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New learner looking for a good, affordable knife set.

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
 I am just learning how to cook, and getting into it pretty seriously. I'm looking at a slim wallet and small budget. I need a set of knives that will get the job done, and done well. I'm a college student, so I would also need a case to hold them while I'm living in my dorms during the semester. Any and all suggestions are helpful. 

Jared.
post #2 of 13

For people on a budget I always suggest Forschner's they are plenty good and darn affordable.  Either the Fibrox or rosewood lines are the same except for the handles the fibrox are plastic the rosewood are wooden and need a little more care to keep them in good condition.  Depending on what type of cooking you will be doing I would stick with a basic 'set' of

8" or 10" chef's knife $35-$40
several 3 1/2" or 4 1/2" paring/utility knives  these can do double duty as steak/table knives and they are only $6 each or so
a 6 slot knife roll should only set you back $10-$15 you can make paper sleeves for the blades or spend a few bucks on edge guards to keep them safely in the roll.  

You may want to add a 6" petty/utility if you need it for smaller prep work and if you will be baking bread or buying crusty artisan breads pickup a 10" bread knife
 

post #3 of 13
By and large, Forschners are the best knives for low money.  Props to mastersniper. 

The most basic, complete set of knives include a chef's knife, a bread knife, a slicer, and a petty or paring knife.  You can get away without a slicer if you don't do a lot of portioning.  

The chef's knife is the most important blade in your kit.  An 8" chef's knife won't either punish bad knife skills or reward good ones in the same way a 10" knife will.  If you want to be an efficient cook, to cut consistent sizes, and have enough control to cut thin, it's important to learn the basic sills of pinch grip, "claw," and the basic cuts (blocking, planking, sticking and dicing).  If you're committed to learning them, you might as well just skip to a 10" blade.  If you want to cut inutitively go 8", or even with a santoku.

The modern trend in paring knives, or rather instead of a paring knives, is something called a "petty."  It's a regular paring knife shape, but longer.  Somewhere between 4-1/2" and 7" long, and unless you do a lot of intricate, small work it will probably be more useful to you than a 2-1/2" - 4" parer.  If you do decide you'd like to try a petty, and you're also staying within the Forschner fold, don't look for it by name.  This is the equivalent in Rosewood.  IIRC, Forschner doesn't make a smooth edged equivalent in Fibrox -- it's serrated.

I don't usually recommend serrated knives, but the little, $4 serrated Fibrox can be very useful.  So useful that I know a few pros who use them as their only small knives.  You can't really sharpen one, but they're cheap enough that when it gets too dull you can just throw it away.

Thinking about which knife to buy is sexy.  But the big deal with knives is keeping them sharp.  No dull knife is a good knife.  Forschners are fairly sharp out of the box, but they don't hold an edge particularly well.  That means you're going to have to invest in some sort of sharpening system -- including but also going beyond a "steel," and actually use it.

Also, you'll need a decent sized, reasonable quality cutting board as well; whether wood, Sani-Tuff or poly.  No glass, no stone, no small cheese boards.  If you're going Forschner, a poly board is plenty good for awhile.  A bad board will wreck your knives.  A small board won't allow you to use a reasonable sized blade.  If you can't keep a decent board in your kitchen, you might as well just get a steak knife from the thrift store and let the "knife set" idea go for awhile.

I presume the knife case or roll is to keep your knives away from your roomies.  Good idea. 

BDL
Edited by boar_d_laze - 3/23/10 at 8:00pm
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post #4 of 13
well, it depends how serious you are about cooking and to what level you plan on going with it... my mom prepares entire meals with a 99 cent steak knife. i was at a friends house and saw his sister making dinner with a swiss army knife. lol. i would never give either of them a proper chef's knife either for fear they would cut their hand off...
post #5 of 13
HJ,

I second (or is it fourth) the above.  I have a set of Henckels at home but bought another set of Forschner Fibrox for my sailboat.  I like the Forschner's so well that I have not gotten around to taking them to the boat.  While I would dearly love one or more of the high quality knives discussed on this board, I've two problems.  One they cost a lot and two, I cannot convince my wife that my knives do NOT go in the dishwasher or into the sink.  Not to mention the time I found the paring knife tip broken off after grandson decided it was a screwdriver or some kind of pry bar.  If they did that to a really good knife, do you think the jury would convict me???

Rich
post #6 of 13
Having been in the business for decades, my suggestion is to get GOOD knives. Not top of the line but in the middle-range. You won't regret is, they will last for decades. I have been using my Chicago Cutlery for at least 40 years and there is no end in site. This is a serious bu necessary investment for anyone in the food business. Starve for 6 months or buy you clothes in a thrift store but get very good knives!
George, Culinary Scientist and author of
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George, Culinary Scientist and author of
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post #7 of 13
well forschner/ victorinox makes professional quality stuff for a good price. i did mean to endorse them in my previous post, but forgot to. i own a bunch myself and they do everything perfectly well... i like knives though, so i'll spend a lot more money for a slightly better performing knife that looks really nice.
post #8 of 13
Hello again hj,

As a sort of follow up to Huy Bui and Gerdosh, let me add that you shouldn't bother looking at Chicago Cutlery knives.  They're no longer made by the same company, and they're about as bad as knives get.  Cheap though.

