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Good, Cheap/Inexpensive Knives


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#1 johnsmith45678

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 07:18 PM

I'm looking for a good, cheap set of knives for home use. Is there such a thing? Global knives seem the rage now. But Consumer Reports gives Chicago Cutlery a best buy ($60 for a set). When I worked in restaurants, we use Forshner and Henckels. What do you recommend?

#2 srhcb

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 07:39 PM

I have a couple fancy knives, but for everyday use I rely on a xyr-old set of wood handled Chicago Cutlery that work just fine. The chefs knife and shorter carver account for probably 90% of my cutting and chopping.

I use the steel before using, and wash and dry them off immediately afterwards.

SB (wouldn't mind a set of Kyocers ceramics though)

#3 Chad

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 08:02 PM

I'm looking for a good, cheap set of knives for home use. Is there such a thing? Global knives seem the rage now. But Consumer Reports gives Chicago Cutlery a best buy ($60 for a set). When I worked in restaurants, we use Forshner and Henckels. What do you recommend?

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First -- and most important -- you don't need a set of knives. You need two, maybe three, tops. You'll need a chef's knife. I prefer 240mm/9.5" or 270mm/10.6" personally, but 8" is really the minimum. Anything less than that and you'll have trouble reaching all the way across a potroast. You may need a paring knife. I don't generally use one, but I also share the kitchen and having a 3" to 4" parer available helps distribute the work and promote marital harmony. A lot of people like them for small vegetables and fruits. Lastly, you may want a serrated bread knife. For a bread knife the general rule is to buy one like you're casting the male lead in a low budget porn movie -- you're looking for long and cheap :raz:. Go to the restaurant supply store and spend $9 for a 10" Russell, use it for a couple of years and replace it when it gets dull. Serrated knives are, by and large, throwaway items. The exception to the rule is the Wusthof Super Slicer and the MAC bread knife -- both have reverse scallops and are remarkable bread knives.

The Forschner 40520 8" chef's knife is indeed the best bargain knife out there. The others you can pick up at restaurant supply places (Russell, Mundial, et at) are well and truly garbage with cheap, nasty steel and bad grinds. The Forschner, however, despite its weird Fibrox faux bolster, is pretty well made. It'll take and hold a decent edge. The examples I have on hand all came with the edge slightly rolled, requiring a quick touchup with a fine grit ceramic steel to set them straight. All in all, not a bad choice for a young cook starting out or as a second set of knives to outfit a beach house or lake cabin.

If you're the adventurous sort, the Dexter Russell 8" cleaver is an amazing do-all kitchen knife. The steel isn't great, but the samples I have came with a good edge. I really like the wide blade for scooping. I'm surprised that the thin-bladed Chinese cleaver hasn't made further inroads into the bargain hunting cook's genre. The technique is a little different from standard chef's knife style, but the results more than make up for the minor effort to adapt to the cleaver's idiosyncrasies. If you're really adventurous (and live in a city with large Asian markets) try to find the carbon steel ChanChiKee cleavers from Hong Kong. They're about $35 and ugly as a bowling shoe but they cut like crazy with just a little work on your part. They sometimes come with the edge rolled, but a quick steeling will put that in order. They are carbon steel, so they take a patina which puts some people off. For cleaver techniques, watch Martin Yan or Iron Chef Chen Kenichi for inspiration.

And, saving the best for last, the 8" Tojiro DP gyuto is the bargain of the century at $49.95. This is serious performance with a 60+ Rc core wrapped with softer, more ductile stainless steel. The Tojiros have been faulted in the past for inconsistent fit and finish, but the three I have at the moment were all excellent right out of the box. They come with a thin, screaming sharp edge that is hard enough to last a while before needing a touchup. Handle ergonomics are good and you'll get major style points in the kitchen when you whip one out. The Tojiros are the first steps into the major leagues of knife performance.

Hope this helps,
Chad

edit to add links

Edited by Chad, 10 May 2006 - 08:39 PM.

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#4 The Apostate

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 08:23 PM

I'm looking for a good, cheap set of knives for home use. Is there such a thing? Global knives seem the rage now. But Consumer Reports gives Chicago Cutlery a best buy ($60 for a set). When I worked in restaurants, we use Forshner and Henckels. What do you recommend?

