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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am about half way through Culinary school and am looking to upgrade my knives.  We were provided with a standard knife set through the school with an 8" Chef's Knife, 10" slicer, a boning knife, a fillet knife, and a paring knife.  All the knives in the set are made by Mercer. I use my knives for school as well as 5 days a week at work and am looking for at least an upgrade of my Chef's Knife.  I need something that will be versatile enough to do everything I need and will hold up to the daily use. I had looked at Wusthofs, Globals, Shuns, Misonos, MACs and a few others.  Not really sure where to start looking for them,  not worried about the money aspect as I will spend what I have to to get quality knives that I will be able to use for the foreseeable future.  Any suggestions and advice is greatly appreciated

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I use my knives for school as well as 5 days a week at work and am looking for at least an upgrade of my Chef's Knife. I need something that will be versatile enough to do everything I need and will hold up to the daily use.
What aspects of your current knife are you looking at as needing upgrading? What is it doing or not doing that could be improved upon from your perspective?

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What are your sharpening practices?

If you don't already have your own sharpening kit, then getting some stones and having at practicing sharpening can work wonders.

I half-agree with SpoiledBroth about Mercers.  They make knives which are good as beaters.  Their steel is "X50CrMoV15", aka 4116 steel, which is a fairly common steel made by Krupp and used for most high-end stainless European knives.

Most 4116 steel knives are heat-treated to emphasize toughness and resistance to chipping.  That makes them much harder to sharpen than good quality Japanese knives.

That being said, upgrading your chefs knife is the one blade upgrade which makes sense.  Sooo.....

I'm assuming you are a culinary student in the United States.  However, if it's elsewhere, please let us know.  Knife purchases and availability are very much affected by location.

First, let's look at length.  In a culinary school, as well as in the real-world of restaurants and commercial kitchens, a knife with a blade closer to 250 mm or 10 inches is often the norm, with good reason: you can get more work done.

Second, consider steel.  4116 steel is b y European mass-market standards good.  But that steel has been eclipsed in quality by other knife steels.  Most of the "supersteels" have been Japanese, and it's Japanese knives which have gotten the attention and the praise.  For that reason, I would tend to ignore most Wusties, Zwilling Henckels, Messermeisters, Mercers, Victorinoxes and other Euro stainless knives.  

That still leaves the Japanese knives. You list Globals, Shuns, Misonos, Macs "and a few others".  

Globals were for a period the "IT" knives - until complaints came in about their handles.  You would either love or hate the handle.

Shuns are the prestige brand for Kai Knives of Japan.  Very high price and not necessarily a good value, compared to other, lesser known Japanese knives.  What you are partially paying for in that high price is Kai's US distribution network - very unusual for Japanese cutlery companies.  However, that allows for Kai to get its Shuns in the hands of high-end US retailers, such as Crate and Barrel, Williams-Sonoma and Sur la Table - and to people who will spend their wads of money.

 Misonos and Macs are brands with a good reputation.  However, they are higher priced than a student would normally be able to shell out for.

At this point in the beginning of a culinary career, I would suggest something along the line of either a Tojiro DP or a Fujiwara FKM.  Both are basic entry-level stainless Japanese knives, and both have decent reputations with commercial users.

The Tojiro DP 240 mm gyuto (F-809) and the Tojiro DP 270 mm gyuto (F-810) are bargains, compared with Euro knives and oither Japanese knives.  The 240 mm is $68.94  and the 270 mm is $86.00 from  The DP comes with "san-mai" construction (3-layers), with a pair of soft outer layers and an inner core of VG-10 steel.  Some critics don't like VG-10, since, in the wrong hands, it can chip along ther edge, but if you don't use it with frozen foods or against bone, there should be minimal risk.

The Fujiwara FKM is a monosteel knife made from AUS-8 steel.  It's not as hard a steel as VG-10, when measured by Rockwell harness testing standards, but it's a bit tougher.  ChefKnivesToGo sells a 240 mm Fujiwara FKM gyuto for $82 and the 270 mm for $97.

However, I do strongly suggest that the sharpening process be given a higher priority than a new knife.

I hope that helps.

Galley Swiller

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I absolutely agree with Galley Swiller.

1. Sharpening and maintenance practices will enormously trump steel at this stage of your career.

2. Spend any knife money on your chef's knife.

A few more things:

A. Don't get cute about high-end this or that. In a pro kitchen, a guy with a super high-end knife is likely to be seen as (1) a dick, (2) a showoff, and (3) a target for theft. On top of this, your knife may be grabbed for quick use by some guy who likes to cut on the steel countertop.

B. If you master the art of bringing a crap knife up to its peak performance and keeping it there, which means good sharpening, good maintenance, and good habits, you will make everyone in your kitchen happy (so long as you don't brag about it).

C. For anything but high-end fancy-pants knives, there is no reason to be spending a lot of money on expensive stones or jigs. Get some excellent combination King stones, or something like that, and learn to make them sing.

D. If you really learn how to make a crap knife work like aces on a second-rate (but good) stone like a King combo, then if you ever end up in a kitchen where high-end sharpness and fancy steel is cool, you will be in like Flynn.

Bear in mind that beginning chefs in very high-end kaiseki restaurants in Kyoto are given yellow-steel 180mm usubas... which can never actually do the job perfectly. They learn their technique so well that they can beat the knife at its own game. Then they graduate to really good knives, and suddenly they're in sync, as it were.

And no, this doesn't mean you're not ready. It means that, at this stage in your career, you would be very unwise to invest heavily in knives.
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