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What's the point of buying expensive knives?

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
So my question is how many of us are actually going to Korin and paying an arm and a leg for a knife? Are expensive Japanese damascus gyutos and so forth really worth purchasing? A majority of the truth is that our Hispanic prep cooks do a big chunk of the knife work in the kitchen for us. It would make sense for them to get to use those top quality expensive knives but no instead we give them ace mart brand, dexter, victorinox fibrox knives to use. We sure as hell never let them even touch ours. What's the point of us even buying expensive knives when we never get to use them anyways. Some say they're for home use but in reality if you're a real chef, you are working 18 hours a day and never get to see home or have time to cook.
I think for me having awesome expensive knives is like validation for a chef. You don't need expensive knives but maybe you need validation. Its like your arsenal of weapons that you collect as a Chef. I have Kikuichis, Tojiros, and Shuns that I never get to use. Do I really need knives of that caliber? No not really but they make me feel better. Am I the only one to feel this way?
post #2 of 14

I'm in the never-really-get-to-use-them-much-so-I-dont-buy-em camp.

Every time Ive had nice knives, theyve managed to disappear or get beat up

by some unauthorized hand., e.g., dropped in the SS basin with 2 dozen other

utinsels etc.

If my situation changes from day-to-day standard prep/chef knife duties, maybe Ill

pop for a set. My biggest complaint with middle and low end knives though is

their lack of ability to hold an edge for long.

post #3 of 14
iamhewhocooks: professional chef,
 

 

Including the title, you're asking four questions. You answered the first and third yourself and conclude with the real intent of your post, Am I the only one to feel this way?

 

Okay, so you want validation.

 

I can't give it to you, but taking the title ingenuously there are two reasons based on what I've observed and what's true for me. The primary reason for spending a lot of money on knives is that truly superior knives tend to cost more money. Those that take and hold a great edge for a long time; are well balanced; have a profile and geometry that is right for the user; have a handle that feels just right; etc.  I'm not going to get into a pissing match, but Kikuichis, Tojiros, and Shuns are generally entry-level better quality Japanese knives. But that's another issue altogether. Oh, and Forchner makes good knives for not a lot of money. I've used them, given them as gifts and plenty of very good chefs and cooks use them.

 

The second reason is that some pro cooks and chefs like to try out and collect high performance and fancy knives. Go to the different kitchen knife forums and you'll see for yourself. I don't see any pro's there that need validation, they are into high performance knives and regularly use them at work.

 

My limited pro background is working as a prep cook in the 1980's with a guy who is now on television a lot. Great guy, great chef and he had really good German knives and taught me about using sharpening and maintaining.  More recently I did a four month stint as an occasional prep cook intern at a fine dining establishment in Philly. The chefs, line cooks and prep cooks all used good Japanese knives, mostly with yo handles. Misono was the most popular brand. They weren't collectors but chose the knives on their merit. A chef/owner of a great French restaurant chose Misono for the same reason. I visited BOH at a fine dining establishment in Washington DC with some forum buddies who collected far too many Japanese knives but kept them in rotation at work. Finally, I hosted a gathering of kitchen knife crazies, many of whom were pro chefs, a few at nationally known restaurants. They all used high-end expensive knives in the kitchen, but had quite a few that were collector's items only.

 

None of the people I mentioned need validation. They were all confident in their cooking chops.

post #4 of 14

My personal opinion?  Based on 30 odd years working in kitchens around the world?

 

You just need good knives.

 

90% of knife work is "grunt work", cutting soup vegetables.  For this you need a good 10" chef's.  Nothing fancy, it has to be durable to cut squash, cut and core cabbages, cut tops off of carrots, whack a lobster shell or two, maybe attack a 5 kg slab of chocolate.  This demands a heavy knife, with a  very durable bevel (22 degree), softer steel so it won't chip and so it is easier to bring the edge back with a steel and easier to re-establish the edge with stones.

 

For cutting meat, yes, here you can get fancier.  It needs to be a thinner blade, with a steeper angle.  You can get away with harder steels as you won't encounter hard vegetable matter to damage the edge.  Disregard what I said for boning knives, as this knife will encounter bone and the edge will chip easily if made of harder steel with higher angles. At this point I want to say that at every kitchen I worked in, only teh Chef or someone he trusted would cut meat.  Yes yo can give the new guy a case of chickens to cut up and joint, but trimming tenders, portioning N.Y.'s and seafood is done by the Chef.

 

 

About another 50% of work is done with paring knives--peeling onions, opening bags, trimming veg, etc. This is a knife that gets no respect.  If I had a dollar for every knife I lost in a pile of veg trimmings and was thrown out, or was used by someone to cut cardboard, I'd be a rich man.  This knife should be dirt-cheap, and it never needs sharpening, because it will either be lost, stolen, or have the tip broken off (olive oil cans, need I say more?) before it gets dull.

 

So it's not a very romantic answer, I guess.  Most knife work is grunt work and the food doesn't know or care of the pedigree of the knife that cuts it, it just has to be sharp.

 

At food shows and exhibitions I get my jollies by bugging the knife guys at their booths.  Some really need it, as they sell overpriced crap.  When they tell me that the Japanese invented good knives, invented the process of laminating steel to iron for better edges, I tell them the Europeans have been doing since the 1500's with their knives and particularily woodworking tools. They are fun to bug, those guys especially if I bring my own carrot and julliene and brunoise it on their cutting boards which I graciously leave for them to display what their knives are capable of for every one else.....

