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ANOTHER! Chef knife question (Sab vs Hiromoto)

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
Hello everyone. I am not a professional chef... just a cook at home dad who likes to take some time on the weekends to cook things the right way. I prefer simple, classic preparations and high quality ingredients... an old school daube of lamb one week, cassoulet the next, maybe some trout or salmon during the week, a roast chicken, something out of the Zuni cafe cookbook. Basically, cooking is a (relatively new) hobby for me.

I don't think I need the sharpest knife in the world. My knife skills are novice (but I'm getting better and practicing good pinch grip technique) and I don't anticipate performing surgery with the thing. But I enjoy working with quality materials and I'd like a **** good chefs knife.

Price isn't really a concern, but I'm not a collector and I don't need a showcase piece. I'm expecting to spend something north of $100 and probably no more than $200-300. From what I've read here I think I can get a fine knife for about $100 bucks. (right?)

I'm leaning toward a carbon steel Sabatier for a few of reasons. I like the shape and it seems to me that leaning on a classic french knife makes some sense. I also like that they are unpretantious. I don't really go for flashy damascus-type knives but I understand why some people like them. The Sabatier seems timeless. I also like the idea of carbon steel but I have to admit I've never worked with a CS knife. I also don't know how to sharpen a knife (although if I can keep it sharp with a honing steel I can always have a professional sharpen it). I think the idea of forcing a patina on a Sabatier might be a good one. I understand the patina will help protect the blade.

I've also considered the Hiromoto AS. I guess most of you think the Japanese knife is a far better blade... but will a novice really notice the difference? Again, I'm inclined toward the Sabatier mostly for emotional / aesthetic reasons ... but I'm no dummy. If the Hiromoto is a no-brainer, I'll buy that one.

Anyone have any advice about the Sabatier? Given my profile... do you think I'll like it? Or will I be making a mistake by not buying Japanese?

Anyone have any other knife recommendations? I've heard good things about a range of Japanese knives, from MAC to Misono UX10 to Hittori to Yoshikane SDK. Again, I'm not an expert in cooking, knife technique, cutlery or sharpening!! I just want a **** good knife to have fun with and continue to learn.

By the way, the Sabatier I like is the four-star elephant version from Best Things. Probably the one with the real olive wood handle, 8 or 10 inches ... also like the nogent but I don't know if these are as easy to hold as the ones with the western handle.

Thanks in advance!!!
post #2 of 17
It's your money and your hand. Buy whichever one feels good to you. I have all kinds collected over the years. Cheap, expensive, American, German Japan, French you name it. My favorite is my old chinese cleaver for almost every thing except boning meat or fish.
post #3 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks Ed. I recently took the short course at the French Culinary Institute ... I'm learning. In fact, I mistyped above. I said "leaning" on a Sabatier but I meant "learning." Learning proper technique on a classic fknife makes some sense to me, especially since I don't have too many bad habits to break. As an instructor, your perspective is invaluable. Thanks.
post #4 of 17
Check out my "Build my Kitchen Arsenal" thread in the equipment section. boar d laze posted alot of great info for knives.
post #5 of 17
This is an intersting link on the patina issue. -if you decide to go carbon steel.

Forcing the patina on a Hiro AS? - - Intelligent Discussion for the Knife Enthusiast - Powered by FusionBB

I like a high carbon stainless approach as you get the best of both worlds and a nice hardness for longevity.

Any reputable knife manufacturer that is doing forged, full tang knives will offer excellent options within your price range depending on how much you want to spend. Most of my experience has been with European knife companies- Henckles, Sabatier, Wustoff and I know there are some awesome Japanese knives like global to be had.

You have a lot to pick from. Find a chef knife or Santuku that you're comfortable with and make sure it has good quality/value points.:chef:
post #6 of 17
I'm a very novice cook.

I started out with the Wusthoff classic 8" and just recently upgraded to a Misono UX-10 9.4".

a few things.

