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Looking for a decent chef's knife and how to take care of it

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

I am a graduate student who has recently gotten very into cooking (I have always been into baking but until the last couple years, nothing else much).

 

I am not a vegetarian but I very rarely cook meat. I am more likely to cook fish, but it is still pretty rare. Mostly I cook food that is kosher dairy and I chop a lot of vegetables, but I'm not exceptionally good at it. I live in a house where we all cook for each other and most of our kitchen equipment is shared, but I'm planning on getting the knife for me to keep. My housemates are good about washing and drying knives promptly. I also am the culinary officer for our local Hillel and cook Shabbat dinner for about 20 every week. Usually I would be cooking in a different kitchen with different knives, but sometimes I cook dairy meals at home so I suppose that is relevant.

 

I chop lots of onions, garlic, peppers, sweet potatoes, and squash. I also mince a lot of ginger. We have a low-end Santoku which works ok for most of what I do (except squashes). I may be interested in a good Santoku in the future, or alternatively I might just get a different sized chef's knife of the same kind, but either way I am not looking for that right now. Now I want to get a knife that is generally useful but is in particular good at cutting squashes (we most eat butternut, acorn, and kabocha). For that purpose is an 8" or a 10" knife better?

 

I have read a lot about carbon and stainless, and while I am probably sufficiently OCD about my kitchen equipment to use carbon steel, I think I'm only really interested if it makes a big difference in quality:price ratio for my purposes, given the maintenacne required. I am assuming that a particularly sharp knife that won't chip (carbon steel is that, yes?) is good for squash, and I don't really have to use it on tomatoes and whatnot since I will also have either a stainless Santoku or a stainless chef's knife. On the other hand I am not a professional chef and don't really know what I am talking about, otherwise I wouldn't be posting here. I am definitely going to keep any knife I get at this price as sharp as I can and take good care of it to the best of my ability. I don't know how to hone and sharpen a knife but I intend to learn.

 

Finally, we come down to brands and profile. I am not too worried about whether I get French or German, since I haven't been trained to use either so I have to learn either way. For squashes I am worried about Japanese since I have read that they are prone to chipping when cutting things like that, although if there are any kinds of Japanese knives that cut squash particularly well I would like to hear about them. If I learn to use a Santoku and one kind of chef's knife, is there one of French and German that complements it better or is easier to learn alongside it? For reasons to do with keeping kosher I want a knife forged out of a single piece of steel with a full tang. I have seen recommendations of Wusthof Classic and K-Sabatier as good brands of German and French knives respectively, and would love to hear about more. Wusthof seems to be a lot more expensive than K-Sabatier, but I'd be willing to consider it were I convinced it was better for my purposes or better in quality. Being a grad student, I am not exactly awash in money, but I am prepared to pay up to $150 for a 10" chef's or $120 for an 8" if I really think the difference is worth it to me, although I would prefer to spend $100 or less. The knives I am thinking about right now include the K-Sab Bellevue (90 dollars for 10"), the K-Sab carbon steel knife (70 for 10"), and the Wusthof Classic (150 for 10"). Any other suggestions?

 

Once I choose a knife, what do I need to buy to hone and sharpen it, and where is a good guide for how to do it?

 

For future reference, how big is the difference in honing and sharpening Japanese vs European knives, and how much extra would it cost to get the special honing rod if it is required? Do Wusthof/K-Sab/etc Santokus need the same special treatment with honing as, for example, Global Santokus? And do they compare in quality (noting that they are noticably cheaper, like 90 dollars instead of 120)?

 

Thank you!

post #2 of 15

check jon broida's (japaneseknife imports)video on youtube on taking care of carbon steel knives. this should be the same SOP as to taking care of even stainless knives as well. 

post #3 of 15
Thread Starter 

Thank you! That video was very interesting, as were his other ones.

 

Update:

 

Currently, I am seriously thinking about three brands, the Messermeister Meridian Elite, the K-Sabatier Bellevue, and the Thiers-Issard (Elephant) Sabatier, either 8 or 10 inch cooks knives. I probably won't get the carbon steel just now because I don't want to be afraid to let my housemates touch it. I want to try it, but I can wait...

