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Good, Cheap/Inexpensive Knives


johnsmith45678
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  After a trip to Target and Bed Bath and Beyond today...I wonder if any of those $10-20 chefs knives are worth buying, just as a starter knife for a dorm room?

Thanks-

Anne

Cook's Illustrated recommends Forschner Fibrox knives. 10" Chef's Knife is $27.74 at Amazon.

I haven't tried them yet, but they're on my Wish List.

Linda

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  After a trip to Target and Bed Bath and Beyond today...I wonder if any of those $10-20 chefs knives are worth buying, just as a starter knife for a dorm room?

Thanks-

Anne

Cook's Illustrated recommends Forschner Fibrox knives. 10" Chef's Knife is $27.74 at Amazon.

I haven't tried them yet, but they're on my Wish List.

Linda

I've used one of these for a few years, and I love it. When I'm working I use Victorinox and leave my fancy knives at home. They're great value and you see them in pro kitchens all the time. For most home (or dorm) use I'd recommend the 8", which Amazon has for just under $20.

If you're buying more than $100 worth of Victorinox, this place usually works out cheaper: http://www.eaglemountainknife.com/

Hong Kong Dave

O que nao mata engorda.

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  After a trip to Target and Bed Bath and Beyond today...I wonder if any of those $10-20 chefs knives are worth buying, just as a starter knife for a dorm room?

Thanks-

Anne

Cook's Illustrated recommends Forschner Fibrox knives. 10" Chef's Knife is $27.74 at Amazon.

I haven't tried them yet, but they're on my Wish List.

Linda

I agree with the Forschner recommendation. An 8" chef's or a 7" santoku might be better for dorm use, as HKDave mentioned. No matter what the knife, even a $20 one, I suggest making sure the students understand that they should use a knife protector or other suitable device and not just throw the knife into a drawer.

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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Great project. I can see this evolving into Iron Chef: Dorm Room Edition.

"Ok, a girl is on the way and will be at your door in 20 minutes. You have a serving of ramen, four packets of duck sauce, a leftover pizza crust, 1/8 bottle of vodka, a box of baking soda, and a George Foreman grill. Go!"

As far as knives, I think the forchner is a great choice, but any knife will likely be trashed by a single semester of dorm life. I'd have them look for anything that's shaped like a chef's knife that costs as little as possible.

Notes from the underbelly

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I have this knife and the pink one that also comes in the collection. I use them and let the volunteers use them when I'm cooking for the Seniors. They love them!! They're a great knife for a woman as they're light and small and very sharp. They're also made in Japan.

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I really like These Knives and they may have them in your School Colors... Ive handled a few of these and I can tell you... they're VERY Sharp !! and the matching blade cover makes for a nice package..

Dorm cooking is an interesting subject, I hope youll let us know how it goes. Cooking with just a George Foreman, a Microwave and a CrockPot sure sounds like an Iron Chef episode , oh and dont forget the standby food of impoverished students everywhere : Ramen Noodles.

" No, Starvin' Marvin ! Thats MY turkey pot pie "

- Cartman

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   After a trip to Target and Bed Bath and Beyond today...I wonder if any of those $10-20 chefs knives are worth buying, just as a starter knife for a dorm room?

Thanks-

Anne

Cook's Illustrated recommends Forschner Fibrox knives. 10" Chef's Knife is $27.74 at Amazon.

I haven't tried them yet, but they're on my Wish List.

Linda

I bought one earlier this year at Amazon. Loved it so much that when I saw they had them at Smart and Final for $19.95. I bought another one and the 10' bread knife to boot.

I've got a small hand and it's comfortable to use, but it also just as comfortable for my friend with a bear paw of a hand.

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Bang for buck, I would also recommend a Made in Japan santoku knife (as opposed to a Japanese-style knife made in another country), like the Kai Pure Komachi knife that CaliPoutine linked to. These are much sharper than a comparable Henckels knife, and only require a few swipes on a stone to bring back the edge.

In fact, a Kai Pure Komachi will probably be the first knife I buy for my daughter, but I'm worried that it's actually *too* sharp for her until she gets a few years older.

