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What knives to register for?

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
Greetings! I am a home cook and cooking enthusiast who is getting married, and I am ready for some real knives. Currently, I am registered for a complete set of Shun Elites (I am lefty and need an ambidextrous design).

However, from my research, I have heard that Shuns, which are quite pricey, may be more about hype than quality. Still, I need a basic set of home knives (e.g. bread knife). Also, I need durable knives that my fiancee can use who does not have the best knife care practices.

What have decided is that I will UN-register for the Shun Elites. Instead, I will register for a set of basic knives. On the side, I will build my own collection of real Japanese knives like Hattori's that I will baby.

So, what set of quality knives should I register for?
I want them to be sharp and well-balanced for everyday use. I want them to be durable for when my fiancee or I are feeling lazy about proper care. I want them to be reasonably priced since I will simply bolster these knives with some high quality/expensive Japanese steel. I want them to be easy to find at home stores so I can actually register for them (specifically Bloomingdales, Crate and Barrel, or Bed Bath and Beyond)

Thanks for you suggestions!
Ross
post #2 of 14
As I recall the Shuns have handles specifically for right or left-handed users only. No ambidextrous handles.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #3 of 14
Thread Starter 
That is why I am currently registered for the Shun ELITEs fro surlatable which are ambidextrous. However, I think these knives may not be what I am looking for.
post #4 of 14
You can try Wustof's. I know they are not the in thing but they are still good knives plus you can register for them at Bed, Bath & Beyond.

Also, check out Globals, you can find those at Williams Sonoma.

A final thought: I recently got married over a year ago and I was registered for some knives. I didn't recieve a single one because of a old wive's tale. They say you should never buy a knife for a wedding gift because that means you end up cutting your friendship with that person. As funny as it sounds people refused to buy us knives. We got everything but.

Cheers,
Tim
post #5 of 14
The Elites are pretty good knives. Heck, the Classics are pretty good knives, and I'm probably the leader of the pack when it comes to dissing them. Still, there are better knives for most people out there. Your plan sounds well thought-out to me.

They all come pretty sharp. After that it's about how you keep them sharp. You want to think about your sharpening kit now and start with something that can handle your eventual better set. Can you "register" for some good stones with an uncle or something? Tell your fiancee it's part of the whole knife thing.

Much as I like them, I'd stay away from Globals because so many people develop hand pain over the long term. But otherwise I DO like them, and a lot more than Wusthof.

FWIW, the good Wusthof models (like Classic and Ikon), forged Henckels Twin (the Twin is made in Germany, don't buy Henckels made anywhere else), Lamson Sharp, Victorinox Forged, the good Messermeister (St. Moritz, and Meridian IIRC), F. Dick Classic and 1907, are all of very similar quality -- buy by price, handle comfort, and appearance. There simply are no performance differences. Those high end Germans (and American and Swiss which is actually German), are uniformly well finished, similarly balanced, designed, forged in exactly the same way from exactly the same steel. In the greater scheme of things they're not the world's greatest knives; but have some perspective, they do everything most people want and do it beautifully. Rant over.

The real "bang for the buck" at BB&B are the Forschner Rosewood (same as Fibrox, different handle). Forschners are a good set to slowly replace with high-end knives. They are so easy to sharpen, too.

The Calphalon Katanas are pretty good steel. They're actually similar to Shun Elite in a lot of ways. Idiosyncratic handles, make sure you both like their feel before you buy.

Stay away from Chicago Cutlery, cheap Henckels, Cusinart and anything else which seems too cheap to be true.

Hope this helps,
BDL
post #6 of 14
i got henckels 4star as a wedding gift and their great. but my favorite is the kyocera ceramic. its so light!!!
post #7 of 14
Give careful consideration to whether (or not) your intended will treat your knives with the same respect that you will. If not, you will find yourself hiding them, or locking them up, and you will have to be certain you are the only one who ever uses or washes them. Otherwise, you will spend precious time and energy nagging about their use and care. Life is too short for such bones of contention.

I have always hankered for a 'good' set of knives. However my DH has no idea how to treat such special tools (even though he guards his wood chizels zealously). When Hubby uses a knife, it winds up soaking in the sink, or getting run through the dishwasher. And, I've found them outside the kitchen, where they were used for opening cardboard boxes, or for some other unspeakable purpose. No matter how often I remind him that this is wrong, and he responds "I know, I know"... he continues to 'forget'.
So, to keep the peace in our household, I just have cheap knives, and when they get bad, I replace them with more cheap knives. I hate the knives, but I love how it just does not matter at all how DH abuses them.
"The pressure's on...let's cook something!"
 
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"The pressure's on...let's cook something!"
 
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post #8 of 14

Reading Suggestion

Hi Ross,

I just posted a long article in three parts about how to choose, purchase, and maintain knives. It’s at FoodProof, and you can scan down the blogs for "Tool Talk: Knives" -- I'd post a link, but I'm not allowed, as I'm new at ChefTalk.

My basic take is that any knife much over $100-$125 shouldn’t be purchased by anyone without a very good reason for it. If you’re as unsure as you present yourself, you shouldn’t be blowing (or asking your friends and family to blow) huge wads of cash on super-fancy knives that won’t be any better for your hands than a perfectly respectable $100 Wusthof.

