› ChefTalk Cooking Forums › Food & Equipment Reviews › Cooking Knife Reviews › Knife Recommendations for Home Cook
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Knife Recommendations for Home Cook

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

Hi all,


I'm looking to get a chef's knife and paring knife. Possibly a second paring knife or utility knife if budget allows. I currently have a low end knife set that I'd like to bolster with some higher quality knives for my more oft used types. I want something that is sharper and stays sharper. I have no stone and I was never very good at sharpening with one. If I could use something that sharpens without worrying about the angle, I am okay with that.


My budget is $500 total, but the knives must be from Williams-Sonoma (I have a gift card that needs to be used). Hopefully that requirement won't be a show stopper.


I'm just a home cook that's trying to improve. I primarily chop/dice vegetables and occasionally trim chicken breasts and fish fillets. I do cut squash and pineapple regularly and ideally the knife can handle those. However, if that will be a problem for these knives I can use my other ones.


My current chef's knife is 6.3 ounces and I don't think I would want anything heavier. I'd prefer a more ergonomic and rubberized handle, but am flexible with that.


My wife and I do not treat our kitchen tools as well as we should. Ideally I'd want a knife that I use and then clean and dry when cleaning dinner up. I wouldn't want to worry about taking care of it during prep/cooking (or even eating!).


If higher end knives wouldn't be worth it considering my use case, I'll begrudgingly accept that.


Thanks for your help!


Williams-Sonoma has these brands:


Michel Bras
Zwilling J.A. Henckels

Edited by jbird1785 - 5/14/13 at 7:55pm
post #2 of 10

masahiro or kikuichi, or the carbon sabatiers.

post #3 of 10

The selection at WS isn't what you'd call good; and they're are very few knives which fit your weight criteria.  6.3 oz, even for an 8" knife (too short!), pretty much rules out almost any western handled chef's knife whether made in Europe, Japan or the US.  I suggest you reconsider.


Kikiuichi V-Gold are okay.  The alloy, VG-10, as implemented by Kikuichi sharpens well, holds an edge well, but tends to chip.  The profile is French and usuable.  V-Gold F&F can be imperfect.


Kikuichi Hammered are also okay.  They're pretty, and probably better overall than similarly tarted up VG-10 Shuns.  They certainly have a better profile.  Overall, they're not exceptional performers.  Also VG-10 (as the core of a three layer laminate in this case), and also a bit chippy.  Shun VG-10s are chippy as well.  Between Kikuichi V-Gold, Kikuichi Hammered and any of the VG-10 Shuns, the V-Golds are probably the best choice; but not by much. 


Masahiro MV-H knives are actually pretty good.  For what it's worth MBS-26 is almost identical to VG-10.  As Masahiro does it, it's slightly less chip prone than Kikuichi or Shun's efforts; but only slightly.  Decent F&F, decent handles; decent geometry.  The first thing you'll notice is how sharp they are out of the box, which is partly a product of their geometry.  If you do your own sharpening, unless you really know what's what, you won't be able to maintain their original geometry; and if you don't, whoever does them for you will screw it up -- guaranteed.  Once Masahiro are sharpened to ordinary geometry, they're fairly... wait for it... ordinary.


WS doesn't sell any carbon Sabatiers, just Economie stainless.  Stainless Sabs are nothing special to begin with; as Sabs go, Economie is only mid-level; and all in all nothing to write home about.


I'm no fan of Shun, but Shun Blue are excellent knives.  They're a big step up from the other knives I've mentioned in every respect -- with the exception that you can't leave them lying around in the sink or the edge will rust (but you shouldn't leave knives in the sink anyway).  The 3 piece set checks your boxes better than anything else WS has to offer; and when you get down to it, probably fits you perfectly.  


Hope this helps,


Edited by boar_d_laze - 5/15/13 at 9:58am
post #4 of 10

I, like BDL, am not a Shun fan. Nor am I a VG-10 (or anything like it) fan. However, as a home cook, you'd probably be more than happy with a Shun Classic, a Masahiro or a Kikuichi.

Stay simple with the Shun, you don't need it to be super-shiny and pretty. This (IMHO) lends nothing to performance. See if you can pick a few candidates out from these lines/brands and run them by us.

post #5 of 10

BDL gave you great guidance. Choices are hampered by the limitation of WS only.


What knives do you have now anyway? You can step up to good German or step higher to great Japanese but there are caveats


There is a huge leap up when going from cheap blades to high quality German. There isn't a huge leap in the “care and feeding” though with sharpening gear or cost if you have someone do it. Germans endure lots of bad things and can shake them off pretty easy. Put a Japanese knife through the same scenario and it can suffer worse and be more of a challenge to remedy.


Japanese are a step up from German as far as cutting goes but at a cost of more “care and feeding” where they need more expensive waterstones, or will cost more if you have someone do them for you and they better have stones and know Japanese knives.

Also while you can get a gyuto that cuts circles around a German on veggies it may suffer if you split a chicken with it where the German won't flinch. I see lots of home cooks blades and Shuns suffer very badly in home kitchens. I wouldn't by any knife made with VG-10 due to what I have seen come to me. Germans fix very easily.


For those reasons for a typical American household that isn't going to learn the “care and feeding” for Japanese, German knives are a better choice.


Just get one without a bolster to avoid extra weight and sharpening issues down the line. So for example the Wusthof Classic has a bolster where the Classic Ikon does not.


The Shun Blue 3 piece will eat your whole budget and you still need a sharpening scheme.


Choose some Germans and have $$ towards a sharpening scheme.



post #6 of 10
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all the advice.


