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Chef's knife. Need a good one!

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

Hey everyone!

 

I am looking for a decent chef's knife that won't completely break my wallet.  I also need an appropriate honing rod/steel.  As far as actually sharpening the knife goes, I will let the pros do that until I can afford decent sharpening materials and the time to learn how to use them.  I am an at home cook with decent knife skills who has never purchased a good knife.  All my previous knives have been hand-me-downs and gifts.  I only cut on wood and synthetic/recycled surfaces such as the Epicurean brand cutting board.  My budget is around $200 for the knife and the steel.  I am up for any suggestions, opinions, advice, etc. Thanks!

post #2 of 14

Well, you've provided little information about your preferences... other than "good".

 

If it were me, for $200 I'd probably buy a 240mm Fujiwara FKM stainless gyuto or a Richmond Artifex and an Idahone ceramic "steel", AND a Shapton Pro 1000 or 2000 splash-and-go wetstone.  It really is worth learning how to sharpen... not all pros do a great job, and it's actually easier to sharpen a knife yourself than to make a trip to a pro sharpener.  I like splash-and-go stones for convenience, but not everyone does.

 

Other options: If you can push the budget a bit ($210), try a 240mm Masamoto VG gyuto and the Idahone and then buy some stones a little later.  Or if you like sturdy hefty milder-steel German-style knives, a 10" Wusthof Classic and an Idahone.  Those are my preferences... YMMV.

 

If you post more info about your preferences, you'll probably get more suggestions.

All of the above can be purchased from http://www.chefknivestogo.com


Edited by DaveZatYoWa - 3/19/13 at 1:26pm
post #3 of 14
Thread Starter 

Thank you for your insight! 

 

As far as preferences go I know I want stainless and I know I don't want a knife with a bolster like the Wusthof Classic.  Looks don't particularly matter, I'm all about function and performance. 

 

One thing that continues to confuse me is when people refer to German knives as a sturdy, workhorse type knife compared to a Japanese style knife.  Does that imply that Japanese knives are not as sturdy or "solid".  I realize that the edges are ground at different angles and that Japanese knives are usually thinner while their steel is generally harder.  So I guess what I'm confused about is whether you have a much larger possibility of chipping/damaging the blade with Japanese knives compared to German?  Because if that is the case I would be reluctant to buy a Japanese style.
 

I apologize if these questions are elementary.  I just want to make sure I understand the differences!  Thanks again for you help.

 

Dave

post #4 of 14

In general, softer German steel is "tougher" and less prone to chipping.  Harder steel can be more brittle and can be more prone to chipping.  Now these are generalizations and there are modern harder steels that are still plenty tough enough for regular use in the kitchen.  And because they are harder, they can be made thinner and still hold an edge for a long while.  Thinness is a good thing when it comes to cutting/slicing performance, particularly thinness in proximity to the blade edge.

 

German-style knives tend to be thicker, more hefty, tougher, more chip-resistant.  But their softer-steel edges roll and deform more easily, so will require frequent steeling to say in good shape between sharpenings.  But steeling is very easy to do and not a major burden... so it's not a  huge drawback... except perhaps in fast-paced high volume professional kitchens.  Because they use thicker steel in the blade they will not typically take as keen an edge as a harder and thinner (i.e. Japanese-style) blade.  The milder steel can be easier to sharpen than harder steels, but it will need sharpening more often.

 

Japanese-style knives with newer steels tend to be thinner, lighter, harder, somewhat more prone to chipping.  They can hold a keener edge and will generally hold the edge longer.  Chipping is usually not a major problem if proper cutting technique is used (e.g. use a good board, straight cuts, no twisting/torsion on the blade during cutting, avoid bones, etc), but somewhat more caution is called for with thinner harder blades.

 

I use a Japanese gyuto for most kitchen tasks most of the time, but keep some German-style knives on hand for a few tasks that seem tougher.  But I probably baby the gyutos more than I need to.  

post #5 of 14
Thread Starter 

Very well put!  I definitely have some more homework to do to narrow down my choices.  When I initially saw the Shun Classic I immediately fell in love.  But upon hearing further opinions and testimonials I have discovered that it may not really be worth the money.  I have also been looking at the Wusthof Ikon Classic.  What do you think of that one?  Also, I'm not sure about what size to get either.  I have never had anything bigger than an 8"...

post #6 of 14

I have a soft spot for Wusthofs... I like them, but in the past year I've switched from mostly using German-style chefs knives to Japanese-style gyutos.  Their thinner blades and harder steel make a noticeable improvement in the performance of a chefs knife.  I haven't used the Wusthof Ikons, but I like the fact that the Ikon uses a smaller bolster; it should improve ease of sharpening.  However, I expect that a good Japanese gyuto would still have an edge over the Ikon, slicing-wise, due to the different profile, thinner blade, and harder steel.

