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What Makes a Good Knife Review?

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 

Imagine you're in the market for a new chef's or other kitchen knife, and you've either overwhelmed by the infinite number of perfectly good choices, or have edited your short list down to a meaningful few. 

 

You're perusing your favorite cooking site, or perhaps just googling along and you see that one or two of those knives of interest has been reviewed. 

 

What information would help you limit the knife universe to a few "can't go wrong" choices?

 

What would you need to know in order to pull the trigger?

 

Is there any sort of organization which would help make the review more meaningful or understandable?

 

What do you consider a time-wasters? 

 

Are there things you find particularly irritating?

 

Anything else you'd care to add?

 

Don't feel you need to answer these particular questions, they're just to get you started. 

 

Let me hear your thoughts,

BDL


Edited by boar_d_laze - 8/29/10 at 8:30pm
post #2 of 28

Reviews are by their nature awfully subjective, so I appreciate when more specific "hands-on" facts are included.  Information such as height of the blade, it's weight, thickness of the spine, balance, handle material, OAL, et cetera.  I know you can't really tell if you'll enjoy a knife until you've spent, what, a few hours with it on your board (or at least waved it wildly around BB&B), but sometimes the simple brass tacks can help decide if it's worth the trip or the effort.

post #3 of 28

I think some comparison to well-known knives would be helpful: advantages and disadvantages w/r/t Forschner, Wusthof, and Shun lines, for example.

post #4 of 28
Thread Starter 

Good thought.

 

BDL

post #5 of 28

BDL, I was reading the Forschner 8" chef's knife reviews and I saw that your opinion was that giving that knife a 4-5 stars was wrong in your viewpoint.  I am one of the people that left such glowing reviews of it.  However, I indicated that price was most certainly a huge factor in my opinion.  Also, the fact that I've never touched a truly high-quality knife, weighed heavily in my review.  For $30, I was extremely satisfied with my purchase and would definitely recommend it to anyone who asked my opinion.  However, your opinion was that it was a 2-3 star knife regardless of price. 

 

Simply stated, our opinions differ, although I'm sure if I used one of those super-shiny Japanese knives, I would agree with your assessment.  I guess my point is, we come from different levels, different expectations, and different experience.

 

When you're coming from a Chevy Chevette, a Malibu seems like a dream car.  However, if you're driving a vette, I doubt you'd have the same opinion of the Malibu :).

post #6 of 28

BDL, are you trying to improve your own reviews, or turn this thread into a collaborative guide for people to look at before they write a review?

 

I ask this because IMO the most important thing is that the reviewer knows what they're talking about and has enough experience to put things in perspective. That's why your recommendations are so valuable. If I saw some reviews on a random cooking site I wouldn't give them much weight, because there are so many misconceptions about knives and knife use (as I have come to find out since I joined this forum). If I were to sift through a bunch of reviews in order to chose between two or three knives, I would look for signs of experience. Ideally the reviewer would include how they sharpened the knife (if at all), how they used it and for how long, and maybe how much experience they have working with kitchen knives. This sort of preface would give people an idea of how valid the reviewer's impressions are. Obviously if you're gearing a review towards CT regulars you wouldn't need as much of this kind of info.

 

Seconding CookinMT's idea about tech specs.

 

If you want to improve your own reviews (a daunting task to say the least), it would be helpful if you assigned numerical values to certain aspects of the knife. For me, quantitative information is always easier to look at and think about than prose when comparing knives in an attempt to make a decision. I know ChefTalk already makes you assign star ratings to value, performance, handle, and blade, but those obviously don't reflect the qualities of the knife to the point where they're useful. Categories like edge characteristics, profile, and F&F would be a lot more helpful. I don't know enough to propose a system that would reflect the qualities of a knife fully yet succinctly, but if you decide to start quantifying your reviews I would like to see more categories rather than fewer. Perhaps it would make sense to split "edge characteristics" into "edge taking" and "edge holding," for example. As long as you're consistent. Other reviewers could do this too, but the scores would obviously vary from person to person. Probably wouldn't be worth it unless you plan to write a bunch of reviews. Aaaaand I'm rambling.

 

Malch

post #7 of 28
Thread Starter 

Gobbly,

Like you said gobbly, it's a question of perspective.  Forschners Rosewood and Fibrox chef's knives are five star values, but there are only so many points you can award for outperforming the price.

 

As European and American stainless chef's knives go, they have slightly better edge characteristics than knives which cost significantly more, are lighter, and have a similar profile.  They're nicely made with good fit and finish, but don't compare them to Wusthofs, Henckels, top of the line F. Dicks, Messermeister, Lamsons, and so on. 

 

Compared to good Sabatier carbons and just about any good Japanese made knives their edge characteristics (which are objective) and profiles (which admittedly is a matter of taste) suffer severely.  

 

I score great knives at no more than 4-1/2 stars, because nothing's perfect.  So, if a great knife is 4-1/2 what should a Forschner Fibrox get? 

 

But heck, the star rating is a lot less important than what you have to say about the knife.  I think you've got that very right.

 

Malch,

Giving points for sharpening characteristics and so on -- good idea.  Very, very good idea. 

 

Am I asking for my own reiviews or to help other people conceptualize theirs?  Yes, both. 

