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Old 01-25-2009, 12:10 AM   #1
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Need your help choosing knives

About Me: I'm no Chef, I will only make a real meal about twice a week. I'm not looking to make cooking or knives a hobby. I don't really use many of the knives correctly. I'm not likely to spend time using a steel or sharpner. I would be better off with something I can have sharpened professionally once a year or so.

My Knife History: Two years ago I bough a set that I would call the best of the cheap crap. I also bought a Santoku from the Wusthof Classic line. Sadly when I moved the Santoku vanished (really odd, as it is the only thing I noticed missing.) The Wusthof Classic Santoku was the sharpest knife I ever used, it took a few uses and minor cuts to learn how to use. I have been suffering with my cheap knives for the last few months, and the last straw was when my carving knive wasn't sharp enough to carve a turkey properly.

My first instinct: Get Wusthof Santoku, Chef's, Carving, and possibly Steak knives now and pickup others I needed later.

Goals:
1. Good knives that will last the rest of my life. (I'm 25.)
2. Knives that hold a sharp (My definition of sharp is: How sharp the Wusthof Santoku was.) or very sharp edge for 1+ years between sharpenings without steel uses
3. To get the best bang for my buck. Money isn't a huge issue, but I like to make sure my money goes as far as it can. I'm not concerned with brand names or impressing anyone.

Questions:
1. Beyond the Santoku (7in), Chef's (8in), and Carving (9 or 10in) knives are they others I should get right away?
2. What brands/lines will fit my goals with my use and expectations?
3. What brands/lines would be the best bang for the buck with equal or near equal performance to the best brands/lines.

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Old 01-25-2009, 12:48 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lentesubigo View Post
Goals:
1. Good knives that will last the rest of my life. (I'm 25.)
Good knives will last you many years; perhaps for a lifetime if you're a home cook and take care of them well. Henckels & Wusthof both make good knives. Messermeister is my favorite German knife maker, though.


Quote:
Originally Posted by lentesubigo View Post
2. Knives that hold a sharp (My definition of sharp is: How sharp the Wusthof Santoku was.) or very sharp edge for 1+ years between sharpenings without steel uses
Hmmm...that's probably not realistic, at least depending upon how you define sharp. Always using a good plastic or end-grain wooden cutting board and washing the knife by hand will extend the edge, but despite the claims of cutlery companies no knife will stay sharp forever. Some steels are harder and/or more wear resistant than others and those knives will hold an edge for a long while, but typically German knives are a bit softer. Learning to use a smooth steel isn't difficult at all and will make a big difference. I'd also suggest you read this thread.


Quote:
Originally Posted by lentesubigo View Post
3. To get the best bang for my buck. Money isn't a huge issue, but I like to make sure my money goes as far as it can. I'm not concerned with brand names or impressing anyone.
I'm a big fan of Japanese knives. If you're trying to keep the price under $60 per knife you'd do well to try a Tojiro. There are lots of good brands out there; for Japanese I like Shun, Hattori, Kanetsune and Tojiro (there aer literally hundreds of smaller makers, too). A good German from Wusthof, Henckels or Messermeister is a pretty good value, too. I am also fond of the Forschner Fibrox knives- a 10" Fibrox chef knife is only about $30.


Quote:
Originally Posted by lentesubigo View Post
Questions:
1. Beyond the Santoku (7in), Chef's (8in), and Carving (9 or 10in) knives are they others I should get right away?
It depends on what you're doing with them. Most people can get by with an 8" Chef, a bread knife and a paring knife. If you do a lot of roasts or turkeys a carving knife is a good idea. I consider a santoku to be optional but if you like them, go for it. Personally I use a 6" utility, a 10" chef knife and a birds beak parer quite a bit as well as my 12" Fibrox slicing knife.


Quote:
Originally Posted by lentesubigo View Post
2. What brands/lines will fit my goals with my use and expectations?
It would probably help a bit if you described the type of cooking you do and the price range you're thinking of.

Quote:
Originally Posted by lentesubigo View Post
3. What brands/lines would be the best bang for the buck with equal or near equal performance to the best brands/lines.
Again, hard to advise you without knowing what you'll use them for. Some fairly expensive knives are good values and some cheap knives are not. A Shun Classic chef's knife will cost you about $125 but I think it's well worth it. A Calphalon might cost you $20 but is a waste of even that.

Good value European brands:

Forshner- Very good for the money, well reviewed by professional publications. Stamped but made of very good steel. Very sharp OOTB.

Wusthof- They change lines frequently and some are overpriced, but I think the Le Cordon Blue and Classic lines are good.

J.A. Henckels- The Professional S series is nice, although a tad pricey. Not a bad value though since they're well made.