Edited by sanrensho (log)
Baker of "impaired" cakes...
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Bang for buck, I would also recommend a Made in Japan santoku knife (as opposed to a Japanese-style knife made in another country), like the Kai Pure Komachi knife that CaliPoutine linked to. These are much sharper than a comparable Henckels knife, and only require a few swipes on a stone to bring back the edge.

In fact, a Kai Pure Komachi will probably be the first knife I buy for my daughter, but I'm worried that it's actually *too* sharp for her until she gets a few years older.

These are great knives for the money, but beware the sharpness - it's verrrry easy to cut oneself!

They also make a 'tomato knife' which has a storage sheath.

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Thanks for all the feedback and suggestions. Fugu, I'm not too good at sharpening myself (I have Chef's Choice sharpener) so maybe that will be a future lesson for all of us. I'll let y'all know how it goes.

Paulraphael: That's quite the challenge! Start off drinking the vodka, and hope that your girlfriend is drunk enough that she doesn't notice that the main dish is a ramen noodle pancake (on the Foreman) dressed with duck sauce. (is the pizza crust raw or cooked? :biggrin: )

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  • 1 year later...

JohnSmith:

I'm sure that you probably have bought your knives by now. I concur with HKDave. There are other lesser-known brands worth considering for reasonably inexpensive kitchen cutlery.

Made in USA:

LamsonSharp PRO[Cookware]

Dexter-Russell[Traditional, carbon steel]

Ontario Old Hickory

Chef's Choice Master Series 2000 [Cookware, Asian knife sharpener]

[Cutco is owned by Alcas Corp., which also owns Ka-Bar. Forget Cutco, and buy Ka-Bar instead! See below.]

Made in Japan:

Ka-Bar[resemble MAC Professional Series]

Union Cutlery Company

Dog's Head

Dexter-Russell Japanese Chef's

Made in Japan by Kyocera, Assembled in Argentina:

Böker Arbolito[SMKW]

Made in Brazil:

Mundial Sushimen's

Tramontina: Carbon, Professional Master

Made in Sweden:

Mora

Frost's[Erik Frost, aka Frost's, merged with K.J. Eriksson, aka KJ, to form: Mora of Sweden.]

Made in Portugal:

ICEL: Magoruku, Wasabi,

Made in Switzerland:

Swibo Japanese Tradition

Forschner[Their Chinese cleavers are made by LamsonSharp or ICEL] :cool:

Edited by TheUnknownCook (log)

Buttercup: You mock my pain.

Man in Black: Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.

-- The Princess Bride

If the women don't find you handsome, they should at least find you handy -- Red Green

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Correction:

The Chef's Choice Master Series 2000, are made in Germany, and slightly resemble F. Dick cutlery. Edgecraft did not divulge the manufacturer of their Master Series 2000 cutlery line. I was told that it was as German cutler, which had many years experience making butchering knives for butchers. Is it F. Dick? They will not say.

F. Dick: Asiacut, Eurasia, Damascus, Jubilee, Sharpening steels. [Honing rods are mistakenly called 'sharpening steels.']

F. Dick's honing rods are regarded as the best in the industry.

I was told by LamsonSharp, that their honing rods were made in USA by Nicholson. I recently bought their honing rod, and it was made in Germany. I hope that it was made by F. Dick.

Japanese cutlery require ceramic honing rods. Japanese cutlery also require sharpening on waterstones. My Japanese cutlery is double-beveled. Therefore, I simply use conventional whetstones, such as, Norton Pike and Smith's. :cool:

Buttercup: You mock my pain.

Man in Black: Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.

-- The Princess Bride

If the women don't find you handsome, they should at least find you handy -- Red Green

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My experience with Chef's Choice branded knives is that the only way you can sharpen them is, yes you got it, with a Chef's Choice electric sharpener. Hence, you grind them away at such a rate that you have to buy a new one very quickly.

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The best bargain in cheap knives I've found are the Forschners. Widely available, comfortable wood handles, and the same basic alloy used in the mainstream German knives. Their heat treatment seems to be on the harder end of the range for European stainless blades. They're a mainstay among butchers and a lot of cooks, and I'd be lost without my $25 forschner boning knife.

For true high performance knives at budget prices, I haven't found a better bargain the Korin's Togiharu brand ... if you want stainless. If you're open to carbon steel, then there are many great bargains, some coming from companies that have only recently become available in the U.S..

