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Home Chef needs advice on Knives

post #1 of 79
Thread Starter 
Recently I decided to upgrade the knives we use at home to something that should work well and last. We have neen using a wolfgang puck set that though it looks good has not been a great performer even from day one. I was told someone we know who loves to cook loves her "cutco" knifes (turned out to be Chicago Cultery they owned). Anyways having a local Cutco store we stopped in and got the usual demonstration and left with table knife set and one Santoku 5" knife that the household chef (my GF) liked best. The table kinves are their so Double D edge whereas the Santoku is a straight edge.

So far we like the warranty, the feel in hand of the handle, the idea we can have them sharpened by the factory and possibly the local store (factory is 2 1/2 hours away driving). On the other hand I'm not too happy with the cost which seems high, the handles are kind of blah looking, the idea there maybe much better knives at the same or lower cost.

I decided to start doing some research and now my head is spinning with all the information. The things I found to be said over and over again are that Cutco is sold door to door and that for the cost of Cutco knives there are better products and some of them cost less. That's where I'm hoping everyone here can help me figure out if Cutco is the product for us or if there is something else we should think of instead.

I know this forum is more towards the professional side of things but if anyone can help two amateur household chefs pick the right product that well perform well, last a long time without high maintenance demands that would be appreciated.

EDIT - Forgot to add she really likes the Santoku style knife in the petite size range and we are looking for a really good bread knife too.
post #2 of 79
One of the most important set of criteria for anyone choosing a new knife or new knives is how they're going to integrate the knives into their sharpening regimen. It's a sad fact of life that all culinary knives need regular sharpening -- some more than others. Factory sharpening is not a great solution for most people because of the turn around time.

Cutco knives have some strong supportes; but if you want to use an actually sharp knife (as opposed to something more like a saw) they aren't very good; especially not for their price.

Their biggest problem is the steel alloy used to make the blades. It's 440A, which was never very good, hasn't got any better, and over the years has been superceded by many superior alloys. The best things you can stay about 440A is that it's very stain resistant and it isn't as bad as some other alloys -- 420J2, for instance.

At any rate, 440A doesn't take a great edge under the best of circumstances, and loses it easily.

As you know Cutco makes knives with two different edge geometries. One is a "never needs sharpening" serrated they call "Double D." The other is a regular smooth edge.

The Double D edges will function for a long time before needing sharpening -- but never very well. You can't get really clean cuts with it, and it's difficult to cut fine as well. The regular smooth edges, like the one on our GF's santoku, dull very quickly compared to those on knives made from better blade alloys.

Forschner's Rosewood and Fibrox lines represent a big step up in quality compared to Cutco; and I believe they're less expensive to boot. There are much better knives than the Forschners, but they're considerably more expensive.

If you want to discuss the Forschners, or options in a different price range; or have any other questions let us know. There are several very knowledgeable people on CT.

post #3 of 79
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the quick response.

To answer your questions to the best of my ability

Price – As you know we already purchased Cutco knives which from what I have seen at Amazon are around the same price as some leading European and Asian products. Would I like to spend less, sure but if spending more means I get a great performing product that will last a very long time I’m willing to do it.

Sharpening – I haven’t done this and would need guidance in where to start and what equipment is best. I have read enough to know that this depends on what type of knife is being sharpened. I would hope I wouldn’t have to sharpen more than once/twice a year.

The table knives I haven’t even tested yet but they seem like nice products but if there is something that cuts as well/better and will last a long time I’d be interested.

Style/Type of kitchen knives – The main chef really likes the feel/design of the Santoku knives and being a petite person likes the knife in the petite size of 5-6 1/2 range. Also we would really like a top quality bread knife.
post #4 of 79
Here's a "quality test" for you to take:

Take a regular potato, a large-ish one, and take your knife and cut in half lengthwise.

Did the knife wriggle or squirm (bend or flex) when cutting the potato?

If it did, it didn't pass the "Quality test"
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
post #5 of 79
I have some *utco's that were a gift. My wife likes them. About all I can say for them is that they are good about replacing them when they die. They cost 5-7x more than they should as they are lower in quality than forschner, Sani-safe etc. The biggest reason I can see for an average home owner to buy them is free sharpening. Shun does that as well and you can buy a much higher quality Shun for the same price. I'm not a big Shun fan either but even their base lines are vastly better than *utco.
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
post #6 of 79
If you cook at home four or more times a week, in order to maintain your go to chef's knife (or santoku, or gyuto) as very sharp or better, it's going to need about six actual sharpenings (as opposed to "touch ups) a year -- and to be "profiled," about once a year.

