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Big chef's knife vs. small one


Dianabanana
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My advice is that: (1) Unless you don't have a paring knife, go with the biggest chef you can comfortably handle and store; and (2) Most people psych themselves out on and prejudge the "comfortably handle" aspect.  Small people Short knives, and you can't possibly know it until you actually fairly try a chef larger than you're accustomed to usingIMO, a 9-10" isn't too long, and 8" is the minimum I'd buy. 

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I know this is a necrothread and the bump wasn't really looking for advice about the original topic, but here I go anyway...

 

For a general purpose knife, I find an 8" knife to be almost too short, 10" to be almost too long, and 9" or so to be right in the sweet spot. A larger knife makes it much easier to work with large produce like cabbages and melons, as well as larger roasts and other meatly items. If slicing is your main concern though, a dedicated knife will likely perform better than a chef's knife will. But unless you're working on a buffet line slicing roast beef or something, put your money toward a good chef's knife first. My preference would be for a chef's knife anywhere between 21cm and 24cm long, a smaller utility knife (or bunka or santoku) around 180mm long, and a paring knife. That way you don't have to break out your big knife when all you need to do is dice an onion or make a sandwich or something.

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My chef's knife is an E. Schaaf Goldhamster.  I don't remember named length but it's a large knife, 10" blade, 15.5" stem-to-stern.  I use it for almost everything, including fine minces.  I rarely use my paring knife - for some reason it's always felt weird in my hand, much more comfortable with the chef's knife.  I use my Mac utility knife more than the paring knife.  For turning I have a tourné knife.

Edited by paul o' vendange (log)
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-Paul

 

Remplis ton verre vuide; Vuide ton verre plein. Je ne puis suffrir dans ta main...un verre ni vuide ni plein. ~ Rabelais

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10 minutes ago, weinoo said:

 

Who is tourné-ing?!

 

I am, when I go through something like Craig Claibourne's Classical Cooking, and want to get really, really disappointed in myself.  I will master 7 faces before I leave this mortal coil, dammit.

Edited by paul o' vendange (log)
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-Paul

 

Remplis ton verre vuide; Vuide ton verre plein. Je ne puis suffrir dans ta main...un verre ni vuide ni plein. ~ Rabelais

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1 hour ago, paul o' vendange said:

 

I am, when I go through something like Craig Claibourne's Classical Cooking, and want to get really, really disappointed in myself.  I will master 7 faces before I leave this mortal coil, dammit.

 

That's some cooking school guilt shit, man!

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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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My chef's knives are an 8 1/2 inch New West and a 10 inch Chicago Cutlery (which sadly I believe is now just another cheap commodity brand name).  Decades ago I bought a shorter Chicago Cutlery chef's knife but I gave it away.  I found no use for it.

 

Sometimes I'm tempted by the longer New West chef's knife, particularly when it finds itself on sale.  Fortunately so far better sense has taken hold.

 

I use my chef's knives only for fruits and vegetables.  I have no professional training, but how or why would one use a chef's knife for protein?  If I am slicing cooked meat I use a Chicago Cutlery slicing knife, of which I have a few.  For raw meat I employ either my New West fillet knife or my recent much beloved Wusthof butcher blade.

 

Full disclaimer:  I posses a Wusthof salmon slicing knife, but let's charitably say it is underutilized.  If I ever convinced myself I had a tremendous need for slicing raw protein I'd shoot an urgent email to Shinichi.

 

 

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Cooking is cool.  And kitchen gear is even cooler.  -- Chad Ward

 

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On 12/27/2021 at 5:18 PM, paul o' vendange said:

My chef's knife is an E. Schaaf Goldhamster.  I don't remember named length but it's a large knife, 10" blade, 15.5" stem-to-stern.  I use it for almost everything, including fine minces.  I rarely use my paring knife - for some reason it's always felt weird in my hand, much more comfortable with the chef's knife.  I use my Mac utility knife more than the paring knife.  For turning I have a tourné knife.

 

Greetings fellow keeper of the Golden Hamster! 

