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New culinary student looking for a set of knives to last a life time...

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
Title pretty much sums it up but ill add some detail. Im about to start culinary school in the fall and i need a set of knives to start me out, but im looking for the long term for something to last me. I have read most of the knife post on the forums and im just looking for some help.

I need to have in my starting set at least a 8” cook’s knife, 3-
¼“ paring knife, 6” boning knife, 12” slicing knife. I have looked at both Japanese and German knifes and while finding the right kind in the european style is easy im starting to get a headache trying to convert some of the japanese styles of knives and measurements they use into what i need.

I have gotten my hands on serveral of the popular German style knives but im having a tough time finding the japanese style knives in stores around my area to get my hands on and feel them so i cant say i really can compare the styles.

I also want to learn to take proper care of my knives, up to and including proper sharpening, so any help on that area would be great to.

I should add that price is not really an issue but i dont want to be dropping a 1k on just the first set of knives i need. And that i do have some experience using inexpensive restaurant knives (the kind that a restaurant gets from a professional sharpener and exchanges out every week or so for new fresh ones). But i have little to no experience sharpending them except at home with one of the hand held sharpeners with the V slit you pass the knife through.

Sorry i know this post is long i just have alot of questions :blush:
"Time I am, the great destroyer of the worlds, and I have come here to destroy all people."

"Not to live as if you had endless years ahead of you. Death overshadows you. While you're alive and able - be good."
"Time I am, the great destroyer of the worlds, and I have come here to destroy all people."

"Not to live as if you had endless years ahead of you. Death overshadows you. While you're alive and able - be good."
post #2 of 22
If i were you i would save your self the hassle and buy japanese knives. German knives are great and can take some abuse but Japanese are lighter sharper and hold and edge longer. theres lots to choose from your best bet is to miss match the set. For japanese knives check out Korin.com or japansechefknife.com. Both have excelent selection of knives. if you want knifes that are you can hold and see how they feel your pretty much stuck with mac, shun and global knives. If it were me buying my first set over again it would probaly be mac. There not real expensive but hold and edge for a long time. Shuns are great but i would be a little learly of using them in school with the Damacus, somones bound to try and steel it. Ultimitly the decision is up to you and what you want to buy. Also dont fogert some sharpening stones. All knives dull and no sense buying a 200 dollar knive that you can sharpen. Shapton glass stones are some of the best out there and sharpen japanese knives great. Im sure there will be otheres to come and give advice.
post #3 of 22
I just re read your post and wanted to sugest getting Chad wards book "an edge in the kitchen" it will teach you about sharpening and kitchen knives and the such. If you want to know ALOT more about japanse knives you might want to venture over to foodie fourums and look at there knive forums. Alot of people know alot more about knives than me.
post #4 of 22

I went to culinary school, years ago. We were provided a set of J A Henckels knives that I still use today. The set includes a knife-sharpening steel. Culinary schools teach proper knife & sharpening skills. Good Luck!!
post #5 of 22
Humbly suggest you ignore Japanese knives until you graduate. Here, I refer to Japanese-style knives, and NOT regular paring, serrated, slicing, or chef knives that happen to be made in Japan.
When I went to the CCA, I got a knife set of classic, French style. This was way before Japanese knives became so fashionable. They did EVERYTHING I ever needed, and never felt the need for a different style of knife.
OTOH, once you have good knife skills, Japanese are way different and a good way to learn new things and how to cut with a knife. I have used, perhaps, a dozen Japanese knives that have no European equivalents, and each has a specific task, as opposed to the European style that are suppose to be all-purpose. Having just a few of these is good training for your hands.
If you are that curious, I do recommend you get a 6 inch "Santoku" knife. It is used more-or-less like a 6" all-purpose knife, but is wide, so you can scoop ingredients from your cutting board to saute pan.
post #6 of 22
Your questions are very intriguing and I'm just dying to put together a fantasy knife set for you. However, you'll probably be happier if you make your own choices after you've graduated from culinary school and have some idea of what demands work will place on your knives, which blade profiles you prefer, what types of steel, and how you're going to sharpen.

