Home Chef needs advice on Knives

Discussion in 'Cooking Knife Reviews' started by briant73, Dec 30, 2009.

  1. briant73

    briant73

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    Recently I decided to upgrade the knives we use at home to something that should work well and last. We have neen using a wolfgang puck set that though it looks good has not been a great performer even from day one. I was told someone we know who loves to cook loves her "cutco" knifes (turned out to be Chicago Cultery they owned). Anyways having a local Cutco store we stopped in and got the usual demonstration and left with table knife set and one Santoku 5" knife that the household chef (my GF) liked best. The table kinves are their so Double D edge whereas the Santoku is a straight edge.

    So far we like the warranty, the feel in hand of the handle, the idea we can have them sharpened by the factory and possibly the local store (factory is 2 1/2 hours away driving). On the other hand I'm not too happy with the cost which seems high, the handles are kind of blah looking, the idea there maybe much better knives at the same or lower cost.

    I decided to start doing some research and now my head is spinning with all the information. The things I found to be said over and over again are that Cutco is sold door to door and that for the cost of Cutco knives there are better products and some of them cost less. That's where I'm hoping everyone here can help me figure out if Cutco is the product for us or if there is something else we should think of instead.

    I know this forum is more towards the professional side of things but if anyone can help two amateur household chefs pick the right product that well perform well, last a long time without high maintenance demands that would be appreciated.

    EDIT - Forgot to add she really likes the Santoku style knife in the petite size range and we are looking for a really good bread knife too.
     
  2. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    One of the most important set of criteria for anyone choosing a new knife or new knives is how they're going to integrate the knives into their sharpening regimen. It's a sad fact of life that all culinary knives need regular sharpening -- some more than others. Factory sharpening is not a great solution for most people because of the turn around time.

    Cutco knives have some strong supportes; but if you want to use an actually sharp knife (as opposed to something more like a saw) they aren't very good; especially not for their price.

    Their biggest problem is the steel alloy used to make the blades. It's 440A, which was never very good, hasn't got any better, and over the years has been superceded by many superior alloys. The best things you can stay about 440A is that it's very stain resistant and it isn't as bad as some other alloys -- 420J2, for instance.

    At any rate, 440A doesn't take a great edge under the best of circumstances, and loses it easily.

    As you know Cutco makes knives with two different edge geometries. One is a "never needs sharpening" serrated they call "Double D." The other is a regular smooth edge.

    The Double D edges will function for a long time before needing sharpening -- but never very well. You can't get really clean cuts with it, and it's difficult to cut fine as well. The regular smooth edges, like the one on our GF's santoku, dull very quickly compared to those on knives made from better blade alloys.

    Forschner's Rosewood and Fibrox lines represent a big step up in quality compared to Cutco; and I believe they're less expensive to boot. There are much better knives than the Forschners, but they're considerably more expensive.

    If you want to discuss the Forschners, or options in a different price range; or have any other questions let us know. There are several very knowledgeable people on CT.

    BDL
     
  3. briant73

    briant73

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    Thanks for the quick response.

    To answer your questions to the best of my ability

    Price – As you know we already purchased Cutco knives which from what I have seen at Amazon are around the same price as some leading European and Asian products. Would I like to spend less, sure but if spending more means I get a great performing product that will last a very long time I’m willing to do it.

    Sharpening – I haven’t done this and would need guidance in where to start and what equipment is best. I have read enough to know that this depends on what type of knife is being sharpened. I would hope I wouldn’t have to sharpen more than once/twice a year.

    The table knives I haven’t even tested yet but they seem like nice products but if there is something that cuts as well/better and will last a long time I’d be interested.

    Style/Type of kitchen knives – The main chef really likes the feel/design of the Santoku knives and being a petite person likes the knife in the petite size of 5-6 1/2 range. Also we would really like a top quality bread knife.
     
  4. foodpump

    foodpump

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    Here's a "quality test" for you to take:

    Take a regular potato, a large-ish one, and take your knife and cut in half lengthwise.

    Did the knife wriggle or squirm (bend or flex) when cutting the potato?

