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Need help picking out new knives!

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 
My soon-to-be husband & I are setting up our registry at Bed Bath & Beyond and can't decide on which knife set to get. We have narrowed it down to the Calphalon Katana line or the Wusthof Classic line. I cook at least 4 times a week and want knives that will last us at least 10 years.

I liked the weight of both lines. Our friends have used the Calphalon Contemporary for 3 years and still love their knives. They are the same price, so that's not a deciding factor.

He likes the look of the Henckels Mikado line. I haven't heard anything good about it so I don't think we're still considering it.

Please help! Wedding is soon & we need to finish our registry!

post #2 of 3
Congrats on the wedding!
I haven't seen or handled the Calphalon but Calphalon did get the nod from Americas test kitchen for the best buy in steak knives.
The Wusthof classic is a very nice knife and will certainly last you many years. Mine have seen many years of professional use. They should last a home cook a life time if cared for. Of the three you listed Wusthof would be an easy pick for me.
FSU..... Florida State?
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 #3 of 3


Calphalon Katana is a line that's been around for a few years and developed a bit of a following. They are made in Japan for western consumption. The "profiles," that is to say the shapes" are French influenced Japanese. For instance, the chef's knife is a lighter and with a slightly less-curved blade than a regular German design like a Wusthof Classic.

They're made from an alloy called VG-1 -- which is a pretty good thing.

Despite their appearance, place of manufacture, and blade alloy are not what you'd call particularly Japanese. They have more "heft" and balance, and -- despite the positive associations of the words -- those aren't particularly good things (nor bad either).

Overall, they're good but not great knives, fairly priced and would be a good choice for people starting out.


Henckels, I think, discontinued its "Mikado" line in favor of "Miyabi." If nothting else it gives you an idea of what Henckels thought of it.

The Mikados are "sort of" Japanese/French pattern kninves with Japanese style "D" handles made out of Henckels German steel (which is a lot like Wusthof's German steel). The Miyabi replacement is made out of a high-end Japanese steel using a particularly Japanese method of construction that sandwiches it between layers of softer stainless.

Miyabis are better than Mikados.

Also, during the period that production switched to Miyabi (made in Japan by Henckels) from Mikado (made in German, I think), Henckles changed the way it changed the way it made the knives from sintering the tang to the blade to full hammer forging the tang in one piece on its German pattern knives. I don't know how the Mikado tang was connected. But either way, it wouldn't effect the knife.

Remember what I said about the Katanas? That they look Japanese but really aren't? The same is true about the Mikados.

It may be of interest that the Mikados have nearly everything in common with Wusthof Ikons, but the handles aren't quite as classy.

All in all, despite their orphan status, Mikados aren't bad knives. They'll perform in a similar fashion to the other two knives -- which mostly depends on how sharp you keep them. But, there's no escaping the fact that Henckels has moved on to better things.

Wusthof Classic

In the US of the seventies, Wustie Classics developed the reputation of being the best knives in the world. They were the standard for cooks, pro and home, throughout the country by which all others were judged. They still have some of that reputation. It was undeserved then, and even more undeserved now.

They are very nice knives indeed. They have great handles (among the best in the world); great F&F (also, among the very best); and typical German style geometry -- which I don't like as much as French or French/Japanese, but that's a matter of preference.

Their geometry makes them heavy -- even compared to the Katanas and Mikados -- which you might experience as a satisfying "heft." It also makes them a bit clumsy at certain types of things, many of which you probably don't do -- speed chopping for instance; but good at others -- like "rock" chopping herbs.

They're construction is one-piece, heavy-hammer forging -- which has the totally undeserved reputation of being the only way to make a quality knife -- from a steel alloy which is ubiquitous in high end German knives called X50CrMoV15. Sexy name, don't you think? Anyway, it's a very indifferent alloy.

They'll give you the same sort of life and service as the other two knives you've put on your short list.

Among knife people, including cooks who are really interested in knives, their star is in decline; somewhat undeservedly (there's that word again) so. They were always very good knives, and they're still very good knives. Even though they're not "the best," they have a great reputation and you really can't go wrong. Think of them as "the little black dress" of knives.

Bottom Line

Longevity, or "10 years" as you put it, was one of your issues. All of these knives, like the many other lines of their ilk, will last pretty much forever. And if they don't, they all have excellent warranties. Henckels in particular is supernatural in its desire to please -- they must have angel feathers on the floor of their customer service department.

However, none of these knives will function very well once they get dull -- which in a normal home kitchen will take about three or four months.

Because they're ground to more acute edge angles (15*) the Katana and Mikado will -- "in theory" -- act sharper than the Wusthofs (20*) But, as a matter of practical reality, that's entirely dependent on how well the knives are actually sharpened, and how sharp they actually are at a given time.

It's a sad truth that all dull knives are equal.

You need to find a better sharpening system than the "steel" which comes with the sets. Not only is it probably not a very appropriate steel, you have to learn to use it -- a matter of touch and angle holding. If you don't know how to sharpen, don't plan to learn, and don't want to invest $200 in an Edge Pro, I suggest putting a 2 slot Chef's Choice electric sharpener (under $100) on your list as well. Which model you choose depends on your choice of knives, as Wusthofs are sharpened to a different angle than Katanas and Mikados.

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