Culinary Student Looking for Recommendations

Joined Apr 25, 2019
Hi, I am Garrett. I am in culinary school and I was wondering a few different things;

should I buy a pre-packaged knife kit?
if so where should I start?
and if not
should I buy my knives individually?
I'm not looking to buy cheap garbage that I will just use for a few terms and once I graduate, throw then in storage. I intend to use my knives for years to come. It also seems like I lean towards German style knives. If I could get any recommendations on brands or any advice that would be wonderful. Thank you.
Joined Oct 31, 2012
There are numerous knife threads on this site so you can read all about knives and the various qualities both pro and con.
First, No. Don't buy a pre packaged knife kit.
Second. Buy a knife you enjoy using. We can all give opinions on which knife is best or worst but no matter what the quality or price, if you don't enjoy using it, nothing else is important. Buy a relatively inexpensive one for now and over the years you will spend more money to buy more expensive knives as you learn what you like. Victorinox makes good all around kitchen knives that you won't be too upset about if you lose them or decide to buy better so I think those are a good place to start.

We have some very knowledgeable knife experts here so I'll go out on a limb and start by offering some general knowledge.
There are two types of knives- High Carbon and Stainless Steel. The basic idea is that the carbon ones will rust easily if not dried after use and the stainless ones won't.
They are made in two ways- stamped out from a sheet of metal or forged from a hunk of metal. Both carbon and stainless come in stamped or forged. There are high and low quality stamped and forged carbon and stainless. (Shopping for knives can get confusing fast)

There are two basic categories for style of knife- Western and Japanese. Western being what you see in Europe and the US and Japanese obviously coming from Japan.
Most Western knives can be sharpened on a common sharpening stone. Most Japanese knives are sharpened on water stones.
(notice I used the word most. There is always some exception. I'm sure you'll learn about them)
Whatever you buy, you should learn how to sharpen them and keep them sharp. That's a different topic.
That's all you need to know to begin your confusing and rewarding journey into the world of buying kitchen knives.

Fwiw. As for me, I was trained years ago on high carbon knives. I have a few stainless but no Japanese. I use a Norton Tri Stone to keep my knives sharp and buying Japanese means having to buy another sharpening system. I'm not that interested. Over the years I have decided I really prefer Sabatier high carbon knives. I have collected far more knives than I will ever use, High quality carbon and cheap stainless, a little bit of everything. So my final bit of advice is -Don't get too worked up over which knife to buy. Whatever you buy now won't be the last one you ever buy.
Joined Nov 15, 2012
A little correction to what chefwriter said, high-carbon in "knife marketing" parlance typically refers to stainless knives. While non-stainless knives are typically referred to simply as "carbon."

Just another brief for the moment, waterstones are nothing much to acquire or use, and offer significant advantages over oil-stones, which I'm sure are what chefwriter is referring to as "common sharpening stones." BTW, so-called oil stones do not have to be used with oil, they will work with water, and even dry to an extent. Oil stones are typically sintered aluminum oxide or silicon carbide, or more rarely some other ceramic-like material like artificial sapphire (a particular form of aluminum oxide), or even using a polymer binder instead of sintering, much like some waterstones.

Knives are consumables, especially in a pro kitchen, where you also have to worry about the harshness of the environment and theft.

The advantage to French/Japanese profile knives are significant over the so-called German profile, and the harder steel typical of Japanese knives lets you take even better advantage of that profile difference. German knives once shared the same profile as the French/Japanese style, and their transformation was more a marketing ploy than anything else.
Joined May 29, 2013
Hi Garrett! Welcome to ChefTalk.

Before anyone here can really talk to you intelligently, we REALLY need to know several things.

First, does your school require you to buy their recommended set?

Second, if they don't require their set, do they have a preferred list of types of knives which they want you to have?

Third, what country are you in? That makes a significant difference in the availability of cutlery to you.

Fourth, what's your budget?

Galley Swiller
Joined Jul 13, 2012
Here's what I recommend to home chefs and people going into the trade.

240mm, or 210mm depending on your preference.
150mm Petty (utility)
Good paring knife
Boning knife - (flexible if doing fish/stiff if doing only protein)
Good bread knife - non better than the Tojiro 270 ITK. (useful for many things - search youtube)
Thermapen instant read thermometer.

