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One good knife, recommendations?


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Hey all, I currently have an ok set of knives that get the job done for the most part but I am thinking about investing in one high quality knife as well.

Any reccommendations? My thinking is probably around an 8 or 10 inch chefs knife?

I have been recommended Shun but was looking for some opinions

Thanks!

"A man's got to believe in something...I believe I'll have another drink." -W.C. Fields

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One good chef's knife, but go to a store and weigh it in your hand and see how it handles and balances. IMHO, you can't get the right knife without doing that. (What may feel just right in one person's hand may balance badly in another's).

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Sabatier carbon steel "au Carbone"

I have a Sabatier roughly the size and heft of a medieval broadsword -- it rusts if you're not careful, so it may well be the au Carbon (rather than stainless). I love it. Though it needs to be sharpened fairly regularly (I do it myself on a stone), the edge is unbeatable -- I still remember losing that fingertip and hardly even noticing....

Generally, I think knives are sufficiently personal that advice is almost useless. I have mine, my wife as a sleek little Japanese thing, I bought my son a stainless number when he turned 13 that he guarded zealously until it got left in some campsite during a cross country road trip whose details I am not eager to pry into. (My daughter will get hers next Christmas).

HdB is right: just go down to the store and see what feels right. And don't go cheap: $100 knife will feel wonderful every time you use it, hundreds of times a year. Few things are a better investment.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Just another voice to the "it's all personal" chorus. I suggest finding a good knife shop and handling a few different brands. Any good shop will, at a minimum, let you rock the knife on a board before buying (if they won't, don't shop there).

For the record, I use shun and wusthof. I think Cook's Illustrated recommended the Forschner, which is pretty low end comparatively.

A few general things to look for:

Weight - a good quality chef's knife should have some heft

Blade Flexibility - a good chef's knife should have little to no "give" in the blade. Heavy and stiff are the orders of the day (yeah, I know how that sounds).

Handle - comfortable in your hand and reasonably easy to hold when it or your hand are wet, sticky, etc (nothing will be great here, but some of the metal handled knives are (in my opinion) almost impossible to hold when there is the least bit of slickness around).

In the end, though, it comes down to what's right for you. Buy a knife like you buy shoes, if it's not comfortable enough for you to use a lot, skip it; I don't care if it's considered the greatest knife in the world. You'll use this tool more than almost any other piece of kitchen equipment, so buy based on what you'll feel good about months or years down the road.

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Holding the knife yourself, checking it's balance and such, is the real deal. I am personally a stainless steel kind of guy. I do sharpen my own knives on a stone.

Twenty-odd years ago my wife bought me a chef's knife for Christmas. It didn't feel right so back to the store we went. I picked out a 10" knife that felt right (Chicago Cutlery I believe - I've owned it so long I don't quite remember). Last year she gave me (at my request) a set of Henkles knives from Costco - which I am happy with. However, my 20+ year-old knife is still my primary cutting tool in the kitchen.

My conclusion, when you pick out a knife that feels right and is from a reputable maker, you have just invested in a tool that should bring years of pleasure.

A note on knife skills: I got The Professional Chef's Knife Kit by the Culinary Institute of America this past year and it was well worth buying. I actually now have a clue what to do with a paring knife after 40 years of amateur cooking.

Adding to the mix,

Porthos Potwatcher

The Unrelenting Carnivore

Porthos Potwatcher
The Once and Future Cook

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What's your budget? How "high Quality" did you want to go?

Do you want high maintenance (frequent sharpenings) or low maintenance?

Use for the line at work or for home?

Carbon or stainless?

Looks like you're looking to buy a chef's knife. If that's what you use the most, then getting a chef knife first is a good course of action. Depending on your budget though, it's highly possible to get a few other knives that will compliment the chef's knife and still are all great performers.

The performer reference was put there on purpose because what I will be recommending are stricktly Japanese knives. They vary in price quite a bit but given a certain budget I could recommend and would suggest getting a couple of great low-priced performers rather than one high-priced looker that performs as well but costs two to four times as much. Budget is always the place to start, savvy?

So let's get started.

Edited by Octaveman (log)

My Photography: Bob Worthington Photography

 

My music: Coronado Big Band
 

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I echo much of what has just been said primarily that you need to test drive some knifes before you buy. I recently tired a 10" shun and loved it, although it was a bit on the heavy side. I had a small set of Henckels Four Stars, which are great for people who like a larger plastic handle. The MAC Superior santoku is super sharp, affordable, and has a nice handle, although it is a bit light. If you are going with one all purpose knife a good Japanese gyuto or santoku is probably the way to go. My folks have Wusthofs which I think are a little nicer than my departed Henckels. The old Sabatiers that I currently use are great, but I have heard that some brands have slipped in quality, and for most home cooks the Au Carbone might be hard to maintain, in my opinion.

