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Looking for a chef knife

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

Hey all, I'm new to this site and this is my first post. Let me say first that I hate this site!! I stumbled across it doing research on knives and after about 5 hours of searching and reading I'm more confused now than I was when I started! There are some people on this site that know way more than anyone should on this subject.


All kidding aside I really am more lost now as I had no idea how many factors you had to think about when looking for a good knife or set of knives. So I am going to ask on advice for buying a Chef Knife. I'll try and be as detailed as possible and answer questions I've seen asked in other threads.


I'm a home cook not a pro. I'm not spending hours a day prepping and chopping. I'm not preparing a meal every day as I eat leftovers when I have them. I think I use decent technique given that I've never been taught how to use a knife and given what the sharpness of my knives allow. After reading this forum and I went and grabbed a knife and noticed I use a pinch grip just naturally.


My current setup:

7” Forschner Santoku-This is my main knife. I know there are certain opinions about these type of knives. Plain and simple this knife was given to me and is the sharpest knife I own which is why it is my main knife. Although I can't say I've ever felt limited by the size or type of it.


5” JA Henckel International Santoku and 3.25” paring knife set-I got these for Christmas last week. I was pretty excited because I had heard Henckels were good knives. To be honest they don't seem that sharp to me OOTB. I tried to sharpen them (we will get to that in a moment) but still not as sharp as my Forschner. Are these decent and can I somehow get them sharp?


A Philippe Richard knife set-I bought this when I moved into my house because it was all chrome or stainless or whatever. Basically it looked cool, I didn't cook at the time. It is a complete set, bread, slicer, chef, santoku, honing steel, etc. Blades are pretty dull and once again I can't seem to get them sharp. The steak knives get the most use.


Cutting boards:

15X21 wood cutting board (From Wal-Mart or something. Nothing fancy)

18X12 Pampered Chef plastic board (Another Xmas present from a few years back) Plastic board get the most use because it fits better with what counter space I have. Had no idea plastic wasn't good for knives.


Sharpening: Presto 08800 EverSharp Electric Knife Sharpener-Which probably explains why I can't get my knives sharp. Although the Forschner is decently sharp to me and I've sharpened it on this several times.


What I'm looking for: This is going to be my first serious knife purchase so here is what I'm looking for.


Budget: Under $200. I would think this is plenty to spend for a home cook on one knife. I have no preference on brand. I would like something that will last a really long time though.


Size: 10” seems to be the standard. As I've mentioned my main knife has been a 7” and I've never felt limited with it being a home cook. But I have no problem buying a 10” if that is what recommended based on my needs.


Type: Japanese, German, etc. Not really sure and might become more defined based on other criteria I give.


Steel type: Once again I'll leave that up to you given my other criteria. I'd like something that holds it's edge the best though.


Balance/Feel: There might be a store around here that I can go try out knives but I don't know of it. After I read about this I grabbed my Forschner and it seems a little forward heavy but that has never really bothered me. And once again I'm not chopping for hours so I've never had a problem with it being uncomfortable.


Durability: I've never broken down a whole chicken at home or anything but would like a knife that is a workhorse and could do that, then go chop veggies. One thing I've learned when reading this site is some knifes are fragile and can chip if you hit a bone or the board wrong. I can keep my Forschner for the really rugged work but I was planning on passing it on to my nephew. His main knife is a Chicago Cutlery chef knife that scares the crap out me. It is so dull you can't even make horizontal cuts in an onion without using a ridculous amount of pressure. You are better off not even trying because you are more likely to hack a finger off. And I've tried to sharpen it on my handy dandy sharpener with no luck. :)


Sharpness: I think anything is going to be a step up from my current knives. Does it need to be sharp enough to slice a tomato paper thin horizontally on its own without you even holding the tomato as I've seen on a couple Youtube videos, no not really. Do I want the sharpest knife in my price range with what I want to use it for, of course.


Maintenance: I clean my kitchen as I cook and finish up almost immediately once I'm done. I don't put my knives, good pots and pans, or cutting boards in the dishwasher. I feel I take good care of my things.


Sharpening: I have zero sharpening experience other than my electric sharpener. Would I be opposed to learning? Well that depends. Sharpening seems almost more complicated than picking a knife from what I've read. If I didn't want to take it to the extreme what would a decent sharpening set up cost me and how often/how much time would I need to spend sharpening given I would use the knife much less than someone in a professional kitchen?


Looks: Least important of the criteria but come on, if I'm going to spend $100-$200 on a knife I'd like it to look cool. Honing steel: I'll need a good honing steel to go along with my knife so suggestions welcomed for those as well.