Continuing in the same vein, Forschners are really remarkable in that they get you in the midrange of performance, say as good as Wusthoff Trident, Lamshon Sharp, etc., for less than half the money.  Same blade alloy (X50CrMoV15), different construction.  The Forschners are blocked (aka stamped), while the more expensive knives are forged.  Nevertheless, because of their outstanding edge characteristics -- some of which come from hardening and some of which come from Forschner's thinness -- they cut as well as the pricier knives.  

Furthermore, they are lighter -- and as long as knives are kept sharp, lighter is better.  There is little heft can do which sharp won't do better.

I know that it's not only obvious but that I've said it before, nevertheless it bears repeating:  The key to knife performance is sharpness. A sharp knife makes cutting easier, while preserving the integrity and structure of your ingredients. A very sharp knife makes precision cutting possible. 

No knife, no matter how well made, and no matter from what it's made will stay sharp forever.  They all get dull.  Sharpening is something you need to do regularly.  Anyone who says (s)he sharpens once a year and uses a steel in the meantime doesn't know or care much about sharp knives -- which kind of misses the point. 

How often you use your knives will determine how often you need to sharpen.  An average home cook should probably sharpen three or four times a year; as someone living in the dorms, you can probably get by with two or three times -- along with regular maintenance on a fine (not a medium!) "steel."  You're either going to need to buy a couple of stones and learn to use them, invest in another good type of system, or have you knives sharpened during semester breaks.

We certainly hope you're still reading this thread, but there's no way to tell.  If you have any questions -- and you should -- please ask them.   

Until then,
BDL
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post #9 of 13

the sharpening thing is hard to master and many chef's i speak with don't even bother doing it themselves. i've practiced it a lot and i do get it sharper than it is when dull, but for $3 i can get it sharpened professionally and it always is better than I can get it.

post #10 of 13
Originally Posted by Huy Bui View Post

the sharpening thing is hard to master and many chef's i speak with don't even bother doing it themselves. i've practiced it a lot and i do get it sharper than it is when dull, but for $3 i can get it sharpened professionally and it always is better than I can get it.


How sad for you.

BDL
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post #11 of 13
If you are looking for great knives at a price that is affordable, check out www.culinaryideals,com

I usually buy all my knives through that site.

If you are just starting out, I recommend Victorinox.  They are a nice, light knife that are easy to maintain, and they hold a decent edge.  Not only that, they are inexpensive.  Hope this helps.

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A limb on a tree and a tree in a hole and a hole in the blog and the blog down in the valley-o!

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post #12 of 13
"If they did that to a really good knife, do you think the jury would convict me???"

 

Not if you were lucky enough to have a jury of your peers from a knife forum.
BTW not all of the knives we talk about have to cost a bundle. The JCK Kagayaki is a very nice knife in roughly the same price range as many German knives. Perhaps you have room for a small lockable toolbox on the boat that would hold a gyuto and one stone?
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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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 #13 of 13
 The Victorinox knives are probably one of the most popular and are a good choice.  They are used extensively in the meat processing industry, where knives are cutting through animal hide, breaking joints and ribs, and trimming for hours non-stop.  The Fibrox handles on their stamped knives offer good grip and are available in colors or with anti-microbial protection added if you purchase the Microban series.  I would also suggest looking at Mundial knives as well.  They are manufactured in Brazil and also have good edge retention, but the price point is lower than the Victorinox. The most common comments I hear about are they keep an edge well, but were easier to sharpen than a Victorinox--probably due to the steel make-up. I have been using knives everyday for nearly 25 years and the Mundial perform as well as other knives around the same price point.  They are one of the most popular brands in the food service industry and in our store we move 4 times the number of Mundial knives compared to Victorinox.  They offer a few stamped blade models, though their forged line is economical enough to consider as well.  In the stamped line they have the 5500 series, which is geared more towards food and meat processing and are used by those industries world-wide.  The 5600 is geared towards the food service industry.  The knives are economical and feature more defined finger guards and a large handle that allows for varying hand positions.  The newest line--the 5800 series or Mundigrips as they are called feature a high nylon composition handle similar to what is used in the Fibrox of Victorinox, but have better grip and are designed to provide comfort and control no matter your hand position.  All Mundial handles have an antimicrobial agent added to help reduce the growth of bacteria or mold.  They feature a Lifetime Guarantee.  The blades don't have the same mirror polish as the Victorinox, but if you just need a good work knife then I would consider Mundial.  I realize they are popular with the food service industry due to their low price point, but in my line of business I have heard many positive remarks about the Mundial knives, especially the Mundigrips, from individuals in the restaurant business, meat processors, and some bbq competitors.  One other manufacturer I would look at is F. Dick.  They make some stamped knives for both chefs and butchers.  They also produce some really nice forged lines as well, that can get fairly expensive.  They are coming out with a few new lines in 2010, especially a new chef line that will feature a stamped blade and ergonomic handle.  In the economical stamped lines of F. Dick I would look at the Eurocut and Pro-Dynamic.  The Ergogrip and Sanigrips are good butcher targeted lines, and all F. Dick knives offer quality knives made in Germany that are really good sellers with the butcher and meat processing groups.  F. Dick has good edge retention and are hard blades, but I do hear often that the F. Dick blades take a little more work to get them back sharp when they are dull.  I named a few lines, but in the world of knives everyone will have an opinion so I would say that as long as you are buying a brand that is in the business of making knives and has been around awhile, you should have good luck.  Just realize that some brands, such as some Dexter-Russells (which also offers some good low priced stamped knives) have some lines made in China and though they may advertise the quality of the steel or even state it is German steel, this term can be deceptive--so stick with those lines manufactured by the company.  
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