Choosing quality knives

Discussion in 'Cooking Knife Reviews' started by smockett, Aug 24, 2014.

  1. smockett

    smockett

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    Hi all, 

    I am hoping to get some advice on what brand of knife to buy. I have sifted around the internet and found so many choices and differing opinions I thought I would ask the experts. So a little about me...I am a home cook and want to invest in some good quality knives that hold their sharpness well and will last the test of time. I have decided to buy individual knives rather than a set, mainly because I felt that the general consensus is that you have to spend a lot of money to get something of quality and really just want a couple of great quality essential knives. I am willing to spend $100 - $200 per knife and yes I will get a good sharpening system. Global, Shun and wrustholf and scanpan are what I was shown when I went into total food equipment (nz shop). What do you think is the best value for money for someone like me who isn't a professional? 

    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. kevpenbanc

    kevpenbanc

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    Do you have any preference between stainless or carbon, wa handles or western style handles etc ?
     
  3. smockett

    smockett

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    Hi there, 

    Thanks for your reply, I don't have a preference between stainless and carbon, I am willing to take care of the knife, which do you prefer? I like the lightness of the Japanese knives but wondering is there any draw backs to a light knife? 
     
  4. kevpenbanc

    kevpenbanc

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    To be honest I don't really have a preference at the moment.
    I have a variety of stainless and carbon. I haven't really enough experience with them, only had the Japanese knives for just over a year, and only been sharpening effectively for about 6 months.

    The only issue I have with carbon is cutting onions, you can get a reaction and end up with black onions. This may be poor technique by me.

    I would suggest having a look at some knives in your price range, see what catches your eye and then search, query etc

    I suspect that the more important question will be what types of knives you buy, rather than which particular brand of knife you buy.

    Everybody will have their opinion of the best value knife based on their preferences and values. You haven't given us a lot to go on as to your preferences. I don't think there are any bad knives in the price range you mentioned, just a lot of different knives with lots of different features.
    :)
     
  5. smockett

    smockett

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    Okay great thanks thats helpful. I am looking at the Shun classic 8 inch at the moment it seems to have good reviews. Yes sorry for the lack of info its really because I am a amateur and don't have enough experience to know whats what. If the knives are all of quality then I will just have to go try them out and see what I like the look of. Thanks for your advice /img/vbsmilies/smilies/smile.gif
     
  6. kevpenbanc

    kevpenbanc

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    That's where I was last year :)

    I would recommend you have a browse of http://japanesechefsknife.com/ just to see what is available. They have a wide range of knives and shipping is fast and cheap.
     
  7. mike9

    mike9

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    With carbon it's important to establish a patina to cut down on reactivity.  The soft iron on many Japanese san mai knives is super reactive.  Some of the vintage American carbon are exceptional like Forgecraft, Dexter, Lamson, Goodell.  Most are 1095 and take and keep a wicked sharp edge.  They have excellent profiles too and if you are into refurbishing them like I am they can be real jewels.  Here's an example:

    Before:


    After:


    Something to think about.
     
  8. brianshaw

    brianshaw

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    Folks on this forum tend to express hate for Shun (calling it "fake Japanese" and asserting that there are better bargains available) but I can assure you that if the handle feels OK in your hand you will love working with a Shun chef knife.  High quality and very sharp.  Not inexpensive but you'll be getting a great quality product for your hard-earned money.  For a different feeling handle also look into the Shun Premier... a bit fuller and more in the Western tradition.

    If you live anywhere near a Williams Sonoma you can try them out.  Performance is just as important as liking the looks.  But looks count!
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2014
  9. bombaysapphire

    bombaysapphire

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    Personally I prefer shun "premier". Like someone said You need to get a feel as everybody has different grip & a feel. So before spending that kind of money one at knife its better to check them out at good stores. I bought a set and is also came with a 9" bread knife but personally i don't see much use of it. Pls let me know if anyone is interested in purchasing it . Its brand new 9" shun premier bread knife. I would spend that money to get a shun Nakiri for my vegetables.Investment in a good chopping board is a must for these kind of knives. Good luck in shopping. 
     