I would avoid the Japanese knives you’re dreaming of, if you mean traditional-style single-edged Japanese knives like hand-made yanagiba and deba-bocho. I live in Kyoto at the moment, and have been researching knives a lot lately, and what I can tell you is that those knives are designed in accordance with a system very, very different from the French system. As a result, you can’t cut with them the same way at all. Everything you know about how to cut will have to be modified. And they cost a mint and require constant maintenance. To top it off, lefty knives (traditional Japanese knives are handed) generally cost extra, and they're not cheap to begin with. That said, I’m going to buy a few, but you must remember that I’m not paying a middleman — I’m buying right here in Japan, and can furthermore get lessons from my neighbor who runs a very fancy kaiseki restaurant. If I were you, I’d save that money: the economy is tanking, and you should save for something more useful, because if you buy these knives you will never use them (or never use them effectively), I assure you.

In any event, I discuss a lot of these issues in these articles, which I hope help you in your decision-making.

Good luck!
post #9 of 14
Chris,

I've read your posts here and in the Sab/HiromotoAS thread; we seem to share a very similar take generally. However ...

It might be a little too soon to get into the whys and why nots of wa-style knives in this thread. It might be fun to start another thread though. Less fun, but more action starting the thread in Fred's Cutlery Forum on the Foodie Forum. If you're not registered there, you really should be.

My personal experience with Japanese knives sharpened on one side is both limited and idiosyncratic because I'm a lefty. But even within those limitations I'm not sure that I'd go as far as you seem to in terms of warning prospective (western) buyers off the wa-knives. There's a sort of subculture developing of people who love doing western cooking with high end traditional Japanese knives, and I'm (we're) in no position to invalidate their experiences. On the third hand, IMO, it's more hobbyist than practical -- which is not to say that you shouldn't use the tools you enjoy using most.

We're in basic agreement about a price point, beyond which the performance purchasing power of each dollar begins to drop off rather sharply. At this time, in this market, I'd put that at the price of the MAC Professional ($140 for a 10" chef's, at this writing). Although not the knife I'd personally choose, I feel it represents real value.

Unfortunately, the good Germans, including Wusthof, are also at about this price point. They're good knives, but not exceptional bargains -- nor would you expect them to be.

It's important for buyers to keep the lesson of that price point, sometimes referred to in terms of a "cost/benefit analysis" or "the Law of Diminishing Returns," in mind when they look for new knives. That is, at some point each tiny distinction, having increasingly less to do with performance, costs significantly more money.

I've seen guys agonize for months trying to choose between S1, A2, AS and gokinko (types of exotic Japanese steels) -- as thought it would make a difference to anyone when it came to cutting mirepoix -- and these guys didn't have particularly good knife or cooking skills anyway. It's fun to acquire the knowledge where the little differences (and the jargon) make sense; but at the end of the day those knives say more about their owners love of knives than anything else.

Just some thoughts,
BDL
post #10 of 14

Good points!

Bordelaise,

I will consider starting a thread on these knives in those forums -- I'm a little swamped right now professionally to deal with the "excitement" you describe. I have some serious reasons for this discouragement, but you're quite right that an offhand remark isn't the way to do it. (But you might look at that long 3-part article I wrote, and you might see what I'm getting at. I'd value your opinion on the technical aspects, too!)

Anyway, material for another thread.

Price points, yes. If you keep a good-quality knife very sharp, it will be wonderful. If you buy the most expensive super-knife in the world, Damascus-steel Japanese ultra-thin perfect wonderfulness, and don't know how to use it or sharpen it, it will quickly become exactly the same as a $30 piece of crap.

Jacques Pepin had a funny remark about this, when I attended a presentation class with him. He said he went to these people's house to cook dinner with them, and they said, "Oh, we knew you were coming so we sharpened our knives." He picked up a couple, felt the blades, and asked, "which side did you sharpen?"
post #11 of 14

Read Chris's Blog Post!

Chris,

I just did!

Read your 3 part blog post, that is. Seemingly, while you were return posting to me here. You can't post the link yet, but I can Tool Talk: Knives - FoodProof

Very interesting stuff. Well worth reading. I agree with everything you said, while disagreeing with quite a few things.

How can that make sense? Our underlying approaches and philosophies are very similar. We differ mostly around the edges. There are so many possibilities, equally goods, and competing bests to discuss without using hundreds of pages. Yet the fundamentals are relatively simple. Frustrating topic to write about.

And as I said and meant...

Brother,
BDL
post #12 of 14
There are some of us here who read that post, sort of squint our eyes, and wonder where you're coming from. I have very good French and German knives, a large block of 30 year old Chicago Cutlery that rivals the best Wustofs with its steel, but none come close to the performance characteristics of readily available Japanese kitchen knives from both retailers and directly from Japanese custom houses. Maintenance is not a problem if you're willing to learn, and if not, have a professional keep the edges for you. For some of us, at whatever the price, there is more value in a well constructed Gyuto than anything from Europe.

Buzz
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
Reply
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
Reply
post #13 of 14
BDL has suggested that the thing about Japanese traditional-style knives should go to another thread, and it looks like maybe I should start it soon. But just for clarity: we're not talking about the same thing, you and I. I'm talking about single-edged knives, that in profile look like a cleaver. You're talking about the relatively recent Japanese-made knives that have so many folks so excited, most of which are stainless. For those, you're right: they handle a bit differently from traditional French knives, and care is mostly a matter of some smallish changes from how you'd care for French knives. For traditional single-edged Japanese knives, the handling and sharpening are utterly different, maintenance is quite difficult, and basic cutting technique needs to be relearned.

But, as I say, this belongs in another thread.
post #14 of 14
I guess it was I who didn't have clarity in my post. I am talking about all J knives including Wa. Yes they cut differently. Yes they sharpen differently (I don't find them "difficult"). More importantly, they do the job better than other available knives in 2008. Euro is slowly catching on though. It's only a matter of time before they commence production of quality knives for people who won't be leaving them covered with food in a sink before tossing them in a dishwasher. :smoking:
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
Reply
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
Reply
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