There is the sharpening part - that is a whole 'nother topic.
Joined May 5, 2019
Firstly buying a set is a bad idea. You may end up with knives you never use. Another consideration is that knife maker [X] may make the best chef’s knife for you but maker [Y] makes the best boning knife for you. Also there are some knives you want to outlay serious cash on (Chef’s knife, boning knife, filleting knife for example) but there are other types of knives where cheaper knives do the job just as well as the expensive knives (bread knife, possible a paring knife for example).

To generalize there are basically three different blade profiles - German (edge comes up to the spine) French (spine and. edge converge) or Japanese (spine comes down to the edge). Each profile has it’s advantages and disadvantages so try a variety and see what you like.

There there are the handles. The French round ferrule favors a pinch grip. Most French knives are balanced with the center of balance slightly forward of the ferrule to facilitate this. Japanese and German knives usually have a squared ferrule, which favors the saber grip. Japanese knives in particular tend to be balanced more to the mid of the handle, so a Misono, for example, almost has to be used with a saber grip. German knives have a more intermediate center of balance which means you can switch between the saber grip or pinch grip as you prefer. NB this is very broad brushstrokes so there are many exceptions. Try a variety and see what you prefer.

You then come to the question of stainless -v- carbon. Without going into all the metallurgy carbon is superior to stainless in every respect apart from the maintenance/cleaning requirements. Carbon steel is functionally sharper than stainless steel because it hones back to keen very quickly with minimum effort where stainless knives need to put onto the stones. I use carbon steel knives and I only put them on my stones once a year or two. When I was using stainless steel it was about once a month, even with VG-10 powder steel maybe I could go 2 months without sharpening. One thing I would recommend if you go the carbon steel path is to acquire an antique carbon steel honing steel because those babies are amazing (I use an 1890s F Dick at work) but the full benefit only comes with using carbon steel. I understand in some areas carbon steel is technically illegal because the Health Inspectors don’t like how it stains. If you decide that carbon steel is too much of a hassle then you need to look at German -v- Japanese steel. NB Germans make knife with Japanese steeel and vice versa. Basically Japanese steel is harder but more brittle. Japanese steel will hold it’s edge. German steel won’t lose the tip if you drop the knife. Japanese steel is thinner, German steel won’t snap. It

Finally the most important thing is how does it feel in your hand. Last week I walked to 7 different knife makers in Sakai, Japan looking for a new carving (sujihiki) knife. Ultimately I didn’t buy one because I couldn’t find one that did what I wanted and felt comfortable in my hand and looked good (I work in a display kitchen so my knives have to look good). There are many knife makers out there so go up and try them.

I am biased. I like French Carbon steel knives. I’ve worked with Japanese and German knives. An anology I’d make is that German knives are like a Range Rove - high quality ad
Joined Nov 15, 2012

No offense jpaulg, but nothing you said above makes much sense to me.

Aside from beginning with the strange terminology of edges and spines in your description of what I can only assume is the cross-section knife profile, German and French knives are identical here in that they both typically have completely flat sides from edge to spine which provide no food release, and it is the Japanese knives that differ here as they typically have convexed sides, even their thinnest laser have some convexing here.

And I have never heard anyone say that Japanese knives don't favor the pinch grip, and I know of no one who uses anything but the pinch with their Japanese knives, except in fine-slicing where you place the index finger on the spine. And, unlike German knives, Japanese knife edge-profiles where modeled on the Sabatier, except for that hideous full bolster, which every Sab would do well to lose.

Japanese knives mostly have lighter blades and handles, Wa handled versions being very light-handles, so it is typical for the Japanese to balance in front of the handle, even the heavier western-handled versions.

German knives are typically made relatively poor and soft stainless, known only for their toughness, and here, along with the unfavorable blade geometry, can hardly be thought quality, especially when compared to what Japanese offers. French knives share the exact same stainless, and their carbons are also very soft, though of course the carbons, as is typical of carbons, will take a screaming sharp edge and do it with relative ease. And being soft they can be steeled, but this is not the ideal means of maintaining an edge. VG-10 is not a PM steel, but it will hold an edge far longer between touch-ups as compared to soft carbon. You cannot use a ribbed steel on VG-10, or most Japanese steel, but for expediancy a diamond honing rod or oval ceramic hone like the Mac will work well.
Last edited:
Joined May 5, 2019

I live in Japan. I work in restaurant where I’m the only gaijin. I go to Japanese knife stores and knife makers. I’ve been to the Seki Hamano Matsuri.