 

I have an 8" Schaaf Goldhamster. It was my first "serious" knife, and I used it for everything for years. I love that no one's heard of it, and that somehow the little hamster silk-screened onto the blade has survived all these years. It's also got a mightier blade than other German chef's knives I've used, for better or for worse.

 

My main knife now is a very lightweight 270mm gyuto (actual blade length about 10-1/4"). It's much longer than the Schaaf but feels like it weighs about half as much. It runs circles around its German partner, but is too delicate for many tasks ... so the Hamster comes out when I need the burliness. Chopping chocolate, cutting hard squash, anything with bones, or even things that might have grit that could chip a razor-like edge (leeks etc.) ... all this goes to the hamster. 

 

I went too far once ... tried to hack through a turkey neck with the thing. Left a big dent in the blade. Dave Martell at Japanese Knife Sharpening in Pennsylvania fixed it, and also ground down the bolster to make the thing easier to sharpen. I now use a $5 Chinatown cleaver for extra dirty work. 

 

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12 minutes ago, paulraphael said:

 

Greetings fellow keeper of the Golden Hamster! 

 

I have an 8" Schaaf Goldhamster. It was my first "serious" knife, and I used it for everything for years. I love that no one's heard of it, and that somehow the little hamster silk-screened onto the blade has survived all these years. It's also got a mightier blade than other German chef's knives I've used, for better or for worse.

 

My main knife now is a very lightweight 270mm gyuto (actual blade length about 10-1/4"). It's much longer than the Schaaf but feels like it weighs about half as much. It runs circles around its German partner, but is too delicate for many tasks ... so the Hamster comes out when I need the burliness. Chopping chocolate, cutting hard squash, anything with bones, or even things that might have grit that could chip a razor-like edge (leeks etc.) ... all this goes to the hamster. 

 

I went too far once ... tried to hack through a turkey neck with the thing. Left a big dent in the blade. Dave Martell at Japanese Knife Sharpening in Pennsylvania fixed it, and also ground down the bolster to make the thing easier to sharpen. I now use a $5 Chinatown cleaver for extra dirty work. 

 

Brother!  That's two of us!

 

I'm sure I'll make the move to at least a gyuto at some point.  Even my MAC utility knife is nice with its thin, sharp blade.  The Goldhamster heft is stout, agreed.  I don't know if your handle is like this, but it also took some time (and blisters) for me to get used to the angled handle.  Now that I've relied on it so long, though, it's natural to me.  I don't know that I could ever use a santoku, though I know so many cooks like them. 

 

also thought it would make a fine neck bone implement.  And earned a dent (smaller, thank god ).  Countless sharpenings later, it's barely evident.  But learned my lesson.  I use an F. Dick 7" cleaver.  Though I'm so self conscious of our neighbors downstairs.  They already love me for my levains and their 100's of FF's.:blush:

 

I've always been curious about the Chinese cleaver, thanks for the idea.  The F. Dick cleaver is about a kilo and has a rounded bevel edge, not sharp.  TBH I love butchery and would love a good butcher's knife.

-Paul

 

Remplis ton verre vuide; Vuide ton verre plein. Je ne puis suffrir dans ta main...un verre ni vuide ni plein. ~ Rabelais

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1 hour ago, paulraphael said:

 

I went too far once ... tried to hack through a turkey neck with the thing. Left a big dent in the blade. Dave Martell at Japanese Knife Sharpening in Pennsylvania fixed it, and also ground down the bolster to make the thing easier to sharpen. I now use a $5 Chinatown cleaver for extra dirty work. 

 

You learned - wise man!

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41 minutes ago, paul o' vendange said:

Brother!  That's two of us!

 

I'm sure I'll make the move to at least a gyuto at some point.  Even my MAC utility knife is nice with its thin, sharp blade.  The Goldhamster heft is stout, agreed.  I don't know if your handle is like this, but it also took some time (and blisters) for me to get used to the angled handle.  Now that I've relied on it so long, though, it's natural to me.  I don't know that I could ever use a santoku, though I know so many cooks like them. 

