Experience with stainless Sabatiers vs German chef's knives

Discussion in 'Cooking Knife Reviews' started by winkeladvokat, Sep 23, 2014.

  1. winkeladvokat

    winkeladvokat

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    Hello,

    Following the "death" of a 8" K-Sabatier au carbone (builders put it to work opening paint cans, the b******s!), I'm looking for a replacement knife, primarily for use by my other half. She was fundamentally very happy with the old sabatier (right length/weight/stiffness/profile, and appropriate degree of robustness), she just is not so mindful of the carbon steel ;-). So, we need something similar, in stainless. The two obvious choices are a stainless K-Sabatier (which I can pick up for about £36), or something like a Zwilling Henckels Professional S, which looks similar in weight/profile to the Sabatier, as opposed to e.g. a Wusthof. The thing is, this is almost double the price!

    Question is, has anyone got any experience with both these knives? Is the Henckels worth double? Sabatier carbon steel is great but I haven't found much positive said about the stainless versions. Any opinions welcome.

    As background, we have a good number of knives, mostly Japanese or French, in a mix of stainless & carbon steels. My sharpening skills, using Japanese waterstones, are good. Japanese stainless is out of the question for this (needs to be more chip resistant and capable of taking more abuse than I'd be happy seeing a gyuto take). Apart from a couple of stamped Victorinox knives, I have zero experience with higher end forged German knives.

    Thanks for any help!

     

    PS I'm primarily interested in how well the edge performs: ease of sharpening, edge retention, etc.
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2014
  2. rick alan

    rick alan

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    I haven't been able to find anything good said of the stainless ksab.  For what you are looking for you, around here you are going to get a lot of recommendations for the Fujiwara FKM.  A little more expensive than the ksab but better steel, better than the typical German stainless, very nice handle and sab profile, nice and thin at the tip, no annoying bolster to sharpen around. 

    http://www.japanesechefsknife.com/FKMSeries.html

    Rick
     
  3. chefwriter

    chefwriter

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    I certainly hope you gave the builders a piece of your mind. I would have flipped out. 

    Carbon Sabs are still available. I prefer them to the German style which in my opinion are built too much like a tank. 

    I don't own any japanese knives. 
     
  4. grande

    grande

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    I have a stainless thiers-issard sabatier & it's ok. It's not as good as the carbon T-I and the profile is slightly different. If it's just for home use it would probably be fine.
    I also regularly use a 10" wustohf trident that I'm very happy with, but a lot of people think it's too heavy and just BIG. Henkles are kind of out of style these days- it's one type of knife I almost never see. I've used but not owned F. Dick and Messermeister and really liked them. I'll also give my usual shout out to Victorinox, which are light, easy to sharpen and easy to use. I'm thinking about giving them up because of the bulky handles, but I've been using them happily for years
     
  5. cheflayne

    cheflayne

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    In 1983 I bought a Henckels Professional S chef knife and used it for 25 years in a professional setting before retiring it to my home kitchen; so I guess I liked "how well the edge performs: ease of sharpening, edge retention, etc." It was expensive initially but when amortized over 31 years I feel pretty good about my purchase.
     
  6. brianshaw

    brianshaw

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    I feel the same about the Henkels 4-star I bought in that same timeframe.  Still in use and I'm still happy with them.  But I'm also still happy with the much-despised Japanese knife brand that I bought much more recently.  :)
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2014
  7. winkeladvokat

    winkeladvokat

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    They ponied up, so I'm less annoyed by it but, still, makes me wonder what else they might have used/abused without my knowledge!

    Thanks for the input. Just to say again, no carbon (Mrs WA is sometime tardy cleaning up), no Japanese (Mrs WA is sometimes prone to getting stuck into various Japanese-unfriendly food items with this knife). Other chef's knives we currently own: a old 10" nogent-style Sabatier (great knife, was inherited so no idea of its provenance!), a 24cm Sakai Takayuki Aoniku (another great knife, this is what I regularly use), a 18cm Victorinox Fibrox. The Victorinox is a good knife, but we're after something a bit nicer - when the K-sabatier was still alive, it was almost always used in preference to the Victorinox. We also have a couple of japanese petty knives, so I'm familiar with the pros/cons of Japanese stainless & carbon steel.

    Very tempted by the Henckels, especially after the comments here, sounds like a classic knife that you can't go wrong with. I've only handled one in the shop but they seem less hefty than Wusthofs, with a more French profile. (both of us don't like the belly on a typical German profile, having used/borrowed these occasionally). If a stainless Sabatier was deemed a great bargain/good performer, this might make the decision a bit harder.

