Looking for knives for my wife's birthday

Discussion in 'Cooking Knife Reviews' started by vanillaxtract, Apr 18, 2016.

  1. vanillaxtract

    vanillaxtract

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    First off, this is more for my wife than me. I am a decent baker, but she is the wiz in the kitchen. She is pescatarian, and as a result, so am I when we are home. We buy our fish filleted, so that is not an issue. Looking at other threads, here are some common questions I have seen.

    What country are you living in?  America (Kansas)

    Are you willing to buy from the Internet, or do you want to buy from a brick and mortar store (and if so, specifically where)? I am willing to buy from the Internet. I live in the middle of nowhere, so that is actually preferred.

    What types of foods do you generally prepare and cook? Vegetables and fish

    What knives are you currently using? Chicago Cutlery (with a Cutco knife). Yes, I read plenty on Cutco, which is how I found this forum.

    Currently, what is the longest knife blade you generally use? 8" slicer

    What type(s) of cutting surfaces do you currently use?  Bamboo

    Are you currently sharpening your own knives? No, but I'm willing to learn

    Price range? I guess $300-$400 all said and done

    Will you be buying other knives in the near future? Depends on how amazing this experience is.

    How would you describe your cooking style? American? French? Not really sure what this means. We use a lot of fresh or frozen vegetables. We rarely used canned or process foods.

    Do you have good knife skills? Do you pinch grip? Yes, my wife does.

    Have you ever owned a good knife? I thought I did until I began skulking on these forums.
     

    After doing my limited research, my budget I think will allow me three decent knives. As I don't know how my wife will respond to knives, I put the following together:

    10" Henckels 4 star chef

    12" Misono bread knife

    MAC HB-40 parer (but I also read that buying cheap paring knives are okay, like Forschner)
     
  2. brianshaw

    brianshaw

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    I don't disagree with any of your choices if they will meet your wife's needs. The 10 inch Henkels is a brute. I have one and an 8 inch since the 1980s. The 8 inch is what I've found more useful for most household cooking. A 10 inch Shun, as an example, is a lot lighter and more agile but won't take apart a big squash quite like the Henkels will.

    As you know... Figure out your sharpening plan soon.
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2016
  3. foody518

    foody518

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    I'd set aside $50-100 for a sharpening budget.

    Bread knife - What's the crustiest bread you cut through? I have the Gesshin Bread Knife which handles soft breads and cakes really well. The hardest things I've used it on have been homemade sourdough and a storebought country French loaf, which it handles fairly well. $45 and it suits my current needs. Other options which are less pricey than the Misono you're looking at are the Tojiro ITK, MAC Superior Bread Knife (This one has a rep of being one of the best), and the Richmond Artifex Bread Knife

    The bolster on that Henckles is going to get in the way of sharpening and be a hassle unless you've got a good belt grinder or other really coarse grinding option.
    If you are open to considering thinner knives with harder steels, Gesshin Stainless, Gonbei AUS-10, Misono Moly or 440 are knives to look at (brain is blanking and I'll think of others later).

    If you were thinking of a board upgrade, Amazon's got some Michigan Maple Block End Grain boards for under $100. I believe the 15x15in goes for under 60, and there's a 20x15in board that is under $100. Catskill also makes more cost affordable end grain boards. These will treat your knife edges better than bamboo will.

    Paring - nothing wrong with going cheaper on them especially if they aren't frequently used. 
     
  4. vanillaxtract

    vanillaxtract

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    Bread: I just picked something. I didn't see a whole lot on bread knives. I would say French breads are the most crusty. She does cake decorating as well, so it will be used on the soft side quite a bit.

    Chef: I am open to anything. I was trying to get a mix of different styles of knives so she can try them and see what she prefers. She is a small lady, so maybe a 10" Henckels will be too much knife. I also have no sharpening tools and even less experience. I will take a look at those other knives. Would it be best to stick to an 8" then?
     
  5. vanillaxtract

    vanillaxtract

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    Would an 8" Henkel be okay then? Should I just scrap that all together and go with Japanese? Those are typically lighter and thinner, correct?
     
