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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi, I'm only a very amateur cook - though I do enjoy trying to act as if I were a chef. I would really appreciate your thoughts (and suggestions) with respect to kitchen knives.

A decade ago, I bought my current knives... individually from Sainsburys. From memory, the prices ranged from ~£35 for a large chefs knife; £28 for a medium; £15 for paring; £25 for a bread knife; £15 for a medium serrated knife (is it intended for fruit - not sure) and £25 for a seriously dangerous-looking clever-thing that could be used in an emergency to chop firewood. The thing I liked most about these knives was that they were single-piece stainless steel - which meant I was absolutely certain they were clean when they came out of the dishwasher... no join with the handle - I love that part of the design - I still love their aesthetic. While the cleaver, bread knife and small serrated knife are still perfect, I am dissatisfied with the other knives. The medium ~8" knife has been dropped - and something has broken inside the handle... One can hear the knife rattling and ringing like a bell when picked up. I struggle to get a sharp edge on the large ~10", medium ~8", and small paring knife.... perhaps because I lack skill - but, I suspect, the knifes themselves also have something to do with this. In the past, my knives were sharpened by someone who had knives as sharp as I'd like mine... that sharpening did much better than my efforts - but my knives never did compare with his (which had been bought in the 1970s).

I still have a fairly strong preference for knives which are all stainless steel (and to avoid wooden/plastic handles). Sabatier has been mentioned as a good brand - but I suspect I'm barking up the wrong tree when I found the "Sabatier Classic Professional Chef Knife Block Set" - where the style of the knife from the pictures sort-of appeals... but seems far too cheap at £50.78 from Amazon, for the set, to represent an upgrade on what I already have.

I think, ideally, I would like to buy around 3 knives - that (at least appear to be) solid stainless steel:
  • A large (~10"?) knife with a classic Wusthof shaped blade.
  • A medium (~8"?) knife - with similar blade shape.
  • A small paring knife.
I was surprised when the handle broke on my existing knife - but, I suppose, it makes sense that it could happen... the knife would not be balanced if the handle had been solid metal as I had previously assumed. I know that Wusthof is a premium brand - but I can only find those knives with wooden handles (which I, personally, don't like) and at prices like £339.99 for the 3-knife "IKON set - 9600" they have already exceeded what feels as if it should be a sensible budget limit. I would pay that much, if I was absolutely sure they were exactly what I wanted... but I suspect/hope I can get a fantastic upgrade to my current knives for less.

Kitchen knives is a domain where (if you can pardon the pun) I really don't know my onions. :)
  • Am I correct in thinking I'm wasting my time looking at 'knife block sets'?
  • What other brands and/or suppliers should I consider - besides Sabatier and Wusthof?
  • Which retailers do you suggest I approach to strike a deal that would provide good quality knives at a fair price?
  • I'm told that the very sharp knives I've used were ones that had been recommended to chefs in training in the 1970s. The blades are thinner and it is easier to get a good edge - but they do have wooden handles that didn't age well. I'd like to know which knives are recommended to aspiring chefs today... especially if there's an option to buy them as one-piece metal knives without any separate handle material. Can anyone spill the beans on up-to-date recommendations?
 

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  • Am I correct in thinking I'm wasting my time looking at 'knife block sets'?
  • What other brands and/or suppliers should I consider - besides Sabatier and Wusthof?
  • Which retailers do you suggest I approach to strike a deal that would provide good quality knives at a fair price?
  • I'm told that the very sharp knives I've used were ones that had been recommended to chefs in training in the 1970s. The blades are thinner and it is easier to get a good edge - but they do have wooden handles that didn't age well. I'd like to know which knives are recommended to aspiring chefs today... especially if there's an option to buy them as one-piece metal knives without any separate handle material. Can anyone spill the beans on up-to-date recommendations?
1 yes, skip sets.
2 brands you should consider depends on your budget, sharpening equipment you currently own, and what shapes and sizes of knives you like. Usually three (or four) blades are recommended. A Chefs in one style or another, a paring, and a petty. From my point of view, I'd buy the petty later and include a bread knife earlier. I use that more than I would a petty, though I own a petty or two as well at this point.
3 chefknivestogo.com usually gets a mention though there are others. If you're in Europe, then you should consider VAT/taxes and choose vendors accordingly. I've bought MAC from Amazon even. Depends on deals, coupons--I have an Amazon Prime card so I accumulate points to use on Amazon.
4 Learning blades are usually based on commercial grade knives. Mercer seems to be common, F Dick, Dexter and some others I cant think of off hand. They're not objectionable, but usually Victorinox fibrox handled knives are a better value to my thinking.

