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Home foodie needs new knives, knows nothing

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

Hi all,


It's time to replace the set of Chicago Cutlery knives my wife and I received for our wedding almost 25 years ago.  They are serviceable with monthly sharpening, which I do with a machine.  (Please, no judging.)


A couple years back, we needed a new bread knife and went to Williams-Sonoma and bought a Shun Edo heavy bread knife, which pretty much blew us away.  No idea how I'd ever sharpen it without sending off to Shun's service, but it doesn't seem close to needing it.    


Anyway, this has opened our eyes to the fact that there are incredible knives out there, and we want to invest in new ones that are relatively low maintenance, look great, cut even better, and will last us for as long as we keep cooking.


My wife is vegetarian, and I am a BBQ and stir-fry fan, so we cook just about everything.  We're not even close to experts, and my wife is far better than me.  However, we recognize the difference in good knives, and are willing to invest significantly in stellar ones that we will get better with over time.  So, I'd like help figuring out a few things:


- I'm happy to learn more on my own about how I should be using my knives in the first place, just to better understand the terminology people use when describing knife parts, types, and usage.  Recommended places to go for that?  Preferably web sites that are free and easy to access, but if there's an essential book I'd consider it.


- I know there are lots of differences in the knives themselves--type of steel/material, thickness, handles, shapes, and so forth.  So far in reading through these forums I don't know enough to understand the recommendations people are making to each other, and would like to be able to.  Best source for that?


- We're going to need a whole set of knives.  Up to now I was tempted to just go get a whole block of those Shun Edo knives on sale for $1000 and be done, but I realize I could perhaps do better understanding what I was looking for first, and then choosing appropriately. Once I have a better idea of what I need, where's the best place to evaluate sets, rather than just individual chef knives, for example?


While I want to buy the right thing for a good price, I'll admit to being a snob.  I tend to over-buy based on third party judgments of quality.  And I do want them to look nice in the kitchen.  But the thing I'm willing to pay the big bucks for is ultra-sharp, low-maintenance knives that feel great and will work even better when we get better at using them (which we hope to do).  Yes, I'm willing to hand-sharpen if that's the way to go.  Especially if I don't have to do it every single month.


Thanks for any input you can all provide in getting me up to snuff.



post #2 of 6

Welcome to Cheftalk Mitch, we're honored to get a lot of first time posters on this Forum.


You know Shun does a real hack'n slash job sharepening knives in general, but the area were that is not probably as much of an issue is with bread knives, their a PITA to do yourself, and I bet Shun doesn't bother remove nearly as much material here as they do with regular knives.


The Shun Fuji line are decent in profile and grind, and very good steel (though definitely on the chippy side), if overpriced, and then there is the tacky decal that quickly erodes in place of a proper engraved Kanji.


For starters take a look at the Geshin Kagero and Ikazuchi lines, super-great and very good edge retention respectively.  Very sharp and sharper respectively in terms of ultimate edge taking.  Both easy to sharpen.  Light middle-weight and laser respectively.  The Ikazuchi is stainless clad carbon, but Blue Super steel is much less reactive than ordinary carbon.


Jon Broida on youtube for sharpening, For general info Chad Ward's "Edge in the Kitchen" can be read online, just google it.


Given your apparent priorities as expressed at this time I have to say I am a big, big fan of the Kagero.  Firstly, i's got very good grind and profile, thin but not excessively thin at the edge.  Gets real sharp for stainless, sharpens easier than anything but carbon, and it holds a sharp edge longer than anything aside from a couple other super-steels.


For pure cutting niceness a lot of us are big fans of the Itonomon, you can get it in semi-stainless as well as stainless clad carbon.  It's a light knife, and very thin at the edge, but it's not simply a piece of sheet stock like the Ikazuchi, it has stiffness and a nice convex grind, and gives the feel of having a real knife in your hands.


These are just starter suggestions for your main knives, they don't break the bank and it wouldn't be a bad idea for you and the wife to each have your own personal gyutos.

