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New and in need of knife help

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
Hi Chef Talk!

I apologize for the lengthy explanation ahead of time and thank you for reading the following.

I am about as new as it gets to his forum. But, I've been reading through the forums for a bit and there seems to be an unending wealth of expertise and otherwise solid information. I am looking for some assistance with choosing either a brand/line of knives or a set. As with any purchase I make (with durable goods) I try to learn as much as possible, to the point where I often become the go to person for others to consult when they buy similar items. But, I am out of my depth here. I know that knives are not just a matter of quality but also a matter of preference. So, I feel like it's not as cut and dry when reading review as preference often seeps in and I am left with more questions. If you think you might be able to impart some info, opinion or otherwise, here is some info which might help...

I believe in buying quality and finding the best balance between that and what I can afford, but Id prefer to bump up to the next level of quality if it makes sense (for example, if I was going to spend $40 on a knife but that better knife was $60 and it would make a significant difference, I would save the extra $20 and then buy it). Unfortunately, I don't have a specific budget as I'm willing to start by purchasing individual knives if that's what's required. Whether it's a set or a few knives to start a collection, I can probably start with a few hundred dollars. As far as skill...I am working on my knife skills, right now they're a work in progress, however, I can hold my own in the kitchen when it comes to the finished product. I want to become quite good with my knives and so I'd like to buy knives that will support that endeavor and put up with me in the meantime.

My one issue is that I've been dealing with numerous ongoing medical issues since my early 20's (I'm 32 now) and they've impacted my dominant (right) hand/wrist and my shoulders. So, I'd guess that knife weight as well as other things I haven't thought of would come into play. I've read enough to know that Global Knives do not have the best reputation, quality wise, but I mention them because I did have the opportunity to hold some and briefly test them while at a Sur la Table and I liked the weight. My guess is that something that's not too heavy would be easier on me in the long run. I'm hoping that mentioning that particular kind of weight might help someone, who knows far more about a lot more brands than I do, make a recommendation.

And if you think that buying individual knives and building a set is the way to go, what knives do you personally think are the most important in your collection?

Thank you to everyone who takes the time to read this, whether you reply or not. I look forward to learning a lot here and helping whenever I can.

All the best,
Lauren
post #2 of 6

Sets that come in blocks are unequivocally bad. 

 

Okay now that's out of the way, you're a home cook.  What kind of foods do you like to cook?  You should get knives that you need to prepare your food.  I don't even own a bread knife for example.. Bread makes you fat.  Pastry makes you fat.  I don't own a bread knife and I don't miss it.  On the other hand I own a bunch of butchery knives, fish specific knives, and a bone saw.  So that one size fit all, cookie cutter,  food network advice "you need a chef, paring, and bread knife.  send it out for pro sharpening once a year" doesn't apply to me.  Or most people. 

 

I think everyone needs a good all around chefs knife and then the rest can be added as needed.

 

A light knife will help to some extent.   A sharp knife with good geometry will help a lot more.  A dull knife just needs more effort.  If you're putting your shoulder into it, you're probably doing it wrong.  Posture is important when you're cutting too.  I used to stand square to the cutting board, but now I have one foot forward.  It makes all the difference in your body mechanics if your hand is lined up to cut.

 

My recommendaton which is probably a surprise to no one is a small chinese cleaver.  Everyone can use it from small children to arthritic old grandmas.  Try out a CCK 1303 and you might not buy other knives haha.  It's light, it's thin, and a good introductory size to cleavers.  I might be selling mine soon only because I bought the next size up.

post #3 of 6
Thread Starter 

Hi MillionsKnives,

 

Thanks so much for replying!  I can't say that I'm as disciplined as you are when it comes to bread or pastry.  Besides the usual places that bread finds its way into ones diet, I love cheese and that usually involved some sort of carb.  I don't eat pastries often, but I'm not opposed to them lol.

