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Need help on finding the perfect knife set for me.

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

Hello all,

When I get my business up and running I'm going to be the head Chef and head bakery chef, so what would your recommendations of a good knife set be? I've tried to look for ones, but I honestly just started out in this business and don't know much about Chef's knives. I'm a real newbie for knives, since I'm used to just using steak knives at my home. Any help would be great. Thanks.

post #2 of 8

Pardon me if I sort of wonder of the seriousness of this inquiry.  I was of the impression that even line cooks would have at least a base familiarity with something more substansive than steak knives, let alone setting up and running a restaurant as head chef and head pastry cook.


Your inquiry is also befrit of any substantial information about what types of food you intend to prepare and offer, as well as what type of budget you are looking at allocating for cutlery.


It's easy enough to point someone in the direction of particular chef's knives, but only if there's something that can give parameters.


Chef's knife recommendations can run the gamut from a clearance-priced Victorinox Fibrox handle at $30-$40 to custom damascus blades running into the thousands, and anything inbetween


More info about your intended cooking style and budget, please?


Galley Swiller

post #3 of 8
Thread Starter 

I've only had a few months of experience as a Line Cook, and where I worked we used steak knives or a paring knife. My budget right now would be around $300 dollars and I would be mostly cooking steaks and mincing, chopping, etc. 

post #4 of 8

First off, the general concensus is against a knife set.  Just skip that concept. 


Secondly, recommendations tend to run towards a chefs, a petty, a parer. Beyond that, a bread knife and a slicer would be in the next tier. 


Thirdly, equipment to sharpen and steel the blades. 


Think of parts two and three as part of your total knife budget.


Reading heavily between the lines of your post (so I may be off base),  I think you'd be best served with some serviceable inexpensive blades while you develop skills and learn what you like and dislike in knives. So strongly consider 8 or 10 inch Forschner blades. They are certainly the bang for the buck winners and have an excellent blade geometry more akin to  the popular Japanese knives though the Forschner steel is just ordinary. Forschners are up to the task of professional work and if lost, stolen, or damaged, it's not a major financial loss. 


As to stones or a jig, my tastes diverge sharply from most of those who will post here and their opinion is probably better suited to you on that topic . I will recommend the 12" idahone fine ceramic "steel". 


I recommend these for a couple of reasons.


they're good enough as I point out above.

you seem need to develop more knife experience to make a better informed choice, which I interpret from your post. 

I think your employment stability is questionable-- both to launch your own successful business with the experience level you show, and for the business you're currently working for. It seems you have other places the majority of your knife budget could be better spent or saved,  which I infer from your post as well. I'm happy to be wrong about this, it's just how your post struck me. 

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #5 of 8
One little addition: the Forschner / Victorinox chef's knives have a profile very different from the Japanese. The Japanese profile is a further development of the French. The Victorinox is clearly German by inspiration: high tip, almost at spine level, a huge belly. Fine for rock-chopping (read: pumping); inadequate for slicing.
post #6 of 8

First, on just a musings basis, I have to sort of wonder about any restaurant who expects its kitchen staff to use steak knives.  I don't suppose your management expects the knives to remain sharp forever without sharpening.


Never mind responding to that, it's just the clunk of my jaw dropping.


For $300, here's my reaction.


First, you want an 8 inch Victorinox Fibrox handle chef's knife - preferably as cheap as possible, probably in the $30 range, but less if you can find it cheaper.  That is the knife you will take into work.  Why that and not something better.  Simple - that's the knife which you will not cry over when your boss tries it out and decides that it should go to him/her.  Anything better in comparison to steak knives will be the envy of all and sundry ("In the Land of the Blind, the One-Eyed Man....."), and may very well disappear.  No good to you to take a better knife in and just have to lose it to someone else's envy.


That leaves you $270.  You need to split it 4 ways - (1) for your chef's knife, (2) for a good hone, (3) for a good cutting board and (4) for a sharpening system.