If you can settle for barely sharp, you can cut that down to about four sharpenings. Most people never used a knife sharper than barely sharp. Twice a year by a professional sharpener and "touch-ups" on a steel, or a "V" stick system like a Sharpmaker or a "Crockstick," means your knives will be fairly dull about half the year. You mentioned suiting the sharpening method to the knife, and there's a lot of truth to that. Many very expensive knives -- especially those manufactured in Japan -- won't do their best unless taken to a moderately high degree of polish. And polishing is something very few budget "systems" do.

By and large, Japanese manufactured western style knives (the shapes you're used to -- including santoku, btw), can be made much sharper and stay sharper longer with a better sharpener but less other maintenance than similarly priced European knives. The Euros (and Americans) take maintenance -- usually in the form of steeling.

There are a few Japanese stainless lines I usually recommend in the Cutco price range (fairly expensive, by the way). Chief among them are MAC Pro; and, if you can live with a little bit of flex, Masamoto VG.

It's easy to overemphasize the practical superiority of a good Japanese knife compared to a good German -- like Wusthof, F. Dick, Messermeister, or Henckels; or a German type like Lamson Sharp (made in America). While most of the nuances fall in favor of the Japanese, you can get a lifetime of great performance from a German knife; and in addition the Germans are manufactured to very high standards of fit and finish, and almost all of them have very good to excellent handles to boot. Their biggest weaknesses are that they're relatively heavy, the "go to" chef's knives have a relatively clumsty profile; and they're all made from less-than-stellar alloys -- either X50CrMoV, or something very much like it.

Additionally, there are some relatively value-priced knives that bring plenty of performance along with them; these include Forschner Rosewood and Fibrox and the better Dexters to name three. FWIW, the Forschners are X50CrMoV as well.

There's no one best knife brand, and I don't know of anyone who can point to any one in particular and say "this is the one your wife should use," at least not anyone who knows much about knives and has her best interests at heart. Also, there's no good reason to go to a lot of trouble or expense choosing the very finest knife of some profile you'll only seldom use. The Santoku/ Chef's/ Gyuto is a knife worth investing in. If you're buying a petty instead of a parer, so is that. And, if you use a slicer a lot, that is too. You can buy good parers and bread knives relatively inexpensively.

At this stage, my thoughts about the "go to" knife are:

1. You can get away with using a fairly inexpensive and easy sharpening system and still get a lot out of Forschners, so that would be one recommendation. I prefer the Rosewood handles to the Fibrox.

2. Everyone who tries MAC Pro loves it. In addition, they have a great US presence and an excellent warranty. If you're willing to invest the money and/or time in a good sharpener I have no doubt you will too.

3. A good, German type knife could be perfect for you.

4. If your wife does 97% of the cooking and she likes her santoku, figure out a way to keep it sharp without sending it out of the house 3 weeks a year and be happy. Kinves are nice, but a happy wife trumps.

Anything you can do to narrow down your selections would help me help you.

post #7 of 79
Thread Starter 
I'm not really for/against Cutco but once I started checking out what else is out there it seemed like I might of spent differently. Last night stopped at a Bed Bath and Beyond to check out the German products. Liked some of the Henckels and Wusthof. Overall both seemed nice though we did not like the Grand Prix handle in the Wusthof. Wish they would of had the Ikon line to try out also since it seems it would be preferable.

Main Knife - we want a good knife for veggies and meat. The Cutco santoku seems to fit this bill and she really likes the feel/shape of the santoku style.

Bread Knife - Currently what we have for bread/pastry is about as good as a butter knife just bigger.

From reading I take it a smaller knife is also desirable.

Table/Steak knives - The cutco look better than the run of the mill cheaper knives but willing to take suggestions.

I don't really care if the main kitchen knives match or not since what really matters is how well they perform. I do want knives that if someone doesn't get to them right away still will clean up and look good. Also I don't mind sharpening manually but if there is an easier way that might be nice.
post #8 of 79
Henckels and Wusthof regular "classic" handles are very good for almost everyone. Ikon is nice, but expensive. Ikon uses the same steel as Wusthof's other forged lines, but ground to a 15* angle, and, in the case of some shapes, profiled to French/Japanese shapes.

You can get all the Ikon advances, but with a "Classic" handle in the (discontinued) Le Cordon Bleu line. You can still find some NOS LCB.

At or anywhere near the Cutco price thare are knives made of much better steel.