Messermeister- The Meridian Elite is very, very good. Not cheap but well worth the money. If you're willing to spend that much and want a German that's what I'd recommend.

Shun- I'm a big fan of Shun. Like all Japanese knives, Shun grinds their edges at 16 degrees vs about 22.5 for most Germans. This means Japanese knives are sharper and thinner; they'll cut much better but can be a bit less rugged (I'm oversimplifying a bit).

Hattori- Another Japanese maker, their HD and KF lines are very good, but spendy.

There are lot of good Japanese brands- if you're interested I can go into more detail. Buzzard is also a Japanese knife junkie and can tell you more than you ever wanted to know!

Hope this helps,

Rob
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Old 01-25-2009, 01:50 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lentesubigo View Post
My first instinct: Get Wusthof Santoku, Chef's, Carving, and possibly Steak knives now and pickup others I needed later.

Goals:
1. Good knives that will last the rest of my life. (I'm 25.)
2. Knives that hold a sharp (My definition of sharp is: How sharp the Wusthof Santoku was.) or very sharp edge for 1+ years between sharpenings without steel uses
3. To get the best bang for my buck. Money isn't a huge issue, but I like to make sure my money goes as far as it can. I'm not concerned with brand names or impressing anyone.

Questions:
1. Beyond the Santoku (7in), Chef's (8in), and Carving (9 or 10in) knives are they others I should get right away?
2. What brands/lines will fit my goals with my use and expectations?
3. What brands/lines would be the best bang for the buck with equal or near equal performance to the best brands/lines.
Re Goals:
1) Any good knife will last you a lifetime.
2) To get the best out of your knives use wooden or plastic cutting boards. Also look up the "Wusthof Pull through Sharpener" thread for some ideas on what non-experts can use to keep their knives sharp.
3) Good, be open to getting different knives from different manufacturers for different jobs.

Questions:
1) I use a chef's knife, a Nakiri vegetable knife, a boning knife and a paring knife and they do 98% of my cutting at work. A bread saw is pretty handy, but other specialist knives like carvers, filleting knives, turning knives etc. are only worth buying if you will be using them regularly. I would not bother with a utility knife, and I've never had the need to pull one out in a professional kitchen.

2) Different brands do different things. Japanese knives are very good for precision cuts. German or French knives are more robust. For a person who isn't a knife fiend I'd recommend a German style knife for a chef's knife as they are a bit safer to use because of the larger blade width (belly).
The following Brands make very good German style Chef's knives at good prices:
a) Wusthof
b) Henckels - be careful with these as there is a big difference between their top of the range stuff and their cheapies.
c) Messermeister
d) Eberhaardt Schaaf best quality and most expensive of the reasonably available German knives
e) Scanpan (Damastahl range is excellent but pricey, Classic is a good but not great knife)
f) Solicut
g) F Dick premier range
h) Victorinox professional range

For a Santoku or Nakiri (vegetable knife) I'd go for a Japanese brand. Global, Shun, MAC, Tojiro or Kasumi are all readily available.

For a boning knife it is very important to get a knife with a handle that you can firmly grip in slippery conditions. Henckel's 4 star range has excellent handles for this purpose I would specifically avoid Wusthof for a boning knife. The Scanpan boning knives appear to be very good, but I haven't used their boning knives so can't comment specifically on them. F Dick supply a lot of knives to the butchery trade so I assume their boning knives would be top class.

For a paring knife I would look to a Sabatier (French) design. Of all the paring knives I've ever used the Sabatiers are hugely better than their competitors. There are about 20 companies that can officially use the Sabatier family name, the best of these are 4 Star (aka 'elephant'); Diamond; Lion and Sabatier K. D'Eglon and Dehillerin also have good quality knives, but they don't have the name factor of a true Sabatier.
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Old 01-25-2009, 09:39 AM   #4
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Any thoughts on Mundial. I see a few positive posts on the forum, but like the rest of the web, there isn't much reference to Mundial.
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Old 01-25-2009, 10:04 AM   #5
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I got my first "Real" knife last summer and have been in love with it since. I picked up a Shun chef knife and proceeded to almost take off my finger the first time I used it. It is SHARP. I had been researching for a while and what sold me was Alton Brown raving about the knife. You can see the video at his site.
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Old 01-25-2009, 10:26 AM   #6
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Rob gives solid advice as do the rest of the responses so far. I can't speak to Mundial knives (though I have a nail clipper made by them that works fairly well). You'd be safe to assume that a lack of discussion on the brand is a decent indication that they don't have a strong following among people who like knives. I'd guess that brand, like many general kitchenware manufacturers' knives, are geared more to the "toss it in the dishwasher"-school of thought, and therefore less likely to receive a ranting or raving about them online.
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Old 01-25-2009, 01:12 PM   #7
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In my experience Mundial is mediocre, about the same catagory as Dexter Russel. All the Mundials I've used were very soft, easy to sharpen but incapable of taking a great edge, and wouldn't hold an edge for long.
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Old 01-25-2009, 02:28 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lentesubigo View Post
My first instinct: Get Wusthof Santoku, Chef's, Carving, and possibly Steak knives now and pickup others I needed later.


