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How Sharp Do You Need Your Kitchen Knives To Be?


dcarch
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That Konosuke is quite similar to the Ikkanshi Tadatsuna gyuto I've been using for past 5 or 6 years. It's my favorite style of knife, since the thin edge geometry lets it cut efficiently even after losing its fresh-off-the-stones magic. When it gets dull, it still works better than a heavy chef's knife ... except for the kinds of things a heavy chef's knife does better in the first place, like cutting tough, woody, stemmy things, beheading fish and chickens, chopping chocolate, etc.

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Notes from the underbelly

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I need/prefer my knives to be very sharp (scary sharp?). This past weekend I stropped my Konosuke HD2 of 1.25 years to a mirror finish and was able to perform the tomato test exactly as I did the day I got it. The knife is amazing and with proper stropping, I've never actually had to sharpen it on stones. It is unreal. I use it for produce and meat to whole watermelons and pineapples. There isn't much I don't use it for.

 

In my mind here are the benefits of having a very sharp knife:

 

A sharp knife makes me want to get in the kitchen more so than I already want to. It makes doing all of my prep an absolute joy. It makes everything look better as my cuts are more precise and even. It makes everything go quicker (and therefore even more enjoyable).

 

A sharp knife is one of the best parts about cooking. It removes any thought that cooking is a chore and continues to make cooking an enjoyable after work activity.

 

I disagree with the notion that crazy sharp knives are only for "hobbyist." If I gave my extremely sharp knife to my Mom, I doubt after using it she'd want to give it back.

 

p.s. the tomato test (not me, but what I do as well) -

 

 

Everything you said makes me think you are a "hobbyist", some one who is really into knives. 

 

Again, I can't remember a famous chef who puts as much attention as you do on knives.

 

dcarch

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I see nothing wrong w paying attention, as much attention as you enjoy, to your knives.

 

this has nothing to do at all w fame, nor Chef-ey ness.

 

but a personal respect and enjoyment of your tools certainly must carry over to The Pot in some way.

 

Im not a hobbyist but enjoy taking care of my knives with in reason.

 

I dont trot them out to 'Shows' and make sure no one else fiddles with them in The Kitchen, unless they understand them and

 

enjoy them.  SomeTimes a Large Non-Refundable deposit is required though.

Edited by rotuts (log)
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Everything you said makes me think you are a "hobbyist", some one who is really into knives. 

 

Again, I can't remember a famous chef who puts as much attention as you do on knives.

 

dcarch

 

 

Wow. I can't remember reading a more condescending post. I'm shocked. You don't know me. You don't know who I am, what my kitchen looks like, or anything else about me. I simply posted about how I enjoy my knife.

 

Years ago I got a set of Henkels 4 star knives. Great knives. Still have them, still keep them sharp. Why? Because I care about my things (and for safety). After using them a lot and my wife using them a lot I decided I wanted ONE really nice knife to use so that I could "beat up" my chef knife a little (not stress about cutting bones a little bit when deboning chickens, things like that, etc.) so I researched and ended up with the Konosuke HD2.

 

Then I thought, you know what, if I am going to own such a wonderful knife, I better learn how to keep it sharp. So I did. Why? Because I care about my things (and safety).

 

And that's it. It's the only japanese knife I own, it is the only "nicer" knife I own. I'm thinking about getting a 150mm petty knife as I find myself wishing I had one the more I work in my kitchen, so I guess I might be owning 2 japanese knives. Jeez, what will the world think of me...

 

I wouldn't call myself a hobbyist because I own and take care of a nice knife. I also own an assortment of copper pans that, shocker, I take care of. Oh, and a nice end grain cutting board that, shocker again, I take care of. Oh and I buy good quality produce, meats, and fish, because I care about what I cook.

 

I guess if anything, cooking is my, wait for it.........HOBBY! Who would have thought someone on eGullet would make cooking their hobby.

 

And the argument that famous chefs don't use nice knives like a Konosuke so anyone who does must be a hobbyist is utterly ridiculous. You honestly don't think that Grant Achatz, Thomas Keller, David Chang, Sean Brock, and the like don't keep their knives extremely sharp? That is the first rule of being a competent cook; taking care of your equipment and keeping your knives sharp. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that Morimoto probably has some pretty freaking sharp Japanese knives...