I'm glad I bought the wusthoff first to start out when i was first learning.

and I'm GLAD I upgraded to the misono. The wusthoff is great. the misono however, is a noticeable difference for me....but I can say, that I wouldn't have noticed and appreciated it had not I used the wusthoff first, nor would I have any fingers left if I had gotten the misono first! I had to learn how to handle an "easier" knife first before benefitting from the misono if that makes sense. Kind of like how a fast car for your first car isn't necessarily the best car, but it will be better.....when it's your second car.

not that any of the above will make sense. :crazy::crazy::crazy: and of course everyone is different. just mess around with a few knives, see what ya like.

then....come back and we can beat on the subject of sharpening! haha

I THINK we have a guy around here that has a few opinions on Sabatiers....maybe.
post #7 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks to everyone for your advice. I have read stuff from Boar D Laze before... I understand he's a Sab guy too. In fact, I read he cooked at one of my favorite restaurants... If Sab is good enough for Chez Panisse it's dern well good enough for me.

I ordered a 9" Sabatier Nogent yesterday afternoon. I know there are "sharper" high-performance knives on the market. But to me a knife is a very personal choice, saying a lot about the type of food you cook. I could be nuts but I don't see the fit between an ultramodern global knife and a traditional tagine dish. I prefer a slightly longer preparation to shortcuts. Give me a sail boat over a ski boat. I'm not cooking on a line for 8 hours straight ... I'm cooking for my friedns and family for 8 hours with plenty of beer and wine along the way. That tells me a solid Sabatier knife will be fine. (of course, I could be wrong! those Japanese knives sound awesome!!)

Any advice on maintenance? I bought a ceramic honing rod. There's pleny of advice on the web about sharpening the high performance Japanese knives ...What about stones for an old-school French carbon steel blade?
post #8 of 17

Sorry about taking so long to jump on to this thread. I was trying to give some thought to helping you make your choice -- one of those things where too much information becomes a handicap. As it happens, I have or have had several knives in most of the lines you mentioned.

I probably wouldn't have put my feelings about and reasons for owning old and antique carbon steel in the same words you did. But they wouldn't have been all that different -- except for one area, and that's sharpness. Your knife will take an incredibly good edge, and fairly easily too! That's one of the things that makes this old French steel so good.

Congratulations on your "Nogent." As soon as you get the box from The Best Things, make sure the knife is straight. It doesn't happen very often, but some times the knives are shipped bent. If it's not straight, get in touch with TBT and arrange to return it. with the Nogents, as you can't properly repair it yourself without weakening the knife.

There's a chance the sharpening job from the factory might not have been very good. For instance the edge might not extend all the way down the heel to the return; or it may be uneven from side to side, or some other defect you wouldn't expect in a German knife. Don't worry about anything like that. You'll fix it the first couple of times you profile the knife.

The best sharpening system for the Nogent is similar to mine, and I'll get to it in a moment. But if you have or plan to buy very hard steel down the line, as in upmarket Japanese knives, you'll want to use a different set.

I use two steels for maintenance and four stones for sharpening. I don't recommend two steels, it's just that tools have a way of adding up. The best steel (honing rod, really) for your Nogent (or almost any knife for that matter) is the Hand American borosilicate. The rod is micro-grooved, and works unbelievably well. You can get it at Japanese Knife Sharpening (JKS) online for about $70.

Tied for second place are the Hand American glass smooth steel and the Idahone fine grit ceramic. The Hand American actually has four strips of two surfaces each and is useful for that. You'll use the smooth sides when the knife is freshly sharpened and polished, and the fine grooved side when the glass doesn't seem to help quite as much. Around $50. Coming in at around $20 is the Idahone fine ceramic. Given how good and how reasonably priced the Idahone is, it doesn't make sense to go through a lot of other choices. That said, any fine or extra fine grooved steel will be fine. Stay away from diamond cut, medium grooved, any ceramic rougher than 1000# or so.