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #5 of 14
As said above, more expensive knives will generally mean a better quality in production (I say generally because even some high end brands take shortcuts which jeopardize's quality & strength), and the overall use of the blade is usually better, how it keeps it's edge after prolonged use is a lot better on more expensive knives too. If you don't have the money to buy a high end name like Global, Shun, Wusthoff, etc, go for Victorinox. They are cheaper than most, but they are quality knives which last.
post #6 of 14
As everyone is saying a more expensive knife means better quality and feel , everyone's hands are different , I have a few Japanese knives for sushi and regular purposes but can only be used by me, however I have had a set of Mercers that keep their blade long and also can take quiet a beating, if you buy an expensive knife or knives you won't lose on them but you'll treat them like your baby
post #7 of 14

Why?

 

Same reasons as watches, cars, houses, shoes, etc.

 

dcarch

post #8 of 14

The professional has the tools he needs, the hobbyist the tools he wants.

 

Like I said before, the food being cut doesn't know or care about the pedigree of the knife doing the cutting.
 

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #9 of 14

Like anything you get what you pay for . 

 

A good knife if looked after will give you a life time of service , cheap rubbish knives will ( IMO ) die a lot sooner than a good German Knife. 

 

The skill is in your hands but a good set of knives will make your job a heck of a lot easier .

 

Pony up the cash and get the good gear , you will look more professional and it will make your job easier .

My posts are different , I speak in cm , Celsius , kilo's and call stuff weird names like Glad Wrap , Bicarb , Capsicum & Gravox . Might take you a little while to get my lingo but we're basically speaking the same language 

 

http://sneakykitchen.com/Glossary/translations.htm

 

Good onya...

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My posts are different , I speak in cm , Celsius , kilo's and call stuff weird names like Glad Wrap , Bicarb , Capsicum & Gravox . Might take you a little while to get my lingo but we're basically speaking the same language 

 

http://sneakykitchen.com/Glossary/translations.htm

 

Good onya...

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post #10 of 14

I don't know why i'm hearing about all these knives being for show, not just in this forum but many others. Knives are knives are knives are knives. Guess what they do? They cut stuff for you. Someone could achieve the same precision with a Bowie, a pocket, and a $35 Victronix and a $250 Shun. It's all about your personal comfort level with a knife. I've seen cooks use paring, utility, boning, santoku, and french knives all for the same purpose and get beautiful results. That being said the purpose of an expensive knife is durability. You should hope that your $150 Wusthof, Henkels or Shun lasts quite a bit longer than a cheap Victronix, F. Dick, or Chicago Cutlerly. Not to say those knives aren't as good or don't last as long because i've seen some older Chefs with F. Dicks that are 25+ years old. So i guess my point is you're not so much looking for expensive knives but durable knives, which just happen to be more expensive. That is if you hone, sharpen, and care for knives correctly.

post #11 of 14

i bought a damascus, it really is the best knife i've ever used. period. I only use it for fine work, dicing mincing and presentation stuff. But i expect to have it when i die so it's worht the $500 price tag imo.

 

My main knife is a I.O.Shen, which i treat like shit, because it's worth like $100 and the blade sharpens quickly and easily.

 

oh, fwiw, i firmly believe wustof knives are the worst knives for the price you pay on the market. They are a pain in the ass to get sharp and keep sharp, And also the blades are usually quite thick, which is also annoying.

post #12 of 14

Ahh.. I see.

 

Thick blades-- for me-- are the perfect thing to cut tough squashes and cabbages, watermelons, pineapples, chop nuts, chop slabs of chocolate, and to deal with crabs and lobsters. For these purposes--IMHO "thick knives" are the best option.

 

I'm not a big believer in bringing expensive knives to work--bring a workhorse, not a thoroughbred.  In my 30 years in the kitchen I've seen: Fist fights, locker break-ins, coerced dumpster diving, coerced "kitchen searches" and threats of amputation and castration all because of expensive knives.

 

Please, leave your expensive knives at home.

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
Reply
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #13 of 14

Im in the NOT for show camp.   Im just a line cook so I still do a lot of knife work, and the 10 degree angle my masamoto holds makes prep work a pleasure and I go the whole day with no need to strop/steel/whatever.   I also carry a henckles chef knife with me with an 18 degree angle that I use as a beater knife for things like taking the backs out of chickens or cutting squash.   If I were to try to get my henckles as sharp as my masamoto ks, the blade would hold for about 10 minutes before it folded over.

 

 

 

I sharpen or strop every day after work, so people who spend less time keeping an amazing edge on their high end knife may not see the differences that I do.  My knives are SCARY sharp.

 

 

 

When it comes to mid level knives like shun/wusthof/etc, I'm not sure if I really think they are worth their price tags.

post #14 of 14

I buy what I like, which more and more is Japanese.

What I buy I use at work.

I don't cook as much at home these days, what with the long days and the struggle to maintain at least one day off a week.

I want my knives where they'll do me the most good, at work.

Are they pretty? Sure, and I love to show them off, but they are also extremely functional.

I can't see leaving my best knife at home and using a lesser one at work.

Leave them at work overnight?

No way.

But my favorites are with me every day.

Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
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Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
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