Questions:
1. Beyond the Santoku (7in), Chef's (8in), and Carving (9 or 10in) knives are they others I should get right away?
2. What brands/lines will fit my goals with my use and expectations?
3. What brands/lines would be the best bang for the buck with equal or near equal performance to the best brands/lines.
I got my first Wustoff Classic when I was in my late 20's (about 30 years ago). Over the years, I've added to my collection, and have about 20 of them. Any good knife will truly last a lifetime if you take care of them:

1. Don't put them in the dishwasher or throw them in a sink of water! Hand was them and put them right away.
2. Don't store them in a drawer where their edges can clink together. Either keep them in a block or use knife guards.
3. Always use an appropriate soft surface cutting board. Don't use glass, metal, granite, formica, or a plate.
4. Learn to use a steel. It's quick - It's simple - It's important.

In my opinion, the basics are a paring knife, chef's knife, bread knife (serrated), and slicer (carver). A Santoku and a Chef's knife serve the same purpose, it's simply a matter of preference. There are those here that will swear by their chef's knife, and others equally devoted to their Santoku. Find the one you prefer and go with it.

The most important thing is how it fits your hand. For example, Henkels & Wustoff each have their basic series. The knives look so much alike that you can hardly discern the difference. They are both made of excellent German forged steel blades. But when you pick them up, the balance is slightly different, and one is slightly heaver than the other. One is thicker through the depth of the handle, and one is thicker through the width of the handle. Go to a kitchen store where you can actually handle the knives on a cutting board. If they're going to last you a lifetime, they had better be comfortable. It doesn't matter which one any of us here prefers. The only thing that counts is how it feels in YOUR hand.

A word about steak knives. All the major knife brands include steak knives, which are relatively expensive (about $100 for 4). So you set your very expensive steak knives at the table, and your guests promptly clink the edges against the forks and cut on a hard surface (the plate). After dinner, the steak knives usually go with the other flatware right into the dishwasher. If you've spent $25 or more per knife, you'll be wincing your way through dinner each time your guests cut their food. You can get some attractive, functional, sharp implements for a lot less money and replace them after they've been irreparably abused.
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Old 01-25-2009, 02:34 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lentesubigo View Post
About Me: I'm no Chef, I will only make a real meal about twice a week.
Perhaps two meals a week now but as your life progresses I predict much more prep. Considering that, no knife exists that would only require sharpening once a year. Actually, there are a few but they are expensive and in time you would need them sharpened for you as you said you had no interest in doing so yourself.

You can get along with nothing more than an 8 or 10" Chef's knife and a Messermeister serrated veggie peeler. A good Chef's knife will chop and slice vegetables and slice meats as well. If you decide at a later date that you would like a dedicated slicer and/or paring knife, go for it. If you acquire 50 more knives you'll still use the Chef's knife 95% of the time.

I recommend stainless steel, a thin blade so that there is less friction, a knife that can be made very sharp, and I'm talking much more sharp than German knives, and an edge that will have some longevity in between sharpening. I also don't think you're a candidate to spend $300 on a knife, so my choice would be a Tojiro DP in 210mm (8.3"). It has Japanese geometry, Swedish steel, and can be had for less than $60. You might want to google Tojiro DP and see what others think. There are sometimes a couple of small issues concerning the handle which can can be easily fixed with a piece of sandpaper. For the money they are in value contention with any knife in the world and are much better than knives made using German, French, or American geometry. You can keep it plenty sharp with a $25 Idahone ceramic steel. After a few years, when the edge works its way up into a fatter area of the blade, you can send it out to a pro who specializes in Japanese knives and receive it better than new.

Buzz
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Old 01-25-2009, 07:44 PM   #10
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Good advice from Buzz, as usual. I myself would choose the 240mm Tojo, but I just prefer a larger knife, especially if I only had one. Truth be told I use a chef's knife for almost everything; nearly everything you'd do with a knife I can do with that. I second the peeler notion- you'll never see me peel a potato or carrot with a knife! The exception would be a baked potato- if I'm peeling a slew of bakers for soup I'll use my Messermeister bird's beak (a tourne if you want to get technical).

As an aside, I'm surprised that you don't use a utility at all, jpaulg. Obviously everyone has their own style but I use a 6" utility all the time. I'd feel naked without it in my work roll. Sure, everything I use it for could be done with another knife but it's much handier than a French knife for some tasks.
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