or Connect
ChefTalk.com › ChefTalk Cooking Forums › Food & Equipment Reviews › Cooking Knife Reviews › 'Good' Knives? Shun, Mac, Etc.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

'Good' Knives? Shun, Mac, Etc.

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

First off, disclaimer, I'm NOT a chef, even a home chef, as much as my family thinks I am--I don't have the skills, I'm just good at following recipes and following my instincts. I do have a Shun Classic, 8" chef, I got it for $60 because there's a couple 1/4mm nicks in the edge.  And surprisingly, despite me being left-handed, it seems to fit very well-- though I've barely used it, I want to learn how to sharpen it right, first.

 

It's gorgeous, but I've been researching and I'm realizing more and more that while it's a 'good' knife, it's more show than performance.  I also know that it won't be 'good' until I can fix the edge, I've got a 400/1000/3000 waterstone set I'm learning on with some of my cheap knives, like mom's old $5 Ginsu "cook's knife" that's half straight edged and half scalloped/serrated (stamped stainless, so beat up the edge's rolled over in places)

 

But I want more, I want to *learn*, there aren't any cooking schools around, or anyplace I can really go to learn, other than teaching myself, and asking "the experts".  I don't want to be just 'a cook', I want to be a good cook, I don't know if I’ll ever get to the point I'd deserve the title 'chef', though I'd like to someday.

 

I've been taught for years, even back when I went thru a 'swords are awesome' phase as a kid, "The right blade is an extension of your hand, your thoughts" -- it needs to fit you.   I know better than to delude myself into thinking I need to drop $1,000 on a Kiritsuke on amazon, or even $900 on a Shun classic student set, to be "a chef". It's the skills more than the knife, but I want a good knife even so, it'll help. I want something good, that'll keep an edge, last me to 10/20/30yrs if maintained right... I want a knife (or knives) that can travel with me along that 'road to being a chef', without costing close to a month's income for a set. (i.e. $700/800/900+)

 

This Shun was an impulse buy, mainly because I know enough to know it'll keep an edge if I treat it right and it's, admittedly, a beautiful knife. (I nearly fainted when I saw the Fuji line on eBay, those are outright gorgeous, but works of art more than 'working knives'... but the price is enough to give you a heart attack!)

 

But enough of my 02:30 rambling, I came here for questions!

 

1.   I'd prefer a Japanese knife (fond of the bevel mainly), but realistically I'm not sure if it'd work for 'general use' in my situation, I don't know what's out there though other than names and hearsay, don't know what's good, what's junk, what's overpriced mediocrity.  So, I'm asking you...  where do I start?  The "kitchen outlet store" downtown has some Wusthof and Henkels, but it's their bottom end lines, best I can tell not much better than stainless ('primero' and 'gourmet' I think, though they had a 'twin star' or two that were factory 2nds, but no chefs in that line)

 

2. I don't think there's a "Real" cutlery store closer than 150+ miles from here (ironically about the same as the Shun factory!) -- Is there anything I can get that IS 'good' without going into a store?  Or, assuming I can (it's a bit hard to travel that far),  how would I know what's "right"?  All I've known are what I've grown up with are cheap 'Wal-Mart' or 'goodwill' stuff, I know enough I can tell this Shun is worlds above that when I hold it, same with the Wusthof I got a chance to try, my friend got one of those gourmet line Santoku's.  But I don't know I'd know 'feels like good quality' from 'feels *right*'...  any thoughts?

 

3. And, lastly... assuming I do end up with a good knife, one that'll last and be 'a real Chef's Knife'.....  how can I learn the rest?  Knife skill, knife care,  prep skills, all the other stuff I don't know that I want to know?  I'll never be a Masaharu Morimoto, Geoffrey Zakarian, or a Bobby Flay, much less a Wolfgang Puck or Jamie Oliver.....

 

 

 

But I want to *learn*, want to see...  the food inside the ingredients, to paraphrase Michelangelo, learn what goes together, WHY it goes together, HOW it goes together.  I've picked up fragments- good eats, chopped, iron chef... but the latter two are more showmanship than show-you-how, to say the least. So, I take what I pick up from them with a grain of salt.  I read, I watch YouTube teaching videos (far less useful than I thought in the beginning!), but I don't know the next step, or even if I can take the next step, not having anyone/anyplace around to teach me?

