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Kitchen Knives: Preferences, Tips, General Care

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Dakki - thank you, thank you!

From what I've read, I think I do prefer Japanese knives.

In the case of a gyuto and santoku, what should I look for when I'm buying? Other than the handle being comfortable in my hand, what materials are easy to maintain, last long, etc.? Is there something I should pay attention to in terms of the construction of the knives? Are there different types of stainless steel and what are the pros and cons?

Though I grew up with a grandfather who owns a butcher shop in Hong Kong and relatives (other than my parents who don't cook) all using cleavers, I'm definitely not use to them. So, I think my plan will be a gyuto and a santoku.

Anything I should pay special attention when getting craving/slicing/paring knives?

I guess I do want some guidance in term of brands. I just looked up stainless gyuto and saw knives with a wide range of prices. Frankly, I can't tell the difference between the $100 knives and the $400 knives. I don't quite want to rely on just reading the company's description. Maybe a few good brands that I can look into so I have somewhere to start.

Knife blocks - how are they different than knife trays? Sorry, I'm totally inexperience. If I do decide to buy a block, what should I look for? How would I know if they will work with my knives? Any difference in term of different kind of wood or other materials?

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The Wusthof shears that separate for cleaning are cheap and very good, they hold an edge and will cut almost anything, up to an including pipe strapping - I have done it.

Others can give you more advice than me about most knives. I don't believe in sets because I like some types by one maker and others, etc.

I can tell you that the very best bread knife I have ever used is the very inexpensive serrated one sold at Smart & Final, white handle, made by Dexter - Russell. It will cut very hard crusty breads as well as angel food cakes and maintains a sharp edge with no attention at all. It has a 12 inch blade.

I have bread knives that cost ten to twenty times as much and that do not work as well.


Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

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I really need some help, quickly! We've been waiting for our visa for a while and it just got approved last week. So, we're moving to Australia in January. Before doing so, I really want to get new knives.

I recently purchased some "wow" knives.

This is what I learned during my quest for knives:

1) It doesn't matter where you live. Your knives can be shipped. Don't sweat your address.

2) Choosing a knife without trying it first is damned near useless. This is why it's good to be in the industry -- you can ask to try coworker's knives. (However, you can buy super-premium knives and try them out -- knowing you can sell them for 90+% of the sales price if you don't like them. Provided you don't somehow ruin them during the "trial" phase. If you don't mind the depreciation, you can try knives that way.)

3) Knowing how to REALLY sharpen a knife is far more important at your stage of the game.

My advice? Buy whet stones and sharpen your current knives. Change the bevel. From the sound of it, you've given up on these knives anyway, so use them to hone your sharpening techniques.

Then go knife shopping.


Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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ScoopKW - if I have the time, I would do what you suggested. Yes, I can get knives in Australia, but I won't have time to. I won't be bringing any knives I own currently because they just aren't worth shipping over. I need to have something once I move over. I'm moving to a brand new city that I've never visited. I don't even have friends or family in that city. To have to scramble to find a store to test out knives just isn't going work. Also, I have a lot to do once I'm there that purchasing knives will not be a priority. If I don't get good knives now, I'll end up just buying a cheap set and probably won't revisit getting good knives for a while. I have some money to do so now, if I wait, that money will go to something else and I don't know when I'll be able to afford the good knives again.

I understand that owning good knives mean that I need to learn how to sharpen them. However, if needs be, I can find someone to sharpen my knives for me before I have time to learn how. My circumstance right now is not ideal in terms of getting new knives, but it is what it is.

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I understand that owning good knives mean that I need to learn how to sharpen them. However, if needs be, I can find someone to sharpen my knives for me before I have time to learn how. My circumstance right now is not ideal in terms of getting new knives, but it is what it is.

No way in hell I would ever let some stranger sharpen my knives. No frikkin' way. -- Caps, bold, italics, underscore, 72-point font. NO FRIKKIN' WAY.

Get to the point where you feel the same way -- THEN go knife shopping.

My advice? Pick up a 10-inch Wusthof chef's knife and use that for awhile -- it will take a decent edge, and you can beat the crap out of it. Practice sharpening on it. You'll never be sorry that you own a Wusthof. Then you can try the DTs, Tads, Hattoris, etc.


Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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I'm confused; they do sell knives in Australia you know. Why do you want to buy some from the States to ship to Oz?