  6. brianshaw

    brianshaw

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    You are asking a question that is very much a personal choice issue

    I have a number of chef knives in both 8- and 10-inch... and in German, American carbon, and "Japanese" (Shun classic and Premier). I like the German because they can handle the heavy work without fear of chipping (etc) and, when sharp, can do some fine cutting. I like the American carbon steel because they are light, very affordable and can achieve a blazingly sharp edge... and they are durable in use. I like the "Japanese" because they are light, can achieve a blazingly sharp edge, and look pretty.

    If I were to pick only one knife to spend the rest of my life with it would be the 8" Henckels 4-star... and my tri-hone stones.  Would I miss the others - maybe, but...
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2016
  7. foody518

    foody518

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    Most of those options that cost less than the Misono should work quite well for your intended usages then. Frees up a little more of the budget to use on the chefs / paring / sharpening.

    If you've got some time, take a bit to look up and read about more knives. Is ease of cutting more valued than durability/robustness for occasional (or not so occasional) hard tasks?

    As a small person myself I've had no problems with anything 8-10.5 inches (just a year ago I was using a 6.5 inch chef knife) but did find that for 8 inch knives, it felt like a knife trying to fit in a certain amount of curvature to a slightly too short overall length. It is taking less wrist/arm movement to avoid accordion cuts with a longer knife. I don't know if this is a minority opinion, but I feel like it's more about the curvature of the blade and how much there is, as well as how severe or gentle the curve is. It's clear that something like 5 ft 4 is not the ideal height to a standard kitchen counter plus 2 inch board, and a curvy knife profile will lead to discomfort from excess cocking of the arm at the shoulder or excess bending at the elbow and wrist.

    There is good info on sharpening on this forum and others, as well as instructive Youtube videos from channels like Japanese Knife Imports.
     
  8. vanillaxtract

    vanillaxtract

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    I am leaning towards the Henckel. Am I missing something with these two links?

    Henckel 4 star 8" chef knife - $80

    Henckel 4 star 3 pc set - $100 (includes 8" chef, 4" paring, and 5" serrated utility)

    The set seems like a hell of a deal. $20 more and you get two additional knives.
     
  9. brianshaw

    brianshaw

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    Your not missing anything. If it's a Henkels 4Star that would want... The set is one heck of a bargain!
     
  10. brianshaw

    brianshaw

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    Not that this should matter, but the 4-star may be new old stock. A while ago they updated that line as Four Star II, which has a different handle. Not sure if anything else changed but the original 4 star line is classic and long a pro favorite. That could be why the prices are so good. I remember paying through the nose for them in 1980 or so.
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2016
  11. foody518

    foody518

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    You may get very little usage out of a 5inch serrated. Maybe a sandwich knife. It's more like $20 bucks for the paring.
     
  12. brianshaw

    brianshaw

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    I was thinking similar, but rethought. Sandwiches and tomatoes and cheese. The set is still a bargain.
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2016
  13. kartman35

    kartman35

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  14. doctorcornbread

    doctorcornbread

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    Unless she has been spending 4-5 hours a day in prep work and has developed definite opinions on knives (and is a cranky person), give your wife these two knives and when she uses them, she will be thrilled: 

    Victorinox Chef's, 8" Blade, 2" At Blue Fibrox Pro Handle     

    Victorinox Swiss Army 3-1/4-Inch Fibrox Straight Edge Paring Knife, Black     

    They are both terrific line cook's knives, and functionally deliver 90% of the balance and ease of use as the top forged knives out there. They are stamped, with molded handles, and thus do not look as cool as some $300-400 European knife.  But once she uses them, if she is a serious cook she will know that you gave her something meaningful.  

    The others you should get are a boning knife such as this one:

    Victorinox 6-Inch Flex Boning Knife with Fibrox Handle

    and a bread knife, like this:

    Victorinox 47547 10-1/4-Inch Wavy Bread Knife, Black Fibrox Handle

    No, I do not work for Victoinox, but I have each of these knives either in my home or in my urban apartment in another city, and I think they are just super.  I also have several Henckels and other European knives and love them too.  But each of them cost multiples of what I paid for these. They are no better, IMHO.

    One other recommendation...buy her an Accusharp sharpener.

    AccuSharp 001 Knife Sharpener

    Some people poo-poo this, but a couple of swipes along your chef's knife or boning knife before starting to do your prep work will give it  (and you) a terrific edge.  A honing steel is great too, but the Accusharp is totally awesome - and, again, a total bargain.
     