That you mentioned sharpening in the same post as a "cost no object" set of knives is a very good sign. At some point you're going to learn to "freehand" sharpen on bench stones. For a pro, this is the best method because it allows so much flexibility in edge profiles and stone choices. At this point, the best stones for most advanced purposes are the Shapton GS (glass stone) series. They are not inexpensive and they require some maintenance, but they produce an edge faster, and with more polish than their nominal grit ratings would lead you to believe.

If you get mid or high end Japanese knives, I'd suggest 500# and 1000# stones as starters. However, if you get the kind of knives you should get for school, I'd suggest something a little more basic like a Norton IB-8 combination (Coarse and Fine India) and an 8" Hall's hard Arkansas stone, used dry, rather than with water or oil.

There are a few brands of knives which are especially suitable for school. One of them is MAC, as already mentioned and recommended by adamm. Mac makes five different lines of western style knives. They're light, easy to sharpen, easy to keep sharp, great profiles -- almost as good as Elephant and K-Sabatier -- and with a handle everyone loves. They're not perfect. A little too flexible, there are more advanced knife steel formulae, and many people prefer a bolster. Ideal school knives though, if you can afford them. The next best choice is Forschner. I can't recommend the Forschner chef's knife though, it's a lousy profile. Forschners are comfortable, inexpensive, sharpen easily and dull easily too.

The MACs and Forschners I'm going to recommend are all stamped and not forged. It used to be that stamped was never as good as forged. No longer true. However, you will outgrow all of these -- so none are too expensive.

Irrespective of which brand you choose for your student career, I'd suggest the following profiles: 240mm (9-1/2"), 10", or 270mm (10-1/2") cooks/gyuto; 10" or 270mm (10-1/2") slicer or sujibiki; 5" - 6" petty or paring, 6" desosser (European style boning knife); 9" - 10" bread; and a tourne aka bec d'oiseau aka "bird's beak" paring knife.

A few words about some of these profiles:

Most pros prefer something right around 10" in the chef's knife. Less is considered either special purpose (tight station) or for the smaller handed, shorter cook. In other words, and 8" knife is something of a "girl's knife." The thing about a longer knife is, if you're large enough to use it, you do get more work out of it; and once you learn how to hold it and keep it lined up with your forearm, it's as easy to use as shorter knife -- as long as you've got the hand size and height. Santokus have a similar rep as smaller chef's knives. They're useful for small jobs where pointing the tip is critical, like a brunois of shallots. But it's not the right all-around school knife. Why? Because it's not the right knife to make boxes of mirepoix -- something you will do. Once you know what you're doing, use what works best for you no matter what anyone says. But until then, go with a 10" knife.

Note: My wife is 5' 2" with small hands, and as soon as she held my 10" chef's, a sixties vintage K-Sab au carbone, it became "hers." Over the years I've tried several times to buy her her own knife -- some of them very expensive -- but none have stayed. I just keeping working to keep it "ours."

One of the differences between German and Japanese knives which isn't usually discussed as much as it should be is the shape of the belly. German profile knives have a rounded belly and are highly adapted to "rock chop." Japanese knives have a flatter "French profile" and are better at the "push cut" (straight down).

Most cooks trained in European cuisines and techniques use something that mixes elements of rock, push and shear, combining the precision of push with the silence and power of shear. This is the technique I learned, pinch grip and all. It's most likely what they'll try and teach you too.

MAC BK-100

12" is too long for a general purpose school slicer. Go with 10" or 27cm. If and when you need a longer ham or salmon slicer, get it then. A 30cm (12") or 33cm is a good length for a yanagi, but you're not ready to decide if you even want one yet. With luck, you'll have the chance to see a few used and try them.

There's no good, reasonably priced MAC slicer. You want something a little dressier than a Forschner, but you don't want to spend a mint. I hesitate to recommend non-stainless carbon, but slicers don't see too much acid, and you always have time to wipe the knife down before you put it away. I also hesitate to recommend the types of knives I use because it's too much like selling my judgment rather than giving you enough information to exercise your own. But this is a knife that gets as sharp as any Japanese knife, stays surprisingly sharp, looks like it came out of Escoffier's kitchen, and is historically significant. This is a knife you'll keep for a life time. I've had a K-Sab just like the "new" K-Sab au carbone for 35 years. I own a couple of Nogents and can tell you they're incredible.

