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Mac vs Sabatier Filet knife

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

So I'm looking to buy new boning and filets knives.  As far as a boning knife, I think I'm gonna go with a 5" rigid K-Sab Carbon for about $45 from


For the filet knife I'm deciding between a 6" K-Sab Carbon ($45) and a 7" Mac Pro ($120).

Can anyone offer some input on the differences between these knives (flexibility, thinness, edge retention, ease of sharpening, etc.) and if the Mac is worth the extra money?



post #2 of 17

First, I'm posting because I'm posting -- completely unqualified for your question for several reasons.  (Stop reading here, and no offense taken!)


From what I've read, and as little as I cook meats... a petty knife that is rigid is better for most of us than a true western-profile boning knife. 


But you may be a chef who really is comfortable with a western-style boning knife, and I should shut up (?)


If the former, the K-Sab makes a lot of sense.  Or get a 6" Sab "slicer" and use that.  It's shaped like a parer, a "coutea-de-office", only longer and therefore more useful and versatile.  Again, if you're knowledgable and attached to a western boner profile, please just ignore all this.


Your filet choices -- I love both of those companies (K-sab and Mac).  My guess is that there's no reason to spend more on the Mac, unless you don't want a carbon-steel knife.  The Sab carbons are crazy-good, crazy-flexible. If you want stainless, you're thinking about the Mac more.

post #3 of 17
Very few people -- and I realize you're an exception so relax for a second -- understand that the narrow blade, exaggerated finger guard and rounded tip made the traditionally shaped boning knife you see in knife sets (desosseur) so easy to accomodate so many weird angles, which is why it is the traditional boning knife shape. They also don't understand why it's so difficult to sharpen and why you almost never see one in the hands of a professional butcher.

They're difficult to sharpen because they're made from the same stock as all the other knives in their given lines, but are so narrow. That means that the angle of the grind from the spine to the beginning of the edge is very obtuse. In other words, the knife is thick. This is more true for forged knives -- including Sabs -- then thinner stamped knives -- like Forschners and MACs -- but it's too true for all of them. The solution is to sharpen a lot, and thin when you sharpen -- which means (a) a lot of sharpening; and (b) going through the knife pretty quickly.

In your case, it's the "difficult to sharpen" which is the real killer; that, and trad boning knives are sooooo short. And from a pro's standpoint, you get a lot more power if you add a little curve to the blade.

As it happens I have a fairly healthy Sabatier carbon boning knife. It's a Thiers Issard Quatre Etoile Elephant (now there's a mouthful), which is so close to a K-Sab there's no never-mind between them. It's a very good knife as those things go -- and I almost never use it. Instead, I use a petty. It's the right length, very nearly as agile in the cut, and a hell of a lot easier to keep sharp.

If you absolutely, positively, must have a technical boning knife, get a Forschner "Breaking" knife. It's a better all around shape for boning -- which is why butchers use them. And, if and when you sharpen it to death you're only out twenty bucks or so.

I have a wide fillet (prefer them to "Scandinavian" style because they're easier to sharpen) but don't use it for fish. I've moved away from the flexible fish knives and gone sort of "modified Japanese style," mostly using a 7" (Nogent) chefs for small fish and a 10" Forschner Cimeter for... wait for it... big fish. If I fabricated a lot of medium and large fish, I'd invest in at least one Forschner "Butcher," on the grounds that it's more comfortable to lean on a butcher when cutting through spines.

FWIW, the Cimeter is an absolutely killer knife for just about all big meat work (not to mention gourds, melons, pineapples and other knife killers). I've had mine for nine months and use it for anything too heavy duty for my Konosuke suji and gyuto.

Not that you should "do as I do," on either knife suggestion, but at least give some thought to the boning knife style suggestions, and dig up some videos of Japanese fish cutting. In my case, I found the differences were sufficiently compelling to move away from the old-fashioned job-specific shapes. At the end of the day, as long as your knife's sharp and you understand the anatomy of what you're breaking -- you'll do a good job. So, buy the shapes with which you feel most comfortable.

No particular recommendation on a flexie, but "go Forschner" is a generic for any very narrow knife that's going to be used in a professional setting and get a lot of sharpening. You'll never see the kind of sharpness from X50CrMoV15 you can get from a Sab carbon or the (VG-1), but it will hold up to the all the sharpening better, and it's not a tragedy when it dies.

