Are Shun knives really worth the price

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I'm not prepared to spend almost $500. for a French Knife. Great looking cutlery, but can anyone tell me if they are really worth the price?
 
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I'm not prepared to spend almost $500. for a French Knife. Great looking cutlery, but can anyone tell me if they are really worth the price?
As a general rule, Shun chef's knives aren't very good for the price. That doesn't mean that a given Shun isn't the perfect choice for someone; so the accurate answer to your question and many others like it is, "it depends."

Tell me which model you're interested in, and we can start breaking it down.

If you're considering buying a chef's knife sometime in the near future, why not tell me about what you want from it and how much you are willing to spend?

BDL
 
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Hi Johnny... 

Almost a year ago I made a very similar question, but I was almost convinced that shuns were the best knives around, and based on the great advice by BDL, Chris Lehrer, Lenny D and some other veteran members, I ended with a knife that I was not very sure if I was going to like, but since all these fine gentlemen always explained me in detail why there were better choices than my original one, I decided to follow their advice and I can't be happier with the results. I have now the best knife that I've ever used, and let me tell you...I don't regret at all, and there are many more to come.

BDL already answered you, tell him what you want and need and you'll get the best answer, and the most important... It will be based on personal experience.

Best regards!

BTW... My "shun" is a "Mac" /img/vbsmilies/smilies/biggrin.gif
 
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Shun knives are decent but there are better knives for the price.  Mostly Shuns just aren't any FUN!  They've gotten so mainstream and so common that there's no novelty to them now.  That's not necessarily a bad thing but I enjoy searching out the Next Big Thing./img/vbsmilies/smilies/lol.gif
 
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Thank you all for the input. I've had a set of 4 star henkles for the past 10 years and they have treated me well. I was looking to upgrade, but based on the replies, I'm probably going to stick with Henkles. Been soley a Henkle man for over 20 years now. Thanks again. John
 
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It's great to stay with what you've liked for 20 years; but why was Shun the only upgrade possibility?
 
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Again, it depends what you're looking for. If you're looking for something which will get and stay appreciably sharper than a traditional Henckels, doesn't require nearly as much steeling, and handles MUCH better, there are scores of possibilities.

This is not to say high-end German (and American and Swiss) knives don't do a lot of things well and don't represent a lot of value -- because they most certainly do. But when it comes to what many of us consider to be the most important aspects of cooking knives they lag behind the Japanese. FWIW, my own journey included a stop at Henckels Four Star Pro when I decided to put away my carbon Sabs and get something stainless and more modern at the same time I evolved from "line ape" to catering in the late seventies. After a couple of years, I went back to the Sabs because they were so much sharper, lighter, more agile, and a bunch of other things which made prep hugely less exhausting and burdensome.

On the other hand, the bayonet fork was great. Still love mine after nearly forty years.

One thing about traditional German style chef's knives, they work better dull than almost anything else. But why work with a dull knife?

You don't have to spend $500 on a "French knife" (aka cook's knife; chef's knife; or gyuto) to get a good Japanese knife. Where did you get the idea they were so expensive? The price range for a western-handled, stainless, 10" knife is already high enough, thank you. It runs from around $80 for good entry-level (Fujiwara FKM, for instance.) to around $250 for ultimate performance (Tadatsuna Inox, by way of example). For a working pro looking for a high-end professional knife, the knives I most recommend are priced in the neighborhood of $150.

When we say don't buy Shun, we're not saying don't buy a Japanese made western style knife. On the contrary, we're saying buy a GOOD Japanese made western style knife.

Don't just walk away... Stick around and learn something.

What do you most want from a "French knife?"

BDL
 
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Is a Le Creuset cast iron dutch oven worth the price?  Is All-Clad worth the price?

It is if you want a Le Creuset cast iron dutch oven, or some All-Clad pots/pans.

The Shun's are fantastic knives.  Some of them get really expensive, really fast, which I find ridiculous.  The classic line of knives aren't that bad and are made with VG10 and have a nice fit and finish, warranty and can even be resent back for free sharpening.  There certainly are cheaper VG10 knives out there.  Do you care about the name on the side of it?
 
