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Starter Knife Set

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 
Ok so I like to cook at home and I was looking at getting a good starter set of knives. In the research that I have done I know not to get a block set due to the fact that most of the knives will not get used. So DW and I went to Williams-Sonoma today and I found a set that I liked and I wanted to know what the general consenus was about this set.....

Henckels Twin Cuisine 3 piece

Thanks in advance

post #2 of 25
I must say that I don't like the looks of this set.

The chef's knife is too short, in my opinion -- under 8". If you're getting a knife that short, you don't need a slicer, in which case the trio becomes somewhat silly. And I do not approve of the fat bolster-things at the heel of the blades, which will make it very difficult to sharpen near the heel and also give you a section of the blade that is not very usable.

I have also heard quite negative things about a great many Henckels lines, but I cannot speak to this particular one.

To top it off, I find it worrying that everything I can find about these knives gives a lot of yap about the horizontal tang and the laser-checking. What about the steel? What about balance and such? And every review I have seen is from someone who bought these knives within the last couple of months, clearly knows very little about knives, and wants to tell us how sharp they are out of the box. So there is a worrying absence of information on the basis of which to judge... which makes me suspicious.

On the whole, the price seems rather high for what you're getting.

Can you tell us why you have picked this set in particular? And can you mention what you already have that you are apparently planning to set aside?

Ultimately, that last is the striking part for me: you say you're into cooking at home, so I'm guessing you have at least one knife that is reasonably functional. So why are you looking at a set rather than a single knife? I'm not trying to tell you you're doing wrong -- but we need to know more before better advice can be given.
post #3 of 25
Generally, the advice is not to buy sets of anything for the kitchen. Except maybe tableware.

But pots, pans, knives should be bought individually for the task and function so you don't have useless pieces taking up space. This way you get what you want to do the job.

post #4 of 25
I'm in complete agreement with Phil and Chris, or Chris and Phil, whichever you prefer.

With regards to the Henckels set: Most of the time German Henckels (which these are) are very good knives as German style knives go. They're the equal of, but not superior to, the top line knives made by five other manufacturers (Lamson, Wusthof, Messermeister, F. Dick, and Victorinox). These knives all use one of two types of steel -- X45CrMoV, and X50CrMoV -- which aren't very good as knife steel goes these days. They make stiff, strong blades, but they dull very easily from impact and never get really sharp -- at least not compared to Japanese knives (often made with European steel by the way). The chef's knives are all "German profiled," which means they're very rounded; it's an awkward profile becoming increasingly less popular and is rapidly being supplanted with professional chefs by the more agile French/Japanese profile. The knives are also relatively heavy.

The set itself doesn't make much sense. There's no need for both a 6" and 4" knife in the same set. Given the presence of an intermediate knife (5" or longer), there's no need to use such a short chef's knife. The steel is less than useless, it's actively harmful.

Also, to make your knives worthwhile for more than a few months, you'll need a reasonably high-quality sharpening system which is simple enough for you to use confidently.

Something like a 9.5" MAC Professional Chef's knife, 5" MAC Utility, a 10" Idahone fine ceramic rod, and a Chef's Choice electric sharpener would be much better.

post #5 of 25
Thread Starter 
Chris the reason that I picked this set is due to the fact that it had all three of the basic essentials that I thought that I would need. The knife that I use the most at home is a cheapo utility knife from wally world.

I do have a mundial 5110-8 that has been used and abused, before I knew anything about cooking knives. I want to start using this one more but I am terrible at sharpening a knife.

The knives will not get daily use due to my crazy work schedule, but when I am off work I will be using them (about 15 days a month).

I was looking at a couple of MAC pro series but I can't find them anywhere in the area to see what they feel like in my hand. While I was at W-S I tried a couple of Shun's and they were just to light for my taste.

Not sure what else will help, just let me know and I will try to answer to my best ability.

post #6 of 25
Go have the Mundial sharpened professionally. It won't be that expensive. While it's sharp, learn to use it carefully. Practice using a steel on it, assuming it's a decent steel in the first place.

Meanwhile, practice sharpening on your other cheap knives for a couple of weeks. About the time you get satisfactory results on those knives, your Mundial will probably be ready for a touchup.

As you develop these skills, you'll learn more about what you want in a knife that will help you select other knives.

I'm cheap, I use the Forschner knives from Victorinox a lot. I like them. I could afford "better", but I can maintain these easily so they perform well for me.
post #7 of 25
MAC has one of the best handles in the industry. I've never met anyone who hasn't liked the MAC handle and have only read one person's post who said he didn't (and frankly, I think he was lying about actually using them).