This is for your home kitchen.  It's not for work.  But it's what you should be practicing with as you prepare your own meals and as you develop further skills.


To be realistic, I need to address each of those categories in reverse order.


First, the sharpening system.  This site's real knife guru, "Boar D. Laze" (who has not been heard from for a few months), put it aptly with the following quote:


"Remember these two things:  All knives dull eventually.  Once dull, all knives are created equal.  If you can’t maintain sharpness, it doesn’t make sense (at least not as a practical matter) to buy expensive knives.  More, a dull knife will limit your prep ability to coarse and uneven cuts.  That not only impacts appearance, but the ways in which ingredients incorporate and flavors marry."


To sharpen knives, you need some sort of sharpening system.  It can be as simple as a sharpening stone or it can be a sharpening jig.


If I were you, learn to sharpen by hand.  


Avoid all pull-through jigs - they will give you a very coarse edge.  That edge will initially feel sharp, but it is at the double expense of major steel removal during the sharpening process, and of an edge which will get dull faster to an edge properly free hand sharpened.


Also, avoid electric sharpeners.  Not only do the better ones (I hesitate to call any electric sharpener "good" compared to freehand sharpening) do at best a moderate job of sharpening, but they remove a lot of metal and cost quite a bit of money.


The traditional method of sharpening applying the edge of the knife against a stone is known as 
"freehand sharpening".  For a good overview, read this:


There are a huge number of stones and systems out there, but one way is to start with a combination stone, such as this:


That's not by any means the be-all-and-end-all, but rather a basic stone.  It's a Japanese waterstone, and it's about the minimum size (8 inches long by 2 inches wide) which is reasonable.  In fact, bigger is better  One bit of critical advice Never Use Oil With A Waterstone!  WATER ONLY!!!  


Often after extensive use, sharpening stones "dish" (the surfaces get carved out during use), and need to be flattened.  To flatten your stone, this is probably as good as anything:


Now, for Part (3), a hone.  You have a way to sharpen.  But sharpening does remove steel, and you would prefer to do it as little as possible.  You should look at a hone to help you realign the edges of your knives when they get pushed over during cutting.  One very good hone is the 12 inch ceramic Idahone for $30:


The next part of our 4-part recommendation is for (2) a good cutting board.  But first, know what you DON'T want in a cutting board.  You don't want something which will dull your knives unnecessarily.  The worst surfaces (in the order from worst to bad to problems to okay to good to very good to best) can be listed as follows:


Worst: stone of any kind (marble, granite, etc); glass; metal.  All of those are horrid towards the edges of your knives.


Awful: composite boards.  These boards look like sawdust kept together with glue.  In truth, that's EXACTLY what they are.  And that glue is extremely hard and will do a bad number on the edges of knives.


Bad - Bamboo.  It's very trendy, but it's made of a large number of thin strips of bamboo glued together.  Yup, there's that bad word, "glue".  You won't be able to avoid it altogether, but you should try to minimize it.


Not Quite As Bad:  Teak.  It's got appropriate hardness and give, but teak is also notorious for being a wood which naturally takes up silica from the water and soil as it grows (which is not good).


Okay, but not really desirable: softwoods such as pine.  They are a bit too soft - you can cut into the wood with the edge of your knife, and if there is any torque applied to your knife, the sideway pressure on the edge can break off a chunk of steel - a process known as "chipping".  Definitely not a good thing.


Good - Edge Grain hardwood boards from reputable makers.  Cherry, Walnut, Northern Maple and other woods are hard and very good. Edge Grain means that the grain of the wood flows along the flat surface of the boards.  Minimal gluing.


Best: End Grain hardwood chopping blocks from the best board makers.  Unfortunately, not cheap.