 

Help?  Comments, thoughts, criticism, insight? Anyone?

 

 

 

 

 

......whack upside the head for posting a book? surprised.gif

post #2 of 5

I'm not that far ahead of you on the learning curve, so my comments should be taken that way.  For some things I know the "what" more than the "why."

 

Richmond Artifex, Fujiwara FKM, and Tojiro DP gyutos get frequent recommendations for the sub-$100 entry level knives.  MAC Pros also get frequent recommendations, although there are a lot of other good contenders in that $150-200 price range.  Do some searches --there are a lot of threads of, "Which knife should I buy?" in both of those budget ranges.

 

Good that you've already got some waterstones and the recognition that sharpening is important.  I believe Norton India and Arkansas stones are more appropriate for the practice on the Ginsu.  There are some recent threads about sharpening German knives (which are softer than Japanese) that give more info.

 

You might be able to find a local sharpener who could repair and sharpen the Shun.  Or you could send it to Kai for the free lifetime sharpening (I'm sure they'd charge extra for the repair, and you'd have to pay shipping both ways).

 

There are some good sharpening vids on youtube--check out Jon Broida's channel.

 

Giving more information helps people to help you.  You've given people enough to help guide you, or to ask further questions.

 

(Invariably, I'm sure something I've written is not entirely correct, or needs further explanation, and I'm sure someone will be along soon to correct me!  But I'm doing my best to learn.)

 

And be careful--you're treading into some obsessive and addictive territory with an interest in good knives!  At least it's a fun obsession!

post #3 of 5

I stumbled across this forum about 2 weeks ago now asking many of the same questions you have.  So I have limited knowledge in this area but I'll will post some answers based on my observations of other post I've read and responses to my post. 

 

1.  You are going be asked about sharpening first.  You have already stated you have stones and have been practicing so you are way farther ahead of the game than I am.

 

2.  You got a Shun Classic for $60.  Shun's don't get much love around here but I think that is due to the fact they are way overpriced and therefore there are much better "bang for you buck" knives out there. I don't think they are bad knives. However given the price you paid, your willingness to sharpen, and that you like how it feels in your hand I don't see any reason for you to purchase another chef knife given you can fix the nicks in it. 

 

As far as your other questions about cooking in general.  I am still trying to develop my palate myself and I'm not sure exactly how to go about it.  If I did a blind fold tasting test I think I would fail miserably.  So I am still working on how and why things go together myself.  I will get to a point in making something that I know it needs "something" but I'm not quite sure where to start. 

 

I learned from watching chefs on TV and I actually find YouTube very helpful.  Knife skills learn proper grip and start slow. 

post #4 of 5
I'd prefer a Japanese knife (fond of the bevel mainly), but realistically I'm not sure if it'd work for 'general use' in my situation, I don't know what's out there though other than names and hearsay, don't know what's good, what's junk, what's overpriced mediocrity.  So, I'm asking you...  where do I start? 

This is a very good place.

 

The "kitchen outlet store" downtown has some Wusthof and Henkels, but it's their bottom end lines, best I can tell not much better than stainless ('primero' and 'gourmet' I think, though they had a 'twin star' or two that were factory 2nds, but no chefs in that line)...
 
I don't think there's a "Real" cutlery store closer than 150+ miles from here (ironically about the same as the Shun factory!) -- Is there anything I can get that IS 'good' without going into a store?  Or, assuming I can (it's a bit hard to travel that far),  how would I know what's "right"?  All I've known are what I've grown up with are cheap 'Wal-Mart' or 'goodwill' stuff, I know enough I can tell this Shun is worlds above that when I hold it, same with the Wusthof I got a chance to try, my friend got one of those gourmet line Santoku's.  But I don't know I'd know 'feels like good quality' from 'feels *right*'...  any thoughts?

