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Which Chef Knife for me?

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 

 

Hi!

 

I have recently been inspired to start cooking more than a hamburger or steak.  I'm trying to collect cookbooks and am buying the pans and other gear.  My past experience at cooking was making my own meat sauce, meat balls, stuffed shells and food that really didn't require knife skills.

 

I have no knife skills at all but I try to emulate what I see on the Food Network

 

I have a Gerber chef knife, which has been in my husband's possession for decades. My husband sharpens it for me but it is still hard to get it through a head of cabbage

 

I have an average wooden cutting board

 

I have no preferences or prejudices about knives at all.  I just want something good for me that will last and that I will enjoy using

 

I live in a remote area and will have to order a knife online

 

I am not strong. I'm 5'3" and 112 pounds and approaching the big 6-0.

 

Thank you so much...

post #2 of 21

I have a Wusthof Grand Prix II which has served me pretty well. 

"J'aime cuisiner avec du vin, j'ai parfois même mettre dans les aliments je suis cuisson. ""Mi piace cucinare con il vino, talvolta ho persino messa nel cibo sto cottura. ""I enjoy cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food I'm cooking." - Julia Child 
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"J'aime cuisiner avec du vin, j'ai parfois même mettre dans les aliments je suis cuisson. ""Mi piace cucinare con il vino, talvolta ho persino messa nel cibo sto cottura. ""I enjoy cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food I'm cooking." - Julia Child 
Reply
post #3 of 21
Thread Starter 

Thank you. I think Wusthof is available in my area. I believe Macy's carries that brand, although they might not have that particular model here. Our mall is very small.

 

I am so spoiled from living in New York City where everything is available. Here, in the Pacific Northwest, it takes a half-hour drive to get a gallon of milk

 

I will check it out

 

Thanks 

post #4 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by missyjean View Post

Thank you. I think Wusthof is available in my area. I believe Macy's carries that brand, although they might not have that particular model here. Our mall is very small.

 

I am so spoiled from living in New York City where everything is available. Here, in the Pacific Northwest, it takes a half-hour drive to get a gallon of milk

 

I will check it out

 

Thanks 



No problem.  You can also get Wusthof from Amazon.  Where in the PNW are you?  I lived in Seatle once upon a time.

"J'aime cuisiner avec du vin, j'ai parfois même mettre dans les aliments je suis cuisson. ""Mi piace cucinare con il vino, talvolta ho persino messa nel cibo sto cottura. ""I enjoy cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food I'm cooking." - Julia Child 
Reply
"J'aime cuisiner avec du vin, j'ai parfois même mettre dans les aliments je suis cuisson. ""Mi piace cucinare con il vino, talvolta ho persino messa nel cibo sto cottura. ""I enjoy cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food I'm cooking." - Julia Child 
Reply
post #5 of 21
Thread Starter 

I am 2 hours from Seattle..toward Bremerton.  Do you miss Seattle?

 

I know I'd find a good selection if I took the trip to Seattle but I don't like to drive that far alone and my husband works so hard, I hate to make him burn his weekend driving me there.

 

When I go to Macy's, I will check out the knife and then maybe order it from Amazon as their prices are usually better

 

post #6 of 21
Thread Starter 

I'm still confused about a knife. I'm reading other threads which recommend Japanese knives. Would that be better for me?

post #7 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by missyjean View Post

I'm still confused about a knife. I'm reading other threads which recommend Japanese knives. Would that be better for me?

MAC knives are my personal preference, take a look at http://www.macknife.com/
 

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
Reply
Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
Reply
post #8 of 21

There are a lot of good knives in this world, and Wusthof makes some of them.  Is a Wusthof, or any western made knife better for you than a well-made Japanese of similar price?  Based on what we know about you and your situation, probably not.

 

As good?  More likely, but still probably not.  Given what I know about you, my guess is that you'd get more from a Japanese knife. 

 

Before going any further, I should say that one of the best knife retailers in the US, Epicurean Edge, is in Kirkland at 107 Central Way.   

