Lots to talk about.
Once you get into the realm of good and very good Japanese knives, you start making some very fine distinctions. It's easy to get carried away. Almost everything we're going to talk about is at least very good, and with far better edge and handling qualities than anything coming out of Germany. If you really like something and it's total crap (like a couple of the Shuns), we'll tell you. But chances are that anything you like, whether it's one of our favorites or not, would make you happy for a long time.SLT:
If you want me to break down the knives you tried at SLT I will. SLT's product selection is pretty good, but their knife choice isn't. None of their stuff is really what you'd call top-drawer or big bang for the buck.Bread/Slicer:
More about slicers later, but if you want to use a MAC SB 105, the CKTG special Tojiro, or even the 10.5" Forschner as a bread and a slicer, you could probably get away with it. I don't like serrated slicers for trimming or portioning any kind of meat, especially for fish; but you say you use something else anyway.Handle Styles:
Your selection of certain styles and rejection of others tells me you're holding the handle too tight. Pinch or no, you have to learn to relax your grip
. Fortunately, when you start using very sharp knives, you'll find you don't need a strong grip to wrestle your way through an onion.Fujiwara:
Fujiwaras are "bargain-basement," "entry-level" products in the comparative high-end kitchen knives. Their blades are pretty good, but their handles and F&F are spotty. My recommendation is for FKM (stainless) only. The FKH is a particularly onbnoxious carbon; more if you want to know more.
Little paring knives: Why not? They're cheap. Little disposable serrated paring knives: Cheaper still.Kagayaki CarboNext:
It pains me to say this because of my affection for Phaedrus (under whatever screen name) and respect for his opinions. The CarboNext is a decent to good knife which does not come with a good edge. You can pay the seller (JCK is the only one) extra for sharpening, but no one who's tried it has ever written anything positive. On the contrary, everyone
who has purchased the service and written in Fred's or the KF has been disappointed. Otherwise, F&F is average, the handle narrow, good profile, excellent edge properties. But unless and until you're an excellent sharpener, the little bit of extra superiority compared to knives made with other alloys won't make a difference. Unless you know someone who will sharpen the knife properly as soon as it arrives, don't buy it.MAC Pro gyuto recommendation:
In your case, the MAC Pro Mighty Chef's (MBK 95). As it happens, I just bought one from CKTG
for my daughter's birthday. The MAC comes sharp, has a great warranty, outstanding manufacturer's support from MAC USA, and most -- if not all -- US dealers provide very good support as well. None of that is true for the Kagayaki or for just about any other Japanese made knife. It has an excellent handle, a very good profile, very good edge properties, and good F&F. Because it's one of the stiffest of the Japanese knives, it has the most "western" feel. And, if there's any problem whatsoever, several someones will be more than happy to take care of it immediately.
The MAC Pro, Masamoto VG, Sakai Takayuki Grand Cheff, Hiromoto AS, and a few others are good choices as the "first really good chef's knife." That is, they're excellent all-round knives in a given price range. Each has different strengths and weaknesses. You already know how I feel about the MAC, but maybe I should add that it would be my first choice in the category if I were shopping for a mass-produced, stainless, western-handled gyuto (which I wouldn't), I'd go for the Masamoto VG, because of it's excellent, profile which suits my French style action. Worth repeating that it was my first choice for my daughter.
There are quite a few very good knives for a little more or a little less money as well. But I get the feeling this is where you want to be. If it isn't, or you have any questions, say so.Carbon vs Stainless, and Steel generally:
All steel is an alloy of iron and carbon, so calling anything "carbon" is not exactly informative. Mostly though the term is used to differentiate "regular" steels from stainless and semi-stainless alloys.
"High carbon," by definition refers to any steel alloy with more than 0.50% carbon by weight -- except in Germany where the threshold is 0.45% in order to "grandfather in" a particular alloy used in low end German knives (X45CrMoV15).
When chromium is added to regular steel, stain and rust resistance increases. By definition, when you hit 13% chromium or higher in a steel alloy, it's said to be "stainless." You often hear the term "surgical stainless" used by unscrupulous knife and cookware manufacturers. It's totally uninformative, and usually used to mask insufficient hardness.
There are two really important materials properties
for knife alloys, strength and toughness. "Hardness" is a function of "strength." A harder steel will hold an edge longer than a softer steel, but if the alloy is made to hard or not hardened properly it will become brittle and tend to break. Toughness is another way of saying "resistance to breaking." Softer alloys tend to be tougher than harder, but if the alloy is too soft the edge will deform easily and be difficult to sharpen. Generally speaking, there is no one best level for either quality, nor even any best balance. It's a little different for specific steels, some manufacturers can hit all the nails right on their little heads.
Until very recently, stainless alloys could not be made in the same sweet spot as carbon (little to no chromium) alloys. Most, if not all, of the best knives were carbon. Even today when there is no shortage of truly excellent stainless and semi-stainless alloys, many of the best knives are carbon.
The advantages of a carbon knife are edge properties, feel on the stones, and cost/value ratio. The disadvantage is that carbon steels are needy. It's not so much that they need a great deal of extra care, but they need care when they need it. Procrastination puts you in the "great deal of extra care" boat. Some people make a big deal out of forcing patinas, encouraging natural patinas, etc. But that stuff is actually pretty easy. A carbon knife is like any other knife pretty much. When cutting a lot of reactive food like citrus and onions, stainless and semi-stainless really come into their own; that's more important for a gyuto and petty than for a slicer.
Carbon isn't for everyone, but you're a knowledge sponge and it seemed worthwhile to open the subject. In your case, a knife with a lot of intrinsic interest
like an old fashioned, 10", Sabatier "Nogent"
or Misono Sweden
might be just the thing for those ceremonial occasions. The Sabatier runs $85; the Misono $243. Neither is much better than the other -- especially for your purposes.Sharpening:
Let's hold off until you've narrowed down your knife choices. I don't want to overwhelm you with information.
BDLEdited by boar_d_laze - 9/27/11 at 3:59pm