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New to the forum would like some advice on knives

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

So I have been doing Front of the House work for years and now I want to learn more about the back of the house. I have taken one culinary class and I am looking to take more in my free time. Anyway on to my question(s)....

 

I have a set of Mercers (Millennia series, stamped)

       - 9" Chef Knife

       - 7" Usuba

       - 7" Santoku

       - 6" Curved Boning Knife

       - 8" Offset Utility Knife(wavy edge)

       - 2.5" Peeling Knife(tourneau)

       - 3" Paring Knife

       - 10" Steel

       - Case

 

 

I like these knives but there is part of me that would like to move on the something forged. So I went to Williams Sonoma and tried out some knives. I looked at Global, Shun, Wusthof, and J.A. Henckels.

 

I ended up liking these two the best:

http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/zwilling-ja-henckels-pro-chefs-knife/?pkey=cchefs-santoku-knives&

 

http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/wusthof-classic-ikon-chefs-knife/?pkey=cchefs-santoku-knives&

 

First off I  would love your opinions on these knives

 

Second while I liked the Wusthof the sales person told me that the blade was sharpened to a 15 degree angle making it sharper. While using it I found that it was hard to move the knife "down" the product so to speak, as in julienning. Would this be because of the sharper blade or my technique? Or a combination? If it is my technique would it make sense to go with the sharper knife and refine my technique?

 

Lastly..... am I crazy? Should I just stick with the knives I have before moving on? Or is there something to be said for getting really good knives this early in the game?

 

Okay sorry for the blur of information and questions... I welcome any and ALL comments and suggestions as I am eager to learn.

 

Thank you

post #2 of 14

I'm not likely to share the same opinion as most of the knife experts on this board.  They will liley tell you that you need a Japanese knife.  :)

 

But let me ask one question:  What is it that you would like to gain from changing knives at this point?  What are the Mercer's not doing for you?

 

OK... that was two questions.

 

Good for you for actually handling knives that you are thinking about!

post #3 of 14
Thread Starter 

BrianShaw

Really at this point the only problem I have with the Mercers is that I find myself honing the knives a lot, but really that's about it. I was worried that I might be having a "oh shiny new things" moment. Thinking about it I guess part of my question could be refined to ask "what MIGHT I gain from getting forged professional grade knives?"

 

Thanks for the kudos on trying out the knives. I've been a guitar player for a LONG time and rule number one is to play a guitar before you buy it. I figured the same would apply here lol

 

Actually we have a term in the music world that might work here...

 

G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome)

post #4 of 14

Look in another store before you buy. You don't say where you are but find more stores selling kitchen supplies and go see what knives they carry. There are lots of different knife manufacturers out there. Some better than others, some not and forged versus stamped is not the only question. Read through some of the other knife threads on this website. BDL has some very informative posts about knives. 

A good knife is only a good knife if you enjoy using it and it does a good job doing what you need to do. Price is only relevant after that. 

Carbon versus stainless is another area of choice. So carbon/stamped-stainless/stamped-carbon/forged-stainless/forged, etc, etc. After enough research your head should be swimming with all the possibilities. 

G.A.S is a major problem for me in all culinary things. I have several dozen of knives of all kinds and enough small equipment to open a restaurant. After reading one of BDLs posts about a particular knife, I had to buy one. It just arrived, is exactly what he said it was and is my new favorite. That should last until I find a new one to salivate over. The last thing I needed was a new knife so this purchase is entirely BDL's fault. smile.gif

So I guess for now I would recommend you not spend money on really expensive knives until you are familiar with more of what is out there. You may find what you want for a lot less. If you keep cooking, you will likely continue buying knives anyway. Just go slow. 

post #5 of 14

I have an Epiphone B.B. King Lucille model guitar which is a good solid guitar based on the more expensive Gibson that. B. B. King actually plays.

 

I play my Epiphone and I do not sound like B.B. Playing a Gibson does not make me sound more like B.B. I still sound like me.

 

B.B. King can play either one and sound like B.B. King.

 

Work on skills first, as time (and your skills) progress you will know more what exactly you want and be able to do more justice to your equipment.

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
Reply
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
Reply
post #6 of 14

OK, got it.  That same syndrome runs rampant inthe camrea world too!

 

In that case, clarify what you want in yournext knife and go get it.  That is the only way to deal with this "problem".

 

Do you want lighter?

 

Do you want prettier?