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Knowing what sort of food you typically make might also help.

If you make primarily European style food, a chef knife is indispensible.

However, if you're a sushi fan, it is not the knife you're going to want.

Or if you learned your knife skills from a Chinese friend or wife, a good Chinese cleaver might be your first choice.

I used 10" chef knives when I cooked in restaurants; but, since I only do home cooking now, I much prefer an 8" knife. They aren't as heavy and fit better in a small kitchen on home size cutting boards.

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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I have a large set of Sabatier carbon steel knives, made 20-80 years ago, mostly purchased from http://leevalley.com. The older smaller knives didn't have quite the cachet or quality of the more recent Sabatiers, primarily because good steel was expensive, and they were made thin.

Recently Lee Valley Tools has offered a replica of a 7" carbon steel 'French Peasant's Knife', at $23.50. I got one a few weeks ago, and it is strong, balanced, sharp, and still sharp after working through the Xmas season. It is a great small, all purpose knife, and I expect to get a few more to give to students or interested cooks.

Edited by jayt90 (log)
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Thank you all for the incredible amount of worthwhile information.

I do concur that this is a highly personal choice much like shoes as one person mentioned so I definately will be making some trips to some stores to test some things out. I was mainly looking for some overall recs, look for this, stay away from that, etc. All the info has been tremendously helpful.

This knife will be for all around use in my home kitchen and my budget will likely be around $100+ or so. Prob no more than $150 if possible. Id like as low maintenance as possible, bearing in mind it will need occasional professional sharpening.

Thanks again all.

"A man's got to believe in something...I believe I'll have another drink." -W.C. Fields

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Thank you all for the incredible amount of worthwhile information. 

I do concur that this is a highly personal choice much like shoes as one person mentioned so I definately will be making some trips to some stores to test some things out.  I was mainly looking for some overall recs, look for this, stay away from that, etc.  All the info has been tremendously helpful.

This knife will be for all around use in my home kitchen and my budget will likely be around $100+ or so.  Prob no more than $150 if possible.  Id like as low maintenance as possible, bearing in mind it will need occasional professional sharpening.

Thanks again all.

It's the opinion of many that stores do NOT have the best interest of the consumer at heart when it comes to knives. The majority of stores sell all the same German knives and for their Asian influnced knives they MIGHT have Shun or Global...that's it. IMHO Shun is not very representative of what Japanese knives are all about. They have more of a Euro profile to them and they are heavier than knives coming from Japan. Knives coming out of Japan are incredible and fun as hell to use. Unfortunately only specialty stores "in the know" carry them and they are sparsley located around the country.

With that being said, here are my recommendations for you to consider.

1. For the best bang-for-the-buck stainless knife: Tojiro DP 240mm Gyuto at $60

2. For the best bang-for-the-buck carbon knife: Hiromoto HC 240mm Gyuto at $50

3. For the best carbon core surrounded in stainless: Hiromoto AS 240mm Gyuto at $132

4. For the best powder steeled knife for the price: Tojiro Powder Steel 240mm Gyuto at $149

If you go for #1 or #2, you can afford to expand with another knife. A boning knife for instance. This is a likely choice since the gyuto is not made to get near bones. It is a veggie and meat prep knife. It's not to be used to bone chickens for instance as it may chip. At these prices, it only makes sense to expand your collection to fill gaps in your block and the Honesuki is a good thick heavy duty knife to do just that. I know a pluthera of people who have #1 and speak very highly of it. I have #2 and it truely is a great knife.

#3 is a special knife in that it has a super blue carbon steel core and is sandwiched or surrounded by stainless. It has the benefits of cutting with carbon and the ease of maintenance with the stainless. I have owned this knife too and it is a great knife. Edge maintenance on this one will be minimal as the super blue core is very tough.

#4 is a very tough workhorse of a knife. Powder Steeled knives are hard and hold their edge very well. This knife is often compared to the Ryusen Blazen that costs almost twice as much.

As far as getting your knife professionally sharpened. If you get any of these knives there are only two places I would recommend sending them to (see below). The local knife sharpening services at the mall will just take your knife to a grinder and ruin your knife taking off so much metal and completely changing what made the knife great in the first place. A majority of the people I know have taken the time to learn how to sharpen their own knives. It's not difficult at all and easy to learn...it just takes some practice.

Epicurean Edge located in Seattle WA, and

D & R Sharpening Solutions located in Philly PA

I hope this info helps and I strongly recommend any of the above knives and can almost guarantee you will love them over Euro knives (not going to name which ones because it always gets people's panties in a bunch) with the exception of the Meridian Elite by Messermeister.

