or Connect
ChefTalk.com › ChefTalk Cooking Forums › Food & Equipment Reviews › Cooking Knife Reviews › Starter knife for home cook
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Starter knife for home cook

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 

Hi All,

 

I ha no idea there was a whole world of cutting techniques and I've been using a serrated knife to cut everything until now (vegetables, meat, bread, etc...) - that's how much of a beginner I am.

 

I now started looking at online classes and schools in my area and want to learn. Also, would like to get a starter knife. Based on reading this forum, a stainless steel Japanese knife is a great compromise between easy maintenance and sharpness. Shape-wise, a western style chef's knife is the most suitable to learn, which leads me to look for a 240mm gyuto with western handle (but I also want to hold the wa - who knows what I like).

 

I would like to hold a few knives in my hand before choosing. The short list I have in mind is:

 

Tojiro DP

Richmond Artifex

Mac Pro (a bit above my budget, but if I really love it when I hold it I could go as high)

 

Anything else you recommend?

 

Also, I can't seem to find a single store that has all three of them in the SF Bay area, any advice on that too would be great.

 

Side note: at this stage, I'd prefer to avoid learning to sharpen and getting equipment. I don't cook for 8 hours per day and I can have it sharpened by a specialist when needed.

 

Advices would be welcome! Thanks all

post #2 of 23

I would personally recommend you check out a french or german type chefs knife before getting into the Japanese ones- for one you'll have no idea how to hold the knives properly, so you're not going to have alot of control over the knife for the first little while as your muscles become accustomed to the "pinch grip". Combine that initial instability in your grip with a good sharp knife and you might end up quite a bit worse for wear.

 

Not trying to scare you off, just saying you might want to develop some good knife skills with something inexpensive so you can really get a feel of what it is you want/need out of a knife. If you've never even used anything beyond a serrated knife to cook with (basically using a hacksaw) you've no need for a performance edge just yet my friend. There's no technique you're currently capable of which can't be completed as easily with a Victorinox. They may need to be sharpened more often, but a new Japanese knife is going to be a hell of a lot less forgiving with regard to technique, cutting surface, applications (ie. any decrease in maitenance that a skilled cook might gain with a really nice edge is going to be wasted as you learn about how knives work, proper technique etc)

 

Most cooking instructors prefer people learn with a more classic set of European knives, typically so they can instruct you on the little features of the knife profile and what tasks you may most effectively apply them to. I would recommend you get a 10" if you can handle it, they're alot more efficient tools and a good 10" chefs will always come in handy, even when you're all stocked up on beautiful Japanese knives in the future.

 

I don't personally own any Japanese knives, though I have alot of experience with MAC in professional settings and can vouch very highly for them, the Pro series feel wonderful, for sure! Hopefully someone more experienced steps in and provides you with some good ideas.

 

... Just my two cents!


Edited by SpoiledBroth - 9/27/14 at 8:24pm
post #3 of 23
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the great advices!

 

I'll then look for a cheaper French / German (such as Victorinox or at the most Henckels).

 

Have a good one, thanks again!

post #4 of 23

The Artifex and the DP are both very nice knives.  I'd give the Artifex an edge in the steel department if you'll pardon the pun.  52100 is a great carbon steel and AEB-L is a great stainless.  Either would be superior to the VG10 steel of the Tojiro.  I still have a few Tojiro DPs in my knife kit along side some Richmonds.  I would also say that if you splurge and get the Artifex in M390 you may only have to sharpen once per year in a home kitchen.  I put a 10k edge on my M390 Ultimatum and after three weeks of daily use in a restaurant kitchen it would still shave.  I used it for over three months before I felt the need to touch it up.  The fit and finish of the Tojiro DP is very good, though- probably a bit more consistent than the Richmond ones that came from Lamson.

 

There's nothing wrong with the MAC knives but I think they're a bit overpriced while not really being a step up from a Shun.  If you get one it will serve you well but the other two are better values and a little better knives (IMOHO).

 

BTW, don't be afraid of carbon steel.  Something like 52100 is pretty easy to take care of.  Just keep it clean and don't put it away wet.

"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
Reply
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
Reply
post #5 of 23

If you are going to be just starting out in knives, then I would suggest that getting Japanese knives is as good a way as any to start out.  In the long run, starting out with a MAC, an Artifex or a Tojiro DP will be worth it, rather than  getting something like a Victorinox or one of the Zwilling Henckels (the "Twin" figure, rather than the "Single" figure Henckels, which are the lower quality level Henckels International symbol).  Heck, even one of the IKEA Damascus VG-10 Slitbars at $50 each is better steel than a Victorinox or Zwilling Henckels.