    If it did, it didn't pass the "Quality test"
     
  5. duckfat

    duckfat

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    I have some *utco's that were a gift. My wife likes them. About all I can say for them is that they are good about replacing them when they die. They cost 5-7x more than they should as they are lower in quality than forschner, Sani-safe etc. The biggest reason I can see for an average home owner to buy them is free sharpening. Shun does that as well and you can buy a much higher quality Shun for the same price. I'm not a big Shun fan either but even their base lines are vastly better than *utco.
     
  6. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    If you cook at home four or more times a week, in order to maintain your go to chef's knife (or santoku, or gyuto) as very sharp or better, it's going to need about six actual sharpenings (as opposed to "touch ups) a year -- and to be "profiled," about once a year.

    If you can settle for barely sharp, you can cut that down to about four sharpenings. Most people never used a knife sharper than barely sharp. Twice a year by a professional sharpener and "touch-ups" on a steel, or a "V" stick system like a Sharpmaker or a "Crockstick," means your knives will be fairly dull about half the year. You mentioned suiting the sharpening method to the knife, and there's a lot of truth to that. Many very expensive knives -- especially those manufactured in Japan -- won't do their best unless taken to a moderately high degree of polish. And polishing is something very few budget "systems" do.

    By and large, Japanese manufactured western style knives (the shapes you're used to -- including santoku, btw), can be made much sharper and stay sharper longer with a better sharpener but less other maintenance than similarly priced European knives. The Euros (and Americans) take maintenance -- usually in the form of steeling.

    There are a few Japanese stainless lines I usually recommend in the Cutco price range (fairly expensive, by the way). Chief among them are MAC Pro; and, if you can live with a little bit of flex, Masamoto VG.

    It's easy to overemphasize the practical superiority of a good Japanese knife compared to a good German -- like Wusthof, F. Dick, Messermeister, or Henckels; or a German type like Lamson Sharp (made in America). While most of the nuances fall in favor of the Japanese, you can get a lifetime of great performance from a German knife; and in addition the Germans are manufactured to very high standards of fit and finish, and almost all of them have very good to excellent handles to boot. Their biggest weaknesses are that they're relatively heavy, the "go to" chef's knives have a relatively clumsty profile; and they're all made from less-than-stellar alloys -- either X50CrMoV, or something very much like it.

    Additionally, there are some relatively value-priced knives that bring plenty of performance along with them; these include Forschner Rosewood and Fibrox and the better Dexters to name three. FWIW, the Forschners are X50CrMoV as well.

    There's no one best knife brand, and I don't know of anyone who can point to any one in particular and say "this is the one your wife should use," at least not anyone who knows much about knives and has her best interests at heart. Also, there's no good reason to go to a lot of trouble or expense choosing the very finest knife of some profile you'll only seldom use. The Santoku/ Chef's/ Gyuto is a knife worth investing in. If you're buying a petty instead of a parer, so is that. And, if you use a slicer a lot, that is too. You can buy good parers and bread knives relatively inexpensively.

    At this stage, my thoughts about the "go to" knife are:

    1. You can get away with using a fairly inexpensive and easy sharpening system and still get a lot out of Forschners, so that would be one recommendation. I prefer the Rosewood handles to the Fibrox.

    2. Everyone who tries MAC Pro loves it. In addition, they have a great US presence and an excellent warranty. If you're willing to invest the money and/or time in a good sharpener I have no doubt you will too.

    3. A good, German type knife could be perfect for you.

    4. If your wife does 97% of the cooking and she likes her santoku, figure out a way to keep it sharp without sending it out of the house 3 weeks a year and be happy. Kinves are nice, but a happy wife trumps.

    Anything you can do to narrow down your selections would help me help you.

    BDL
     
  7. briant73

    briant73

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    I'm not really for/against Cutco but once I started checking out what else is out there it seemed like I might of spent differently. Last night stopped at a Bed Bath and Beyond to check out the German products. Liked some of the Henckels and Wusthof. Overall both seemed nice though we did not like the Grand Prix handle in the Wusthof. Wish they would of had the Ikon line to try out also since it seems it would be preferable.

