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2014 Knife Summary

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

So-  

 

You have an amazing forum.  So amazing that all of the searches that I do end up here.  BUT-  all of the threads I am finding are 6-8 years old.  

 

Could you experts, skilled chefs, people with experience, etc., recommend the top chef/cook knives available for home chefs in 2014?  I will put them into this top post with the short summaries that I get from you.  This will help me because I want to get a knife to last me for the next 5-7 yrs, it will help all newcomers because they won't have to practice necromancy, and it might even help you find something new.  Who knows?

 

 

Feel free to use me as an example:

Budget for 3 knives is 200 - 300 USD.  Country- USA, but might as well be Europe or Asia.  This is about the knives.  

I chop, I slice, I draw, I push, I walk.  I don't have the best technique, but I can work a blade.

I cook 3-4 nights a week.  

I don't know how to use a stone (but maybe I'll learn!)

 

To Recap, the questions:

What knife types are must haves for home chefs?

What are the best Chef/Cook knives (the only Must Must have) in this budget for this use case?

What are the other knife brands for the other knives that we should be looking for?

 

 

Have a great chopping day!

 

Results:

Get an 800 to 1200 grit water stone, at least 8 inches in length and 2 inches in width: $30 to $40

Get an idahone 1200 grit honing rod 12in: $30

Get an end (or edge if needed) grain board (15x15in, for example): $60

 

Knives:

Fibrox victorinox pairing knive: $7

Victorinox bread knife 10.25 in: $35


Edited by FoodRocks - 3/1/14 at 5:37am
post #2 of 12

Five to six year old threads only?  I wonder what type of search engine you are using.  I've ended up writing what seems the same answers for the same question you're asking here several times - and I joined less than 1 year ago!

 

Usually, for a recommendation on what knives to get, the individual wanting answers would also let the forum know what types of food will be cut up, what types of knives he/she already has and other information of the type.  But since you're posting it as if it is for almost anywhere in the world, it sounds just like you're getting the information as if to write an article.  

 

Just for the sake of getting the ball rolling, I will assume you're in the USA.  With the exception of high-end knives (talking over $150 each), knives are mostly a customs market item, where the availability to buy in your country generally determines what your selection can consistently be.  Otherwise, shipping and custom duty costs will skew the budget so far as to make comparisons a grab bag of different results.  No matter what one person's experience will be, when importing any cutlery from another country, the vagarities of how the shipper may mess up the shipping process, or the individual customs officer might behaving a bad day, etc., etc., will make importing procedures a roulette wheel of predictions on the process.

 

You also have a budget of $200 to $300.  I'm going to put it down as $300.  That's not going to get you very far with "the best", since "the best" will invariably go much, MUCH higher in cost than your $300 budget, for just one knife.

 

You need to look at this as not just getting up to 3 knives - you also need to look at it as keeping the knives sharp and not unnecessarily dulling your knives.  That means you need a way to sharpen the knives and a proper working surface to cut on.

 

That means (1) a sharpening system; (2) a proper cutting board; and (3) your new knives.

 

Sharpening

 

It doesn't matter one bit about getting shiny new knives with scary sharp edges, if you cannot sharpen your knives yourself.  Soon enough, that sharp feeling will go away - and you will be frustrated as hades.

 

This forum generally doesn't like pull-through sharpeners.  They make waaaaay too much damage to good knive edges, for not that good a sharpening result.  The same can also be said for electric sharpening systems.  Hand sharpening is the usual preferred method.

 

As for "Professional" sharpeners - unless you know what method they use, it's like Russian Roulette for your knives.  I've seen some knives at a family house, where an in-law took them to a "professional" service, and the knives ended up damaged.  This does not mean that all professionals are incompetent - Jon Broida and Dave Martell know what they are doing - but their services are not cheap.

 

In fact, sharpening should be the first priority.  Even a cheap knife once somewhat sharpened will outperform the most expensive high-end chef's knife, once the expensive knife dulls.

 

For starters, I would suggest you read the following:  http://forums.egullet.org/topic/26036-knife-maintenance-and-sharpening/?hl=chad+ward#entry353915

 

Chad Ward (the author of the above post) has also written a book on the subject and on high-quality knives in general, An Edge In The Kitchen.  Published in 2008, the basic information is still valid, though the prices he lists in the book are out of date.  The book costs somewhere in the $25 range, but if you have a good local public library, you might find it there, or get it through a library interloan system.

