Choosing the right knife as a learning tool

Discussion in 'Cooking Knife Reviews' started by gelato, Sep 28, 2012.

  1. gelato

    gelato

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    Hi,

    I've just joined this forum after doing some research on knives. I found some great posts and will be looking forward to hearing your recommendations.

    My cutting skills are still in their infancy to put it in a nice way. To get a feel for knives I bought different ones from a discount store. I ended up mainly with stellar knives.

    After some time I realised that I use mainly these knives:

    - chef knife

    - santoku

    - paring/utility knife

    - hook knife for peeling

    I suspect it would be good to start with either a chef knife or a santoku. Is it necessary/recommended to have both?

    So far, I prefer the santoku. But it’s probably because it's lighter and sharper. So in getting a new knife I would be looking for:

    - Either a gyuto or a Santoku depending on recommendations.

    - Handle: I'm still in the early stages of learning and very adaptable, is there a reason to go specifically for one style? I like the WA handle for esthetic reasons, but that is not a factor in choosing this knife

    - Carbon vs Stainless: I wipe my knives directly after use, but I do take a certain amount of time to do the cutting. What kind of maintenance does a carbon knife require, is it enough to wipe directly after use?

    - Sharpening: I use the Knife Wizard KE198 for that as of now, and I know it's not enough for a good blade. Reading the sharpening posts was quite daunting as it seems extremely technical, but I guess that to get decent skills is not a lofty goal. I just want to avoid damaging expensive knives. Do you need different stones for different knives or can I use the same stones to practice on my cheap knives?

    - Current uses: cutting vegetable, fish, poultry and meat. Also slicing chunks of ham I get from
    Italy and Spain (not the huge ones)

    - Budget: I have no problems splurging on a good knife, as I will be learning better technique through it and keeping it for quite some time. I guess I can get something really nice in the US$ 300 - 400 range just on the knife.

    Reading from the forums, this is what I understood:

    - Shun and Global knives are certainly a step up to what I'm using but not great value for money

    - Tojiro on the other hand are good value

    - the Konosuke gyuto is amazing

    So to finish with some questions:

    - Damascus pattern: is it there only for esthetic reasons?

    - Is there any point in getting a good hook paring knive, I only use it for peeling fruits.

    - I am based in the UK, but I have a friend coming to the US in October, and another friend going to Japan a bit later. Is Japan the best place to get my knives or is it cheaper in the US? Some products are cheaper in the US than in the country they're produced after all...

    Sorry for the long post, I tried to include all the relevant info I could think of. As I said I am still in the early learning stage and very adaptable.
     
  2. wagstaff

    wagstaff

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    Wa handles are light handles. A good thing for many of us. They're often less well finished, maybe less robust. Western knives use "balance" as a selling point. Wa handled knives are more likely to be blade heavy. Which is objectively, platonically, certainly better. Because I speak for god on this one issue.

    You don't want a santoku. If you do, it's just to prove to yourself you don't. Unless you have very limited space and want to save money.

    Yiu don't want to spent $300 - $400 on a gyuto. Maybe you will later, when a) you become a competent sharpener, and b) you have developed your own idiosynctatic tastes by using a few different knives. You might spend too much on something other than what you end up liking. And there are just too many differen things "about" a knife that you're not able to consider without more experience for you to spend that much. There are amazing $400 knives that are prettier than amazing $300 knives, mind you. A dull $400 knife is about as good as a dull $35 knife. So figure a sharpening plan into your overall budget.

    Typing from my phone, here, so terse. I hope a tiny bit helpfully, at least.
     
  3. gelato

    gelato

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    Thanks Wagstaff,

    Your answer is definitely helpful, as I now know that I will be looking at using Wa handles. I did test the difference between my current santoku (wa) and chef knife (yo) and felt it immediately. It might be one of the reason I instinctively prefer my santoku for now.

    In terms of my budget, I am not looking to necessarily spend all that money on the knife, but that's the range I'm ready to go to if it's worthwhile. I just want to get a knife that is a clear upgrade from what I'm using at the moment, but that will also help me develop good cutting skills. I suspect the tool you use will influence quite a bit your cutting style in the long run.