Edited by boar_d_laze - 8/21/11 at 8:02am
post #4 of 17
Thread Starter 

Thank you both for your replies.


For the filet knife, I think I'm going to go for the K-Sab.  It's not too expensive, and I'm really looking to have a flexible blade that can take a super sharp edge.  Plus, I don't get new knives very often and I'd like to try out a carbon Sabatier.



BDL- I thought a lot about what you said for boning knives, and the Forschner 8" Breaking knife looks like a good choice.  Most of my other knives are Forschners and they really are great knives.  Currently my set has one 3.5" paring knife and everything else is 10-12", so I'd really like something smaller and more maneuverable than my 10" chefs for boning, trimming/cleaning tenderloins, butterflying, etc.  So yeah, I think that 8" Breaking knife, along with the filet, would fit that spot very well.  Just one question: I've never used a breaker before, is it a narrow blade?  Thanks for your advice, very helpful.

Edited by GreenGuy - 8/22/11 at 3:30am
post #5 of 17
Yes a breaking knife is narrow. It's very much like a boning knife but curved. Because it's a Forschner it has a thin (for a Euro) spine -- which means a more acute grind than most knives of its type.

FWIW, I suggest abandoning the factory bevel on your Sabatier carbons and all your Forschners and moving to 15* edge angles. With the right steel and the right steeling technique your edges will behave better and last longer than the old ones.

On the fillets, you'll get more bang for you buck from a Sab carbon than from a MAC, but the carbon will demand some extra maintenance.

post #6 of 17

I have the 8 in Forschner Breaking Knife.. it is a strong knife and not as flexible as most Boning Knives I have seen. I used it mostly to prep Salmon, Halibut, and Ling Cod sized fish up to maybe 10-12 lbs. Above that size and you'll likely need something larger.


It also works well to prep whole chickens. The curve allows you to push cut. I've had mine for about 18 yrs. but hardly use it compared to my Chef's knife as I rarely prep whole fish these days and use a Petty sized knife to prep chicken more often than not. But if I need a heavy duty knife the Forchner 8 in Breaker or a Chinese cleaver is what I would grab.

post #7 of 17
Thread Starter 

I've been doing some more thinking and reading and now I'm actually leaning towards getting a 6" petty.  I am going to be working in a new place soon with some potentially demanding chefs and I'm basically trying to "complete" my knife set so that I have everything I may need when entering the job. I guess I shouldn't get anything too specific right now until I start, but I want to come in prepared.  I may actually wait before I buy anything, but I want to have my choices picked out so I can order them and get it asap.

Current Set:

Messermeister 10" Chef

Forschner 10" Chef, 12" slicer, 12" bread

Henkels 3.5" paring 


I rarely use my paring and use my chef's for almost everything but bread and use my slicer (if not my chefs) sometimes for filleting sides of salmon.  But I often find myself wanting something between my chefs and paring for trimming smaller cuts of meat and fish.  Do you think that maybe a petty would be a good choice?  Should I bother with a flexible filet knife still? I just don't want to walk into the place and have to ask someone who I don't know to borrow a knife on my first day.  And a couple weeks before I the chef at my old job told me I should invest in a boning/filet knife.  I'm thinking maybe get one now if I feel it will definitely be one that will get used.  Thanks again, you've all been helpful.

post #8 of 17
Why not start with a petty and see what you think? You can always add another knife later. I don't particularly advocate "do as I do," but will say that the petty knocked a lot of knives out of my basic prep repertoire.

post #9 of 17

Another crack at this -- I think you answered your own question.  If you often find yourself wanting something between the chef's and parer, a petty is what you got.  This is not answering whether you should bother with a flexible filet knife, though.