One-piece metal knives aren't. They're welded brazed to appear so using a cheaper grade of steel for the bulk of the handle. IMHO, these are about looks, not serious use. The balance will be off, the grips tend to be slick and odd. And they usually aren't that good of grade of steel, shape, or grind.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Hi Phatch, Many thanks for your reply. I'm now aware that one-piece metal knives aren't. The 10-15 year old supermarket "appear one-piece" metal knives seem to have OK balance to me - and the bit I like most about them is that there is no where around the handle that can be difficult to clean. I understand that one shouldn't put the best quality knives in a dishwasher - but, I would like to do that... as I like that it leaves me confident they're perfectly clean. I guess I should admit that I don't have any really good sharpening solution... I've got a basic whetstone - though it isn't high quality. I've got a weird holds-the knife at an angle thing with thin whetstones in various grades - but it is very inconvenient and it hasn't delivered for me the results it promised. I've got very old sharpening steels - but they're probably worn out and I've never really got the hang of using them. I'm aware that investing in sharpening would probably make sense.

I think the style of knife I think I like is a classic 'French' style - but this might just be a consequence of my familiarity with that type of knife. I'm in the UK... I should have mentioned - everything gets 20% VAT and I expect import duties too if I import from the USA (and many other places). I haven't a fixed budget. I'd be reasonably comfortable to take a gamble on a knife at £50 - £100 - but anything above that would requires that I carefully justify, to myself, that its quality means it represents better value. :)

Focusing first on replacing the 8" knife with the rattly handle... I've now found:
All of these fall easily within my budget... but they all have a similar handle... I've always (perhaps unreasonably) felt fairly negatively about this style of handle... but if all the good quality blades are only available in this handle style... then I will have to adjust my expectations/preferences and, possibly, treat my knives with more respect... and keep them out the dishwasher.

My perception (now) is that my 'solid metal appearance' knives are not a great quality of steel... the blade is thicker than on better knives I've borrowed in the past; I can't get them to hold a sharp edge - and, if I really abuse them, and leave them wet/dirty for a days, the stainless steel on the blade has discoloured requiring me to polish, with metal polish, to remove what looked like corrosion.

Am I really in a position where I have to make a choice between my aesthetic choice of handle and having a good quality blade? (I'm beginning to think so... though it is disappointing... I really did "want it all"...)

What factors should I be looking for in specification to discriminate quality? (Am I too nerdy hoping to be able to compare scientific measurements for the quality of the steel?)

If we assume I will abuse the knives by dishwashing them (despite knowing that I ought to hand-wash) would some knives stand up to that better than others?
 

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Regarding sets, it depends. Most of the big sets (the block sets, generally) will likely have some knives you either don’t need or won’t use much. Some knife brands offer very reasonable 3 knife sets, generally an 8 inch chef, 6 inch “utility”, and a paring knife. Those are basics that everyone is likely to use. Then add on the others, like bread and slicer knives as desired.
 

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Here are a couple of random thoughts. Henckels and Zwilling aren’t bad for home. (both made by the same company) One is more expensive that the other because one is forged and one is stamped, I have a couple of each and like both.

I understand Mercer is a decent brand that doesn’t cost lots of money.

I don’t think you need a knife set. Pick the knives you need. just store them right…

I think your focus on stainless steel in misplaced. All knives these days clean well. You mention dishwasher… keep any decent knife away from the dishwasher, it creates dull knives. Washing a knife by hand when youre Using them is too easy.
 

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If we assume I will abuse the knives by dishwashing them (despite knowing that I ought to hand-wash) would some knives stand up to that better than others?
Please please please reconsider putting your knives in the dishwasher. The best knives in the world will suffer. Even a decent-quality knife deserves better.