I think I've covered what I'm looking for. Might be some miss information in there given my confusion on the subject so if you need me to clarify or have other questions just ask. Other than that, thanks for reading and my suggestions left.

post #2 of 14

I'm nowhere near an expert, but looking at your budget, if you want to get an easy and apparently decent sharpening tool in there (assuming that you don't want to get into stones, based on the general tone of your post), you might end up looking at something like:


Tojiro DP (~$100 for a 240mm gyuto) or knife of a similar cost (Fuji, Richmond, semi-stainless in a CarboNext, etc)

Minosharp 3 stage sharpener (~$75 from what I recall)

Idahone ceramic rod (~$25 - $30)


There ya go. $200 gone in a flash. 




(everything changes if the honing rod and sharpening are part of a separate budget)

post #3 of 14
Thread Starter 

I could probably get away with honing rod and sharpener as part of a separate budget.  Kinda goes back to my question about sharpening.  If I can go a couple months without having to sharpen my new knife I can buy the sharpening system later and honing rod now. 


I of course had never heard of them but I have been researching the Tojiro DP and Richmond knives now.  There was that long thread on here with the lady who bought the Torijio DP and eventually hated the handle.  But once again she was working in a professional kitchen and I am not.  And I have seen other post where BDL and others have said good things about Richmond. 

post #4 of 14

With all due respect, after reading your highly detailed post... perhaps you (and your nephew) should concentrate on knife sharpening and knife skills first, and spend money on another knife later.  It seem to me that all of your questions about knives has been answered over and over again on this forum.  But you seem to have limited space, limited needs, and desptie a desire to grow more the thing that seems a bit missing at the moment is fundemental experience.


Toys are nice (and nice knives are REALLY nice) but without the experience you never really gain any appreciation for how nice they are.


Given the mental image you have given us, let me recommend being very cautious about moving into a 10 inch knife.  You probably don't need to do that and if you do you may end up regretting it.  They are difficult to handle on smaller board and smaller workspaces.


Buy a whole chicken tonight and cut it up.  It might take a couple unitl the pices start coming out uniform, but they are very inexpensive and no matter what the pieces look like you can eat the results.  It will all taste the same.  In fact, it might even taste better.


Good luck and enjoy!

post #5 of 14



Thanks for the detail so that others can help.  I'm hardly an expert, but I'll chip in.


Tojiro DP seems to be a pretty common recommendation for those who want to get into Japanese knives, but not spend too much money.  They seem to offer quite good value, and are a frequent recommendation here.


Could you elaborate in terms of your space (since you said you prefer the smaller plastic cutting board you have)?  If you get something good, and keep it sharp, it will be better to use it on wood.  Preferably end-grain, but edge grain seems acceptable.  Are you able to use your larger wood board?  It's nice to have a larger board to work on, especially with a longer knife.


Most people who go to a 240mm Japanese knife seem to be comfortable with it, provided they have the board space and are willing to invest the time to develop skills to handle it.  Also, many Japanese knives are sleeker than the German ones that folks are used to that they don't feel like that big a step up (though I don't have a Forshner Santoku or Tojiro 240, so can't comment from experience how those two would compare or predict what your transition might be like).


Yes, you could probably get a knife and ceramic hone now and invest in sharpening in a couple months.  Just make sure that the sharpening is part of your plan.  Developing your knife and sharpening skills will help you get the most out of your new knife.  I think a lot of people use a new, higher-quality knife purchase as the impetus to develop those skills.

post #6 of 14
Originally Posted by toddnmd View Post

 I think a lot of people use a new, higher-quality knife purchase as the impetus to develop those skills.


It's very true. I had initially planned something basic for sharpening (figuring a Chef's Choice or something would be good) and ended up Choseras and then decided that something in between suited me better so went with the Apex Edge Pro Chosera kit. I figured that now that I have nice knives, taking care of them was more of a priority. 


For the cutting boards, you can often find good deals on end grain boards at places like HomeSense (that's what it's called here - kind of a housewares/home decor store related to TJ Maxx - not sure what you guys have down there but I'm sure you probably have something similar). I've got some ripping deals there. Costco also sometimes has decent prices if they happen to have something in. 


As a related aside, I was using my Moritaka last night on the plastic board  (as that's what my wife had out already) and it just felt...yech. Like the blade was sticking to to the board. Didn't like it at all. Switched over to my bamboo (which I know it's that much better for the knives due to resin content or something like that) and it felt way better. 

post #7 of 14

Bamboo has a silica (SiO2) content of 1.5 to 2%. Evidently that is quite high. I cannot find data right offhand for "normal" hardwoods.

post #8 of 14
Thread Starter 

It seems I should work on my skills first.  Can someone elaborate on which knife skills I should be concentrating on?  Maybe some videos or such?  And I'm really not sure where to start on sharpening. 

post #9 of 14



Personally, I somewhat (and respectfully) disagree with the opinion that you need to work on your skills first. I think this for two reasons:


1. Working on your skills with crappy equipment won't help you decide what you should buy. All you'll know is that you still want a good knife that is sharper. 


2. In my life, I'm a bit of a "risk taker" and abide by the theory that you can buy bigger shoes and grow into them. If you always wait to be ready for the bigger shoes, you're only ever benefiting the current state of affairs rather than acquire the benefits as you progress. 


