My first quality knife set
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Welcome to chetalk Yardley. Your name recalls my memories of youth, where I was an indentured servant to my father's whims about gentleman farming.
Do a search for "knife sets" and you will quickly see why we don't recommend them, any of them, or most of the companies that produce/distribute them. For the money you are talking you could have a handful of absolutely spectacular knives by comparison, and which will fulfill your every need, and beyond your wildest expectations at this point.
I will second what Rick says. Knife sets get zero respect on this forum.
Also, the Wusthof Classic Ikon knives, while just about as good in quality as anything else mass produced in Europe, just don't cut it in terms of quality when compared with even basic good quality Japanese knives, such as the Tojiro DP knives.
However, the good thing here is that you're talking about a respectable amount of money - $860. With that as a budget, let's see what would be an idealized purchase (at least as I would spend $860 on a desert island set up)
First, it's not just about the knives - it's also about the rest of the gear that makes and keeps the knives sharp. And it's also about a good cutting board. You're going to need that to slow down the inevitable dulling that all knives get in use.
So, a few assumptions on my part. First, I am assuming you are in the USA. I have to make that assumption because availability and cost of virtually (almost) everything is dependent on where the person lives. Also, it's easier to make my case if I'm only dealing in the U.S. dollar.
I'm also going to assume you want a stainless knife, rather than a carbon steel knife.
Of course, if either assumption above is different from reality, then please let us know.
So, I'm going to divide the purchases into three broad categories - (1) knives, (2) sharpening equipment and (3) cutting board. And in each category, there will be the BIG purchase item and there will be the small change items. So, here goes...
KNIVES - In truth, three knives should do (almost) everything. The work horse will be the chef's knife. Then, there's the fine detail knife - the paring knife. And there's a specialty knife - a serrated edge bread knife.
The Big Kahuna here is the chef's knife.. In the Wusthof set, that chef's knife is 8 inches long. That's just too short. You really want something a bit longer, say 9-1/2 inches to 10-2/3 inches. In metric terms, 240 mm to 270 mm. And, that the length of the blade. Shorter than that, and you will find it hard to effectively carve up a roast.
I'm just going to drop a single manufacturer, series, type and length here - the MAC Professional 9-1/2 inch Chef's Knife (MBK-95). This is a workhorse knife which is used by top chefs the world over. Yes, there are better knives. Yes, there are less expensive knives. But this is probably just about the single most widely known knife in the profession world-wide (Kiwi knives excepted), and is a safe flat-out recommendation. List price is $220, and you can buy it from various eBay sellers for $184.95, including shipping. When in stock, it's also available from Chef Knives To Go ("CKTG"), an on-line retailer, for that same $184.95 price.
Other knives which have come up have been the Masamoto VG 240 mm gyuto ($197 at CKTG). Also, the Hiromoto 240 mm AUS-10 240 mm gyuto is available from japanesechefsknife.com (a web site based in Seki City, Japan) for $110 plus $7 shipping world-wide. And I'm sure other knives will pop up as well with the development of this forum thread.
Now for the paring knife. You can either go with the usual Victorinox fibrox handled spear-point for about $7 on eBay, or you might also consider the MAC Professional 3-1/4 inch paring knife (PKF-30). It's about as short a paring knife as available, it's (at least for me) just about the length of my index finger and that's just the length that allows my hand to think of it as a sharp version of my index finger. Retail list price is $70, most eBay sellers and CKTG sell it new at $59.95.
For a serrated edge knife, I would just suggest you go to a commercial kitchen supply shop and buy a molded handle serrated bread knife. Victorinox is usually the better brand, but Dexter will also do. If you can find it cheaply get one at least 10 inches in length. You don't want to spend too much, because sharpening these is a real PITA. Usually, chefs just throw out the old one and buy a new one, rather than try to sharpen it.
Even if you don't eat or serve bread, a serrated edge knife is the best knife for such tough skin but soft interior foods as tomatoes. For that type of job, it's better than your trusty chef's knife.
At this point, let's do a price check and see our budget. MAC MBK-95, $185. MAC PKF-30 - $60. Bread knife, $25? Total is mebbe $270. That leaves $590, more or less.
SHARPENING - The reason this is essential is very simple. ALL knives get dull with use. Period.