 

Richmond Knives are the house brand of Chef Knives To Go, and are named after Mark Richmond, who (with his wife, Susan Brown) started and run CKTG, which is an internet and mail only retail establishment, based in Madison, Wisconsin.  

 

As for handling any of your potential purchase knives in the SF Bay area, I suspect that only MAC knives will be at any brick and mortar stores.  Check the macknife.com site for locations - in Northern California, there are 12 sites listed.  For Tojiro or Artifex knives, you will either probably (Tojiro) or certainly (Artifex) have to buy on faith online, without getting the feel ahead of time.

 

I generally agree with Phaedrus on what he says about the Artifex and the Tojiro as being good introductory knives/was, though I would note that the Artifex M390 is currently out of availability and is/was only available in a 210 mm (slightly longer than 8 inch) length.  I do respectfully disagree with his assessment of the MAC as overpriced and not a step up from Shuns.  The MAC Pro gyuto is more expensive, but you are getting a product which is proven, has reasonably good edge taking and holding characteristics (maybe not as good as a M390, though I don't have one of those) and excellent design and balance.  I rate my MAC Pro 240 mm gyuto over my Tojiro DP 210 mm in edge characteristics, while everything I have heard on this and other web sites would place the Shun as lesser than the Tojiro DP in quality (VG-10 steel, which both Shun and Tojiro DP knives use, is tricky to properly heat treat.  Shun knives have a reputation for being more chip-prone than Tojiro DP's, though truth to be told, almost any knife can develop chips).

 

What you should do is find and buy a good ceramic honing rod (improperly referred to by the unknowledgeable as a "sharpening steel"), such as an Idahone 12 inch.  Put a small hook for it in your kitchen (if you don't want to drill or use screws, use a 3M "Command" two-sided adhesive and plastic hook set-up).  Then learn to use it.  That will slow down the inevitable dulling of your knife.

 

Also, get a good cutting board.  Read the reviews and choose accordingly.  That will also significantly slow down the dulling process.  I am partial to the Michigan Maple Block 15 inch square by 2 inch thick end grain maple board/block.  Before first use, I do multiple thick treatments on both sides with food-grade mineral oil (I buy that at my local Safeway for about $3.50 for one pint), and I do it until the board is so saturated that no more oil will go in.

 

Eventually, you will want to do your own sharpening.  If you want to get used to the idea, try a practice (junk) knife and a practice (cheap) stone first.  A straight edge (no serrations) knife which is not too thin from a really cheap source (thrift store or garage sale) is fine for practice and a big, cheap stone from a local Asian market will be perfectly adequate.  What you want to do with these is just practice.  It's not for anything serious, but only to give you a feel for getting the angles right and for feeling what hand sharpening is like.  Watch videos by Jon Broida, Chef Knives To Go, Bob Kramer, Murray Carter, etc., and go out and play with it.

 

Have fun!

 

 

Galley Swiller

post #6 of 23
Thread Starter 

Phaedrus and Galley, huge thanks to both of you!

 

I guess I'll go for the Artifex AEB-L then.

 

SpoiledBroth, thanks again, I've taken a look at German and French too and the basic lines do not have a 240mm model. Getting a Victorinox or Henckels of that size would actually cost more than an entry level gyuto, then I'm all set on a Richmond Artifex.

 

Thanks all and have a great day!

post #7 of 23


Go to a reputable store look at all the knives. Don't look where they are from or how much . Pick them up and see how comfortable they feel. I feel a good 8 inch French knife for beginners is best. Don't try and keep up with the Joneses.re price. Some of the people on her spend fortunes for nothing. America and Germany are sometimes as good as the Japanese knives. Depends how you take care of it. Good Luck

 

PS  I have seen kids in first semester culinary schools spend up to $400.00  on a knife yet not even knowing how to use it. INSANITY

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply
post #8 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by chefedb View Post
 


Go to a reputable store look at all the knives. Don't look where they are from or how much . Pick them up and see how comfortable they feel. I feel a good 8 inch French knife for beginners is best. Don't try and keep up with the Joneses.re price. Some of the people on her spend fortunes for nothing. America and Germany are sometimes as good as the Japanese knives. Depends how you take care of it. Good Luck

 

PS  I have seen kids in first semester culinary schools spend up to $400.00  on a knife yet not even knowing how to use it. INSANITY

:thumb:

post #9 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by ZapoTeX View Post

Phaedrus and Galley, huge thanks to both of you!



