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Kitchen Knives: Preferences, Tips, General Care


mamster
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OK, to go with the pots and pans thread, here's the knife thread.  Which knives do you really use and who makes them?

I only use three knives regularly in the kitchen, and only one every day: an 8" Henckels chef's knife.  The other two are a 4.5" Wusthof utility knife (I find this more versatile than the typical 3" parer) and a long, curved Messermeister bread knife.

My friends often ask if they have to spend ๠ for a knife.  I tell them I've heard good things about the Victorinox and Tramontina brands but haven't tried them myself.  Have you?

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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The Forschner/Victorinox knives are very good and are used by many food service professionals. The benefits of more expensive knives are marginal, though if you use a knife a lot they begin to matter.

Even putting these cheaper knives aside, you can get a very good drop-forged German knife in the 8" size for less than โ if you don't need it to say Wusthof or Henckels on it. Zabar's for example has a line of knives that come from Solingen and are pretty close to the expensive German brands in quality, and the 8" costs ู.98.

I use only two knives on a regular basis: A Wusthof Classic 10" Chef's Knife and 3.5" Chef's Paring Knife. I even use the 10" for bread -- I have little use for serrated knives as they tear rather than cut. After working with the 10" knife for a few years now, I find that when I pick up an 8" it doesn't feel sufficient for serious cutting.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I never planned on shopping at the MOMA Design Store for chef's knives, but I did need some new knives badly and I stumbled across a large discount (20%) for a set of three knives by Komin Yamada. Managed to cut myself on one of them while trying them for heft and balance in the store, but concealed the wound by jamming one hand casually into my pocket. So far, they're great. I am a keen butcher, and I have enormously increased my speed and efficiency at dismantling large and small birds with the chefs knife. The vegetable knife, when held delicately with both hands and used with a guillotine motion, produces very finely minced onions, herbs, etc.

Take a look (if this doesn't work, they're under cutlery at the moma.org online store):

http://www.momastore.org/is-bin/INTERSHOP....AAADov92k%2eGFS

Otherwise, I find it hard to give clear Fat-Guy-approved specs for the knives I like, as they have just kind of accumulated over the years. For the same reason, I am not going to embarrass myself by listing a bizarre motley of pots and pans on the other thread!

(Edited by Wilfrid at 1:46 pm on Nov. 26, 2001)

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Forschner/Victorinox chef knife is rated first by "Cooks Illustrated" among knives under โ category.

Friedr. Dick came second, and since it was available in local store ( you need to mail order the Forschner), this is what i have. I have no trouble to cut butternut squash, so i'm quite happy with it. And it's 8in.

I use a paring knife from Oxo, which is OK

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Wilfrid, those look pretty much like the standard Global knives used by many people. I don't like them because they're too soft and I prefer a knife with a bolster and a non-metal handle. But many people swear by them.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I knew I should have resisted this thread.  I have standard knives?  How boring.  Actually, I may not have.  These are not soft; I have tried knives with flexible blades before, and I don't get on with them either.  These are rigid.  I was hesitant about the absence of a bolster, but I am getting used to that.

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Here are your knives:

m_41577.jpg

Here is a Global knife:

knife.jpg

I think the Globals I used were the extra-flexible ones. I'll have to check out some of the normal ones. Still, I like my bolster.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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The knives I use most often are:

1.  the typical 10" German high carbon, no stain chef's knife.  I find I prefer the feel of the Henckels molded black rubber handle--but it's not any more functional a knife than any of the other German knives;

2.  cheap, disposable Victorinox 3" paring knives, the kind with the red plastic handle;

3.  a firm 12" serrated knife by F. Dick (1037-30);

4.  a less firm, somewhat flexible 14" serrated knife by Forschner/Victorinox (455W-14) about half the thickness of the F. Dick blade.  