Some of thise include Kikuichi Elite, Kanemasa, Hiromoto HC (not positive this is still available), and Fujiwara.

All these companies make chef's knives that will ouperform Wustoff / Henckels, at anywhere from 1/3 to 2/3 the price. But most of them aren't as pretty.

Notes from the underbelly

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The best bargain in cheap knives I've found are the Forschners. Widely available, comfortable wood handles, and the same basic alloy used in the mainstream German knives.

I really like mine. They stand up to even my clumsy sharpening. When I moved my expensive Wusthofs stayed in storage. The Forschners are in the handy kitchen drawer.

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My experience with Chef's Choice branded knives is that the only way you can sharpen them is, yes you got it, with a Chef's Choice electric sharpener. Hence, you grind them away at such a rate that you have to buy a new one very quickly.

Why can you only use their electric sharpener? Can you plesse clarify. Thanks

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Ahhh, knives

I've stuck with one brand throughout my career, starting as an apprentice in a lowly 4 star hotel in Luzern, and working my way across Switzerland in 4 and 5 star houses, then S.E. Asia, and finally Canada.

What knives?

Let's call them "Brand "X"

It doesn't matter. A knife is just a hunk of steel with a sharp edge. With anything in life, there are trade-offs, "good edge rentention" usually means a harder steel, which is good, but also brittle--not so good, chipped edges and such. Softer steel means poorer edge rentention BUT (silver lining) much easier to keep sharp, usually a few swipes with a butcher's steel, and then when neccesary, sharpening.

Everyone's hands are different, everyone stands different, and there are a variety of grips everyone is comfortable with, and every kitchen is diffferent. There is no "Best" knife for every category

Most cooks I've seen in my career give an attempt at learning sharpening, then quickly give up, and either let a dul knife sit in a drawer, or take it to a "local sharpener" who proceeds to shrink it down with a 250 grit abrasive. Sharpening is not for everyone and if you don't like it, no shame or harm done, but if you don't like to sharpen, don't go out and buy an expensive knife and let the local lawnmower guy take a chance on it.

As an employer, I get nervous when employees bring in knives that cost more than $100.00 a pop. Why? Would you feel nervous if an employee brought in a Rolex or Gucci Bag and put it into an unlocked locker?

I repeat, a knife is just a hunk of steel with a sharp edge, the magic is in the user's hands..........

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It doesn't matter. A knife is just a hunk of steel with a sharp edge. With anything in life, there are trade-offs, "good edge rentention" usually means a harder steel, which is good, but also brittle--not so good, chipped edges and such. Softer steel means poorer edge rentention BUT (silver lining) much easier to keep sharp, usually a few swipes with a butcher's steel, and then when neccesary, sharpening.

There are tradeoffs in everything, sure, but better edge retention doesn't automatically mean greater brittleness. There are many factors in knife metalurgy, and edge retetention / edge stability are as dependent on carbide size as they are on hardness. Some steels are just better than others. If you took a blade made with good steel and sharpened it to relatively obtuse angles, you'd have better edge retention and better durability than with a cheaper, softer blade.

The importance of knives also depends on the quality of food being cooked. A few swipes on a butcher steel will give you a working knife, but not a sharp one. You cannot cut sashimi with a knife sharpened or maintaned this way. You cannot cut herbs without damaging them. You cannot cut apples or pears without them turning brown. You will not leave a glass-smooth edge on any food that you cut. If your ingredients and cooking style are well suited to more workmanlike cuts, and you're willing to use techniques that work around their disadvantages, then sure, knives make very little difference.

Most cooks I've seen in my career give an attempt at learning sharpening, then quickly give up, and either let a dul knife sit in a drawer, or take it to a "local sharpener" who proceeds to shrink it down with a 250 grit abrasive.

I think this is really the crux of the issue. In the U.S. and in Europe, at least, we don't have a kitchen culture that pays attention to sharpening or knife skills. In fact, the knife skills they teach in school and perpetuate in most restaurants are really just an adaptation to dull knives. With sharp knives ... and with the techniques that they allow ... things like durability become minor issues.