 

Why the chefs need to be famous as a qualifier is beyond me, but if that is how you judge chefs, then ok, I don't want to assume anything as I don't know you.

 

I apologize if I'm coming off a little brusque, but as I read your reply, for you to just completely write off what I said and make assumptions based on how I answered the question "how sharp do you need your kitchen knives to be", was just completely ridiculous and I felt the need to respond.

 

I'm sure, as I've seen hundreds of your posts and can tell you are a very competent cook, that you take care of your cooking equipment in all of its forms. I do too. I like to cook and cooking is more fun when the things I have perform well/as they should. It helps me perform well too, and that helps my food taste better and my wife much happier. After all, she is married to someone who buys Japanese knives.

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I seen a few on-line that have a thing . . . 10-15 hours polishing the bevel on glass with 500,000 grit pastes, pictures of newpaper print reflected on the bevel....  and they're going to cut something with it?

 

K.C. Ma was fond of edges that would cut 1 mm slices of huge bundles of chives - so sharp he said the slices would stay fresh for a week in the fridge.  okay.  my definition of fresh green stuff does not include a week's worth of pre-prepped stuff, but that's just me.

 

the sushi types are fond of, and rightly so, very very sharp knives.  who wants a chunk of raggedy fish slice?

 

my personal favorite tho is the poster who bragged his knife was such fine metal that they could slice up three apples before "going back to the stones."  me?  my idea of good metal is a knife I can slice up three bushels of apples before it needs attention.

 

but that's just me.

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I seen a few on-line that have a thing . . . 10-15 hours polishing the bevel on glass with 500,000 grit pastes, pictures of newpaper print reflected on the bevel....  and they're going to cut something with it?

 

K.C. Ma was fond of edges that would cut 1 mm slices of huge bundles of chives - so sharp he said the slices would stay fresh for a week in the fridge.  okay.  my definition of fresh green stuff does not include a week's worth of pre-prepped stuff, but that's just me.

 

the sushi types are fond of, and rightly so, very very sharp knives.  who wants a chunk of raggedy fish slice?

 

my personal favorite tho is the poster who bragged his knife was such fine metal that they could slice up three apples before "going back to the stones."  me?  my idea of good metal is a knife I can slice up three bushels of apples before it needs attention.

 

but that's just me.

 

agreed, some people tend to be knife enthusiasts who tend to cook rather than cooks who enjoy sharp knives.

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I bought a bone in NY strip for a beef stir fry.  ten minutes ago I boned it out, trimmed out the gristle, and sliced it to slithereens for stir fry.

 

one single draw cut pass per slither.  8" Wuestie Chef which I took to 21' on my EdgePro and sees a steel every time out of the block.

 

it's sharp enough I don't even feel it when I manage to slice myself....

 

I have trouble reading the newspaper reflected on the bevel - the words are backwards..... so I just settle for sharp.

Edited by AlaMoi (log)
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Wow. I can't remember reading a more condescending post. I'm shocked. You don't know me. You don't know who I am, what my kitchen looks like, or anything else about me. I simply posted about how I enjoy my knife.

 

Sorry, you take that as an insult. It was meant as a compliment.

 

dcarch

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Here's a frame to the question. If you were a normal Japanese home cook, and always used knives that had very low edge bevels, as low as 15 degrees inclusive, and cheap, would you be considered a "hobbyist" if you thought chef worthy blades could have an inclusive angle off 40 or larger? Could you call yourself a chef using knives like that, and still respect yourself?

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I am a home cook who went from basic barely sharp knives European knives to very sharp knives. Am I a knife enthusiasts? Probably. When I first got into sharpening and J-knives I might have thought of myself as more knife enthusiast but now I don't look at knife message boards since I've learned a little from them and feel a little knowledgable enough to keep my knives in good shape.