 

Do you want the kind of knife that makes others drool when they see it?

 

Any of the above are good reasons, but I suggest you not look at the "pedestrian" German knives and look for something a little more uncommon.  In German cutlery I keep getting tempted by F. Dick 1893 and 1902 series.  Pretty German knives.  In Japanese cultery... listen to what the folks on this board say... they know the market and options quite well!

post #7 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by chefwriter View Post

Look in another store before you buy. You don't say where you are but find more stores selling kitchen supplies and go see what knives they carry. There are lots of different knife manufacturers out there. Some better than others, some not and forged versus stamped is not the only question. Read through some of the other knife threads on this website. BDL has some very informative posts about knives. 

A good knife is only a good knife if you enjoy using it and it does a good job doing what you need to do. Price is only relevant after that. 

Carbon versus stainless is another area of choice. So carbon/stamped-stainless/stamped-carbon/forged-stainless/forged, etc, etc. After enough research your head should be swimming with all the possibilities. 

G.A.S is a major problem for me in all culinary things. I have several dozen of knives of all kinds and enough small equipment to open a restaurant. After reading one of BDLs posts about a particular knife, I had to buy one. It just arrived, is exactly what he said it was and is my new favorite. That should last until I find a new one to salivate over. The last thing I needed was a new knife so this purchase is entirely BDL's fault. smile.gif

So I guess for now I would recommend you not spend money on really expensive knives until you are familiar with more of what is out there. You may find what you want for a lot less. If you keep cooking, you will likely continue buying knives anyway. Just go slow. 


Can you comment a little more on two things. First, and I am sure that I am just missing something simple here, Who/what is "BDL"?

 

Also can you, or someone, comment a little more on the difference between carbon and stainless

post #8 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by cheflayne View Post

I have an Epiphone B.B. King Lucille model guitar which is a good solid guitar based on the more expensive Gibson that. B. B. King actually plays.

 

I play my Epiphone and I do not sound like B.B. Playing a Gibson does not make me sound more like B.B. I still sound like me.

 

B.B. King can play either one and sound like B.B. King.

 

Work on skills first, as time (and your skills) progress you will know more what exactly you want and be able to do more justice to your equipment.

LOVE this analogy! Just like I will never sound EXACTLY like SRV, no matter what gear I get. I will never cook just like Charlie Trotter.

 

Also.... jealous of your guitars. What else do you have? I'm looking at getting a 1972 Epiphone ea255 from a private seller.

post #9 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by DCarter View Post


...  Who/what is "BDL"?

 

 

Our resident knife Guru - boar_d_laze

----

 


"Plus, this method makes you look like a complete lunatic. If you care about that sort of thing".  - Dave Arnold

 

Reply

----

 


"Plus, this method makes you look like a complete lunatic. If you care about that sort of thing".  - Dave Arnold

 

Reply
post #10 of 14

Knives don't exist in isolation.  They're part of a system which includes the knives themselves, your sharpening kit, your knife skills, your sharpening kit, and your board.   

 

Just in terms of knives, Mercer Millenia aren't quite the bottom of the barrel but they're close. 

 

The comparison to musical instruments seem to have struck a responsive chord.  The question isn't whether a given guitar will make you sound like B.B. King, Eddie Van Halen, Django Rhinehart, Mauro Giuliani or anyone else, but how well that guitar suits you and the music you want to play with it.  Obviously, the quality of the guitar, as well as its particular suitability for you and your purposes count for something there.  In the guitar analogy Mercers are neither Epiphone nor Gibson, they're Toys R Us

 

At the most basic level, knives are about sharpness, and sharpness is more about sharpening than anything else as long as the knife is capable of taking and holding a good edge.  Your Mercers are marginal at best.  If you can afford to buy new knives, you should -- on that basis alone.

 

After sharpness, the next criteria is whether your knives are (a) comfortable and (b) suitable for their tasks.  Another way of looking at those qualities is whether the knives are worth the time, effort and expense to keep them sharp.  And again, the Mercers are marginal. 

 

Even though your knife kit was probably put together as a factory set, the profiles are very poorly chosen.  The "usuba," santoku, and chef's knife all do the same things; the parer and tourne do the same things; your "offset utility knife" is only valuable to do something you can do with knives which are signifcantly more versatile; and the sharpening steel sucks.  The case is probably okay, though. 

 

So, yeah.  If you can afford it, you should replace your knives, get a decent sharpening kit, get a good board, learn to use the knives, and learn to sharpen.  These are things we can talk about if you like.