Check out the Peters of Kensington website. The Furi (Australian-made) are pretty good basic knives, and their sharpener is surprisingly good.


Itinerant winemaker

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I'm confused; they do sell knives in Australia you know. Why do you want to buy some from the States to ship to Oz?

Check out the Peters of Kensington website. The Furi (Australian-made) are pretty good basic knives, and their sharpener is surprisingly good.

I know they do sell knives in Australia. I just want to take care of as many thing as I can while I'm here so I can concentrate on all the things I need to get done once I'm over there.

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I'm confused; they do sell knives in Australia you know. Why do you want to buy some from the States to ship to Oz?

Check out the Peters of Kensington website. The Furi (Australian-made) are pretty good basic knives, and their sharpener is surprisingly good.

I know they do sell knives in Australia. I just want to take care of as many thing as I can while I'm here so I can concentrate on all the things I need to get done once I'm over there.

Fair enough.

All the best with your move, and enjoy your new life in Oz. It's a fabulous country.


Itinerant winemaker

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If you want to just walk into a store and get a knife, the Shun 8 inch chef's knives would probably be your best option. You can buy them from Sur La Table/Williams Sonoma/Amazon. Walk into a store and play with one and see what you think. I also have a friend who distributes them. PM me if you want his contact details.


PS: I am a guy.

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In the case of a gyuto and santoku, what should I look for when I'm buying? Other than the handle being comfortable in my hand, what materials are easy to maintain, last long, etc.? Is there something I should pay attention to in terms of the construction of the knives? Are there different types of stainless steel and what are the pros and cons?

There are many different types of stainless but rest assured that anything used by a reputable maker will be perfectly adequate. However, be aware that Western makers (and, I'm told, Global) use steels that tend to be "gummy" on the stone and therefore trickier to sharpen. We could get into details of the literally dozens of alloys available but that would be hardcore knife nerdery that wouldn't necessarily help you make the right choices.

I think the only really practical question w/r/t materials (since we've determined you'd prefer a stainless knife) is whether you want a homogenous (plain) blade or damascus. I don't think there's any performance advantage to damascus but others may differ. I love 'em because they're pretty but if you don't care about the aesthetics we can just forget about them.

The most important, absolutely #1, cannot compromise at all thing is that it fits your hand. A "cheapie" knife that fits you is going to perform a lot better for you that the latest wunderstahl knife handcrafted by monks in the mountains of Kanto if the handle on it is uncomfortable, no matter what the specs say.

I guess I do want some guidance in term of brands. I just looked up stainless gyuto and saw knives with a wide range of prices. Frankly, I can't tell the difference between the $100 knives and the $400 knives. I don't quite want to rely on just reading the company's description. Maybe a few good brands that I can look into so I have somewhere to start.

IMO you can get an extremely good knife (and a very pretty one, to boot) for $100. At this price point you're going to get almost all the performance of a knife costing $400 (or more).

I'm hesitant to recommend particular brands because I haven't tried them all, or even close. But I agree with Shalmanese that Shun makes nice knives. One of my favorites is a baby chefs' from the Alton's Angles series, which I use for prepping small amounts of ingredients. Another knife I like that's available at a reasonable price is sold as Gekko brand through japanesechefsknife.com.

ScoopKW is absolutely right about not letting some "professional" knife sharpener who wants to finish the job as quickly as possible (Time is money! Let's slap this baby on the belt grinder!) anywhere near your knives. I can't recommend the EdgePro strongly enough - it's as foolproof as tools get, has a reasonable learning curve and will make your knives sharp.


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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As you will be in Sydney, you can always get Leigh Hudson at Chef's Armoury to sharpen the knives. He trained in Seki, Japan and loves knives. He also runs courses in using Japanese waterstones to sharpen knives so you can learn yourself. This is a step up from using the EdgePro.


Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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The good thing is, I know several reputable places in the Bay Area where I can test out some Japanese knives. Between them and Sur La Table/Williams Sonoma, I think I'll be able to try out a wide variety of knives. I did try out the Shun (Classic I think) for a minute while I was at Bed Bath and Beyond. I know that isn't really the place to get knives but it does carry Shun and I can get 20% off.