  10. smockett

    smockett

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    Okay great thanks I will take a look 
     
  11. smockett

    smockett

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    Perfect I will take a look 
     
  12. smockett

    smockett

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    Thanks thats good to know 
     
  13. smockett

    smockett

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    Thanks I will check them out as well and will definitly go inshore before I decide on anything. Thanks for the advice 
     
  14. smockett

    smockett

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    Hmm okay good to know I will definitly look at the premier and see what I think. I don't think we have Williams Sonoma here, but have found somewhere that carries Shun so I will see if they have the premier range as well. Thanks for the advice 
     
  15. millionsknives

    millionsknives

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    Do you sharpen your own knives?  All knives need sharpening, just a question of how often.  Japanese knives including shun require a specific type of sharpening on waterstones.  At this level of knife you need to know how to sharpen yourself either freehand or jig, or you need to find a reputable service that uses waterstones.
     
  16. galley swiller

    galley swiller

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    Welcome to ChefTalk!

    I have to admit that, off the top of my head, I don't know the cutlery availability in New Zealand, or the import restrictions and duty of cutlery or accessories into New Zealand or if there is any VAT in New Zealand, so take what I have to say with a grain of salt and verify anything I have to say.

    I am first noting the New Zealand to U.S. dollar exchange rate (1 NZ$ = 0.84 US$) and the U.S. Dollar to New Zealand exchange rate (1 US$ = $1.19 NZ$).  Since you did not specify which currency, I am assuming your budget is in New Zealand dollars, which means you are looking for individual knives in the (U.S. dollar) value of up to $84 to $168 range.  If you were using the U.S. dollar as your currency value comparison, then $100 to $200 in U.S. dollars would work out to $119 NZ to $238 NZ.

    I'm glad to read where you are willing to forgo buying a set and will buy your knives individually.  As many of the people on this web site will advise (and as I am now doing), you don't need all that many knives.  A good chef's knife, a moderate quality paring knife and a serrated edge bread knife will form the basic cutting edges of your kit.  You will also need a good cutting surface and a honing rod right away as well, and in due course, a sharpening kit.

    The basic tool will be your chef's knife.  This is the one knife for which you will need to be willing to open your wallet.  Everything else can be lower level, but your chef's knife requires some expenditure.

    The first question you need to ask yourself is - how long do you want the blade to be?  One expert on this site, Boar de Laze ("BDL") (who now seems to have gone to other pursuits) saw a 200 to 210 mm blade as small, a 240 to 270 mm long blade as moderate in length and anything longer (300 mm plus) as a very long knife.  You need to chose the length according to (1) what is comfortable to you now, (2) what you can grow into; and (3) how much food can you reasonably expect to work with in the vast bulk of your food preparation sessions.  My personal experience as a rank amateur is that I started with a 210 mm blade, and then found that a 240 mm blade was comfortable after a short mental and experience adjustment period.  I found a 270 mm blade to be just too unwieldly.  However, that is me - you might have a different experience.

    After that, you will be looking at availability.  In terms of a New Zealand retailer, you might want to consider ProChef.co.nz, who are based in Whangarei.  They are the New Zealand authorized dealers for MAC knives (which is how I located them).  They also sell, Tojiro, Masakage, Sakai Takayuki, Yoshikane, Akifusa and Sakon knives.

    The MAC Professional has been cited by BDL as among the best stainless steel chef's knives for a basic gyuto.  I recently acquired one and can recommend it.  While ProChef does not list the 240 mm Mac Pro MBK-95, they do show a 220 mm MAC Pro (presumably the 210 mm MBK-85, along with a ceramic honing rod and a 125 mm paring knife - presumably the PKF-50) as part of a "basic" kit for NZ $319.00.  However, as the New Zealand importer/distributor, they can probably special order the MBK-95 if it is not part of that kit.

    Both the Tojiro DP and the Sakai Takayuki are well-regarded gyutos (though I am not particularly a fan of a damascus style blade.  I think they are an affectation, with owners potentially being afraid of using them and causing visual - though not functional - damage to the face of the blade.  But that's just my personal quibble).  As for the other Japanese gyutos from ProChef.co.nz, I don't at this time have any real information.

    If it works for you, a MAC Pro 125 mm paring knife would make a nice petty - though so would a 150 mm.  Or, you can follow BDL's paring knife recommendation and just get some Victorinox paring knives.  Much cheaper and a lot less critical than the chef's knife.