I consider myself more home cook than knife nut. Sharp edges have improved my prep work and that's a good thing. I don't like to feel much resistance when cutting product. My cuts are cleaner and more uniform and my food looks better and that makes me enjoy my food a bit more. I'm okay with that

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So I got some herbs from my garden, separated them into two groups. I cut one group with a relatively sharp knife, and another with my hair splitting sharp yanagiba. 

 

I am not sure i can see any difference after four days.

 

dcarch

 

sharp knife cut.jpg

day one.jpg

day 2.jpg

day 3.jpg

day 4.jpg

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

K.C. Ma was fond of edges that would cut 1 mm slices of huge bundles of chives - so sharp he said the slices would stay fresh for a week in the fridge.  okay.  my definition of fresh green stuff does not include a week's worth of pre-prepped stuff, but that's just me.

 

 

K.C. taught me how to cut, so I think I can speak to this. He didn't keep chives in the fridge as a matter of course; it was a demonstration. The idea being that if they stay fresh for days, they'll definitely stay fresh for a few hours. Which allows you to cook more efficiently: instead of the European method of cutting your herbs at the last possible instant (during service when a million other things are going on), cut them first, when your knife is at its sharpest. There's no penalty if the knife is truly sharp.

Notes from the underbelly

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I have had the benefit of several careers, including among others, carpentry, a stint one summer in a fish market and several years in the restaurant kitchen. When it comes to the sharpness of a blade being crucial, I always think of carpentry first, the blade of a plane, in particular. We would regularly spend hours at night on chisels and plane blade edges and hold informal competitions. The test was how easily you could shave your arm with the blade. In the restaurant butcher shop, the test was how easily you could shave noodle width slices off of a sheet of thin paper. In the fish market, a sharp fillet knife was important, but also of interest is the fact that when skinning fish, a too sharp knife was a disadvantage and we would use the steel at a steep angle to intentionally dull the knife for the purpose. In my own kitchen, I still pride myself in sharpening my knives and can feel and hear the bumps and nicks in the knife edge by the sound and feel of the interaction between the blade and steel. I know when it's time to spend an hour or so with the stone. Like the tomato test already documented, my test, if I can easily shave the non-stem end off of a tomato, it's sharp enough for my needs and I know I can do whatever I have to with the blade.

 

HC

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In the fish market, a sharp fillet knife was important, but also of interest is the fact that when skinning fish, a too sharp knife was a disadvantage and we would use the steel at a steep angle to intentionally dull the knife for the purpose.

 

The guy who used to be the fish butcher at Le Bernardin in NYC (and maybe still is) used to talk about this. He was one of these near superhuman kitchen workers, who needed to be replaced by two or three guys on his days off. He cut everything perfectly without any waste. He talked about the right degree of sharpness ... too dull and and the cuts were rough; too sharp, and when filleting certain kinds of fish the knife would sever the pin bones rather than sliding the flesh off of them (if I remember correctly).

 

This does seem to be technique-specific. Japanese fish butchers use a deba, which is single-beveled and traditionally extremely sharp, except at the heel where it's given a back-bevel to withstand cleavering through bones. But in Japan the approach to butchering fish is completely different and so the concerns are different as well. I suspect Japanese-style butchering is a slower, more involved process than what they use at Le Bernardin.

Notes from the underbelly

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  • 3 weeks later...

So I got some herbs from my garden, separated them into two groups. I cut one group with a relatively sharp knife, and another with my hair splitting sharp yanagiba. 

 

I am not sure i can see any difference after four days.

 

A picture I took this weekend at out picnic lunch, of an apple slice.  Apple was cored with an apple corer (a pretty new one, so as sharp as it will ever get.).  The slice was made with a sharp knife.  Pretty clear difference after about four hours in zip lock bag.  apple-slice-brown.jpg

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A picture I took this weekend at out picnic lunch, of an apple slice.  Apple was cored with an apple corer (a pretty new one, so as sharp as it will ever get.).  The slice was made with a sharp knife.  Pretty clear difference after about four hours in zip lock bag.  apple-slice-brown.jpg

 

That is to be expected.

 

I would not call a corer a cutting tool. It is so dull that the act of coring basically crushes the cells, not cuts thru the cells.

 

dcarch

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