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Knive choice for your heavy jobs?

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
For those of you who prefer a Japanese gyuto over the classic hefty European knives, what do you keep on hand and turn to when you are confronted with large squash, larger bones, and other tough jobs that risk chipping your thinner and lighter chefs knife. Cleaver, Japanse or otherwise? A European chefs knife? What is your preference to get the job done while not risking damaging your gyuto?
post #2 of 14
10" chef knife with a bolster.

12" chef knife for doing things like 2 cases of celery.
post #3 of 14
A "western deba" is the Japanese companion to the gyuto.

There are two traditional western answers to the heavy-duty conundrum. One is the heavy cleaver, the other a "chef de chef," which is a heavy duty chef's knife and is also sometimes known as a "lobster-cracker."

While I have a heavy cleaver, I hardly ever (as in pretty much never) use it. I don't have a true chef de chef. For jobs like splitting chickens and lobsters, butchering pineapple, knocking the knobs off gourds, etc., squash, I prefer a regular K-Sab 12" chef's knife which is sharpened for the tasks with a double bevel of roughly (as close as I can get it) 22*/12*.

Compared to modern Japanese made knives, modern European knives are made from much "tougher" steel which, comparatively speaking, resists chipping. Almost any well-made western knife, sharpened to an appropriate bevel, will perform almost any task on a par with a western deba. Western deba and chef de chefs are of similar stout construction. While chef de chefs are made of tougher alloys and don't chip as easily, western alloys are made from stronger alloys and have better edge holding capabilities. When it comes to splitting chickens and portioning spare ribs, it's hard to choose one over the other. However, when it comes to splitting lots of lobsters, the "lobster cracker? probably wins.

If you're regularly going through bone, you're going to want a heavy cleaver. Beware. A cleaver not only goes through bones, it takes a lot of life out of a board as well.

BDL
post #4 of 14
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the input both of you. I do currently have a cleaver as well, though to be honest...I don't think I've ever used it. When I have dealt with things like gourds and various squash I usually use a cheaper serrated knife, but am contemplating (though not actively planning) having an alternative in the kitchen to my gyuto or the cleaver (I never really have liked standard American cleavers), which would probably be a forschner/henkle/wustof just for their bulk.


(on a side topic I received 'an edge in the kitchen' yesterday in the mail, and am enjoying it very much. Will be getting to practice sharpening in the next few days).
post #5 of 14
If you're not going to use a cleaver much, which seems to be the case, a Henckles or Wusthof is a complete waste of money. They are no better than a Forschner or Dexter, and hugely more expensive.

Offhand, I don't of any wonderful deals in the "western deba"/"lobster cracker"/"chef de chef" class. They're heavy knives, and even knives which aren't from the prestige lines still cost a fair amount. It's so darn useful, at minimum, to have a heavy-duty knife; and for some people it's imperative.

BDL
post #6 of 14
Which heavy-duty knife do you suggest is best ?

Forgive me, if you must repeat....I guess I was looking for a name brand.


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post #7 of 14
For heavy chopping and splitting lobsters, going thru bones, etc I find a heavier forged knife to hold up better and keep a usable edge longer than a Forshcner Fibrox will. Not because it's forged, just that it's thicker. FWIW, while I do have several Fibroxes I find their edge retention to be on the poor side.

A cleaver is a better bet for bones, but unless you're talking chicken bones a saw is better still. No knife is going to be really happy cutting thru heavy beef bones with regularity.

I use my J-knives for almost everything. I do keep my Wustie around for those very few things that probably constitute abuse.
"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 #8 of 14
There are so many knives, in so many price ranges, and so many different cooks with so many personal preferences regarding knives -- there's no one best choice for anything. If you're interested in stepping up to high-end knives (and why not? You deserve it) it would help to know more about you: How you hold a knife; your price range; how you sharpen (or plan to sharpen); the type of board you favor; and so on.

A very good starting point for heavy duty knives is, if you already have a decent, European type chef's knife -- say a Wusthof, or Henckles -- to demote that to heavy-duty use, and buy a better chef's -- either any one of a number of Japanese knives or a French carbon. This approach is convoluted but almost certainly makes the best sense in terms of value and performance.

There's a more direct answer too. While I agree with most everything Phaedrus said, Forschner makes a knife especially intended for heavy work and it's as good as anything else at the price. Forschner Rosewood 13-in. Lobster/Bone Splitter: Extra Heavy - Forschner Chef's Knives

Not to beat a dead horse, but as always...

Never buy a good knife unless and until you know you can keep it sharp. All knives dull eventually. And no matter how nice a knife is, all dull knives are equal -- none better than another.

BDL
post #9 of 14
I have had this knife for many years and its a work horse that is easy to maintain ( I love it for big Watermelons ). Let me also add that there are some good old hi-carbon cleavers to be found(not just the heavy bone splitters) that can be very effective for the heavy duty prep scene. I have an old Sheffield 6" lite weight cleaver which used to prep 20 10# cases of 4oz Canadian main lobster tails at a session and it was a perfect fit for that kind of heavy cutting.
We do have many a task that is pretty much knife specific and that is where the fun is in developing a knife collection that works. As BDL said , you have to keep it sharp and thats another whole set of problems for lots of cooks.;)
Keep cookin, Doug.........
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post #10 of 14
For me it's a combination of a Wusthof 10" wide heavy Chef's knife and a Dexter cleaver.
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I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
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post #11 of 14

Duh

Me?

I mostly use a 12" K-Sab au carbone chef's for heavy work; occasionally a Chicago Cutlery carbon cleaver from the late sixties; more occasionally (not even once the past few years) a no-name 16" meat saw. Between them they cover the gamut of heavy work, each is excellent for its purposes.

I don't recommend them singly or in combination as a universal "best solution." Carbon isn't pracitcal for every person. It's hard to find old K-Sabs, the secret is out; and new ones are expensive. It's hard to find old CCs and new ones are crap. And so on.

As always there's a wide range of knives available at a given price range. The trick is narrowing it down to nothing but good choices.

BDL
post #12 of 14

My preference

Mine is the german Messermeister, great knife
post #13 of 14
That one looks pretty good. I like the Rosewood line, pretty classy looking for the price. I'd consider getting one but I don't need one bad enough to replace the Wustie I already have. Of course, the extra size would be handy for melons and stuff.
"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
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post #14 of 14
Dexter Chinese cleaver for me. Cheap and indestructible. But if I were working a busy pro prep station where this came up regularly, I think I would prefer something longer, such as the Forschner already mentioned.
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