 

A basic Japanese water stone (800 to 1200 grit), at least 8 inches in length and 2 inches in width (longer and wider than that are better, but we also have to think about cost), will run somewhere around $30 to $40.  Read Chad's post above several times, then have a go at it.  Just do keep in mind that water stones need water.  One CRITICAL bit of advice: Never use oil on a water stone!

 

If you don't feel sure about your hand skills, the Edge Pro Apex sharpening system will allow you to get consistent sharpening on your knives.  The system begins at about $165, and Chef Knives To Go offers custom stone sets.  I have one (the CKTG "Essential" kit, wuith 3 Shapton Glass stones and added accessories) and use it.

 

Cutting Board

 

The second part of our triple system is the cutting surface.  Here, you want something that has a Goldilocks approach - not too soft, not too hard.  The surface has to be soft enough that the knife edge will not blunt when run across it, and hard enough so the knife edge won't get trapped (even microscopically).  

 

Since you asked about "the best", the short answer is - "end grain hard wood".  Plastic board will get scratched up fast enough - and the scratches will simply accumulate bits of food residue, which will be breeding grounds for pathogens.   No matter what, avoid glass, granite, marble, steel, etc. - those will simply dull or (worse) break off pieces of the knife edge (known as "chipping").

 

Prominent nowadays are bamboo boards.  However, professional knife sharpener Dave Martell has commented on the number of knife edges dulled by bamboo boards.  The combination of naturally-occuring silca in bamboo and the high amount of hard glue used in the manufacturing process tends to make a very, VERY hard board.

 

Also to be avoided are composite boards.  These use huge amounts of glue, in comparison to the amount of wood fibers (sawdust?) in the board, and are even harder on knife edges than bamboo.

 

Edge grain boards are the second-best alternative (just behind end grain boards).  However, they are prone to getting permanent grooves and have some of the same problems as plastic boards (but not to the same extent).

 

The most prominent name in wood boards is John Boos.  The next name that comes up is Michigan Maple Block.  Both of those two are the 800-pound gorillas in the kitchen, when it comes to restaurant and commercial kitchen use of wood cutting boards.  Both make products which are top grade - but each of them, from time to time, have made individual boards which have failed.  Wood is not a uniform product - and it's necessary for the end consumer to carefully inspect the received product.

 

When getting or inspecting a board, pick it up and take a good look.  What you want to see is no holes or gaps or cracks.  Anything like that is cause for rejection.

 

Board sizes are all over the map.  A good general size is 12 inches high by 18 inches wide by 2 inches thick.  That will give you enough room to use your knife and to keep a few piles of food ready to be transferred to a bowl.  However, that might not be what's available. 

 

Personally, I also have a 15 inch square by 2 inch thick end grain Michigan Maple Block board, using maple (what else?) - and like it.

 

The number of small-scale board makers is many, many times more than I can count on my fingers.  Heck, it's even more than I can count on all of my fingers AND toes, so, with one exception, I will not bring them up.  The exception is The BoardSMITH.  The only quibble about his products are that they are mostly out of my price range.

 

Treatment of an end grain hard wood cutting board is simple.  I use food grade mineral oil - which I buy from a local Safeway grocery store for $3.49 (plus tax) for 1 pint.  The board I discussed above used about 12 oz. of oil when I first bought it.  I also use a scraper to initially clean off the board, then a quick hand wash with a nylon scrubbing pad with hot soapy water, towel dry, then hand-sprayed with vinegar to the cutting surface before putting up to air dry (the vinegar spray is allowed to stay on and evaporate or break down).  The board will then be sanitary for its next use.

 

And never, NEVER, NEVER PUT A WOOD CUTTING BOARD INTO STANDING WATER OR A DISHWASHER

 

Knives

 

Now to the third part of the discussion.  Since I'm presuming that you are asking about generic information, I will start with establishing a budget.  With a water stone costing, say, $40, and a Michigan Maple Block 15 inch square by 2 inch thick end grain board, for $60.  That would leave you with $200.