 

Japanese knives aren't inherently better than German.  Also, those aren't the only two choices.  I can't tell you what will work best for you without getting more of a sense of what you want to do in the kitchen. 

 

The trend among skilled cutters is away from the thick, heavy, big-bellied German type knives made from soft/tough alloys which were popular in the seventies and towards thinner, lighter, flatter knives made from hard/strong alloys.  Zillions of great cooks have cooked gazillions of great meals with German knives and had a wonderful time doing it, so it would be stupid to talk down German knives.  Without talking down the German knives in any way, the trend away from the "classic" German type is a good one.

 

Hope this is beginning to make sense,

BDL

 

PS and FYI  Forged isn't inherently better than stamped.  There are quite a few good stamped knives on the market... Just not Mercers.


Edited by boar_d_laze - 1/29/13 at 10:19am
post #11 of 14

^ROFL at that kid

post #12 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze View Post

Knives don't exist in isolation.  They're part of a system which includes the knives themselves, your sharpening kit, your knife skills, your sharpening kit, and your board.   

 

Just in terms of knives, Mercer Millenia aren't quite the bottom of the barrel but they're close. 

 

The comparison to musical instruments seem to have struck a responsive chord.  The question isn't whether a given guitar will make you sound like B.B. King, Eddie Van Halen, Django Rhinehart, Mauro Giuliani or anyone else, but how well that guitar suits you and the music you want to play with it.  Obviously, the quality of the guitar, as well as its particular suitability for you and your purposes count for something there.  In the guitar analogy Mercers are neither Epiphone nor Gibson, they're Toys R Us

 

At the most basic level, knives are about sharpness, and sharpness is more about sharpening than anything else as long as the knife is capable of taking and holding a good edge.  Your Mercers are marginal at best.  If you can afford to buy new knives, you should -- on that basis alone.

 

After sharpness, the next criteria is whether your knives are (a) comfortable and (b) suitable for their tasks.  Another way of looking at those qualities is whether the knives are worth the time, effort and expense to keep them sharp.  And again, the Mercers are marginal. 

 

Even though your knife kit was probably put together as a factory set, the profiles are very poorly chosen.  The "usuba," santoku, and chef's knife all do the same things; the parer and tourne do the same things; your "offset utility knife" is only valuable to do something you can do with knives which are signifcantly more versatile; and the sharpening steel sucks.  The case is probably okay, though. 

 

So, yeah.  If you can afford it, you should replace your knives, get a decent sharpening kit, get a good board, learn to use the knives, and learn to sharpen.  These are things we can talk about if you like.

 

Japanese knives aren't inherently better than German.  Also, those aren't the only two choices.  I can't tell you what will work best for you without getting more of a sense of what you want to do in the kitchen. 

 

The trend among skilled cutters is away from the thick, heavy, big-bellied German type knives made from soft/tough alloys which were popular in the seventies and towards thinner, lighter, flatter knives made from hard/strong alloys.  Zillions of great cooks have cooked gazillions of great meals with German knives and had a wonderful time doing it, so it would be stupid to talk down German knives.  Without talking down the German knives in any way, the trend away from the "classic" German type is a good one.

 

Hope this is beginning to make sense,

BDL

 

PS and FYI  Forged isn't inherently better than stamped.  There are quite a few good stamped knives on the market... Just not Mercers.

 



Amazing advice... thank you. To be honest I am not 100% sure what I would like to do yet in the kitchen. I am currently working full time(not at a restaurant at the moment) so I'm going to try and fit in some culinary classes where I can. I've only had one class and I basically "staged" in a slightly more advanced class because I knew the instructor. Most of my instruction at the moment is from several books and bugging my friends that are chefs for advice. I did read an article that suggested that I start out with a Chef's Knife and a Paring Knife and learn how to use those, so that was where I was thinking to start. Though after reading this paragraph I am worried that I might have misunderstood your question on what I want to do in the kitchen, hopefully you can find the answer in my rambling above.

 

 

 

I would love advice on better knives, a sharpening kit and a good board if you have the time and thank you already for the advice that you have given. regarding the knives that I looked at in Williams Sonoma, would those be a good place to start? Or am I putting the chart before the horse again....

