Buying Advice Japanese Chef Knife

Discussion in 'Cooking Knife Reviews' started by dalailamer, Mar 22, 2017.

  1. dalailamer

    dalailamer

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    Hello ChefTalk Forum,

    it's my first post here, so I hope I didn’t miss any rules. :)

    I will be in Tokyo in a month or two (and I come from Germany, if that should be relevant in any way). My plan was to buy a single chef knife to build a “collection” around it. I do have all basic knifes, so this is supposed to be a significant upgrade from my http://www.wuesthof.com/germany/products/Product-details/cook-s-knife-4582-20

    I’ll just go right at it.

    Price: aprox. €150-200/$162-215 (excluding sharpening stones)

    Handle: German style preferred

    Blade form: Leaning towards western chef knife (I mostly cut in a rocking motion)

    Blade length: 20cm/8inch

    My current favourite is the Shun Premier 8 inch ().

    I love almost every aspect of this knife (VGmax, beautiful finish, hammered, nice handle), but then again, I am a total newbie when it comes to Japanese knife.

    Is there an actual benefit to a hammered finish? I am hoping less food will stick, but I have no experience with hammered knives. If that is not the case, I suppose it just adds to the maintenance.

    Would you guys consider this knife a worthwhile investment or would you advise me to reconsider my choice? I am aware of the extensive care such a knife requires, in fact I am looking forward to getting into the process of proper sharpening and maintenance and taking care of such a beautiful piece for the years to come.

    Also, since I will buy in Japan, how will the price be influenced? There are supposed to be small, non-chain retailers who sell them for a lower price, so maybe I could also look in knives above €200?

    Thanks already for your help & best regards

    Dalai Lamer
     
  2. foody518

    foody518

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    Hi @dalaiLamer, welcome to Cheftalk

    If I had my guess, I'd say that if you're looking for very rocking motion friendly Japanese knives, you probably already have access to them online with Shun and Yaxell brand knives. Can't comment on pricing of buying while in Japan. It might be a good chance to get something less commonly available as opposed to viewing it as a chance to get something normally available for cheaper, but this is just my impression.

    Biggest thing will be to get a sharpening plan together for your current and future knives. How are you sharpening the Wuesthof?

    Have you looked into Herder 1922 series chef's knives? @Benuser  should be able to talk more about these. Monosteel carbon, will need to have the bolster managed as with your current Wuesthof knife.

    https://www.knivesandtools.com/en/ct/robert-herder-1922-series.htm
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2017
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  3. dalailamer

    dalailamer

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    Hello @foody518,

    you are making a very good point, but shopping for not commonly known knives makes this already complicated matter even harder for me. 

    Up until now, I didn't find it necessary to invest in sharpening stones, as here in Germany I can have knives sharpened for a fairly small price. I suppose this won't be the case with Japanese knives. (However, Shun offers free sharpening so that could bridge the gap while I practice sharpening the Wuesthofs on the stones I will invest in.) I'm currently on a longer stay abroad so I just want to buy the knife and take care of the rest when I am back in Germany. 

    The one you posted seems like a good choice, but I fail to see the upside compared to Shun. Care to elaborate?

    Best regards!

    /e The Herder 1922 seems like a German atempt to copy Japanese knives (thin blade, 60 HRC). Wouldn't it be better to buy the "original"?
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2017
  4. brianshaw

    brianshaw

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    As a user of that exact knife I can attest to the fact that it can be sharpened very sharp, stays sharp, and when used properly does all the necessary chef cutting needs. When it gets dull it gets very dull. When dropped or used improperly it can chip. That's part of the challenge of a thinner and harder blade. The hammering is pretty but only cosmetic in my experience... but then again I don't have nearly as much complaint about food sticking to blades a some folks do. If you like that aesthetic and willing to pay the price its a good knife. I also have classic series Shun, including an 8 inch chef. They actually perform quite similarly. When sharpening they can be a bit of a challenge but I don't find the care needed to be "extensive". Normal sharpening is all mine have ever needed... and its a lot less sharpening required than German blades (I have Henckels Four-Star from the 1980's too). Don't get rid of your Wusthofs, though... you'll want them for "heavier work". There are all sorts of alternatives that will get mentioned... its up to you and your needs/desires really.
     
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  5. foody518

    foody518

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    Bernard, can you comment on the grind of the Herder 1922?
     
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  6. dalailamer

    dalailamer

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    Thanks for the advice, I will refrain from using this knife for chopping then! What would you say is the limit of what to cut with a HRC 60(+) in terms of hardness? A carrot? Squash? 
    Oh OK, I was under the impression hard steel --> Japan and softer steel --> Germany, regardless of the form (obviously there are always exceptions).