I just looked at the EdgePro and it looks scary! Like I said, I have no experience but with a cheap hand held one. I think I may have to rely on a good professional for the job. Thanks nickrey for the referral. Even though I'll be moving to Canberra after the first month in Sydney, I imagine that I will be heading to Sydney from time to time.

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Forschners are well regarded and quite inexpensive. If I were in your shoes I'd buy a paring knife, a chef's knife & maybe a bread knife. Likely well under $100 for the knives. I'd also buy a combination waterstone like this one and learn to use it.


Jon

--formerly known as 6ppc--

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I can't give you too much advice, other than I loved my 10" Global Chef's knife that I had for a little while, and I still love my Shun Chinese Cleaver. I must admit that I am super happy with my Takeda, but it is carbon steel, which everyone else has already ruled out. I heard that Devin Thomas makes a brilliant stainless steel gyuto, but I've never used one so this recommendation comes from other's recommendations.

As for a storage method, I love these magnetic covers, readily available from amazon called Edge-Mag. They keep the edge nice and protected so you can put the knife in a drawer and not lose an edge or a finger.

Best of a luck! A good knife is definitely worth the investment. A good knife should hold a nice edge for a while, so you'll have plenty of time to learn to sharpen in the mean time.

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There are two Costco's in Australia, Melbourne and Sydney.

You could buy one good knife here (Shun, Global, Wusthof etc. and an edge-pro (I think Global has a different angle on each side, so harder to sharpen)),

then shop for more knives or a set in your new home.

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There are two Costco's in Australia, Melbourne and Sydney.

Costco in Sydney is open? That's great news!

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There are two Costco's in Australia, Melbourne and Sydney.

Costco in Sydney is open? That's great news!

It's definitely not open yet. I drove past the site in Auburn less than two weeks ago and it was just foundations and a frame. They won't even start recruiting non-managment staff until next year.

Costco in Sydney

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Well, I still hope that Costco will open soon. Work faster people!

Anyway, I went out to buy one knife today and came home with two! Got the MAC Pro santoku ($109) and the Sai damascus santoku ($187). The MAC Pro handle was just a little small for my husband and he prefers the feel of the Sai (about identical to the MAC damascus santoku). Since they were less than I anticipated to pay, we bought both so that we can each have a good knife to use when we're prepping together.

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I love my Shunn Ken Onion design chef's knife. It stays sharp for seemingly ever, I've had it for 3 years, never sharpened it, and it still slices a tomato as if it were butter. Add free lifetime sharpening if you send it in. It's an oddly shaped knife, but fits my hand as if it were made for me. They have lots of other series in damaskus steel or what it's called, the samurai sword kind of folded steel. if you don't like the shape or handle of the Ken Onion. They also have some that just look like the real deal, I'd not buy those.

I'd also suggest a cheap butcher boning knife and maybe a slicer too. Really handy, easy to keep sharp, and cheap enough to replace down the road. I use those a lot, not only for boning, but also for slicing cooked steaks etc.


"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

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While I appreciate your desire to have better knives I think you are rushing things. You can buy knives online and there are great knife forums, as well. I have a full set of Henkel Pro's for everyday use because you can bring back an edge with a steel fairly easily. I have a Shun Santuko with Granton edge which I really like and a custom carbon-laminate from Japan which is a fantastic knife, but requires too much attention to keep the edge sharp(you can't let it sit-you must clean it immediately).

Since you are a'feared of sharpening I don't think you want a high maintenance knife either! You don't mention whether your husband is willing to sharpen or learn...


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I love my Shunn Ken Onion design chef's knife. It stays sharp for seemingly ever, I've had it for 3 years, never sharpened it, and it still slices a tomato as if it were butter. Add free lifetime sharpening if you send it in. It's an oddly shaped knife, but fits my hand as if it were made for me. They have lots of other series in damaskus steel or what it's called, the samurai sword kind of folded steel. if you don't like the shape or handle of the Ken Onion. They also have some that just look like the real deal, I'd not buy those.

I'd also suggest a cheap butcher boning knife and maybe a slicer too. Really handy, easy to keep sharp, and cheap enough to replace down the road. I use those a lot, not only for boning, but also for slicing cooked steaks etc.

