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"An Edge in the Kitchen"

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I'm sorry, but footage of proper knife technique in the kitchen trumps Emmy stuff, anytime. But that's why I'm not a television producer...


"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

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The book arrived yesterday, and I can't wait to try the quarter-onion-roll trick. Very cool. Looking forward to the CBS segment and the radio shows... and the rest of the book!

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I should add that if you're not intimidated by ordering from Japan (and you shouldn't be; it's easy), JapaneseChefsKnife.com has the excellent Hiromoto Gingami #3 210mm gyuto for $112. If you don't mind the fuss of a straight carbon (non-stainless) knife, the Hiromoto Aogami Super 210mm gyuto and related knives have legions of rabid fans. The steel, also known as Blue Super, is one of the best around. You just have to be a little more attentive in your care of the knife.

Chad

Hi Chad, I know what you meant but the description of the Hiromoto AS might be misconstrued a little. The Tenmi-Jyuraku Series has a carbon steel core but is surrounded by stainless steel so there is a big element to these knives that are stainless. This type of construction means that only the carbon core is exposed at the edge (or about 5mm of it). So it's basically the best of both worlds...stainless sides with an incredible super blue core. As you said, there is a HUGE following of fanatics and rightly so too. I know you know these knives very well but I just wanted to add a little to what you said so people weren't put off by the concept of a carbon steel knife. BTW, if anyone is on the fence about carbon steel knives they are very easy to take care of. Rock on! :biggrin:

Edited to add: Do you really think the Gingami is a decent choice for $100 (give or take) level knives? Have you tried it? There aren't a whole lot of Japanese choices and I'm kinda getting tired of always recommending Tojiro to friends on a tight budget.


Edited by Octaveman (log)

My Photography: Bob Worthington Photography

 

My music: Coronado Big Band
 

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Hi Chad, I know what you meant but the description of the Hiromoto AS might be misconstrued a little.  The Tenmi-Jyuraku Series has a carbon steel core but is surrounded by stainless steel so there is a big element to these knives that are stainless.  This type of construction means that only the carbon core is exposed at the edge (or about 5mm of it).  So it's basically the best of both worlds...stainless sides with an incredible super blue core.  As you said, there is a HUGE following of fanatics and rightly so too.  I know you know these knives very well but I just wanted to add a little to what you said so people weren't put off by the concept of a carbon steel knife.  BTW, if anyone is on the fence about carbon steel knives they are very easy to take care of.  Rock on!  :biggrin:

Good point on the Hiromoto AS. I should have mentioned that. Thanks for catching it.

As for Gingami (Ginsanko), I haven't tried the Hiromoto version personally, but I've owned knives with Gingami steel in the past. They sharpen fairly easily, hold up well and cut pretty well. No, they're not on par with carbon knives, but that's to be expected. As for how they stack up to the $50 Tojiro, that would be an interesting head-to-head comparison. I might just have to give that a try.

Chad


Edited by Chad (log)

Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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Chad, what a great thread. I hope you are still popping in to answer questions.

I am planning on upgrading my knives this winter - after I buy a copy of your book and do some other research. In the meantime, however, I hope you can help me with a current quandary. To put it bluntly, what's the deal with Santokus?

At the suggestion of a friend, I picked up an inexpensive santuko to try out the style before I sink real money into a new blade. What I ended up with is a Henckels like this from Linens, Socks and OverThere. Yep, I know, cheap as all get out. But this is a test and it will be replaced by a real blade if I like it.

But here's the deal. I don't like it. I want to like it. I feel like I should like it. But, so far, not so much. It rolls when I cut hard things, doesn't do anything impressive with soft stuff, and I can't mince herbs like with my old chef's knife. It's not bad on things like whole onions, but my old chef's knife handles those fine too. As someoneElse asked the other night, as he tried and discarded the Santoku for the nth time, "What's the point?" Sadly, I had no answer.

Yet I am sure there is one. Can you help me find it? (I feel like all my friends found some cool new drink and I got the non-alcoholic version. I want my Santoku-tini with full on buzz!)

