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Looking for knife recommendations for general use at home

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

Hello! I signed up solely to ask some of you experienced and knowledgeable cooks about your recommendations for knives used in general home cooking. (I have absolutely no knowledge in cooking or cutlery, so please bear with me. I'll try and give as much useful information as I can)

 

My boyfriend said he was looking for new knives, and I wanted to get him a few nice ones for the holidays. I was thinking of knives suited to general, common tasks so as to get the most use out of them. I've tried researching the subject, and from what I can tell a chef's knife and a paring knife would be ideal (correct me if I'm wrong).

 

I'd prefer to spend roughly $50 on the chef's knife (or whatever type for a larger, often-used knife) and it seems a good paring knife would be around $30. If you'd like to suggest a cheaper but still quality knife, by all means please go ahead! I'm open to any and all suggestions.

 

The knives would be used only in the home. Cooking is more of a hobby than a career pursuit. I've noticed that a lot of the cutting he does is on vegetables such as carrots, onions, celery, etc., but he also has a mandolin slicer that he uses for many of these.

 

I know the way I knife feels to the user is important, so it's unfortunate I can't test this aspect for myself. If it helps any when it comes to handle size/weight, his hands are a little bigger than mine (mine are small, about 6.5 inches from the tip of my middle finger to the base of my hand, so I'd guess his would be about 7 inches). A nice feature to have would be nice grip that doesn't slip when wet.

 

I read that high-carbon stainless steel is a good material, as well as white #2 or blue #2 carbon steel (at least in Japanese cutlery). I know the care for carbon steel is important to prevent rust. I believe that with proper knowledge (which he may or may not already have) he'd take the necessary steps to keep the knives in good shape. It'd be nice if it didn't require too advanced techniques for sharpening, though, as I'm unsure of whether he'd have the means or know-how of doing so.

 

When I asked him what kind of kitchen brands were good, he said he liked Pampered Chef. After reading not the best reviews of their chef's knife, however, I thought I'd ask about other brands. One reviewer suggested rh Forschner Fibrox instead, which has great reviews on amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Victorinox-Swiss-8-Inch-Fibrox-Straight/dp/B008M5U1C2/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1386042300&sr=8-5&keywords=rh+forschner+fibrox

 

However, I'd love to hear more suggestions or feedback. Please feel free to correct me or ask for clarification. In a nutshell, I'm looking for quality knives suited for general, home cooking that are roughly around $50. I'll appreciate any advice you have to offer. Thank you very much for your time and feedback!

post #2 of 12

The Forschners are good knives for the money. There are better knives but they cost more. Also worth considering is the Ikea VG10 Slitbar knife. It has an odd design and the fit and finish aren't special, but the blade is quite good. To me, it's biggest drawback is that it's only available as an 8" knife. 

 

A 10 inch knife can feel awkward at first for many, but is generally a more productive size for a cook than an 8 inch. Learning to use the 10" blade is worth it imho. 

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #3 of 12
If you are looking Japanese knives make sure he understands they tend to be harder and therefore by default more succeptible to chipping. As long as he doesn't cut frozen food, bone or use a stone counter or glass cutting board he should be all set. If you go this route it would be worth keeping his old knives for certain tasks. If he is after an 8in chef knife and you are willing to go over your $80 budget by a small amount this set is the best value I can think of
http://www.chefknivestogo.com/to2pcstset.html

If you want something a little cheaper the forschner chef knife and paring are good quality for the money. The chef knife can be purchased with a rosewood handle that is nicer than the cheaper fibrox. I assume amazon would carry both
post #4 of 12

I think you've already got your best option in the forschner. Thin blade makes it easy to use for an at home cook, easy to sharpen, good value, and not so sharp that it's guaranteed injury. Japanese knives are a wonderful thing, but are very very unforgiving.

 

Another option is just getting a petty knife, they can be used as a paring knife but are large enough to dice an onion or cut vegetables. I only use a petty knife and a bread knife at home.