    Thanks again!
     
  8. rick alan

    rick alan

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    One thing about the Japanese FKM, it is of moderate hardness steel like the German knives and will take the same level of abuse.  Less bulky too.

    Rick
     
  9. winkeladvokat

    winkeladvokat

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    Rick, thanks, will look into the FKM. One of my pettys is a Sakai Takayuki Grand Chef, which is on the softer end of Japanese knives - while a nice knife, and the edge is definitely more chip resistant than others, I'd still find it hard to believe that this might be of similar robustness to a german or french knife. Only one way to find out, will think about it!

    Benuser - not sure what problem your baking soda suggestion is meant to solve? In any case, the issue is e.g.: cut up a large piece of fruit for breakfast; discover you're late for the train to work; run out of the door; return some hours later.... Nothing that can't be fixed with a bit of elbow grease, but a problem we'd rather not have to solve ;-).
     
  10. galley swiller

    galley swiller

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    First, my condolences on your late carbon K-Sabatier.  I feel your pain.

    I'm assuming you would prefer a replacement which would have about the same profile and feel in your hand as your lamented K-Sab.

    After initially reading the posts in this thread, I went home and started rummaging around in the cutlery I currently have that's not in storage - and came up with (1) a 210 mm Al Mar Ultra-Chef gyuto; (2) a vintage Veritable "Chef au Ritz" 200 mm carbon steel chef knife; and (3) a MAC SB-85 "Superior" series "Fillet" knife.  Those were the knives I thought would be of use in a comparative search for a replacement.

    While I have not specifically used or handled a 200 mm K-Sabatier chef's knife, I have handled and worked on several other 200 mm sabs.  And I can say that the ones I have experienced are really different animals than their bigger cousins.  Lighter, shorter (relative height, from edge to spine) and MUCH thinner compared to their 250 mm workhorse Sab cousins.  By just those criteria, that takes out the Henckels.  If anything, I would consider a 200 mm carbon steel Sab (if the Chef au Ritz was a good example) as a relatively decent larger petty (BDL in one of his posts asserted that he used his 200 mm nogent-style chef's knife as a petty).

    As for a stainless K-Sab, I probably wouldn't want to get one.  The steel is pretty much the same as Henckels, Wusthof and other European mass-market stainless steel knives - tough (to resist breakage and chipping) and much more difficult to properly sharpen or keep sharp, compared to good Japanese knives.

    I would also wonder about a gyuto, such as either the Al Mar or the FKM.  The issue here is height: the Chef au Ritz is about 38 mm (which I presume is about the height of a 200 mm K-Sab) while the height of the Al Mar is about 48 mm and the FKM is 44 mm.  It might not sound like much - but it does add up to a different experience.

    The one knife I currently have which probably comes closest to the Chef Au Ritz is the MAC SB-85, which is described in both the MAC-USA and MAC Knives International web sites as a "Fillet" knife.  It's from MAC's "Superior" series, with a slightly thicker blade that is differently heat-treated to a harder level than either the Original Series or the Professional series MAC's.  It's close (210 mm) to the same length as a 200 mm Sab, the blade height is about the same and the blade profile (along the edge) is if anything with less rocker than even classic French Sab's.  The biggest difference is in the thickness of the blade - vintage carbon Sab's thin out VERY quickly once forward of the heel/bolster, while the SB-85 and other Japanese knives have a much less pronounced and gradual thinning of the blade when running towards the tip.  The result is a comparatively stiffer blade.  Balance on both the Chef au Ritz knife and the MAC SB-85 are near the heel of the knife.

    The other major difference is that the SB-85 is a workhorse knife.  Don't look for fine finish or a bolster on the SB-85.  It has no bolster and the main concession is that the scales have a much more relieved edge than the Original series.  Like most MAC Superior steel knives (including the Ultimate series), the SB-85 probably would benefit with some thinning behind the edge.

    Sharpening of the SB-85 is like most Japanese knives - the edge sharpens without problems and, like other MAC knives, the steel will easily hold a 15 degree 50-50 edge.  I bought my knife used on eBay (the American market site) with chips showing on the posted pictures and had no problems sharpening them out.

    The MAC-USA site and the MAC-Internation site both use a description of the SB-85 being a "Fillet" knife.   If anything, I have a problem with that description: fillet knives in my experience are light,short profile, thin and flexible knives.  The SB-85 isn't anywhere near as thin as any other fillet knife I have seen and it is anything BUT flexible.