There are a number of reasons to avoid putting knives in the dishwasher:
  • The knife blade and handle can knock into something and get damaged or scraped
  • They can damage other utensils
  • The knives can nick the dishwasher racks and interior when going into and out of the dishwasher
  • The handles may not be designed to tolerate the heat
  • Dishwashing detergents are often too harsh . . . especially over time
  • Increased risk of getting injured handling the knife . . . especially retrieving it
Keeping knives clean and dry is a key element in maintaining them (so is honing and sharpening). If you are truly keen to have good knives and treat them well, wash and dry them by hand.
 

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Regarding sets, it depends. Most of the big sets (the block sets, generally) will likely have some knives you either don’t need or won’t use much. Some knife brands offer very reasonable 3 knife sets, generally an 8 inch chef, 6 inch “utility”, and a paring knife. Those are basics that everyone is likely to use. Then add on the others, like bread and slicer knives as desired.
I agree with brianshaw. Don't buy a set of set knives. Why? For the following reasons:
  1. 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 is usually 8" long . . . Way way too short. Some say the minimum is 10" for a bread knife. I think 12" is a much better choice.
  2. You will likely get knives you don't need. Seriously. do you really need a 2 1/2" peeling knife? Or a 4 1/2" utility knife?
  3. 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, 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 in the 'Cooking Knives Review' for additional information.
 

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I'm going to make one more post on this and then I will remain silent.

I highly recommend you test drive the knives you mentioned . . . along with some others . . . and see what feels best in your hand. I've had professional chefs use some of my knives and each one definitely had a preference when it came to size, weight distribution, handle shape, etc. But, test-driving knives will help you make a decision about what feels best for you. Take a carrot (or two), a tomato, etc. with you and see how they feel when you use them.

A quality 8" chef's knife can definitely be obtained for under £100 if you keep an eye out for a sale. Once you've acquired a good knife, take excellent care of it. The best knives don't serve a chef well if it's dull and not well maintained. Hand wash/dry, frequently hone it, and sharpen it regularly.
 

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and notes on "sets" -

totally disagree that top tier knife makers produce inferior knives for sets but superior knives for individual purchase.
does not happen.

it is true a set will generally have knives you will not use. the other truism is:
check the 'individual purchase' prices of the knives you want against the prices of a 'set' that contains all/most of what you want.
it is not unusual to find a set priced well below the individual cost of the knives you want. basically you can buy a set, throw the odd stuff away, and spend less money on the stuff you want.
 

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All in all, you're looking for a durable knife that fits well in your hand, is balanced, and keeps a good edge. I own many knives from my career. The cheaper ones keep a good edge while the more expensive ones need constant honing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Many thanks for all your input... especially the brand suggestions. I hear what you're telling me about avoiding dishwashers... I think, reluctantly, I must try to adjust my kitchen techniques. I also, reluctantly, accept that I need to abandon the idea that I can have good knives with a "only-solid-looking metal surface".

Of the knives in this thread, the Mercer ones look good value (assuming they're not significantly inferior to F-Dick and Mac.) While I accept it sounds like I'm ignoring the consistent advice I've received... I wonder... is there a reason that Global knives weren't mentioned? Is it just that they're more expensive?
 

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Many thanks for all your input... especially the brand suggestions. I hear what you're telling me about avoiding dishwashers... I think, reluctantly, I must try to adjust my kitchen techniques. I also, reluctantly, accept that I need to abandon the idea that I can have good knives with a "only-solid-looking metal surface".

Of the knives in this thread, the Mercer ones look good value (assuming they're not significantly inferior to F-Dick and Mac.) While I accept it sounds like I'm ignoring the consistent advice I've received... I wonder... is there a reason that Global knives weren't mentioned? Is it just that they're more expensive?
My favorite 10" bread knife is a Mercer. Currently $14.99 on Amazon. I stumbled across it one day while searching for something on Amazon and the reviews and the price made me think "Why not???!!!" It's great for slicing bread, tomatoes, etc. https://www.amazon.com/Mercer-Culin...0268&sprefix=mercer+bread+knif,aps,281&sr=8-3

That's the only experience I've had with Mercer knives. I own one Global knife . . . a 4" paring knife. It's okay and I use it frequently. I wasn't happy with the edge it had when I got it, but it improved with a slight change to the angle of the edge. What I like about it is that it fits my hand well.
 
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