 



I guess I'll go for the Artifex AEB-L then.



 



SpoiledBroth, thanks again, I've taken a look at German and French too and the basic lines do not have a 240mm model. Getting a Victorinox or Henckels of that size would actually cost more than an entry level gyuto, then I'm all set on a Richmond Artifex.



 



Thanks all and have a great day!


 

210 artifex aeb-l comes in at about $75... Guarantee you can walk into a good cutlery store and be out of there with a fibrox or even swiss classic Victorinox 10" chefs knife for less than 60 dollars. Your choice though!
post #10 of 23

Fibrox are house-knife level blades.  Their chief virtue is cheapness.  Edge retention is miserable.  I know Cooks Illustrated is over the moon for them but they're just mediocre, with pretty entry level steel.  They won't take an acute edge angle without rolling over and the toughness of the alloy is rather low.  Again, not terrible for a $30 knife but not in the same galaxy as a Tojiro, MAC or Richmond.  If you've reached the point where you want something above entry level to learn with there are some nice blades in that general $100 range.

"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
Reply
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
Reply
post #11 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phaedrus View Post
 

Fibrox are house-knife level blades.  Their chief virtue is cheapness.  Edge retention is miserable.  I know Cooks Illustrated is over the moon for them but they're just mediocre, with pretty entry level steel.  They won't take an acute edge angle without rolling over and the toughness of the alloy is rather low.  Again, not terrible for a $30 knife but not in the same galaxy as a Tojiro, MAC or Richmond.  If you've reached the point where you want something above entry level to learn with there are some nice blades in that general $100 range.

House knife? I think you'd be surprised at the pedigree of some of the people using those knives. I've never seen any other line of knives with NSF certification... not that that means much but almost every other piece of equipment in commercial kitchens bears the same cert... I dunno! Nothing wrong with getting some flash I suppose.

post #12 of 23

I know a maker that was looking into getting NSF certification.  You know what it takes?  A check for $1000.  Do I have to send you a sample to test he asked?  Nope, just a grand.  Perhaps things have changed in the last three years but I doubt it.  Shun knives carry NSF cert as do a few others I've seen.  But unless you live somewhere that requires NSF cert on everything in the kitchen (possible but I've never heard of such a place) what would it matter?  None of mine are NSF'd and in 25 years in the kitchen no health inspector has ever asked me about it, and none have even looked at my knives much less checked to see what certs there were on them.

 

At any rate at the restaurant I'm at now all the house knives are Fibrox.  I don't think there's anything wrong with them at all for what they cost...can't think of anything better for the price.  And just as a carpenter doesn't want a 1/2" drill bit but rather 1/2" holes a cook just needs food made smaller.  Any knife can do that to some degree.  A better knife will give better results if you already have solid skills but it won't make up for a lack of skills.

 

I really appreciate the edge retention of my Japanese knives.  Usually I'll take an armload of the house Forschner Fibrox knives home to sharpen a few days before Easter or Mother's Day, or any time we're going to set up a prime rib station or an extra carving station (I moonlight a bit a sharpener).  The Fibrox slicers will take a serviceable edge that will get through a busy shift but it's not going to be shaving sharp for a week.

 

Overall I think cooks and chefs just generally don't know much about knives.  Sure, occasionally you'll run across someone like me that's into knives and sharpening as a hobby but it's the exception, not the rule.  It's kind of like guns; lots of people think cops are gun experts but most of them only fire a few boxes of ammo in a year and may only qualify periodically.  And a race car driver might be able to turn a wrench but he has mechanics for that.  A chef needs to know food but s/he may or may not know knives beyond the ability to cut with one.  Younger cooks I know will often have a roll of knives they got from school, often something like Mercer on the low end to Messermeister on the high end.  In my decades in the kitchen I can count the ones that really know how to sharpen on one hand.  I've done knives for some recently culinary grads that were so dull that the only way to tell which side was supposed to cut was by the shape.  We're talking you'd be hard pressed to half a stick of warm butter with them.