 

Thanks for the tips with regards to posture...I hadn't consciously thought of it, but I am conscious of my posture in the other parts of my life.  I've also had quite a bit of work done to my back and because of that I try to pay close attention to how I sit and stand since it can help alleviate pain.  I'm going to have to play around with posture, including trying out your foot forward suggestion, while standing and working at the counter because I tend to end up hobbling out of the kitchen after dinner.  Also, we just moved from an apartment that had a galley kitchen and non-existent counter space to one with a large eat-in-kitchen and since I can work comfortably now, I invested in a quality anti-fatigue mat (it's really more like the size of a runner).  I'm not sure how much of a difference it will make but hopefully that combined with how I stand while prepping will leave me feeling better.

 

Also, the point about knife block sets being bad does make sense.  After looking at many of them, I find myself continue to search because you're spending a lot and inevitably the set includes a knife that I can't see myself using all that much and missing other pieces that I really want.  By that point, it starts looking like a bad financial investment to me and I move on, again.

 

Aside from the CCK 1303 you recommended, do you have any particular brands/lines you would recommend?

 

 

Thanks again for the advice!

Lauren 

post #4 of 6

If you want something light then any Wa styles Japanese knife would fill the bill.  My 240mm Konosuke only weighs five ounces.

"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 6

Yeah a typical wa handle wood is ho wood also known as magnolia wood.  It is very light weight.  Any time I replace one with a custom handle, it's much heavier.

post #6 of 6

Hi laurenlaz

 

MillionsKnives covered a number of points, but I've got some questions:

 

Can you tell us a little bit about what foods you cook? Does it include larger foods such as roasts?

 

How many people would be the largest number for whom you would be cooking a meal for in the course of a few months? In the course of a year?

 

Currently, what is the longest blade in your cutlery arsenal?

 

Do you want your knives to be strictly stainless?

 

Keeping your knives sharp will be critical. And the sad truth is that there is only one way any knife can be kept sharp without sharpening it – by never using it. If you want to have a sharp knife which y9u use, then you must keep the knife sharp by working at sharpening.

 

So, that leads to another pair of questions:

 

Are you sharpening your knives yourself? And, if so, how are you doing it?

 

The type of cutting surfaces you use to cut your foods on makes a huge difference in how fast (or slow) your knives will dull. What type of cutting surface do you use?

 

You have said that you have hand/wrist and shoulder problems with your (dominant) right hand. Are you familiar with a pinch grip? Have you tried it, or do you use it?

 

The advantage to the pinch grip is that you really don't have to (and shouldn't) grab very hard, compared to the racket grip. 

 

And speaking about hand/wrist/shoulder problems, you might want to consider using the pinch grip and keeping your shoulders and hand/wrist somewhat rigid, but rotating your entire body at the lumbar and pelvic area, using your elbow for the minor directional and elevation variations during the cut. Of course, this really works best with a very sharp edge...

 

As for sharpening techniques, here is a link to a set of videos by Jon Broida of Japanese Knife Imports about using water stones to sharpen knives:  https://www.youtube.com/user/JKnifeImports/featured

 

Mr. Broida is widely accepted as one of the best experts anywhere on the subject of Japanese chef's cutlery and on how to best sharpen them. If possible, I would very strongly suggest you view the videos and see if the movements in the videos are either acceptable to you in sharpening your knives, or it the movements would not work for you. Knowing that would tell us what sharpening options are available to you, that we can recommend.

 

I am also going to recommend the following web site about sharpening: http://forums.egullet.org/topic/26036-knife-maintenance-and-sharpening/

 

The author, Chad Ward, also expanded that web page into a complete book, An Edge In The Kitchen, which is a good and entertaining read. The book was published in 2006, so, while the general information is still very good, the price information is way out of date. The book is out of print, though available for about $23 from Amazon.com. Or, save a little bit of money and read it (or borrow it) at your local library. If they don't have it, then you can still suggest that your local library borrow it through inter-library loan programs.

 

Here is a link to a video from Chad Ward about the pinch grip (as well as showing other cutting techniques):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wq0FH2IGPAw

 

Hope that gives food for thought.

 

Galley Swiller

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