K-Sab au carbone 10" slicer (Kitchen knives Knives Au Carbone - Vintage Sabatier knives)
Sabatier Nogent 10" slicer (Thiers-Issard Sabatier Nogent Carbon-Steel Kitchen Knives)

A 5" or 6" knife is useful for paring and utility work. It's small enough to put the point anywhere you want it with precision and large enough to be useful for all sorts of things. The French call this knife couteau office which means everyday knife. You'll open packages, cut string, score fish skin, core fruit, do fine butchering, you name it. Don't short yourself with a little knife that's only suitable for peeling apples. If you feel you absolutely need a sub 4" knife, get a Forschner Rosewood for $8. .

MAC HB-55, and
Forschner 40001

The European shape is the desosser. It's sometimes called a fillet knife It's a narrow blade with a tightly rounded point leading to a pointed tip. The meat industry standard is the Forschner Fibrox, partly because it can go into dishwashers -- something you don't have to worry about. This shape of knife is sold in a variety of flexes. Stiff and medium (or unrated) are for meat and poultry.

It's an incredible knife for boning out large pieces of meat. The tight radius on the point lets you get the handle at some bizarre angles and keep cutting, the thin blade lets you turn the knife to trace a bone without cutting a wide kerf. No Japanese shape can touch this knife when it comes to that type of work.

I don't much care for the shape for poultry. I, like a lot of other guys, break and joint with a chef's knife, and bone with a petty. Of course, you'll learn to do it the way you're taught.

Flexible is for fish. As a fish knife it's technically called a Swedish or Finnish or Scandinavian Fillet, but I don't know how often you'll hear that Again, I don't particularly care for the shape with fish. I use a French shape fillet knife -- which is pretty much a utility shape.

I wouldn't run out and buy a fish knife until you find out how much you're going to need one and which type is most popular with your instructors. Get that one, it makes "monkey see, monkey do" much easier.

As for your general purpose boning knife -- whether you buy top quality depends on how much you're going to use it. It's really hard to do better than a MAC Superior in this shape at any price. The F. Dick or the Global maybe -- but they're expensive. Forschner Fibrox is the industry standard. Forschners are very good, most def. They can be made very sharp very easily, but unfortunately they dull quickly -- even cutting meat. I HATE the Fibrox handles -- Rosewood is much nicer and if you're not a commercial butcher you don't have to meet NSF standards so you can use Rosewood. I'd either take the MAC or the Forschner to school.

MAC BNS-60, or
Forschner 40013

Special purpose. You need it. All there is to it. You don't have to spend a lot. Get a Forschner. When you figure out how to sharpen it, junk it and get something better. In the meantime just keep replacing the Forschner with another.

Forschner 40007

MAC makes the best bread and cake knife at anywhere near the price. The industry standard. Pretty reasonable, too. Last bread knife you'll buy for 10 years.

SB 105

You get a lot of opinions here and some of them are very unclear except what the writer likes best. When most people say "German knives," they include German, Swiss, and American (Lamson). Somehow, the French are excluded. Actually, the better Sabatiers compare very well with the other high-end European and American knives. As a class you get the best fit and finish. German chef's knives are somewhat clumsy compared to good French and Japanese knives.

Most "German" manufacturers use one of two types of stainless steel in their high-end knives. X45CrMoV and X50CrMo. The French use something similar. These steels are somewhere between almost equal and not nearly as good as the steels used in in the mid and high-end Japanese knives. But Japanese knives are more expensive -- or in a similar price range their F&F is usually inferior.

Wusthof gets bandied about as THE BRAND, but the reality is that when comparing comparable lines head to head F. Dick, Messermeister, Henckels, Victorinox (forged), Wusthof, and Lamson are all pretty much equal. The biggest difference might be handle colors.