  15. foody518

    foody518

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    I don't think it takes that long to form strong preferences, even if they aren't 100% defined. For a shorter woman the excess curvature of a Fibrox coupled with standard counter heights plus a cutting board can make for excess wrist and elbow and shoulder angling just to utilize most of the knife length. A flatter profiled knife minimizes that. Additionally, cutting using a thinner vs thicker knife is almost instantaneous feedback that helps form preferences.
     
  16. rick alan

    rick alan

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    Not meaning to be impolite DC, but if you call the edge off an accusharp "terrific" then you are damn easy to please, or maybe just want to insure you never cut yourself.

    Welcome to Cheftalk VX.

    For the money you cannot beat a Tojiro DP, and I have seen the 9.5" going for as little as $60, their petty and bread knife are also a great bargain.  German stainless simply doesn't compare, none of it, to these entry-level Japanese knives.

     

    We can eventually get around to sharpening.  That wouldn't include an accushat.  A Vic can suffer such treatment, though it would scream in pain.  But those would just destroy a DP, and most other decent knives.
     
  17. doctorcornbread

    doctorcornbread

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    Well, I've long ago learned that where knives in the kitchen are concerned, everybody has an opinion.  And, it's based on their accidents of experience, personality and work style.

    The Tojiros you cite are good knives by reputation and no doubt worth a look.  I've only heard of them and have never used one.  But sticking with a Vic Forstner is a low-risk decision, given its massive popularity, wide usage and quality. 

    As to the Accusharp, it makes a fine edge for me, and its super-easy to use.  Wipe the knife clean, dry it and give it a few strokes with the Accusharp, and you are ready for another mound of prep vegetables.  Does a sharpening stone give a better edge?  Absolutely!  Are you likely to go to it every 2-3 hours while working?  No.  Hence my argument in favor of the Accusharp.  Your experience/mileage may vary...
     
  18. foody518

    foody518

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    Why would you need to go to a stone every 2-3 hours? Especially considering the starter of this thread is referring to home usage. 2 weeks back I put my Tojiro through 3 straight hours of butterflying and cubing baked chicken breasts on a hard poly board and it barely did anything to the edge.
    I wish I had some personal experience with it, but if that is the behavior to be expected out of a fibrox, I might think that the Tojiro is at least twice as good in some respects like edge retention, justifying the twice in price.
     
  19. kartman35

    kartman35

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    A knife such as a Victorinox if sharpened on stones only needs to be maintained on a steel between sharpenings.  Every 2-3 hours a few strokes on a steel is all you need and it removes no metal.  If you're going to the accusharp (or any similar carbide sharpener)  every 2-3 hours while working, you're removing metal MUCH more often than is necessary.  Not only that, but this type of sharpener is very likely to ruin the profile of the knife (accordion cuts)  over time.  It's not a personal preference thing.  The tool is not good.  If you come here looking for advice on how to maintain your knives, we'll all help.  If you come and post bad advice to others we're gonna point that out so people don't come away from Cheftalk Forums thinking that carbide sharpeners are the way to go because they're simply not.

    Furthermore, while the Vic makes a great gift for any cooking student, most wives would prefer to adorn their kitchens with something prettier.  Especially with the OPs stated budget, I think hes looking for something nicer.  Kinda of like saying to someone looking to spend $60k on a car for his wife to get a Honda Civic....great reliable car, but not what he's looking for.
     
    Last edited: May 7, 2016
  20. doctorcornbread

    doctorcornbread

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    Ok, Ok. Lest people think I had no basis for what I posted, I was actually introduced years ago to the Accusharp by an experienced line cook, who worked at a restaurant that was in the top ten in a major US metropolitan area.  He swore by it.  I've used it since then and my knives cut very well, thank you.  I've mentioned my use of it to other commercial cooks and serious foodies, and, with one exception, the worst reaction Ive ever gotten was a "meh" (one foodie was a knife fanatic and his comments were much like the above). So my post was not uninformed.

    I will concede that those who are experts in knives are unlikely to like the Accusharp.  It is not designed to match the geometry of all knives.  It's like a camera with a zoom lens...it's a compromise for function.  None will ever be as sharp as one with a single focal length.  

    But decide how you want to work.  Most serious cooks will want to focus on the cooking, not on the knives (which concededly are an important part of the prep process). It seems like there are way more posts on this site about knives than one would expect.