 

also thought it would make a fine neck bone implement.  And earned a dent (smaller, thank god ).  Countless sharpenings later, it's barely evident.  But learned my lesson.  I use an F. Dick 7" cleaver.  Though I'm so self conscious of our neighbors downstairs.  They already love me for my levains and their 100's of FF's.:blush:

 

I've always been curious about the Chinese cleaver, thanks for the idea.  The F. Dick cleaver is about a kilo and has a rounded bevel edge, not sharp.  TBH I love butchery and would love a good butcher's knife.

 

The hamster's handle always felt comfortable to me, but I wasn't using it for hours of commercial prep every day. Mine is like every other Schaaf handle I've seen ... a double bolster, with fat, squared-off scales in between. The newer versions (the brand has been taken over by Solicut) have a wood scale option, but mine are bog-standard black plastic. 

 

I'm not really a stickler for western knife handles. They all feel pretty comfortable to me, as long as there aren't sharp edges along the spine or bolster.

 

My gyuto has a wa-handle, which is now my favorite for a chef's knife. At least for a light / thin one. If I hold the hamster like a woodsman's axe, I hold the gyuto more like a violin bow. Very different styles for different techniques. I never, ever push hard on the gyuto. It's more like you glance in the direction of the food and let the knife do its thing. 

 

My Chinese cleaver is basically a piece of scrap metal that's been cut into the shape of a cleaver. I tried sharpening it once ... a tedious, completely pointless exercise. I keep it hidden away so no one uses it to turn one of my nice cutting boards to kindling. 

 

I suspect a santoku wouldn't be the thing for you. That style is for home cooks in tiny kitchens. They seem designed mostly to be unintimidating. I find them extremely frustrating to use. A very light and thin gyuto would be a good complement to your burly German knives. Even a long one will feel smaller and more nimble. I grab my 270 even when I'm just mincing garlic.

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3 minutes ago, paulraphael said:

 

The hamster's handle always felt comfortable to me, but I wasn't using it for hours of commercial prep every day. Mine is like every other Schaaf handle I've seen ... a double bolster, with fat, squared-off scales in between. The newer versions (the brand has been taken over by Solicut) have a wood scale option, but mine are bog-standard black plastic. 

 

I'm not really a stickler for western knife handles. They all feel pretty comfortable to me, as long as there aren't sharp edges along the spine or bolster.

 

My gyuto has a wa-handle, which is now my favorite for a chef's knife. At least for a light / thin one. If I hold the hamster like a woodsman's axe, I hold the gyuto more like a violin bow. Very different styles for different techniques. I never, ever push hard on the gyuto. It's more like you glance in the direction of the food and let the knife do its thing. 

 

My Chinese cleaver is basically a piece of scrap metal that's been cut into the shape of a cleaver. I tried sharpening it once ... a tedious, completely pointless exercise. I keep it hidden away so no one uses it to turn one of my nice cutting boards to kindling. 

 

I suspect a santoku wouldn't be the thing for you. That style is for home cooks in tiny kitchens. They seem designed mostly to be unintimidating. I find them extremely frustrating to use. A very light and thin gyuto would be a good complement to your burly German knives. Even a long one will feel smaller and more nimble. I grab my 270 even when I'm just mincing garlic.

 

Great perspective.  Thanks Paul.  Very cool imagery on the "axe v. violin bow."  That's one helluva selling point.

 

Edit:  Neglected to ask.  Would you mind sharing the make of your gyuto?  And do you happen to know, "wa" is one form of "harmony," as in, "please do not disrupt the wa of the room."  Is this implied with the feel of the handle?

Edited by paul o' vendange (log)

-Paul

 

Remplis ton verre vuide; Vuide ton verre plein. Je ne puis suffrir dans ta main...un verre ni vuide ni plein. ~ Rabelais

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1 hour ago, paul o' vendange said:

 

Great perspective.  Thanks Paul.  Very cool imagery on the "axe v. violin bow."  That's one helluva selling point.