 

EE actually has a wonderful inventory of Japanese made choices, and will also give excellent advice.  So, you're in the rare position where you can actually go and play with some knives that most people only meet on the net.  Whether or not it's worth the drive is not for me to say.

 

Also before getting into the analysis, I have a generic recommendation for people who want to move up to their first very good chef's knife, and/or their first Japanese chef's knife, and aren't terribly constrained by price and that's the MAC Pro.  More about it later.

 

Some Preliminaries:

 

The first thing to understand about kitchen knives in general is that at its most basic it's a way of bringing a sharp edge to a task. 

 

The next thing to understand is that a complex level a knife is part of a system which also includes knife skills, cutting board, sharpening kit, and sharpening skills.  

 

No matter how much you spend, no matter how good the ergonomics, no matter how good the fit and finish, no matter how good anything else, no knife is better than your ability to get it and keep it sharp.

 

How much sharpness do you want?  How much sharpness do you need?

 

There's no such thing as a knife which is too sharp.  And, it may come as a surprise to you, but the "factory edges" on OOTB (out of the box) new knives are seldom very shap at all.  Good sharpeners can produce much better.  But, you don't have to be the world's best sharpener to get a knife productive.

 

Yesterday my dad, his girl-friend Fonye, my own SO, Linda, and I went to "Duck Restaurant" in Monterey Park.  As it happens, I'd repaired and sharpened a few of Fonye's old Henckels not long ago, and the subject came up.  Linda and Fonye agreed (without any input from me) on the same things I'm raising here:  A really sharp knife makes a lot of difference, including making cooking more fun; "factory sharp" isn't all that sharp; and they added that a cook won't realize how much of a difference true sharpness makes until she tries it.  

 

It's safe to say that sharpness isn't so much a priority as THE priority.  But understand, that how sharp a knife is when you buy it is barely -- if at all -- a consideration. 

 

I mentally divide sharpness into a number of levels:  Too dull to use; needs sharpening; adequate, very sharp, extremely sharp (which polishing the edge); and absurd.  I'd put the sort of factory edge you'd get on a new Wusthof in the "adequate," class.  As a general rule, I sharpen most of my own knives to "extremely sharp" whenever they hit the lower limits of "very sharp."

 

That lower limit is a knife sharp enough that to cut tomato slices without using the tip to pierce the skin, cut mushrooms which may have gotten a little dry without crumbling, cut onions with almost no effort, and so on, and do fine cutting, such as julienne or brunoise, or fish work without too much thought or effort.  An extremely sharp knife feels like it "falls through" onions, cuts glass-smooth fish, and so on.  If you don't do much fine cutting "very sharp" is good enough. 

 

Your reality, that of wrestling with a cabbage is not good enough.  Whether the problem is with the knife itself or with your husband's sharpening is up in the air.  Probably both.  So we have to consider what the two of you are going to do about that in addition to buying a new knife.  Is he willing to develop his skills?  Invest in a better sharpening kit?  Et cetera

 

Unfortunately, you can't really get and keep a chef's knife sharp with very many methods.  With a few expensive exceptions, the possibilities are pretty much bench stones, a better jig and tool system like the EdgePro Apex, and Chef's Choice electric machines. 

 

I know there are people who swear by things like "V" sticks (Spyderco "Sharpmaker," Idahone, etc.), manual "pull throughs" (Wusthof, Henckels, Chef's Choice, etc.), gizmos like the rolla-sharp, and so on.  By and large they're either too "slow" to move enough metal to do necessary thinning and occasional re-profiling; or they're so aggressive they (a) create an edge which is too toothy (serrated) and not fine enough; and (b) actually wreck the knife.

 

Now Apply That to Knives:

 

When you go choose your knife, you want to look the edge characteristics of edge taking -- potential for absolute sharpness, difficulty in creating a sharp edge; and edge holding -- how much and what type of maintenance is required to keep the knife sharp without going back to the stones (or EdgePro, or a Chef's Choice electric)  for a complete re-sharpening.