 

 I still use Wusthofs (Classics) for most of my smaller knives... they don't get the same heavy use that the chef/gyuto knife does, so the Japanese advantage seems less pronounced in the smaller blades... to me anyway.  And I still love the way the smaller Wusthofs feel in the hand; that bit of heft in the smaller knives. So I'm a bit of a retro-throwback there...

 

Its hard to advise you about longer knives... it's a fairly personal preference.  Shorter knives are better in cramped or crowded workspaces.  If there's plenty of room then I like a longer knife (240 - 270mm) myself, but a lightweight 210mm gyuto can feel really nimble and pleasant too.  

post #7 of 14
Thread Starter 

That Ikon's bolster is what intrigued so much.  I suppose that was Wusthof's attempt to perhaps attract people who are bigger fans of Japanese style knives.  I see what you mean in regards to using Wusties for tasks outside of the chef's knife's capabilities. 

 

Just out of curiosity, what is your favorite chef's knife?  Or should I say, which one have you been using the most recently?  What do you think of MAC knives?  I've read a lot of positive feedback on them in particular.

post #8 of 14
Quote:

Just out of curiosity, what is your favorite chef's knife?  Or should I say, which one have you been using the most recently?  What do you think of MAC knives?  I've read a lot of positive feedback on them in particular.

I really like the 240mm Konosuke HD and HH wa gyutos.  They are 'lasers' and have good steel, a great profile, quite thin near the edge, and are better cutters than anything I'd ever used before.  

 

Just last week I bought a longer 270mm Gesshin Ginga wa gyuto from Japanese Knife Imports.  Another laser, it cuts at least as well as a Konosuke, has a slightly larger-diameter handle (which I prefer), includes a saya, and is slightly less expensive.  But I'm still getting acclimated to its extra length;  at present I still prefer the 240mm Konos for most tasks.  A 240mm knife just feels more nimble and is easier and quicker for me to maneuver.   That may change as I spend more time with the 270mm Ginga.  I expect a 240mm Gesshin Ginga would suit me just as much as a 240mm Konosuke.

 

I've never owned a Mac knife, just played with one very briefly (a Mac Pro).  I liked it... it felt good very in the hand.  The Mac Pros have a good reputation and seem to be used in a lot of pro kitchens.  They perform well, are thinner and lighter than German knives and use harder steel, but are not considered 'lasers'... if that matters.

post #9 of 14
Thread Starter 

Wow those look pretty great! 

 

I am concerned about sharpening the knives.  I would imagine that the harder the steel, the harder it will be to sharpen, or should I say the longer it will take to sharpen.  Is that true?  Is sharping a knife that has a hardness of 61 much more difficult and/or tedious than sharpening a knife that has a hardness of 58? (I'm not sure what the Wusthof Ikon rates at.  Everyone quotes a different number)

post #10 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by hambone002 View Post

Wow those look pretty great! 

 

I am concerned about sharpening the knives.  I would imagine that the harder the steel, the harder it will be to sharpen, or should I say the longer it will take to sharpen.  Is that true?  Is sharping a knife that has a hardness of 61 much more difficult and/or tedious than sharpening a knife that has a hardness of 58? (I'm not sure what the Wusthof Ikon rates at.  Everyone quotes a different number)

These days Wusthof claims to harden their knives to Hrc 58.  I have no reason to doubt that.  In the past I believe they were in the 54-56 range.

 

I do a couple of things that make knife maintenance easier, even with the harder steel:

 

- I never let them get too dull.  In between major sharpenings I use an Idahone ceramic "steel" rod (very lightly) to keep the edges honed and touched up.  This allows the knives to keep a decent edge for many weeks before a serious sharpening is called for.  When I do need to sharpen them it doesn't take too long because I haven't let them get excessively dull.

- I use Shapton splash-and-go stones.  They don't require soaking so they're quicker and more convenient to use.  Not everyone likes Shaptons, but I do.  Shapton stones are quite hard, don't dish too quickly, and can remove metal quite readily even on the Japanese knives, at least up to Hrc 61; I haven't tried them on anything harder than that.