3. (I know I said two, but I thought of a third) Arguably, using proper tools will help you to improve your technique. If your current knife isn't doing an adequate job of cutting (as many knives are used to help tear rather than cut), you won't really be developing the skills that you want. I'm not saying that you can't achieve better results with your current knives (particularly if properly sharpened) but rather that if your current tools aren't functioning as required, you may benefit from replacement or upgrading of said tools.


That all being said, if you started with sharpening your Forschner santoku and then practiced your skills, you may determine that you're perfectly happy with your current Forschner and just needed to deal with sharpening. 


Where to start with sharpening? Well, as noted, there are several threads on here about various places to start and options. You have four basic options:


1. Electric sharpening (which you know a little about already, I trust)

2. Pull through sharpeners such as the Minosharp 3 stage that I mentioned. You may find some information here by doing a search. 

3. Gadgets such as the Apex Edge Pro that I have (and I like it as it bridges the gap for my obsessive nature between #4 and the need to have things done fairly quickly, efficiently, and effectively)

4. Stones


Can't decide that for you. 


Good luck!

post #10 of 14
Not sure if this is going to help you, but I was taught to sharpen by my head chef giving me a cheap dull kitchen knife and a $25 1200 grit king stone.
He showed basic angle of kitchen knife (about 15•) and said to keep hands steady.

There are many videos on YouTube that I didn't have back then.

Jon broida has many videos I find helpful.
post #11 of 14
Thread Starter 

Deputy,  that was my thinking from the beginning.  If you don't have the proper tools, it's hard to do the job correctly.   As I said in my original post I think my skills (technique) are pretty decent for a home cook.  Can I mow thru an onion in 3 seconds like some  And I really have no reason to as once again I'm just a home cook.   Then again I don't really know the different knife "skills" so to speak and therefore I'm not really sure what I'm lacking in that department.  I hold the knife with a pinch grip and use the "claw" or whatever it is called to hold what I'm cutting where your fingers are tucked back and you use your knuckle as the guide.  I can large, medium, small  dice and julienne all with pretty consistent cuts. 


As I said I started searching for better chef knives just because I wanted a better knife and was floored when I came across this website as I didn't know you had to consider all these factors.  I was originally just looking to decided between the usual Wusthof, Shun, and Global till I read on here you can get a better knife for less.  And then sharpening, well I thought I was ok with my little electric sharpener.  smile.gif


Anyhoo, I looked up some videos on Apex Edge Pro and I could get into that.  Don't think I'd have the patience for free hand.  So maybe I'll start there and get an Edge Pro kit and work on my current knives. 

post #12 of 14

It really is a great tool. I like my Chosera kit so far. 


Good luck with whatever you decide!

post #13 of 14
Originally Posted by Zydrus View Post

It seems I should work on my skills first.  Can someone elaborate on which knife skills I should be concentrating on?  Maybe some videos or such?  And I'm really not sure where to start on sharpening. 

Sharpening!  That should be the first knife skill to work on, as I said two days ago.  To get a faster start, as an alternative option... why not look for a knife sharpening service in Springfield MO area.  I'm sure there is someone and the prices are generally quite affordable.  Then you'll have a better experience with your current blades until you settle in on a sharpening system to buy.


There should be no embarassment for a home cook to send their blades out for sharpening and focus on perfecting honing and the art of maintaining an edge.  It is a great option for anyone on a "beer budget".  Even many professionals do just that.


But if there is some sort of compelling need/desire to do it yourself then then the EdgePro would be a great system and will ensure you a sharp blade -- whether it is your current knives or some high-end trendy knife.  You'd have no complaints and a nice hobby too.  But aren't they running around $250 these days?  Your budget didn't seem quite that high.


As for other knife skills to work on... that depends on what kind of cooking you do.  But the best skill-building method is practice, practice, and more practice.  So whatever you currently need to do you'll find easier and more satisfying with a sharp blade on either your current knives or your future knives.  I highly encourage you to learn to break down a chicken, though - it's cheaper and a whole lot of fun.  Search around the internet for Martin Yan's video of breaking down a chicken.  He does it in about 5 seconds.  No kidding... I've seen him do it in person (and come out of the demo with all of his fingers, too!)

post #14 of 14
Learn how to sharpen or find someone reliable to do it for you before you invest in good knives. Otherwise , you'll be left with a rather expensive,,dull, disappointing knife you have no enthusiasm for. BDL and I probably still have Sabatier knives older than a lot of guys on this forum. They are well maintained and kept sharp. Sharpening gives me almost as much pleasure as cooking. You could do much worse than following BDL's advice on knives as well as any number of guys here. One thing they seem to have in common is that they take good care of the tools they value. Btw, there's nothing wrong with the forshner, maybe get yourself a chef to go with your santoko until you determine how you'll keep them sharp. Oh yeah, stay away from that presto!
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