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Do you look for the 'union label...'? - Page 2

post #31 of 43
Brief clarification. As far as I know, most Western knife enthusiasts who are into Japanese knives are quite hot to trot about gyutos. My point is that the knife makers in question aren't, as a rule. That's not to say that Masamoto or whoever does a shoddy job with them, but their gyutos are just not where they put their best foot forward. I like them anyway, of course, and they are wonderful knives, but it's worth bearing in mind that the Japanese knife-makers don't look at their lines the same way most Western purchasers do.

As to the santoku, I think it predates Rachael Ray, but not by a whole lot. I've had a good bit of trouble hunting down where this fascination came from, in fact. What I find particularly striking is just how absolutely classified this knife is in Japan: it's a home knife, period, full stop. Nobody but a home cook would ever use one. It is designed for home use, marketed to home cooks, and it stays there. A gyuto is fairly unusual in being a border-crosser: it does turn up in both professional and home kitchens, though in neither case is it a common appearance. A deba is very common in all kitchens; a yanagiba very common in pro kitchens and not uncommon -- in very short lengths, like 195mm -- in home kitchens. And the usuba is entirely a pro knife. In essence the santoku (or nakiri) and usuba are mirror-images: the former are home knives requiring minimal skill and having minimal good qualities, and the latter are pro knives requiring immense skill and having extraordinary good qualities.

What I can't understand is why the santoku, of all knives, should have gotten picked up on TV: why push one of the very, very few knives I know of that is so absolutely limited, whose good qualities are strictly based on the user having poor skills, a tiny kitchen, bad sharpening habits, and little money to spend?

Or did I just answer my own question? (Now you see my hypothesis....)
post #32 of 43
[QUOTE=ChrisLehrer;273323]

What I can't understand is why the santoku, of all knives, should have gotten picked up on TV: QUOTE]

Perhaps it was ths type of knife that one of the sponsors had an excess of, and decided to "promote it" on TV to get rid of all excess stock?

I am a cynical sob, aren't I?
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #33 of 43
Thread Starter 
ChrisLehrer and foodpump,

While we both come at this issue from differing angles (you use, I sharpen), the shape and style of knives during their application confuses me, as well. And I have an opinion which might sound silly, but let me explain.

We all know that when Oprah hawks a book, millions of that title are sold. It's kind of "hero worship" linear logic. "Oprah is my hero, she's a success, she reads this book and now I share the limelight..."

We might find it odd or laugh, but when the first "Dirty Harry" movie came out most sporting goods stores couldn't keep an SW 29 in stock, they flew off the shelves.

I believe Rachael Ray is a commoner's folk hero. "She uses a santoku, Japanese stuff like ninjas are good, now I'll be good..."

I even believe that Cat Cora hawked a Global Santoku.

And trust me, there was a freight train of activity over the santoku. My wife has PC as a part-time job, and their first santoku was huge in size. Even the handle was more than man-sized. No matter, it was a hot seller. The next year--due to requests--they made a smaller and more useable size.

We have both sizes of the PC santoku in our home. The big one is never used, I have never used the smaller one, and my wife uses the smaller one perhaps once per year. I simply cannot find a daily use for the thing.

I will admit this. As a craftsman, I think modern Japanese stainless alloys are the best in the biz. A knife, of any sort, with good cutting geometry, in a useable size, made from a Japanese laminate alloy will out-cut anything, period.

Now, this brings in your view, that of working professional chefs. I could hand you a knife that cuts like a lightsaber, but if it does not enhance your work in the kitchen it is useless. If that is the case, I'll polish a santoku that will scare your grandmother.

My opinion on "hype" is simply that, a personal opinion based on the volume of sales, the people marketing the product, and the slavish loyalty in buying something the client does not know how to use.

As you could guess, my personality would mesh quite well with Cat Cora's, we're both irreverant at the core. In fact, I think my dream job here in retirement would be to become her personal tinker. But you can bet one of my first questions would be, "Hey, boss, tell me about this santoku..."
post #34 of 43
Apart from the point that I am not at all a professional chef and never have been, I agree with you. What I find peculiar is that Rachael Ray et al. should have been promoting that shape of knife rather than other Japanese knives. The only thing the santoku has going for it is that it's short by nature, but I have never heard of anyone touting this knife in that way. That is, you never hear, "this santoku is great, it's so wonderful to cut with if you're scared of a full-sized professional chef's knife." That's just not the most saleable message, you know? So why push this knife?

There's no question that a top-quality santoku can be sharpened beautifully. What I object to is simply the shape. It is fabulous if you only have one knife, use a very small galley kitchen, and are somewhat disturbed by a 7" or larger knife. Otherwise it's a mediocrity: that funny shape only makes sense when compared to an equally short chef's knife, in which case the santoku will shine. What mystifies me is how the santoku and nakiri, of all Japanese knives, should have ended up promoted and pushed as hot ninja samurai sword-making wonderfulness. Pretty much every other standard Japanese knife would fit that model better; those two are about the only two knife shapes that are exclusive to home cooks, for which the unabashed Japanese term remains "housewife" (shufu). You're never going to see Ms. Ray say, "this is such a great knife for housewives!"
post #35 of 43
>>What I object to is simply the shape.

interesting observation - especially as it is precisely the shape (specifically of the cutting edge) that makes it attractive to me.

it's flatter than my chef's knives (western style) - less rock&chop, more slide&slice - the flatter blade allows me to chop or slice or dice "more volume more faster" so to speak.
post #36 of 43
Thread Starter 
Hmmm. How would you like to do a little experiment with those ideas?:chef:

There has got to be a knife in your kitchen that was once your favorite--or the knife you used to make some signature dish. In other words, there was "something" about that knife that made it stand out in geometry, size, ergo, task use, etc.