Try Before You Buy:
There are no words to tell you what a crock this is. You can't wave a knife around for two minutes or pretend to chop and expect to learn how you're going to feel about it six months down the line. Not only that, but a lot of the cues that say "quality" like heft are qualities that don't wear well. Furthermore, the most important qualities in a knife are edge taking and edge holding -- and the only way you can find out about from those is through experience -- yours or someone whom you trust. What can I tell you? Don't worry about what they have and don't have at the mall. Watch out for boutique knives or Japanese knives with reputations for bad handles. If you're seriously considering a boutique brand, let me know and I'll get you on the Knife Forum or Fred's Cutlery on the Foodie Forum, so you can talk to people who've used the knife.

Hold off on the lifetime set. You may or may not know enough about knives, but you don't know enough about yourself yet.

Hope this helps,
post #7 of 22
In my opinion, at the moment, New West Knifeworks are the best on the market! See the Announcements forum.

Once I actually have it in my hand and have bloodied a few fingers I'll give a more in-depth report. I was surprised to find out they are made only a few hundred miles from Salt Lake City. I'll have to stop by next time we are in the Jackson Hole area.

Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
post #8 of 22

I love you like a brother, but I've got to call.

Would you say New West Knifeworks are better than Nenox S-1, Masamoto HC, Ryusen Bu-ry-zen, Misono UX-10, and Hiromoto AS (to name a few)? If so, what is it about the New West knives that make them superior?

You can get a sense of what the New West people are trying to do, which is market mid-level Japanese manufactured blades with high-level Japanese influenced, American design. However, there are some real gaps in the catalog. For instance, they don't make a 10" chef's, which is THE standard. By the way, no disrespect intended when I say "mid-level." The high end steels used in Japanese knives, whether carbon or stainless have their drawbacks as well as strengths. IMO, the stainless core of the Phoenix and the carbon steel in the Fusion are well chosen -- but let's not confuse them with a metallurgical powder, a Swedish strip, or an Hitachi paper steel. I'm sure the New West knives can hold their own against Shun for instance.

In regards to the OP, I don't think either NWK line is a good choice. The Phoenix knives are way too expensive for school knives; and the Fusion line is both somewhat too expensive, too attractive, and require that extra level of carbon care. Not that I wouldn't want to play around with a Fusion. If I were going to drop $150 - $200 on a school gyuto, I'd get a "just frickin' steal me" sticker and some gift wrap to go with it.

post #9 of 22
Thanks to the knife give away promotion, I'm getting one for free. So I felt I had to be a loyal marketing shill for at least a moment.

Once I actually have it in my hand and use it, we'll see how my opinion goes then. It may become a trusted tool used on a daily basis, it may end up ( Gasp! ) tossed in a random drawer. We shall see.

Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
post #10 of 22
Disagree in the strongest possible terms.
The main problem I experience are those who buy expensive knives based on 'buying guides', blogs, or fancy sales pitches on websites.

Being someone who has worked in kitchenware stores more than once, there is only ONE way for someone to know if that knife is good: hold it in your hand. How does it feel: weight, size, shape, balance? Would you like something smaller, bigger? lighter, heavier?

This sales spiel goes for both home cooking neophytes all the way up to famous celebrity chefs with their own TV cooking shows.
post #11 of 22
In my experience which includes a lot of talking with people about their knives, which in turn involves a lot of listening to what they don't like about their current knives which they bought somewhere they could "try" them -- it turns out what they don't like is usually weight, size, shape and balance.

Maybe you can weed out a few of the more obviously unsuitable knives by farting around at Sur Le Table or BB&B while the sales person watches, but people tend to make the same set of mistakes over and over. First, they usually come in with something in mind anyway or are distracted by appearance -- which explains part of the burst of popularity for Globals. Face it Globals aren't for everyone.

When comparing two otherwise very similar knives for a short time, people will almost always choose one that is slightly heavier -- because they mistake "heft" for quality. But whichever knife you pick, after using it for a week, you won't notice that. You'll notice the actual qualities instead. Agility; comfort over time and effort; and the most important part of any knife -- edge quality.

What sells in the stores? Reputation, price, shiny, heavier, jazzy looking. What's important in the kitchen? Nothing on that list.

Facts: It's hard to beat a good German knife for fit and finish. It's hard (impossible probably) to beat a good German knife for initial handle feel. Almost any mid-level Japanese knife will do a better job for you where it counts.