Certain things just seem to cut better with the lighter, flexible blade, like slicing large diameter cakes horizontally.  Of course, some pastry chefs swear by their metal spatulas as much as their knives, which can cost as much:  my favs are a flexible 8" straight stainless spatula by F. Dick (1331-23); a firm 8" bent spatula by "I'm not sure anymore--it wore off"; and a flexible 11.5" bent st. st spatula by Deglon.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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Global knives v my knives?  I have confirmed that the Global range were indeed designed by Komin Yamada.  The particular example you posted actually looks different from the chef knife in my set: the blade is a different shape both at the tip and at the underside nearest the handle; also, the length to width ratio looks different.  But I have to say, my knives aren't bendy.  At all.  I mean, if you took hold of the tip of the blade, very carefully, and applied pressure, you would have great difficulty bending it.  Sounds like you have experienced much softer versions.

(Edited by Wilfrid at 4:46 pm on Nov. 26, 2001)

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I'm going to ask my chef friend, who hates Global knives, what his problem is with them. I'll report back.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Here's the problem I have with Global knives: Although the handle is textured, it is metal. If my hands are wet from slicing tomatoes or still have some oil from a marinade, I just don't trust them not to slip.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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I also have the non-bendy Globaloid knives and I agree with Wilfrid, tey have speeded up my cooking time a great deal. The only problems I have with them is the smallest knife is of little use and they a bit light for my taste. However my wife loves them for this reason.

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I'm just a housewife 'chef', but I've used my 8" Chef's Victorinox Fibrox almost every day for the last several years, and am very happy with it.   And my small serrated Victorinox is great for slicing tomatoes.  I also have a set of cutco knives that have served me pretty well over the last 28 years, and are still going strong, if you can believe it.  I aso use my 4" fancy German brand (can't read the name anymore) knife often.

Last year during a cooking class I asked chef Christine Keff of Flying Fish & Fandango in Seattle what is her favorite knife, and she said she likes Global, and that's what she was using.

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Here's what my chef friend had to say: "Global knives suck. They have hard ones and soft ones. The hard ones are too hard, the soft ones are too soft. The hard ones are a bitch to sharpen. They get messed up by water and detergent. They're brittle. The soft ones are flimsy. All of them have slippy handles and no bolster and they're too light. They suck. Get the Henckels with the rubbery handles. German knives kick butt."

I'm just reporting this.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Wait, which are the Henckels with the rubbery handles?  Mine is from the four-star series, with the molded plastic handles.  They're not nearly as slippery as metal, but they're not rubber, either.

As far as knife length goes, have you ever seen that Seinfeld episode with the woman with "man hands"?  I'm the opposite:  a tall man with little hands.  The 10" knife feels unwieldy.  If I were in the Army I'd be the guy saying, "This M-16 is too big.  Do you have an M-15-and-a-half or something?"

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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I don't know if this should be a new thread or not, but my major knife question pertains to sharpening.  My knifes are mostly Hendkles, a few Wurstoff.  I have gone from steels to ceramic to diamond sharpeners, and am now finding that even  diamond sharpeners are wearing out with annoying frequency.  I never cut against anything except wood, kill anyone in my kitchen who uses a good knife on marble, china or metal, and still find that I am constantly having to sharpen my knives. Any suggestions on both obtaining and maintaining an edge?

eGullet member #80.

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This could be another thread; if the discussion continues, somebody please do start one.

It doesn't sound to me as though you're sharpening your knives. It sounds as though you're honing them. Honing maintains an edge. It is done with a steel or other rod-like device, whatever that may be made of. Some of these label themselves as sharpeners, but they really aren't all that effective for anything but honing. And honing can only maintain an edge for so long. Even if you hone before every use of the knife, you'll need to sharpen every few months (or more often if you're a heavy user). Here's what a honing device usually looks like:

FV10rhs.gif

Sharpening, as the term implies, actually sharpens the edge through grinding the metal. It is done with a sharpening stone; in cases of very dull blades, it needs to be done with a succession of stones beginning with very coarse grit and ending with very fine grit -- and even with a leather strop if you're hardcore. Have you ever used a sharpening stone on your knives? If not, you haven't been sharpening them. Here's what a sharpening stone looks like:

oilstone.jpg

As for basic sharpening-stone technique, it's one of those things that is a lot easier to demonstrate than to describe, but I can get you some references on how best to do it -- or I can try to eke out an explanation myself. But let's establish first of all where you stand in the process.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Your diagnosis is most probably correct.  I used to use a stone on my knives, and somehow got seduced by ceramic and diamond "sharpeners".  I have taken my knives to professional sharpeners, but haven't been too impressed with their results.  I use my knives a lot, and I think properly, but they seem to "fail" much faster than I think they should.  Are you suggesting that I should simply go back to my stone/s?

eGullet member #80.