BTW, the website of those knives is the best online retailer and the cheapest too. They are located in Japan and can get you your knife in 4-5 days. I've received a knife from them in 3 days once. Amazed the crap out of me.

Cheers,

Bob

My Photography: Bob Worthington Photography

 

My music: Coronado Big Band
 

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Cool post, Bob.

Nice to see what's being made by the more underground makers.

Only thing is that I agree with everyone that weight and balance are personal preferences, so I'd be hesitant to buy one of these beautiful things without trying first.

Something like the Shun (which I've admired but never bought) has the advantage of being availble in stores where I can try it.

Are any of these more exotic knives sold in stores?

Notes from the underbelly

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Many of the Japanese knives won't work in our household. I'm a lefty; my husband isn't. We generally try to avoid making expensive purchases that we can't both use or appreciate. And because Japanese knives are often single-bevel, we'd have to buy two. Ditto for any other knife that lacks a plane of symmetry.

MelissaH

MelissaH

Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

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Also, regarding the story about the screaming harpie who broiled her Goldhamster:

as horrible as she was, those are really great knives.

I don't see any great advantages to the smaller sizes, like the paring knife (except it's gorgeous), but the 8" chef's knife is the nicest all purpose knife I've ever used. I have big hands, and it's the first knife I've ever picked up that fit perfectly and balanced perfectly, with my knuckle right over the bolster (not over the thin blade). It's heavy but feels nimble and precise because the balance is so good. It also holds an edge for a really long time, but is easy to maintain on a steel.

It has a definite german style blade (not the 15 degree, shave your eybrows off japanese style) but I have no complaints. One day I might treat myself to a thin bladed japanese knife, but in the mean time i love the goldhamster chef.

Notes from the underbelly

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Paul, these are not underground makers. These are the top makers in Japan and are sold over there like Henckles is sold here.

Mellisa, western style knives are NOT single beveled. The bevel does slightly favor one side but the edge is so thin that there is no noticeable affect to the user. With the knife being 1mm thick right before the edge, I don't think there are many people that can tell if it's a 50/50 bevel or a 70/30 bevel. The western style knives are used by lefties and righties alike. If the thought of it bothers you, send it to the locations above and have them change it to a 50/50 grind. No big deal.

On the personal preference issue, just return it if you think it's too light or doesn't feel right. You can get a feel for the knife when it arrives and compare it to heavier euro knives. Here's the thing though. These knives are not meant to be just held, they are meant to be used and it's a sure bet that it will cut your food better than anything you've ever owned. Balance won't be an issue as they are perfectly balanced at the 240mm size. It's light and will not take much effort to cut anything. I'm always amazed that when I cut carrots with a freshly sharpened knife that it feels like I'm cutting air. The only time I know I cut through is when I hear it and when it hits the board.

My Photography: Bob Worthington Photography

 

My music: Coronado Big Band
 

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Bob, thanks so much for the great info.

Can you give me a little bit of info as far as the differences in the construction of the knives, as in carbon v stainless, etc. how does that affect the knife and its usage? Is it mostly about durability and how often you would have to sharpen it?

"A man's got to believe in something...I believe I'll have another drink." -W.C. Fields

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Bob, thanks so much for the great info.

Can you give me a little bit of info as far as the differences in the construction of the knives, as in carbon v stainless, etc.  how does that affect the knife and its usage?  Is it mostly about durability and how often you would have to sharpen it?

Chad Ward's eGullet article on knife sharpening and maintenance

The article linked above discusses many issues regarding knives. Don't know if any of it will help but it's a potential resource.

Porthos Potwatcher

The Unrelenting Carnivore

Porthos Potwatcher
The Once and Future Cook

;

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Bob, thanks so much for the great info.

Can you give me a little bit of info as far as the differences in the construction of the knives, as in carbon v stainless, etc.  how does that affect the knife and its usage?  Is it mostly about durability and how often you would have to sharpen it?

With stainless knives like the ones I recommended, they are all clad with a softer SS to support the hard core (called Kasumi contruction) and do have the ease of maintenance thing going for them. They don't need to be washed off and cleaned right away like with carbon knives. The steels used do not compare to the duration of sharpness of carbon but they come close. The powdered steel blades will stay sharp longer than the other SS knives but still don't match carbons in this category. The soft stainless sides will get marked up over time by using the scrubby side of a sponge or a rough towel but these knives are not made for looks. They are meant to be everyday knives that will "age" just like anything else that gets used a lot.

Carbon knives are awesome when it comes to performance. They can get screaming sharp and stay that way with normal usage for a long time. They are a joy to sharpen and just as fun to use. Out of all my gyuto's, I pull out the carbons more often than the stainless. They are stamped so no cladding is involved thus making them a little lighter too. The Hiromoto HC is a great carbon steel blade. Carbon knives will need to be washed and thoroughly dried after using but it's no big deal really. If you use the knives often, they don't need to be oiled to keep from rusting. That's only needed in super high humidity climates like Hawaii or if you're going to store it for a while. I don't oil any of mine.