As an employer, I get nervous when employees bring in knives that cost more than $100.00 a pop. Why? Would you feel nervous if an employee brought in a Rolex or Gucci Bag and put it into an unlocked locker?

I don't think a $100 knife compares in a meaningful way to $1000 plus piece of bling.

At any rate, it depends on the restaurant. If I had someone prepping $10,000 worth of high end product every day, you better believe I wouldn't want him shredding it with a $20 Dexter Russel. A $100 knife, with the appropriate sharpening and cutting skills, seems a lot more appropriate to the task.

$100? I know of restaurants that lose several times this is broken china every day!

Notes from the underbelly

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My experience with Chef's Choice branded knives is that the only way you can sharpen them is, yes you got it, with a Chef's Choice electric sharpener. Hence, you grind them away at such a rate that you have to buy a new one very quickly.

Why can you only use their electric sharpener? Can you plesse clarify. Thanks

I should have said that "it would appear that the only way to sharpen them is....". Brand loyalty would tend to make folks do that. I have found that they are very hard, no impossible, to sharpen with even a diamond steel.

Sorry for the confusion.

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"The importance of knives also depends on the quality of food being cooked. A few swipes on a butcher steel will give you a working knife, but not a sharp one. You cannot cut sashimi with a knife sharpened or maintaned this way. You cannot cut herbs without damaging them. You cannot cut apples or pears without them turning brown. You will not leave a glass-smooth edge on any food that you cut. If your ingredients and cooking style are well suited to more workmanlike cuts, and you're willing to use techniques that work around their disadvantages, then sure, knives make very little difference."

What you have described here (oxidized fruits and herbs) is a dull knife. The item being prepared does not know or care one whit of the pedigree of the knife, be it laminated, forged, or stamped. I have done so with my "brand X" knives for many, many years and have not had oxidization. A dull knife is dangerous, a sharp one, a dream.

That being said, I have never cut sashimi or sushi. I have, however, filleted more than I'd like to admit to, of salmon and sole. This is almost always done with a Brand "X" 10" Chef's knife: Head off, run the blade down, resting along the spine and lift off the first filet, flip over, repeat with the second, grasp the tail and slide the knife under, removing the skin, then remove the remains of the rib cage with the same knife. Clear, smooth surfaces.

I've also sliced more than a few buffets worth of graved lax, smoked salmon, smoked eel, trout, etc. Again this was done with a "Brand X" smoked salmon knife: About 5/8" wide, 12" long and with a Kuellenschliff, or Granton edge. Stamped steel blade. Well what do you expect from an apprentice who only earned Sfr 720/mth? Kept sharp, the knife has never let me down in the 25 -odd years that I've used it.

During my travels in the east, I have witnessed many a Chinese cook cutting paper thin slices of Char siu, roast duck, scallops, etc with a common cleaver--albeit sharp cleaver. The Thais, too, use the same cleaver to cut holy basil, cilantro, etc with no bruising or oxidizing

"I don't think a $100 knife compares in a meaningful way to $1000 plus piece of bling."

I guess the best way for me to explain is with actual experiences. I am a Chef--that is, the manager of a kitchen, and I am judged--and paid, according to the food and labour costs I keep.

Example 1) "Mary" has just blown a large chunk of cash on three very expensive knives, and has warned everyone withing earshot NOT to even look at them. One day Mary lets out a scream and insists someone has stolen one of her knives. Accusations, threats of amputation, castration, even frontal lobotomy ensue. Mary spends over an hour screaming and looking for her knife--time better spend preparing for dinner service. After the latest threat of amputation to the guilty party, we smell it: The stench of scorched metal and burnt plastic. Mary rushes to her oven and we all see the melted knife lying on the baking tray next to sliced roasted squash quarters. After service I ask Mary if she could "kind of take back" the accusations she made earlier on. She refused. A lot of animosity towards her, some lost time, some serious sweating during service, and a lot of flak from the others about not getting an apology.