 

BDL

post #8 of 28


I certainly see your point, and I'm glad you see mine.  At some point, the price increase has diminishing returns.  While a $180 knife may be worth trading in 6 of the Fibrox knives, at some level, you decide that "enough is enough" on cost.  A $360 knife may be worth trading in 2 of those $180 knives.  But at some point, you have to look at the "value" and stop trading up.  I think we agree that it's a fine knife for $30 and hard to beat in that price range.  I judge it as "For $30, it's an excellent knife".  You judge it as "it's a fair knife at a great price".  In fairness, it's a knife review not a $30 knife review, so I guess the underlying question should be "in the world of knives, where does this knife rank", rather than "if you have $30 to spend on a knife, where does this one rank".  It all depends on your motivation (product or cost), and if the public wouldn't consider "cost" so much, McDonald's would quit showing up in "Top Ten" lists for "hamburgers" -- when Taco Bell makes the top 10 as best Mexican restaurants, I pretty much determined that "reader polls" are better served for bathroom "paperwork" than reading.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze View Post

 

I score great knives at no more than 4-1/2 stars, because nothing's perfect.  So, if a great knife is 4-1/2 what should a Forschner Fibrox get? 

 

post #9 of 28
Thread Starter 

Yes to pretty much everything you're saying --with one exception.

 

The question, "is one 270mm Masamoto KS worth 10 Forschners?" is not properly framed.  Better would be, "If a Forschner is $35, how much would a Masamoto worth to you?  Obviously, my semantic jiu-jitsu is very much like what you used to illuminate the "how many stars" question.

 

Most people seem to look for knives within a particular price range -- which makes a lot of sense. 

 

Something else, it's hard to make a general cost-effectiveness, "law of diminishing returns" analysis for chef's knives because people value some characteristics so differently.  Where on the price/performance curve the law of diminishing returns starts kicking hard is just too idiosyncratic.

 

For instance, I'd pay extra for shiroko #2 or V2C (Japanese carbon steels) for their edge characteristics, but blow cooler on any of the aogmai alloys (other expensive Japanese carbon steels), while you might not want be willing to accept a carbon knife at any price. 

 

It's easy to reach some conclusions, for instance Forschner Rosewood and JCK Kagayaki VG-10 are both excellent values; but no matter how good they are (and each is excellent for its type), Wusthof Ikon and Hattori Forum FH are not nearly as good values.  But it's much harder to say whether you should bite the bullet and pony up $100 extra for the many actual advantages of the "better" knives.   

 

Add to this that as you climb the price ladder, you can get into some rather expensive sharpening issues.  So, the real cost isn't just the price of the knife, but the price of sharpening as well. 

 

Sometimes there are irrational considerations as well -- or at least irrational from a performance standpoint.  Some people love a "Damascus" look; some people want exotic material handles; some people want a "PM" alloy hardened to 63.  We may not, but who are we to say no?  

 

Not only is there no general right answer or even a formula you can just plug data into, but there's seldom any single best answer for one person.  The best you can do is honestly identify the wants and needs, take as many factors as possible into account, make as much sense as possible out of the available options, and limit the list to nothing but good choices.

 

That's why when someone says a given knife, usually a very expensive one -- say a Kramer or Shigefusa -- is the "best knife in the world," I have to look askance.  Even though it doesn't make sense within the logic of the lanuage, there are quite a few "best knives" in the world.  Take the Masamoto HC for instance.  There may be many other knives you like more, and you may not even like it at all, but it's hard to argue that a Masamoto HC is not at least one of the best western handled, carbon knives made at any price.

 

Not to circle back too much to a settled issue, but isn't being that good part of the "value" equation as well?  At least enough so, that even at its price, the knife can't be considered a poor value. 

 

Right now, I'm looking for a type of wa-gyuto (Japanese handled chef's) known as a "laser" because it's so thin it cuts effortlessly.  Several companies have figured out how to make them in a few stainless, semi-stainless and carbon allloys.  The prices for my preferred length (27cm) start at around $210 (Yusuke) and run up to around $375 (Suisun Honyaki Inox).  How do you compare the value of one of these to a Forschner?  Forschners are so different from lasers, is a comparison at all fair.  Yet, they're both chef's knives, both are applied to the same tasks, so how do you not compare them?  It's not a rhetorical question, it matters to me if no one else.   

 

Sometimes you learn more by advancing the questions rather than finding some particular, "right" answer. 

 

And don't get cocky.  I smell expensive knife in your not-too-distant future.  You're too curious not to see what all the fuss is about.

 

BDL

post #10 of 28

You, sir, read me like a book!  The one thing that keeps me from it is that I cannot yet comprehend all the lingo and would be throwing my money at a roulette wheel.  I have discovered that an 8" is smaller than what I consider the correct size for me, but I have what I'm guessing is a 14" (Montana, bought at a restaurant auction that I surely overpaid for) and it's too big.  It's a forged knife with a full tang, so it outweighs the Forschner by a long shot.  It's possible that a stamped knife that was lighter might not be as intimidating, but for now, I'm looking for a 10".  Unless something changes in my wallet, it will probably be another Victorinox with either Fibrox or sani-safe (still trying to figure out the major difference) handle.  The plastics are just too darned gripable for me to go to wood or other materials at this point. 