 

Edit:  Neglected to ask.  Would you mind sharing the make of your gyuto?  And do you happen to know, "wa" is one form of "harmony," as in, "please do not disrupt the wa of the room."  Is this implied with the feel of the handle?

 

"Wa" just means Japanese. They call any handle in the traditional style a wa-handle. They call western-style handles yo-handles. (I believe "yo" literally means "western"). Wa-gyuto means  "Japanese cow-sword." But what they really mean by cow-sword is a western-style chef's knife (because westerners like to eat cows?). So it's a Japanese-style western-style knife. Try not to think too hard about it when there's something sharp in your hand. 

 

Mine is by Ikkanshi Tadatsuna. They make it with either carbon (white #2) or stainless (ginsan ko / silver #3) steel. I had the carbon for a minute but traded for the stainless, and have had this one for 12 years.

 

It's not easy to find now, and the price has gone up. But there are knives by other makers that are almost identical. Probably the best known is Suisin (their inox honyaki wa-gyuto) which might be the first knife in this style. If I were buying a gyuto today, I might go to Japanese Knife Imports and get the Gesshin Ginga. Jon the owner says the performance between these knives is mostly identical (I trust anything he says). 

IMG_7902.thumb.jpg.24e3b286d9dbf4f9faf195bddefe9583.jpg

I just weighted them ... the wee-looking goldhamster is 308g. Almost double the tadtsuna's 163g.

 

Here's a choil pic. Shows why it's so light and why it cuts the way it does:

 

Tadatsuna-choil.thumb.jpg.1546f27a23b2c7cd17c602aa64690fee.jpg

 

The spine on the tad is about 2mm thick. The spine on the hamster is 3.5mm.

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7 hours ago, paulraphael said:

 

"Wa" just means Japanese. They call any handle in the traditional style a wa-handle. They call western-style handles yo-handles. (I believe "yo" literally means "western"). Wa-gyuto means  "Japanese cow-sword." But what they really mean by cow-sword is a western-style chef's knife (because westerners like to eat cows?). So it's a Japanese-style western-style knife. Try not to think too hard about it when there's something sharp in your hand. 

 

Mine is by Ikkanshi Tadatsuna. They make it with either carbon (white #2) or stainless (ginsan ko / silver #3) steel. I had the carbon for a minute but traded for the stainless, and have had this one for 12 years.

 

It's not easy to find now, and the price has gone up. But there are knives by other makers that are almost identical. Probably the best known is Suisin (their inox honyaki wa-gyuto) which might be the first knife in this style. If I were buying a gyuto today, I might go to Japanese Knife Imports and get the Gesshin Ginga. Jon the owner says the performance between these knives is mostly identical (I trust anything he says). 

IMG_7902.thumb.jpg.24e3b286d9dbf4f9faf195bddefe9583.jpg

I just weighted them ... the wee-looking goldhamster is 308g. Almost double the tadtsuna's 163g.

 

Here's a choil pic. Shows why it's so light and why it cuts the way it does:

 

Tadatsuna-choil.thumb.jpg.1546f27a23b2c7cd17c602aa64690fee.jpg

 

The spine on the tad is about 2mm thick. The spine on the hamster is 3.5mm.

Thanks Paul, great info to go on.  

 

"Wa," LOL.  

 

"Wa (和) is a Japanese cultural concept usually translated into English as "harmony". It implies a peaceful unity and conformity within a social group in which members prefer the continuation of a harmonious community over their personal interests.[1][2] The kanji character wa (和) is also a name for "Japan; Japanese",[3] replacing the original graphic pejorative transcription Wa 倭 "dwarf/submissive people".