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Vic Cardenas View Post

^ROFL at that kid

 

 

I quoted all of boar_d_laze so you could see the kid again lol.gif

post #13 of 14

You're situation isn't as difficult to decipher as you seem to think.  A better knife kit will make a positive difference in your life.  How much better?  How positive?  Enough. 

 

On the purely practical level, the threshold questions are economic:

  • How much money are you willing to spend on knives?  And, just as important
  • How much time, money and effort are you willing to spend on sharpening?

 

It's easy to get lost in things like "pride of ownership," owning "the best," and so on but money spent on anything which you can't keep very sharp is money down a black hole.  All knives get dull, and any dull knife -- no matter how good otherwise -- is a dull knife. 

 

If you're worried about the learning curve, freehand sharpening  on bench stones is NOT a "must."  Using a quality tool and jig setup is just as good, but more expensive.  There are other, less expensive methods which aren't quite as good but much easier and plenty good enough for decent knives.  As you were beginning to figure out on your own, a honing rod is a good tool for maintaining the edges of many knives but is a lousy tool for sharpening.  You can buy an adequate sharpening gag for around $85.  A good sharpening kit (plus a good rod) is going to cost you somewhere between $130 and $350; with the price difference going to buy convenience as much as quality.

 

There are a few (new) knives which are good enough to be worth sharpening priced under $50 for a 10" chef's.  Victorinox/Forschner Fibrox/Rosewood series is the cream of that crop.  Most people though are better served by spending more on their chef's knife, somewhere in the the $90 - $225 range for a good to really good chef's.  Plus you'll at least want a good bread knife and "petty," and there may be a few others.  Fortunately, you can keep the prices down on all of those. 

 

Still with me?

 

BDL

post #14 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze View Post

You're situation isn't as difficult to decipher as you seem to think.  A better knife kit will make a positive difference in your life.  How much better?  How positive?  Enough. 

 

On the purely practical level, the threshold questions are economic:

  • How much money are you willing to spend on knives?  And, just as important
  • How much time, money and effort are you willing to spend on sharpening?

 

It's easy to get lost in things like "pride of ownership," owning "the best," and so on but money spent on anything which you can't keep very sharp is money down a black hole.  All knives get dull, and any dull knife -- no matter how good otherwise -- is a dull knife. 

 

If you're worried about the learning curve, freehand sharpening  on bench stones is NOT a "must."  Using a quality tool and jig setup is just as good, but more expensive.  There are other, less expensive methods which aren't quite as good but much easier and plenty good enough for decent knives.  As you were beginning to figure out on your own, a honing rod is a good tool for maintaining the edges of many knives but is a lousy tool for sharpening.  You can buy an adequate sharpening gag for around $85.  A good sharpening kit (plus a good rod) is going to cost you somewhere between $130 and $350; with the price difference going to buy convenience as much as quality.

 

There are a few (new) knives which are good enough to be worth sharpening priced under $50 for a 10" chef's.  Victorinox/Forschner Fibrox/Rosewood series is the cream of that crop.  Most people though are better served by spending more on their chef's knife, somewhere in the the $90 - $225 range for a good to really good chef's.  Plus you'll at least want a good bread knife and "petty," and there may be a few others.  Fortunately, you can keep the prices down on all of those. 

 

Still with me?

 

BDL

 



BDL

I am still with you... I think tongue.gif

 

I have no problem getting a good chef knife first and then working on getting other knives as I need them. I read an article once that said really all you need is a Chef knife and a paring knife to begin, not sure how true that is but I liked the idea. The reason I went to Williams Sonoma is because I have a $50 gift certificate there which is part of the reason that I keep coming back to those knives. However I am not sold on buying knives from Williams Sonoma if there is a better place/way to do it... besides I can always use that $50 towards something else there. My gut tells me, especially after your point about a dull knife, that I don't want to skimp on the sharpening aspect of of this. I have no problem learning how to use a bench stone, in fact for awhile I worked at a career technical education center in the Hospitality & Culinary Arts program that had a tri-stone for sharpening. I'm not saying that I was a master at it, but I'd like to believe that I was okay. As far as time goes to sharpening... I don't mind taking a little extra time in that department, but not a ton.

 

As far as what I'm willing to spend on a Chef knife.... that's a tough one. Right now I would be comfortable spending around $100, but if spending an extra $100 or so would get me something substantially better I have no problem saving up for it.

 

Random question.... Is it recommended that I get a 10" Chef knife? I know I shouldn't get a 12" or a 6", but what about a 8" or 9"?

 

Thanks again

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