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Old 01-02-2011, 08:07 PM   #1
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1st Chef's Knife - Advice?

I'm 43 years old and have finally decided (after watching the Food Network for about a year and a half) that it's time for me to learn how to actually cook something.

I apologize for these questions, but the only way I know to learn is to ask the experts.

1) Should a Chef's Knife be the first knife I purchase?

2) What length should I purchase?

3) I don't want to put a lot of money into a chef's knife but don't want something that will fall apart or go dull after a week. Can I get a quality chef's knife for under $30? (some brands I've seen for around that price are: Victorinox, Oxo, JA Henckels, Chicago Cutlery, Furi Rachel Rays, Rada, etc.)

4) What chef's knife would you recommend in that price range (remember, I'm a newbie and will never be a professional)?

5) Am I better off getting a single chef's knife or something like a Ginsu 14 piece stainless steel set with a block (that includes a chef's knife) for $60 or so?

6) What other advice would you give someone just starting out as far as required 'hardware'?

I will only be cooking for my family of 4 and family gatherings.

Thank you for your help.



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Old 01-02-2011, 08:30 PM   #2
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Probably the 2 most used knives are the chef's knife and the paring knife. I have 1 chef's knife and 2 paring knives. I just got my chef's knife a couple months ago and got a 7" Victorinox. It's my only experience with a chef's knife but so far I like it. The paring knives I have are cheap but I don't have a problem replacing them every so often.

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Old 01-02-2011, 08:31 PM   #3
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Hi TripleB! I'm just a home cook but I know the value of a good, heavy knife. The ones I've had in the past were pretty flimsy. But a while back I found a good chef's knife at Ross....or TJ Maxx....not sure which. But it is a Kitchen Aid brand and is very heavy and solid. I can't remember how much it cost, but I know it wasn't too much....I can't afford to spend big bucks on knives.

Having a good paring knife is also good.
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Old 01-02-2011, 08:36 PM   #4
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Yes a chefs knife should be your first. A chefs knife can do 95% of what you need to do in the kitchen. A really good chefs knife can probably do 100%. The other two knives that would be good to have would be a paring knife and a bread knife in that order.

Get the biggest one that you are comfortable using. That will probably be somewhere between an 8 and 10 inch knife.

Of the brands you mentioned you would do just fine with either the Victorinox or Chicago Cutlery.

You are much better off getting a single knife than a set. Te set knives are always lower quality and you end up with a bunch of knives you will never use.
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Old 01-02-2011, 08:50 PM   #5
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Hi! I have a set of Ginsu knives that are pretty good, the chef's knife is my husbands favorite, I like the rocker knife because it fits my hand better. For Christmas we were given a set of Wustohoff (sp) knives - paring and chef's. They are great, both fit my hand (I have arthritis so cutting is a chore) and they slice beatifully. I just recently bought JA Henckles steak knives and they seem pretty good too. I have RADA too, but they didn't hold their edge like they say - very disappointed.
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Old 01-04-2011, 03:06 PM   #6
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Some thoughts.

a) There are several very good reasons why expensive steel is better than cheap steel. Without getting into lecture mode the better the steel the better the edge the knife will hold and the more robust it will be.

b) There comes a point of diminishing returns where you pay a lot for a small increase in quality, where that point is for you is something you will decide for yourself.

c) There are three main schools of knife design - German, French and Japanese. I would recommend German design for a beginner because the knives are wider (belly in knife talk) which makes them easier for a beginner to use.

So to answer your questions.

1) Yes. It will be the most used knife you will own.

2) The longest you are comfortable with. I recommend 10", but for a shorter person 8" may be the way to go.

3) Ordinarily I would recommend getting the best knife you can afford, there is a difference and the difference is worth paying extra for. However, if you are starting out and not sure if you want to continue you may want to get a cheaper one to start with. and look at upgrading later.

4) Of the brands you mention in your price range Victorinox and JA Henckels are the names that are least objectionable.