View Post


First -- and most important -- you don't need a set of knives. You need two, maybe three, tops. You'll need a chef's knife. I prefer 240mm/9.5" or 270mm/10.6" personally, but 8" is really the minimum. Anything less than that and you'll have trouble reaching all the way across a potroast. You may need a paring knife. I don't generally use one, but I also share the kitchen and having a 3" to 4" parer available helps distribute the work and promote marital harmony. A lot of people like them for small vegetables and fruits. Lastly, you may want a serrated bread knife. For a bread knife the general rule is to buy one like you're casting the male lead in a low budget porn movie -- you're looking for long and cheap :raz:. Go to the restaurant supply store and spend $9 for a 10" Russell, use it for a couple of years and replace it when it gets dull. Serrated knives are, by and large, throwaway items. The exception to the rule is the Wusthof Super Slicer and the MAC bread knife -- both have reverse scallops and are remarkable bread knives.

The Forschner 40520 8" chef's knife is indeed the best bargain knife out there. The others you can pick up at restaurant supply places (Russell, Mundial, et at) are well and truly garbage with cheap, nasty steel and bad grinds. The Forschner, however, despite its weird Fibrox faux bolster, is pretty well made. It'll take and hold a decent edge, though the examples I have on hand all came with the edge slightly rolled, requiring a quick touchup with a fine grit ceramic steel to set them straight. All in all, not a bad choice for a young cook starting out or as a second set of knives to outfit a beach house or lake cabin.

If you're the adventurous sort, the Dexter Russell 8" cleaver is an amazing do-all kitchen knife. The steel isn't great, but the samples I have came with a good edge. I really like the wide blade for scooping. I'm surprised that the thin-bladed Chinese cleaver hasn't made further inroads into the bargain hunting cook's genre. The technique is a little different from standard chef's knife style, but the results more than make up for the minor effort to adapt to the cleaver's idiosyncrasies. If you're really adventurous (and live in a city with large Asian markets) try to find the carbon steel ChanChiKee cleavers from Hong Kong. They're about $35 and ugly as a bowling shoe but they cut like crazy with just a little work on your part. They sometimes come with the edge rolled, but a quick steeling will put that in order. They are carbon steel, so they take a patina which puts some people off. For cleaver techniques, watch Martin Yan or Iron Chef Chen Kenichi for inspiration.

And, saving the best for last, the 8" Tojiro DP gyuto is the bargain of the century at $49.95. This is serious performance with a 60+ Rc core wrapped with softer, more ductile stainless steel. The Tojiros have been faulted in the past for inconsistent fit and finish, but the three I have at the moment were all excellent right out of the box. They come with a thin, screaming sharp edge that is hard enough to last a while before needing a touchup. Handle ergonomics are good and you'll get major style points in the kitchen when you whip one out. The Tojiros are the first steps into the major leagues of knife performance.

Hope this helps,
Chad

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I would agree with all the above, adding only that e-bay offers some great deals if you're patient.

I bought my favorite knife there ( a like new carbon steel 10" Dexter) for a song.

Edited by The Apostate, 10 May 2006 - 08:23 PM.

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#5 Chris Amirault

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 08:33 PM

First, I'd take Chad's advice about knives, period.

Second, I'd like to second... um... agree with the recommendation for Chicago Cutlery knives. Solid, cheap, do the trick.

Finally, the OXO bread knife is the best one I've ever had, and it was dirt cheap.
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#6 johnsmith45678

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 10:03 PM

Looks like nobody prefers a santoku instead of a chefs knife (seems like it's either/or)?

#7 Richard Kilgore

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 10:21 PM

I agree with Chad. No need for a set. Whatever you have to spend on your knives, I would put most of it into a chef's knife (or cleaver). I used only a cleaver and a paring knife for many years and did not feel like I was suffering.

I now use a $19, 12 inch scalloped Dexter-Russel slicer for a bread knife, which works well even with very large round loaves. (I think andiesenji recommended it in a thread last year.) My 8 inch expensive bread knife that came with the knife set I eventually bought many years ago has turned out to be rather limited as a bread knife, although I grab it now for slicing tomatoes.

My chef knife is 8 inch, like all chef knives that come in sets, and I would prefer one closer to 10 inches, but don't feel any urgent need to trade up.

And now I usually go for the $5.95 French paring knife you can find in any good cookware shop, rather than the expensive one that came with the set -- it has a thinner blade, which I find useful, and is plenty sharp.

