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johnsmith45678

Good, Cheap/Inexpensive Knives

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"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."

Most likely, never tried it, and never used a Dexter Russel. Thing is, most of the Henckels, Driezack,(Wusthof) F. Dick, and the like, are not designed to hold a 10 degree bevel. They are heavy monsters with thick spines and bolsters that weigh a bit. These knives are best suited to "heavy duty" jobs like fabricating chicken cuts, cutting heavy vegetables. True, the bevels are shallow, but they won't fatigue when they encounter the tough skin of squash or the cartlidge and bone (Sp?)of a chicken joint, etc. These are NOT the knife of my choice when slicing fine vegetables or meat, but like an axe, they have thier purposes and shine at these tasks. They (European knives) are also a good choice for boning knives.

"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."

Yes. Like you wrote in the previous post, many Europeans or N. Americans don't know how to sharpen properly. It is customary in Europe for the owner or Chef to have an account with the local sharpener (Hang on a sec. these guys are professional and work out of shops that have been around for decades and "do" the surgical and vetrinary implements as well) and every employee can take their knives to get sharpened for free, usually about every 3 mths. It is also customary for most cooks to have multiple knives, so that when the butcher's steel doesn't work anymore, you get a fresh knife and get back to work.

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

This is perfectly acceptable, nice stuff.

"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."

Yes, yes, and very yes. It's the 10 degree bevel that gets to me. If you will, it's kind of like fine tuning a Ferrari. If I may hazard a guess, to get to this state where you can put a 10 degree bevel on high quality knives and maintain it, suggests that you have spent considerable time, money, and effort to get there. For not only do you need the knives (Budget of say 5-6 hundred for two or more?), to get the best out of them you need to know how to sharpren, which entails a learning curve and some stones--say a 1000/4000, and an 8000,(assuming you don't go to 16000) not to mention a trueing stone (assuming, again, you use waterstones) or some equipment (drywall sanding screen on glass, silicone carbide grit on glass) not to mention the effort to keep that equipment flat.

It's just that in my humble experience, a finely tuned knife does not survive the rigours of a commercial kitchen very well. The edge frequently chips, and this is not a put-down to the maker, the material, or the sharpener. If you ask any jewler, they will tell that diamonds do frequently chip as well, and the chipping has no relation the the quality or cut of the stone. A 10 degree bevel simply has very little material to support or cushion the cutting edge, and it will chip. The "usual suspects" of chipping are contact with s/steel, which, in a commercial kitchen can mean anything from the prep table itself to other tools, or impliments like bowls; transporting the knife from home/locker to the work station; it can also chip if dropped, and chip if the edge encounters grit/sand (trace amounts from vegetables, fruit, some seafood) on the cutting baord, or--god forbid-- poor cutting technique such as banging the knife down or "stupid" cutting board materials.

Again, it is the chips that really irritate me when sharpening. Not only do you have to remove material from the edge to the level of the bottom of the chip, you also have to remove material along the sides to re-establish the bevel. The steel quality is excellent, which translates into a lot of elbow grease to remove this metal, and many are tempted to do this via machine or very coarse grits--which can backfire very quickly. As you may have surmised I can sharpen to an acceptable state, but don't particularily enjoy doing it.

I guess it all boils down on how much you want to spend--both in money and time.

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It's just that in my humble experience, a finely tuned knife does not survive the rigours of a commercial kitchen very well. The edge frequently chips, and this is not a put-down to the maker, the material, or the sharpener..

I think it's mostly a question of techniqe, and basic care. In this sense, the appropriateness of a good knife depends on the type of food being served, and even moreso on the culture of the kitchen. In a kitchen where everyone's obsessive about technique and organization and careful handling of the food, then a delicate knife won't require attention beyond what's afforded everything else. In the kitchen at Denny's, you'd be nuts to bring in anything you cared about.

Again, it is the chips that really irritate me when sharpening. Not only do you have to remove material from the edge to the level of the bottom of the chip, you also have to remove material along the sides to re-establish the bevel. The steel quality is excellent, which translates into a lot of elbow grease to remove this metal ...

Really not my experience. My main chef's knife is sharpened to around 7 degrees on a side, very asymmetrically. And while it chips all the time, in general the chips are only visible with a jeweler's loupe. They have to get extensive before they're noticeable while cutting, and then a quick touchup on a strop or finishing stone gets the performance back. The chips don't have to be completely removed. For what it's worth, my softer knives generally have MUCH more ragged edges.