    Main Knife - we want a good knife for veggies and meat. The Cutco santoku seems to fit this bill and she really likes the feel/shape of the santoku style.

    Bread Knife - Currently what we have for bread/pastry is about as good as a butter knife just bigger.

    From reading I take it a smaller knife is also desirable.

    Table/Steak knives - The cutco look better than the run of the mill cheaper knives but willing to take suggestions.

    I don't really care if the main kitchen knives match or not since what really matters is how well they perform. I do want knives that if someone doesn't get to them right away still will clean up and look good. Also I don't mind sharpening manually but if there is an easier way that might be nice.
     
  8. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    Henckels and Wusthof regular "classic" handles are very good for almost everyone. Ikon is nice, but expensive. Ikon uses the same steel as Wusthof's other forged lines, but ground to a 15* angle, and, in the case of some shapes, profiled to French/Japanese shapes.

    You can get all the Ikon advances, but with a "Classic" handle in the (discontinued) Le Cordon Bleu line. You can still find some NOS LCB.

    At or anywhere near the Cutco price thare are knives made of much better steel.

    The pick of the litter in bread knives is the MAC 10.5" Superior Bread/Roast. But it's expensive; right around $100. For bread/pastry a $25 Forschner is awfully good.

    Not only desirable, but safer for a lot of tasks. You definitely want something in the 3" - 6" range. A knife called a "petty" is a very hot trend with pros right now. It's really just a long, regular style (couteau office) paring knife -- or you might think of it as a "utility" knife with a smooth edge. Whether or not you want one instead of a parer, a parer or both depends on your own style. There's no right or wrong.

    Cutcos are fine steak knives; but they're very, very expensive compared to other attractive serrated knives.

    Good thought.

    Stainless for you then.

    "Manual" can mean a lot of things. One is freehand sharpening on whetstones. You can get three (coarse -- 400, medium -- 1000, fine -- 3000) Naniwa SS for around $100.

    It will take you about 20 - 40 kinves to learn to use them well. Personally, I've sharpened thousands and am still learning new things and still improving. After you start getting the hang of it, you might want to add an ultra-fine polishing stone like a 10000# if you've got really good knives.

    Still manual, an Apex Edge Pro kits run from a little less than $150 to more than $250 depending on the kit. Better knives call for a higher polish and a better kit. Outside of the price, the Edge Pro is a bit of a pain to take down and store.

    2 stage Chef's Choice machines cost under $100, while 3 stages will set you back more than $100. These are the easiest to learn and the most convenient to use. They have their limitations, but if you're intimidated in any way by the other systems -- they're the way to go. FWIW, they make different models for "Asian" and "European" knives. If you choose Chef's Choice, you'll need to get the right model for kit.

    I've been freehanding for more than 45 years; and have used many if not most of the other major systems during that time -- sometimes as the primary sharpening method. I'm starting to think it doesn't make much sense for a beginner to learn to freehand if (s)he can afford the Edge Pro -- partly based on the availability of newer, and better abrasives over the past year or so. I used a Chef's Choice for almost a year when my stones were "lost," and still think they're great.

    BDL
     
  9. briant73

    briant73

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    Ok I believe I found the MAC superior bread knife in the $70.00 dollar range a few places, which I don't mind spending if it's going to perform and last.

    As to the steak/table Knives - Would like to see some recomendations serrated and straight blade.

    Santoku style knife, I read the Mac knives are good but not sure about Pro/Superior. Anything else I should look at?
     
  10. duckfat

    duckfat

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    "Cutcos are fine steak knives; but they're very, very expensive compared to other attractive serrated knives"

    I have these and they are DD edge which means there is no way to sharpen them other than sending them in. They aren't half bad but the hanldles are cheap plastic. They run $112 for four. The Viking or Cusinart sets in places like Bed Bath & beyond are far better and about 1/4 the price.
     