    For a bread knife, go for a basic Victorinox fibrox handle serrated bread knife (at least 8 inches - 200 mm, but preferably 10 inch - 250 mm or longer) as a good, inexpensive and reliable bread knife.  The ultimate bread knife might have been recommended by BDL as the 10-1/2 inch (270 mm) MAC Superior bread knife, but ProChef does not seem to stock it.  You might go whole hog and ask for it as a special order, though that will cost you.

    The MAC 240 mm honing rod is good for knives up to 240 mm in length (though I would probably prefer something longer - such as 300 mm, like the 12 inch Idahone available in the US).  But in any event. look for a ceramic rod, rather than anything made with steel.

    As for a cutting board, there's plenty of advice on ChefTalk about cutting boards (including mine).  Have a go at the archives about that, though I suspect that the shipping costs will be disportionately high for large heavy objects to New Zealand and significantly affect the budget for a good board.

    As for a sharpening system, I have two suggestions.  First, consider several Japanese water stones, at least 210 mm in length and 50 mm wide (but bigger is better).  You should get at least a 1000 grit stone, and something in the 3000 to 4000 range as well.  ProChef does offer a Tojiro combo stone which would at least initially work well.  Then, go online and read this:

    http://forums.egullet.org/topic/26036-knife-maintenance-and-sharpening/

    This is a short version of Chad Ward's 2006 book, An Edge In The Kitchen.  I don't know if the book is available in the New Zealand library system, but you might want to see if it is and then if you can borrow it.  Prices are hopelessly out of date, but the information is sound.

    There are plenty of videos online as well.  Look at Jon Broida at Japanese Knife Imports.  Bob Kramer and Murray Carter are two American-based Master Bladesmiths who also have some interesting online videos.  Chef Knives To Go also has sharpening videos.

    If you want to go a guided sharpening system, my personal recommendation is to look overseas to the United States and to Chef Knives to Go and look at the custom Edge Pro Essentials kit being offered for less than $250 US.  It's the Edge Pro Apex sharpening system, but with custom stones (Shapton Glass).  This site's administrator (Nicko) got me to do a review.

    If you want to look at buying online from overseas, there are a number of knife retailers on line who can and do export to New Zealand.  The aforementioned http://japanesechefsknife.com/  is well regarded.  And as I mentioned earlier, an American web retailer who ships internationally is Chef Knives To Go ( http://www.chefknivestogo.com/ ).

    Hope that helps.

    Galley Swiller
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2014
  17. smockett

    smockett

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    Hi I don't sharpen my own at the moment but are willing to learn or at least find someone who can do it for me 
     
  18. smockett

    smockett

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    Hi Galley, 

    That is an enormous help, thanks for taking the time to write to me. 

    Yes sorry I was thinking NZ dollars, while NZ is a beautiful country everything tends to be a bit more expensive here. Yes I am willing to spend/ invest in a good quality chefs knife and was thinking of going with a Victorinox paring knife for now and seeing how I get on. 

    Awesome, I will take that into consideration when choosing a blade length. I just had a quick look at the ProChef.co.nz website, it seems pretty good, I was looking at house of knives but Prochef actually seems to have a bigger range. In terms of physical shops the only ones I have found so far are Southern hospitality and total food equipment. 

    Thanks I am really interested in the MAC, I have seen it mentioned a few times now and a good review from you and BDL convinces me I should go and find one, i'll check the physical shops I know of and see if I can find someone who stocks them so I can pick them up and have a good look at them.  

    ​Great I will look into the cutting boards and that book sounds as though its a worth while read I am sure I can get a copy here.  

    Thanks again for your help! Im looking forward to having some good knives in the house 

    Cheers 

    Sarah 
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 25, 2014
  19. millionsknives

    millionsknives

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    Japanesechefsknife has a flat $7 worldwide shipping FYI. For sharpening, if you want to learn or just see what is involved, watch the JKI videos on YouTube. There are a lot of videos out there, some good, many bad. Watch these ones first.
     
  20. smockett

    smockett

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    Hey thanks thats pretty cheap! may be worthwhile. Great I will check them out! Certainly want to do my research first :)