Edited by Rick Alan - 10/8/16 at 9:53am
post #3 of 6

I would first see what knives are used most.  with most folks that ends up being a 4" paring/utility and an 8" to 10" chef's knife.  You say you are willing to do maintenance, so go high carbon.  1095, 52100, O1 and O7 all make excellent kitchen knives.  then do some research and buy from a low volume American maker.  Etsy has several hundred stores selling hand made knives.  Check the makers section of knife forums or just google "hand made kitchen knives".  here are two examples  http://www.caltoncutlery.com/available-kitchen-knives22.html and http://timothyjohnsonknives.com/.  


post #4 of 6

Knife Skills resources-

Stella Culinary Knife Skills HD playlist- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RmbyNC6TeVE&list=PL80E2CBE470AD29A5

Rick Theory's vids - https://www.youtube.com/user/PCCkitchen/videos


Sharpening playlist - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GB3jkRi1dKs&list=PLEBF55079F53216AB


The bread knife being serrated should not need sharpening for a fairly long time. 


Figure out what you want in a 'set' of knives as opposed just taking what someone else has already pieced together for you. You're not getting the 'value' of the set if you don't really end up using all the knives in it. Take a look at what you already use and what you may actually end up using getting the nicer knives. For some people that could realistically just end up being a paring/petty + chef's/gyuto. Others might put a slicer in there or a filet knife. You can have a big budget and still use the money in a smart and strategical manner. Also, there are valid reasons why you might want to go with knives from different makers depending on type of knife. Like for example if you feel more comfortable with a middle weight gyuto but on the paring/petty could stand to go super thin because it shouldn't see any really damaging work, you may not find that from the same line (revealing my personal bias here - I tried not to repeat handles or aesthetics so I have lots of different pretties to look at). 


Stainless steel only, or are other steels up for consideration?


Rick's suggestions above are excellent for nice and thinly ground knives that should do well with edge retention, since you've said you don't want to be sharpening too often. Of course, part of the resultant frequency will also depend on your usage patterns and your evolving standard for sharpness.

I would also suggest Syousin Suminagashi R2 by Shiro Kamo for another thin knife using Powdered Metallurgy steel if you are prioritizing edge retention and might like some bling. And for something with a quite different looking profile, Shibata Kotetsu, a near-laser thin knife. Both of these are stainless


But importantly, can you discuss a bit more about your usages and knife preferences? What foods do you regularly prep? What cutting motions do you utilize? What are your cleaning/maintenance habits?


Do you have a budget for sharpening supplies?

post #5 of 6
Thread Starter 

Stainless steel only, or are other steels up for consideration?


Honestly, I have no clue yet.  I don't know the difference.  If the resources you gave in your post include some of this info, it will help, but I haven't read them yet.


But importantly, can you discuss a bit more about your usages and knife preferences? What foods do you regularly prep? What cutting motions do you utilize? What are your cleaning/maintenance habits?


Lots of fruit and veggies, of all sizes.  Meat less often, but all kinds.  Rarely doing deboning or cutting through anything but muscle, but I carve the occasional turkey and do St. Louis ribs pretty often and need to separate meat/joints.  Prime rib, flank steak, turkey, pork loin, brisket, ribs are all common.  Cutting chicken and beef to stir-fry size is pretty frequent.

No idea on cutting motions, seriously.  What are my options?  :o

We tend to clean and dry the Chicago Cutlery and keep it in a block, and I use a machine to sharpen monthly.  


Do you have a budget for sharpening supplies?


No, but happy to invest in what's necessary to keep new knives in top condition.




post #6 of 6

So you have the breadknife which is a little short but apparently does the job for you, and will continue to do so for some time.


So aside from a gyuto/chef knife or 2, what else do you feel you need that the CC knives don't anymore deliver on?  I do imagine they are well worn down and thick at the edge by now,


Of course a butcher knife [for work around bone] is typically somewhat thick at the edge, so perhaps the CC set still has a serviceable one.  I have a 40yr old handmedown 8 incher (longer than really needed) that was made in Japan for the American market.  I did thin is just a bit, mostly just convexing the edge.  The stainless steel is a bit soft but for home use it works fine with a conservative edge and I have no problem breaking down ribs and chicken with it.  If you want better you can get just about the best for considerably less than $100.


For a utility/petty I again have a cheap 6" vintage Japanese item, for which I have yet to find a suitable replacement because it is just 3/4" tall at the heel, whereas most tend to be 1-1.25+, and I find its narrowness exceedingly useful.


Not that I like the company but there are just a whole slew of petty's and parers here to look over.  The Shiro Kamo R2 already mentioned has a particularly nice one if you want something tall and a little hefty.



Great ones here also.



Aside from the handmedown I have a Geshin Kagero Petty that I absolutely adore because it takes a nice edge and holds it like just about nothing else.  I can use it daily on the board for slicing and dicing the small stuff for weeks and it is still whittling hair sharp.


Then of course you might want a slicer, of at least 240mm.

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