 

If I could get my hands on some other knives to play around with, I very likely would get a better knife, but even then, the only stores where I can touch higher end knives like Henckel, etc is Bed Bath and Beyond (I told you I'm in rural America :) ).  I can't even find a 10" on shelves anywhere.  Without USING the knife, I can't drop that kind of money on one.  Now, if Bass Pro (or another retailer with a good return policy) carried such things, I'd be all over it.  However, everything I seem to read by the experts on here is that the top brands in the US are really not the best value in their price range and I probably need to look at the Japanese knives. 

 

Got any old crap you wanna send me? :)
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze View Post

And don't get cocky.  I smell expensive knife in your not-too-distant future.  You're too curious not to see what all the fuss is about.

post #11 of 28

I can't even find a 10" on shelves anywhere. 

 

I find that very surprising, Gobblygook. Even our BB&B, which isn't the best stocked store in the chain, carries several models in that length. Indeed, that's where I bought my Henkels Professional S about a year ago.

 

If they don't have them in their displays, ask if they can get some in. If nothing else, knowing their level of customer service, they'll probably "borrow" some from another store.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #12 of 28
Thread Starter 

Outside of a very few big cities there aren't many places where you can get a Japanese knife to wave around the way you'd try a Henckels at BB&B. 

 

It's sad but true. 

 

Also my brother (better than grandson), the "try before you buy" that you get in department and cooking stores tends to less informative then more -- except sometimes in the case of wildly "ergonomic" handles -- you'll run into things which you can instantly recognize as impossible for you.  While teaching a few knife skills classes, one of the things I learned demoing student's knives was that even a few minutes of actual sharpening and use rendered the whole waving around thing invalid.  It turned out I'd learned far more from my friends', bosses' (when I was still in a kitchen), and even my butchers' recommendations. than I ever did in a store. 

 

There was a recent thread which should have been called Petals Goes To The Market, but unfortunately wasn't.  In it (both the thread and the market), she tried a Porsche Chroma and discovered, "OMG, This SUCKS!"  Good to know before you buy, eh?  Now tens of thousands of people like them, so obviously they don't suck for everyone; and the Chroma handle is just one of those things you have to try for yourself.  Here's a link to the thread, ignore my contributions, it's petals' and rat's which count.

 

Anyway, there are a lot of people who write honestly and knowledgeably about knives, whom you can trust -- even about things as seemingly personal as "feel."  If a knife is at all idiosyncratic, they (we) will let you know.  Of course we all have our preferences, and you have to sort them out to make sure you either share them or understand them well enough to discount.  We also sometimes use language very differently.  For instance, gator (the z-knives guy) means something  different when he uses the terms "French profile" and "German profile" than I do.  It seems he mostly means width, I mostly mean arc (aka belly).

 

Obviously, it's a huge leap of faith to buy a $160 knife on someones' say so -- even several someones -- but if you want the rich, creamy goodness that is better Japanese knives it's about the only way.  Honestly though, it doesn't always work out unfortunately. 

 

I ended up buying then selling and giving away four Hiromoto AS mostly because -- as it turned out -- I really, really, really (get the idea?) dislike the "feel" of cladded knives.  Also, Linda and I were antipathetic to their un-Sabatier handling -- itself dispositive.  Actually the information was available, but was so in love with the idea of getting a particular alloy (AS) for cheap I didn't pay attention to the right people. 

 

But not only would I buy another knife without trying it, based only on recommendation; there's one on order.  Come to Papa little Konetsuke. 

 

To get back to the subject of you, the moral of the story is that tons of people end up disliking the knives they tried in BB&B too.  That's why there's such a huge trend towards e-commerce, Japanese blades.  There are several people on this forum well worth listening to on the subject.  You might want to try joining Foodie Forums, hanging out in Fred's Cutlery Forum, and asking some questions there.  It's not perfect, but there's less noise, and fewer strange opinions expressed as fact than the Knife Forum -- which also worth joining.

 

On the subject:  Better Japanese knives are only better than better European and American knives if you care a lot about sharpness and are willing to trade off some durability for it.  They are by no means a better choice or even a decent value for everyone. 

 

BDL

post #13 of 28

to wave around the way you'd try a Henckels at BB&B. 

 

Wave around? What sort of disparaging comment is that supposed to be?

 

There are two groups of criteria that should be used when choosing a knife. First are the objective ones: the size, contour, ability to take and hold an edge, alloy, etc. If you list all of those that are important to you, what's left is the second group: feel. How does the knife fit your hand? Does it balance well in use? Is the weight tiring? Etc. And those are the things you determine by putting a prospective purchase through the same motions, on a cutting board, that you use when actually cutting, chopping, slicing, and so forth.

 

Any reputable knife seller will let you put a knife though those motions. Sometimes, not often but sometimes, the clerk will actually bring you something to use the knife on; an onion, or a potato. But even without those, the fit and feel of the knife are easily determined once you actually have it in your hands with a cutting board in front of you.

 

If that's "waving it around" so be it. Personally, I would never purchase a knife I couldn't do that with first.