 

I also decided after doing some research that I would probably rather get a Gyuto than a Santoku, but in any case I'm not buying any Japanese knives right now. I've read that Japanese knives are more similar to French knives than German ones. Does that mean that if I train with French knives now I will be more comfortable with Japanese ones later, or is it that not a significant enough factor to think about?

 

Jonathan

post #4 of 15
Thread Starter 

Oh, if anyone knows, is the K-Sabatier Bellevue better than the Authentique (Stainless) or just a different style? If the difference is one of style I would rather get the cheaper one, having no prejudices. The Bellevue appears to claim to be made of a different steel as it calls itself "high carbon" while the Authentique does not, but really I have no idea.

post #5 of 15

Our resident Sabatier expert BDL doesn't recommend their stainless alloys. That said, if you are cutting hard squashes, the 10" chef is a nice hefty knife. If you get a K-Sabatier, the au carbone is easy to force a cool patina which will greatly protect against rust. You can watch a video at Chef's Knife to Go on how to mix a bit of water with cheap store bought mustard, dab it on with a little square of bubble wrap and wait about 10-12 minutes, wipe it clean and get a way cool looking mottled patina.  If you don't want the  carbon Sab knife, maybe a Mac Pro or whatever, I'm no expert. But I love my K-Sabs. Great balance for the price. And the carbon takes a round polished steel very well to keep it nice and sharp. That is a F-Dicks packing house steel which are pretty cheap. You don't want one of those coarse steels.

post #6 of 15
Thread Starter 

Thanks for your reply! Based on what you said and what I've been reading it's true I might not want European stainless in the long run; however, for the moment I live with people who do not all have good knife technique and I am worried about them using a more delicate Japanese knife particularly on squash. Is that a legitimate concern do you think? I don't want to get a knife I'd be afraid to let my housemates touch. I also don't want to get a knife I might not want to keep in the long run, and I am currently thinking of using Japanese knives and carbon steel Sabatiers in the future.

 

I am thinking that I could get a carbon steel 10" Sabatier and a Dexter-Russell stainless Chinese cleaver. I'll sharpen the Chicago Cutlery Santoku as practice and then if people don't want to deal with carbon steel they stlll have ok stainless knives for everything including squashes, plus I get to learn how to use a Chinese cleaver.

 

Would it make sense to get a carbon steel paring knife too? I was thinking that it should be extremely sharp, and Japanese ones are too expensive. I mostly use a paring knife to peel vegetables (peeling with a peeler just doesn't work for me for some reason). I would rather have a 4 inch blade than 3, and I can get a carbon steel k-sab 4 inch paring knife for $35. Would you recommend that or is it better to have stainless for that?

 

Also, I was thinking of getting a wood enclosed magnetic knife bar, but they are pretty expensive. I don't really want to use a knife block for space reasons and because it is impossible to wash. Is the wood on the ourside necessary? I was worried that the knife bar might be hard enough to scratch the knives; is that something that could happen (noting that I will not be the only person putting up and taking down knives, so I don't it to be down to "just be careful")?

 

Is this the kind of steel you were suggesting? Will it also work ok on the cheaper stainless I want to work on (Chicago Cutlery Santoky, Dexter-Russell Chinese cleaver)

 

http://www.amazon.com/F-Dick-Fine-Steel-Round/dp/B00063QBZE/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_2?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1363914763&sr=1-2-fkmr0&keywords=f+dick%27s+fine+round+polished+steel - thanks!

 

Finally, what kind of equipment is best for sharpening my knives? If I get the knives I'm thinking about now I will primarily want to focus on my carbon K-Sab(s) but I also want to sharpen the stainless knives.

post #7 of 15

That was the wrong F Dicks steel. You want the polished Packinghouse steel, not the fine cut. Here it is and it costs less too.http://www.amazon.com/F-Dick-Polished-Stainless-Packing/dp/B00063QBI6/ref=pd_sim_sbs_hg_3

 

I got one of these 18" magnetic racks and have about 10 to 11 knifes on it. Looks nice too once the knifes are on it and saves a lot of space. They also make a 12" rack and another at 24" . This was one of the better prices I found at the time. Mine arrived with a little dent in the wood from being shipped without enough padding, but I sanded it down and can't see the dent with a knife in front...