 

Next, forget about this being for 5 to 7 years.  Any good knife should last longer than that.  The trick here is to get what you can now, and upgrade later, but not waste your money.

 

The basic, simplest recommendation is for a primary, chef's knife and a small paring knife.  The only other knife to add would be a serrated edge bread knife.

 

With just $200, I would concentrate the money on the Chef's knife.  That will take the bulk of the budget - so I will talk about the other two knives first.

 

First, the paring knife.  This is for everything which is too small for your chef's knife - and that's not all that much, but it will be some things.  One general rule of thumb is to size a paring knife, so the blade would be roughly the length of your index finger.  That way, when you are holding the knife, the tip will be roughly the length of the index finger.

 

There are several styles of paring knives.  The regular length with upturned tip is known as a "spear point".  A straight (no curve) edge with downturned spine (the top of the blade) is known as a "sheepsfoot".  And a concave edge blade would be referred to as a "bird's beak".  Personally, I prefer the sheepsfoot, but a spear point paring knife is also common.  Unless you do specialty French cooking, a bird's beak paring knife will be somewhat unneeded.

 

Paring knives get lost easily.  They get grabbed and used as pry bars.  They...., well the idea is that don't expect the paring knife to be all that permanent.  Many chefs will simply buy what's on sale, and replace their paring knives on a somewhat semi-often basis.  For that reason, a Victorinox , Fibrox handle paring knife will run about $7 or so.  'nuff said.

 

Bread knives are specialized.  They are used to cut through a tough skin into a soft interior.  That included breads.  It also includes such foods as tomatoes.  Inexperienced cooks also grab them and use them for cutting roasts or anything else - but the serrations will not really cut so smoothly as a good chef's knife - except for the aforementioned hard crust/skin, soft interior foods.

 

Serrated knives are difficult to sharpen (don't try to use them with a water stone!, unless you want to damage the water stone!).  As a result, professional kitchens don't consider the bread knife to be permanent, but buy replacements as needed, rather than sharpen them.

 

Victorinox makes a good basic bread knife with their fibrox handle.  Prices vary, so if I could buy on sale, I might look for a 10.25 inch one for the $35 range (though I have recently seen them on sale for $15).

 

That's going to leave you with about $150 to $160 for your chef's knife - IF you have a $300 budget to begin with, and you need cutting board, single sharpening stone, and are also buying paring and bread knife.

 

For a chef's knife, the first thing to consider is whether the knife has a flatter blade profile (a "French" pattern) or has more curvature of the edge (a "German" profile).  Knives with more curvature are referred to as having more "belly".

 

At this point of the discussion, you need to ask yourself about what types of foods you will be cooking - and how you will be cutting the foods during prep.

 

You will also need to ask yourself how much food will be cut up for most sessions.  A smaller work load calls for a smaller knife, but a large knife will chop up a lot of food much faster.

 

And at this point, I'm going to suggest that everyone else jump in - and think about what chef's knife they would buy for $150 to $160.

 

What the OP is going to find is that the recommendations in that range will involve a very wide spectrum.

 

 

 

Galley Swiller


Edited by Galley Swiller - 2/16/14 at 11:45am
post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 

Great post- thank you for all the info.  The sharpening and board were two things that I did not consider.  

I am not writing an article, but I like leaving things behind that are helpful for other people also, so my plan was to put the summaries in the cap of the thread for people to find easier in the future.  

 

A bit about me:

I cut everything from tomatoes to banana squash to pork shoulder to fish (on and off the bone, but mostly off).  Beef, lamb, duck, turkey, etc... This weekend I made ribs, which needed some trimming. Sometimes I have frozen meat that I need to separate.  I normally know my way around a joint, and don't jam my knives straight into bones, but I don't separate joints enough to say that this never happens. 

 

 

To summarize what you said:

Get an 800 to 1200 grit water stone, at least 8 inches in length and 2 inches in width: $30 to $40.- ok

Get an idahone 1200 grit honing rod 12in: $30- check

Get an end (or edge if needed) grain board (15x15in, for example): $60- roger

 

Knives:

Fibrox victorinox pairing knive: $7

Victorinox bread knife 10.25 in: $35

 

As for the chef knife- I think I answered most of the questions in the beginning.  I am used to using a german style knife, according to this:

http://www.cheftalk.com/t/62065/french-and-german-chefs-knives-profiles-in-cutting

But- There he also recommends a french style when there is a choice. 