    Great to find such a knowledgeable forum!

    So coming back to the topic, it seems like the Shun is a decent choice? If someone does have insight on the already mentioned, lesser known Japanese knives or where to start researching, that would be very interesting. 

    Best regards

    /e Went trough some older threads, lot of Shun bashing going on there. Seems like I should reconsider.
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2017
  7. foody518

    foody518

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    From Benuser's post - "Be prepared to reconsider your technique, or stay with softer blades."

    The point is the cutting technique and motion used. Carrots and squash with harder, thinner knives are no problem with more edge-friendly technique.

    The limited recommendations are going to be based off what feedback you've given on preferred cutting motion (rocking) which doesn't play nice with such thin edges which hold up less well to lateral forces and steel that tends to break (microchip) before bending.

    The blade profiles that rocking works for - typical German style knives, Shun, Yaxell. And sharpen as much or as little as your technique necessitates.

    I'd suggested the Herder as something that still plays into working alright with a more rocking motion, but of harder steel to have better edge holding than your Wuesthofs, an example of a good European carbon steel. Not really all that similar to Shun even ignoring all else but the carbon vs stainless difference. And there are reasons to prefer carbon (ease of sharpening, well-used and maintained tool look with the patina that conveniently hides scratches from sharpening and general use), was trying to gauge your preference for or against. 

    Is the current sharpening for your Wuesthof managing the fingerguard bolster well?
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2017
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  8. dalailamer

    dalailamer

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  9. foody518

    foody518

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    To clarify, there's 'high carbon steel' which for simplicity's sake I'm calling 'carbon steel' which is not stainless, like the Herder, and 'high carbon stainless steel' contains ~13% or more chromium, which is just being referred to as 'stainless steel', like Shun Premier.

    You'll want try for the cutting motions described in this video with higher hardness steels and thinner edges where the knife fully comes off the board for each cut
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2017
  10. dalailamer

    dalailamer

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    I will adjust accordingly. 
     
  11. rick alan

    rick alan

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    If you really want to you can rock-chop with most any knife, like when you make the blade dance all over the board.  With harder steel you just need to microbevel conservatively, and use good technique of course.

    Here you see Rick using a $600 Tanaka Ironwood (very hard SG2 steel) and flatish profile, and rock chopping at his typical insane pace.

     
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2017
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  12. dalailamer

    dalailamer

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    So, including this additional information, which is the knife I should be looking for when I'm in Japan? 

    I've come to understand that the Shun was a pretty poor choice. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/smile.gif
     
  13. brianshaw

    brianshaw

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    So what's your better choice?
     
  14. dalailamer

    dalailamer

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    Well that's what I'm asking you guys /img/vbsmilies/smilies/redface.gif  after all, you are the pros

    From what I've picked up, these seem like a better choice:

    https://www.japaneseknifeimports.co...uchi-210mm-stainless-clad-blue-super-wa-gyuto

    https://japanesechefsknife.com/collections/masamoto-vg-series

    Little bit too expensive, might be less expensive in Japan: http://www.chefknivestogo.com/kohdkn.html

    http://www.chefknivestogo.com/rihakn.html

    But again, I am completely overwhelmed by the diversity of Japanese knifes. 

    What's your better choice? 
     
  15. foody518

    foody518

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    Could you reiterate what you are looking for? Blade profile, stainless vs not, thickness or thinness of grind, etc?
     
  16. brianshaw

    brianshaw

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    ... and as an alternative approach... state your destinations in Japan and ask if anyone knows of good knife/cookery shops in those cities/towns. It might end up being a better experience if you are a bit open-minded.
     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2017
  17. dalailamer

    dalailamer

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    Sorry my answer is currently pending approval. 

    I'm looking for a Gyuto style blade, carbon steel, high hardness, thin. 
    What country are you in?
    - Germany, knife to be bought in Tokyo


    KNIFE TYPE
    What type of knife are you interested in (e.g., chef’s knife, slicer, boning knife, utility knife, bread knife, paring knife, cleaver)?
    - Gyuto

    Are you right or left handed?
    - Right handed

    Are you interested in a Western handle (e.g., classic Wusthof handle) or Japanese handle?
    - Western, but that's not that important to me

    What length of knife (blade) are you interested in (in inches or millimeters)?
    - 210ish

    Do you require a stainless knife? (Yes or no)
    - Stainless handle (the part of the steel that's in the handle) would be nice, other than that a carbon steel blade 

    What is your absolute maximum budget for your knife?
    - $215 (again, I might be able to get the knife for a lower price)


    KNIFE USE
    Do you primarily intend to use this knife at home or a professional environment?