 

 

http://www.ebay.com/itm/NEW-18-Magnetic-Knife-Holder-Butcher-Cutlery-Rack-/110789504347?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item19cb91ad5b

 

You could always just get a stainless paring knife from Forschner/Victornox with a Fibrox handle. They are cheap, and sharp and respond well to steeling. I use some of the 5.5 inch Victornox steak knifes as a utility/paring knife as well as my trusty K-Sab 4" paring, which is a good looking knife.

 

Sharpening is a biggie. There are the various Edgepro systems that Chef's Knifes to Go sells, but that will set you back a bit over two hundred. There is the elec. Chef' Choice, lots of models. They will burnish the sides of the knifes a little, but work really well. You could tape the knife sides with blue painter's tape to protect from the scuffing I suppose. The better ones start around $100 shipped from Sharpeningsupplies.com, though there are cheaper models available on Amazon. Or you could go with a couple two or three stones, and a lot of choices there. I'll let someone else pipe in as I use the edge pro sharpener. It has a 500, 1000, and 4000 Shapton glass stones. But around 1200 grit will leave one with a good feeling edge for kitchen knifes. The sky is the limit on sharpening up to a straight razor's razor edge 60,000 grit!! - lots of options and research to figure it out. There are a lot of threads to read which can get you up to speed, if you search around. And there are great videos on using stones at Japanese Knife Imports.com and also at Chef knives to go.com

 

I would also consider getting one of the Idahone 10" ceramic rods as a supplement to the polished steel for honing. Sometimes I just use the F- Dicks steel, and sometimes I decide to use the Idahone if there isn't enough of an edge.The ceramic will give a little more tooth to the edge. Between the two you could go months or more before needing to go to the stones to sharpen for a new edge. That can buy you some time to research your sharpening options.

 

Lastly, you know a Chinese cleaver is a thin, veg only cleaver? Not like a heavy protein chef's cleaver. Goodluck and have fun choosing your knives!


Edited by Betowess - 3/21/13 at 11:00pm
post #8 of 15
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the correction and your recommendations. I'll think about that knife rack.

 

At this point, I sort of have a fantasy that my future knife collection would include at minimum the following:

 

pareve (kosher term: not used for meat or dairy): Global 8" or 10" gyuto, 10" K-Sab carbon chef's knife, 8" K-Sab fillet knife (fish are vegetables, right?), paring knife of some kind, some kind of inexpensive but durable bread knife, maybe a Chinese cleaver if I like it

meat: K-Sab Carbon boner, K-Sab Carbon slicer, another K-Sab Carbon Chef's knife 8" or 10"

dairy: a nice utility knife, another bread knife

 

Right now I am only getting pareve knives, and I would want to put up to 6 on the pareve rack eventually with this plan. I'm thinking that calls for an 18" rack?

 

Global is great for keeping kosher particularly for Passover because being forged from a single piece of metal including the handle leaves no questions about whether it can be kashered.

 

While making this list I decided that I may just get the victorinox paring knife you suggested for now and get a Global set of 3 sometime later, since my list includes all 3 types of knives in the set.

 

Of course, this will likely change long before I feel it is time to buy more knives, but for now I am using it as a long-term guide. It seems to me like a not-too-extravagant collection that won't have a problem with any job I need it for.

 

I am aware that a Chinese cleaver is veg only, and have no intention of chopping meat with it, as I was going to keep it pareve. Anyway, the last time I, personally, cooked meat at home was... never, actually (sometimes I cook it for Hillel). I plan to start eventually, but getting the meat knives would be a little premature :D. Is the Chinese cleaver nonetheless suitable for hard squash?

 

The EdgePro is well out of my budget, though it does look nice. Does anyone have a good suggestion in the sub $100 range I can use, even if is a lot more difficult to learn?

post #9 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by IdahoKosher View Post

Also, I was thinking of getting a wood enclosed magnetic knife bar, but they are pretty expensive. I don't really want to use a knife block for space reasons and because it is impossible to wash. Is the wood on the ourside necessary? I was worried that the knife bar might be hard enough to scratch the knives; is that something that could happen (noting that I will not be the only person putting up and taking down knives, so I don't it to be down to "just be careful")?