Japanese chefs are taught in their culinary schools to exclusively use the saber grip. I’ve tried to teach some of the chefs here on how to use a pinch grip, but their training is too ingrained. The most common brand used here professionally is Misono, and l’ve never see a Shun in a professional Japanese kitchen. Japanese knives made for export tend to have a more forward center of balance, but the knives made for Japanese professional use tend to have a center of balance well back from the ferrule. You can pinch them, but it’s not as controllable as when the center of balance is at or slightly forward of the ferrule.

The wa handle is found almost exclusively on traditional Japanese single bevel knives, debas, usabas, yanagibas, sujihikis and so on. As you say those handles are very light so those knives tend to be blade heavy.

If you do a google image search for “sabatier chef’s knife”, “wusthof classic chef’s knife” and “gyuto” (which is what most people mean when they refer to a ‘Japanese chef’s knife’) you’ll see the differences in blade profile I was referring to. The longitudinal view, not the cross section. As for food release, I find carbon steel is much less “sticky” than stainless steel. Which is due to carbon steel martensites being much finer than stainless steel martensites. As an aside this is why stainless steel frypans are much more “sticky” than carbon steel or cast iron pans.

The “hideous full bolster” does a very important job in carbon steel Sabs. It allows the blade to be made thinnner and lighter because it provides strength to prevent the blade from twisting. Now on a stainless steel knife, which has to be thicker than a carbon steel knife because stainless is more brittle, the bolster does almost nothing. Also traditional French cutting techniques tend to be based on push strokes (blade going away) while Japanese cutting technique is based more on draw strokes (blade coming towards you). So a Sabatier used in the French manner almost never uses the heel of the edge, yet a Japanese knife used in the Japanese way uses the heel of the edge regularly. If you use a lot of draw cuts then yes the bolster becomes an issue, but I’ve been using Sabs for 10 years and I’ve never had a situation where the bolster has had a negative impact on cutting or sharpening.

The problem with harder steels is that they are more brittle and more prone to breakages. Toughness and durability is an advantage. German knife stainless steel typically has a higher Molybdenum content and lower Vanadium content than Japanese knife stainless steel. Very broadly speaking Molybdenum increases flexibility and thus robustness, while Vanadium reduces the martensite size allowing a thinner blade and finer edge, but at the cost of increased brittleness. German stainless steel is in no way bad, it’s just optimized for durability and robustness. Japanese steel is optimized more for cutting performance. However it’s possible to get some Solingen carbon steel chef’s knives if you look hard enough.

I really can not recommend a diamond steel. Those things just rip metal off a knife. No-one I’ve seen in Japan uses a diamond steel or ceramic rod in their knives. If they use a steel, it’s a smooth steel, or very lightly ribbed steel. Typically Japanese chefs will put their knives on a water stone when they need to liven up their edge.


Staff member
Joined Mar 29, 2002
As an aside this is why stainless steel frypans are much more “sticky” than carbon steel or cast iron pans.
No, and there are many variables beyond that such as seasoning, polish, scratch and so on that have much more pronounced effects than the martensitic elements.

The temps and quench needed for generating martensite are a waste in cookware of either steel. And 300 series steel generally used for cookware
is only austenitic because of the high nickel content, and has such a low carbon it can't form martensite.

The “hideous full bolster” does a very important job in carbon steel Sabs. It allows the blade to be made thinnner and lighter because it provides strength to prevent the blade from twisting.
No again, mostly about balance and depending on the manufacturing, a welding show off. [/QUOTE]

Now on a stainless steel knife, which has to be thicker than a carbon steel knife because stainless is more brittle, the bolster does almost nothing.
No again. So much more depends on the steel chosen and the tempering and the expectations of the customer.

The problem with harder steels is that they are more brittle and more prone to breakages.
Most any steel can be hardened to any hardness. So to say there are harder steels is incorrect for your argument particularly where you want to place them in geographic organization. I have a factory Japanese made blade in X50CrMoV15 at 61 Rockwell. Fairly thin but very german profile. I wouldn't call it a good knife in comparison to others I own but as the inexpensive gift it was its not bad.

Matching a steel to a temper for a particular task is important but it isn't geographic. In modern metallurgy you can have toughness and hardness in stainless quite readily, from any region. But you'll pay a premium.

Latest posts

Top Bottom