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New chef looking for a good cheap knife set?

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

i am starting to learn the way of being a chef these days. My mentor says I need to get a good knife set, but I don't have a lot of money (student chef). What types of knifes do I need? And where would be a good place to get them? Thank you for your time :)

post #2 of 12

Knives are very personal and idiosyncratic in terms of length and profile.  Also,  there are a lot of good brands out there. 


I think a student professional or beginning working pro needs a kit of at least four knives:  Chef's; Slicer; Bread; and either a "petty" or a paring knife. 


A petty knife is just a longish paring knife that can do all of the paring tasks as well as quite a few others -- including "boning."


If you're in culinary school you may want to contact the school, especially if they teach a class in knife skills and/or a class in butchering and see which knives you'll be required to bring.  They're list may not be the same as mine.  


If you can at all afford it, you want to make the jump to Japanese made knives rather than buying American or European.  The Japanese use better steel alloys for the blades, so they sharpen better and stay sharp longer.


Additionally, when you buy your knives you'll want to buy -- no, make that need to buy -- a sharpening kit so you can maintain them.  A sharpening set which is adequate for your purposes is not cheap.  It's not expensive either, but plan on spending closer to $80 than $20.


Froschner Fibrox and Forschner Rosewood are very good, reasonably priced student knives.  Forschner is the default answer when anyone asks about budget priced knives.  However, you'll appreciate what they lack in comparison to better Japanese made knves very quickly.  Compared to "better" European knives, they don't lack much at all.


F. Dick Eurocut are in a similar quality and price league as Forschner.  Dexter Russell has a line which belongs there as well but I forget its name offhand.


Mundial make good value, forged knives which mimic the feel of the more expensive European knives (like Henckles and Wusthof for instance).


Speaking of Henckles and Wustie, I strongly urge you not to give into the temptation of buying high-zoot European stainless.  Not that many owners, some of them very successful chefs, aren't happy with it -- it's just that Japanese made knives outperform them so completely.


As a preliminary though, I suggest the following...


Decent Student Knife Set:  Forschner Rosewood for all four basic shapes:  10" chef's; 10" slicer, 4.75" "utlity knife" to use as a "petty," and an 8" bread.  Also, if they require a boning knife, a Forschner Fibrox, 6" straight boning knife (regular, not flexible or stiff). 


For sharpening:  A Norton 8" combination coarse/fine India stone, and a Hall's hard Arkansas stone. Alternatively, a Hall's 8" wet hone -- which you may find stores more conveniently.  Plus, a DMT CS2 (unbreakable) ceramic honing rod.


Note:  Don't buy 6" sharpening stones, they're for pocket knives.  Also, the stones I'm recommending for the Forschners are "oilstones."  But despite decades of tradition and manufacturers' recommendation, don't use oil.  Not even honing oil.  Use soapy water.  The stones will work better and be a lot easier to clean (oilstones need cleaning, waterstones need "flattening," oilstones are easier).


For these sorts of knives I've had good experiences with the e-tailers Cutlery and More and Chef's Knives to Go.  I've personally never bought from them but Mad Cows has a very good reputation, and is associated with this site. 


Don't be shy about asking questions.  The more I know about you, what you're willing to spend, etc., the better I can tailor my knife recommendations to your needs and sharpening recommendatons to your knives. 


Hope this helps,


Edited by boar_d_laze - 6/9/10 at 11:58am
post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 

thanks boar chef, ths for your patient expain and analysis. you are so professor. I will learn and think about what you said carefully :)

post #4 of 12
Thread Starter 

your answer really a little bit against me, as i have got some wrong knife and kit, such as 6" sharpening stones just last week :(


and one of my roomates got a ceramic knife on Amazon, He show his knives for no need sharpening kit and some other i can


not remember anymore. I have checked the some reviews on Aamzon from Chef Jason Francis---" I bought this knife recently as a work knife at my job. I am a professional chef and I am experienced and well educated on cutlery. This is the second ceramic knife I have bought, the first was dropped by a co-worker and that knife shattered. I love working with ceramic knives because they are the sharpest knives around,period. Nothing is sharper. It glides through food. It requires a bit more care, but if you take good care if it ,it will last a lifetime. This knife is very versitile in the 7" model and very resonably priced. Perfect for meat and fish, slicing, ruit and vegatables. I can cut perfect slices, juliannes, and very fine dice. I laugh when I hear people talk about " my shun knife" or the extremely over-rated "my henckels". They are good all right but very expensive and they will NEVER be as sharp or hold it for as long as a ceramic"


how do you think of this knife?

post #5 of 12

I don't like ceramics, especially in a professional environment.  In my opinion there are much better performers than Shun or Henckles in their respective price ranges.  


I'm a huge fan of people having knives they like and with which they are comfortable.  So, if you already love your knives there's not much I can add.


Enjoy them,


post #6 of 12

First, if you are in a school setting, then school should provide a list of the items you need.


Most of the new students we provide knives to are in the same situation as you--they have limited budget, and for some they don't want to invest heavily until they see if this line of work is really what they want.  Most of the beginner sets are stamped blade knives, then as the students become better with handling knives, sharpening, and get out of the school setting where knives seem to get stolen or lost most of the students we deal with start moving up to forged knives.  We do have some students that purchase the inexpensive Mundial forged lines--which for the money are good knives--we get good feedback from our customers about the knives.  