I know the WS selection is less than ideal, but I was hoping that they'd have at least a few good choices. It sounds like that and the weight requirement are really restricting me. I think I could relax on the weight if I could also get a smaller utility knife to use when I don't need the size of the chef's knife. A heavier knife brings me to the Germans, right? I know the Japanese knives are generally considered better for cutting and they seem easier to handle. 


The Shun Blue is fairly pricey, but if its worth it I am open to it.


My current set is an OXO knife set. They're just basic stainless steel with a western profile:

post #7 of 10

Where to start?


The whole thing with knives is getting and keeping them sharp.  Everything else is secondary.  Whatever you buy you're going to need to decide on how you're going to sharpen; and the method you choose -- and for heaven's sake choose one you'll actually use -- will likely set some limits on how much you should spend on your knives.  Any dull knife, no matter how beautiful, expensive, comfortable, prestigious, or otherwise wonderful is a dull knife.  Money on a knife you can't keep sharp is wasted. 


There's no single best way of sharpening for everyone.  It comes down to how critical you are about edges, and how much money, time and effort you're willing to put into sharpening.  One thing for sure, once you get used to very sharp knives you become spoiled and there's no going back. 


By all rights, sharpening should be the next subject but knife chat is too fun.  So...


OXO knives have interesting and comfortable handles -- if you don't know how to hold a knife -- but otherwise are crap.  You can and will certainly do better. 


WS sells a lot of Wusthof Ikons.  The Ikon series is thinner and lighter than typical, forged German knives.  It's the same old X50CrMoV15 alloy, and will still need plenty of regular steeling to keep the edges true, despite the fact that Wusthof has really improved its hardening.  The knives are very comfortable, very durable and about as well finished as knives get -- at any price.  Compared to modern, western-handled, Japanese gyuto they're a bit on the heavy side, but the weight is well balanced and not really much of an issue. 


The Ikon profile is another departure for Wusthof, with a little less belly than most German chef's knives.  It's still way too much belly for me and for the modern trend in skilled cutters -- but it's beginning to penetrate that you aren't terribly sophisticated in the finer points of knives and knife skills.  Don't get me wrong, that's fine.  We're trying to pick knives for you.  The question is whether or not to buy knives to reward a set of skills and tastes you may never develop.  Anyway, a set of Ikons may very well be Goldilocks right for you. 


Is the Shun Blue series worth the money?  Yes. They really are very well-designed, made from good materials, incredibly well-finished (especially for a Japanese made knife), quite attractive if you like the "Damascus" look, and priced competitively with similar knives.  All in all they're probably the best knives WS sells, and good value even at their high price.


Is Blue right for you?  Don't know.  I wouldn't buy them or the Ikons for myself in a million years.  But I'm not you.       


Should you buy a set consisting of several different knives from a single manufactuer's line?  The answer is contingent.  I'd be more disposed to say "buy separates" if coloring inside the lines didn't include using up a $500 gift certificate at WS.  



post #8 of 10

I think you'd probably be best off trading in your W-S gift card for cash or a gift card for somewhere else (not knife related). There are web sites that do such things- they buy them from people who don't need them, paying a discount off the face value, and then re-selling the cards. 


Pretty much everything you might buy would be a nice upgrade from your OXO set. A better knife will get sharper, easier, and stay sharper longer. The thing is, going from an inexpensive stainless block set, you probably don't quite know what your preferences are. Flat blade or more curved? Nice knives are made both ways. Carbon or stainless or semi-stainless(sounds like stainless in your case)? Ditto. Wa or yo handle? Ditto again. It is easy to get better knives, but spending $500 doesn't mean that you'll get a knife that you'll like better than a less but still good one more suited to your particular tastes and cutting style.


I would suggest getting an inexpensive Japanese or Japanese-style gyuto, a 150mm petty, and a combination water stone. Something like a Fujiwara FKM 240mm gyuto, a Richmond Artifex 150mm petty, and a King combo stone. Less than $200 all in. You'll have a much better knife than you have now, you'll have the materials to learn sharpening, and you'll still have a wad of money left in for when you figure out what you really want.

post #9 of 10
Dear BDL, what is so exceptional about the Masahiro edge one can hardly maintain?
post #10 of 10
Little late to the party. Based on the kind of cooking you do, I believe you will be very happy with any number of choices. Although I agree with most of the comments here, I'm going risk saying something possibly blasphemous . If your buying at WM, buy yourself a good Chefs Choice electric sharpener designed to sharpen at 15 degree angle . It's clear you have no desire to earn to sharpen. No knife freak would be caught using one, but for the type of cooking you do, they will maintain edges far better than anything your used to. If you can, get to a store and hold examples of Wustoff, Shun, Masahiro, Kikuichi, and Globals . Maybe some will perform slightly better and may be sharper, or have better edge holding, but you may be drawn to the esthetics of some much more. WS also runs pretty good sales on individual knives which would give you a chance to try out a brand. If you are not knife obsessed, (as many of us are here) I suspect that you'd be more than satisfied with any of these knife lines. I have owned and gifted knives from most off these knife brands and the sharpener. The friends I've given them to love them. Those that are too far for me to reach own a Chefs Choice to keep their knives sharp. I have thousands of dollars worth of knives and sharpening gear in my home . A ridiculous amount for most people, but not here. My wife still reaches for a stubby little Oxo cooks knife with a 4 inch blade. It's comfortable and not intimidating. Dulls somewhat quickly but easy enough to keep sharp. She also uses a serrated tomato knife with a 5 inch blade, by either Wustoff or Henkel . You're not buying these knives for our needs and preferences, they're for you and your wife.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Cooking Knife Reviews › ChefTalk Cooking Forums › Food & Equipment Reviews › Cooking Knife Reviews › Knife Recommendations for Home Cook