"Petty" is a pretty broad term, by the way.  Western knives get called "utility knives" and even there -- a "small" chef's knife is a taller bladed petty, a short slicer is a petty...  there are reasons to prefer one profile over another perhaps, but my point is a "petty" blade profile is not specific. My most used petty is a slicer (a sujihiki), because I wanted something that had less surface-area to which potatoes or winter squashes and such would stick. It's also longer than 6" (just under 8", I think), but it's so light and smaller than my gyuto or chef's, so.... it's a petty. I have a couple of knives that are 5" and 6" (or thereabouts, too), which I used to use more often before I got that sujihiki/petty... but yes, useful for trimming smaller cuts, also for smaller veggie prep or cutting a sandwich.

post #10 of 17
Thread Starter 

Okay, so I am going to invest in a nice petty (or any 6-7" slicer) and then if I find that I need anything else I'll probably just pick up some Forschners.  So one more question.  I am going into NYC sometime this week and going to stop by Korin and possibly get a knife there.  So the ones in my price range ($50-100) are:


Suisin High Carbon

Suisin Inox

Masamoto VG

Masamoto Virgin Carbon

Togiharu Cobalt Damascus (but it's a little short)


I am going to look at these in person and of course pick out the one that is most comfortable, but as far as steel and quality goes, are any way better than another?  Or are there any that I should stay away from?  I don't mind carbon too much, whichever will hold a better edge and will not chip as easily and I'm open to other suggestions.  Thanks again.

post #11 of 17

Are you looking only at the western-handled knives at this point?


I ask because I'm not sure, in the case of the Suisin, if the geometry is the same.  Probably is, but I'm not sure.


And if it is... the Suisin knives will be lasers.  The Masamoto and Togiharu are not "thick" knives by a long shot, but they're not lasers.  And if the Suisin indeed are as thin as I think, they will be somewhat less robust.  I think it's absolutely worth having such a thin knife, but I'm in a home environment and not worried about someone else picking up my knife and twisting it out of a butternut squash or hacking a bone with it.


I'll leave it to BDL or someone to talk you through the Carbon vs. Stainless options -- I think there's some of that on this thread already.  I have a Togiharu G-1 petty, which is pricier (and too pricey) than what you're looking at, but I'll bet buying Damascus always means putting money into something other than function.  They have other stainless knives that as inexpensive or even less expensive that might serve better.


Another word on handles.  The blade length on Western-handled knives is measured from the heel of the knife to the tip.  Knives with yo-handles will be shorter, since they're measured from the ferrule to the tip. So my 210mm suji is a bit shorter than a yo-handled 210mm suji.  I think this difference matters more the shorter the knife.


Things to think about.  I'm not giving more specific guidance because I'm not familiar with most of those knives, and not familiar in use with any of them (though I am with some that are similar to the Togiharu and the Suisin, at least).

post #12 of 17
The Suisuns listed are most emphatically not lasers. While Suisun makes some GREAT knives, I don't think these yo-series are very good.

"Togiharu" is Korin's house brand. I believe they're made in stages and as component parts in Seki, by numerous subcontractors. At one point Togiharus were a lot of bang for the buck. Not any more.

The Masamotos are... well... Masamotos. If you can deal with the neediness that is carbon, the HC series -- which Korin calls "Virgin," and which is Masamoto's top virgin carbon western series (they have two) -- is better than the VG. Darn near perfect knives, in my opinion. If you're going in person, make sure to pick through whatever Masamotos they have in stock paying special attention to handles. Supposedly Masamoto has overcome the F&F issues it had with its western style knives, but we're friendly guys and just want to help them out. Right? Right?


PS. I think (educated guess) the HC series is Takefu V2C (a very prestigious steel, roughly equivalent to Hitachi Shiroko) and the CT series (the other virgin carbon) is V2 (also good, but not quite as prestigious). The hardening, as is typical with Masa's western knives is conservative, with the HCs slightly harder than the CTs.

I don't believe Korin sells the CTs. They're pretty hard to find anywhere -- unless you know the Masamoto catalog and special order from someone like Japanese Chefs Knives. Too bad as the line includes a lot of specialty meat knives appropriate for and familiar to the western cook.
post #13 of 17
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze View Post

The Suisuns listed are most emphatically not lasers. While Suisun makes some GREAT knives, I don't think these yo-series are very good.


LOL@me then! And therein is the problem with relying on brands without specific knowledge.  I've only handled the Suisins at JKI.  So wa-handled, and honyaki or Dreamcraft.  Amazing (and turbo-pricey) knives.  I suppose had I checked the pricing at Korin, I might have guessed that these Suisin were a different kettle of fish.


