I started a quest recently to find some new knives after cutting myself while using a REALLY dull OXO paring knife.
What we have now...
Knockoff Chicago Cutlery Wally World special steak knives - dullest knives in the universe
Several OXO knives - were all dull, but wife likes them for their grippy handles, especially good for cutting mangoes
Henkel 8" chefs knife (Spain) - disappeared, but reappeared after I started reading online.
Kiwis - for $4-7 and they are by far the sharpest knives I've ever used, bought them local to use until I find something decent, mom in law uses them in Thailand
Wife (5ft tall - Thai) had an unmarked double sided Chinese stone, but I really doubt she used it. Both sides are really rough. I got a pull through Fiskars at Ikea, if I use low pressure it does sharpen OXOs, but they're still dull compared to the Kiwis. I read online about wheels and belts, got a Harbor Freight 1" belt sander and a good assortment of quality belts from Lee Valley, haven't used it yet, maybe this weekend. I also have a 4 sided diamond block from HF, put a fairly good edge on a OXO after using the pull through.
What we need...
1) stainless knives, we will wash/wipe once after finished, rack dry, so carbon is likely out
2) grippy handles, I am actually worried more about this, wife cuts a lot of fruit (mangoes now) that can make her hands slippery
3) something quality that will last a very long time
We have an ok bread knife here, need a good 210mm chefs knife, perhaps a smaller santoku for wife, some smaller petty/paring knives for fruit and stuff. Use the Henkel for meat only??? I'm trying to find ideas that make sense on how to utilize new/old knives or toss them out. We have 2 nice big Ikea LÄMPLIG wood cutting boards.
I read a LOT on various forums, so much that I got tired of reading and had to stop for a while. I read a fantastic post from BDL, seen below, but it was from 2009. Is there an updated version around? I do like to cook, but I'm a geek by profession, cooking is a hobby. Can ya'all offer some help/suggestions please. I'm not opposed to spending some money on them as long as they are good knives.
More than You Ever Wanted to KnowHiromoto has two lines, AS and G3 within their top Western style line, Tenmi Jyuraku. They ship with varying symmetry from 50/50 to around 70/30 right-handedness. It doesn't seem likely that it's entirely by accident in that I've never heard of them shipping a left-handed knife.
The entire issue of handedness is overblown here. Any competent sharpener can move the bevel over on almost any gyuto or chef's knife without any real difficulty. Some alloys are very hard to profile, but we don't have to worry about anything more difficult than the Hiromoto AS which isn't all that difficult. I've profiled and sharpened several Hiro AS in less than 45 minutes each on India and Arkansas stones.
Getting back to the Hiromotos. Both the AS and G3 are very good knives. I owned four AS, and liked them but was sufficiently unimpressed that I moved them on and kept my old Sabs. In my opinion the Sabatiers had better geometry and agility and more comfortable handles. Still, the AS are very good knives.
Moreover, it turns out that I don't like "cladded" knives, especially of the san-mai aka warikomi type because they lack a liveliness in the cut and on the board. More than anything else, that was the deal breaker for me. While several other people have said the same thing, to be fair, it's a very uncommon reaction.
All in all, I prefer the G3 to the AS, not for their stain resistance (which doesn't matter to me one way or the other), but for their liveliness. All in all though, as good as the Hiros are, there are a bunch of knives in the same price range which I like better.
Before getting into the individual knives, they're all a bit thin and whippy compared to a Sabatier carbon. I wouldn't use any of them without having something heavy duty for things like portioning spare ribs, cutting gourds, splitting chickens, etc. Also, all of these run around HrC. And, to cut to the chase, the Masamoto HC is the real standout.
- Kanemasa "E" -- Value leader. Some fit and finish issues, like a sharp spine and back -- but these can be fixed by the user. Decent handle and geometry. Very reactive steel which doesn't exhibit visible corrosion so much as smell funny until it ultimately settles down. Again, the user can do things to prevent the reaction.