One thought, the blade on this sucker has "micro-serrations" which I didn't notice (or know if it mattered) when I was being bedazzled by Sheets, Sh*t, and Somewhere's endless displays. Sometimes when I am cutting things, it feels like the serrations get caught and (maybe) defeat the purpose.

Can you help me shine a little light on what I am missing? Is there a Santoku technique primer somewhere? Do I need to go get a different (not micro-serrated) blade to play with? Should I go back to my regular knives and just figure it's not my trend? I didn't have a goal (slicing onions faster, for example) in mind when I bought it, it was more of a lark, so I won't feel bad if there is no there there. But I will stop pulling the stupid thing out every time I start prepping food to see if it works better this time.

Thanks!


Edited by kitchenmage (log)

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I'm no expert..But the knife link you provided seems like a pretty flimsy knife. Not to insult your choice in knives or anything. I have used some of my friend's santoku's chopping, cutting, mincing etc..it seems fine to me. Though then again they took good care of their knives (hand sharpened and everything).

Perhaps it is just that model you do not like. That's what happened to my other friend which used a cheap knife, then when used a 'better' knife, felt a difference.

On a side note...the top of henckle blades tend to be really annoying on your index knuckles when using it for a prolonged time. Very rigid/sharp, at least for my feel.

Jim

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Chad, I wonder if you care to digress a bit on the santoku. In reading kitchenmage's post up there, I was reminded that hardly anyone I know really likes these knives to use -- not in Western cooking, anyway. Rather, most people who have one seem to like the way they look[i/] and buy one on that basis.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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I'm no expert..But the knife link you provided seems like a pretty flimsy knife. Not to insult your choice in knives or anything. I have used some of my friend's santoku's chopping, cutting, mincing etc..it seems fine to me. Though then again they took good care of their knives (hand sharpened and everything).

Perhaps it is just that model you do not like. That's what happened to my other friend which used a cheap knife, then when used a 'better' knife, felt a difference.

On a side note...the top of henckle blades tend to be really annoying on your index knuckles when using it for a prolonged time. Very rigid/sharp, at least for my feel.

Jim

Jim,

I know it's a cheap knife, but I was sort of hoping it would give me a feel for the style before I spend real money. Most knives, even the cheap ones, are good fresh out of the package and this one has maybe 30 minutes of use on it. The knives I use all the time are sharpened by someoneElse with stones and things, and a Santoku I use would be, too. But this one hasn't made it that far.

It sounds like you have used a Santoku that you like. Care to share what?

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Chad, I wonder if you care to digress a bit on the santoku.  In reading kitchenmage's post up there, I was reminded that hardly anyone I know really likes these knives to use -- not in Western cooking, anyway.  Rather, most people who have one seem to like the way they look[i/] and buy one on that basis.

I think it may be the umbrella drink of knives.

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KitchenMage- Well, currently I don't have a santoku yet, still trying to find one suitable. Or rather mustard up the cash to pay for one rather. Currently use a chef's knife, 8" (a shun). Though often times I do not find it necessary to have such a big blade for most of my needs. As well as some things that bother me sometimes, like the long handle.

Couple post's above, I mentioned three I was really looking at. Though perhaps would eventually get the Misono UX-10 knife (santoku). I just find it to be suitable to my needs, not really for look of it or anything. Plus, one benefit of santokus is the wideness of the blade, really helps with people that have larger hands/knuckles which often times bump into the cutting board.

Jim

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Chad, what a great thread. I hope you are still popping in to answer questions.

<snippity doo dah>

But here's the deal. I don't like it. I want to like it. I feel like I should like it. But, so far, not so much. . . . As someoneElse asked the other night, as he tried and discarded the Santoku for the nth time, "What's the point?" Sadly, I had no answer....

Can you help me shine a little light on what I am missing? Is there a Santoku technique primer somewhere?

Chad, I wonder if you care to digress a bit on the santoku.  In reading kitchenmage's post up there, I was reminded that hardly anyone I know really likes these knives to use -- not in Western cooking, anyway.  Rather, most people who have one seem to like the way they look and buy one on that basis.

Thanks! Happy to keep answering questions for a bit. Sam, I hope you and kitchenmage don't mind me combining questions.