 

This takes us back to your question about Japanese knives. 

 

Nearly all western makers limit themselves to a few stainless alloys -- none of which have good edge characteristics.  On the other hand, Japanese makers use a variety of stainless alloys -- nearly all of which have good to excellent edge characteristics.

 

That's it in a nutshell.

 

Take a Breath:

 

Enough for now.  You're probably overloading and I've got to take care of some other things.  You may also have some additional questions.

 

Let me know when you're ready for more,

BDL

post #9 of 21
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PeteMcCracken View Post



MAC knives are my personal preference, take a look at http://www.macknife.com/
 


Thank you. After reading your about Mac and boar_d_laze's post, I feel this is the way for me to go.

post #10 of 21
Thread Starter 


Wow! What can I say but thank you SO much for all the time you took to explain that to me.  I am going to copy your post and show it to my husband because I don't think I'd explain it nearly as well.

 

I'm excited about EE in Kirkland. I'll ask my husband to take me. He loves knives and is a collector (not cooking knives but the kind used in history.)

 

A little while ago I mentioned the Mac knife to him because I read another thread where it was recommended.  My husband was aware of that brand and also favors Japanese knives.  

 

He has en electric knife sharpener but if I need the Chef's version, maybe that can be a Christmas present for me.  I'm sure he would want to maintain the knife properly after making the investment.

 

Thank you SO very much!!!

 

I'll let you know what happens after we go there.

 

I would never have known about that store had you not told me. I rather hold the knife than just blindly order it online

 

Thank you again!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze View Post

There are a lot of good knives in this world, and Wusthof makes some of them.  Is a Wusthof, or any western made knife better for you than a well-made Japanese of similar price?  Based on what we know about you and your situation, probably not.

 

As good?  More likely, but still probably not.  Given what I know about you, my guess is that you'd get more from a Japanese knife. 

 

Before going any further, I should say that one of the best knife retailers in the US, Epicurean Edge, is in Kirkland at 107 Central Way.   

 

EE actually has a wonderful inventory of Japanese made choices, and will also give excellent advice.  So, you're in the rare position where you can actually go and play with some knives that most people only meet on the net.  Whether or not it's worth the drive is not for me to say.

 

Also before getting into the analysis, I have a generic recommendation for people who want to move up to their first very good chef's knife, and/or their first Japanese chef's knife, and aren't terribly constrained by price and that's the MAC Pro.  More about it later.

 

Some Preliminaries:

 

The first thing to understand about kitchen knives in general is that at its most basic it's a way of bringing a sharp edge to a task. 

 

The next thing to understand is that a complex level a knife is part of a system which also includes knife skills, cutting board, sharpening kit, and sharpening skills.  

 

No matter how much you spend, no matter how good the ergonomics, no matter how good the fit and finish, no matter how good anything else, no knife is better than your ability to get it and keep it sharp.

 

How much sharpness do you want?  How much sharpness do you need?

 

There's no such thing as a knife which is too sharp.  And, it may come as a surprise to you, but the "factory edges" on OOTB (out of the box) new knives are seldom very shap at all.  Good sharpeners can produce much better.  But, you don't have to be the world's best sharpener to get a knife productive.

 

Yesterday my dad, his girl-friend Fonye, my own SO, Linda, and I went to "Duck Restaurant" in Monterey Park.  As it happens, I'd repaired and sharpened a few of Fonye's old Henckels not long ago, and the subject came up.  Linda and Fonye agreed (without any input from me) on the same things I'm raising here:  A really sharp knife makes a lot of difference, including making cooking more fun; "factory sharp" isn't all that sharp; and they added that a cook won't realize how much of a difference true sharpness makes until she tries it.  

 

It's safe to say that sharpness isn't so much a priority as THE priority.  But understand, that how sharp a knife is when you buy it is barely -- if at all -- a consideration. 