- Kikuichi Elite (carbon) -- Excellent all around knife. Good value. Me likee.
- Masamoto HC -- One of the two or three best knives I've ever used. There are some F&F issues which can be resolved by communicating with the seller before purchase. However, they're probably more than you're willing to spend. Excellent comfort, agility, edge taking, and edge holding characteristics, etc. You name it, the HC does it well. The outstanding feature of Masamotos generally is not what they do right, but that they do everything right and nothing at all wrong; and the HC is the quintessential in that way. The HC heads the class of "arguably, the best mass-produced, western-style chef's knife at any price." If you can live with carbon, and you're willing to pay the price -- this is the knife.
- Masamoto CT -- Without going too much into the details of what makes the HC alloy different from the CT alloy they're very, very similar. Not quite as good in terms of edge characteristics, but it's a difference only an extremely good sharpener using a very good kit would notice.
- Misono Sweden -- Excellent knife with excellent ergonomics and edge characteristics. However, it's about the most reactive (corrosion prone) carbon steel I've ever used. The knife requires a patina or frequent cleaning with a corrosion inhibitor like baking soda.
- Togiharu Virgin -- A sort of clone of the Masamoto HC and CT, with a slightly less good handle and geometry. Probably the same alloy as the HC, and in that sense, a value. Being slightly less good than a Masamoto means being very good, indeed. To whatever extent I sound less than enthusiastic, it's misleading. Good value.
The three modern French carbons, K-Sabatier au carbone, Mexeur et Cie Sabatier au carbone and Thiers Issard **** Elephant Sabatier (“TI” from now on) carbon share very similar blade and handle geometry. The K-Sabs and Mexeurs both have POM handles, while the TIs have stabilized wood. The Mexeurs are hardened a little less, and I don’t like their edge characteristics as much as I like the K-Sabs and the TIs. I mention them only for completeness.
Of the older knives, the “Canadians” and the “Massifs” appear to be the from the same stock, and share the same construction. That is, the only bolster is the finger guard, which is itself a “true bolster,” and the product of martinet forging. The Nogents are an older style based on a rat-tail tang with a somewhat blocky ebony handle.
Almost all of these knives have incredibly good ergonomics, with the exception of Massif “chef de chefs” which aren’t, properly speaking, chef’s knives. Otherwise, you can rate them all “the best” along with the Masamaoto HC. The carbon blades take a very good edge, far better than European stainless, but not quite as good as any of the Japanese carbon or stainless knives. They are subject to waving and rolling, but fortunately can be trued on a steel very easily. The alloys are very tough and it’s very difficult to chip or tear them. These knives are tough enough to split the occasional chicken or trim the odd rack of ribs – but they’re not really heavy enough to do those things on a regular basis. That not only requires something a little more persuasive, but with a more obtuse edge angle as well.
Anyway, here are the Sabs:
- K-Sabiatier au carbone – My personal favorite, if only for the practicality of a POM handle.
- K-Sabatier "Canadian" – Very nice knives, but plain looking.
- Thiers-Issard carbon – Like all TIs, OOTB sharpening issues are frequent. They’re easily rectified by any competent sharpener when the knife is “opened up.” Very attractive knives.
- Thiers-Issard "Massif" – Originally made for the Canadian market, just like the K-Sabatier Canadians. Despite TI’s marketing, they’re probably the same stock and most likely made in the fifties, rather than just after WWI.
- Thiers-Issard "Nogent" – Classics. Thinner blades (a good thing) than modern Sabatiers. Pre WWII steel of good purity. Handles are old fashioned, but incredibly comfortable. If you’re into the history of cooking and you want to touch a piece of it every time you cook – these are the way to go. Just like the modern carbons, expect OOTB sharpening issues.
The Japanese knives get and stay sharper, but the French knives sharpen more easily. You can sharpen French knives effectively on oilstones (but don’t use oil!), but you can’t get the best out of Japanese knives without good waterstones. None of the Japanese knives are built with finger guards, but all of the French knives are. Some people find them a serious obstacle to sharpening, but I don’t.