 

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #14 of 28

"Waving it around BB&B" is a hyperbolic--and slightly cynical--allusion to the idea that a knife's feel can discerned by a few minutes of hands-on experimentation, whether or not the service people actually bring you a potato or an onion to try it on.  (Also, really dude?  Little Billy packed a raw Yukon Gold in his lunch box that day?)

 

Speaking of ridiculous, my Hattori HD knife was stupidly fun to wave around out of the box, and even after the initial demo on a few onions and peppers I loved it.  After 40 hours of use in the restaurant, I'm kinda irritated with the "stickiness" of the cladding, and the tendency of the sharp, unrelieved heel to catch on a towel--to the point that I don't use it anymore.  Those first few minutes of usage approximation don't count for anything.

post #15 of 28

So, let's see.

 

Mail ordering a knife that you've never even seen, let alone touched, is good. But hands-on experimenting with a knife in a store is bad, because you only have a few moments rather than a few hours.

 

Gimme a break.

 

No, "waving it around" for a few minutes won't always tell you how happy you'll be after X hours of use. But it will certainly tell you if there are immediate problems with weight, or balance, or handle design. It will tell you if there is enough rocker for your style, or not enough. It will tell you if the length is right or wrong for you.

 

There is a basic issue, here, that impinges on the original topic (i.e., what should a knife review entail). The problem is not considering the audience. There is, to be sure, a coterie of knife freaks at CT. And for them, a symposia on metallurgy, and alloys used in knife making, and precise cutting differences between a 15 degree and 17 degree edge angle are interesting; perhaps really important. For them, a knee-jerk "Japanese is good, everything else isn't" attitude maybe works, as a discussion about the relative merits of this water stone over that one.

 

But the fact is, most members---even the professional ones (and, let us not forget that right now we are not in a professionals-only forum) are not only disinterested in that level of detail, they are bored by it. What they want to know is whether or not a particular knife is right for them, based on 1. cost, and 2. it's ability to do the job in reasonable comfort.

 

Example: Most cooks could care less that food "sticks" to the Hattori because of the cladding (if that, indeed, is the reason). All they want to know is that it does. And that a minor design flaw can be rectified in about two minutes with a file.

 

Snobbery, which is endemic to knife freaks, should not enter the picture. But it does. I would suggest, for instance, that you were initially doing a happy dance with your Hattori HD because you were predisposed to believe that a Japanese knife was automatically superior. For what they cost they should be. But, oh my, what a surprise, it turns out not to be the case in practical terms---and maybe, just maybe, one of those much-maligned German knives would have worked better for you. Or even, God forbid, a knife made by an American company.

 

On one hand, I have a Chicago Cutlery paring knife I paid about four bucks for 30 years ago. It fits my hand perfectly, has the blade shape I prefer, takes an edge easily and holds it two days longer than forever. On the other hand, let's not forget that Shun are Japanese made knives.

 

Also, really dude?  Little Billy packed a raw Yukon Gold in his lunch box that day?)

 

You know, I notice something about you. Anytime you run into something outside your own experience you respond with a snide comment or a poor attempt at sarcasm. Maybe you need to get out in the world more and see what really goes on.

 

 

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #16 of 28

You may send your horrid refuse my way.  I'll even pay shipping :). 

 

I have an idea for the hard core knife guys... custom handles.  The gun guys love to go buy a new gun and immediately replace the grips with aftermarket grips.  How a knife feels in the hand is very important.  One of you should start a line of custom knife handles to replace those factory ones :).  But seriously, being able to hold a knife will give you at least SOME idea of whether it's for you or not.  If you'd opened up your Hattori and it felt "wrong", you probably would have given up on it sooner and possibly not have purchased it at all.  We all have different hands and what feels right to one person can feel awkward to another. 
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by CookinMT View Post
Speaking of ridiculous, my Hattori HD knife was stupidly fun to wave around out of the box, and even after the initial demo on a few onions and peppers I loved it.  After 40 hours of use in the restaurant, I'm kinda irritated with the "stickiness" of the cladding, and the tendency of the sharp, unrelieved heel to catch on a towel--to the point that I don't use it anymore. 
post #17 of 28

KYH:

 

"Mail ordering a knife that you've never even seen, let alone touched, is good. But hands-on experimenting with a knife in a store is bad, because you only have a few moments rather than a few hours."

 

Does all your logic confirm the consequent, Hot Browns, or do you just pick and choose when to be irrational?

 

"I would suggest, for instance, that you were initially doing a happy dance with your Hattori HD because you were predisposed to believe that a Japanese knife was automatically superior. For what they cost they should be. But, oh my, what a surprise, it turns out not to be the case in practical terms---and maybe, just maybe, one of those much-maligned German knives would have worked better for you. Or even, God forbid, a knife made by an American company."

 

I would suggest, for instance, that you should stick to writing reviews, or other literary applications where your thoughts are not afforded a venue for criticism.  This borderline paranoid delusion you've created from simply having someone else disagree with you is amazing, really. 

 

"You know, I notice something about you. Anytime you run into something outside your own experience you respond with a snide comment or a poor attempt at sarcasm. "

 

Probably.  Interestingly enough, anytime you run into something outside your own experience, you respond like a smug, self satisfied prick.  Wanna get a beer?