Unless you've got carpal tunnel syndrome, or the knife is trying to give it to you (Globals), edge quality is what a knife is all about.

Most stores have limited stocks, and only of the most popular knives. Few stores have or can have the selection to showcase many of the best knives. If my choice is Wusthof Ikon and Shun Classic from Sur Le Table or Masamoto HC from a Japanese e-tailer, I'm choosing Masamoto based on other folks' recommendations. And you know what? As good as those other two choices are, Masamoto's a MUCH BETTER KNIFE.

Yes. It's a good idea to try and seek out the knives you're most interested in. But if you can't find them, it's not a good idea to cross them off your list because of that.

Anyone who buys a knife based on manufacturer's hype or (with a very few exceptions) retailers' or salesperson's recommendations is asking to be fleeced.

My dos pesos,
post #12 of 22
I had a very negative reaction to the crock line as well.
it's not crock - if the knives don't fit your hand and don't feel good when you pick them up, it's unlikely to change.
I know a number of people who have done the "it's recommended" thing and wound up giving/putting them away because the knife/knives didn't "feel right" and "were awkward to use"

now, people who have never (seriously) used a knife are not likely to have any clue about "Would you like something smaller, bigger? lighter, heavier?" because they simply don't have any experience.
but it's like buying shoes - try a pair on and it probably doesn't take long to decide whether you feel comfortable with the idea of wearing them all day.
which does not mean the lady will not buy the six inch heel - it is after all "in style"

and I would say lumping knives "It's hard to beat a good German knife for fit and finish" / etc. is not factually accurate or even a reasonable approach.
look at the number of different handle styles produce by even one brand!

you are right that a lot of makers haver gone for style, glitz & glitter. some of the knife handles now-a-days look like they belong on medieval torture devices....
post #13 of 22
I have no real attachment to any brand or style.
I own many different ones, and like them for different reasons.
Sometimes I will just use a different Chef's knife based on my mood, not because I think my Messermeister will dice the vegetables better than my Forschner, Shun, etc.
I'm fickle that way, I don't get too attached.

But I must say, my new favorite bread knife is the Whustof Super Slicer.
It has a reverse scallop, so instead of having points, it has rounds.
It doesn't crumb as easily as others, and doesn't grab into the food, it just glides through.
Whustof makes these in varying degrees of quality, all the way down to a basic stamped version for around sixty bucks.

I currently have a nice 10", as well as a smaller one with an offset handle, both Grand Prix.
If you haven't seen them you should check them out.
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
post #14 of 22
This is a fair point. I don't agree with it entirely -- but you wrote "unlikely," so cool. But this paradigm is actually the obverse of what's at issue. All too often, people buy knives which "good," or "best" in the store, but for one reason or another, the knives don't work as well or at all down the line.

I do too. And most of those went to the cooking or department or cutlery store because that was recommended as well, and held the knives and pretended to chop ... the whole nine yards. People who don't know knives go to the store and choose knives for all the wrong reasons; because they either don't know what the right reasons are, or don't know enough to determine whether the knife they're playing with meets the criteria.

Most people don't know how to keep a knife sharp, and for one reason or another, usually intimidation or price, don't care to learn. Unfortunately, all knives dull eventually, and one dull knife is pretty much equal to another, regardless of "comfort," "balance," or any other consideration you can learn in or out of a knife store.

Also most people don't know how to hold a knife, nor how to make the basic cuts. There's nothing I can do or say that will change that or make their knife choices better or worse.

Although it may sound like it, I'm not judging. My only goal is to help people enjoy cooking and feel good about it.
If the closest thing to a sharp knife in someone's house is an old steak knife, they should use it for everything. If you have fun, you win.

Disagree somewhat. To use your metaphor: It's possible to go to the shoe store, buy two pairs of shoes, and only find out later that you were mistaken about which would be the most comfortable after breaking in.

I've learned to leave comments beyond "those jeans make your butt look great," unsaid. Since most women would associate "six inch heels" with male fantasies involving a particular type of lady, you should join the "unsaid" club as well.

It wasn't an "approach" I endorsed. Rather, cosmetics are something of a distraction -- particularly in a store.