For general quick maintenance of your chef's knife, a good quality honing rod is a godsend. It won't sharpen the knife edge, but it will microscopically re-align the edge. And the best available is the Idahone. Get the 12 inch length from CKTG at $32. And then either pound in a nail somewhere in the kitchen to hang it on, or get a hook and tape from your local general goods store. They are sold as the 3M "Command" system. About $5. Well worth it, since the Idahone is a ceramic rod and will shatter when dropped.
For sharpening, you can get several water stones (500 grit coarse repair stone; 800 to 1200 grit medium stone and 3000 on up fine stone). CKTG sells a good set of a Beston 500 stone, a Bester 1200 stone and a Suehiro Rika 5K stone, with a 20X magnifier and deburring block for $139.95. Then watch Jon Broida's sharpening videos at JapaneseKnifeImports.com.
Or, for a much quicker learning curve, get CKTG's "Edge Pro Shapton Glass Stone Set" at $339. Well worth it. You will be sharpening your knives with excellent edges by yourself faster than any other method.
Let's check our budget again. Idahone, $32. (I will assume you have a hammer and nail around somewhere). Edge Pro Shapton Glass Stone Set, $339. Total, $371. That leaves $219, more or less.
CUTTING BOARD - Use a bad cutting surface and you risk prematurely dulling the blade or chipping the edge. The best boards are end grain hardwood boards. And the standard wood most commonly used is hard northern maple. The basic minimum size is 2 inches thick by 12 inches by 18 inches. And yes, larger can be better here.
One of the best makers of boards is The BoardSMITH. his board can be works of art. And here, a bit of splash may just be the thing to liven up your kitchen. Consider a 2" x 12" x 18" Maple/Walnut Border board for $168.20. Yes, a bit of splurge might be warranted. Or, if practicality rears its ugly head, a 2" x 16" x 22" maple-only board will run $196.75. Not as much dazzle for the eye, but a larger cutting surface and more space to use for those big family dinners.
When ordering from him, keep in mind that communications is vital here. What you order will be what he makes. If you do or do not want feet, make absolutely sure that he and you agree ahead of time on what will be ordered. Personally, for me that means no feet, so I can reverse the board from time to time. But, it's up to you. Also, check with him about shipping costs. I didn't see that on the web site.
You will also need to treat the board. I use food-grade mineral oil from a big box food chain for $3.49 for 16 fl. oz. And I really slather it on, multiple times, until the board just won't let any more soak in.
You also need a scraper to scrape the board clean. I buy mine at an off-price store for $3.
Well, that's my fantasy for $860. And with the fancier (but smaller) cutting board, I will have spent about $816, leaving me with about $44.
How does that sound?
Just like me to be a little bit absent-minded when writing on the fly.
I left something out, as part of the sharpening system.
An Angle Cube - $34.95 at CKTG.
With it (and the drill stop collar), the angles you can set on the Edge Pro will be precisely what you want them to be.
That means my final budget will be at about $851. And my final change left in my pocket will be $9.
And, no, I wasn't shooting for that number. I could have bought a less expensive board (all maple 2" x 12" x 18" for $120), or saved and bought the Hiromoto AUS-10, or just gotten the Victorinox paring knife, or somewhere spent differently.
I recommend reading "an edge in the kitchen" by chad ward. Great info on everything knives.
Ahahaha, right after I commented I did think to myself that for the 860 budget you can have your essential knives, significantly better than the wustys, and everything else that ideally goes with them.
My 3 knives of choice would be a 270 chefs, a 240 suji/slicer (as the odd ball here that is my goto knife) and a 6" utility/petty. I do like something just for slicing lemon peel, I just do, but any cheap and thin parer is great for that.
You are likely still wondering, "What about the steak knives?", as I assume that was part of the wusty set. My personal steak knife cost $145, it also doubles as my fine slicer for shallots, garlic and celery, but you probably could do with something else. On ebay you can get a descent set of 6 for about $10, some of it rather nice new-old stock, and for <20 you can even get descent Laguiole (the bees) knockoffs.
Some place to put your knives, consider other than the typical ugly block. Do a search here for "knife block knife storage" and you'll see some attractive options. They don't seem to make my wusty 3-tiered walnut slab job anymore though. Then there are mag holders.
Let us know your thoughts.