Now for a simple recommendation.  It's a reversible 20 inch by 15 inch by 1-1/4 inch thick hard maple board from John Boos.  It is big enough to be practical as a work surface for you and it is inexpensive enough ($48) for you to not agonize over:


Before you use the cutting board for the first time, treat it with food grade mineral oil.  You don't need to get fancy with the oil.  I buy one pint (16 fl. oz.) from my local Safeway store for $3.49 (it's in the drug shelves).  Especially treat the ends of the board where the open cell structure is exposed.  And make sure you get as much oil into the exposed wood as possible BEFORE you use the board for the first time.


Now for a tally: Work knife ($30), waterstone ($40), hone ($30) and cutting board ($50): $150.  You now have $150 for buying a good chef's knife.


This will be your first serious knife.  So, I would suggest you consider the following.


First, length.  If you intend to continue on as a chef, you will find that length matters.  While your inexpensive knife (the Victorinox) is just 98 inch, think 10 inches for your own "serious" personal knife.  In metric terms (which is how all very good knives are measured, that will be about 254 mm.  So, think about a knife in the 240 mm to 270 mm range.


Second, technique: work at developing a reflex to use a "pinch grip".  Here's BDL on  that:


Also, read BDL here on "Guillotine and Glide":


Third: For this first knife, consider keeping it easy to work with.  There will be a lot of people who will argue that you need the sharpest, or the most comfortable or this or that.  I would suggest you think stainless first.


If you're willing to work with carbon steel knives and recognize their IMMEDIATE maintenance needs, then they can be the most blazingly sharp knives available.  But I suspect that you don't have the experience level yet to take advantage of that level of care, and I suspect that a very good stainless knife will work just as well for you.


If this discussion thread properly follows its course, you will receive a large number of suggestions.  Listen to them all, and don't take my suggestions as gospel.


But, for what it's worth, my recommendations will  be for MAC knives.  Specifically for either of the following:


MAC Chef Series 10 inch  Chef's Knife BK-100 ($110):


his is a basic MAC knife, but not quite at the top level.  It uses the same steel as the Mighty Professional, but it comes without a bolster and is not as finely balanced as the Mighty Professional.  It is otherwise better than all European knives and will provide years, if not decades, of excellent service.  And you will end up with money in your pocket, that can be used for a basic Victorinox paring knife ( ) and a basic Victorinox bread knife ( ).


MAC Mighty Professional Series 9-1/2 inch Chef's knife ($185) or 10-1/2 inch Chef's Knife ($210):


These knives will have huge numbers of recommendations coming from the pros who frequent this forum.  Superb balance, excellent edges - either would be a top all-around knife.  However (and it is up to you), they will run you over your $300 budget total if you also need sharpening stone, hone, cutting board and sacrificial work knife.


That's a basic review.


Hopefully, others will now chime in.




Galley Swiller

post #7 of 8

Make your life easy and buy a brand name 6-8 piece from Costco, it will likely cost you about $200.00. Properly maintained (meaning hand washing, no dishwasher use), and sharpened correctly, (meaning throw away the steel and buy a proper sharpener) it should last you for a decade at least, by then you will find other individual knives that you prefer that suit your individual needs.

post #8 of 8
Pretty much what Galley Swiller said.
Particularly about John Boos cutting board, theft of knives, and how fancy knives with dull blades are rendered pedestrian.
My only addition, and he alluded to it, is that no chef has a set of knives made by one Manufacturer. They might have a cheap stainless paring knife with a plastic handle next to a wood handled carving knife, next to a rubber handled Dexter for butchering chicken. Also, a good cleaver with some weight to it, which often gets relegated to somewhere other than the knife case because of it's weight. I like my cleaver to be rounded on top rather than square and sharp up top for when I apply pressure to it for extended periods.
If you do as I have done, which is picking up various brands and styles from garage sales and clearance racks, then use all of them extensively for years, you'll find that there are knives you use, and knives you don't.
that's when you have your set.
Mine is almost comical in its diversity. The Forstner and Kiwi Thai knives are my cheaters. They are cheap and fun to use. The one I haven't bought yet, but I had the pleasure of using at my brother in laws house, is the Mac 10 inch chefs knife, at around 160 dollars. It almost cuts the food for you.
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