 

Is this the kind of steel you were suggesting? Will it also work ok on the cheaper stainless I want to work on (Chicago Cutlery Santoky, Dexter-Russell Chinese cleaver)

 

http://www.amazon.com/F-Dick-Fine-Steel-Round/dp/B00063QBZE/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_2?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1363914763&sr=1-2-fkmr0&keywords=f+dick%27s+fine+round+polished+steel - thanks!

 

Finally, what kind of equipment is best for sharpening my knives? If I get the knives I'm thinking about now I will primarily want to focus on my carbon K-Sab(s) but I also want to sharpen the stainless knives.

I forgot to answer a couple questions. But FYI, I once bought a cheap stainless Farberware 7" Santoku (hollowed edge model) with good fibrox type handle that I gave to my son. It took a great sharp edge and held it. I'm sure it wasn't a forged knife, but it worked great and cost less than $25. So you can get a nice knife without a bunch of money. Just hold em and see if it feels right on the store bought options. I do like the stainless Victornox knives. They are pretty slim which helps a lot to keep from wedging.

 

Secondly, I was a little concerned myself with the magnetic rack scratching my knifes, but it hasn't happened yet. But I don't slam them on it either. And knifes will get scuffed up from use no matter what, being a tool.

 

Third, I forgot to mention, but two of the K-Sabs in the picture in previous post (the middle two 6" and 8" chef knives have a forced mustard patina on them. But it looks a little darker in the pic than in person. The 4" paring and the 10" Chef just have some natural patina as I don't use them as much as the other two. I may force a patina yet, just for balance, who knows. Hope this helps.

post #10 of 15

There's nothing wrong with magnetic knife bars, but don't use any kind of storage which allows your roommates access to your new knives.  Keep them in a knife roll or something.  That is, unless you're specifically buying for a community kitchen. 

 

If you are buying for the specific purposes of communal use, your best value is going to be Victorinox by Forschner's Fibrox series.  Do NOT buy anything more expensive.  If you allow other people to use your knives, they will RUIN them.  Guaranteed.  Without fail.  B'emet. 

 

I recognize the difficulties in keeping a kosher kitchen and the accompanying attraction to buying knives which can safely go in the dishwasher; but...

 

But...

 

(And in case it's not clear) BUT:

 

Good-quality, sharp, kitchen knives should NEVER go in the dishwasher.  It's not safe for the people who load and unload the dishwasher and will wreak hell on the knives.  If you absolutely, positively, must use the dishwasher for your knives buy knives which are not only "dishwasher safe" but inexpensive enough to replace frequently as the edges get pitted by high-velocity dishwasher detergent particles.  Again, I recommend Fibrox Forschners; but there are some F. Dick and Dexter lines which might also serve.

 

Whatever experience Betowess's son had with a Farberware knife, I suggest staying away away from Farberware and similar makers' knives.  They are made with a kind of steel alloy (420A) which is so tough that knives made from it won't take a sharp, fine edge using any of the better sharpening methods (unless there's some sort of diamond abrasive involved).  

 

If you're going to let other people have more or less unlimited access to your knives, and are going to use the dishwasher on a regular basis, expensive knives are simply aroisgevarfeneh gelt.   

 

The same is true if you're not going to make some sort of commitment to effective and regular sharpening.  And by effective, I mean a great deal more than a honing rod of any type, texture or make.  

 

You're going to need an effective method of sharpening.

 

A bei gezundt,

BDL


Edited by boar_d_laze - 3/23/13 at 11:01am
post #11 of 15

 

I am aware that a Chinese cleaver is veg only, and have no intention of chopping meat with it, as I was going to keep it pareve. Anyway, the last time I, personally, cooked meat at home was... never, actually (sometimes I cook it for Hillel). I plan to start eventually, but getting the meat knives would be a little premature :D. Is the Chinese cleaver nonetheless suitable for hard squash?

 

The EdgePro is well out of my budget, though it does look nice. Does anyone have a good suggestion in the sub $100 range I can use, even if is a lot more difficult to learn?

 

BDL, perhaps you could help him with sharpening options. I would mention the Gatco or Lansky setups, or the Spyderco. I believe you don't recommend some of them, although I found my Gatco worked OK, except for the oily mess. At least they might get him going in the $50 range.  Perhaps there are some combo water stones that might work?

 

I'm not sure on the Chinese cleaver, but I think its too thin/delicate for hard squash. Probably best with a 10" chef knife.

post #12 of 15

The most appropriate sharpening system choices will be determined by the type of knives and whether they're going to be used and/or maintained by one person or many. 

