wusthof or henckels
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Don't buy a set of knives! Let me say that again . . . Don't buy a of set knives!
Why? For the following reasons:
- You will likely not get the best knives for the money. Too often, the knife sets are substandard. The most frequent offense are bread knives and steels that are too short. For example, the bread knife in both sets you mention are only 8" long . . . Way way too short. Some say the minimum is 10" for a bread knife. I think 12" is a much better choice.
- You will likely get knives you don't need. Seriously. do you really need a 2 1/2" peeling knife in the Heckles set? Or the 4 1/2" utility knife in the Wusthof set?
- The knives won't necessarily fit your hand or feel balanced. Knives that feel good in your hand and are well-balanced are so much better (and safer) to use . . . but, what feels good in one person's hand may not feel good in your hand.
IMHO, real chefs and cooks don't buy sets. They buy the best knife for the task. Read through the extensive backlog of discussions on knife sets (This has been well-covered here many times). Then read through the discussions about the basic knives a chef/cook should have . . . a chef's knife and a paring knife. Maybe a slicer. Plus, learn how to hone, sharpen, and maintain your knives. A well-maintained quality knife is more impressive to those that know about cooking and knives than a substandard set.
My younger son and his wife bought a Wusthof set when they got married. Their knives are cr*p. Yes, they look impressive to their friends in the knife block sitting on their counter, but they're practically useless. Inferior in quality to the better Wusthof knives. When we go over to cook at their house on Thanksgiving, we always take our own knives . . . Plus, I spend time sharpening their knives to try to get something out of them.
Again, don't buy a knife set . . . and read the many discussions on this topic for additional information.
Loomchick is right. Don't bother to buy a knife set.
Neither of the sets are good value. Yes, you can use up a lot of knives, but the steel used in the knives is not really all that good.
What you really need is to think along the lines of having a "system" to not only cut your food, but also to keep those knives sharp.
Besides a chef's knife and a paring knife, a serrated edge knife (for bread and other hard skin, soft interior foods, like tomatoes)
should be on your list.
You also need a good cutting surface, so as to minimize the inevitable dulling process.
And you need a few ways to re-sharpen your knives (after all, all knives will dull under use. It's the rate of dulling that varies between knives).
Before anyone can reasonably give you any specific recommendations about a particular knife, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
What country do you live in? (We get questions from around the world and knife availability is largely determined by where someone lives).
What is the length of the blade of the largest knife you use now?
What is your budget?
Do you have a good cutting board now?
Do you have any sharpening gear now?
What types of food do you usually prepare?
In the course of a year, what will be the largest number of people you will be cooking for in a single cooking session?
These threads are a dialogue. I hope to hear back from you.
P.S. Both sides of my wife's family hail from your area. Most of them have either died or left for employment purposes. I've been there and enjoyed it but can't seem to find a reason to return.
Petespoiled630, I've used Wusthof Claswsics and their day has long passed. Their steel ("X50CrMoV15") is meant to minimize factory returns. It is not meant6 to be easily sharpened or to keep sharp once sharpened. The bolster is a major impediment to properly sharpening the entire length of the blade. Cost nowadays for an 8" Wusthof Classic chef's knife is $130 (Amazon). The Classic Ikon, which has a better design (the bolster doesn't block the run-through of the edge), is $160.
If you are going to be feeding up to 15 people, then a larger blade would work better for you. Seriously consider a 10 inch (250 mm) length.
For your chef's knife, I would suggest a MAC BK-100 knife. Discount price is about $110, through Chef Knives To Go (http://www.chefknivestogo.com/macchse10chk.html). This is part of their "Chef" series knives, and it's meant for sales to line cooks. The blade is 10 inches long and with a pinch grip, it's easy to handle. It will take you about 2 to 3 weeks to get used to the longer blade, and then you will consider the 8 inch blade you now have as "small".
For a paring knife, a Victorinox fibrox handle paring knife is cheap enough through eBay - and it can be bought in varying lengths. Buy one which is as close to the length of your index finger as possible. Figure $5 to $7 through eBay.
For a serrated edge knife, I would also recommend a Victorinox fibrox handled, probably about a 10 inch length. And again, buying through eBay. Prices will be in the $20 range on eBay.
You will note that I am using Internet sellers. Unless you were near a really, REALLY good knife shop, it just doesn't make sense to buy from brick and mortar stores. I'm near Seattle, and almost all of my purchases are by way of the Internet.
You need a good cutting board. Bamboo has a real pair of problems. First, bamboo as a plant has a tendency to absorb and retain silica - which makes natural bamboo hard on knife edges. Second, bamboo boards have to be glued up from many pieces of bamboo. And that glue is even harder than bamboo. For your knife edge's sake, don't use bamboo.
Unfortunately, with a budget of $300, and a need to somewhat economize, I'm going to suggest a board which is not quite the ideal size. Ideally, you would be using a board 18 inches long by 12 inches wide, but to get a decent thickness in end grain maple, the board I am going to recommend is 15 inches square. Still workable, but not the ideal.
My recommendation is a 15 inch square by 2 inch thick end grain maple board made by Michigan Maple Block. The eBay seller is Dawn's Depot and is an authorized seller of the block, which will be shipped directly to you from the Michigan Maple Block factory. The price is $57.75. The link is: http://www.ebay.com/itm/MICHIGAN-MAPLE-BLOCK-CUTTING-BOARD-BUTCHER-BLOCK-ASEG1515SQ-/381493051304?hash=item58d2c1ffa8:g:4VIAAOSwAYtWIPNL
Immediately after receiving a wood board, it will need to be oiled. Have on hamd (and do not remove any plasrtic overwrap beforehand from the board) one pint of mineral oil. Once you start slathering on the oil, keep it up until the oil completely saturates the board surface. Then turn the board over and repeat on the other side. The do so for multiple days, until the board just won't absorb any more oil.
I buy my mineral oil from a big grocery chain. If it's food grade mineral oil, then buy it as cheaply as possible.
So far, you have spent about $200 of your $300. But you still need sharpening gear.
Keeping your edge sharp involves both honing (aligning the edge) and sharpening (removing metal).
For honing, a good ceramic hone is the 12 inch Idahone (ChefsKnivesToGo, $32, http://www.chefknivestogo.com/id12cerodwna.html). An alternative is Jende Industries's ceramic rod, less shatter-prone than the Idahone, but more expensive at $39. The ordering site is: https://www.jendeindustries.com/en/sharpening-steels/sharpening/sharpening-steels.html
For a valuable set of musings by Boar D. Laze aboiut how to steel, read this: http://www.cookfoodgood.com/?p=551
Now, for sharpening. We have left maybe $60 to $70. There are about 2 ways you can go at this point.
The first way is to get a combination stone and practice traditional sharpening processes. ChefKnivesToGo sells a 800/6000 stone for $55: http://www.chefknivestogo.com/kingcombostone.html.
For a good written tutorial on sharpening by Chad Ward, read here: https://forums.egullet.org/topic/26036-knife-maintenance-and-sharpening/
For an excellent set of videos by Jon Broida, watch here: https://www.youtube.com/user/JKnifeImports
The second alternative is to use a Chinese knock-off of the Edge Pro sharpening system (also known as an "Edge Faux"), but using genuine Edge Pro stones bought separately from ChefKnivesToGo. You can buy "Edge Faux" systems through eBay (hint: buy one which looks like the Edge Pro "Pro" sharpening stand. Don't buy an Edge Pro Apex knock-off - they have a construction/design flaw). The problem here is that you can probably get just two or three stones.
That's my take.