    - Home use

    What are the main tasks you primarily intend to use the knife for (e.g., slicing vegetables, chopping vegetables, mincing vegetables, slicing meats, cutting down poultry, breaking poultry bones, filleting fish, trimming meats, etc.)? (Please identify as many tasks as you would like.)
    - Veggies and meat

    What knife, if any, are you replacing?
    - Wüsthof Classic chef knife 8 inch

    Do you have a particular grip that you primarily use? 
    - Not that I know of. 

    What cutting motions do you primarily use? 
    - Push cutting up-and-down chopping motions sounds about right, as well as a locomotive-like motion 

    What improvements do you want from your current knife? If you are not replacing a knife, please identify as many characteristics identified below in parentheses that you would like this knife to have.)
    - Better edge retention, overall sharper

    Better aesthetics (e.g., a certain type of finish; layered/Damascus or other pattern of steel; different handle color/pattern/shape/wood; better scratch resistance; better stain resistance)?
    - As a bonus, sure. A nice handle would be the most important in terms of aesthetics 

    Comfort (e.g., lighter/heavier knife; better handle material; better handle shape; rounded spine/choil of the knife; improved balance)?
    - Lighter, good handle. But that's secondary.

    Ease of Use (e.g., ability to use the knife right out of the box; smoother rock chopping, push cutting, or slicing motion; less wedging; better food release; less reactivity with food; easier to sharpen)?
    - Ability to use knife right out of the box, better food release.

    Edge Retention (i.e., length of time you want the edge to last without sharpening)?
    - I'm a home cook, I am hoping for 2 or 3 weeks at least. 

    KNIFE MAINTENANCE
    Do you use a bamboo, wood, rubber, or synthetic cutting board? (Yes or no.)
    - Of course.

    Do you sharpen your own knives? (Yes or no.)
    - No

    If not, are you interested in learning how to sharpen your knives? (Yes or no.)

    - Yes

    Are you interested in purchasing sharpening products for your knives? (Yes or no.)
    - Yes, but at a later point in time and with a separate budget.
    Good idea Brian, but I'm only traveling for 3 or 4 days and I don't want to force my company to spend two days buying a knife with me. If I should meet someone by chance, sure tho :) 

    /e Oh I misunderstood, there seems to be a specific street in Tokyo which is supposed to be the hot-spot of local cooking supplies, somewhere around "Kappabashi Dogugai Dori". This is where I wanted to go, but I don't have a good feeling going there without a knife or two in mind. 
     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2017
  18. brianshaw

    brianshaw

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    Understood. I travel with others, too, for business. Those are the times when there is almost no opportunity for personal shopping, etc unless they are also like-minded... which isn't often. And its sometimes even worse when travelling with family on pleasure! Perhaps you should be focused on finding the knife of your dreams from a seller who will ship to your home. I have no idea what knife/cookery shops are like in Japan but when I've been buying specialty cooking equipment in Europe I found it virtually impossible to just run into a shop and grab what I want and get out fast... so long ago I stopped trying to mix pleasure with business unless I'm alone and in better control of my time. Its hard enough mixing pleasure with vacation, it seems. :) Good luck in whatever you choose to do or buy.
     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2017
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  19. foody518

    foody518

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    If you'll be in Tokyo, Osaka, Sakai, Seki, or Kyoto, I don't think you'll have trouble finding knife shops. Other than that, I am not sure how well the typical offerings bought by us customers outside of Japan fare in terms of regular knife shop availability (like, I don't know if your typical shop on Kappabashi street stocks Misono). 

    Here's a link dug up by lord Google about various knife shops one can visit
    http://yayasyumyums.blogspot.com/2011/08/knife-shops-in-japan-tokyo-kyoto-osaka.html?m=1
     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2017
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  20. brianshaw

    brianshaw

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    That would be interesting to find out, indeed.  My experience is that most folks, in general, have the same kind of nationalist attitude - "we don't export our best stuff; what you get is our junk."  My first experience with that attitude was regarding beer in Canada, Germany, and England... only to find out that they were enjoying "the finest imported American beer" like Budweiser and Coors. I don't know who was laughing at each other or sneering more - them or us.  :) Since then I've found it to be pervasive across many product types.

    Your link sounds interesting but I got the following (abridged) message:

    "... has been blocked because it has been determined by Web Reputation Filters to be a security threat to your computer or the organization's network. This web site has been associated with malware/spyware."  Our web reputation filter may be rather conservative but this is the first time I've seen this message. Just FYI.
     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2017
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