I use my pair, an old Henckels fine grooved and a Hand American borosilicate, much the same way you'd use the pair of surfaces on the Hand American smooth.

You peform three functions with your stones: 1) Profiling and repairing. In other words, moving a lot of metal around by grinding. 2) Sharpening. Abrading the bevels formed by profiling to smooth them, and to make the edge sharp by making it very narrow. And 3) Polishing. That is, smoothing the bevels and the edge itself so that it glides through cuts.

I recommend four different surfaces to accomplish this: One for grinding; Two and Three for sharpening (start the wire, refine the wire) and deburring; and Four for polishing. There's no point in overpolishing a carbon steel knife as micro-corrosion attacks the edge so quickly, you can't practically maintain a high level of polish.

Anyway, here's the stone set: (A) Norton Coarse India (profiling and repairing); not the fastest coarse stone in the world, but plenty fast for old carbon. Considering it's coarseness and speed it's a particularly good stone for beginners. Used properly it's not as quick to put scratches up the side of the knife as other coarse stones.

(B) Norton fine India (first sharpening and deburring). Classic stone. Brings up a wire very quickly, which if properly deburred is good enough for most people and purposes.

(C) Hall's soft Arkansas. A little on the slow side, if used as the first sharpening stone. Used after the fine India it doesn't have that much work to do -- and does it quite well. That is, it polishes out the scratches from the India stones and lets you pull a fine wire.

(D) Hall's black Arkansas. Classic stone.

As a matter of technique, I recommend deburring after the fine India with either the fine India itself or a fine grooved steel; and deburring after the soft Arkansas on the soft Arkansas, either a smooth or extra-fine grooved steel, or a pad such as a "rock-hard" felt. I also recommend using the stones without oil -- either with water or dry, preferably dry; and cleaning the stones in the dishwasher or in boiling water to which a little bit of dishwashing powder has been added.

I recommend the India and Arkansas stone over waterstones because they take far less of their own maintenance. If you're sharpening very hard steel knives the set becomes so slow as to be frustrating; and it's worth the extra trouble and expense to step up to good waterstones.

Anyway, that's it for freehanding. If you want to use a tool and jig setup, I recommend the EdgePro Apex (set 2).

If you want to use a machine, use either the Chef's Choice 1520 or XV. If you do decide to use a home (as opposed to professional) sharpening machine, Chef's Choice is as cheap as you can get. Other Chef's Choice models like the 120 and 130 will give you a sharp knife but not as good as the 1520 and XV, because of the different geometries of the edges.

Your Nogent can (and should) be sharpened to a 15* single bevel on each side with 50/50 symmetry (that's why I specified the 1520 and XV). That means profiling the factory edge which is set at around 20* or so. Your edge should be good enough to "fall" through a tomato -- with the weight of the knife alone. With frequent steeling it will hold an edge well enough (about 90%), to not require re-sharpening more than once every 5 or 6 weeks or so. Steel when you feel the knife loses some performance. Sharpen when steeling won't restore 90% of it anymore.

Hope this helps,
post #9 of 17
Thread Starter 
Wow, thanks for the insight BDL. I'll be ordering the stones later today.

I wonder if you would comment on care for a carbon steel knife. What I've read on the internet is all over the board. And I'd venture to guess, given how common stainles is these days, many of the "advise" on the internet comes from people who've never actually USED a carbon steel knife.

Must carbon steel REALLY be washed and dried after EVERY onion? If one were to slice a tomato, and then urgently need to rescue a too-long-sauteed mirepoix, might one return to the cutting board to find an ugly black-stained knife? Will carbon steel really discolor food? Will a forced patina protect the blade and / or prevent some of these problems? How long does it take to form a natural patina? Should the blade be oiled?