I only have to do a serious sharpening once a month or so. Guys I know with similar knives who work in high end, high volume kitchens sharpen once a day, after their shift. But they're fast; it's a 10 minute operation from start to cleanup. And they don't have to do any maintenance at all during the shift.

I guess it all boils down on how much you want to spend--both in money and time.

How much money is too much is always subjective. But I don't see how spending the kind of money or your main tool that a carpenter spends on his drill is such a strange concept. Especially when these days, the cost of entry for a high performance knife is so low.

And I think the time argument plays strongly to the good knife. An example: I recently cooked in a 24 hour-long underground restaurant event. It was literally 24 hours from the beginning of prep to the end of service. In that time we put out 24 courses, each of which had between five and twelve elements on the plate. Total madhouse. Of the eight or so cooks and helpers, which included a couple of chefs with more experience than me, I was the only one who showed up with sharp knife. The others had some good blades (there were togiharus, tojiros, shuns, masamotos, and nenoxes in the room, along with the usual european suspects) but all were at fat bevel angles and maintained on steels.

I was able to prep faster and more precisely than anyone in the room. I could do things well ahead of time that they had to do last minute. And over 24 hours, I didn't have to do any maintenance at all. Everyone else was stopping every several minutes to steel their knives, just to keep them serviceable. I didn't once reach for the strop that I'd brought, just in case.

At the end of the night, my knife was definitely not performing as well as it had been at the beginning ... but it was still outperforming the other knives in the room, even though those had been getting steeled constantly.

For me, the only real time investment was learning how to sharpen ... which I admit was a pain in the ass. And I'm still learning. The payoff seems more than worth it.


Edited by paulraphael (log)

Notes from the underbelly

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It's just that in my humble experience, a finely tuned knife does not survive the rigours of a commercial kitchen very well. The edge frequently chips, and this is not a put-down to the maker, the material, or the sharpener..

I think it's mostly a question of technique, and basic care. In this sense, the appropriateness of a good knife depends on the type of food being served, and even moreso on the culture of the kitchen. In a kitchen where everyone's obsessive about technique and organization and careful handling of the food, then a delicate knife won't require attention beyond what's afforded everything else. In the kitchen at Denny's, you'd be nuts to bring in anything you cared about.

Again, it is the chips that really irritate me when sharpening. Not only do you have to remove material from the edge to the level of the bottom of the chip, you also have to remove material along the sides to re-establish the bevel. The steel quality is excellent, which translates into a lot of elbow grease to remove this metal ...

Really not my experience. My main chef's knife is sharpened to around 7 degrees on a side, very asymmetrically. And while it chips all the time, in general the chips are only visible with a jeweler's loupe (my softer knives generally have MUCH more ragged edges). The chips have to get extensive before they're noticeable while cutting, and then a quick touchup on a strop or finishing stone gets the performance back. The chips don't have to be completely removed.

I only have to do a serious sharpening once a month or so. Guys I know with similar knives who work in high end, high volume kitchens sharpen once a day, after their shift. But they're fast; it's a 10 minute operation from start to cleanup. And they don't have to do any maintenance at all during the shift.

I guess it all boils down on how much you want to spend--both in money and time.

How much money is too much is always subjective. But I don't see how spending the kind of money or your main tool that a carpenter spends on his drill is such a strange concept. Especially when these days, the cost of entry for a high performance knife is so low.

And I think the time argument plays strongly to the good knife. An example: I recently cooked in a 24 hour-long underground restaurant event. It was literally 24 hours from the beginning of prep to the end of service. In that time we put out 24 courses, each of which had between five and twelve elements on the plate. Total madhouse. Of the eight or so cooks and helpers, which included a couple of chefs with much more experience than me, I was the only one who showed up with sharp knife. The others had some good blades (there were togiharus, tojiros, shuns, masamotos, and nenoxes in the room, along with the usual european suspects) but all were at fat bevel angles and maintained on steels.

I was able to prep many things faster and more precisely than anyone in the room. I could do things well ahead of time that they had to do last minute. And over 24 hours, I didn't have to do any maintenance at all. Everyone else was stopping every several minutes to steel their knives, just to keep them serviceable.