The pick of the litter in bread knives is the MAC 10.5" Superior Bread/Roast. But it's expensive; right around $100. For bread/pastry a $25 Forschner is awfully good.

Not only desirable, but safer for a lot of tasks. You definitely want something in the 3" - 6" range. A knife called a "petty" is a very hot trend with pros right now. It's really just a long, regular style (couteau office) paring knife -- or you might think of it as a "utility" knife with a smooth edge. Whether or not you want one instead of a parer, a parer or both depends on your own style. There's no right or wrong.

Cutcos are fine steak knives; but they're very, very expensive compared to other attractive serrated knives.

Good thought.

Stainless for you then.

"Manual" can mean a lot of things. One is freehand sharpening on whetstones. You can get three (coarse -- 400, medium -- 1000, fine -- 3000) Naniwa SS for around $100.

It will take you about 20 - 40 kinves to learn to use them well. Personally, I've sharpened thousands and am still learning new things and still improving. After you start getting the hang of it, you might want to add an ultra-fine polishing stone like a 10000# if you've got really good knives.

Still manual, an Apex Edge Pro kits run from a little less than $150 to more than $250 depending on the kit. Better knives call for a higher polish and a better kit. Outside of the price, the Edge Pro is a bit of a pain to take down and store.

2 stage Chef's Choice machines cost under $100, while 3 stages will set you back more than $100. These are the easiest to learn and the most convenient to use. They have their limitations, but if you're intimidated in any way by the other systems -- they're the way to go. FWIW, they make different models for "Asian" and "European" knives. If you choose Chef's Choice, you'll need to get the right model for kit.

I've been freehanding for more than 45 years; and have used many if not most of the other major systems during that time -- sometimes as the primary sharpening method. I'm starting to think it doesn't make much sense for a beginner to learn to freehand if (s)he can afford the Edge Pro -- partly based on the availability of newer, and better abrasives over the past year or so. I used a Chef's Choice for almost a year when my stones were "lost," and still think they're great.

post #9 of 79
Thread Starter 
Ok I believe I found the MAC superior bread knife in the $70.00 dollar range a few places, which I don't mind spending if it's going to perform and last.

As to the steak/table Knives - Would like to see some recomendations serrated and straight blade.

Santoku style knife, I read the Mac knives are good but not sure about Pro/Superior. Anything else I should look at?
post #10 of 79
"Cutcos are fine steak knives; but they're very, very expensive compared to other attractive serrated knives"

I have these and they are DD edge which means there is no way to sharpen them other than sending them in. They aren't half bad but the hanldles are cheap plastic. They run $112 for four. The Viking or Cusinart sets in places like Bed Bath & beyond are far better and about 1/4 the price.
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
post #11 of 79
I do not recommend Cutco cutlery. They are owned by Alcas Corp. They are overrated and overpriced! Their sister-company, Ka-Bar, sells the Union Cut.Co. and Dog's Head sets, which resemble the MAC Professional Series. Neither do I recommend Chicago Cutlery, as the company became defunct in the 1990s, and the brand-name is now owned by World Kitchen, and production has been outsourced to China ever since.
I personally own the LamsonSharp PRO cutlery line. However, you might want to consider their Stamped cutlery line, since it would be less expensive, and lighter than forged cutlery. Nonetheless, they do offer a FREE Sharp For Life Program for their Forged knives. They have a Factory Outlet Store. The lowest prices that I have found online, is at: Cookware.
I know that it seems to be a daunting task, to be shopping for kitchen cutlery, as there are a myriad of brands to choose from, but nevermind the brands which others tell you to buy. Buy what you can afford, and like to use, on a daily basis.
post #12 of 79
Just curious, but I'm wondering in which ways you think the Ka-Bars "resemble" MAC Pro. To my mind, if only because the alloys and ergonomics are so different, they're not similar enough for a meaningful comparsion. Not seeking to quarrel, just trying to find out what you're thinking.

post #13 of 79
For advice on sharpening, we just did a whole video series on Japanese vs. German knives and how to sharpen them both.

Go to behindtheknife.com and view the posts from December 15th through the 18th. Lots of good info.

Lisa Rogak
post #14 of 79
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the link to the sharpening page.
post #15 of 79
Thread Starter 
So here is what we currently have
Wolfgang puck knive set (won't even bother saying much other than it does look nice)
Cutco 5" Santoku Knife Santoku Knives by CUTCO Cutlery
Cutco 8 knife table knife set 8-Pc. Table Knife Set In Gift Box by CUTCO Cutlery

Here are the knives I have been looking at through recomendations from people on the internet and this forum
Wusthof Classic Ikon Wuesthof - CLASSIC IKON
Wusthof Classic Wuesthof - CLASSIC
I actually found the classic Ikon cheaper some places than the regular Classic line by about 30 bucks or more.