And on the Masamoto -- are you as excited by their non-gyutos? Seems that takes away some of the concern for ideal profile.... or do you think the profiles across the board are close to ideal-for-type?


Edited by Wagstaff - 8/24/11 at 6:49am
post #14 of 17
"Masamoto" as a brand, is something like "Mercedes." It reeks of quality and class, and it THE knife name associated with Japanese high-end professionals.

And, just like Mercedes, there have been some major, recent, hiccups. Before Japanese knives made their assault on the mainstream, Masamotos (sold in J-Town) were the first Japanese knives I lusted after. Sometimes it's hard to separate the history and the rep from the reality.

But yes... all the HCs are really, really good, the CT's almost as good, and the VG's not far behind. Masamoto cares, and it shows.

FWIW, given the number of profiles and their (more competitive) pricing, I gather the CT line is the carbon Masamoto intended for the working pro. That's not to say there aren't some other makers selling knives just as good, Misono Swedens, for instance, but the question was never raised.

Because we think so much alike, you're aware how much I talk about the tension between absolute sharpness and durability/maintenance a lot and finding an appropriate balance for individual use and user. As good as the Japanese knives are, as sharp as they can be made, within the narrow context of "meat specialty" knives, Forschners (in my opinion) still trump on the basis of all around practicality.

post #15 of 17

Tough call !


My primary boning knives are TI sab traditional boning which can be tough to sharpen esp. at the bolster and for fish a nogent flexible filet which is relatively easy to sharpen. I like the toothy edge I get from Sabs for boning, they work for me. I usually stop sharpening at 1K with a Glass stone. For the first 15 years of my career 90% of my working knives were Forchners. I long ago gave up on German knives ( too thick, too heavy, etc, etc ) I still recommend Forschners for new cooks with the exception of a gyuto/chefs. They are hard to beat for the buck and also the professional standard for boning knives.


A petty as a boning knife makes a lot of sense if you find it comfortable or if you're attempting to re-purpose your knives for more what they were intended for. As I am a old dog, I'm stuck in my ways about many things and boning knives are one of them. Your posts lead me to believe that your comparing your options which is great. What ever you pick stick with it long enough to really understand the pluses and minuses ( edge retention, resharpening, blade upkeep, esp. w/ carbon ) before you make a change. 


An earlier posting alluded to push cutting with a curved boning or breaking knife and it being easier because of the curve. When boning esp. the way the way real butchers do it, there is always tension being applied to the protein and what ever piece your boning off. In essence your pulling  or gently tearing at the piece and the knife has a much easier time not to mention gets beat up a lot less. In fabricating proteins steeling is as much for realigning the dings from hitting bone and harder tissue as it is from edge degradation due to cutting through the protein itself when dealing with bone in product.


So to answer your question buy Forschner for practicality, buy Sab for carbon and in my world buy Mac if you want to spend too much money on a boning knife.

post #16 of 17
Thread Starter 

I'm planning on heading into the city tomorrow and stopping at Korin, so I will pick up a knife then.  I will most likely get the Masamoto HC, as it seems to be the best knife in that price range.  While I'm there, are there any other knives worth looking at that I may have missed?  Thanks again for all of you advice.

post #17 of 17

Looking at a petty from Korin... you really don't have all that many choices.  I bet you're right that the Masamoto HC is the best in its price range; for a little less you might still look at the Togiharu Moly and the Togiharu Inox.  DISCLAIMER: I'm not saying you should prefer them, or that they are the great bargain they once were, but if you want a stainless comparison and you're *there* in the store anyway, have look.  They are a bit less money. 


If reports of what people get on the phone are any indication, though, salesfolks might steer you toward their house-brand, too.  I don't know if it's like that in person, but if you start asking about the Togiharu, just be prepared for the possibility of some hard-sell.


Actually, completely out of your price range (like ridiculously out), but since you're going to be there, ask to look at the Suisin Inox Honyaki, too.  A wa-handled laser.  It's not like cutting with it, but just handling it will give you a point of reference for "thin" and "light" (the wa-handles are lighter in themselves, as well as the blade-measurement difference and the full-tang of the yo- knives actually adding a tiny bit more metal, too).

Edited by Wagstaff - 8/25/11 at 8:11am
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