Very few -- if any -- kitchen stores do a really good job on knives.  And yes, the exclusion includes Williams-Sonoma and Sur La Table.  That's not to say you can't find perfectly adequate knives at WS, SLT, or even a good department store but as a rule you won't get the best, the best "bang for the buck," or even good advice.

 

The modern trend in western knives (chef's knives, slicers, paring knives, etc.) for good cutters is away from heavy, "classic," German style knives and towards what started as a Japanese adaptation -- lighter, more acutely beveled, French profiled, and made from "stronger" alloys.  Now, some European and American makers are following the same trail blazed by the Japanese. 

 

For almost everyone, the best "place" to buy kitchen knives is online.  There are a few stand out retailers.  IMO, Chef Knives to Go (aka CKtG) and Japanese Knife Imports are the best of the best.  Epicurean Edge and Aframes Tokyo (located in Hawaii) might be just as good, but my experience with them is more limited.  Japanese Chef Knives (Japan) and Korin are also good.  There are a few other places as well which you might want to look into, depending on which knives end up on your short list -- The Knife Merchant and The Best Things, for example. 

 

At the end of the day, that means that your best bet in terms of finding a really good fit in kitchen cutlery is relying on other people's advice, instead of going to a brick and mortar store.  That's a surprisingly good thing, because people tend to choose knives for reasons which turn out to be unimportant or actually counter-productive, unless they really know what they're doing.  For instance, qualities like "heft" and "balance" are overvalued.  

 

Think of your knives as one part of a "system" which includes knives, board, sharpening kit, knife skills, and sharpening skills.  None of those things really exist independently of one another, and like any other system the chain is only as strong as its weakest link.  Bottom line:  Get a knife you can keep sharp, and "keeping a knife sharp" means doing more than running it up and down a steel now and then and sending it in for sharpening every year. 

 

If you're not going to go to the time, money and effort to maintain a knife, don't wast your money on anything expensive. 

 

You got a Shun Classic for $60.  Shun's don't get much love around here but I think that is due to the fact they are way overpriced and therefore there are much better "bang for you buck" knives out there. I don't think they are bad knives. However given the price you paid, your willingness to sharpen, and that you like how it feels in your hand I don't see any reason for you to purchase another chef knife given you can fix the nicks in it.

 

Let's see if I can't clear some of the Shun stuff up.  The problems with Shun is not just "bang for the buck," that is, you could get one for free and it still wouldn't necessarily be a good knife for you

 

As a sort of generic for people who want to develop good knife and sharpening skills, I recommend a 10", chip resistant knife, with a French profile and an appropriately handed or ambidextrous handle.  Your Shun is none of those.  That doesn't make it bad, or even bad for you -- just not something I'd recommend without knowing more about your situation. 

 

Your best bet for getting the Shun fixed is to send it in to the factory.  I think they're back to honoring their "free lifetime sharpening" promising.  Whether or not that applies to you as a second owner, I don't know.  In any case, their prices from their no such thing as a free lunch period were pretty reasonable. 

 

I believe Norton India and Arkansas stones are more appropriate for the practice on the Ginsu. 

 

Ginsu knives can't be sharpened to anything resembling a good edge on bench stones of any sort as they're more saws than knives.  You won't learn anything from the process other than your tolerance limit for frustration.  Don't bother.

 

Before we can move on to specific recommendations, I need to know something about your budget for now, where you want to start, and so on. 

 

Your thoughts?

 

BDL

post #5 of 5
Quote:
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze View Post

 

Think of your knives as one part of a "system" which includes knives, board, sharpening kit, knife skills, and sharpening skills.  None of those things really exist independently of one another, and like any other system the chain is only as strong as its weakest link. 

 

BDL

 

That is a very helpful way of stating it.  Your entire post had a lot of your very helpful advice, but I think the quote above reframes how people look at things.  Instead of the "best knife" or "best knife for a person with x, y, z characteristics," I think the focus on a system gets people on the right track and helps them understand the various components.

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Cooking Knife Reviews
ChefTalk.com › ChefTalk Cooking Forums › Food & Equipment Reviews › Cooking Knife Reviews › 'Good' Knives? Shun, Mac, Etc.