At the end of the night, my knife was definitely not performing as well as it had been at the beginning ... but it was still outperforming the other knives in the room, even though those had been getting steeled constantly.

For me, the only real time investment was learning how to sharpen ... which I admit was a pain in the ass. And I'm still learning. The payoff seems more than worth it.


Edited by paulraphael (log)

Notes from the underbelly

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" But I don't see how spending the kind of money or your main tool that a carpenter spends on his drill is such a strange concept. Especially when these days, the cost of entry for a high performance knife is so low."

Well.....Most on-site carpenters/contractors never bring their best tools on-site--especially if the dry-wallers are around....It's true, they bring quality tools on-site that are dependable, but thier best tools sit around at home until they are slightly outdated, and then brought to work. The only contractor I know of that uses his best tools on-site is a specialty finish & trim contractor whose van is a jewel of organization and crammed with top-quality tools. The man is no fool either, and parks his van during off-hours in a secure garage, and during work hours, has his German-Shepherd/Rotti, "Schiller" sitting either in the passenger seat or sleeping with one eye open on a rag-rug in the back......

Then again, a carpenter earns over the $40/hr range, and most cooks--even the decades-experienced ones, never seem to break clear of the $28/hr glass ceiling. In my humble experience, maybe 50% of the customers can differentiate between volume produced and a'la minute quality, but only maybe 10% of the customers are willing to pay for top quality.

If you have never suffered the indignity, heart-break, and financial consequences of having your knives stolen or abused, then Sir, I am truly jealous of you.....

I have an warm relationship with cabinet makers and patternmakers, and it was these people who took the time to show me how to sharpen and showed me how to troubleshoot, ie: as to why I couldn't raise a wire-edge. The knowledge regarding sharpening was overwhelming, and it occured to me that the demands placed on woodworking tools--particularily hand powered edge tools far exceeds the demands placed on kitchen knives.

As I have stated before, I am also an employer, and I supply the neccesary equipment to my employees. It is a rare cook that shows up with sharp knives, so I'd rather supply my own. For reasons of practicality, I choose not to supply knives over the $100 range to my employees.

And it is this reason why I argue against more expensive knives, as this post orginally started out with the O.P asking what brand of cheap/inexpensive knives he should consider for at home--with no mention of learning curves or budgets for sharpening

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Then again, a carpenter earns over the $40/hr range, and most cooks--even the decades-experienced ones, never seem to break clear of the $28/hr glass ceiling. In my humble experience, maybe 50% of the customers can differentiate between volume produced and a'la minute quality, but only maybe 10% of the customers are willing to pay for top quality.

Even if you get your $160 knife stolen every month, assuming a 40 hour work week, that's only $1 per hour. Assuming you're being paid $15 an hour, if you can save 4 minutes of prep work every hour with a sharp knife, it's paid for itself.


PS: I am a guy.

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If I got a job or a stage at some mid-level place where I didn't fully trust my coworkers, I'd buy a togiharu gyuto for $60 or whatever they cost now. It's not state of the art but is thin, will take a good edge, and hold it reasonably well. And no one's heard of it ... it's unglamorous looking and attracts little attention. The rest of my knives are fairly cheap ... I'd keep them right in my bag. Everyone wins.

At high end places, expensive knives (and the requisite respect) are commonplace. If a chef there had a lapse of judgment and let me in, I'd be perfectly comfortable bringing an expensive knife. I'd mostly worried about wrecking someone else's expensive ingredients.


Notes from the underbelly

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Even if you get your $160 knife stolen every month, assuming a 40 hour work week, that's only $1 per hour. Assuming you're being paid $15 an hour, if you can save 4 minutes of prep work every hour with a sharp knife, it's paid for itself.

Well, yes. Assuming you are getting 40 hr weeks. Assuming one gets stolen every month, I'd say the victim is buying every one in the Brigade a new knife. Then again, no one ever said "brand X" isn't sharp either. The devil is in the maintainence.

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I would agree whith what was said before, forget a set of knifes, just get one really good one, maybe an other down the road. I got a Shun Ken Onion chef's knife almost 2 years ago and absolutely love it. It is still sharp as crazy, going through tomatoes with no effort at all, and it fits me like a glove. Do test it though, I have big hands, and this is a very uniquely shaped knife that might not be comfortable for everyone. I have never sharpened it and just started using a steel on it very recently and rarely. Shun does free lifetime sharpening, so after x-mas I'll send it up to Portland in OR and it'll come back as new, no worries about the skills of some sharpener nor do I have to get into this myself. I'd have little fun sharpening knives.