 

http://www.chefknivestogo.com/fufkmpe15.html An excellent knife and makes a great gift, as it comes in a nice box and is well presented.

post #5 of 12
Thread Starter 

Thank you so much for your feedback. I guess the real question now is whether to go for the Japanese knives or the Forschners. I think the Japanese knives would appeal to him in the sense that he loves Japan. He's expressed interest in ceramic knives before, so I think he'd be careful about the possible chipping. He shouldn't have too much trouble avoiding damage, as the counters aren't stone and he doesn't use a glass cutting board.

 

I did come across a 4 piece Forschner set for $80, which seems like a good deal. Is it?: http://www.amazon.com/Victorinox-4-Piece-Knife-Fibrox-Handles/dp/B004IEBTZ4/ref=sr_1_1?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1386132602&sr=1-1&keywords=victorinox+4+piece+knife+fibrox+handles

 

I think I'll just have to make some decisions from here. I have the suggestions, now I just have to pick. I appreciate all of your help. Your input is important, so thank you!

post #6 of 12

Personally, I've been down this road myself, expecting to buy on the cheap.  With a few exceptions, it ain't worth it.  So here are what would be my priorities, if it were me.

 

First, I would go to my local library and check out An Edge In The Kitchen by Chad Ward, or I would read the book at the library.  Keep in mind that it is just slightly dated (2008), and the prices in the book are no longer realistic - but the information is as good as you can usually find in print, especially on sharpening.  Going to the library preserves the money in your wallet for more expensive things.

 

Second, I would consider how to keep my knives sharp.  In the long run, that will have a greater impact than what knives are purchased.

 

My initial investment would be $30 for a 12 inch Idahone ceramic honing rod.  Honing rods (often erroneously referred to as "sharpening steels") really don't sharpen - but they will realign and straighten the microscopic cutting edge on the knife, which helps the knife to cut.  You should get the 12 inch length, since eventually you will want a 10 inch long blade - and you should get the Idahone, since eventually you will want a better knife than Pampered Chef or even Victorinox/Forschner.

 

Next, I would get a basic 800 to 1200 grit waterstone, which cost somewhere around $25 to $40.  Then I would watch (for free) the on-line videos of Jon Broida (Japanese Knife Imports), Murray Carter, Bob Kramer and Chef Knives To Go.  Do keep in mind that these knife sharpening experts don't always agree - but seeing the differences can be just as instructive.

 

Then I would have at it with sharpening on the stone.  

 

Now, about the knives.

 

Concentrate your choice-making on the chef's knife - that's the real workhorse knife of kitchen prep.

 

Looking up the "Pampered Chef" line of knives didn't exactly impress me with their potential quality.  The only reference I saw as to what type of steel is that it was a "German steel" and the picture shows "Cr Mo V" etched on the blade.  If I had to guess, it might be "X50CrMoV15" steel, or something similar.  In the world of culinary cutlery, knives made fro m that steel simply are not all that exciting.  And at $78 for an 8 inch chef's knife (the biggest chef's knife made by Pampered Chef), that's a hunk of dough for a so-so steel blade.

 

What also makes me dubious about Pampered Chef is the bolster on the chef knife.  That bolster is going to cause headaches when trying to sharpen the knife.  Better to look for a knife which doesn't have such a pronounced future problem.

 

The Victorinox/Forschner knives are also made from "German steel" - "X50CrMoV15" (also known as Krupp 4116 steel).  They are sold either under the Victorinox brand or the Forschner brand - same knives, but different only in when they were made (Victorinox is the newer brand name).  There are three different lines - Victorinox Fibrox handled stamped/machined blades; Victorinox Rosewood-handled stamped/machined blades and Victorinox Rosewood-handled forged blades.  I would suggest you only look at the stamped/machined blades, since the forged blades really don't have much price advantage (or substansive quality difference) compared to Zwilling Henckels or the Wusthof Classic lines.  The Victorinox Fibrox handled 8 or 10 inch chef knives run under $30 on Amazon, the Rosewood handled stamped machined 8 or 10 in chef's knives run about $50 or so.  Same blade - just your preference and budget.  The steel is heat treated to somewhere around 56 Rockwell Hardness level - probably as good as or better than "Pampered Chef", for a whole lot less, but not quite as good as Wusthof (58 Rockwell hardness, with the same steel), or Japanese knives..