Thanks for the help everyone! I have reduced my budget significantly since my original post and will take it slow and go with the suggestions made here and on other forums to start out with a few essentials knives. Galley Swiller, thanks for the detailed post I really appreciate it! The knives you suggested all seem like excellent choices, I am leaning towards the second two simply for aesthetics as I really don't like the writing on the MAC. Speaking of which, this poses a bit of a problem for me as I am a sucker for looks and while I am now aware that putting together a custom set from different manufacturers is ideal, I would love for all of the knives to match but I'm slowly letting go of that idea. Right now I am thinking of starting out with a chef's knife, pairing, maybe a utility knife and a bread knife. I do also want 6 steak knives.
I'm concerned about sharpening, it seems intimidating and I'd hate to ruin an expensive knife
Thanks! Any thoughts on the Mac Ceramic Honing Rod vs. the Idahone?
I thought I'd never use anything for touchups but the rounded edge of my translucent Arkansas. But after hearing Benuser emphasis it so many times I decided to strop instead on a 6K stone. Now I only use the Ark when I'm so desperately lazy I can't bring myself to splash some water on the stone. Of course a diamond loaded strop would be the ideal, but I just can't get myself to order anything, what with decisions, decisions.
Get the 12" Idahone if you must, just because it's 12".
... and hone before it needs sharpening.
BrianShaw above is right about honing
Assuming that you have a good very fine grit (or smooth) ceramic hone, don't be hesitant about honing just before using the knife each time you use it. (Again, seriously consider the 12 inch Idahone, if you don't already have it). Don't bang hone and knife edge together. A series of light strokes (4 strokes on each side, alternating sides between strokes) where the edge and hone are brought lightly together, with the stroke being a "swoosh" rather than a "clang". Have the edge of the knife "cut" into the hone, and hold knife and hone so the angle between the two is just slightly more than the primary bevel angle of the knife edge. I always start each stroke by laying the base of the hone at the heel of the knife and then try to bring the hone and knife to where the hone leaves the tip of the knife just before reaching the tip of the hone.
Remember, the hone doesn't do much sharpening - it realigns the (ultra-microscopic) edge instead.
Also, to significantly slow down dulling the knife, get and use a good quality cutting board. See my post (#3) above.
I did order the Idahone but for the cutting board I went with this
For your knife edge's sake, you should seriously consider another board.
That page shows two different types of board. One type (with two different edge styles) is a poly board, the other type is a bamboo board. Both have real problems.
The poly board has a surface which is very soft. So soft, in fact, that the edge of your blade will easy slice right into it. And when that happens, if there is even the SMALLEST level of side pressure, then tremendous torque can be put against the edge. The result can be breaking off a part of the edge, also known as chipping. A really, REALLY bad thing.
As for bamboo, those boards are the hardest natural boards around. Because bamboo has a small cross-section, a lot of pieces need to be glued together. And that glue is HARD. So hard, in fact, that it will accelerate the dulling of your knife's edge. Adding to the problem is that bamboo has a natural inclination to readily absorb silca - which makes the bamboo much harder than ordinary hardwoods, such as northern maple.
If you are on a relative budget, then try this board instead: http://www.amazon.com/Maple-End-Grain-Chopping-Block/dp/B00O4CQIL0/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1439579609&sr=8-3&keywords=end+grain+maple
It's a Michigan Maple Block 15 inch square by 2 inch thick end grain northern maple board. Thick as you need, and good quality. The shape is not the optimal (15 inches square, as opposed to 18 inches by 12 inches generally optimal for a small board). But a very good value. The board is shipped directly from the manufacturing plant to you. Get in a cheap pint of food grade mineral oil, slather that onto the board multiple times on both sides of the board until the board won't absorb any more oil, and you have a first rate cutting surface.
Really for a $28 difference GS recomendation is the way to go. That plastic board even have some bad comsumer reviews.
Oops, I need to correct that last statement, there is no need to go more obtuse than 20deg/side.
Edited by Rick Alan - 8/15/15 at 11:00am
I'm not sure your new MAC's edge will wait for the kitchen remodel.
Either the Michigan Maple Block (Post No.18) or a BoardSMITH board will do just fine in the meanwhile. Just don't forget to saturate the new board in mineral oil before first use.
Well we all know what dogma amounts to. But in actuality Cutco prices aren't cheap.
Say Brian, you're not going to recommend Henkles again, are you? That was certainly a trend-bucker around here.
Edited by Rick Alan - 8/16/15 at 6:31pm