As mass produced knives go, the good Germans are unbeatable for fit and finish.

First: What do I mean by "good Germans?" Top of the line Messermeister, F. Dick, Wusthof, Henckels, LamsonSharp (Lamson's actually American, but the LamsonSharp line is German in every other way), Victorinox Forged (Victorinox's other lines are made in Switzerland, the Forged are actually made in Germany). Did I miss a big maker? I feel like I might have.

Meanwhile, back at the point: Some people might prefer "regular" to "ergonomic," or "stamina wood" to "POM," but say what you will, these knives all come with great handles. The handles are all extremely well fitted and properly contoured for the widest possible group of hand sizes and grips.

You never see grind marks, blades are well polished; bevels are even; knives are packaged sharp. Handle, cosmetic, and sharpening qualities can be a real adventure with similarly priced Japanese knives. These qualities, so important in the store, argue for a good German over a good Japanese.
Do I recommend them as a result? No. In fact, I worry that the wonderful fit and finish and INITIAL handle comfort will distract the user from the true purpose of the knife.

Am I opposed to these knives to the extent that I think a Japanese or French knife is better for everyone? Again, no. In my experience, most people who have good knife technique prefer a chef's knife with more of a French/Japanese edge profile than a German edge profile; and prefer a lighter knife to a heavier one for extended all-around use. However, "most" is by no means "all." Many of the people whom I advise don't don't do the academic cuts, and don't care about "knife skills," in a recognizable way.

At a guess, I doubt you cut exact julienne or know the difference between an edge finished on a DMT XFine, a black Arkansas, or a Shatpon Pro 5000#. Since you're not going to polish the edge or cut brunois, why should you waste time looking for a knife that's going to help you do those things. You've got other fish to fry and you might as well fry them. On the other hand, when I chop four jalapeno peppers to go in chili, every piece is 3mm x 3mm x the thickness of the de-veined skin -- to within ~1mm. Why would anyone do that? Virtue. No. Fun? For me. Your mileage may differ.

The OP doesn't have that kind of technique, yet. But will soon. (S)he wants knives that will support the jump in technique. That means agile knives that can be sharpened and stay sharp. Do you know how to determine that by "play chopping" in a knife store? Neither do I.

You can (and should) disqualify an obviously uncomfortable knife in the store. The brick and mortar "handle before you buy" experience is useful to that extent, and not a "complete crock." It would have been better to say, "often misleading."

Until you cut with a knife, you don't have more than a glimmer of a clue. In fact, until you roll the edge and steel it; dull it and sharpen it; you don't know the most important things about the knife.

Going back to your metaphor: It's as though you made a decision in a shoe store only by picking the shoes up and looking at them -- not by actually trying them on, and not walking around the store in them. By way of example, a Furi (Oz) may be a very comfortable knife (for nearly everyone) in the store. But it's made of steel that will not hold an edge at all well.

They're usually of two basic shapes -- traditional and ergonomic. Materials choices like "stamina wood," "POM" and "Corian" represent different considerations by manufacturer and user.

All the Germans, except Messermeister, Lamson and Victorinox, who are "traditional only," produce some very stylish high-end knife lines. Typically they're made with the same blades and are priced the same as their more traditional counterparts. It's a matter of taste, and I don't mean to judge.

Oddly, the most common Japanese knives are far more stylized than traditional. Shun Classics are very highly styled. Globals are styled in a "form over function" way which reflects their form over function design philosophy. Unfortunately, Globals turned out to be uncomfortable for most westerners who used them as primary knife (go-to gyuto) for a long period of time. The Shun Classic chef's shape, with its long straight spine and high tip are difficult to point, and as Japanese knives go, Shun Classics are thick and difficult to sharpen in a way that keeps from the "wedging" too much.

Now this is actually pretty technical and '"inside baseball," but that's part of my point. The new, received wisdom is that "Everyone knows" good Japanese knives are better. Hypothetical: If the local "gourmet" store carries three good German lines, a bunch of cheap stuff, and Shun and Global. Are Shun and Global better? Answer: Compared to Wusthof Classic, in almost every way -- but maybe not in some very important ways, like long-term comfort, or how the cosmetics hold-up over time. In the continuum of good western style Japanese knives, Shun Classic and Global are at the intersection of top of the bottom and bottom of the middle.