While the santoku is relatively new to western markets, the blade style itself has been around for a while. Wusthof (among others) may claim to have introduced the knife known as a santoku, but the Japanese wabocho has been around for centuries in a variety of very similar blade shapes.

In a culture that chops a lot of vegetables -- and has a much longer knife dedicated to proteins -- a short, wide blade like the santoku can make a lot of sense. In the Japanese kitchen, fish duty goes to the long, narrow yanagiba, a highly specialized knife* with a lot more reach than the santoku. In my opinion, both parts of that equation have to be true for the santoku/wabocho shape to be really useful. In tight quarters and small kitchens, the shorter blade can be an asset, and the width of the blade is great for smashing garlic and scooping your freshly cut veggies. Note the tall, squarish shape of the Chinese cleaver as an extreme example of the point I'm making.

In a western kitchen, however, we don't have the same level of specialization. And we eat a lot more meat. A longer knife generally works better. If your knife won't reach all the way across a pot roast, for example, dinner preparation becomes a lot more work than it should be. Most santokus don't pass that test. In my opinion they make great backup knives to a good chef's knife but rarely have the versatility to be the primary knife in your kitchen. A good chef's knife, or (even better) a good gyuto is a much effective and useful choice.

In short, I share your "meh" attitude. I gave away or sold all of the santokus I collected for the book. For a vegetarian, however, or someone who does a lot of Asian cooking, a santoku might be perfect. A nakiri or Chinese cleaver might be even more perfect.

Chad

*Please note, I'm generalizing like crazy here. I cannot capture the breadth of Asian cuisine, cooking styles, and cutlery history in a couple of paragraphs.


Edited by Chad (log)

Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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Hi Chad;

First, thank you ... for this wondeful book and Q&A and for the preceding course on sharpening. What little I know, I owe to you ...

Wonder if I could get a quick opinion. Most of my cooking is vegetarian and my knife collection is almost entirely Global, augmented with a Kyocera ceramic and a MAC Santoku. I don't have a Japanese style blade -- these are all Western style -- and I'm thinking of an usuba as my first ... looking on the Korin website (since they're having a 15% sale), I was thinking of the Masamoto Shiro-ko Hongasumi Kamagata Usuba (19.5 cm).

Since you've said the quality of modern machine-made knives, has improved so much, am I in a bad price range (around $300, so more than $100, where you defined basic quality as being excellent, but below $1,000, where one is getting a true work of art) for what will be the knife I am likely to make my mistakes on (eg, learning how to sharpen a Japanese style blade)? I am ordering the Korin DVD on sharpening, but is there a better choice for a first knife?

Regards,

JasonZ


JasonZ

Philadelphia, PA, USA and Sandwich, Kent, UK

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Wonder if I could get a quick opinion. Most of my cooking is vegetarian and my knife collection is almost entirely Global, augmented with a Kyocera ceramic and a MAC Santoku. I don't have a Japanese style blade -- these are all Western style -- and I'm thinking of an usuba as my first ... looking on the Korin website (since they're having a 15% sale), I was thinking of the Masamoto Shiro-ko Hongasumi Kamagata Usuba (19.5 cm).

Since you've said the quality of modern machine-made knives, has improved so much, am I in a bad price range (around $300, so more than $100, where you defined basic quality as being excellent, but below $1,000, where one is getting a true work of art) for what will be the knife I am likely to make my mistakes on (eg, learning how to sharpen a Japanese style blade)? I am ordering the Korin DVD on sharpening, but is there a better choice for a first knife?

Regards,

JasonZ

Jason, you don't mind jumping into the deep end, do you? :biggrin:

That Masamoto is very nice. Usubas are generally restaurant style knives. They have very thick spines and are single beveled (kataba), as you already know. The usuba is especially well suited for katsuramuki technique. Home cooks usually use a nakiri, which is thinner and is double beveled (ryoba).

gallery_8529_2752_13209.jpg

In this image, the top knife is a Korin shiro-ko honkasumi usuba. The bottom knife is a Murray Carter SFGZ nakiri.