Almost all of my knives, including all of the important ones, are French carbons. There are a few Japanese knives I’d consider swapping my Sabs for, but of those, only the Masamoto HC are on this list.
And now for something completely different...
- Hiromoto AS – Nice knife, warikomi construction with stainless jigane and AS hagane. Surprise! The knife (mostly) has AS edge characteristics. Not particularly easy to sharpen, can be made very sharp, holds the edge well. Use of a steel is iffy, but the AS doesn’t go out of true very easily. AS isn’t stainless, it’s carbon; but corrosion on the edge isn’t much of an issue with the Hiro AS. Mediocre handle, too narrow. Okay but not great geometry. Some people just love them, but in my opinion they’re just one of a number of good knives in the price range and don’t really stand out. Part of that may be because I’ve never met a warikomi knife I’ve really liked.
- Hiromoto G3. Nice knife, made form a single piece of Hitachi’s excellent G3 stainless. Shares the AS handle and geometry. In my opinion, its “single steel” construction make it a better knife than the AS. It’s less expensive too.
- MAC Pro – Great handle, good ergonomics, good geometry, excellent stiffness, good but not excellent edge characteristics. Okay, it’s not the best blade alloy money can buy, but only a very proficient sharpener using a top of the line kit could tell the difference – and if the edge geometry is altered to a 15/10 double bevel, it gets as sharp as anything else. The alloy is probably VG-2. A great first Japanese knife, first high quality knife, or a professional kitchen knife. Very robust by Japanese standards. Also, MAC USA provides a good guaranty and excellent support – things that don’t often go with Japanese knives. This is the knife I most often recommend.
- Misono Moly -- Misono's bottom of their stainless line. Good entry level knife. Good but not great F&F. Get fairly sharp, fairly easily and stay fairly sharp for a fairly long time. Very reasonably priced.
- MAC Ultimate – Change the goods of the MAC Pro to excellent. Expensive. “Arguably the best mass produced, western stainless chef’s knife at any price. Probably VG-5.
- Masamoto VG – My personal favorite among all the Japanese stainless knives I’ve tried. Note: The blade is not made from VG-10, and is probably VG-2 or VG-5. It’s more flexible than the MAC, and not as well supported or widely sold. Those reasons are why I don’t recommend it as often.
- Misono UX-10 – People love its streamlined geometry and great handle. Very sharp OOTB, and a relatively easy knife to sharpen as long as you stick to the factory geometry. Whatever alloy Misono uses is tough to move around, so not an easy knife to profile. Flexible. Expensive.
- Sakai Takayuki Grand Cheff (yes, with two fs) – Very comfortable knife. A little wide (not thick, thickness describes edge geometry – width is the distance from spine to edge ) at the heel for my tastes. Uses a really nice Swedish alloy called AEB-L, which is the same as Sandvik 13C26, hardened to 58HrC. These are excellent knives, and I’d recommend them more highly but they’re a little tough to get and are essentially unsupported by any American dealer. “Paul’s” in Canada deals them for Canadians, and he has a very good reputation – if you’re Canadian.
- Togiharu G-1 – Great deal on a VG-10 knife. Ergonomics and geometry similar to the Masamoto, only slightly less good. Korin’s house brand. Probably an OEM effort of some hamono or other that makes a lot of Masamotos.
- Togiharu Inox -- Same idea as the Misono Moly, but better all around. Attractively priced. Not as good as the other knives listed.
Some very nice, very expensive customs. But there's nothing in the class of the Japanese stainless discussed in this post. Almost but not quite a total waste.
- Forschner Fibrox and Rosewoos -- Good for the price, sharpen very easily to "sort of" sharp. Lose their edge even more quickly. They accept steeling well, which is a good thing because they need it constantly. Value leader. Very tough, and not a bad choice for someone who's forced to abuse her knife.
In any case, this should be enough information to give you an overview.
Hope this helps,