It's a good idea to hold a few chef's knives and play with them a little to see which one feels best to you.

#8 Della

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 11:18 PM

Looks like nobody prefers a santoku instead of a chefs knife (seems like it's either/or)?

View Post



I like to use the Santoku myself - it is lighter and feels pretty good in my hand. I use it mostly for veggies. My boyfriend likes the chef knife - for about the same reasons. I think it is what feels the best for you personally. Although I do use the chefs knife too sometimes.............. :hmmm:

#9 Della

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 11:20 PM

I have a couple fancy knives, but for everyday use I rely on a xyr-old set of wood handled Chicago Cutlery that work just fine.  The chefs knife and shorter carver account for probably 90% of my cutting and chopping.

I use the steel before using, and wash and dry them off immediately afterwards.

SB (wouldn't mind a set of Kyocers ceramics though)

View Post



My boyfriend got a couple of Kyocero ceramic knives for Christmas and everytime we use them want to cry because they are soooo great!!! I have to say I hadn't even known about ceramic knives but these babies are really fun to use!

#10 sanrensho

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 11:45 PM

Count me as another santoku user. Nakiri comes a close second. I would probably use a gyuto if I had to do a lot of mincing or chopping such as for mirepoix.
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#11 FabulousFoodBabe

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Posted 11 May 2006 - 03:49 AM

I still have a Chicago Cutlery 8-chef that I got for a wedding gift in 1983, and I use it all the time. Holds an edge like you would not believe.

My fish chef at school had a CC filet'ing knife that he'd had forever and ever, as well. It put those fancy Globals to shame (and I like a couple of the Globals, very much).
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#12 mywhitedevil

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Posted 11 May 2006 - 11:25 AM

I still have a Chicago Cutlery 8-chef that I got for a wedding gift in 1983, and I use it all the time.  Holds an edge like you would not believe.

My fish chef at school had a CC filet'ing knife that he'd had forever and ever, as well.  It put those fancy Globals to shame (and I like a couple of the Globals, very much).

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I'll echo Chad on the Tojiros, and add Hiromoto's High Carbon line. I bought a 300mm (~12") gyuto for less than $60. If you like/can deal with carbon steel, these are likely a higher value than the Tojiro DP line. Very nice.

Also to add that the new CC's are not the same beast that they once were. They are all recycled, junk steel nowadays. The pure, virigin steel of the older knives will hold an excellent edge, the new ones, notsomuch.

Edited by mywhitedevil, 11 May 2006 - 11:26 AM.


#13 johnsmith45678

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Posted 11 May 2006 - 11:45 AM

Aren't the Chicago Cutlery knives serrated? I checked out their booth at a trade show about a year ago and thought I remembered they were, and the sales guy boasting that they never needed sharpening.

#14 srhcb

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Posted 11 May 2006 - 12:02 PM

Aren't the Chicago Cutlery knives serrated? I checked out their booth at a trade show about a year ago and thought I remembered they were, and the sales guy boasting that they never needed sharpening.

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Chicago Cutlery makes several series of knives. They'll virtually never need sharpening if they're properly cared for.

SB (sometimes you can really get your money's worth, even these days) :wink:

#15 SJ Shappee

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Posted 11 May 2006 - 12:19 PM

My boyfriend got a couple of Kyocero ceramic knives for Christmas and everytime we use them want to cry because they are soooo great!!! I have to say I hadn't even known about ceramic knives but these babies are really fun to use!

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I love my Kyocera knife - it screams through loads of veggies - but I've had to send it back to the factory to re-grind the edge after it was dropped on the edge of the sink by one of my 'helpers' (I cried, no kidding!). I used to work for a high-end culinary store and loved to have the various sales reps come to visit - usually to sit through their demo and then you get some sort of 'thank you' gift - always a knife...this is how I got my initial Kyocera and my Global. T'was the hardest part about quitting that job!

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#16 russ parsons

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Posted 11 May 2006 - 02:22 PM

i tried to like the ceramic knife but just couldn't. for me, it was just WAY too light. like cutting with a feather. other people might like that, but i like the feeling that the knife is helping me. i've also been impressed with the knives from MAC ... they are really good for the price.