Don't bother sending your Shun into the factory for sharpening; just do it yourself. I mailed them my 8" classic chef's knife this spring and wasn't too pleased with the results. I knew it would take weeks to get the knife back - I think it took about 3-4 in the end - so I got a $30 Victorinox knife to use at work while my Shun was out. When I got the Shun back, newly sharpened (maybe), it wasn't anywhere near as sharp as the Victorinox I'd been beating up doing prep for the last month. I ended up putting a new edge on my Shun before another month was out. Waste of steel.

Edit: I totally second the cheap boning knife thing. I use a $25 Victorinox boning knife to butcher for hours every day. It's great to have a knife you don't mind taking to the steel before every task, using to scrape bones and worse, or even ripping through one of those horrible little hand-held sharpening wheel things. I find it a lot more comfortable than a chef's knife for breaking down poultry, so I think it's a great buy for serious home cooks who like to take down whole chickens and ducks.


Edited by DLim (log)

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Sorry to disappoint everyone still offering advice - annachan already got some nice knives as discussed a couple of posts above.


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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Annachan,

Now buy a good steel to keep those knives in shape.

The best thing you can do is learn how to use a steel and a sharpening stone properly. I have knives which are 20 years old and still sharp ... because I take care of them.


The Fuzzy Chef

www.fuzzychef.org

Think globally, eat globally

San Francisco

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Until recently, I had only one "go to" knife, an inexpensive 9" chef's knife from Frosts of Sweden. It cost less than $40. Takes a great edge that lasts a long time. I used it for everything, including paring, boning, carving, and slicing bread--in addition to normal chef knife duty. I even sliced lox with it. It really is possible to get by with one decent chef's knife.

Over the past two years, however, I've come into a fine but eclectic collection.

Last year, a good friend gave me a Shun Bob Kramer Santoku. It's amazing. Wicked sharp, a bit hefty, yet still very maneuverable due to its balance and comfortable handle. Zips through everything from carrots to butternut squash. Love the way it fits my hand. It's pricey and would burn through most of your budget--but arguably is worth it if, like me, you use it for 85 percent of your cutting. I supplemented it with a parer from the same Shun Kramer series. It too is a fine knife, but probably not enough to justify the price tag.

Prior to receiving the Kramer, I had bought a Misono UX10 Guyoto (210 mm). It's a nice alternative to the hefty Kramer. Very light and dances through finer work, but lacks the heft to zip through dense stuff. Scary sharp--so sharp that it doesn't like to go through tomatoes unless it's a bit dull. The handle is a bit small and square (try before you buy if you can).

I also have very inexpensive but very functional Chicago Cutlery ("Metropolitan" line) parer and boning knives. I like them. Both readily take very sharp edges from the above-referenced sharpening stone need frequent steeling to keep 'em sharp. I have an ancient Wusthof serrated bread knife and wouldn't recommend it--buy a cheaper Cutco or similar bread knife.

I use the same combination whetstone recommended above by 6ppc and like it. Arguably your most important purchase. Learn how to use it because even the most expensive knives are worthless when dull and even cheap knives work well if properly sharpened.

For scissors, I use a simple pair of Messermeister shears that come apart. They're very sharp and buzz through a chicken backbones in a snap. Only cost around $20. They also readily open beers.

For storage, I recommend buying magnetic bar if you don't like blocks. I also recommend edge guards and a knife case if you carry your knives outside of home.

I'm still looking for a functional meat cleaver to cut through dinosaur bones and a lox slicing knife.

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I'm to the point of thinking about a new chef's knife. Mine is a 10 inch Chicago Cutlery (a little over 2 inches wide). I've had it thirty some years and it is the knife I use most often. However I find it is getting somewhat heavy for me. I've read that current Chicago Cutlery blades are lighter, but not in a good way.

I am a home cook. My hands are medium sized, long fingers, very little strength. My thumb is double jointed and arthritic in the bottom joint. I also have Dupuytren's disease, also known as Viking's disease, which is not bad yet but is progressing.

Last fall I put the Chicago Cutlery through my thumbnail (and my thumb) and I confess I am now a little scared of it. Though I still use it. I have plenty of other knives that I don't use or don't use often. A paring knife and a bread knife are the only others that get regular use. However the Chicago Cutlery is my only chef's knife. I had a smaller Chicago Cutlery chefs knife, maybe 6 or 8 inches but I gave it away years ago, because I figured I did not need two chef's knives.

What I've been thinking about is an 8 inch or maybe 9 inch Wusthof Le Cordon Bleu. Could anyone offer thoughts or suggestions?

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