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by gobblygook View Post

You may send your horrid refuse my way.  I'll even pay shipping :). 

 

I have an idea for the hard core knife guys... custom handles.  The gun guys love to go buy a new gun and immediately replace the grips with aftermarket grips.  How a knife feels in the hand is very important.  One of you should start a line of custom knife handles to replace those factory ones :).  But seriously, being able to hold a knife will give you at least SOME idea of whether it's for you or not.  If you'd opened up your Hattori and it felt "wrong", you probably would have given up on it sooner and possibly not have purchased it at all.  We all have different hands and what feels right to one person can feel awkward to another.

 

Holding it in your hand can give you some approximation, sure.  I'll agree to that.  However, I think it's relative usefulness in determining the overall potential of the knife isn't so great it justifies too much consideration; unless the knife just feels horrible, there's a good chance that your BB&B shadow-boxing isn't really showing you what the knife can and will feel like at home, in your own kitchen, on your own board, doing all the tasks you routinely do.

 

Also, hands off the Hattori!  I may not keep it as a line knife, but I certainly enjoy having it around the kitchen for whisper-thin slices of cucumber.  ;)  


Edited by CookinMT - 9/6/10 at 8:00am
post #18 of 28

Whoa, that got contentious quick. Anybody else notice BDL has a knack for starting threads that end in arguments? I think you do it on purpose dude :)

 

So back to the OP question, and this has already been covered a little, but price paid is often overlooked. Most people (by which I mean me) have a price range in mind when shopping for anything. Sure I'd love a Mercedes but my current budget is more in the Kia range. If you know you can't afford it, you're not going to go test drive it. Additionally, quality relative to cost (how I would define value) is of utmost importance to most newbies. Just because a knife (or any product) is in the same price range, it does not mean it is of comparable quality- see cutco. What I am looking for is confirmation that I'm not being ripped off. Enter reviewers experience, both with the product being reviewed and similar products, as well as qualification. I'm sure my opinion on knives would carry much less weight than a professional chefs. Of course this is a highly egocentric opinion. With anything being written the question is, who is your target demographic?

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Nurses, we're here to get our gloves dirty, and wash our hands frequently.
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post #19 of 28

Pictures always perk up a review's interest.

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #20 of 28

Despite all the contentiousness, I'll wade in just a little.

 

The basic problem with the "how does it feel in your hand?" thing, legitimate though that is as a question, is that you quickly end up comparing apples with oranges. I used to subscribe to this view, in fact, and would never have bought a knife without holding it. I have changed my opinion.

 

Let's stick to 10" chef's knives for the nonce. Suppose I have the following options, in some strange situation: Forschner Rosewood, Wusthof Trident, Shun Pro, Masamoto HC. Now you're never going to see all of those in one store, so far as I know. But supposed you did. What you'd soon realize is that the first two are comparable, the second two are comparable, and the two groups are not comparable. It's not a question of quality but of weight, first and foremost: the Masamoto weighs terrifyingly little. Strict comparison: my Masamoto KS 270mm chef's knife, which is actually a bit over 11", weighs noticeably less than my wife's old Wusthof Trident 6.5" chef's. So which feels better in the hand? Well.... meaning what, precisely?

 

Now most --- though not all --- of those who push for the "try it in your hand first" approach are skeptical about the vaunted qualities of Japanese knives. I suspect that there are a number of causal factors here. But one thing I've noticed is that if you line up people who are serious about cooking and knife use, and have not really dug into the whole Japanese knife thing, you will find that they gravitate toward somewhat heavier knives. I did this myself, in the past. I think one reason is that you can really feel --- or think you can --- that the knife is going to do work for you: just drop that weight, with a decent edge, and bam the thing is cut.

 

Problem is, a knife that is freakishly thinner and ludicrously sharper is going to act the same way, and be less work to move around. And knives like that at this point come in Japanese.

 

So then we've got the comparison to make between the Masamoto and the Shun, or the Wusthof and the Forschner. In the latter case, everything I have read or experienced tells me that you should go with the Forschner because it's 6 of 1, half-dozen of the other, and the Forschner is way cheaper. In the former case, however, you're looking at something that is unpleasantly overpriced as against the much more expensive knife that is unquestionably one of the finest knives of its kind currently made. So which should you buy? Your brief experience in a shop is going to tell you nothing here.

 

I know this is rambling, but there is a real point, and it comes back to the stated question of the thread.

 

If I were looking to buy a new knife and didn't know very much about them, I'd probably do a little web-surfing and discover, horror of horrors, that it's a vast and complicated world. If I found my way to CT, or were already a member reading let's say the baking and gardening sections, I'd want to know that whoever is doing the reviewing can be sane about pricing, knows what he or she is talking about, and will be serious about the implications of maintenance. So I wouldn't want the reviews constantly to sneer at Forschners, for example, nor to say "well, this is a fabulous knife, although of course you'll have to do some heavy thinning to get the most out of it, but that's no problem, just use a full progression from maybe a 220 or something and right the way up, just a couple days' work should do it, and then this is a great knife." Uh huh. I'd prefer that the review keep that sort of information to the end: "this isn't a great knife, frankly, in the following ways, although it also has these strengths. It is true, in fact, that you can really make this thing sing by doing this heavy thinning work, and here's a link about how people do that, but frankly if that sounds to you like a ridiculous amount of work, this is not the knife for you." (I have in mind the Aritsugu Tsukiji A-series wa-gyuto, for those who care.)