 

BDL

post #13 of 15
Thread Starter 

BDL -

 

I think you must have misinterpreted something I said, probably about kashering. I wouldn't dream of putting a nice knife in the dishwasher; I don't even do that with cheap knives. Kashering refers to ritually purifying kitchen utensils if they become unkosher or if they need to be used for Passover.

 

I'm not all that worried about my housemates. At least one of them has much better knife technique than me anyway. They won't use the knives if I say they can't, and if I say they can I can expect them to follow my rules. Also, one of them is much better with a knife anyway. I can make sure the knife is honed whenever it is used and that if it carbon steel it is also dry. It is harder for me to enforce technique (although I can ban someone using the knife if they are using it badly) which is why I'm scared of getting something that chips easily (not to mention that I myself). Just to confirm, do Sabatiers chip less than Japanese knives? That was my impression. Or is that for any other reason not a legitimate concern? I will do the sharpening myself.

 

I am probably buying at least one carbon steel K-Sabatier, and probably one to three cheaper stainless knives. I want to be able to sharpen all of them, and the Chicago Cutlery santoku I have now. Given that, what sort of sharpening equipment should I get given that I am on a budget?

 

If I get a carbon steel knife, how long can I leave it unused without oiling it? I'm willing to oil it every time I clean it but I'd rather not if it isn't necessary. I'm thinking I'll probably force a patina since based on what I hear it reduces maintenance, although I know the edge can still be corroded. Also, is there any reason other than going rancid that I shouldn't use food-based oils? Because if I use coconut oil like I do for my cast iron pan going rancid won't be an issue unless I forget about it for a year. Since I don't cook every day due to sharing cooking duties with housemates it would probably only get used 2-3 times a week for now, unless my housemates also are using it.

 

Thank you!

post #14 of 15

I use to oil my Sabs when I first got them, but its not really necessary unless you are storing them for a long time unused. Just dry them well, before you put them up. I did get some rust on a corner of the bolster once where a little depression was and missed some water, not a big deal, it was rubbed off. I switched to Walnut oil and beeswax combo (20% natural beeswax) for my end grain board "butter" because I didn't want to use mineral oil, though most mineral oil is USP food safe certifed. But walnut oil is reported to not go rancid either.

 

I don't think you will have a problem with the carbon Sab chipping. But it is a softer steel, so the edge needs frequent steeling with the earlier mentioned F-Dick polished steel hone. You do that just one or two times, alternating, with gentle strokes.

 

I hope BDL will pipe in on the sharpening, but I think you could use one of the budget Lansky or Gatco kits (around $45) stones on rods to get you going just fine. Mine worked OK, just not as dead accurate as the Edge Pro system. It is handy to get the red plastic base in the Gatco system to hold the jig, usually an add on. I mention Gatco because its the one I'm personally familiar with.  I think Cabelas sell them and Sharpeningsupplies.com. I've also read good things about the Spyderco setup. Read around, you'll find something that works OK in the $50 to $70 range.

 

Lastly, there is a budget Japanese knife you might want to consider in stainless. The Fujiwara Kanefusa FKM series. They are a really good intro to Japanese knives and are usually pretty darn sharp out of the box. You might like them better than the K Sabs, its a toss up in my mind. Chef knives to go sells them. The main thing I really like about the Sabatiers compared to some of the Japanese knifes is the safety around the bolster - there is no way you can slide you fingers toward the cutting edge with the oversized guard. Its a great design, but adds a little weight. Good luck with your decisions!


Edited by Betowess - 3/24/13 at 10:31am
post #15 of 15
Thread Starter 

It's been a while since I've had time to look at this thread, mostly because I just spent much of a week planning and cooking food for 20 people for all of Passover and then had to catch up on my work. After some sober reflection, I decided that BDL is probably right about getting a Victorinox knife. I'll probably get nicer knives at some point in the future, or maybe I won't. For now I can live without.

 

For the Forschner knives, which will be used communally (by my three housemates and I, all of whom are reasonably respectful of knives [they won't go in the dishwasher or be left wet]), how would you recommend caring for them?


Edited by IdahoKosher - 4/11/13 at 9:34pm
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