 

That said, you really don't have to be a cutlery expert to be a good (Western) chef.  Some really high profile chefs are knife nuts but often they have either junk knives or something they use as part of a promotional relationship.  Alton Brown used to shill for Shun (although I've been told he has some high end Japanese knives, too).  Micheal Bras has a relationship with Shun IIRC.  Morimoto has a line of knives bearing his name (are they Henckels?  I don't recall right now).  I wouldn't be surprised if I have better knives than Thomas Keller or Grant Achatz but they've probably forgotten more about cooking than I'll ever know.

"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
Reply
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
Reply
post #13 of 23
Right, I don't disagree with anything you're saying, although I will posit that I feel the difference between a well cared for Euro knife is so spectacularly different from a Japanese knife is perhaps overplayed. It may be markedly different, but I fail to see really how and why you can justify starting with one. Personally in reviewing the original poster's situation I come up with just cons, no pros, to making his first knife a 70/30 gyuto. It's my understanding that technique (or lack thereof, no offense to the OP) can sometimes have significant effect on the edge (ie. damage). Has he researched and bought a proper cutting board? Does he know there is someone in his area he can trust his knives to, who will actually inspect the bevel before sharpening (as I believe he said he's not interested in sharpening)? What about honing?
post #14 of 23

Given even half a choice, I would go for recommending a good Japanese steel knife over a European mass market knife any day.  It's not all that hard to understand.  European knives are made to be tough - to avoid outright steel failure at any and all cost.  So you will almost never see a European knife chip.  They will dent, ding, and have their edges roll - but they will almost never chip or break.  To do so, the steel has been only hardened to just so far.  The steel is deliberately made tough.  But that toughness also means the steel in the knife does not want to abrade very easily and will instead deform.

 

On the other hand, Japanese knife makers place a higher value on getting their knives to accept and hold an edge.  By European steel standards, that means Japanese use a much more brittle steel than European knife steel.  But the trade-off, which Japanese knife makers accept, is that they can bring their knives to a more acute angle, they can polish the edges better, edge retention is better and the ease of sharpening by stone is soooo much easier.  I know - because I have sharpened various Japanese stainless steel knives, European stainless steel knives and European carbon steel knives.  The European stainless knives were difficult and I simply had problems getting them to get to sharpness and stay sharp.  European carbon steel and better Japanese knives were much, MUCH easier to sharpen, and, with honing, would stay sharper longer than any European stainless steel knife.  Obviously, a well-cared-for Euro knife will outperform any uncared-for but heavily used knife, including Japanese knives, but I have found it much easier to bring a Japanese knife back to performance than a European stainless steel knife.

 

How much risk is there of edge failure in a European mass market knife versus a well-made Japanese knife?  For European knives, the failure rate is near to zero.  For Japanese knives, it won't be as low, but my guess is that a well-made san-mai VG-10 core steel Japanese gyuto, with a 50-50 edge and a 15 degree edge, will probably not see failure in 95+ percent of the knives, as long as you understand the limits of the knife.  No bone, no frozen foods and no using the knife edge as a prybar. 

 

As for cost, it's not all that difficult a call.  If it's a Victorinox (which Amazon.com is selling at $38.70 for an 8 inch Model 47520 - Sorry Phaedrus, but the era of the below-$30 Vic seems to be over), then it's not all that much more for an Ikea Damascus VG-10 steel Slitbar at $49.99.  If it's a Zwilling Henckels or Wusthof Classic, then a Tojiro DP is not only cheaper, it's also much easier to sharpen without the full heel length bolster.

 

Yes, $400 for a chef's knife for a student is way out of line.  But that's why we have these threads in this forum - to give advice and make suggestions on where to most effectively spend money, time and effort.  There can be points of diminishing return for more money - but in the case of good quality but lower cost, Japanese entry knives, the added value really is there, compared to European mass-market stainless knives.

 

 

Galley Swiller

post #15 of 23
Couldn't agree more. If one wants a stainless, go Japanese. I wouldn't advice a VG-10 though as it is a bit harder to sharpen than some other steels due to it's stubborn burrs requiring patient abrading up to the highest grit.
Ginsanko-3 and the Swedish have easier stuff to offer, as in Hiromoto G3 and Misono 440.
post #16 of 23

The best Japanese knives in the best modern steels manage to achieve very high Rockwell hardness levels without being chippy.  ZDP-189 chips badly but something like M390 doesn't chip at all.