#17 Octaveman

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Posted 11 May 2006 - 02:29 PM

Chad, Whitedevil have it. I have a Hiromoto HC and it's an excellent knife at twice the price. I'd stick with a gyuto/chef's knife because a santoku is about 6.5" and that's as long as it gets. It forces you to buy another knife for those jobs requireing length. With Japanese blades, they are light and nimble so going longer can serve dual functions. They are light/nimble enough to mince garlic and long enough to slice a roasted beast.

The general rule of thumb is spend the most money on your most used knife. If you use the chef the most, then buy a good gyuto/chef and get lesser expensive other knives. Also agreed, you don't need a "set". Three knives are the minimum and I will either differ with Chad slightly on those three or add to it depending if you really need a "bread" knife.

Gyuto: Tojiro DP 240mm -or- Hiromoto HC 240mm
Petty: Tojiro DP 120 or 150
Honesuki: Tojiro DP
Bread: Mac SB-105

I added the Honesuki(boning) knife because the gyuto should never get anywhere near a bone or do any heavy duty work. If you piece your own chickens a Honesuki is a requirement. If you don't need a bread knife, the Gyuto can double as a slicer.

This may all be a moot point since you're looking to spend $60 for this "set". DO NOT buy a pre-established set. What do you need with two or three petty's or two chef knives with only a 1-2" difference in length? Anyway, there ya go for the advice.

Edited by Octaveman, 11 May 2006 - 02:31 PM.

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#18 Octaveman

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Posted 11 May 2006 - 02:54 PM

Aren't the Chicago Cutlery knives serrated? I checked out their booth at a trade show about a year ago and thought I remembered they were, and the sales guy boasting that they never needed sharpening.

View Post

Chicago Cutlery makes several series of knives. They'll virtually never need sharpening if they're properly cared for.


Maybe if you put them in a shadow box on the wall and never use them. A knife will start to get dull after it's very first use and even the hardest of knives will eventually get dull. The claim of never needing sharping is a marketing ploy that has no basis of fact. All knives will eventually need to be sharpened. How hard your knives are and your mileage on them will depend on how often.

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#19 johnsmith45678

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Posted 11 May 2006 - 03:16 PM

Aren't the Chicago Cutlery knives serrated? I checked out their booth at a trade show about a year ago and thought I remembered they were, and the sales guy boasting that they never needed sharpening.

View Post

Chicago Cutlery makes several series of knives. They'll virtually never need sharpening if they're properly cared for.


Maybe if you put them in a shadow box on the wall and never use them. A knife will start to get dull after it's very first use and even the hardest of knives will eventually get dull. The claim of never needing sharping is a marketing ploy that has no basis of fact. All knives will eventually need to be sharpened. How hard your knives are and your mileage on them will depend on how often.

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Serrated knives can be sharpened?

I currently have some dirt cheap serrated knives from many years ago and they still do the job.

#20 srhcb

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Posted 11 May 2006 - 03:52 PM


Chicago Cutlery makes several series of knives.  They'll virtually never need sharpening if they're properly cared for.


Maybe if you put them in a shadow box on the wall and never use them. A knife will start to get dull after it's very first use and even the hardest of knives will eventually get dull. The claim of never needing sharping is a marketing ploy that has no basis of fact. All knives will eventually need to be sharpened. How hard your knives are and your mileage on them will depend on how often.

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My secret?

I only cut soft stuff.

SB (shhhhhh):wink:

#21 Octaveman

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Posted 12 May 2006 - 09:49 AM

My secret?

I only cut soft stuff.

SB  (shhhhhh):wink:

In the air or on a cutting board? If the former, that's impressive. If the latter, your knives will get dull.

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#22 Octaveman

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Posted 12 May 2006 - 10:00 AM

Serrated knives can be sharpened?

I currently have some dirt cheap serrated knives from many years ago and they still do the job.

They can but it's somewhat difficult and pretty time consuming. Serrated knives can certainly do the job but the quality of the cut is not as good as with non-serrated. Serrated tears at the food too much IMHO. The only serrated knife I have is the MAC bread knife mentioned above.

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#23 Chad

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Posted 13 May 2006 - 05:07 PM

I forgot one of the "bargain" contenders -- the Warther's knives. These are pretty odd looking, but the steel is excellent. If you can get past the mid-60s metal shop finish (it's called engine turning and was very popular among watchmakers in the 20s and 30s) and the basic, functional handle slabs, they're pretty damn good knives. Especially for $58 for the 9" chef's knife.

