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Not even a beginner.

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

I just started learning to cook. The only knives I have any experience with is cheap knives I was given for my bridal shower 7 years ago. I cook for my family and I am not looking into expanding outside of family and friends. The little bit I know I do know that my knives are not cutting it any more. I do not know the proper way to take care of knives or the equipment I need. But I want to learn. My budget is around $350. Could someone tell me what basics I would need, a good brand, and a place online that I could learn to take care of them???


Thank you in advance.

post #2 of 6
First, some reading. Chad Ward's An Edge in the Kitchen. Excerpts:
post #3 of 6

As Ben implied, the step into quality knives begins with the recognition that they will require regular sharpening in order to continue to be quality knives. 


There are a few ways you can go with sharpening, and since we've already determined that your budget is pretty lean the next thing you have to figure out is whether you're willing to take the time and trouble to learn and use benchstones, or need something more convenient.  When all is said and done, sharpening equipment will run around $100.


I hate to say it, but you'll probably also need a decent wood (not plastic, not bamboo, not composition) cutting board.  Ka-ching! 


That leaves about $200. 


Your budget is barely adequate for an entry-level, good quality, Japanese (or at least Japanese quality) three knife set (gyuto, bread, and petty) along with a cheap, Forschner parer.  You'll want to look at Fujiwara FKM,  Richmond Artifex, and Tojiro DP as the leading lines in entry-level knives.  And by the way, there's no reason why all the knives should come from the same maker.


You can do it more comfortably if you buy so-called Forschners (more accurately, "Victorinox" worldwide, and "Forschner by Victorinox" the US).  However Forschners' edge taking and holding properties and their blade geometries aren't as good.  Bottom line though, they're more than adequate; and if you keep them sharp, they are better than the world's most expensive dull knives. 



post #4 of 6
Thread Starter 

That is just my starting budget. To be honest my husband would give me anything I asked for, I am just not one of those wives that would take advantage. I need something to start with. Learn how to properly use and care for it and then I would feel more comfortable getting more. Thank you both for your help you gave me alot to think about and some homework. :D

post #5 of 6

I'll give you a slightly different view to think on. (First, I should say I agree with what Benuser and BDL have said, and I've asked them enough questions to trust their judgment.)


The difference is, we don't have to write off your existing knives yet. Yes, sharpening by hand is a great skill to learn. Yes, you'll want to do that with a good knife that you buy. In my own experience, that came with hours upon hours of reading as much as I could and watching videos, and getting over being scared that, the first time I put nice knife to stone, I was going to fundamentally CHANGE it. (Any mistakes can be fixed. It'll turn out well.)


I would consider at least having the current knives that you use the most taken out to a professional sharpener local to you and having a serviceably sharp edge put on them. That will at least buy you some time to get into this brave new world without suffering through dangerously dull knives. Doesn't have to be a master sharpener - in your words, these are the "cheap knives from the bridal shower" - but taking them to get sharpened will help.


I say that in part because picking "the" knife to get is a tricky and ultimately personal thing. As you're now getting started cooking, you might not know yet what you really want from a knife yet, and it's not trivial money we're talking about in this thread. Instead of choosing a basic set of three or four knives at once, maybe pick a knife in your current set that you use and want to replace, decide what you do and don't like about it, and start from there. (BDL alluded to this, but whether you're interested in learning sharpening with a stone, prefer to find a great sharpener to take the knife to regularly, or just don't put the effort into keeping up with the knife will influence the knife you pick, too.)


My story, for what it's worth - I bought a knife set (Chicago Cutlery, with the wood handles - same as what my parents had that I grew up with) when I graduated college. That worked well enough for what I needed at the time. My first "better" knife was a Henckels Four Star 8" chef's knife - I was overseas, my knives were at home in the States, and I needed something to cook with - which I still have and use today. I thought it was everything I wanted in a chef's knife. I now know the handle is too big, the blade is too short, and it has too much curve/rocking for my taste - but it's sentimental, and I practice stone sharpening with it, and it's perfectly usable today.


I've since purchased a variety of other knives that make up my kit today, both Japanese and French, both stainless and carbon steel. Doing it this way - one by one - let me evolve what I wanted in a knife as I became a better home cook. And now every knife in the roll also has a story to go along with it.


My two cents,


post #6 of 6

Budget flexibility makes things much easier.  Whether you end up choosing value-conscious, entry-level knives or decide on something a bit better, at least we don't have to offset every nickel spent on sharpening and a good board by taking it out of your knife set. 


Let's set those two things aside for a minute.


The next step is asking how important fit and finish and cosmetic are; what your knife skills level is like (for instance, do you use a pinch grip); and whether there are things in particular you want or don't want in your knives.  The more you write, the better you and we will understand what it is what will best suit. 


In particular, I'd like to know if you'd be amenable to a Japanese style "wa" handle, as opposed to the normal, western "yo" handle; and whether, as many women (erroneously) believe, that small hands mean you should use a short knife. 



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