 

It really doesn't matter what knife you get if you're not interesting in sharpening it.  That's like buying clothing that can't be washed!  Every knife will dull eventually no matter what it's made from.  A knife made of soft steel like a Fibrox will have a short useful life; a Shun will last a lot longer.  But ultimately any knife will need to be sharpened.  I suppose a home cook might make it a year before a good knife gets too dull to use.  Shun used to offer free sharpening but I don't think they do anymore.  One can easily keep a knife usable for good while with a ceramic hone (I like Idahones).  Then you need to learn to sharpen or find someone trustworthy to do it for you.  I completely sympathize with someone that doesn't want to learn to sharpen or buy a specialized tool just to keep one good knife going.  But a culinary pro...well, being a pro cook and not learning to sharpen is like being a surfer without learning how to swim.

"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
Reply
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
Reply
post #17 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Galley Swiller View Post
If it's a Victorinox (which Amazon.com is selling at $38.70 for an 8 inch Model 47520 - Sorry Phaedrus, but the era of the below-$30 Vic seems to be over), then it's not all that much more for an Ikea Damascus VG-10 steel Slitbar at $49.99.

 

$29.95 model # 6.8063.20US1 (Victorinox from amazon); I bought one not long ago (1-2mos) for just under $23.

 

I've sharpened it recently on a 6,000 grit water stone and used it on carrots, potatoes, and onions for about 15min on an Acacia end grain board (very hard wood), and could still shave with it. I like it for a fairly worry free knife that almost no one would bother to steal, and one I can leave wet on the counter.  It's depth makes it feel like a longer knife than my 8" gyuto when cutting chicken breasts because it keeps my fingers up higher. -I much prefer a good 240mm gyuto though.

post #18 of 23

I will concede the usefulness of a "beater knife" that you're not worried about.  I'd blow my stack if one of my expensive J-knives got stolen.

"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
Reply
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
Reply
post #19 of 23

Stick with the Artifex, but the Vic does make a good beater.  Review here:

 

http://www.cheftalk.com/t/81804/victorinox-forschner-as-starter-knives

 

I have since finished and epoxy coated the handle, and thinned the tip considerably, the edge as noted comes pretty well thinned as you get it.  Whereas the stock handle is bulky even for my huge hands, the carved out handle I did is just about as comfortable as you could ask for. I left the shiny but wrinkly finish of the epoxy job as-is, it has a great feel and provides a great grip.  Pictures soon.

 

The Artifex's AEB-L sharpens beautifully to a very steep angle, where as the Vic requires a bit of burr removal.  Benuser's technique works great there, light lateral swipes with a slight edge-leading motion.  With the more obtuse angle you'd use on a beater the burr thing will be less a problem.

 

 

Rick

post #20 of 23
Thread Starter 
Thanks everybody for the great advices, that go well beyond just choosing.

I got the Artifex AEB L. Learning to use it and loving it. Have registered to a basic class on knife skills in early November.

Got a ceramic honing rod and I'll take the knife to professional sharpening once every six months. I guess it's like a silk shirt that you need to h as be professions lay washed :-)

Have a great day!

Davide
post #21 of 23
I bought a Tojiro DP off amazon.ca last week. I like jt so far.

I probably would have got the 9" or bigger but I couldn't find one that day. 8.4 is a good size for me.
post #22 of 23

There's a nice free online knife skills class linked from this page:

http://www.cheftalk.com/t/81779/free-online-knife-skills-class-on-craftsy -The catch is you get emails trying to sell you other classes.

 

I have the Tojiro dp 210, and 270. They are different beasts. Both are well balanced at the pinch grip. The 270 doesn't want to rock chop (or move along the board). The 270 is considerably heavier and thicker at the spine. The 210 doesn't give good knuckle clearance making part of the knife's blade unusable for some things, but then it has less drag on others.

post #23 of 23

Congrats on the purchase.  When you finally do get the blade sharpened, by a real knife sharpener, not a typical grinding wheel/belt-sander guy, you should consider having the edge thinned also.  You'll be used to a knife that zips through food by then, and thinning will make it a whole lot zippier.  You can consider asymmetrical thinning, where if you are a righty the left face is ground with a flat taper and the right face is convexed for good food release.

 

 

Rick

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Cooking Knife Reviews
ChefTalk.com › ChefTalk Cooking Forums › Food & Equipment Reviews › Cooking Knife Reviews › Starter knife for home cook