 

I mentally divide sharpness into a number of levels:  Too dull to use; needs sharpening; adequate, very sharp, extremely sharp (which polishing the edge); and absurd.  I'd put the sort of factory edge you'd get on a new Wusthof in the "adequate," class.  As a general rule, I sharpen most of my own knives to "extremely sharp" whenever they hit the lower limits of "very sharp."

 

That lower limit is a knife sharp enough that to cut tomato slices without using the tip to pierce the skin, cut mushrooms which may have gotten a little dry without crumbling, cut onions with almost no effort, and so on, and do fine cutting, such as julienne or brunoise, or fish work without too much thought or effort.  An extremely sharp knife feels like it "falls through" onions, cuts glass-smooth fish, and so on.  If you don't do much fine cutting "very sharp" is good enough. 

 

Your reality, that of wrestling with a cabbage is not good enough.  Whether the problem is with the knife itself or with your husband's sharpening is up in the air.  Probably both.  So we have to consider what the two of you are going to do about that in addition to buying a new knife.  Is he willing to develop his skills?  Invest in a better sharpening kit?  Et cetera

 

Unfortunately, you can't really get and keep a chef's knife sharp with very many methods.  With a few expensive exceptions, the possibilities are pretty much bench stones, a better jig and tool system like the EdgePro Apex, and Chef's Choice electric machines. 

 

I know there are people who swear by things like "V" sticks (Spyderco "Sharpmaker," Idahone, etc.), manual "pull throughs" (Wusthof, Henckels, Chef's Choice, etc.), gizmos like the rolla-sharp, and so on.  By and large they're either too "slow" to move enough metal to do necessary thinning and occasional re-profiling; or they're so aggressive they (a) create an edge which is too toothy (serrated) and not fine enough; and (b) actually wreck the knife.

 

Now Apply That to Knives:

 

When you go choose your knife, you want to look the edge characteristics of edge taking -- potential for absolute sharpness, difficulty in creating a sharp edge; and edge holding -- how much and what type of maintenance is required to keep the knife sharp without going back to the stones (or EdgePro, or a Chef's Choice electric)  for a complete re-sharpening.

 

This takes us back to your question about Japanese knives. 

 

Nearly all western makers limit themselves to a few stainless alloys -- none of which have good edge characteristics.  On the other hand, Japanese makers use a variety of stainless alloys -- nearly all of which have good to excellent edge characteristics.

 

That's it in a nutshell.

 

Take a Breath:

 

Enough for now.  You're probably overloading and I've got to take care of some other things.  You may also have some additional questions.

 

Let me know when you're ready for more,

BDL

post #11 of 21
Thread Starter 

YAY!!! My husband is taking me to EE on Saturday. He is on board with your recommendations.

 

I went to their site and saw Mac has several series.  I browsed the Japanese series and don't see a chef's knife

 

http://www.epicedge.com/shopdisplaycategories.asp?id=257&cat=MAC+Knives

 

Is that the series I should be looking at?

 

post #12 of 21

I'd look at MAC Chef Series or, for a few dollars more, the MAC PRO series.

 

For home use, the TH-80 is pretty good IMHO, though you could go up to the TH-100 (longer knife).

 

I really like the BS-90 Bread knife, though it is NOT inexpensive.

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
Reply
Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
Reply
post #13 of 21
Thread Starter 

Thank you..I will look at those. And I do need a bread knife too, desperately 

post #14 of 21

The MAC Superior 10.5" is, quite possibly, the best bread/cake knife ever made.  I'm not sure any bread knife is worth $85 (or whatever it's going for these days), but if any one is, it's the MAC Superior.  If you feel that's too expensive, let's discuss alternatives.

 

MAC Pro is the chef's knife line you ought to be looking at.  It has a much stiffer blade, is easier to sharpen, and takes an holds an edge better than any other MAC.  In fact, it's among the stiffest of Japanese knives, a quality most westerners really like.  It's the knife I most frequently recommend; in fact, I just bought one as a gift for my dad's girlfriend and it's replaced her Henckels.  She loves it.