Victorinox, Mundial, and F. Dick produce quality stamped blade knives.  Mundial will be the less expensive due to the fact they are produced in Brazil and Brazil is also a steel producing country.  Mundial actually outsells Victorinox for the restaurants we sell to and I think they are the best bargain.  Victorinox and F. Dick use slightly different steel and have a better polish on the blade, but as far as edge retention we haven't had any negative remarks about the blade and the tests we perform showed Mundial held up just as well as the others.  F. Dick on some of their models will use a slightly harder alloy, which helps with edge retention, but they tend to take a little more effort to sharpen.


Most students that come to us usually get a chef knife (8" to 10"), a 6" boning knife, a 3 to 4" paring knife, some sort of serrated bread knife, and a steel.  Some also add some sort of long blade slicer, a santoku, a fillet knife or carver and some sort of oyster knife, and shears.  There are plenty of sets out there, though I recommend putting a set together with knives you want--unless the school requires certain knives.  There are plenty of case options for storing and transporting knives, plus plenty of options in economical knives that can withstand commercial abuse.  


I would recommend contacting the store you want to purchase from and telling them what you are doing, what you need and your budget.  A store with any real form of customer service will help you get the right knives without trying to pressure you into items you don't need.  At Mad Cow Cutlery we get plenty of these such emails, especially at the end of the summer, so don't be shy about contacting the merchant.  Merchants that are involved with the food service industry should be more than eager to help you.  


As far as sharpening, the steel will help you keep your edge straight and keep you sharp for a little longer, but you will need to learn to sharpen--unless you plan on paying for a sharpening service.  An earlier post mentioned sharpening stones--which I think is a great way to start.  It is economical and it teaches you a skill that is useful.  Electric knife sharpeners have really started to become popular, but the good ones get a little expensive unless you are purchasing to be used by a larger number of people.  As far as stones I would not go below 8" for chef work, though the 11.5" bench stones would be better if you could afford them.  I would look for a combination stone coarse/fine, and possibly look into a hard Arkansas for the really fine work.  I have customers that really like the new diamond coated steels for doing some minor sharpening work.  They usually use a ceramic steel with the diamond to put the final edge work on. I always tell new customers to go to and search for knife sharpening and spend a couple of hours and watch the different methods.  Also, google knife sharpening and you should find tons of information.  


I hope this helps a little. 


D. Clay

post #7 of 12

Just curious about school setting. How many knives should have to be bought? 4 or more?

post #8 of 12
Thread Starter 

ths, madcow, ths for your advice for quality stamped blade knives recommending and sharpening stones analysis.

what  do you mean knives be stolen??  who stolen?

i am a beginner, but i do think i am much better than others. Maybe it is the differeces between two generation. why not use Electric knife sharpeners? or ceramic knives, they are convenient, they are new tech, no need to spend much time. Sorry, i am not judging you, just say what i am thinking. Maybe many years later, i will think about what you had tole  to me. ths for your help  :)

post #9 of 12
Thread Starter 

actually, i have ordered 4-piece ceramic knives yesterday, which i came corss on Facebook named pandawill. The most reason is i am looking for thing which will be better suitable for me, failed or not, it is not important. Lucky for me, they are much cheaper price,so i can afford them.

post #10 of 12

We deal with students and many restaurants, butcher shops, and meat processing facilities--and we hear about knives being stolen all the time--if fact people replacing stolen knives is part of our business (a really, really small part), but people will steal.  In some restaurants and meat processing facilities knives are purchased by the company and handed out at the beginning of shifts--but even a certain percentage of those get stolen and need to be replaced.  So I am recommending that you watch your knives close.


Electric knife sharpeners are fine--I use them, though I do most of my sharpening on stones.  You just have to be careful and not over grind, and/or overheat and ruin the tempering of the blade.  Electric knife sharpeners are a good seller for us, and have been gaining popularity in restaurants.  


I didn't mention ceramic knives, mostly for the cost--though there are some bargains to be found.  The other reason I didn't mention is in our line of business dealing with primarily restaurants and meat processors, they don't want ceramic in their work environments.  They can chip and break--especially in an abusive commercial environment where a large percentage of the employees don't know how to care for a knife.  Also, some establishments, especially meat processing establishments work under HACCP and SSOP plans, that have found ceramic to be a physical hazard when they were conducting their hazard analysis--so the use of materials such as ceramic or wood is prohibited.  For the kitchen setting ceramic should work fine and I hear positive feedback from the use of them, but in some settings they won't be able to take the abuse.  After using them you will know if they are for you, or if you should try something else.


It is common for us to get entry level cooks purchase two or three different brands and styles to see what works for them before purchasing more of one brand or blade type.


post #11 of 12

Knives for school depends on the school.  Most new students that purchase from us usually get around 5 or 6--mostly a chef, boning, paring, bread, utility, a steel, and sometimes they will add a slicer or carver and a fork then sometimes a specialty knife such as an oyster knife, or peeling knife then shears.  Some also purchase spreaders and spatulas.


D. Clay

post #12 of 12

Mizzy, I'm a little confused by your remarks. Are you actually studying at a culinary school, or is your "mentor" simply a very good cook -- professional or otherwise -- from whom you are learning?


I realize you've already bought some ceramic knives, of course. But what D. Clay (MadCow) is talking about is the sort of set usually required (and often sold or provided) by a culinary school of some kind. For that, as has already been said, you get what they tell you to and don't second-guess.


Otherwise, I think you will in time become disenchanted with the ceramics, though they will serve you pretty well for a while. The main problem is that while they start very sharp, and remain sharp unusually long, they do in the end dull -- and then it can be very difficult or even impossible to sharpen them. Some ceramics break and chip very easily, but in a home environment good-quality ceramics of recent vintage should hold up passably well.


To continue with the questions you originally asked, however, what knives are part of the set you've bought? That will help us understand better what you have and what you might still need.

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