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Choosing a Knife Set


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"Many of the very best are machined, or made by what's called "stock removal." My chef's knife, which is the most expensive thing I've bought for the kitchen, was made this way. "

Stock removal is very popular among custom knifemakers since Bob Loveless (recently deceased) perfected the technique and quality in the mid 20th century because it requires very little equipment but a steady hand for using a grinding wheel from a blank of steel. With the added processes today of jet cutting and other methods, a custom knife maker can order a blank delivered in just about in final form today. Heat treating and finishing then follow for a very nice blade. In the custom knife world, forging, popularized by Bill Moran is usually looked upon as the premier technique requiring skills considerably more advanced and complicated than 'stock removal'. Whether or not one method offers a superior blade is open to discussion but not for this Post.

Among kitchen knives, forged knives are generally much more durable than stamped blades because of the integral bolsters and handle extending to the end of the knife. A forged knife starts off as a piece of steel that is hammered while very hot to close to a final shape with usually an integral bolster. A stamped blade is just that, stamped from a large sheet of steel and then usually inserted into a handle of some sort of sturdy material with no bolster. Custom made chef's knife's are usually one off's as the custom maker cannot supply a complete range of knives for a set.

I have no custom made European chef's knives because invariably they are not long enough (I like a minimum 10" and sometimes 12") and one cannot get matched knives.

"A forschner chef knife will actually outperform a more expensive Wusthoff, but it won't hold its edge any longer."

I believe this is an opinion and not fact. Try using a thin Forschner on a large cabbage or squash and then try a 12" Wusthof regular or 'Heavy' Chef knife and see which one performs better. Wusthof also makes 10" and 7" Cordon Bleu chef knives that have thinner blades and are lighter than their 'Classic' counterparts. For delicate work these blades as as good if not superior to any thin stamped chef's knife. I have all the above and use them where the task requires them.

"So getting back to the original topic since, there is no way I would recommend a custom chef's knife for yourself, get what you like. either stamped or forged, they will work well.-Dick

Edited by budrichard (log)
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Prediction: Prawncrackers will be along any minute to ask if we've scared off another newbie.

Budrichard, overwhelmingly I respect your posts.

Commentary: I thought Chad Ward put the 'forged v stamped' argument to bed, even in his tutorial on sharpening here on eG. Summary: it's marketing-speak and there's nothing in it. I believe even most of the "gee-whizz-Japanese" twice-the-price-of-equivalent-European-brand-knives-of-the-same-standard are stamped. IIRC, even the tang-reaches-along-most-of-the-handle rule of thumb is out of date; how it's linked with forging v stamping, I don't understand at all; and why it's better than a shorter tang well-bound (like in a Japanese katana, for example) is yet another mystery.

(Let the games commence. Again).

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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Knife people use the term "performance" in a specialized way. What it comes down to is the ease with which it will go through a given material.

This means a paper-thin gyuto has better performance than a chunky German knife. It does not mean, and is not intended to mean, that the gyuto is a superior tool for every possible job.

EDIT: Yeah, forging doesn't guarantee a better knife, and there's plenty of stamped high-end jobs. But it is also true that the really cheap crappy supermarket knives are all stamped. I think this is where the forging=quality myth got its start.

Edited by Dakki (log)

This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

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Knife people use the term "performance" in a specialized way. What it comes down to is the ease with which it will go through a given material.

This means a paper-thin gyuto has better performance than a chunky German knife. It does not mean, and is not intended to mean, that the gyuto is a superior tool for every possible job.

Yes, thank you. This is the sense that I was using. And in this sense, a thin, stamped knife like a forschner (if very sharp) will outperform a big forged Wusthoff when going through a cabbage. The only thing that makes cutting cabbage difficult is that they're big and rigid, so knives tend to wedge. Thin kinves wedge less. My gyuto slips through a cabbage almost without resistance, except for the hardest part down by the stem.

The forschner will do worse than the wusthoff at tasks that are more brutish, like cracking lobster shells, cutting off fish and chicken heads, chopping chocolate etc... These are tasks wher weight and thicker profile behind the edge are your friend.

I also like a heavier, German-shaped knife for the few tasks that are better served by old fashioned rock-chopping. I love my honkin' 8" chef's knife for this stuff.

Notes from the underbelly

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I bought a "set" but by set I mean 3 knives (8" chef, paring, utility), block, shears and steel. But it saved $100+ to buy them together. In my limited experience, you can buy a $15 serrated bread knife that will work fine. I bought the Shuns. I won't lie, I got them partly because they look cool - I think most knives look terrible, but the weight is good for me too and they hold an edge for a long time. I'm very happy with them.

I also was "required" to buy a kit when I did a the Basic Culinary Techniques class at the FCI a couple years ago. The knives are pretty terrible - plastic handles, etc but it did include a fish filleting knife which is nice to have with its bending blade and a big granton (?) knife which comes in really useful for nice cuts in big chunks of meat.

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Just my $.02, I owned and used a 10" chef's way back in culinary school but when I started in the high end kitchens everyone was just rocking an 8 inch chef's. So to this day I've never bought a 10", 8" is perfect for me as my work horse.

Kinda funny, I think i'm quite the opposite. Back in the day I swore by my 8", couldn't see myself ever going bigger. Now that i'm in higher end places, i'm a lot happier with my custom 10" for pretty much everything. I actually can't stand lighter knives, I tend to like something with a good amount of heft. Seems to work out well enough though, even my precision cuts all tend to be better than people I tend to work with flaunting their 210mm's. Not to say I don't use my smaller chefs, but it's rare these days.

Cheese - milk's leap toward immortality.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I'm going to go against the grain a bit on this one. A lot of people have ideas of what a set is: a big wood knife block sold at Macy's for instance. but I think the Forschner set of 4 basic knives is a wonderful set for only $70. Link below (but for some reason today it isn't working properly).

http://www.cutleryandmore.com/forschner_knives.htm

I would also add that getting the ceramic Idahone steel to keep these knives 'in shape' is a fine combo and that the whole mess will only run you about $100.

I'm not pushing these knives, but I have just found them to be good work horses if maintained well. Personally, I would go with the poster above and get a Tojiro DP. I gave this knife to a friend (chef) of mine and he loves it -- though it now needs sharpening.

There are a lot of chefs that use step-up Japanese knives in the professional kitchen, but probably more do not. It all depends upon a person's dedication to maintenance.

I like to say things and eat stuff.

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