 

If you feel it's too expensive (understandable), my suggestion is to go with a maker other than MAC.  Just which one depends on your budget.

 

The less expensive lines, MAC Chef and Original are very nice -- especially for a working professional.  But there are better knives for most home cooks for similar money.  The Superior line just isn't that much of a deal compared to the better cosmetics and "feel" of the Pro.

 

Let me know what you're thinking in terms of budget and I'll go on describing some of the other things you ought to look for, and make some suggestions that will fit your needs and pocketbook.

 

BDL


Edited by boar_d_laze - 6/28/10 at 7:50pm
post #15 of 21
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze View Post

The MAC Superior 10.5" is, quite possibly, the best bread/cake knife ever made.  I'm not sure any bread knife is worth $85 (or whatever it's going for these days), but if any one is, it's the MAC Superior.  If you feel that's too expensive, let's discuss alternatives.

 

The MAC Pro is the chef's knife you ought to be looking at.  If you feel it's too expensive (understandable), my suggestion is to go with a maker other than MAC.  Just which one depends on your budget.

 

The MAC Superior, Chef's and Original are very nice -- especially for a working professional.  But there are better knives for most home cooks for similar money.

 

Let me know what you're thinking in terms of budget and I'll go on describing some of the other things you ought to look for, and make some suggestions that will fit your needs and pocketbook.

 

BDL

These knives will last my husband and I the rest of our lives.  We feel they are an investment.  We won't be buying them again.  I am going to be 60 and my husband is a few years younger. That was our attitude when we were shopping for cookware and we took the advice of the members of this board (the best board on the web, bar none) .I would rather get the best knives for us, even if it cost a little more.  I feel it is worth the difference.  My husband feels the same way.

 

It is so nice of you to take the time to help us.

 

Thank you so much!
 

post #16 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze View Post

The MAC Superior 10.5" is, quite possibly, the best bread/cake knife ever made.  I'm not sure any bread knife is worth $85 (or whatever it's going for these days), but if any one is, it's the MAC Superior.  If you feel that's too expensive, let's discuss alternatives.


I think the MAC is gonna get taken down a peg pretty soon!  Mark Richmond from CKtG has enough "juice" and contacts that he's persuaded Tojiro to make a DP bread knife.  It will be patterned on the MAC, same basic shape & very similar scalloped serration, but a little bit longer and made of Swedish steel.  If it lives up to the early buzz it may well be the best bread knife on the planet.

"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
Reply
"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
Reply
post #17 of 21
Thread Starter 

I placed an order with Epicurean Edge.

 

The salesman was very helpful and knowledgeable

 

I ordered this chef knife:

 

http://www.epicedge.com/shopexd.asp?id=83647

 

and  this bread knife

 

http://www.epicedge.com/shopexd.asp?id=83635

 

 

Thank you so much for all the help

post #18 of 21

Psst, don't  "check the edge" with your finger or thumb! Just try slicing a ripe tomato by placing the heel on the tomato and drawing the knife back WITHOUT any down pressure. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

 

I KNOW BDL will cast me to the demons, but I've used a Fiskar RollSharp to maintain my MACS (NOT the bread knife ) for the past ten years with no obvious adverse consequences.

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
Reply
Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
Reply
post #19 of 21
Thread Starter 

Okay, I'll try to remember not to do that   

post #20 of 21

I found Wusthof Classic knives for cheap at this website called www.all4achef.com.

post #21 of 21
Thread Starter 

Thank you MadGreek.

 

I did follow boar_d_laze's and Peter's suggestion and bought the Mac Pro chef knife and the Mac Superior bread knife.

 

I used the Chef knife for the first time tonight...OMG!!! It just sailed right through the cabbage. It was effortless and a pleasure to use

 

Thank you to everyone who gave me advice and opinions..I really appreciate you guys a lot

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