There are a lot of urban legends about carbon steel. And I'm sure there are just as many people who are needlessly intimidated by carbon steel. In fact, that might be a cool aside topic in your book... Carbon Steel: Urban Legends Explored (or somesuch).

post #10 of 17
Ain't it the truth [/quote]

Yes one might. That said, fresh stains come off very easily.

Not really. You can make it happen if the knife is really crummy and the food really reactive. But it's not really a problem. Nor, for that matter, is any "off taste."

Yes, but it's not a necessary part of caring for carbon knives. I don't do it. Obviously, quite a few knowldgeable people do. "Old school" is to take care of the knife the way I describe down the page.

IIRC, Buzzard, who contributes here frequently, is a patina kind of guy. With luck he'll see this thread and share his thoughts. If not, check out Fred's Cutlery Forum, on the Foodie Forum.

Not sure, a few months possibly.

It's a good idea under certain circumstances.

Let me flesh some of this out for you:

You've already got the idea that CS discolors very quickly -- although you seem to have been hoping that it wasn't as quickly as some people imply. It's pretty quick, let me tell you. The discoloration results from a chemical reaction on the surface of the knife. As long as it's only on the surface it's very easy to clean off. Welcome to your new best friend, the Scotch-Brite green pad. VSM meet pad. Pad, vsm. Buy a bunch.

Every time you rinse your knife, hit it with the pad and you'll keep it from staining. You don't have to rinse after every onion, but a pro chopping a box of onions, would rinse once in the middle of the box. For the home chef, try not to let the knife sit for more than ten minutes or so after cutting anything corrosive.

The old school way of taking care of CS (my way too) is to rub the knife down with baking soda every week or so, or when you first notice staining. Baking soda not only cleans and polishes but leaves a protective anti-corrosive film on the knife. I learned to do it with an old wine corks; but unfortunately that meant drinking a bottle of wine when the cork got lost. For some reason that happened a lot. Any theories? Some guys used potatoes, but I never did. Nowadays I use baking soda with the green pad when the knife starts to look grotty.

When the knife gets too crummy for baking soda BKF will take care of it. However, a knife cleaned with BKF will discolor very quickly. So it requires additional rigamarole. Oil the knife with mineral oil (more on that later), or (only if the knife will be used very soon thereafter) with vegetable oil. This keeps the knife from discoloring in the short term -- then after using the knife, clean it again with baking soda.

This results in a knife that cycles from "brushed," "not quite new," to "well-maintained old" steel. If you wipe steel down with an oily rag, it's a look you're going to like. Personally, I haven't noticed any extra "stickiness" compared to a patina finish.

If you're going to store the knife for more than a week or so without using it, you should oil with mineral oil.

The handle on your Nogent is a simple, untreated block of ebony and needs its own care. Every time you sharpen the knife, oil the handle with mineral oil. Buy your mineral oil from the pharmacy, it's "food grade," plenty cheap, and important for your cutting board too. Your other new best friend.

If writing a book about knives I definitely would. However, despite its many advantages, I don't even recommend CS to anyone who doesn't express an independent interest or doesn't show themselves to be the type.

Even though it's the best edge, and the extra care isn't that different from normal maintenance, CS has become hobbyist in the west. Perhaps it's the association with the past... quien sabe?

Any other questions, don't hesitate ...
post #11 of 17

Minor amplifications

Just to add to what BDL said so well...

I've been having a lot of conversations lately with the knifemakers at Aritsugu, in Kyoto, which is often said by Japanese chefs to be one of the two best knifemakers in Japan. They only do carbon steel for blades, though they do make some blades that are sandwiched with stainless, simplifying care. So they have a lot to say about care for carbon-steel, as you might imagine.

Japanese chefs are well trained to wipe their blades with a very slightly damp dishcloth after finishing cutting any ingredient. This dramatically slows the discoloration process, obviously, and it's an easy habit to pick up: you just keep such a towel sitting next to your board whenever you cut anything.