The 9.5" Professional has dead neutral balance -- right at the bolster. The 5" knife is slightly balance back -- which is typical for a forged knife of that size, and not a big deal since half the time you're using a small knife, you're holding it stationary and moving the food.

Japanese knives generally are lighter than German knives. The "heft" feels like "quality" in the store, but in the kitchen lightness almost always wins. Japanese knives are agile, and (with the exception of Shun) much easier to point than Germans.

I knew we were going to get into the whole "go to the store and wave the knife around before you buy it" thing. In my experience, you're not going to learn much by doing it; and without actually using a knife with an edge you sharpened -- half of what you think you feel is either transient or misleading.

That said, the reason MAC was the only brand I suggested was because they're accessible in most big markets.

If you're going to restrict yourself to W-S's choices on that basis, you're going to pay more for less. Not that the knives are bad. They aren't. They're fine knives. Good even. Just not as good, and not as well priced.

If you want to stay at that level of quality and performance, with the same crummy geometry, you can buy it for less than half the price by buying Forschner Rosewood (wood handle) or Forschener Fibrox (plastic handle). The only difference between the knives is their handle. The Forschners are stamped, not forged, and are lighter. Nevertheless, they are equal in quality to any German forged knife. The handles are extremely comfotable -- especially the Rosewood.

I'd stay away from Shun. If you're interested we can discuss the reasons. But better than Henckels.

No matter which knife you buy, it will dull. German knives will dull fairly rapidly, as those things go. All dull knives are equal. Therefore, you need a sharpening system you can use or you might as well forget the whole thing. The easiest way to an acceptable edge is one of the Chef's Choice machines. You're looking at about $80. Chef's Choice are the best home machines on the market. They are nothing like the old grinders on electric can openers, and will not hurt your knives. The edges are not great, but better than merely acceptable. Also, unless you're a skilled freehand sharpener, they're fairly cost effective. Anything much cheaper isn't as good and is a whole lot less convenient.

Hope this helps,
post #8 of 25
Thread Starter 
I am not restricting myself but that is the only store that I have been able to locate and I don't want to buy a knife online without feeling it in my hand. I don't plan to "wave it around" I just know that I don't like a light knife.

I was actually looking at the MAC series but I am worried that I am going to make the purchase, actually DW will make the purchase for Christmas, and then I get them and don't like them.
post #9 of 25
Where are you located?
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 #10 of 25
Thread Starter 
right at the Florida Georgia border on I95
post #11 of 25
I don't know of any stores in that area. Most are concentrated on the West coast and NYC. If you get cold in January and want to take your family on vacation to Naples I'll be glad to show you my knives. I have several. :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
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 #12 of 25
Thread Starter 
My family and I are actually going to be in New Port Richey for the holidays and I was hoping to find a store somewhere in Tampa or Clearwater are.

If you know of any down there it would be a great help. If not I will have to think about taking you up on your offer
post #13 of 25
I'm going to be at my place in WI from Dec 23-31. If part of your trip falls outside those dates I'd be glad to let you get your hands on a variety of knives for comparison; 30 year old Chicago Cutlery, 60 year old French Sabatier, new and near new Japanese, even Swedish.

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 25
You might want to reconsider the whole heft=good thing. It doesn't sound like you have worked a knife all that much and with more experience your affection for the heavy might wear off. In any case, if it is hefty you are looking for, the forschner/victorinox is my sugguestion. I think the plastic handle on the victorinox is one of the better plastic handles out there, still nothing compares to wood.

Now considering your location... there is a Sabatier K outlet a few hours north in S.C. If their stainless knives are similar to my carbons (carbon is a very different world) then the grind on them is more usefull than a Henkel or Whustof because it is a full flat zero grind from spine to edge then a bevel. Henkel and Whustof have this goofy convex grind that makes no sense. Convex bevels are useful in sharpening but to shape a blade that way just makes sharpening a good edge as easy as licking your elbow.

Ultimately if you MUST have a heavy knife... you're better off reading wieghts in the specs online. The "hold it in your hand" school of thought doesn't mean as much as so many people make it out to IMHO. And why limit yourself when Mac knives are so good.
post #15 of 25
Here's the phone number for MAC USA, (888) 622-5643. Maybe they can hook you up with a retailer where you can touch the knives. Plus, anyone who carries MAC is likely to have a decent selection of other blades.

I don't have any particular brief for MAC, other than I think it's one of the two or three best at the price point, a little less "Japanese feeling" then the other couple, very stiff blade, and an all around good knife for the money. Plus the handle is really excellent -- one of the best in the industry.

