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Big chef's knife vs. small one


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I am trying to decide between a 6" and 8" chef's knife. I'm a small person (5'0" tall) with correspondingly small appendages, and the 6" knife feels absolutely perfect when pretending to chop things at the knife store (eGullet version of air guitar). The main disadvantage to a small knife that I can think of is that it will take longer to get through a big pile of something like onions, but I confess that I have not done a whole bunch of research on the issue. I know the larger knife is much more common but the small ones must be made for a reason . . . right?

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It's made for the reasons you list here, among others! Beyond the matter of how it feels (check) and the relatively low number of times you're likely to want to crunch through a few dozen pounds of onions (check), you should think about your counter and cutting board space.

Ask the store if you can take a showroom sample home for a day. They'll probably let you do so, and you can give it a test run.

Chris Amirault

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I, too, and a small person with very small hands. I have a 6 inch, which I thought was great until I made myself use the 8 inch. I haven't put it down since. The 10 in feels like a sword, though. Consider the 8 inch seriously.

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I am 5' 1 1/2" (probably less now - age you know!) and I have both a 6" and an 8". The 6" is a great utility knife but when I have any serious prep to do it's the 8" I use. Son-in-law has a 10" and to me it's just too unwieldly. But I am willing to admit that I might change my mind about the larger knife if I found one that really felt right.

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

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I bought myself two knives from KORIN a few months ago. (BTW, they are on sale @ 15% off through the end of the year......)

I got both the Tojiro-DP Gyutou 9.4" (24cm) and the Tojiro-DP Petty 5.9" (15cm). I use the petty a lot for general prep but always reach for the Gyutou for chopping. The small one almost feels like a long paring knife. I think the 9.4" is a tad big for me, though, and I am glad I didn't get the 27cm.

Kathy, also a small woman.... :smile:

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Some reasons for a longer knife ...

-as you said, it can more efficiently go through a big pile of things. but that may or may not be important.

-it can slice more efficiently. even something as small as an apple can be hard to slice all the way through in a single stroke with a 6" blade. your goal is to pass through the food in one slice, without changing directions. every time you saw back and forth, you tear the flesh of the food. slicing something as small as 3 inches with a 6" knife gives you a maximum of 3" to move the knife. But in reality you have less, because the steeply curved part by the tip is less useful for slicing. with such a small knife you will end up sawing back and forth and demolishing a lot of food instead of slicing it.

-it lets you chop with less fatigue. the shorter the knife, the steeper the angle that you need to tilt it (and your wrist) to raise the back of the knife high enough to clear the food. a long knife allows a much more relaxed motion.

I think your biggest issues are handle size, knife weight, and balance. Some knives just work better for small hands than others. In a European knife, I strongly recommend the Messermeister chef's knives. I bought the 8" version of this knife for both my mom and my girlfriend. If you prefer a Japanese knife, there are many that are extremely light and have small handles.

8" is really the minimum if you do anything more than chopping an ocasional onion. If you go the Japanese route, you might even find yourself prefering a 9-1/2" knife, if you have room on your work surface.

Notes from the underbelly

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I like the smaller 8" knives mainly for the sense of control. It is fine for a pile of onions, but it really doesnt work well if you are cutting something that nears the length of the blade, like shredding a head of cabbage or cubing a hunk of meat.

I think it really depends on what you are going to use the knife for, something that you know best for your own cooking style. In my case, I started out with a shorter one, but later on, I bought myself a longer 10" or 12" one too.

IMHO think a 6" is probably too short to be your main blade.

(edited to indicate that my short is 8")

Edited by tamiam (log)
Oil and potatoes both grow underground so french fries may have eventually invented themselves had they not been invented -- J. Esther
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The Japanese chef I apprenticed under insisted that I use large knives as part of my training. His reason was that if I am able to confidently use large knives, any knife would never be an issue. He was right, I prefer large gyutos and sujihikis in 270mm -300mm lengths. I would get larger knives but they would not fit my knife case, max. fit is 11.5 inches.

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I'd say get a 180mm gyuto (Japanese version of chef's knife). That's 7.09 inches.

I don't know what your budget is, but from this site I'd recommend the Ryusen Blazen if you want stainless and the Hiromoto Tenmi Jyuraku (the AS version) if you want carbon.

japanesechefsknife.com

Edited by WiscoNole (log)
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I'd say get a 180mm gyuto (Japanese version of chef's knife).  That's 7.09 inches. 

I don't know what your budget is, but from this site I'd recommend the Ryusen Blazen if you want stainless and the Hiromoto Tenmi Jyuraku (the AS version) if you want carbon.

japanesechefsknife.com

The Japanese knives tend to be so light that they feel shorter than they are. I don't see any reason at all to go below 8" (210mm) with one of these. A too short chef's knife just cripples your technique ... it keeps you from getting the benefits of the knife.

Notes from the underbelly

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i've actually worked my way down from a 12" standard western style chef's knife to japanese-style petty knives!

i'm 5'7" and have large hands, but i find that the smaller japanese knives are easier to handle. i also like that they don't have a bulky heel like the german knives do.

i think my favorite knife is a suisen 8.2" yo-deba, which they consider "western" style. because the knife is lighter than german knives and doesn't have the heel, it seems smaller than it is.

this might be a good compromise and i don't think there's a task you can't tackle with an 8" blade.

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I'd say get a 180mm gyuto (Japanese version of chef's knife).  That's 7.09 inches. 

I don't know what your budget is, but from this site I'd recommend the Ryusen Blazen if you want stainless and the Hiromoto Tenmi Jyuraku (the AS version) if you want carbon.

japanesechefsknife.com

The Japanese knives tend to be so light that they feel shorter than they are. I don't see any reason at all to go below 8" (210mm) with one of these. A too short chef's knife just cripples your technique ... it keeps you from getting the benefits of the knife.

I'm 6'5" and love using a 180mm. The fact that they're light doesn't change their length - I don't know what kind of weird stuff is going on in your head.

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I'm 6'5" and love using a 180mm.  The fact that they're light doesn't change their length - I don't know what kind of weird stuff is going on in your head.

what do you use it for, and why?

light makes a difference because it changes your perception of how unwieldy it is.

it doesn't help you if the problem is cramped workspace, but if you don't have enough room to manage even an 8" knife, you got worse problems than just choosing the right knife.

Notes from the underbelly

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oh, that is good news! I'm small, and I prefer the 6" for every day , quick, a few veggies for dinner chopping--if I have a lot to do, or am wrestling with hard veggies, I bring out the 8 or 10" knives.

I'm sure i could get used to bigger knives, but the 6 feels like a part of me--I use it so often it hardly ever gets hung up--it's washed off and sits on a dish towel by the sink waiting for the next use!

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I use it for pretty much anything I would use an 8" for.  I use the tip a lot and have much more control with a shorter knife.

That's the best idea. I have a "Quick" knife,a very sharp 7". I find that in a pro kitchen-a 10" is a must. I cut things by the case. When I have to do a case of cantelope....forget finesse,it's whak wack Whak. I also like a knife or two that's "brute force',that I can chop up a chicken with without worries. It does not NEED to do "finesse"....got a tool for that.

Often....I have to fine dice 20-30 lb of onions. I grab 2 of the house 10" Dexters in one hand and use the bounce-chop. The hand holding the handles basically provides a spring recoil-and with the other hand I "dribble" the dual blades like a basketball. It's easier than it looks and it's damn fast when you have to do bulk.

I crave a beautiful Kasumi Damascus Kyoto...but practically? Better to have a 7" Mac and a 10" Forschner and let each do what it's best at.

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