The Hiromoto AS gives you the best of both worlds. The carbon core will patina and rust like a standard carbon knife but only on the exposed part. The stainless cladding adds a special look to it and gives you some properties of stainless knives up to the edge. The kanji is cool...the knife is cool and a great performer. The edge is very hard and will last longer than most with normal use. If carbon is being seriously considered, then I'd also like to add the Misono Swedish Steel Series to my list of recommendations. I have this one too and you can get the bitchin dragon engraving on it for free!! It too is a great performer.

I would say definately get a Gyuto, not a Santoku. The Santoku typically only goes to 6 inches with few exceptions whereas the Gyuto can go to 13 inches. 240mm is a great overall size for the average user. Which one you choose should be based on your style. Do you leave stuff in the sink to be washed later or are you a stickler for cleaning things when you're done with them?

Keep in mind that these are budget lines so they are not going to be perfect. The Tojiro's are hit and miss when it comes to F&F. Some people get extremely picky about this and others don't see it as an issue. I personally feel that if the knife is a solid workhorse of a knife and performs and sharpens up great then I'm happy regardless if the handle is not finished like I'd like. If you want a knife with a nicely finished handle , then increase your budget to over $200 and get a Ryusen Blazen. Otherwise be satisified in the fact that you've got a great working knife at a great price.

A few notes on the handles of the knives I recommended. The Tojiro DP's handle is pretty squared off meaning the edges are noticible in your hand. The Tojiro Powder steels handle is a bit more rounded but still quasi squared off. Both Hiromoto handles are very comfortable. Nicely rounded and fits my hand well. The Misono Swedish handle is also comfortably rounded. Keep in mind that if you wanted to get the DP, you can easily sand the handle to your liking. Many people I know have done that.

All these knives will balance very well. They are lighter, harder and thinner and glide through food like nobody's business. I used Henckles all my life until 2.5 years ago when I bought my first Gyuto. I will never go back.

Please let me know if you have any more questions.

Cheers,

Bob

My Photography: Bob Worthington Photography

 

My music: Coronado Big Band
 

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I was sorry to read that no one recommended the Mac santoku series. I was turend on to them almost a year ago. Before that i was using a senalli chefs knife, 10 inces and heavy. I found it hard to actually brunoise things properly, as well most cuts seemed beyond my grasp. This wise old chef explained to me that the standard french knife was more like a hammer wheres the Santoku was more of a pait brush. At first I thought it far to small, but it allowed me to seemingly get closer to what I was cutting. It was perfect for fine vegetable cuts, but I soon discovered it worked well for fileting fish and fabricating beed cuts. Its light weight and very delicate. This could be seen as a downside, if you tap it to hard against a steel table its liable to bend im told. also you dont want to use it for cutting hard root vegetables or for cutting through bones. Ive found keeping it razor shap to be fairly easy, just run it across a ceramic sharpener after every shift and its fine for the next day. If you do lots of gentle and precise cutting I would highly reccomend the Santoku.

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I was sorry to read that no one recommended the Mac santoku series. I was turend on to them almost a year ago. Before that i was using a senalli chefs knife, 10 inces and heavy. I found it hard to actually brunoise things properly, as well most cuts seemed beyond my grasp. This wise old chef explained to me that the standard french knife was more like a hammer wheres the Santoku was more of a pait brush. At first I thought it far to small, but it allowed me to seemingly get closer to what I was cutting. It was perfect for fine vegetable cuts, but I soon discovered it worked well for fileting fish and fabricating beed cuts. Its light weight and very delicate. This could be seen as a downside, if you tap it to hard against a steel table its liable to bend im told. also you dont want to use it for cutting hard root vegetables or for cutting through bones.  Ive found keeping it razor shap to be fairly easy, just run it across a ceramic sharpener after every shift and its fine for the next day.  If you do lots of gentle and precise cutting I would highly reccomend the Santoku.

I did. :sad:

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Thanks for all that info Bob. I've actually been looking to get a carbon knife for a little while now, and based on your recommendation, I ordered the Hiromoto HC 240mm Gyuto. It showed up today, and I gave it a quick run through on some veggies tonight, and after a quick test, seems to be a great knife. The knife did have some burs on the underside of the handle, but that's nothing that some fine sandpaper won't take care of. I've been using a 10" wide Wusthof chef's knife, and there is a huge difference between the two. The Hiromoto blade is much thinner overall, making slicing something like an onion almost effortless.

As for the shipping from JCK, I ordered the knife on Saturday, and it showed up on the east coast Tuesday!

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