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Old 12-06-2009, 03:56 AM   #1
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Beginners guide to knives?

Ok I've been reading up on these forums and found a lot of useful information but perhaps I've read too much as I am even further from being able to make a decision than when I started!

About me:
Home cook, lots of preparing fruit/veg, meat for stirfrying, lamb/beef for roasts, etc and other general home cooking tasks.
I'd like to have the basic equipment for the above while also being covered (not necessarily with the perfect tool but something adequate) for most other situations that may arise.
Price isn't a large issue as someone has gifted us some money to purchase these with. Normally I would be budget conscious but I am happy to spend a bit more in order to have a set that 'lasts a lifetime'.

I'd like something that is relatively easy to maintain at home. I don't think I'm game to sharpen myself so the longer it will stay sharp between professional sharpening the better.

My questions are as follows:

Having read the above information, which knife styles would you recommend?

Should we stick to a single brand to start out or do some brands do particular styles better than others?

Which brands should I avoid?

I understand that 'knife fit' is important but for basic home use, should we go so far as to get separate chef's knives for my husband and I? We went out and and tried some out, I have really small hands though so all seemed kind of awkward though the Japanese brands a bit better but my husband has much larger hands and we did differ on what we found most comfortable.

I appreciate any help/advice you can offer.

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Old 12-06-2009, 07:42 AM   #2
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Should we stick to a single brand to start out or do some brands do particular styles better than others?
...
Well, I found a make and model I like, so I have purchased a few of those a la carte. That being said, I do have a number of different brands. I tend to buy what I like, not by brand alone.
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Old 12-06-2009, 09:23 AM   #3
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Buy a few different brands. Based on your satisfaction with the few you've purchased you'll have some basis for deciding what to brand to purchase next. Eventually you'll probably wind up with paring, boning, chef's or cook's, carving, utility, bread, petty, and santoku knives.

Unfortunately, if you do not learn how to maintain the sharpness of your cutlery, you will be at a disadvantage when it comes to making a cost benefit analysis.

I've never spent more than $200 for a knife so I'll never know how good the really expensive ones are. Shun's SG2 steel is pretty good. You might want to buy 1 knife made of this material to decide if it's worth the money.
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Old 12-06-2009, 09:30 AM   #4
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I guess I should clarify. I'm confident using a steel to keep the edge maintained but once it is dulled I would rather have them professionally re-sharpened.

Perhaps I am misguided but my understanding was that with moderate home use a good knife could go 6-12 months if properly maintained without needing to be re-sharpened?
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Old 12-06-2009, 09:44 AM   #5
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Better knives, properly maintained, should go for 6 to 12 months without needing to be resharpened.
Glad to hear you know how to use a steel. I use a smooth Balkan for edge conditioning and a fine cut Balkan for more aggressive edge restoration. F. Dick seems to be the only outfit left selling balkan steels these days. Just bought one for $72 because I'm afraid they may cease to be available.
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Old 12-06-2009, 09:44 AM   #6
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If you and DH both use knives regularly, I would recommend you each get one that is comfortable to use. If one of you only uses a knife once in a while, it may not be worthwhile to get two.

There is no special reason to stick with a single brand as long as you stay with quality knives.

I recommend a Chef's knife (6"-10" based on comfort) as your first choice for everyday use. I prefer it over a santoku. Then you probably should look at a paring knife or two and a 10" bread knife.

Avoid any knife brand that offers a "never needs sharpening" blade.
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Old 12-06-2009, 12:41 PM   #7
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I recommend a Chef's knife (6"-10" based on comfort) as your first choice for everyday use. I prefer it over a santoku. Then you probably should look at a paring knife or two and a 10" bread knife.
...
Those three will address the vast majority of your cutting needs.
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Old 12-06-2009, 12:55 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Andy M. View Post
If you and DH both use knives regularly, I would recommend you each get one that is comfortable to use. If one of you only uses a knife once in a while, it may not be worthwhile to get two.

There is no special reason to stick with a single brand as long as you stay with quality knives.

I recommend a Chef's knife (6"-10" based on comfort) as your first choice for everyday use. I prefer it over a santoku. Then you probably should look at a paring knife or two and a 10" bread knife.

Avoid any knife brand that offers a "never needs sharpening" blade.
So many fall for the "never need sharpening" knives. The bad part is that they NEVER CAN be sharpened and when the blade goes to heck (as they often do because they are almost always made of low grade metal) they need to be tossed.

And if you have ever cut yourself with one of those knives, it is very nasty and jagged, taking a long time to heal, compared to a good clean cut from a proper knife that will often heal much quicker.
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Old 12-06-2009, 02:19 PM   #9
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(Not considering bread knifes and such), using a steel every or every other time your chef's knife is used, and hand washing and drying it, and replacing it into the block backbone first so the edge never touches wood except a cutting board, I've found 2 inexpensive but reasonable quality chef's knives, one 6" and the other 8". (10" for me is too unwieldy.)

Someone mentioned a $200 knife, which is a middle of the road price. I paid about $20 per knife that cuts fruit thin enough to read newprint through, and glides through a roast or tenderloin.

After 10 years that other person will have a $200 investment (+pro sharpening) in a 10 year old knife.

After 10 years (and replacing my knife every two years) I will have a $100 total investment in a knife that is never more than 2 years old and probably never needs a professional sharpening.

I'm not saying that professional grade knives aren't worth their substantial investment. But for me, someone who isn't a professional cook but does claim to be gourmet-inclined, and who is a kitchen gadget hound, some investments just make better sense than others.
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Old 12-06-2009, 04:32 PM   #10
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I imagine I'm the other person. I own some 2 dozen kitchen knives, ranging in age from 90+ to 1 year old. I doubt $20 knives will be going for $20 ten years from now, am not interested in ever having to replace my knives, nor shelling out $100+ over ten years for five $20 knives, nor having to resort to having anyone else sharpen my knives.
I think it's false economy to fritter away $20 at a time hoping to find cutlery that will perform as well as and last as long as higher grade knives.
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