 

Wa is considered integral to Japanese society and derives from traditional Japanese family values.[4] Individuals who break the ideal of wa to further their own purposes are brought in line either overtly or covertly, by reprimands from a superior or by their family or colleagues' tacit disapproval. Hierarchical structures exist in Japanese society primarily to ensure the continuation of wa.[5] Public disagreement with the party line is generally suppressed in the interests of preserving the communal harmony.[6]

Japanese businesses encourage wa in the workplace, with employees typically given a career for life in order to foster a strong association with their colleagues and firm.[1][7] Rewards and bonuses are usually given to groups, rather than individuals, further enforcing the concept of group unity.[2]"

 

Never knew of association with "Japan Japanese."  Living in the Japanese (zen and martial training) temple, "wa" was a constant hound' - as uchideshi, we were expected to develop the keen sense of a given space, and move in all ways according to the "wa" of the room and those gathering in it.  It was expected that such training also leads to "an unfettered mind," able to read situations responsively, without the need to rely on rational, and sticking, thought.  

 

Sharp things.  Nothing sucks more than having a guy strike down kesagiri while you try to reason out your move.🤯

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-Paul

 

Remplis ton verre vuide; Vuide ton verre plein. Je ne puis suffrir dans ta main...un verre ni vuide ni plein. ~ Rabelais

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On 12/30/2021 at 2:22 PM, paulraphael said:

Mine is by Ikkanshi Tadatsuna. They make it with either carbon (white #2) or stainless (ginsan ko / silver #3) steel. I had the carbon for a minute but traded for the stainless, and have had this one for 12 years.

 

It's not easy to find now, and the price has gone up.

Great knives. Iirc a frames Tokyo has them (a little shop based in Hawaii)

 

https://www.aframestokyo.com/ikkanshi-tadatuna-wa-gyuto-240mm-white-steel-balde-kn240.html

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On 12/31/2021 at 1:14 AM, paul o' vendange said:

Japanese businesses encourage wa in the workplace, with employees typically given a career for life in order to foster a strong association with their colleagues and firm.

 

 

An interesting product of Japanese career- for-life is the  window person which is a guy who has screwed-up or proven incompetent and is assigned trivial stuff to keep him out of the way. More or less just looking out the window for the rest of his career.  I've consulted for a couple Japanese companies and after a while you can figure out who they are. Not a bad life

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20 minutes ago, gfweb said:

 

An interesting product of Japanese career- for-life is the  window person which is a guy who has screwed-up or proven incompetent and is assigned trivial stuff to keep him out of the way. More or less just looking out the window for the rest of his career.  I've consulted for a couple Japanese companies and after a while you can figure out who they are. Not a bad life

 

In our federal government, that's called RIP - retired in place!

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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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On 1/2/2022 at 2:02 AM, AAQuesada said:

Great knives. Iirc a frames Tokyo has them (a little shop based in Hawaii)

 

https://www.aframestokyo.com/ikkanshi-tadatuna-wa-gyuto-240mm-white-steel-balde-kn240.html

 

Yeah, they have a good reputation. I've never bought from them. This is the one I have. I'd recommend borrowing a knife in a similar style before taking the plunge. Some of us love these super thin gyutos but not everyone.

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btw I wanted to second everything you've said about jon at JKI I've known him since the days as another knife geek on some the of the online knife groups. Highly recommend visiting in person for those like me in the LA area. Great service, superior knowledge and in store he'll let you try out some of the stones if you're buying. I'm a big fan of the Gesshin kagekiyo series they sharpen with ease and great fit & finish really great QPR.

 

I had the same Ikkanshi Tadatsuna as well (bought directly from them years ago) great fit and finish and as thin as a laser really great knives. These days i prefer a little for heft and always look for a good distal taper on my cow swords. I've bought several times from aframestokyo and they've always been great. Good place to keep a look out because he occasionally buys a group of knives from say a sushi restaurant closing they may have never used vintage knives that were bought for the opening staff and never used then he'll clean them up and put them online. I got a honyaki fuguhiki that way for a great price 

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A FWIW on knife sizes. Last time I was in Tokyo, I was determined to buy Japanese knives to take home. Day before I left I betook myself to Kitchen Street, a wonderful rabbit hole I could have wandered in for DAYS….

 

Long story short, I came away with a set of carbon steel Misonos. A 10-inch gyuto, an 8-inch Gyuto, and a 5-inch utility knife.

 

I gave away the 10-inch one. I have small hands. The 8-inch handles most of what I need, and the 5-inch is a workhorse.

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