 

I'm no great expert on sharpening; no doubt others can advise you better.  But this approach works for me without requiring too much time.

post #11 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveZatYoWa View Post

These days Wusthof claims to harden their knives to Hrc 58.  I have no reason to doubt that.  In the past I believe they were in the 54-56 range.

 

I do a couple of things that make knife maintenance easier, even with the harder steel:

 

- I never let them get too dull.  In between major sharpenings I use an Idahone ceramic "steel" rod (very lightly) to keep the edges honed and touched up.  This allows the knives to keep a decent edge for many weeks before a serious sharpening is called for.  When I do need to sharpen them it doesn't take too long because I haven't let them get excessively dull.

- I use Shapton splash-and-go stones.  They don't require soaking so they're quicker and more convenient to use.  Not everyone likes Shaptons, but I do.  Shapton stones are quite hard, don't dish too quickly, and can remove metal quite readily even on the Japanese knives, at least up to Hrc 61; I haven't tried them on anything harder than that.

 

I'm no great expert on sharpening; no doubt others can advise you better.  But this approach works for me without requiring too much time.


Makes sense to me.  How often do you tend to sharpen?  You earlier suggested to get a Shapton 1000 or 2000 wet stone.  Which grit would you prefer, assuming I get the ceramic steel for straightening the edge between sharpenings.  Also, do most knives have decent customer service and/or manufacturer warranties?  Say I chip a blade within the first year of owning it, would they honor that and replace it/repair it?  Or would they beat around the bush and accuse me of improper knife use or "wear and tear" and thus not warrant the product?

post #12 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by hambone002 View Post


Makes sense to me.  How often do you tend to sharpen?  You earlier suggested to get a Shapton 1000 or 2000 wet stone.  Which grit would you prefer, assuming I get the ceramic steel for straightening the edge between sharpenings.  Also, do most knives have decent customer service and/or manufacturer warranties?  Say I chip a blade within the first year of owning it, would they honor that and replace it/repair it?  Or would they beat around the bush and accuse me of improper knife use or "wear and tear" and thus not warrant the product?

I probably sharpen every 2 to 3 months on average... but the knives are not horribly dull when I do it.  I could get away with waiting longer, but I don't.

 

Both the 1000 and 2000 cut quite well.  The 1000 is probably more broadly useful.  But, as an example, I took a trip to a daughter's house a couple of weeks back.  I took a couple of sharp knives and a single stone, the Shapton Pro 2000.  When she saw how sharp my knives were she asked me to sharpen three of her knives: an 8" chef, 7" santoku, and a paring knife (all Henckels International Classics... the ones made in Spain using the regular Henckels German steel).  Before the trip I had guessed that she would want me to sharpen her knives, but I had thought they would probably just need a serious touch-up.  But all three were very dull, and the two larger knives were badly chipped.  So since it was all I had with me, I set to work with the Shapton 2000.  I spent perhaps an hour and a half on the three knives and got them all quite sharp... better than factory sharp.  When I finished, all the visible chips were gone from the chef's knife and paring knife, and all but the largest one from the Santoku; and what remained of the biggest chip was smoothed out and barely visible.  If I'd had the 1000 along (or spent some more time with the 2000) I'm sure I could have eliminated even that last big chip. 

 

I haven't worried too much about customer service on my knives and have not had any major failures that I thought required factory service.  I would not normally consider a chip a reason to return a knife.  As you can see from the example above, it is possible to take care of chips with just a good-cutting medium stone, at least on German-style knives.  Some chipping is to be expected over time but can be minimized with good technique.  My daughter's knives had been abused... neither she nor her husband have great technique and her husband can be pretty heavy-handed with a knife; and she confessed that they had made at least several trips through a dishwasher.   Even so, it was pretty easily fixable... and I'm hardly an expert sharpener.


Edited by DaveZatYoWa - 3/20/13 at 4:37pm
post #13 of 14

fyi... if you're concerned about sharpening, there are a number of instructional videos online.  Here are some good ones:

 

http://www.chefknivestogo.com/knshforne1.html

post #14 of 14
Thread Starter 

I'd like to thank you for all your help.  I appreciate you taking the time to give your input.  I'll let you know when I think I'm ready to make a purchase.  Money is tight right now so I'm going to take my time. 

 

Thanks again!

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