Mac Knife pro Santoku MAC Knife Inc. USA
Mac Knife superior bread MAC Knife Inc. USA
post #16 of 79
Thread Starter 
I forgot to add in my last post some questions about my choices.

From reading MAC knives seem highly recommended. Wusthof is a decent knife with a good warranty but with pricing the same would you go for MAC?

I see seperate lines of MAC knives, superior and pro seem to be the usual recomended. Would you recomend the PRO over the Superior for Santoku?

How does MAC steel/handle hold up as far as appearance/handle considering they will be hand washed but may sit before cleaning? Will they withstand someone leaving them in a sink filled with water on occasion? I wish I could say the knives would be taken care of meticulousy and usually they would but sometimes they may not be.

Look forward to any recomendations people can give!
post #17 of 79
From a purely safety standpoint, knives should never be left in a sink full of water. You may be able to get away with this with a dull knife, but you are inviting a trip to the emergency room if you do this with a sharp knife, whether it is a MAC, Wusthof or any other brand.
post #18 of 79
I have a MAC Pro chefs knife and cannot recommend it enough. It is far and away better than any German (Henkels or Wusthof) knife that I have used.

That being said, you really do need to maintain it, but this goes for any knife. You should not put your knife in the sink, whether or not it is filled with water. Sinks are made of hard metal and will easily mess up the edge on your knife. It would be probably be better to leave the knife on the board uncleaned for a little rather than leave it in a sink of water.
Sono pazzo della cucina!
Sono pazzo della cucina!
post #19 of 79
Thread Starter 
Whoops that should of said left in a sink with other dishes/cultery not full of water. I should of said left in the sink waiting to be washed. Personally I rather they sat on the counter till their turn came up. I don't do the dishwashing usually and was just thinking of extremes that may happen.
post #20 of 79
Would it survive? Yes. Would it probably have been dulled or even chipped? Yes, but that goes for all cutlery. Would you be risking slicing deep into your finger when you reached into the sink? Yes.

I'd keep all knives out of the sink.
Sono pazzo della cucina!
Sono pazzo della cucina!
post #21 of 79
The MAC will hold up to that sort of treatment about as well as any other good knife. Not very well.

If it happens once in a while, okay. But it's not something you want to do often and will make it so the blade scratches and force you to sharpen more frequently. The pakka wood handles are very stable, almost but not quite as stable as POM (the kind of plastic on Wusthof Classic, Togiharu and a number of other knives).

MAC doesn't say which knife steel they use, but judging from their statements about the alloys used in their various lines, which are very similar to statements made by the Takefu Steel company -- especially regarding relative amounts of molybdenum and tungsten. It appears they're all variants of Takefu V-Gold stainless. An educated guess based on those statements and on experience with other knives made from various Takefu steels would have the Superiors as VG-2, the Pros as probably VG-5, and the Ultimates as probably VG-8.

As you may remember, the Wusthofs are made with X50CrMoV15. As high carbons go, it's a very low carbon; and it simply cannot compare with the ultimate sharpness and edge holding qualities of any of the V-Golds -- especially VG-5 (Pro) and VG-8 (Ultimate), or whatever the heck MAC uses.

MAC Pros are much stiffer than MAC Superiors, and easier to sharpen as well.

If you're looking for a very light knife, the Superiors are nice -- and they'll simplify your sharpening life quite a bit because the sharpen pretty well on the inexpensive and easy to use MAC Rollsharp. If Pete McCracken is reading, he can testify. Otherwise you might PM him.

In addition, the Superior line has a few ultra high-performance profiles, like the 10.5" bread/roast, and the "boning" knives. Those two are as good as any knife of their type at or anywhere near their price.

The Pros are better knives all around, and worth the extra price. They are a bit heavier than the Supreriors, but no heavier than other Japanese knives with western handles and bolsters -- and are a lot lighter than German knives.

If you want to know pretty much everything you need to know about how good a MAC Pro is, you can feel pazzo's enthusiasm pulsing through the screen.

Persnally, I don't care for santouks at all, haven't used a MAC santoku in either line, and so can't comment on them specifically. But, if it were my choice, I'd certainly go with a MAC Pro over a MAC Superior or a Wusthof of any flavor.