Can you add to that?  I read through most of your posts since december, and you give a lot of great level headed advice. 

 

I understand that you recommend the http://richmondknives.com/knives.php 210 mm artifex usually to people who are aiming to spend under 100- correct?  How about for 150?  

 

What is a petty knife for?  Is it a replacement for the pairing knife?

post #4 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by FoodRocks View Post
 

Great post- thank you for all the info.  The sharpening and board were two things that I did not consider.  

I am not writing an article, but I like leaving things behind that are helpful for other people also, so my plan was to put the summaries in the cap of the thread for people to find easier in the future.  

 

A bit about me:

I cut everything from tomatoes to banana squash to pork shoulder to fish (on and off the bone, but mostly off).  Beef, lamb, duck, turkey, etc... This weekend I made ribs, which needed some trimming. Sometimes I have frozen meat that I need to separate.  I normally know my way around a joint, and don't jam my knives straight into bones, but I don't separate joints enough to say that this never happens. 

 

 

To summarize what you said:

Get an 800 to 1200 grit water stone, at least 8 inches in length and 2 inches in width: $30 to $40.- ok

Get an idahone 1200 grit honing rod 12in: $30- check

Get an end (or edge if needed) grain board (15x15in, for example): $60- roger

 

Knives:

Fibrox victorinox pairing knive: $7

Victorinox bread knife 10.25 in: $35

 

As for the chef knife- I think I answered most of the questions in the beginning.  I am used to using a german style knife, according to this:

http://www.cheftalk.com/t/62065/french-and-german-chefs-knives-profiles-in-cutting

But- There he also recommends a french style when there is a choice. 

Can you add to that?  I read through most of your posts since december, and you give a lot of great level headed advice. 

 

I understand that you recommend the http://richmondknives.com/knives.php 210 mm artifex usually to people who are aiming to spend under 100- correct?  How about for 150?  

 

What is a petty knife for?  Is it a replacement for the pairing knife?

 

I'm not GS, but here are my 2 cents-


You might consider:

 

Carbonext, $128

Misono Swedish, $170

Gesshin Uraku stainless, $155

Gesshin Uraku white #2 steel, $135

 

Prices for 240mm gyutos.

 

A petty is sort of a small knife for general use, can be used in the hand or on the board. Paring knives are mostly for in-hand work.

 

FWIW, I had an Artifex and didn't like it at all. Needs WAY too much work out of the box.

post #5 of 12

It sounds like there will be some additional comments on chef's knives from others, so I will just go to the points you raised.

 

First, about edge grain and end grain cutting boards.  End grain is the gold standard, while edge grain is often considered as the somewhat distant runner-up.  Advantages to end grain is that they are more hostile to pathogen growth, and much kinder on knife edges.  Drawbacks: much more expensive, more chances of board not being put together right, much, MUCH heavier.  Advantages to end grain board: less expensive, lighter weight.  Disadvantages: more wear on the knife edge, and when cut across the grain, will "scar" and create permanent grooves, with the cuts more likely to pick up food residues and foster pathogen growth (also true of plastic boards).

 

Knives, steels, bones and boning.  If you intend to use a chef's knife around bone, it should be a tough knife, such as either a dedicated boning knife, or a really tough steel,such as "X50CrMoV15" (aka Krupp 4116 steel).  With many things in  life, there are choices and trade-offs.  European knives are made to be tough - so that they will not break or chip.  This toughness comes at a price of lessened ability to take and hold an acute angle edge - so the knife cannot be sharpened to as steep an angle, and will not hold the angle as long, and the knife will need more frequent sharpening.  A top-grade Japanese knife is the opposite:  It will take and hold an acute angle edge much more readily, and will be "sharp" much longer, but at the risk of fractures and chipping when in contact with either bone or frozen foods..  

 

You probably noted that I didn't give a recommendation for any specific chef's knives in my post above. It's partially because I wasn't sure what type of blade profile you wanted.  I also wanted to concentrate the primary discussion on a chef's knife, and not on peripheral issues, which do have importance, but don't develop the vigorous discussion that chef's knives can and do.  So, I wanted to get those peripheral items out of the way.