At the end of cutting, you "scour" the blade. You take a very tough nylon (not metal!) wool-mesh-scrubber thing. You rinse the blade thoroughly in tepid water. You put ordinary liquid dish soap (Dawn, etc.) on the scrubber. You put the blade flat -- meaning that the bevel of the knife is flat, with the edge just touching the counter -- on the surface of a clean board or counter, and you scrub crosswise, from spine to edge in short strokes, moving slowly up and down the blade. Flip the knife over, put it flat, and do it again. Quickly scour the handle. Now rinse again very well in tepid water to remove any trace of soap. Dry thoroughly with a clean, dry dishcloth. Then leave the knife sitting someplace dry, safe, and out of the way, on a towel if you like, for half an hour or so (I recommend the top of the fridge if you're tall and can put it there and get it down safely). The idea is that this resting period allows any remaining trace moisture to evaporate, leaving you a completely dry knife before you put it in a block or rack.

They don't oil knives, and they use waterstones, not oil. They don't use steels, either. On the other hand, they polish with super-fine polishing stones very often (daily for pros, weekly or every other week for home cooks). Of course, all of this is why knives of this kind have become so unpopular with Japanese housewives, who these days generally buy stainless or ceramic santoku and to blazes with the old knives. But as long as you've got excellent carbon steel, you might find the advice of one of the top carbon-steel hand knifemakers in Japan useful.

My sense is that everything I'm saying is just a slight variant on what BDL is saying.

And I would emphatically support one thing he said above all: it simply ain't true that this is not a sharp knife. If you sharpen it well, and keep it sharp, it will take and hold a wicked blade. It's not an "easy" knife, or a beginner knife, or anything like that. That myth is, pure and simple, what the people selling the hot new ultra-thin knives want you to think. It ain't so. Sabatier is a beautiful knife, so get it profiled to 15 degrees evenly, then sharpen it carefully, polish it often, and pretty soon you will have a sharper knife than the people who spent twice as much for the hottest new thin thing.
post #12 of 17

My brother!

I don't know why I'm so shy when it comes to talking about my knives. I LOVE my Sabs. In the continuum of knives, old French carbons actually handle more like Japanese western style knives than they do like German stainless.

If you're going to use "oil stones," DON'T USE OIL. Oil is counterproductive both for sharpening in two different ways, and makes it harder to keep the stone from clogging. Sharpen dry or with water.

The Japanese do use oil -- but not for sharpening. They use "camilla" oil as an anti-rust protectant and a handle conditioner. It's good stuff, but costs more than mineral oil you can buy at the pharmacy, doesn't work any better and isn't quite as versatile in terms of treating cutting boards, salad bowls, etc.

Hail the Scotch-Brite pad (plastic,wool, mesh, scrubber thing)! International harmony is achieved. The Japanese chef is our brother.

Traditional Japanese edge geometries are inappropriate for steeling. Some Japanese knives should not be steeled because the type and amount of surface hardening has left the blade too brittle. Otherwise, the use of an appropriately fine steel is a convenient way of extending the useful life of an edge and keeping the knife off the stones. A lot of Japanese chefs do use steels to maintain yo-style (western) blades. In fact, Masamoto makes very nice steels. Expensive, though.

It's all 'bout the sharpening.

Yes to 15* flat face bevels on old style French carbon. It holds it extremely well and sharpens brilliantly. I don't know about performing a briss on a mosquito, but it can certainly cut transparent slices of fish.

post #13 of 17
I have a Murray Carter with some new horizontal scratches on the Jigane and I suspect that those scrubber things may be the culprets. My fault for being in a hurry one evening.

VSM - you the man! I believe you'e love the Nogent you ordered. I have some experience with them having sold most of a case of fifty last year. The carbon steel from which they are made is a joy to sharpen, fast, and they polish well. The factory edges are not nearly acute enough and need to be taken to ten to fifteen degrees depending on intended use. If your particular needs don't go beyond slicing boneless meats and slicing/chopping vegetables by all means put a ten degree edge on your new knife. As a home cook, edge retention should not be of much importance if you do your own sharpening. Congratulations on what I hope you will find to be a very nice knife.