There are other, similarly priced, Japanese knives which compete pretty evenly with the MAC Pro for performance and F&F, but none of them have the kind of warranty or US support MAC does.

Hope this helps,
post #22 of 79
In response to BDL's comment, I use MACs exclusively in my kitchen and maintain them with a Fisker Roll-Sharp (I know, HORRORS!).

My original knife was purchased in 2000 and still "shaves", even when making "carrot butterflies", "tomato roses", etc.
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
post #23 of 79
Thread Starter 
I want to thank everyone here on this board for their comments.

I think I'm going to take the plunge on the MAC knives. I now would like futher recomendations but here is what I am thinking

MAC Santoku PRO MSK-65
MAC Superior bread knife SB-105
Not sure what for a third knife to go with these, any ideas?

Now I'm thinking about buying some type of easy to use sharpener. I see their are roll-sharps and electric sharpeners like the Chefs Choice but not sure what model I should go for (315, 316 1520 vx15?)
post #24 of 79
Might as well go whole hog on MAC Pro, and go with either the 3.25" paring or 5" utility -- whichever your wife thinks would be best for peeling. Considering she's getting a santoku, short enough to be a "utility" in itself, the parer (PKF-30) would probably be a better partner.

Of the Chef's Choice options, the Model 15 (XV) is definitely the best choice.

post #25 of 79
I was going to suggest the same thing, but BDL beat me to it. Since you're going with a short santoku and it's likely that your wife won't want anything larger, you would probably want to go with a paring knife. The MAC Pro paring knife would do fantastically or you could look into something cheaper if you want to save some money there.
Sono pazzo della cucina!
Sono pazzo della cucina!
post #26 of 79
Thread Starter 
I took the plunge and ordered the Mac Pro Santuko and 3 1/4 Pair knives along with the Superior bread knife.

I am actually thinking of keeping the cutco table knives since they were a special promotion price that doesn't seem too far out of line with other sets I have looked over.

As to the sharpening device I will check out the vx15 chef's choice and whatever else anyone recommends.
post #27 of 79
The Edge Pro Apex kit 2 is more expensive than a Chef's Choice, light years less convenient, and it will be "the boy's" job; but you're knives will be much sharper if you can discipline yourself to use it regularly. It's got a learning curve, but it's very shallow. There's also a little bit of maintenance associated with it. You'll be good at it in no time.

The third good alternative is to learn freehand sharpening on waterstones. That's got a relatively steep learning cure. It will take you about 20 knives before you start developing any sort of real competence, before that it's kind of hit or miss. You can start fairly inexpensively, and build your kit as you learn; jump in and start with a good, complete set; or kind of split the differences.

The other alternatives, "V" sticks, slot pull-throughs, Chantrys, Warthogs, etc., for one reason or another aren't nearly as appropriate for your knives and just plain not as good.

I'm a freehand sharpener; have been one forever; am good at it; own two complete sets of stones; like to post, blog and write about freehanding; and so on. But given the advances in the sharpening stones which have become available for the Edge Pro I'm starting to wonder if it's worth it for anyone who isn't a hobbyist to learn to freehand. If my son or daughter asked, I'd tell him or her to get an Edge Pro. In your case, Kit 2 would do you proud for awhile -- and if you like you can add a 10K polishing stone later.

With the encomium for the EP behind us, I do like the Chef's Choice quite a bit for people who, for one reason or another, won't freehand or use an EP. It's really more about you than anything else. If your lazy get a CC. If you want your wife to be able to do it, get a CC. If you're picky and want to do it yourself, get an EP.

You can do better on steak knives than Cutco -- even on sale. We have two sets of steak knives, one of them actually Cutco which I bought from my nephew when he repped for them in college. There's nothing at all wrong with them, they cut steak and stay sharp for quite awhile. They're overpriced compared to what else is available -- but we're not that picky about our steak knives.

post #28 of 79
Cannot second this enough. A few weeks ago I lent my utility knife to the dishwasher so that he could help with prep. He knows not to run any knives through the machine, but he put the knife in the sink so he could clean it. Forgot about it, walked away.


Long story short: 30 minutes later, we found him pale and green bleeding like a pig into the staff bathroom sink, 13 stitches on the back of his hand.
post #29 of 79
Thread Starter 
I think when the knives come in I'll make sure to give a few tips on the best way to keep them and also take care of them to avoid any accidents.
post #30 of 79
Thread Starter 
Again thanks to everyone for their help and suggestions.
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