    I also want to learn how to sharpen, so I will need advice on what to get once I choose my future knife. I am ready to allocate the necessary budget as I'm hoping to get something for long term use.

    That helps me narrow down my search, thanks again :)

    Edit: typo
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2012
  4. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    For a good, 240mm or 270mm (9-1/2" or 10-1/2") wa-gyuto you're going to end up spending $150 - $250, give or take. 

    The major distinctions between knives in that class are stainless vs semi-stainless vs carbon; light and thin vs very light and very thin; and appearance.  There are other differences but they aren't really noticeable by beginners; and just between you and me they aren't all that important either. 

    Stainless is a better choice for most people starting out because it doesn't require you to develop extra maintenance habits while you're trying to learn knife and sharpening skills at the same time.  Semi-stainless is very nice too, but you pay more for benefits which -- as a beginner -- you're not likely to appreciate for a long time.

    A couple of stand out suggestions are the Konosuke HH which is a very light, thin, stainless knife; and the Richmond Ultimatum which is also stainless, a little heavier, and a little stiffer than the Kono.  Both are extremely well finished knives, priced at just under $200 and sold by Chef Knives to Go.  I suggest calling Mark Richmond at CKtG and talking to him about your options.

    Also, give Jon Broida at Japanese Knife Imports a call.  I don't know his knives well enough to talk about them, but Jon selects his stock carefully and knows as much as about knives as anyone in the business and will give you an honest and excellent recommendation. 

    Sharpness and sharpening are critical.  You're going to want to buy a sharpening kit at the same time you buy the knife.  You can buy a soup to nuts set of bench stones -- including a flattener -- for less than $200, or a suitably equipped Edge Pro kit for around $300.  The Edge Pro is much easier to learn than freehand sharpening on bench stones; and -- budget permitting -- probably the best choice for most people entering this class of knives who don't already sharpen.   

    Good luck,

    BDL
     
  5. rdm magic

    rdm magic

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    Could you go into a little more detail about the highlighted parts please? What other differences, and what are the benefits?
     
  6. gelato

    gelato

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    Thanks for all the info BDL,

    I'll be going with stainless steel, as it definitely feels like it's the best fit for me right now. In terms of length, would you go with 240mm or 270mm? Or even longer?

    I checked the Edge pro video on Chef Knives to Go. It looks like a well designed tool to get the basics of sharpening down. The set you were recommending is the apex4?

    In terms of developing sharpening skills, do you use the edge pro system as some form of 'training wheels'?
     
     
  7. gelato

    gelato

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    Hi,

    I've been continuing my research and found that a lot of people are raving about sakai yusuke knives, anybody knows how his Swedish Stainless Wa-Gyuto
    compares to the Konosuke HH?

    Also, I found out that I should probably get a knife for slicing and filleting fish. Is it worth it to aim for a Yanagiba? Or is it better idea to go for a Sujihiki? As far as I understand a Yanagiba is only for fish, but you can use a Sujihiki for both fish and slicing meat?

    Thanks for your help
     
  8. dezie

    dezie

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    Last edited: Oct 15, 2012
  9. gelato

    gelato

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    Thanks for the info, I am sticking to stainless steel for now as I guess I'll have enough on my hands what with improving my knife skills and learning how to sharpen knives. I definitely would like to step into to carbon knives at a later stage. Thanks for taking the time to explain how you work with carbon knives and how you maintain them/develop patina.
    Ok, I will look to get a decent variety of stones. Probably going to practice a few times on my cheap knives before testing it on my future acquisition.
    My main usage is quite standard:

    - cutting all kind of vegetables

    - cutting raw meat

    - Slicing ham

    - deboning poultry, mainly chicken

    Right now I do all of these with my chef knife. I'll avoid using the new knife on anything with bones or frozen meat, but I will use it for all the rest. I am tempted to get a slicer to cut thin pieces of ham and all other cutting meat/fish cuts, do you think it's worth it?
    Never thought about the laser bit, talk about a cheap trick...
    That's a great idea! Definitely will look into it
    Your post helped massively, I really appreciate you taking the time to go over all these points. It gave me a better perspective.