Now, for the next knife, you mentioned Hiromoto AS...... good choice. I am a huge fan of Hitachi blue and white steels. The Aogami Blue Super steel in the Hiromoto edge seems to last forever. I've probably posted this pic on this forum before, but here is a 240mm Hiro AS I gave my daughter and SIL for Christmas last year. Handle by Butch Harner.

Buzz - with a Short Pilot Story

One day, long, long ago there was this Pilot who, surprisingly...........
was not full of crap....
But it was a long time ago.... And it was just one day. The End
Buzz - with a Short Pilot Story

One day, long, long ago there was this Pilot who, surprisingly...........
was not full of crap....
But it was a long time ago.... And it was just one day. The End
post #14 of 17

I'm new to the forum because this post came up on a google search... I have an Aritsugu santoku made out of aogami carbon steel that was getting some uneven staining because I really only use it once a week or so and did not force a patina. I didn't like the look, so I decided to clean it with the green side of the scotch pad and baking soda, and while it now has the same color/shine as new, it also has many little abrasions/micro-scratches in it. Is this normal? Did I use too much baking soda? Is there any way I can get rid of the abrasions?

post #15 of 17

I'm new to the forum because this post came up on a google search... I have an Aritsugu santoku made out of aogami carbon steel that was getting some uneven staining because I really only use it once a week or so and did not force a patina. I didn't like the look, so I decided to clean it with the green side of the scotch pad and baking soda, and while it now has the same color/shine as new, it also has many little abrasions/micro-scratches in it. Is this normal? Did I use too much baking soda? Is there any way I can get rid of the abrasions?

post #16 of 17

I mostly use 6" carbon steel japanese vegetable knives with a Rectangular shape.  The brand I have used for years is Caddie.  Unfortunately they are no longer available where I used to purchase them for $19.00-amazing price.  I have always preferred the Japanese vegetable knives in carbon steel, because they cut easily, sharpen easily and as long as you scrub dry um and oil them, and don't cut winter squashes and through corn husks, they stay in great shape.

Hope this is helpful to you.

PS. I am just considering purchasing my first Hiromoto knife.  This is how I came to this site.  At you can buy Hirmoto individually or in sets for about 50-65 per knife.  Not a bad price.

post #17 of 17
Originally Posted by suneet View Post


I'm new to the forum because this post came up on a google search... I have an Aritsugu santoku made out of aogami carbon steel that was getting some uneven staining because I really only use it once a week or so and did not force a patina. I didn't like the look, so I decided to clean it with the green side of the scotch pad and baking soda, and while it now has the same color/shine as new, it also has many little abrasions/micro-scratches in it. Is this normal? Did I use too much baking soda? Is there any way I can get rid of the abrasions?


Yes, it's normal.  The scratching results more from the scotch-brite pad than the baking soda.  But the soda is slightly abrasive.  It's possible to polish them out with very fine paper and abrasives, a buffing wheel, or...  But under any circumstances it's a lot of work.  You might want to start with Bar Keeper's Friend (aka BKF), then follow that with a paste made from ordinary flour using a sponge or rag for each.  That ought to rub out some of the scratching. 


Finally, very gently rub a little baking soda onto the knife (again using something soft) to neutralize the acid in the BKF and help slow down corrosion.  If you don't force or allow a patina, preventing one will be a life-long task.  


As I like the matte finish you get with the scotch-brite, which reminds me of well maintained tools, I wouldn't bother with the polishing.  Clearly, it's a "to each his own."   If there's comfort in company, I do maintain my carbon knives with regular baking-soda cleaning, and have done so with decades. 


For what it's worth, the style of "rectangular vegetable knife" you're describing is nakiri.


Hope this helps,


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