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Absolutely!

If your knives have become very dull, however, you'll need to start with a fairly gritty stone. The fine-grit stones are only useful if you maintain your edges through relatively frequent sharpening.

Most so-called professional knife sharpeners are charlatans. Try these people if you want to get a professional edge put back on your knives before you start your new program of home maintenance.

Here's a helpful site on sharpening. And here's another.

Once you've got your knives back into tip-top shape, be sure to follow a regular regimen of honing (before every use) and sharpening (as soon as you notice any edge deterioration).

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Mamster, I think he's talking about the five-star knives with the ergonomic polypropylene handles. Rubbery may be an overstatement. They're more the texture of in-line skate wheels.

Me, I prefer Wusthof or F. Dick. I also like the thinner French knives for precision work. Henckels are my least favorite of the pro-quality knives.

If you hold up a Henckels next to a Wusthof, it's pretty hard not to conclude immediately that the Wusthof is a superior product. It's more substantial, feels more balanced, and has a more intelligent blade shape conducive to the rocking motion so helpful for fine chopping. The Henckels blades are too narrow and triangular.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Quote: from Fat Guy on 5:51 am on Nov. 28, 2001

This could be another thread; if the discussion continues, somebody please do start one.

Here's what a honing device usually looks

Honing device? What's wrong with "Steel". Is a mug a Ceramic Hot Beverage Receptacle now too?

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What's the consensus re the three wheel diamond sharpener (electric) that Craig Claiborne used to shill.  I think it's called Chef's Choice.  It seems to work well on our German knives (mostly Henckels) every few months, with an occasional stroke of a steel every few days to hone them and keep them sharp....???

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Adam a/k/a Mr. Wise Guy: The category of "honing devices" includes more than steels. There are ceramics, and there are those things that look like boxes, and I'm sure there are other things. Too many people are under the impression that honing steels are sharpeners. Even more people seem to be under the impression that these other honing devices are sharpeners. Even some of the knife manufacturers and catalogs are guilty of mislabeling these products and failing to inform people of the distinction. The Henckels Web site, for example, inexcusibly refers to its steels as "sharpening steels" and lists them under the category of "sharpeners." But you can sit around for thirty years rubbing a knife on one of these things and you'll never sharpen it. And even if you could sharpen it with a steel, you wouldn't want to do so on a skinny cylindrical surface.

Sng Sling: The only consensus I can point to is that I don't know a single professional chef or serious knife person who uses one. There may be such people out there, but they can't be more than a tiny minority. The major flaw is that they can't sharpen the knife down near the bolster (the thing at the heel/base of the blade of a European-style knife). With a stone you can get a lot farther down towards the handle. Also, they strip away the knife's original geometry and require that you impose one specific geometry. Once you get really into sharpening, you'll want to choose your own angle; and you may not want the exact same angle along the entire length of the blade. The electric sharpeners also wear the knives down more than hand sharpening -- a factor if you plan to keep your knives for decades. They save a little time, but if you sharpen your knives regularly on a stone it's hardly a time-consuming activity. Knives only take a long time to sharpen by hand if you let them get dull. For the 贶 you spend on one of these, you're better off getting a couple more good knives.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Quote: from Fat Guy on 1:13 pm on Nov. 27, 2001

Get the Henckels with the rubbery handles. German knives kick butt.

I don't know.  I find the Henckel knives too heavy.  The bolster gets in the way, and the rubbery handles create too much friction.  Also, they can't decide whether to be too soft or too hard; they're sort of indecisive and annoying.  :wink:

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