 

If I were looking to buy a new knife and were deeply wedded to the "hold it in my hand in the store" school of thought, and I did not live in a very large urban center, I'd probably find any truly honest knife reviewing irritating. I say this because I know that the knives I'd find --- as some have already mentioned --- available to hold in stores would simply not be very good, and they'd be considerably overpriced. There is value in review articles that say, "if you're stuck with this, and can't bring yourself to drop this kind of change sight unseen (or handle unheld), here's the best you can do." But that gets old pretty quick, you know?

 

To conclude, though, BDL, I do think there is a crucial genre to think about: the review article. I don't know how this would work here at CT, but the point would be to review a cluster of fairly comparable knives as a cluster. Which is the best of this bunch? If I am willing to go up a major price bracket from this bunch, let's say, what would I gain, if anything? That would make a good system of reference against which to read individual knife reviews.

post #21 of 28
Quote:

 

To conclude, though, BDL, I do think there is a crucial genre to think about: the review article. I don't know how this would work here at CT, but the point would be to review a cluster of fairly comparable knives as a cluster. Which is the best of this bunch? If I am willing to go up a major price bracket from this bunch, let's say, what would I gain, if anything? That would make a good system of reference against which to read individual knife reviews.


Yeah, what he said, I agree with him. I have found that kind of setup works well for tools, appliances etc. Why not knives? Sounds like a wiki article series to me, so get crackin' guys.

Nurses, we're here to get our gloves dirty, and wash our hands frequently.
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Nurses, we're here to get our gloves dirty, and wash our hands frequently.
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post #22 of 28
Thread Starter 

The idea of a gang knife review is interesting.  Unfortunately I don't have access to that many knives at a time.  But the next time I do review a knife, I'll try to compare it to knives of the same and different types in a similar price range.

 

KY brought up a lot of good points, I may not agree with some of them but respect all of them.  It would be stupid not to if for no other reason than that his thinking is representative of a lot of other peoples'.  I don't expect everyone to share my views regarding what does and does not constitute good shopping practices, or what is and what is not adequately sharp.  He and I seem to have very different standards regarding the latter especially, but it's pretty obvious he knows how to sharpen and different standards aren't the point -- it's having a good idea of what to expect.  I'd like to think that when I review a knife, he can say whether or not it fits within a small group he'd like to try at a store if they had them. 

 

As to what kind of disparaging comment my "waving around" remark was... Mundane sarcasm, pretty much.

 

Chris's thinking is very close to mine on the utility of the sort of trials you get in a knife, kitchen, or department store.  While I do think you can weed out a few knives which are absolutely unacceptable, I don't think you can make meaningful evaluations without trying the knife with an edge you'll actually be using.  Cooking and Boy seem to be of similar minds, too.

 

I HATE reviews that are based on OOTB edges. The first things I want to know from a review is what kind of edge a knife will take and whether it will keep it.  On the other hand, it may be better to keep the "edge characteristics" part of the review brief and not too technical.  

 

Your thoughts?

 

I just took this picture for another purpose, but thought it might be interesting to anyone who wants to look at a wonderful knife, may help dispel the mistaken notion I don't like European knives, and because phatch mentioned it.  So, at great expense to the management, without further ado, Ladies and Gentlemen I give you the talented and the lovely,

TOld, clean Sab

35 year old, 10" K-Sabatier au carbone chef's knife, used daily for the past 8 years, freshly cleaned with baking soda and a Scotch Brite.  Note that despite age and frequent sharpening, the blade retains its original profile; also that the bottom of the finger guard has been ground down (every year or so, on a coarse stone) so the heel isn't notched.

 

Feel free to lust.

 

BDL


Edited by boar_d_laze - 9/6/10 at 9:51pm
post #23 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze View Post

 The first things I want to know from a review is what kind of edge a knife will take and whether it will keep it.  On the other hand, it may be better to keep the "edge characteristics" part of the review brief and not too technical.  

 

Your thoughts?


At the risk of simply parroting an idea already mentioned, I think the relevance of those specifics hinges entirely upon the target audience; a quick perusal of knife reviews on CT shows an extreme variation in interpretations of sharpness and retention, to the point that being particularly specific just wouldn't be worthwhile.  As KYH mentioned:  to many, the details can get boring. Conversely, were you writing for Alligator's audience, you damn well better have all the explicit, scandalous details complete with a naughty centerfold. 

 

Speaking of naughty centerfolds (cheap segue to phatch's comment, regarding photos as a way to pique interest): researching a knife for a potential purchase means looking at dozens of identical stock photographs, so I strongly "+1" this idea.    To me, what made Jim Berman's review of the New West knife, here on CT, particularly interesting was the inclusion of the two thoughtful, well picked photographs that showed me the product at different angles and in different light.  No, I don't need individual pictures of spine and handle and a "blade geometry money-shot," but a different perspective is always great.


Edited by CookinMT - 9/6/10 at 11:23pm
post #24 of 28

 

Some comments I hear from people; Some things I see cooks do.   Who are you in these examples?