Full disclosure: I don't own a MAC, have never done so, and if I ever add to my current set it won't be with MAC. I'm not telling you about them to confirm a decision I made. Currently, all of my knives (somewhere between "quite a few" and "many") are antique or very old French carbon Sabatiers of one manufacturer or another (although I've certainly had many others over the years). If I were buying stainless (that'll be the day) knives in your rough price range, I'd buy Sakai Takayuki Grand Cheff, but I figure the chances of you tracking the Grand Cheffs down or buying on faith to be nil so I didn't mention it earlier.

One other thought on the light/heavy thing -- but first a disclaimer: I'm not trying to sell you any particular knife or type of knife. You're happy, I'm happy -- that's all there is to it.

That said, one reason a lot of people like heft in a knife is they've never actually used a knife sharp enough so the edge does the work instead of the weight. You shouldn't have to power a sharp knife through most cutting tasks.

And yes, there are a few tasks that do require a heavy knife -- cracking lobsters, portioning spare ribs, that sort of thing. But if you're on a budget you're better off buying something large, used and cheap rather than trying to make your everyday chef's knife "do it all."

Finally, consider how you're going to sharpen before spending another nickel on knives. It makes a big difference.

post #16 of 25
This thread has been quite useful as far as overall knife research. As far as specialty knives, I thought it was quite a priority to not be too conservative. For instance, despite what was said earlier in the thread, I have found that the Shun is a good knife, especially its Boning model, in spec alone. Not only is it light, with a wood handle, but it has more "blade" than most boning knives which seem to resemble knives for fileting (sp?).
That said, I have been shopping around for a decent utility knife that won't break the bank, and as much as I disagree with average consumer brands, I really like my Anolon paring knife. It's a heavy knife but it's all in the handle. Anyway, I went to Bed Bath and Beyond (please don't cyber slap me!) because they had, what I thought, was a good Anolon 6" utility knife. However, while it is available online, it is not available in the stores. Apparently, they have discontinued that brand. Can anyone tell me why they might discontinue THAT brand as opposed to any other consumer brand? Is it inferior? If it is a horrible brand of knife (for the aspiring professional) I will certainly keep shopping and save for something more superior, but I was curious as to why a major chain might discontinue it.
post #17 of 25

"In spec alone." Does that mean you've used one or are convinced by the literature?

A. Light is good, but nor terribly important for a boning knife which doesn't get enough use in a home kitchen for weight to be an issue.

Presumably you're talking about Shun Classic, if so some people really like the Shun "D" handle and some don't. I'm not a fan -- especially for a boning knife since the user tends to use the knife at all sorts of odd angles. To my mind, the Japanese shaped handle for a knife which only does European work makes no sense at all. But if you like it, that's all that counts.

Almost all European style boning knives (desossers) resemble thin filleting knives. In fact, they're the same profile, the difference being that fish specialty knives are flexible. Shun Classics are very much traditional desossers, even if they're a little bit longer wider or longer, it's not enough to change the character of the knife.

Desossers are built for a specific purpose, removing large bones from red meat. They're okay for jointing poultry, and boning out breasts -- but that's not their purpose, nor are they the best choice.

B. Filleting, with two Ls.

They thought they could make more money selling something else. Actually, since reading your post I looked around for Anolon on the net and I'm seeing signs the line has been discontinued. For instance, a lot of etailers who used to carry the full line, open stock, are now selling only full blocks at rather steep discounts.

Anolon were not good quality knives for the price. If you really like back heavy knives check out Gude. Most short, full-tang knives are back heavy -- so don't feel like you have to give that a lot of consideration. If you really like Shun, the Shun petty is probably the best model in the whole Kershaw line. You could do a lot worse.

I don't want to get too deep into making recommendations without knowing how you sharpen.

post #18 of 25
Well, since I just started my first "non-block" collection, I sharpen with a steel. I'm more than convinced that, due to my lack of experience with more sophisticated equipment, my perception of what truly works for me is not quite clear. Hence, my post.

However, I appreciate your response regarding the Anolon brand. To me, after laboriously working with block model parers, using a slightly upgraded model felt like air, in comparison.
post #19 of 25
I could well be wrong, but these two things look related to my eye: irritating trouble with an el-cheapo paring knife, no clear sense of sharpening as part of one's routine. I'm diagnosing a dull paring knife, frankly.

I confess that I'm one of those people who think that a paring knife is a paring knife (except when we're talking about professional chefs who do a lot of tourne work and stuff like that), but that it has to be kept sharp. You buy a $20 pack of 3 Victorinoxes or whatever, and when one gives up the ghost you toss it and grab the next.

My suspicion is that your reaction to the Anolon was largely a reaction to a brand-new "sharp" edge, albeit the knife may well have been lighter than what you were previously used to. But I wonder whether a cheap paring knife with a really sharp edge might not strike you as a further leap upward in quality.