Yes, it's very expensive and I'm sure there are others that are as good in quality, this one just fits my hand and the way I cut as if it were made for me. I use this knife every day on just about anything, with a wooden and a black plastic cutting board. I can't believe how sharp this thing still is! I treat it well (it's MY knife only) but still, amazingly sharp. And a beauty too :wub:

Aside of that knife I have a small pairing knife also same brand and style. That one took a bit getting used to, but now I'm very happy with it. Turns out the somewhat odd angle and shape works really well. I have the bread knife too, which is awesome, goes through any bread you throw at it, thick hard crust and all, as if cutting a sponge. I'd consider that one more a luxury though, as cheap bread knives usually work ok too (but aren't half as pretty).

Then I use a simple boning knife from Forschner/Inox for butchery and I'll be getting their slicing knife too, today actually, as I have some larger cuts of beef to work on. Butchery is turning more and more into a hobby for me. I'm really having fun with that.

There are a bunch more knives hanging on the wall, but those are either older ones or things like my Chinese cleaver (actually made in Germany, LOL) and a Chinese bone cleaver I got for little money at the Asian market. Very sharp and nice weight to it and I'm sure it'll do me fine for a long time, as I don't have to cut bones all that often. (I'm playing with the idea of owning a bone saw though, and maybe buying a half a pig as one piece next year...).

Then I use our table knives quite a bit for all kinds of cutting, they have a bit of serration at the front and cut very well.

Now, aside of the butchery knives that are pretty cheap, the Shun are very expensive knives, but very much worth it. I was hesitant at that price, but they are amazingly well made knives. And you really can do most of anything with just the chef's knife. Would I ever take these to work in a restaurant kitchen? Not in my dreams, but I think the OP was talking about knives for at home, not at work. For home use, I think saving up a bit and getting just one really good chef knife to begin with is a much better plan than buying one of those blocks with 5 knives (and a set of 10 steak knives! FREE!) you find in all the stores. Oh, and get a magnetic strip to mount on the wall and put your knives there, instead of using up counter space with a big chunk of dust gathering wood. They're about $15 a piece at Target (or $80 at Sur la Table, made in Germany too!! Haha!) and keep everything organized and easy to get to. I just recovered a considerable chunk of counter real estate by doing just that. Looks neat too!


"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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Has anyone heard about, can comment about, Classe made in Italy ? Before deciding to get serious about home cooking, I bought a 6 piece set. Here is a 9 piece set just to show what they are.

I've got all I need in terms variety, especially since reading three is all one really needs.

Are these any good ?

I use a electric sharpener this one.

Comments per favore......


edited for grammar & spelling. I do it 95% of my posts so I'll state it here. :)

"I have never developed indigestion from eating my words."-- Winston Churchill

Talk doesn't cook rice. ~ Chinese Proverb

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Has anyone heard about, can comment about, Classe made in Italy ? Before deciding to get serious about home cooking, I bought a 6 piece set. Here is a 9 piece set just to show what they are.

I've got all I need in terms variety, especially since reading three is all one really needs.

Are these any good ?

I use a electric sharpener this one.

Comments per favore......

Not a brand I am familiar with. It seems like an own brand offered by a sole US importer. There are quite a few knife manufacturers in Italy, many very small firms based in the Premana region. One of the more active is Sanelli.

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Italy has never developed a knife industry that's gotten much more than local attention, because they don't have very good domestic steel ... so the Italian metalsmithing traditions are behind the ones in Japan and Northern Europe.

FWIW, the best steels currently come from Japan and Sweden (with some minor U.S. exceptions). There's talk that the highest purity iron sands in Japan are getting depleted, which could explain why an increasing number of Japanese knifemakers have begun using Swedish steel.


Notes from the underbelly

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I got a trio of KAI Pure Komachi 2 knives (6.5-inch santoku, 3-inch paring, tomato/cheese serrated) and am seriously impressed. I think I've seen these in stores and dismissed them because of the crazy colors and the price - $10 knives can't be any good, right?

Crazy sharp out of the box (well, plastic blister pack), and from a little research it seems that they actually will hold the edge pretty well. Nice comfortable handles too (though they're hard plastic though - could have a tendency to get slippery).

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