Packaging is atrocious and dangerous. Mine came with the tip of the knife poking through the side of the box, and I'm not alone. Among several folks who've ordered these knives, they've all come this way. Your postman or UPS person will hate you.

In spite of all that, the D2 steel and blade geometry are unique. I've never run across anything like them. The D2 steel is a point shy of being "stainless" but it is extremely stain resistant (11-12% chromium versus the technical 12-13% chromium requirement for "stainless). It has 1.4 -1.6% carbon (versus .4-.6% for the big name German knives), a good percentage of Moly and a very nice Vanadium content. In short, this is some serious kick-ass steel. It is usually hardened to 59-60Rc, but I don't know what the Warther's folks take it to. Feels about like 59-60% to me but without further testing I can't say for sure.

Mine came with an overly obtuse edge that was slightly rolled. However, both problems were easily and quickly remedied. The obtuse edge was about the same as the big name showpiece knives. The rolled edge was annoying but straightened out with a couple of swipes down a high grit ceramic steel. After that, I ended up with a well crafted (yet ugly, in my opinion) chef's knife with great steel. So it depends on what you're looking for. If performance and steel are more important than looks and conspicuious consumption quotient, then the Warthers could be serious contenders.

Take care,
Chad
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#24 srhcb

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Posted 13 May 2006 - 05:39 PM

I forgot one of the "bargain" contenders -- the Warther's knives. These are pretty odd looking, but the steel is excellent. If you can get past the mid-60s metal shop finish (it's called engine turning and was very popular among watchmakers in the 20s and 30s) and the basic, functional handle slabs, they're pretty damn good knives.

View Post


Those are interesting looking knives with a good history. I may try one. My '54 Ford had an engine turned dash panel.

From the Warther site:

"Warther knives have been made for many famous people including: Ronald Reagan, Frank Lloyd Wright, Gerald Ford, Nelson Mandela, George Bush Sr., George W. Bush Jr., and Perry Como."

What an interesting group of "famous people".

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#25 Octaveman

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Posted 13 May 2006 - 08:21 PM

Good call, Chad. I completely forgot about those too. I have a set of steak knives from them and I've had the same EXACT experiences as you. My knives came loose in the box and they were pretty dull (sharpened too obtuse). Other's I know that have the chef knife say it holds up as good if not better than the Tojiro DP. The fit and finish is surprisingly good too. In person, the turned finish is not as "in your face" as the pictures give off. Much more subdued. Great buy for the money.

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#26 johnsmith45678

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Posted 13 May 2006 - 10:59 PM

Aren't the Chicago Cutlery knives serrated? I checked out their booth at a trade show about a year ago and thought I remembered they were, and the sales guy boasting that they never needed sharpening.

View Post

Actually, it was Cutco and not Chicago Cutlery. Anybody like Cutco?

#27 Chad

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Posted 14 May 2006 - 03:32 AM

Aren't the Chicago Cutlery knives serrated? I checked out their booth at a trade show about a year ago and thought I remembered they were, and the sales guy boasting that they never needed sharpening.

View Post

Actually, it was Cutco and not Chicago Cutlery. Anybody like Cutco?

View Post


Well, if you can ignore:
  • the very cheap, low carbon steel
  • the "double D" edge that has to be sent back to the factory to be resharpened
  • the hideously inflated prices
  • the deceptive recruiting practices that have earned them lawsuits from three different state attorneys general, and
  • the exploitative and cultlike marketing program,
you have . . . well, knives that aren't any better than the no-name stamped garbage you can buy at any grocery store. :shock:

Friends don't let friends buy Cutco.

Hell, I wouldn't let anyone buy Cutco.

Chad
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#28 H. du Bois

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Posted 14 May 2006 - 07:48 PM

Friends don't let friends buy Cutco.

Hell, I wouldn't let anyone buy Cutco.

Chad

Where were you when my family decided to buy me a very expensive set of Cutco knives as a gift? :wink:

I've been trying to figure out how to gracefully get rid of them ever since. They're awful.

#29 joiei

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Posted 14 May 2006 - 08:21 PM

oh man, I feel sorry for you. Those knives are such a piece of crap. I have used them, the manufacturer must have no scruples.
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#30 Octaveman

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Posted 14 May 2006 - 11:03 PM

I've been trying to figure out how to gracefully get rid of them ever since.  They're awful.

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Ebay. There's plenty of suckers out there that will take them from you. I've seen "sets" sold over $1,000 before...insane.

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