 

Before going further, it's probably a good idea to set a length for your "best" knife.  A minimum length is usually around 8 inches, or about 200 mm (20cm).  Shorter than that, you won't be able to draw the knife as cleanly through foods without having to reverse direction a fet times.  Many chefs prefer to go a bit further, to either 9-1/2 inches (240 mm) or 10-5/8 inches (270 mm).  They find that the extra length makes for less work in the long run, especially if they have mass cutting and chopping in front of them.  Also, for some of the Japanese gyuto's, which tend to be lighter in weight than their comparative European-made knives, the lighter weight can correspond to larger blades for the same weight.  From your last post, I might suggest you consider a 240 or 250 mm knife.

 

In particular, for Japanese knives at or below $150, one very common steel is VG-10.  This steel can take an initially good edge, and after a small reduction in sharpness down a notch, it will "plateau" at a good sharpness level for an extended period of time.  The main drawbacks are a weakness for bone and a weakness for frozen foods.  Contact with either by a VG-10 steel blade can result in immediately chipping at the edge.  Since you talk about quite a few types of boned meats, as well as frozen foods, consider never using a VG-10 core with bone or frozen foods.  The alternative for bone is a dedicated boning knife (such as one of those in this earlier ChefTalk posting: http://www.cheftalk.com/t/59981/butcher-knives-how-to-choose-how-to-use ).

 

Frozen foods:  I shudder at thinking about using a good chef's knife with frozen foods.  Get a beater knife and use that, if you need something as a pry bar.  Go to your local thrift store - there are plenty of beater knives there - and they won't bust any budgets.  Your other foods will thank you for sparing the good knife from that abuse.

 

Now, about the Richmond Artifex.  What I have is the 240 mm Extra-Tall gyuto.  I can understand the concerns of DenverVeggieNut.  The face of the blade probably could use a bit of thinning (which would reduce friction while cutting).  But it is a trade-off.  You are exchanging a knife which is not quite as high performance as it might be for a significantly lower price ($90, or in my case, since I bought it as a "scratched blade" second, at 20% reduction, or $72).

 

Hopefully, more will chime in on their favorite chef's knife choices.

 

Galley Swiller

post #6 of 12
The knives galley and Denver suggested would all be good places to start. I have never used an artifex and i know the general consensus is it can use thinning but there are also plenty of reviews where people are more than satisfied with it out of the box. Especially coming from German knives.
What worries me is how you described your usage of your chefs knife. Not that there is anything wrong with it, just that most japanese knives are not going to stand up to the type of use you are talking about without some chipping. Frozen food as galley mentioned is an absolute no-no. I would suggest you get something not too hard and not too thin until you get a feel for how you are going to use this knife. Definitely keep your old Germans around as the "beater"
The uraku that Denver mentioned get good reviews is stainless, not sure about the handle. You didn't mention if you want western or japanese style (if you did I missed it sorry). The 150 price point isn't going to open up that many more options that will perform significantly better than the 100 price point.
It's difficult to give recommendations not knowing if you want carbon or stainless or what type of handle you are after. I'm going to assume stainless and western handle. I would also throw out for consideration
Fujiwara fkm- approx $80 (this is a little thinner so would be a cheaper way to see if u like this style of knife
Misono 440- lower hardness steel likely excellent f&f
Tojiro dp- approx $80 vg10 but for what it's worth my wife has this knife and I enjoy using it from time to time. Comes sharp oob
post #7 of 12
Thread Starter 

Sorry for the long delay in replying.  Doing a bit of traveling (read eating) this month and last. 



 



New questions:



What is the real (applied) difference between 1 side and 2 side honed knife.  Take the Carbonext, for example. It is one sided.  Global is two sided.  



I understand the the proper cutting technique for a Japanese blade is "drawing" or "slicing". is that true?  How do you then chop garlic and other vegetables?  Is it ok to use with harder vegetables?



If you can't touch a bone with a Japanese knife, what do you use to strip a chicken from the bone?  



What type of knife would you recommend using as a "jointer". Meaning, going between joints in meat.  



As much as i go the the search results for "differences between Japanese and western handles", I don't get it.  Can you give me the skinny on it (pun intended)?