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There are some nice things to be said about Shun, but at the risk of disagreeing with the previous poster, they aren't good for the price. 

Unless you like an exaggerated German with a very high tip, most of their chef's knives profiles are ridiculously bad.  They are wide at the heel, compared to other knives in the same price range.  San-mai knives feel "damped" and "numb" to a large minority of users.  On the "Classics," the VG-10 edge is chippy, the suminagashi pattern doesn't hold up well, the "D" handle isn't ambidextrous...  I could go on.

Their F&F is excellent, as good as anything coming out of Japan.  The warranty and customer service is also excellent.  (Both things already said).  They're sold by some pretty darn good cooking equipment retailers -- but usually not good knife retailers -- who will also hand-hold. 

They will take and hold a better edge than a late eighties Wusthof -- but so can a great many other knives.  As a modern, Japanese made knife, their edge qualities are run of the mill.  The question with Shuns -- as with so many other things -- is "compared to what?"  Every Shun line I can think of is closer to the bottom of the page than the top, when compared to similarly priced lines from other Japanese manufacturers.

That is by no means a way of saying they're bad.  We're talking about placement in a range of good, and the differences can be subtle and individual taste plays a role as well.  A lot of good cooks love their Shuns. 

If you're interested in moving up to a really good knife, let's talk.

BDL
 
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Any knife that anyone buys, for whatever price they pay, and likes it, is absolutely worth the money .......... IF THEY CAN USE IT PROPERLY, PRODUCING HIGH-QUALITY DISHES. My goodness. Never once in my entire career as a chef has anyone complimented me on the food I've served asking what knives I've used. If you can't cook, it doesn't matter if you use a $6,000 knife. Conversely, if your cooking gets you 3 Michelin stars, nobody will care if your knives are the plastic jobs swiped from a Wendy's. Learn to cook first, then worry about $500 knives. 
 
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Any knife that anyone buys, for whatever price they pay, and likes it, is absolutely worth the money .......... IF THEY CAN USE IT PROPERLY, PRODUCING HIGH-QUALITY DISHES. My goodness. Never once in my entire career as a chef has anyone complimented me on the food I've served asking what knives I've used. If you can't cook, it doesn't matter if you use a $6,000 knife. Conversely, if your cooking gets you 3 Michelin stars, nobody will care if your knives are the plastic jobs swiped from a Wendy's. Learn to cook first, then worry about $500 knives. 
I'm not sure though, IceMan, if your point is that this sub-forum just shouldn't exist?  "Why talk about what options there are for knives to use and purchase knives?"

I think it helps to learn about tools, try to figure out where the diminishing returns set in with budgeting (and then stay well below that if you can't afford to get there, or go well above that if you're an enthusiast with lots of disposable income, and so on).  And to find out what differences there are between things near a given price point (hence the "worth it" questions). 

Your point is well-taken that no one else cares, and that priorities might get confused.  But if the person cooking cares, that's enough; and... well... priorities, hmm.  I was interested in knives before I was interested in cooking.  Which seems all kinds of dumb-backwards.  Now that I'm interested in cooking, the love of the tools make it more fun.  Maybe not the ideal path, but one some of us are on.

Am I thinking about this all wrong?
 
 
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I have pieced together a "set" of Shun knives over the past 5 or so years.  I have the 8 inch chef's, 4 inch paring, utility knife, fillet knife and boning knife.  I also have an older Kai cleaver which is a lighter duty piece.  I have nothing but praise for these knives, but I only use them for precision work.  By that I mean I use some heavier knives when I am fabricating any meat.  The Shun knives are great for prep, and hold a nice edge, but I also have a Henckel's "twin" chef's knife to break down chickens and anything else that calls for a knife with some more heft to it.
 
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LOL. My point is very simple: 

Buy whatever you want. I'm happy for you. Ask, in any post, whatever you like. I'm happy for you once again. However, all said and done, "SEARCH" is your friend.