Now, I assume (yeah, yeah, never assume) that you now have an upscale knife, perhaps the best knife you have ever owned.

Send me the old bad one.

When your old knife has been returned, do two of the same procedures--like block down a larger portion, trim, mince, or present an entire meal.

Then write us a report. Let us respond.

You know the old argument discussing "nature or nurture" I'm sure. Well, if you want to have a bit of fun...
post #37 of 43
>>There has got to be a knife in your kitchen that was once your favorite
nope. got a bunch of Wuesties in 1985 and tossed the rest.

I think your 'send it to me' is a question about 'sharpness'?

that's not what I'm talking about. all my chefs knives have the belly typical to western styles. "rock&chop" is an el'primo taught/recognized/blathered-about-on-TV knife technique. works just great.

the flatter belly of the santoku is what I find more useful/convenient for specific tasks. not every task.

I do not subscribe to the theory of "you may have only one knife in the kitchen, pick wisely, Grasshopper."

somebody mentioned they knew of no home body that has a boning knife. I have one. if aliens abducted it tomorrow, I'd buy a replacement.

you know, there _are_ people who never cut anything but the sticking, non-cleanly parted bits of cheese between slices of the delivery pizza.
a boning knife is a complete waste in that situation.
post #38 of 43
Thread Starter 
As a matter of fact, it is. But not for the reason you might think.

It has been my experience that not all cooks and sous-chefs can invest whatever sums of revenue needed for the perfect roll of knives--even if they are passionate in their pursuits.

I might not be able to make a silk purse from a sow's ear, but I think I can wring the best performance possible from a 'bad knife.'

I'm one of those guys. Sure, I'd love to have a complete roll of Hattori KDs or Hiroo Itou customs, but that's not going to happen. I do want to have the "best possible." If I do get a boning knife--and I believe it would be useful for near future needs--that knife is going to have to earn its keep.

It has been opined here that could take a petite or similar knife and have that do double duty, and I am considering that very thing. I am a great fan of Yaxell Ran. For under 100 bucks and a little elbow grease I could obtain the performance I envision.

I enjoy new projects.
post #39 of 43
I started out in that same pickle, but over time I've replaced every German or German shaped chef but one (that I keep around for lobster shells) with J-knives. The gyuto has a much flatter shape to start with. FWIW I rarely use a santoku but the knife geek in me will never let me get rid of them.
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
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"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
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post #40 of 43
Thread Starter 
I wish I could, as well. But everything old is new again.

Sooner or later everyone is going to have numerous Japanese style knives, and then dietary needs and wants are most likely going to shift.

Phaedrus, you and I have a mutual acquaintance who invented a contraption called "The Gizmo." And gosh, golly, gee, the thing is stellar at sharpening Chinese cleavers.

A quick perusal at JWW shows numerous Chinese cleavers at some remarkable prices, and more and more average Joe type husbands are spending time in the kitchen.

I'll bet if I hit the "search" feature here I'd find some great recipes which showcase the attributes of the cleaver. You heard it here first.
post #41 of 43
I love my EP Apex but I've been mulling over a purchase of The Gizmo for some time. Mostly I'm just interested in using some of my other stones (not that the stones Ben provides aren't good- far from it- I'd just like to have more options while retaining the benefits of a fixture). In the mean time I plan on getting in on the Shapton Pro deal that Ken is coordinating.

BTW, seeing as how you may not be monitoring this, Ken & Tom @ Jende are going to cut some Shapton Pro stones to fit the EP blank. The plan is to create an exact size match for the regular EPs. Pretty much any grit, even a 30k if they can get 4 people to go in it. The original thread is at KF but it's also been cross posted at FoodieForums.

Re the cleaver thing...I do use a cleaver some things but not to the degree Joe does! I've sort of cooled off on them a bit since getting into J-knives. Still very handy for many purposes ranging from chickens to veggies, very versatile. Of course that's the last thing a knife nerd needs- one knife that will do it all!:lol:
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
Reply
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
Reply
post #42 of 43
Just curious, have you had an opportunity to play with The Gizmo? At first blush (and without actually using it) I shared Dwade's reservations about the width of the blade table forcing you to sweep the length of the blade. He correctly observed that the angle will be most accurate at the point where the travel of the stone is perpendicular to the edge of the blade. Simple geometry dictates that the angle will change towards the edges. But one of the more math-nerdier types crunched the numbers and determined that the variance from center to edge will be only about 1 degree, far better than I could ever hope to do free hand! While I think being able to keep that 90 positioning is a virtue of the EP, the much larger length of the stone arm of the Gizmo probably makes this about a wash.

I'd pay good money to see a Gizmo strapped to the back of your Harley!:lol:
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
Reply
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
Reply
post #43 of 43
Thread Starter 
Yes, I own one of the Shapton stones Ken123 made for the EP.

In fact, Mezz and I just exchanged PMs on Ken. I talked to Ken on the telephone last night, followed up with an e-mail asking him to register for ChefTalk.

I figure it this way. The best chefs. The best tinkers.
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