 

    - All I ever do is cut miraPlox and cook chicken breasts all day. I hate my job and have no passion for what I do.

    - My chef loves diamond-cut bells, fine julianne and perfect carrot cubes and accepts nothing less than perfection. I have to filet tomato skins and prep tenderloins all in a days work.

    - I work at a sandwich shoppe or hotdog stand. I only use a knife to defend myself from robbers and health inspectors.

    - I am the meat or fish chef and am responsible for all break-down, portion, sous vide, cooking and plating from the time the fish/meat is delivered until it hits the window.

    - I am the bread and pastry chef. I am never seen during service, in fact, I only work three days a week but make twice as much as the sous chef. I wield a 12" pallete knife.

    - I just want my own knife because I hate the Dexter-Russles they have at work.

    - I just want a cool knife because next to the chrome spinners on my 1972 Dodge Dart, it is the only status symbol that defines me.

    - I just want a light knife that fits on a 16x16 cutting surface. I want reasonable quality because I pay to have my knives sharpened and only want to do it twice a year or so.

    - I chop everything like jackhammer, and like to see carrots and celery fly off my board like a weed-eater - i can chop at 750 hacks per minute and only hit my knuckle once a week.

    - I slice everything and the forward radius of my knife has never left the cutting board. Smooth, circular motions... that's what I'm all about.

    - I've been cooking for 30 years, and it doesn't matter what knife I use, as long as it is sharp. I can sharpen it my self if it is dull. Doesn't need to be perfect, just serviceable.

    - I am one of the three remaining cooks in the world that actually knows how to use a steel. I like a toothy but well-maintained edge, not a razor blade.

    - I spend more time getting a mirror edge on my RC-90 Asian light sabre than I spend actually cooking with it. I strope my knife on the the down feathers of baby angles.

    - I'm a three-knife kind of chef. If i can't do it with my chef's or paring knife, I go to the meat slicer, mandoline or delegate the task to some freak with a 19" single-bevel sushi knife.

    - I can't even bring my wallet into the kitchen without someone stealing it from my pocket. I just need a knife that works, but isn't expensive, because they already stole all the house knives.

    - My chef will randomly jump my station to cut something. If I have a dull knife he will ride my ass and assign all mincing, slicing and other delecate work to me for the rest of the day.

    - My wife/husband/kids use my knife and have no respect for me, my knife or what the dish washer, cookie sheet or granite counter top does to cutlery.

    - I fit all my work tools inside a bain marie, and want a knife that can fit inside a protector, and not tip-over the bain when I'm not using it.

    - I like proprietary handles, like Fury, Global, Porche... So i guess it doesn't matter, because I'm getting one of those.

    - My hands are gigantic (or tiny) and the handle is more important than the knife profile to be honest.

    - I'm not really an advanced cook, but I just want a good knife that is sharper than that crap Chef Tony sold me for 19.95 along with the slap-chop accessory.

    - When I grasp my blade and point it toward the sky, lightning strikes the tip and beams of light pierce from my eyes. I need a knife that deserves me as an owner.

    - I have 6,300 other knives but I want to cut little pieces from all of them and build the ultimate Voltron knife that has only the best attributes from each of the others.

    - It took me 35 hours to sharpen my mom's Shun after she neglected it for a year. I never want to experience that again - What's "almost" as hard but still good?

    - I process 18,000 chickens a day. I'd rather have a cheap knife and a diamond steel than something that takes me longer than two seconds to sharpen.

    - I want my expensive cutlery to match my expensive copper pans and expensive marble and ivory kitchen decor.

    - I want a knife that fits on the microscopic line station I'm crammed into, but it still has to be large enough to shred lettuce and slice duck breast.

    - My knife is almost as big as my ego, but sadly, it's about as capable too.

    - I want a knife that doesn't say Messimeister on the side, because I'm finally done with culinary school and ditching this tell-tale knife will equal a two dollar raise, I'm sure.

    - look at all the pretty patterns this clad steel knife has! Oh - If I hold two identical "damascus" knives side-by-side, they BOTH have an identical pattern! WTF?

    - Chef _______ uses a K-17X-Elite Series Knife, so I shall own one too!

    - I just want a knife what wont chip when I cut through a peppercorn or duck leg. :-/

    - I need a knife that will crack coconuts, lobster claws, acorn squash and cut the faces off of innocent little crabs!

    - I want a knife that can scoop up a hand full of diced onions but not look like a hatchet too.

    - Carbon Steel! Only Real Chefs use Carbon Steel!! W00T!

    - I need a knife that will replace that mistake I made about what ceramic knives are really capable of.

    - I need a knife that actually fits into my butcher block, or one that doesn't stab the counter when I try and fit it inside the knife block.

    - I need a knife that doesn't have a 1/4" airspace on the cutting board when I lay it flat. I probably need to learn how to sharpen properly also.

    - I don't need a new knife. I need a new electric can opener. This one isn't keeping my knife sharp anymore.

    - I really _DO_ want a knife that will saw through a brick and then supreme a soft grape, depending on what I need it for on a given day.