So what's the customer to do? Settle for second best or work around the lack of choices in his local mall by buying online based on "recommendations" from knowledgeable people?

Which handles do you mean?

post #15 of 22
Sunnder, is your head spinning yet? :crazy: It's not like we foodies are opinionated or anything... :rolleyes: About the only suggestion I can make is to find one that's comfortable and in your price range. Try other folk's knives (if you can pry them out of their hands) as much as you can until you find what suits you. Then spend the big bucks (if need be) for what you like. You may wind up with every knife in your kit made by a different company. That's fine; it's not like they're fine china and have to be a matched set.

For the record, I've got a set of "regular" J.A. Henckels ("Five Star") and a set of their "Professional 'S'". I prefer the Professionals--the handles are much nicer and so (more importantly) is the balance. I also know that there are folks who would happily spit on my knives while swearing about the greatness of their own. Hey! That's what makes horse races.
post #16 of 22
methinks there's a very basic difference in philosophy here.

I am aware you like to keep your knives sharp enough to cleave any given fish scale into outer, inner and middle layers.
most common folk chefs just don't go that far. there is a professional sub-group that does need such capability.

and, as you say, the edge does not last.
I would point out: neither the handle nor the user's hand is likely to change as fast as the cutting edge.
"...these knives all come with great handles. The handles are all extremely well fitted and properly contoured for the widest possible group of hand sizes and grips"
this statement I cannot agree with. well fitted, quality fit & finish is wonderful and good - it is expected in a good knife. the question is: it fits, it don't fits.

and as for the shoes, neither the user's hand or the handle is going to "break in" - it fits, it don't fits.

what handles? oh dear, some surfing required......
Wusthof alone sells
classic ikon
grand prix II
the handles / designs are not similar.

I submit that the knife that works out "best" is one the user is comfortable using - that may even prompt the user to keep it sharp.
an awkward twenty five million yen Japanese finest steel finest edge honed to one angstrom width is utterly useless if the user finds it hard to hold / employ.

getting first hands on a knife is not a crock. a not tall person trying to rock a ten inch chefs knife and smashing their wrist into their nose to get the handle end high enough to rock _should_ realize the shape / size of the knife does not complement the shape of themself. and their six foot two trusted recommending buddy is not likely to be aware of such a thing.

in my experience I have found people with short fingers like the "more round" handles as opposed to the Wusthof classic flat style. long fingers wrapped around a round is apparently not as comfortably controllable - and short fingers that strain to get wrapped around the full depth of the handle feels "not controlled" - pick a guest and start asking! everybody gets an opinion!

...But it's made of steel that will not hold an edge at all well.

I contend for us usual and common chefs that need a sharp knife, short of trisecting fish scales, any of the good quality knives will do just fine.
perfect metallurgy does not a perfect knife make.
if the user chooses not to take care of the knives or refuses to sharpen or cause them to be sharpened, no brand is any good.
oops, there's always Cutco......
post #17 of 22
Note to OP:
As you can tell, there is little universal agreement; this is actually a good thing. What is right, is what is right for YOU. Do not let anyone bully you into believing something that is contrary to your personal experience (e.g. culinary instructor, famous celebrity chef, shift manager, or -ahem- online blogger).

For me, for example, these are my personal, minority opinions that will never change no matter what you say or who you are:
-I HATE GLOBAL KNIVES. I have two of them. The blade is great, but the handle is 100% metal. When doing fish or chicken or meat, my hands get really slippery, slimey, oily, and these knives start to slip and slide, posing a safety hazard.
-I HATE GERMAN KNIVES. I prefer French ones, because the bow of the blade is usually greater, and the rocking-chopping motion becomes easier.
-BLADES DO NOT MATTER-HANDLE DOES. For me, the correct hand position is with my thumb and forefinger on the other side of the bolster. I will use this type of hold to decide if a knife is comfortable; trust me, this is important if your job is to prep 6 cases of vegetables.
post #18 of 22
You've got it backwards Jerry. French style chef's knives have less belly and less arc on the edge than their German counterparts. That is, French chef's knives are more triangle cut from a rectangle, and German knives a triangular section of an oval. Another difference is the shape of the bolster -- German style bolsters are squarish and sort of streamlined and flow into the finger-guard. French bolsters are either sort of elongated and tubular leading into a discrete finger-guard or just a finger-guard alone (for instance, the martinet-forged knives made for the Canadian market) which was formed in the initial forging process, rather than added later..