  11. theunknowncook

    theunknowncook Banned

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    Briant73:
    I do not recommend Cutco cutlery. They are owned by Alcas Corp. They are overrated and overpriced! Their sister-company, Ka-Bar, sells the Union Cut.Co. and Dog's Head sets, which resemble the MAC Professional Series. Neither do I recommend Chicago Cutlery, as the company became defunct in the 1990s, and the brand-name is now owned by World Kitchen, and production has been outsourced to China ever since.
    I personally own the LamsonSharp PRO cutlery line. However, you might want to consider their Stamped cutlery line, since it would be less expensive, and lighter than forged cutlery. Nonetheless, they do offer a FREE Sharp For Life Program for their Forged knives. They have a Factory Outlet Store. The lowest prices that I have found online, is at: Cookware.
    I know that it seems to be a daunting task, to be shopping for kitchen cutlery, as there are a myriad of brands to choose from, but nevermind the brands which others tell you to buy. Buy what you can afford, and like to use, on a daily basis.
     
  12. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    Just curious, but I'm wondering in which ways you think the Ka-Bars "resemble" MAC Pro. To my mind, if only because the alloys and ergonomics are so different, they're not similar enough for a meaningful comparsion. Not seeking to quarrel, just trying to find out what you're thinking.

    BDL
     
  13. behindtheknife

    behindtheknife

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    For advice on sharpening, we just did a whole video series on Japanese vs. German knives and how to sharpen them both.

    Go to behindtheknife.com and view the posts from December 15th through the 18th. Lots of good info.

    Lisa Rogak
     
  14. briant73

    briant73

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    Thanks for the link to the sharpening page.
     
  15. briant73

    briant73

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    So here is what we currently have
    Wolfgang puck knive set (won't even bother saying much other than it does look nice)
    Cutco 5" Santoku Knife Santoku Knives by CUTCO Cutlery
    Cutco 8 knife table knife set 8-Pc. Table Knife Set In Gift Box by CUTCO Cutlery

    Here are the knives I have been looking at through recomendations from people on the internet and this forum
    Wusthof Classic Ikon Wuesthof - CLASSIC IKON
    Wusthof Classic Wuesthof - CLASSIC
    I actually found the classic Ikon cheaper some places than the regular Classic line by about 30 bucks or more.

    Mac Knife pro Santoku MAC Knife Inc. USA
    Mac Knife superior bread MAC Knife Inc. USA
     
  16. briant73

    briant73

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    I forgot to add in my last post some questions about my choices.

    From reading MAC knives seem highly recommended. Wusthof is a decent knife with a good warranty but with pricing the same would you go for MAC?

    I see seperate lines of MAC knives, superior and pro seem to be the usual recomended. Would you recomend the PRO over the Superior for Santoku?

    How does MAC steel/handle hold up as far as appearance/handle considering they will be hand washed but may sit before cleaning? Will they withstand someone leaving them in a sink filled with water on occasion? I wish I could say the knives would be taken care of meticulousy and usually they would but sometimes they may not be.

    Look forward to any recomendations people can give!
     
  17. pensacola tiger

    pensacola tiger

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    From a purely safety standpoint, knives should never be left in a sink full of water. You may be able to get away with this with a dull knife, but you are inviting a trip to the emergency room if you do this with a sharp knife, whether it is a MAC, Wusthof or any other brand.
     
  18. pazzo

    pazzo

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    I have a MAC Pro chefs knife and cannot recommend it enough. It is far and away better than any German (Henkels or Wusthof) knife that I have used.

    That being said, you really do need to maintain it, but this goes for any knife. You should not put your knife in the sink, whether or not it is filled with water. Sinks are made of hard metal and will easily mess up the edge on your knife. It would be probably be better to leave the knife on the board uncleaned for a little rather than leave it in a sink of water.
     
  19. briant73

    briant73

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    Whoops that should of said left in a sink with other dishes/cultery not full of water. I should of said left in the sink waiting to be washed. Personally I rather they sat on the counter till their turn came up. I don't do the dishwashing usually and was just thinking of extremes that may happen.
     
  20. pazzo

    pazzo

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    Would it survive? Yes. Would it probably have been dulled or even chipped? Yes, but that goes for all cutlery. Would you be risking slicing deep into your finger when you reached into the sink? Yes.

    I'd keep all knives out of the sink.