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Recommendation for Serious Amateur Cook

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

Hi all,


First time on these forums, and I've been reading quite a lot of other peoples questions regarding knife recommendations, and I thought I would see if I could get some help working out which might be the best knife for my next purchase.


First, a little bit about myself. I'm an Australian 30 something IT professional who has a serious passion for home cooking. A couple years ago I almost made the decision to change careers and move into the culinary world. However finances and an the arrival of our first child with my wife made me choose the stability of my current profession over the passion of doing what I love.


I currently own a big heavy Wushtoff that I purchased many moons ago and have loved and owned for a while but then to my dismay the inevitable happened and it became dull, go figure (sarcasm). I own both a diamond steel and a whetstone but if I'm honest with myself, I think I need more practice. With an hour of effort I can barely put even a servicable edge back on my Wusty.


A couple of years ago, my lovely wife purchased me a set of globals as was the flavour of the month at the time. Very light weight, very sharp, and I enjoyed using them for a while. However soon thereafter I started noticing that I had nicked the blade, quite badly in some places. Even after sharpening I have been unable to restore the original edge.


As for how I hold the knife, I use a pinch grip as taught to me by a friend that I consider knowlegable in the industry. This grip at first was uncomfortable until I developed a sizable callus on my palm at the base of my forefinger. Now I couldn't imagine holding a knife any other way. I enjoy the control I have over the blade with this grip.


I am a large man 6'3" with big hands, so I'm probably after something at least 24cm in length. I am also right handed (as is my wife, although truth be told I do 95% of the cooking so she won't be using the knife really). I have been comfortable both with the Heavy German Wushtoff as well as the lightweight Global, both of which took a little adapting to but were fine after a couple of months use.


The kind of knife work I will be doing will pretty much be the day to day stuff, vegetables, fleshy meats (no bones). I will probably also look into buying a decent boning knife as well as something heavy weight for the less delicate work of cutting through bone.


I'm not afraid of sharpening my knives, although truth be told I really need some more instruction in the art as I do not believe that I am very good at it. I'm worried that if I buy a new knife that I may ruin the edge due to incorrect sharpening, but that's just paranoia I'll get over.


Budget - no object really (within reason). Happy to lay down anything up to 500 as long as its worth it, which I've been lead to believe that more money does not necessarily equate to a better knife, but I'm happy to shell out the excess if need be.


I guess what I'm after is something that will keep a decent edge, be relatively easy to sharpen and be durable.


I'd really like to delve into the Japanese knife market, but unfortunately although I can access almost any knife imaginable online, the knife stores down under are *very* westernised and the closes thing to an asian knife that I can touch and feel is the not so trusty Global. This means I have to go off recommendations alone.


Knives I've currently got my eye on include the Misono UX10, The MAC Professional, Shun Classic 25cm. But I'm certainly open to more suggestions based on the above background information.


Anyway, sorry for the long post. Thanks in advance for any advice you may have for a keen aussie cook.





post #2 of 5

Hiya Ozzie,


Getting ones hands on the most of the more interesting Japanese made knives to try out their handles and generally get a feel is almost impossible in the US too.  Cold comfort, but take what you can. 


Good news!  If you can hold a Global comfortably, you won't have trouble with many things. 


More good news!  It's easy enough to round a spine knife over (or ease the edges) so it doesn't press into your index finger when you grip it.  It just takes a little sandpaper -- or you can even use a stone.


Bad news... you're going to have to learn to sharpen.  You might as well get used to the idea -- it sound like you already are, already -- and factor in the expense.  There are a couple of very good alternatives to freehand sharpening, but they aren't cheap.  There are a couple of inexpensive alternatives, but they aren't very good. 


A good non-start might be to find someone who can sharpen and have him repair the Global and put a good edge on it, and die troosty Voostie as well.   


Don't worry about sharpening, if worse comes to worse, you can throw enough money at it and get something like this.


If you're considering a MAC Pro, my suggestion is not to bother with the Shun Classic unless you're particularly in love with its aesthetic appeal.  A Shun has even more arc to its edge than your Wusthof and a ridiclulously high point; and although it's not as heavy, it's no more agile -- just a terrible profile!  Also, they scratch easily and tend to lose their "Damascus" pattern over a relatively short time.


The Misono UX-10 on the other hand is perhaps too streamlined.  It was hugely poplular for awhile among professional cooks who could afford it and helped pave the way for other high-end Japanese knives, but is more or less an idea whose time has passed here.  Because it's so narrow, knuckle clearance can easily be an issue -- although if it isn't with a Global, it probably won't be for you.  Finally, it's not an easy knife to sharpen. 


