no longer seem subject to the same serious F&F problems that plagued them, although F&F still isn't great. 

And the thing I like least about them is a "dead" feeling common to nearly all cladded knives and a thing you're very unlikely to notice.

Good but not great edged characteristics.  Good hardness for the price.   

Yes the handles are somewhat blocky, but they can be sand-papered into submission. 

I can't help feeling that one of the things people like about them most is that they tend to be their first Japanese knife, and they're just so much better than most western manufactured blades. 

If you're looking for a good value, Japanese knife in your particular price range, the DP is worth considering.  If you're looking for a good value with a good handle -- not so much.  

No recommendation either way.  

MAC Pro:  The yen's artificial strength makes them expensive.  Your sticker shock is understandable.  It's a great knife for anyone who wants a high quality, Japanese, stainless knife.  Wonderful handle.  Everyone loves it.  Highly recommended with the caveat that it's overpriced. 

Other Affordable Japanese Stainless:
  Misono Moly have nice sized comfortable handles, and if you want an "entry level" Japanese stainless -- it's pretty good as far as it goes.  But most of the high bang for the buck knives like the Togiharus and JCK VG-10 Kakayagi have handles that are on the short and/or narrow sides. 

No strong recommendations because of the handles.  Otherwise, the JCK VG-10 Kakayagi, which is much blade for the money.

European and American Stainless:  The dominant alloy for western, stainless, mass produced knives (especially the "Germans") is something called X50CrMoV15.  If a particular manufacturer isn't using that, he's using something so similar it might as well be the same.   Most Western manufacturers either use German profiles or the newly popular "wide" German profile.  These are all tremendous negatives in my book. 

Universally great F&F and great handles.  Dammit.

The value/quality winner is probably F. Dick 1904, while Messermeister has the least obnoxious profile -- and is also pretty good for value/quality as these knives go. 

Crying shame.

Don't waste your money.

Japanese Carbon:
  If you're considering the Nogents, Japanese carbon should also be on the list.  There are three standouts around your price range:  Kikuichi Elite, Masamoto CT; and Misono Sweden.  They're all great knives.  The Misono has the best handle and blade alloy.  But the alloy is highly reactive, and you'll have to force a patina.  The Masamoto is a Masamoto -- what can you say?  Very comfortable, agile knife -- but not the best alloy, they save that for their more expensive HC.  The Kikuichi is a good all 'rounder. 

The Misono Sweden has a large dragon nicely engraved on the right side of the blade.  FWIW, Mario Batali uses a Misono Sweden chef's -- apparently without an endorsement deal.

The Masamoto HC is comme il faut, but out of your price range.  Too bad.

All great knives, all highly recommended. Of the three in your range, Masamoto for the win.     

Outstanding knife with a lot of history.  The handle is certainly blocky, but for whatever reasons it's supremely comfortable. 

The basic blade profile is incredibly good.  Nothing other than a Masamoto can compare.  It's a knife that doesn't penalize bad technique but really rewards good skills. 

Very easy to sharpen.  Won't stay sharp without a lot of steeling -- but given that will stay sharp for a long time.  Some people find it difficult to sharpen around the full finger guard bolster, but it doesn't bother me. 

You'll find the Nogents a little blade-heavy for balance, with the balance point on the 10" chef on the forward side of the pinch point.  This is a non-issue with me, but you may care.  If you do, consider one of the full-tang French carbons.

Indifferent fit and finish -- on the low side as western knives go.  I'm not sure that I've ever seen a flat bevel or anything close to a decent edge out of the box, so plan on profiling as soon as the knife arrives.  

Great history.

Highly recommended.

Other French Carbon:  Thiers Issard carbon, TI Canadian "Massif," K-Sabatier au carbone, K-Sabatier Canadian -- same agility and edge characteristics as the Nogent.  Same finger guard.  Even though the handles are different from one another and the Nogent, same high comfort level.  They are all  outstandingly usable knives (if you can live with carbon and lots of steeling).

I own or have owned at least two knives from each of these lines, and two Nogents as well.   

My favorite chef's among them is the K-Sabatier 10" au carbone.  But not by much.  While the knife is well priced (~$90) K-Sab charges a lot for shipping a single knife. 

Each highly recommended.

Bottom Line: 
If you can live with carbon -- Nogent or Misono Sweden. 

If you can't, bite the bullet and go with a MAC Pro.  The sting of the price will only last a week or so, but you'll own the knife for decades.

If you've got any questions, feel free to get back to me.

Edited by boar_d_laze - 4/3/10 at 11:04am
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