 

If you're talking about the $78 for a Pampered Chef knife, you can also look at a quality 210 mm Japanese (or Japanese-style) chef knife, usually referred to by the design name of gyuto.  Tojiro DP, Fujiwara FKM and Richmond Artifex 210 mm gyutos are each around $80 and will outperform any "German steel" knife.  Or, better yet, spend just a few dollars more and get a 240 mm gyuto - the extra length really does make an improvement, especially with a pinch grip, compared to a 210 mm blade.

 

For a paring knife, a straight blade Victorinox Fibrox handle paring knife will be somewhere around $5 to $7 dollars and will do fine.

 

I would also suggest an 8 to 10 inch Victorinox fibrox handled serrated edge bread knife.  These are invaluable for foods with tough outer layers and soft interiors (such as crusty breads, or tomatoes).

 

And don't forget a proper cutting board.  End grain wood (such as hard maple), from a reputable company, is worth it.

 

Hope that helps

 

 

 

Galley Swiller

post #7 of 12
Galleys advice is all sound, however don't feel like you have to do everything at once. Sharpening will be an important part down the road but as a home cook he can get by without using a stone for a while. In addition, there are other options for sharpening that will do an adequate job for most people. Also depending on where you are located there may be options to send the knife out for sharpening. A ceramic rod would likely be the next logical purchase, this will help maintain the edge on the knife for a while. An end grain cutting board is nice but if he is using poly boards its not a big deal, knife will just dull quicker. An edge grain board is significantly cheaper and will be better than poly on the knives. A 240 vs 210 is really dependent upon his knife skills and space. A 240 (approx 9.5 in) is easy to get used to but a 210 (approx 8in) is almost always enough knife for home use. Before investing a lot of money it's worth seeing how invested he will be in his knives
post #8 of 12
Thread Starter 

Yes, that does help - thank you! I think I will go for Japanese knives after all, even if they are a little pricier. Now I just have to compare the petty to the chef/paring set. Or perhaps a gyuto? What would you guys choose? If I went for just one knife (petty or gyuto), I could use the extra money to get a decent cutting board. If that's the case, any tips on boards? I read that John Boos is a good brand, and that boards should be at least 2 inches thick. Is this correct?

Is an edge grain cutting board worth looking into to save from becoming dull, or would it be better to just focus on the knives/sharpening?

post #9 of 12
John boos is the best brand imo but you pay for it. End grain is better than edge, but edge is usually slightly cheaper. End grain is easier on the knife edge. Catskills craftsmen make a good board for a litle less. Edge grain boards can be thinner, a thin end grain will fall appart on you.
post #10 of 12

Browse this site. It's called "Food Service Warehouse". http//www.foodservicewarehouse.com/kitchen/chefs/-knives/c1956.aspx  These knives are used by the Beef and Pork  processing plants, super market butchers, and they are also used in a "Lot" of 1st class restaurants in the U.S.  if the site wont open from this page, Google: food service warehouse.

post #11 of 12
Spend the knife money on a chefs knife (gyuto). Not knowing his cutting style he is much more likely to find the chefs knife the most versatile. You should come up with a reasonable budget. If your original budge of approximate 80 is still the same you could spend approx 35 on the knife and the balance on a board, or the honing road and possibly a cheaper stone. The thing with hand sharpening is not everyone wants to do it. No question it is rewarding but there is a definite learning curve and it's just not for everyone This will not get you a top end board but there are some decent options at this price point. They will likely be thinner and therefore have more risk of warping. What does he use now for a cutting board? Make sure if u do go the board route you don't get one that's too small. Remember all this doesn't need to be accumulated right away, kitchen gear evolves as you learn what you like. Start with a reasonable investment and it can grow from there. If you're not careful before you know it your $80 budget you started with will have ballooned to hundreds
post #12 of 12
Thread Starter 

Thanks, Chrismit. You've helped a lot - I bought your suggestion of the 2 piece Tojiro set. I understand these things can add up quickly, but the information is nice to ave while I can get it for future gifts. His birthday is in January, too (and our anniversary), so I might follow up with a honing rod or cutting board. I appreciate all the advice!

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