Edited by FoodRocks - 3/4/14 at 1:16pm
post #8 of 12

and for a dose of reality . . .


single side bevels - the back is straight down, one side is 'sharpened' to the edge.
double side bevels - both sides of the knife are 'sharpened' to the edge.


yup - you guessed it - if the knife is sharpened at a 15' bevel, the double bevel has an included angle of 30' whereas the single bevel only 15' - and you can use your imagination as to which will be apparently 'sharper'....


there is of course the ups and downs.
the downside to a single bevel is the cutting edge is like ways more thinner - it will bend, wear, etc., much faster.
the second downside to a single bevel:  it is either left handed or right handed - the single bevel makes the knife 'self-steer' away from the beveled side. 

 

double bevels don't have that tendency to steer themselves during cutting / slicing.

 

>>What type of knife would you recommend using as a "jointer". Meaning, going between joints in meat.  
that would be called a boning knife.

 

>>differences between Japanese and western handles
the difference is confusion and befuddlement.  almost.
most Japanese styles have a 'kinda' round stick' handle; most European knives have a (sides) flatter handle.  exceptions abound.
as for handles, there is only one rule:  pick it up, try it out, see which size & style fits your hand / usage.

post #9 of 12
Hi Dilbert,
I would add to the 'difference between Japanese and western handles' debate that in my experience the main difference is the weight of the knife.
The knife is a lot lighter (at least it feels that way to me) with a Japanese handle.
I'm not personally fussed between the shapes, and feel, of the different types of handles, but I do love the lightness associated with the Japanese style of handle.
No doubt a very personal choice.
post #10 of 12
Thread Starter 

I am going to get a boning knife.  It seems that there is no way around that. 

 

Now, for a main chef knife- how would it be best to decide between these:

 

Carbonext, $128

Misono Swedish, $170

Gesshin Uraku stainless, $155

Gesshin Uraku white #2 steel, $135

Artifex

post #11 of 12
Carbonext is great value but if you are not at least a competent sharpener I would stay away. The sharpening option offered from what I have heard is inconsistent at best.
Misono Swedish is a nice knife but make sure you would want full carbon
Uraku stainless not personally familiar but I would not hesitate to purchase from jki. They offer quality products
Artifex has great steel but some people find it thick behind the edge. If that was a concern for you ask CKTG about an option for having it thinned and sharpened before purchase
post #12 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by FoodRocks View Post
 

I am going to get a boning knife.  It seems that there is no way around that. 

 

Now, for a main chef knife- how would it be best to decide between these:

 

Carbonext, $128

Misono Swedish, $170

Gesshin Uraku stainless, $155

Gesshin Uraku white #2 steel, $135

Artifex


That's a pretty diverse lot. 2 carbon steel, 2 stainless and 1 semi-stainless. 2 wa handles and 3 western.

 

So, just make a flow chart of sorts:

 

1- Do I have the tools and knowledge to thin a knife, or do i know someone who does? Sounds like the answer to this one is no, so throw out the Artifex.

2- Am I OK with wiping the knife down frequently? And I don't need to be able to leave the knife on the board dirty while I eat? If yes, go carbon for ease of sharpening: Misono or Uraku white #2. If no, decide between Carbonext, and Uraku stainless.

3- Do I want a wa or yo handle? Wa is lighter, and more exotic-looking. Yo is what you're used to. If you want wa, it is the Uraku white #2 if you wanted carbon and the Uraku stainless if you wanted stainless. If you want yo, it is the Misono if you wanted carbon and the Carbonext if you wanted stainless/semistainless, with the proviso that Chrismit noted above- the Carbonext may not come with a good edge, so you'll need to get some stones and dive right in.

 

How you're going to sharpen is a lot more important than which of these knives you choose. And, given that, if you can stand giving slightly more care, then carbon is the way to go. In my experience learning how to sharpen freehand, carbon gives you a lot of feedback, gets sharper more easily, and you have less difficulty removing burrs. So, misono or uraku carbon. And since Jon doesn't sell any trash and the uraku is less expensive than the misono (more money for stones), it sounds like the uraku white #2 might be a good bet for you. But it all sort of depends on how you come down on the wa versus yo and carbon versus stainless.

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