In any event, I think you are on the verge of spending big money for knives rather than sharpening the ones you have. I'd pay close attention to BDL on this one: he's got some good ideas about making the first real step into sharpening without breaking the bank or turning into a lunatic.
post #20 of 25
Chris is right about me being right and vice versa.

All knives get dull. All dull knives are equal. It doesn't matter how nice a knife was to begin with, or how sharp it was out of the box. When it gets dull, it's crap. It seemed to Chris, and to me too, that the new "better" knife was mostly better than the the "block" knife because it was sharp out of the box, and the older knives from the block-set had already been dulled. The inevitablity of dulling means learning to sharpen your knives appropriately, using a service, throwing out a lot of knives to replace them with new "factory" edges, or using serrated knives because they stay "sharp," longer.

For a good cook, sharpening or a sharpening service are the ways to go.

A "sharpening steel," is a round rod. That means the area (contact patch) where the knife actually touches the steel at a given time is extremely narrow. This has some implications:

Used properly, a fine or smooth textured "honing rod" will smooth out bending, waving, or folding along the edge caused by impact with the board or food. That's a good thing. It will keep a sharp knife going longer without returning to the sharpening stones for a touch up.

However, a steel isn't a good choice for sharpening, which is really three things: Removing steel from the edge to make a fresh bevel; a shaped bevel; and smooth, narrow edge. A sharpening steel is rough enough and geometrically suited to remove a lot of metal quickly (wearing your knife down in the process), so it will give you fresh steel. As to shape, you can get any bevel you want as long as it's flat, and as long as you have the skill to hold an angle. However, a sharpening steel won't create a smooth, narrow edge. Instead, the edge is jagged and rather wide. Any steel rough enough to take sufficient metal to sharpen is too rough to make a good edge. It will wreck you knives in a hurry.

Some pretty good cooks, professionals among them, are happy with the edges they get from sharpening steels, particularly "diamond steels." Although, I can't abide those edges I'm not implying any criticism of people who do. Or not. Let's just say it's hard to believe they've had much contact with truly sharp knives.

If you're serious about learning to cook well -- especially professionally -- you can make the whole thing more fun and productive by learning to sharpen. There are several ways for a home cook to put a working edge on a knive. For a professional there are basically three: Free hand sharpening on stones, using a service, or using a machine (pretty much limited to Chef's Choice). Of these, a service is the worst choice. Free handing is much better than a Chef's Choice -- once you've figured out how to do it.

Hope this helps,
post #21 of 25
Freehanding is also a fabulous and absorbing hobby, let me just say. You can put on a very good edge in half an hour, but you can also spend lots and lots of time being finicky and fussy and perfectionist, and if you have decent hand-eye coordination and a remotely steady hand, you will get better results for more time and care.

Of course, it's a bit dangerous. If you know someone who is into this, have him or her put a seriously sharp edge on a knife for you. Not a service -- a nut like BDL. Then you're going to be hooked: once you experience real sharpness, everything else seems like you might as well be cutting with the spine of the knife.

Believe it.
post #22 of 25
Thank you both, Chris and BDL, for your insight in this matter. It definitely has made me rethink how I should care for my knives, whether they are high quality or not.

As far as how sharp is sharp enough, barring perfectionist tendencies, I read in a book by Jacques Pepin, that a "sharp" knife should be able to easily slice through a ripe tomato without squashing it.

Can you suggest any other methods or "tests" for determining whether or not a knife has been sufficiently sharpened?
post #23 of 25
If there's any question, the knife is somewhere between dull and extremely dull.

A chopping knife (like a chef's) should feel like it's falling through a vegetable.

A knife you pinch grip, shouldn't put any pressure on the finger which wraps over the spine.

If you turn your knive so it rests on the spine, with the edge up, and drop a cherry tomato onto it from about 8 inches above the edge, the tomato should cut, and not bounce off the edge.

I usually use the "thumb drag" test, which is just feeling the edge with my thumb. It takes a lot of experience to get good at reading it. But dull doesn't feel like much of anything. Marginally sharp feels sharp. Sharp tickles. Very sharp feels electric. Extremely sharp feels creepy -- all the way up your neck.

I sometimes use the Carter three finger test, but don't recommend it particularly. It's actually dangerous in the unlikely event a sharp knife is united with an inexperienced cook.

You could use the paper test. That is, rip a piece of newspaper and try and cut into the torn edge. I don't get anything from it I don't get from the thumb drag -- but that's me.

Ultimately, cutting is the best test of a knife. If cutting ordinary food is at all difficult, then the knife is dull.

post #24 of 25
That'll do. Thanks
post #25 of 25
Have you looked at the Mcusta range of knives?
VG10 Steel well designed and light.
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