Example 2) "A" has got some fancy knives and is a bit of a jerk about it, one day A lets out a scream and insists that "B" stole two of his knives. B disputes this. Unbeknownst to me, "A" gets a posse together, breaks into "B"'s locker and finds his knives. "B" insists they were planted there by A. "A" insists I fire "B" immediatly for theft, (Which I can not do as I have no actual proof or witnesses) "B" inisists he will never work the same shifts as "A". Now I have mega trouble on my hands, serious scheduling headaches, and then "A" goes off and quits. Both A and B were competant cooks and I now have to hire, train, and replace first A, then B. Two hours of lost kitchen time, maybe 4 hours of "talking to" both parties (separately, of course), gawd knows how much time to get decent replacements. Worst Christmas I ever worked.....

Example 3) "C" is a gung ho prep monster. Just bought his first knives and promptly looses them in the mess of veg. trimmings on his bench. Yes, you guessed it, "C" lets out a scream that someone stole his knife. I tell him to look through the veg. trimmings and find it. Which he does-- half an hour later. A week later the same thing happens, I tell him to look for the knife on his own time. The two months he was there, the guy spent half of his time dumpster diving...

And then there was this really nice Italian place I worked at, only four of us. Then, knives starting to dissapear at a rate of about one a week. Accustations, finger pointing, animosity. We were almost at each others throats when we noticed the produce delivery guy walking kind of funny out the door....

And the time I was called by the GM to stop a fight. A junior bqt waiter had "borrowed" one of my cook's knives to cut the foil from wine bottles.

So in terms of lost time, lost earnings, and just dealing with plain headaches, I beg all of my staff to: Never bring valuables to work (Rolexes, Guccis) and never bring expensive knives to work. I or the house will supply all knives. And this is a trait you will find in many houses, including many chain places. With some, it's just an excuse for a sharp knife, with many, it sure cuts down on a lot of preventable headaches. Please, plaes leave your good stuff at home

"If I had someone prepping $10,000 worth of high end product every day, you better believe I wouldn't want him shredding it with a $20 Dexter Russel"

No one but me, or someone I have worked with for more than a few years will ever touch the expensive stuff, be it meat, seafood, or truffles

"$100? I know of restaurants that lose several times this is broken china every day!"

Yeah, I hear that alot from the waiters and other staff, and I try to keep my cool as I tell them--educate them, really, that it takes $300 worth of sales to earn back that $100. With some it gets through, with others it doesn't One thing for sure, If a restaurant does this every day, it won't last very long.

The item being prepared doesn't know or care with what type of knife it is being cut with--just as long as it's sharp

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The item being prepared doesn't know or care with what type of knife it is being cut with--just as long as it's sharp

The catch is, most cheap knives won't get sharp ... or at least sharp and useable. Most medium priced knives won't get sharp and stay useable, either, but there are exceptions to this (I named a few in my post a few days ago). If you try to sharpen a Wustoff or Henkels or Dexter Russel knife to a sub-10 degree per side bevel angle, the edge will fold the instant it touches a cutting board. If you try to put a 5000-plus grit polish on one of those knives, you won't get anywhere; the carbide size and grain structure of the steel are many times too coarse to hold the polish for more than a couple of cuts.

The best you can get is a serviceable knive, but not a sharp one. People tend to not believe this until they've used a sharp knife ... and I've met many European trained chefs who never have.

Here's an example of something you can do with most brand-x knives, even sharpened to their limit:

tart_prep2_sm.jpg

That's 3 lbs of apples, cut to 1mm slices. This took just over 2 minutes, and I was able to do it several hours before using the apples ... they did not turn brown. The knife could have done 30 lbs of apples just like this without any need for a touchup.

It just isn't possible to put an edge on cheap steel that can do this ... the exceptions being some of incredible bargains available in thin, carbon steel blades. You don't have to spend tons of money to get a knife that will get truly sharp. But if you spend cheaply, you have to spend wisely. The German knives won't do it. Forschners come a little closer. Dexter Russels won't even approach sharp. But knives like Tojiro will, and the Togiharu knives will do it at a bargain price. Carbon blades like Fujiwara and Kanemasa will.

To get a kinfe that will get this sharp and keep its edge all day, you have to spend more money, but you're also asking a lot.

All the problems you describe about expensive knives in the kitchen sound like management issues, not knife issues. I can assure you that there are many, many restaurants in the world where cooks are using expensive knives, and where people besides the chef de cuisine are handling expensive product, and where whining about their knives is pretty low on the list of crises.

Notes from the underbelly

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