As to rock-chopping, if you do it two handed as most people mean by the term, the arc of the belly doesn't make a whole lot of difference since the palm of your off-hand steadies the knife on it's tip -- the actual fulcrum. Even a Chinese vegetable cleaver or a flat-edged santoku will work. Or maybe it's more accurate to say that each blade shape has pluses and minuses. On a flat blade, the handle doesn't need to be raised as high, but a curved blade generates a lot more power -- plus a shearing action.

Most of us trained to use knives for European cuisines use a certain amount of shear one way or the other. Typically, the cook lifts the knife off the board and chops with the point slightly down; as the blade starts to hit the board, (s)he shears it down and slides it slightly forward at the same time. The action is a lot like the piston and articulated connecting rod on a steam locomotive. It's extremely accurate with the classic cuts like alumette, baton, batonet, and julienne, dice, fine dice, and brunois -- none of which are doable with a two hand rock chop. It's also silent -- as opposed to the tap, tap, tap, of a pure chop. Silence was a big thing when and where I learned.

I prefer French chef's knives as well; and all my current chef's knives are Sabatier. I have one 12" K-Sabatier, one 10" K-Sabatier, one 10" "antique" style "Canadian" K-Sabatier -- all purchased new in the early seventies (the antique and a matching slicer were gifts from my first chef at the Blue Fox in San Francisco); and one 7" "Nogent" style, Thiers-Issard Elephant Sabatier from the famous "warehouse" discovery, which I purchased from The Best Things about a year ago. I love them all.

The 10" K-Sab and the 7" Nogent are in my daily-use block by my board. The 12" is my "lobster cracker," on my mag-bar; and the antique is with my daughter in Rohnert Park getting abused.

post #19 of 22
I find the fibrox handles on my Forschners to be very comfortable. My 10 inch chefs gets used daily and holds a reasonable edge. The boning knife is one of the best I have ever used, it also works well on filleting fish.
post #20 of 22
Thats the problem I have with the Japanese Chef's knives .com and some other online places....

I want to feel/hold a knife before I buy it...

with there was a storefront reseller...right now i'm limited to global, shun, wusthoff, henkel for the most part.
post #21 of 22

There are quite a few places in NYC for you to play with a wide range of Japanese knives -- nearly everything JCK sells. Not only that but most of them will give you a lot more help and expertise than you could get almost anywhere else. You're covered. The problem lies with people who don't have access to the places with real cutlery stores, who are limited to BB&B, Sur Le Table, Macy's, and Williams Sonoma.


PS. Check out Korin first. Korin - Fine Japanese Tableware and Chef Knives Then, Japanese Knives And Restaurant Supplies
post #22 of 22
I'd suggest the Wusthoff classic. My mom was given a set about 50 years ago from a family member who brought them straight from Germany for her and to this day they can do everything as if they were new. She regularly sharpens them and doesn't store them in a drawer which is key to maintaining the sharp edge.

I also own Wusthoff Classic which I chose because of my experience using them growing up and even after holding a bunch of other brands, including a shun. The Shun knives were very very comfortable, or they were for the short time I held them, but I decided to go with the tried and true.

My personal feelings are that it can't hurt to go to a store and hold all the knives and chop some celery, but that shouldn't be what you solely base your decision on. Chances are after culinary school you will have a much much better idea of the brand of knives you prefer and can always buy new ones if you decide the ones you have no longer suit you. Think of the knives you buy for culinary school your "test drive" set. You'll have ample opportunity to try out different knives and techniques to ultimately make the best "lifetime" decision after school.

Also, wusthoff.com has a short movie that shows you the basics of sharpening knives on a block and a sharpening steel.

Good luck, let us know what you decide! Best of luck in culinary school, send us your favorite recipes!
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