Look up any "SHUN Knife" thread that you want. People ask almost every time the same thing, "Are they worth it?". BDL, being the knife Guru that he is, replies almost the very same thing every time. Without looking I can almost quote him from memory. It seams to me that the OPs want a SHUN knife and they only ask looking for justification. 

http://www.cheftalk.com/search.php?search=shun+knives

For reasons not at all important here I just decided to say what I feel today. Say and post whatever makes you happy, After all, we are not Communists. Realize too though, without going out-of-bounds, that I will also say and post what I think. I don't think my post was at all out-of-bounds. 

I hope the OP learns as much as possible, and buys the knife that makes him the happiest. I want to read many future posts of his. I hope he enjoys the forum and reads my posts along with others. 
 
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I don't think your post was out of bounds, either -- please don't misconstrue anything I said as implying you shouldn't post whatever you want. Not only are we not communists, I'm not a commissar.  So have at it!  And I agree that the search function could be a very good friend.  (I used it a lot before I ever posted here, myself).

I just took your post as implying you should "buy what you want" without guidance, which would obviate the need for a forum like this altogether. If you're venting a certain set of frustrations, no problem here.  And if you're trying to help re-set priorities toward the goal of cooking well, that's probably some wisdom.  I need to hear it from time to time, at least.
 
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      Quote:
I have pieced together a "set" of Shun knives over the past 5 or so years.  I have the 8 inch chef's, 4 inch paring, utility knife, fillet knife and boning knife.  I also have an older Kai cleaver which is a lighter duty piece.  I have nothing but praise for these knives, but I only use them for precision work.  By that I mean I use some heavier knives when I am fabricating any meat.  The Shun knives are great for prep, and hold a nice edge, but I also have a Henckel's "twin" chef's knife to break down chickens and anything else that calls for a knife with some more heft to it.
I have nothing but praise for the 2 I own either.  I splurged and bought a Hattori based on reading knife forums like this one.  It's a cool knife in my opinion (6" petty) but there isn't anything about it that makes me feel like it's better than the Shun's I own.  Actually the fit and finish is significantly worse and that alone makes me feel it's a lesser quality, lesser value knife.  Compared to the many Wusthof's & Henckels that I've owned, borrowed, used... I think the Shun's are a huge step up.  But there is also something nice about a big heavy Wusthof though... you feel like you could cut through anything with one of those and not damage the blade.  BDL hates the san-mai, suminagashi, D handle and profile... I like all those things.  It's personal preference in my opinion.

.
 
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I went thru a Shun phase, like most people do, when I first moving from Germans to Japanese.  But I've long since got rid of the last one.  I will say, though, that I also have the Hattori HD petty in the 6"-ish length and used to own the 6" Shun.  I didn't need both and basically flipped a coin and kept the Hattori and got rid of the Shun.  The Shun really was pretty much equal to the Hattori.  Were I to do it again I wouldn't have purchased either one.  For that matter I don't anticipate ever buying anything in VG-10 again unless something exceptional comes out (at least with regards to kitchen knives).  Hattori does a good heat treat on their KF/FH line and I wouldn't mind getting a 240mm gyuto to replace the one I sold. 
 
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Ab definito, what I like is universal, objective truth, but what you like is personal taste.  For heaven's sake can't we keep this straight? 

The biggest negative issues with Shuns are the chef's knife profile and thick heels. 

One's preferred profile is a matter of taste, but the fact that Shun uses an exaggerated German with a high tip is not.  The trend among better technicians is away from German and towards French with a mid-line or lower tip because the profile is more agile; because the extra power you get with German profile isn't necessary with a very sharp knife; and because you don't need to get the handle up as high to get the tip on the board (as for "draw" cuts, scoring shallots, and other tip work).   Those are inherent properties of the profiles, not opinions; but you're certainly entitled to prefer a German profile.  

A thicker heel is harder to sharpen and prone to wedging.  D heels are not ambidextrous.  Shun suminagashi cladding is soft and scratches easily.  Those things aren't matters of individual taste, they just are. 

With the coming of a few excellent US retailers and the availability of lots of (better) options, Shun and Global are no longer the force they were a few years ago in high end kitchens.   

Are there good reasons for that?  I think so.  I'm not saying don't buy a Shun, or you were a fool if you did.  Rather I think you should develop an understanding, make a short list of knives which are bound to work for you, and choose one according to whatever criteria you have left.  Other than friendship and support, I don't have much to offer after the understanding and a few suggestions for that list.  If you're happy with your Shun, I'm happy for you. 