    The knife is not listed as part of the stock of Continental Chef Supplies, but they could probably order it.  The other authorized UK distributor is Hansens Chef Shop Ltd. in  London, but they do not list any stock availability or retail prices.  Amazon.co.uk does list 4 secondary sellers of this knife (look under "Mac Superior Sashimi 21 cm anti-stick"), with prices from 72-1/2 pounds to 75 pounds.

    Hope that helps.

    Galley Swiller
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2014
  11. winkeladvokat

    winkeladvokat

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    Benuser - ah, I see where you're coming from now! Sadly, that's not the problem ;-)

    Galley Swiller - thanks for the comprehensive reply. I'm away from home a few days, I'll likely take the dead sabatier into a Henckels stockist at the weekend and measure them up side by side. Good point about the different heights compared with the other knives you mention too. Getting hold of that MAC SB85 looks tricky and, what with the way UK customs are like at the minute with charging for parcels, i'd rather try to source within the EU. Actually, thinking about it, another Grand Cheff might be an option too, the petty takes a great edge and it's pretty robust - from memory (I bought the petty in Osaka, and sized up a couple of other knives in the range while I was in the shop), they have the Grand Cheff gyuto's in 2 or 3 thicknesses, and the slightly chunkier one might be ideal.

    Things to ponder, will report back!
     
  12. galley swiller

    galley swiller

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    Amazon.co.uk lists two MAC SB-85's available from a secondary seller ("Cook & Eat") through the Amazon web site and located in France.

    Actually, I'm thinking that a Japanese stainless petty with a height (37 to 39 mm) and length (210 mm) similar to the deceased Sabatier would be about as close to the sab you want to replace.  And while I am noting you talking about getting a thicker knife, I have found that the thinness of the carbon 200 mm sabs is a good portion of their charm.  Since I don't have that many Japanese petty's (the SB-85 being just about the only one if you want to call it that, to tell the truth, and I think it could stand to be thinned), feel free to ignore my comments about the SB-85 if you find a different knife with the requisite specs and a good feel.

    Galley Swiller
     
  13. galley swiller

    galley swiller

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    I do have to admit that the 38 mm is my best approximation.  For the past few months, my access to measuring tools has been extremely limited, with my best instrument being an old engineer's scale.

    However, I have personally compared both a 200 mm Ritz Sabatier (made by Veritable) and the MAC SB-85 (which has a stated height of 39 mm) (I own both) and the two are eyeball close to the same height distance from the edge at the heel to the spine.  As for my Ritz, it has a curvature along the spine which strongly suggests it was never overused and a finger pinch feel along the length of the blade just behind the edge also suggests that the knife was never thinned or even significantly sharpened by the original and subsequent owners.  I have also compared the Ritz to another 200 mm carbon (non-Ritz) Sabatier made by Veritable and the two were virtually identical in length, height, blade profile and thickness tapering, except for grind damage along the edge in the middle of the other Sab.  I am willing to attest that both Sabs were not significantly used and, to my best educated guess, were very good approximations of what Veritable was making as Sabs during the Carbon Steel period.  Right now, I am not using the Ritz Sab, since I need to get around to re-tempering it (to remove a warp twist in the blade) and re-handling it.

    A little bit of further research indicates that a number of people like to use a small (210 mm) sujihiki as a petty (that may expand your availability parameters).  Jon Broida at Japanese Knife Imports said the following:

    " for MOST (but not all) makers, pettys and sujis are pretty much the same profile and shape... its just a size difference. There are some exceptions, but this holds true for a good number." (Credit to  http://www.kitchenknifeforums.com/showthread.php/2111-Whats-your-favorite-super-petty/page2 )

    I probably also need to note that both of the 200 mm Sabs had close to identical and smaller handles than the MAC SB-85.  That's also true of the Tojiro DP F-826 210 mm slicer.  Unfortunately, I haven't yet been able to find any knives with the length, height, profile and handle of the 200 mm carbon Sabs, AND which are made with quality Japanese steel.

    Galley Swiller
     
  14. galley swiller

    galley swiller

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    What I'm looking at (and handling) are vintage, classic Sabs - the type of knives which many vocally keen about.  They won't necessarily even follow the patterns of other old knives.  But for a classic Sab, even just visually, there's a different pattern between the 200 mm and the 250 mm.