 

I'm sure there is a knife for each of these people. I hope you find the one that fits your intended use. : ) 

 

  - Just having some fun. : )

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do or Do not - There is no Try. - Yoda
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Do or Do not - There is no Try. - Yoda
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post #25 of 28

HEY BLD, I'm only halfway through this thread but I'll ask you now for this favor. Can you please post up a pic of some of these "lasers" that you speak of please. I'm having a difficult time looking up "laser knives" TIA. 

post #26 of 28

trooper, .................... THANK YOU!

 

I couldn't stop laughing through your post. It was fantastic. There but for the grace of goodness, did you not peg me into one of your examples. 

post #27 of 28

Wow, IceMan - I'm sad my list is incomplete. :(

 

What statement would define you (from a cutlery perspective)?

 

I guess mine would be:

 

    - I only use three knives now, but it took me dozens of trials and disappointments to get here.

 

Do or Do not - There is no Try. - Yoda
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Do or Do not - There is no Try. - Yoda
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post #28 of 28

To be serious, I agree that a knife review should be more technical and less "Best knife for 2010.... Blah Blah..."

 

I look for three things right off the bat - in ANY knife:

 

1. the Fit and Finish:

    - Are the scales perfectly fit to the tang?

    - Is the edge evenly ground?

    - Are all joints, fittings, rivets, welds and/or other components well blended/fit/meshed with eachother?

    - Does it rock and land uniformly? Does it rock slightly backwards toward the rear because the heel slips?

    - Is the bolster (if any) evenly bilateral?

    - Is the ground or taper clearly showing a grind pattern (Lack of final finish/polish, poor Quality Control)

 

2. Does the steel, edge and temper meet the job application or intended design/use of the knife?

    - Is it made from soft, crummy steel that will bend like a paper clip and stay bent?

    - Is it perfectly aligned, or does it curve to the left or right slightly? (From a stamped roll or bad forging process)

    - Is it the wrong steel for the job? (A Stamped cleaver or a heavy forged filet knife, or a serrated chef's knife? wtf?)

    - Is it a full tang, a welded two-piece or an unknown/only held by compression or one pin in the handle?

    - Does the tip, radius, land and travel of the blade feel right? (I've picked up identical knives and they felt different. Handmade knives have "fingerprints" I swear.)

 

3. Handle type and attributes:

    - Is the handle bulky and too large/heavy for the knife (Very bad for pairing and other small knives)

    - Is the handle going to be slippery when I get EVO, fat or butter on my hands? (Non-textured metal or plastic handles are always a no-go)

    - Is the handle too short or too long for the knife - will my knuckles clear the board - is the grip too high or low?

 

If you think the knife rates well on these three inspections, then it is time to look at what you are wanting it for in the first place.

This is also where subjective assessments only benefit you if they are done by you; Not anyone else.

 

Example: I use a 240mm Minsono UX-10 - NOT because I think it's the best knife in the world - but because it is the best knife for what I do.

    - The Gyuto-style blade profile is very close to what I liked in the French-style (Not German-Radius Style) chef knife.

          - I don't like the Santoku/sheep's foot tip, I want a little radius, but not a lot. The Minsono just has it dialed-in to my preference.

    - The blade is thin, slightly flexible and works well for trimming beef, fish and veg filets and very thin coins and dice work.

    - The steel is hard enough to hold an edge, soft enough to take an edge without too much grief, and strong but not brittle to the point where chips and nicks are minimized.

    - I can use it from 10AM until 11:30PM and it doesn't start to feel like an albatross or a brick is tied to my hand.

    - The handle is long enough but not too long, small enough for my hand (diameter), "grippy" enough and comfortable enough.

    - My hand clears the board on any working angle, and my wrist isn't jacked into a 90-degree angle when I am at a high position on the board.

    - The ferrule(sp?)/Bolster is angled in such a way that my index finger is comfortable and happy.

    - It has a very long landing zone, like a French knife, so I can cut like 20 Haricots or four cucumbers or three of whatever else at a time.

    - I can split a squash, hard cheese or slightly miss a joint and not worry about F-ing up the knife.

 

I live with all the things that do NOT make me happy with the knife as well .  .  .

   - I wish the heel angle was about 5-degrees forward of where it is now - because I nick my index finger (sometimes) Because I am in the weeds *sometimes*  ; )

   - I wish the bolster was made out of the same steel as the knife because patina isn't cool on a 300 dollar professional work knife.

   - I wish it had an octagon handle but still sported a full tang, and I wish that handle could be weighted/weight adjusted, and had a 30LPI diamond pattern like an old-school M1911.

 

Is the UX-10 a perfect knife? No. And I don't believe there is such a thing. But I could write a review on the 3.5" Cordon Bleu paring knife and have an equal list of raves and rants.

The important thing is that I thought long and hard about what I needed a chef's knife to deliver. And next to a 10" French knife, the UX-10 is as close to perfect as I can get.

 

Trooper Sez:

 

Chef Knives are like Women. Think of ten qualities that would make the perfect mate. If you find one that has three of those qualities - marry her.

 

Maybe you could get six out of ten on a knife - I don't know. But I have yet to find the perfect woman or knife wander through my kitchen.

 

 

Do or Do not - There is no Try. - Yoda
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Do or Do not - There is no Try. - Yoda
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