If the point is to learn to use and sharpen a Japanese single beveled knife, you might be going overboard with the Masamoto. The Korin branded honkasumi knives are made by Suisin, a highly respected knife manufacturer. The Korin shiro-ko honkasumi kamagata usuba in the same length will save you about $100. As you can tell from the photo, I had that model in the blunt-tipped style. I enjoyed it very much, but at 210mm it was a little too long. I think your choice of 195mm makes a lot more sense. Korin actually recommends their shiro-ko kasumi knives as an introduction to traditional Japanese knives. I don't know who makes this series for Korin, but the kamagata usuba is under $100. Note the lack of hon in the description. Kasumi is the style of forging and manufacture. Hon (true) generally indicates a higher quality level. So this would be Korin's bargain brand.

By the way, all of these knives are hand forged in the kasumi style rather than being machined.

Let us know how it turns out!

Chad


Edited by Chad (log)

Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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I too have a dislike for Santoku's. My first knife was a Santoku and I was even stupid enough to spend extra for the dimples. I sold it on Ebay shortly after buying my 2nd knife...a Gyuto. My main gripe is that they rarely get much longer than a petty knife. I prefer to have a longer knife like a gyuto where the most typical length bought is a 240mm or 9.5 inches. With the size of veggies getting to the proportions of those on the Woody Allen movie Sleeper, I'd rather have more knife than I might use on a regular basis. Then when the additional length is needed, I already have it.


My Photography: Bob Worthington Photography

 

My music: Coronado Big Band
 

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Chad,

Thank you for taking the time. I will have to get a copy of your book.

I am a big fan of mid priced gear. I am the same with kitchen cutlery.

My collection consists of a Chicago Cutlery 10" chefs, two Chicago bread knives, a couple of Chicago parers, a Sam's Club white handled Tramontina Santuko, 4 Sam's Club white handled Tramontina parers, a Sam's Club white handled fillet, a Sam's Club white handled boning, and a Kershaw Wasabi 6.5" Nakiri.

While pretty plain and not as sexy as a block full of Carters, Shuns, or Japanese customs they are all razor sharp and slice anything thrown their way with great precision and efficiency.

I am of the opinion that kept sharp even the cheapest blade will out perform more expensive cutlery that is neglected and dull.

I use a GATCO professional kit to which I have added their two finest finishing hones. I polish and refine using leather strops loaded with Sears polishing compound. I do not steel my blades. I prefer to strop when maintenance is needed.

My humble kitchen cutlery:

HPIM0373.jpg

HPIM0378.jpg

Again thanks.

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I have four Wusthof knives; an 8" chef, a santoku, a super slicer, and a paring knife. Each has a place in my kitchen.

The santoku has a thinner blade and I like it for chopping softer vegetables like celery, onions, etc. It's better for tomatoes than the chef. The chef is my oldest knife, however, and needs to be sharpened, so that may be a factor.

For meat, carrots, potatoes, and other items that offer more resistance, the chef is just fine. I like both for herbs. If I had to choose just one, however, it would be the chef.

The super slicer is just wonderful when a serrated knife is needed. And the paring knife performs quite adequately for tasks appropriate to a paring knife.

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The super slicer is just wonderful when a serrated knife is needed

What is a "super slicer"? Is that just a slicer you nicknamed? Don't understand why you would use a slicer if a serrated is needed..

Jim

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The super slicer is just wonderful when a serrated knife is needed

What is a "super slicer"? Is that just a slicer you nicknamed? Don't understand why you would use a slicer if a serrated is needed..

Jim

Might be referring to one of these:

WÜSTHOF Super Slicer

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Very interesting..didn't know it had that name. Always just called it a slicer or serrated. Guess it kinda makes sense, sorta looks like a hybrid of the two.

Jim

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The super slicer is just wonderful when a serrated knife is needed

What is a "super slicer"? Is that just a slicer you nicknamed? Don't understand why you would use a slicer if a serrated is needed..