    Take a look at the photos of vintage (and not-so-vintage) Sabatiers at http://www.thebestthings.com/knives/knives.htm and the various K Sabatier sales locations.  Compare the visual ratio of height to length between the 200 mm (8 inch) and 250 mm (10 inch) knives.  To my eye, they represent different ratios, with the 200 mm proportionally different and narrower in height from the 250 mm.  It makes sense - if the 200 mm has a different function from the 250 mm and the 200 is more of a petty, rather than just a scaled-down 250 workhorse.

    I also have a pair of carbon steel knife blanks that never got past the forging stage.  One is a blank for a 200 mm chef's knife.  The other is a 250 mm blank.  Both are full-tang, three-rivet blanks.  Both are supposedly part of the "lost hoard" that Thiers-Issard "found" squirreled away in the back of their warehouse after 50+ years, a Great Depression, World War II and the collapse of the carbon steel knife production era due to the introduction of stainless steel cutlery.  And a comparison of these "Sabatier" blanks also strongly suggests that the 200 mm and 250 mm had that same type of difference - the 250 being slimmer proportionally to height and length than the 250.

    Mind you - this is about the Sabatier design - and is not necessarily transferable to other patterns, or even between different Sabatier makers.  But the K Sab pictures strongly suggest that the 200 and 250 to this day  are different purpose knives.  

    And what we are looking at replacing is a 200 mm K Sabatier.

    As for my knives being thinned - no, I think I can see and feel if a knife has been thinned - and I looked and felt both Veritable Sabs - neither of them had even the least evidence of being thinned.

    Galley Swiller
     
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2014
  15. winkeladvokat

    winkeladvokat

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    An update....

    We've ended up getting the Henckels. We went and played with a number of knives and it was ultimately my wife's decision and one I'm totally happy with, because it's a very decent knife. Compared side-by-side to the Sabatier, the profile is actually not too dissimilar, there is a little more belly on the Henckels (maybe 2-3mm at most at mid-point if you line the point and the heel up with each other) but the point is roughly the same heigh off the board. It is 3-4mm taller overally mind, but it doesn't feel radially different. Overall weight is similar, if anything the henckels has more weight in the handle and is slimmer towards the tip. Out of the box it's come very sharp,and if I can maintain this level of sharpness without much effort, then this will have been a compete success. Robustness is the name of the game with this one! It's not on par with my Japanese gyuto, granted, but we're both going to be very happy knowing it will be very hard to do serious wrong to this knife ;-).

    Curious to how the edge will hold up, and how it will sharpen, when we get there but, for now, I'm more than pleasantly surprised with the knife.

    Thanks again!
     
  16. rick alan

    rick alan

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    Ugh, the Pro S does have that annoying full bolster you need to grind away at to sharpen properly, hope you  have a Dremel.  The one and only Wusthof Ikon I have uses the same steel, and HT also I think, and sharpens very nicely with little burr production.  At least that's with my Ikon, who knows how variable the  HT might be from one knife to another.  On cheap knives I have bought for givaways and throwaways I am a bit cavalier and have occasionally fried a section of the edge, usually at the tip, while thinning on my bench-grinder.  At that de-flowered place a visibly noticeable burr would form where none had before. 

    The Victorinox I picked up out of curiosity is also the same steel as wusties and henckles, but maybe slightly softer.  It produces a visibly noticeable burr but is easily abraded with the proper technique I learned from Benuser, ie, give a light stropping motion, flip to the other edge and with light pressure move the knife lengthwise with a slight edge-leading motion, then strop that side, flip and repeat.  Save the majority of this work for your finishing stone.  Once the burr is gone finish with a few light stropping motions.

    Rick
     
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2014
  17. spoiledbroth

    spoiledbroth

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    I have to say I have been using a friend's TI stainless tranchelard (slicer) and it is a wonderful knife. I would never buy these thiers issard knives just because of my experience with full bolsters but god the fit and finish is just sexy and they hold and edge even longer than my henckels. Probably longer than a wusty too though I have never been a fan of wusthof profiles in spite of their better edge retention.
     
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2014
  18. spoiledbroth

    spoiledbroth

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    edge otb is irrelevant IMHO, what's another 5 bucks for an edge ;)
     
  19. spoiledbroth

    spoiledbroth

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    :rolleyes: yes because every sharpener uses a belt sander. Musn't be much fun worrying about your knives all the time... :p
     
  20. millionsknives

    millionsknives

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    Over here, there is one person who comes to all the Farmers Markets with an edge pro.  Other than that, they all use belt sanders, never cooling the knives and probably wrecking the heat treatment.  The reason is that the majority of knives being brought in are not very good stainless and usually have chips, nicks, etc on the edge.  If you charged what your time is worth to repair these on waterstones, it would be more than people are willing to pay.