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Building a set of knives

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
For xmas I wanted to get my wife a good set of cutlery. We're still rocking our Henckel International set that we got as a wedding gift. Obviously not the greatest, but they've gotten us by so far. (I just tried cutting a squash in half for her and my hand is still cramped)

She cooks a lot (for me and the kids), so she deserves a good set of tools. Not professional level cooking, but standard family food fare.

I need more help with WHAT knives to buy, more than which brand (Ill get there after I come up with which knife to buy first). Obviously a chef's knife (pretty set on the MTH-80), and a bread knife (pretty set on the MAC 10"). After that Im a little lost. Paring? Utility? She's never had a Santoku and after reading a few threads on here it looks like she'll never need it (she has enough skills to not need it)

I was set on buying a cutlery set, but it seems to me we'll get a lot of filler pieces we dont need vs spending the $$$ on something useful.

Any tips/suggestions would be appreciated.

Thanks in advance.

post #2 of 6
Squashes are usually pretty difficult beasts to cut through.

Unless she has specific requirements for more specialized knives, such as a boning knife, etc., the only other knife that would generally be used on a frequent basis would be a paring knife. The two knives you selected are excellent choices. I personally have the MTH-80 as my chef's knife and absolutely love it. In regards to pairing knives, you might just want to keep it all in the family, so to speak, and go for the PKF-30.
Sono pazzo della cucina!
Sono pazzo della cucina!
post #3 of 6

You wrote, Nice.

They never get very sharp in the first place, and they get dull in a hurry. Sounds like yours have hit terminal dullness. Far be it from me to try and talk anyone from upgrading from Henckels International, but they can be resharpened to barely usable.

If she's into cooking, good knives are about as good a cooking gift can be.

The first four knives in a set should be, chef's knife; slicer, bread, and "petty" or parer.

Well, you've got chef's and bread. Here's a bit of nuance and some more information:


Personally, I prefer a 10" to an 8" and think most people with better skills come to the same conclusion. In her case, you might consider the MAC Pro 9-1/2" as opposed to the 8". BTW, MAC Pro is a great choice.


The MAC 10-1/2" bread is an amazingly good knife. Expensive for a bread knife though. If money is in issue, save it here and on the paring/petty. I'm not going to lie to you and say that the MAC isn't better than a no-name, 8", $20 bread; but I'm not going to lie and say that they're hugely different either -- at least not if all you're using it for is baked goods.


A petty is the ALL NEW and ALL IMPROVED WONDER KNIFE that's getting very popular with pros. I'm not sure about its homecook acceptance except with knife hobbyists -- who naturally have to have one.

What it is, is a "utility" length knife in the "paring" profile the French (bless their little hearts) call "couteau office." In short, it's a 5" - 7" paring knife. It's not really a traditional French knife -- except for the profile. And although it seems to have become popular in Japan first, the fact that its Japanese name is "petty naifu" may be taken as clue that it's not a traditional Japanese nife either.

If you've got decent skills the extra length compared to a shorter parer don't bother you for anything but very fine decorating and turning, but it does help with a lot of things. MAC Pro makes a darn decent one. If you can live with carbon, I'm very high on the Sabatier "Nogent" 6" slicing knife which is what I use.

If you like, you can add an el-cheapo short parer to your kit. I have a friend who buys disposable serrated Forschners by the box. I like the short Forschner sheep's foot and bird's beak myself.


Don't skimp. Get a good 10" slicer/carver. You may only use a junk slicer a couple of times a year; but you'll find yourself using a good one for all sorts of things -- especially portioning.

Well, one never knows. But for the basic set, anyway, it's one or the other, and you've already got a great chef's in your sights.

Good thinking. Considering you'll (probably) buy more than one MAC you might be able to get a little discount. Never hurts to ask. If you can afford it, a MAC Pro Chef's, Slicer and Petty along with the 10.5" MAC Superior Bread would make a heck of a set.

Figure out how you're going to sharpen before you buy a good knife. No dull knife, no matter how good, how expensive, how creamy and delicious, is anything but a dull knife; and all dull knives are equal.

Hope this helps,
post #4 of 6
I can think of no gift I'd rather receive than good knives, particularly Japanese knives, but I have been informed by some female cooking enthusiasts that being given knives is about the same as being given a vacuum cleaner. I'll assume that you know your wife well enough to know if this is a good idea.: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
"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
post #5 of 6
Thread Starter 
hehe good thinking. sharp knives for xmas might work out bad for me!! :)

I am the king of "practical" gifts. I ask for things that I will use, I in turn give things that the receiver will use. She also has wrist/hand issues (carpal tunnel, etc), so a good sharp set of knives can actually help her in more ways than one.

Sure beats clothes if you ask me!
post #6 of 6
If she's got wrist/carpal problems, DO NOT get her a santoku. I would definitely recommend a long, relatively straight, lightweight chef's knife instead.

The point is that the santoku is like an extreme version of a deep-bellied German knife: to use it well, you have to make a swooping motion that depends on the wrist. A chef's knife, especially in the shallow-bellied French profile (which we usually see on Japanese chef's knives/gyuto), especially if it's kept quite sharp, cuts best when very little action comes from the wrist.

So you probably do want a 10", Japanese-made chef's knife/gyuto. The lighter the better. Which one? I dunno -- ask BDL. :)
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