I don't believe all knives are created equal or that the difference are only matters of individual preference.  My thoughts were shaped working in professional kitchens and teaching cooking and knife skills classes.  They were strengthened by staying in touch with skilled technicians who run professional kitchens and end up teaching lots of employees, and by keeping a close eye on cooking and knife forums.

My knife dialogues tend to start more or less the same way, because most people come in to CT asking the same sorts of knife questions, and because I like to get a feel for their general knowledge level before starting with too much advice.  Most people don't know knife basics, so I go through those pretty often.  It's worth doing it as an individual question and answer, because people learn differently and it's reflected in their questions; but, sure, it can get repetitive if you follow every thread.  There are only so many basics.  The most important thing I have to say is hammering the importance of sharpening and sharpness.  Boring once you've read it a few (hundred) times, but it comes as news to most people asking for "first good" knife advice at CT.  They're not stupid, they just didn't realize.  They're worth the respect, time and extra typing to get the news fresh and "just for them."   

If someone's really interested in a knife or a type of knife I don't like and/or don't know much about, I'll say so and drop out of the conversation.  For instance, there's a currently ongoing thread about a guy who wants to buy a pattern welded, san-mai gyuto as a gift. 

Most of my knife recommendations aren't for the knives I own, because they aren't the best choice for most people who do ask.  I think the ideal knife is one which takes the drudgery out of prep, is comfortable, doesn't overtax the budget, and doesn't demand too much maintenance or a too high level of knife skills, sharpening skills or sharpening kit.  Fun is the beau ideal.

I enjoy knives in general, my knives in particular, and like sharing the pleasure.  But, I'm more about the creativity and art of cooking than the technicality of knives.  The "knife guru" thing came about as unintentional niche filling.  

BDL
 
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The main strength of Kershaw Shun isn't knife making, it's marketing.  They're a slightly better cutlery version of Bose.  Kershaw does seem to have great technical and manufacturing abilities and I'd never count them out.  As the market matures and people's tastes become more sophisticated it seems that Kershaw Kai has begun to modify their product line.  They have a newish line that doesn't say Kramer on them but they've retained the basic Kramer "schooner" shape.  The new Premier line seems superior in every respect to the Classic that it seems destined to replace.  I have no doubt that if they wanted to produce a very French patterned, waifishly thin gyuto they could.  But right now that's not their demographic.  And as BDL alludes to, that gyuto might be great for him or I but it would probably be a lousy choice for Joe Sixpack or Jane Homemaker.  Most Shuns straddle the line between performance and practicality.  If a Wusthof is a Ford F-150 and a Konosuke KD is a Koenigsegg CXX, then a Shun is a V-6 Mustang.  Sporty enough to impress your buddies but not likely to get you into much trouble (compared to the CXX, at least...).

I quite liked the construction of the Shun Elite line.  The gyuto shared the same failings as their other ones, ie too much belly, so I never bought one.  But the other patterns in the Elite line were okay.
 
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Phaedrus did an excellent job of peering into the Shun mystique.  I disagree with none, but quibble -- just a little -- with one.  He was on the money when he talked about Shun and marketing, but not as right when he talked about Shun straddling the line between performance and practicality.  Almost all of their knives are overhyped on the basis of imaginary benefits; way too much about appearance; and from a practicality/performance standpoint they're somewhat -- but not obscenely -- overpriced.  That's not to say there aren't a lot of good things to say about them, but those good things like F&F, customer support, etc., fall in different areas.  Shun plus Williams-Sonoma, and Shun plus Sur La Table are very good fits.  

Mustang V-6?  Not bad, not bad at all.  A "chick car" is a good comparison.  Where many other Japanese knives are sports cars of one sort or degree, Shuns are more "sporty."

Phaedrus was smart to talk about Shun's variety of lines.  

BDL
 
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I do find a Shun to be vastly superior to a Wusthof, performance wise.  It will easily take and hold a 10k edge.  It's not as good as a Konsuke but a quantum leap up from your mass market German, IMO.
 

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