5) Avoid the blocks - they never have what you need. Also different makers have different qualities so just because your Chef's knife is Brand X doesn't mean that your other knives should be Brand X too. My knife roll has eleven different knives and ten different makers in it, and in a few weeks it will be eleven for eleven when I replace my bread saw. I'm not trying to have a whole range of different brands just that I have selected the knives based on how good they are for the specific job I want them to do and it's ended up that I have a whole bunch of different makers.

6) You will need a sharpening system and a honing steel.
One of the regular commentators recommends the edgemaker pro as a good starting sharpening system.
Edgemaker Super Pro World's Best Professional Sharpening System
If you end up falling into the bottomless pit of hand sharpening we will be more than happy to claim another soul for our cause, but for a beginner the edgemaker pro seems a good fit.
I'm really not comfortable in recommending a cheap honing steel. Maybe a Victorinox steel - the finer the grooves the better and the ones you get in knife blocks are pure rubbish and need to be avoided at all costs.
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Old 01-04-2011, 06:28 PM   #7
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Wow, this is scary- with nothing to add I'm speechless!
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Old 01-04-2011, 07:06 PM   #8
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i have a new set of ginsu knives. they are going to do just fine for me. so far i have used each and every one. guess i am just not into the knife thing. but then i am not cutting huge beasts either.
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Old 01-05-2011, 08:39 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by TripleB View Post

1) Should a Chef's Knife be the first knife I purchase?

2) What length should I purchase?

3) I don't want to put a lot of money into a chef's knife

4) What chef's knife would you recommend in that price range (remember, I'm a newbie and will never be a professional)?

5) Am I better off getting a single chef's knife or something like a Ginsu 14 piece stainless steel set with a block (that includes a chef's knife) for $60 or so?

6) What other advice would you give someone just starting out as far as required 'hardware'?

I will only be cooking for my family of 4 and family gatherings.

Thank you for your help.


Yes, Chef's knife. Get a 10" Victorinox to start with. The steel is quality, and the composite handle very comfortable. They are not pricey, and even if you move one to a different knife later, it will be a great backup and a great camping knife. If not the Victorinox, go the Chicago Cutlery brand. They make an excellent forged knife for very little outlay.

I fiddled around with 7 and 8 inch knives for years. Don't. Get a 10" right away.

Your next purchase should be a 3 1/2 inch paring knife. Here, I don't care for the Victorinox, and would recommend a Henckels or a Wustof. I've found cheaper paring knives don't cut it.

The you will want a 6" utility, and a fillet knife, in that order. Fillet knives are great multitaskers - just buy a cheap one, because the very thin blades are a pain to sharpen. A utility knife completes the set of the four knives that will be of most use to you. You may wish to add a 10" slicer to the group if you are cooking for company, but your chefs' knife will do fine for this, as long as it's a 10" one.

Under no circumstances do I recommend a set. A knife set (and I've bought three or ten in the past) might contain one knife you use, and the rest you will not.

My own knife rack (the ones I use) contains a 10" Sabatier chef's knife, a 3 1/2" Wustof Classic parer, a 6" Kai utility, an 8" Sanelli fillet knife, a 6" Sabatier boner, and a 10" Henkels slicer.

In addition to those above, I have a 12" Victorinox chef's knife I use for making slaw, and an 8" serrated Chicago cutlery I use for cutting bread on occasion.

Except for the two Sabs, they are all different. I have two or three drawers full of old discards, some of them expensive. Don't use them. I use the knives I like in my hand for that specific purpose, and that doesn't necessarily mean the same brand at all.

I do my own butchering, but that is a different story. The above collection is what I use, and I could very easily get along for the rest of my life with what I've recommended to you.

Oh yes, I almost forgot. Get a good steel (Victorinox here, too. I use their 10" one) and learn to use it!! They are not expensive and a few whacks of the steel after every knife use will keep your knives usable for about 6 months between actual sharpenings. And unless you know how to sharpen a knife well, have it done for you.

A steel does NOT sharpen a knife, incidentally. It just straightens out the edge after use.

I was a bit of a knife freak, and I'm trying to save you some pain. My Mom was a chef, and I've ended up using pretty much the type of knife she used in the workplace, although different brands. I'ts got to feel good in your hand or it's useless, even if lovely Rachel Rae uses it.

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