Might be referring to one of these:

WÜSTHOF Super Slicer

The Wusthof Super Slicer is pretty great. It is very similar to the Mac SB105 Bread Knife/Slicer. Both have scalloped edges rather than serrated edges. I prefer them to serrated knives. A scalloped edge is like a reversed serrated edge. Serrated edges have little pointy teeth with half-moon shaped concave grooves in-between. Scalloped edges have convex half-moons for the cutting edge with narrow, triangular grooves in between. A serrated edge will be more aggressive, but the scalloped edge will cut more smoothly and is more versatile. "Cooks Illustrated" didn't like the Mac bread knife I recommend because it didn't bite well enough for them. True. A scalloped edge will skate a little on a hard crust before biting in. However it won't rip the crumb the way a serrated edge will. Try cutting pound cake with a serrated edge, much less getting double duty out of it as a ham slicer. The serrated edge will shred both. A scalloped edge won't.

gallery_8529_2752_46081.jpg

Scalloped edge, Granton edge, Serrated edge

Take care,

Chad


Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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This book sounds great! I should pick up a copy. Thanks for providing an experpt and for indulging us in this extensive Q&A session.

I've been "conflicted" about which way to go with knives. Stick to the Foerschners I've been using (I have a chef's knife, boning knife, and paring knife from them) or go for the really sweet looking Shun or a nice MAC knife? The way it seems to me is that you can't talk knives without talking about eqipment to sharpen and maintain them. A seemingly easy to use auotmatic electric sharpener or a fancy manual one.

If I stick with the restaurant supply store Forschners, is an easy to use Chef's Choice electric sharpener OK? I would assume it would destroy a pricey Shun or MAC were I to buy one of those knives. Would a fancy manual sharpener (like the Edge Pro Apex) couple with a ceramic "steel" be overkill for the Forschners? If I ever did spring for the Shun or a MAC, I would probably keep the Forschers. No reason to get rid of them. I like them alot.

So, the question is, if I think I might get a Shun or MAC in the future, should I spring for the Apex and a ceramic "steel" now and use them on the Forschners?


Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"
jmeeker@eGullet.org

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This book sounds great!  I should pick up a copy.  Thanks for providing an experpt and for indulging us in this extensive Q&A session.

I've been "conflicted" about which way to go with knives.  Stick to the Foerschners I've been using (I have a chef's knife, boning knife, and paring knife from them) or go for the really sweet looking Shun  or a nice MAC knife?    The way it seems to me is that you can't talk knives without talking about eqipment to sharpen and maintain them.  A seemingly easy to use auotmatic electric sharpener or a fancy manual one.

If I stick with the restaurant supply store Forschners, is an easy to use Chef's Choice electric sharpener OK?  I would assume it would destroy a pricey Shun or MAC were I to buy one of those knives.  Would a fancy manual sharpener (like the Edge Pro Apex) couple with a ceramic "steel" be overkill for the Forschners?  If I ever did spring for the Shun or a MAC, I would probably keep the Forschers.  No reason to get rid of them. I like them alot.

So, the question is, if I think I might get a Shun or MAC in the future, should  I spring for the Apex and a ceramic "steel" now and use them on the Forschners?

I understand that the three stage Chef's Choice machines are good as long as you only use the third stage.

I would go for the Edge Pro if that is in your budget. I use a cheaper rod guided system. I took a dead dull Opinel No.8 to push cutting paper sharpness in 15 minutes yesterday. I went through 6 stone grits and two strops. With the rod guided systems you are only limited by the angles available. With the Edge Pros the angles are virtually unlimited.

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Chad,

Thanks so much for all of your work. Your book is speeding along its way to my house -- but I wondered if you (or someone else) would answer a question. You said, in an earlier post,

The Glestain has an unusual convex front and nearly flat back bevel.

How would you sharpen this to retain its factory-created bevel? I have no problem with the Korin suggested two-penny three-penny method on other Japanese knives -- but the edge on the Glestain is pretty different. Is this a place to use sandpaper on the mousepad (for the convex front)?

Thanks again for your wonderful posts,

cassady

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So, the question is, if I think I might get a Shun or MAC in the future, should  I spring for the Apex and a ceramic "steel" now and use them on the Forschners?

Santa brought me an Apex last December and I have been very happy with it. If you can swing it, go for it.


Porthos Potwatcher
The Once and Future Cook

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