In addition to the MAC you might want to take a look at the Misono VG.  It's very much along the same lines of well-made practicality without much styling. 


They are both comfortable, have nearly identical good edge taking and holding characteristics (probably the same alloy), have terriffic profiles, etc. 


The MAC has one of the best handles ever put on a knife -- slightly better than the Masamoto, which is merely excellent and of Wusthof quality.  That's a good thing as really good handles aren't exactly universal among Japanese made knives.  Paranthentically, the Misonos have terriffic handles as well -- particularly the UX-10. 


The MAC is stiffer than the Masamoto which can feel a bit whippy (so can the UX-10).  Overall, it's an easier transition from western made knives for most users.


MAC is extremely well supported in North America.  I'm not sure about Oz, but think the organization has a toe hold there as well.  In any case, they offer a 25 year warranty.


If you know much about Japanese made knives, you know Masamoto is THE iconic brand.  The Masamoto VG is every inch a Masamoto.  That means, among other things, that the chef's knife profile will feel perfect on the board. 


If you're willing to spend a few (quite a few) extra dollars on appearance, craftsmanship, and prestige, you should consider the Hattori FH and the Tadatsuna (western).  And, if you're can live with carbon (as opposed to stainless) and its neediness, there are a few other top recommendations.  Let me know and we can get into it.


I most often recommend the MAC Pro for westerners moving up to their first really good knife, but If I were choosing a stainless, western-handled knife in the price range, it would be a Masamoto VG.  You can't go wrong with either one.


Let me know what you think all about this.


Hope it helped,


post #3 of 5
Thread Starter 

Thanks for a very informative response. As for learning how to sharpen, I think you're quite correct, it's time I bit the bullet and learned how. I'll have to buy a book or watch some youtube vids to hone my skills further.


As for knives, I think you've managed to sway me around to try the Mac Pro. It's easier to get access to than the Misono anyway, and I guess the westerner in me prefers the stiffer blade that you mentioned that the MAC had, somehow stiffer blade equates to more durable in my mind (purely due to my previous bad experience with the global). 


When you mentioned the Hattori FH and the Tadatsuna, how would you compare them to the MAC Pro? You stated that they had more prestige, better appearance etc. I don't mind paying the money, but on the other hand I also don't care about showmanship. The knife is purely for me in my own home, my wife won't know or even care how rare the knife might be, and I'm fairly sure my dog won't be all that impressed if I show it off to him either. On the other hand if they are "better" knives and yes I know that is a loaded term, I'll pay for them, but I guess I just don't know.


Also, any tips for how I should get started in my endeavour to learn how to sharpen? As stated previously, I already own a diamond steel and a whetstone, but thats about it.






P.S. Thanks again for your time.

post #4 of 5

Good questions.


Both the Hattori FH and Tadatsuna (western) are made from better alloys than the MAC Pro.  The FH is VG-10, and the Tadatsuna G3.  They have better edge characteristics. 


VG-10 sometimes get very tenacious burrs when its sharpened.  Hattori solved the problem, whatever it is.  The FH sharpens really easily.  In much the same way, Tadatsuna has maxxed out G3's potential.  The Tad can take and hold a nice steep angle -- steeper than most.  Sounds great, but there's an accompanying reality check.  You have to gauge those in terms of your own sharpening abilities.  For most people if it makes any difference at all, it's slim.  And, when you put the knife on the board and start cutting, the distinctions are still less obvious. 


Both are thinner than the MAC.  The Tadatsuna is about as thin as a western handle gets.  Thinness is a positive difference. 


Both are better finished.  The Hattori is practically a jewel.  The Tadatsuna isn't quite as pretty but is just as well made.  The Hattori uses micarta handle scales, and IIRC they're also offering some nice wood "for a limited time."  The Tadatsuna handle is wood, and very good.  Neither handle is better than MAC's though.  MACs is the best, period.  


I like the Tadatsuna profile quite a bit -- rating it almost as good as a Masamoto or Sabatier.  I'd put the Hattori's just an RCH below that and about the same as the MAC's.


As a practical matter, neither knife is really much better although both are certainly nicer.  How much are the differences worth to you? 


I'm also hearing great things about the Kikuichi TKC which is just a hair less expensive than the Tad and Hattori, is also quite thin, and supposedly holds an edge extremely well.  Mark Richmond, the owner of Chef's Knife To Go, is very high on his.  But... I have no idea how you'd go about getting one in Oz.



post #5 of 5
Thread Starter 

Fantastic information. I might look into seeing how long the wait times are on the Hattori FH, most of the places I find seem to indicate that the queue to get one is quite long, but I'll keep my eye on it. If I run out of patience I'll grab a MAC.


Thanks for your time once again, much appriced.





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