Need help selecting some new knives

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Joined Aug 23, 2018
Hey everyone!
I am new to the forums here, I cook at home 3 to 4 times a day for 5 people. I am a home chef but I love to cook when I can. Up until now I have been using the pots and pans I have but no idea what brand they are and some Cut Co knives.
Well I want to up my game, I am taking some cooking classes to improve my skills, I am looking around at different magazine subscriptions and books to try to learn anything I can.

To specifics, I want a full set of new knives. I cut up a lot of vegetables, most don't give me much issue however cabbage, squash and such do give me alot of issue as it is hard to cut through initially. I have read that the Nakiri is the Japanese specifically made for this purpose. I do some cutting of proteins, from cutting a roast, chopping a chicken and even to full on processing of a freshly slaughtered cow, pig, game, whole chickens and fish.

I am trying to learn how to run my knives more like a professional chef would since you are able to cut evenly and very quickly so I wish to learn a better way. Thus I do push cut my vegetables and pull cut my fish.

Given my full time employment I am not terribly concerned about the cost of the knives. I was thinking the $200 knife prices don't bother me. I was looking at the Yoshihiro Nakiri but I don't understand the difference between the lines. To the rest, I see online that Wusthof Ikon is very popular. I also understand the Yaxell Dragon Fusion chef's knife is suppose to be good but I can't seem to find it for sale currently.

Please let me know if there is any other information that would be needed for appropriate recommendations to be given.

Please help guide me on high quality knife gear, what do you recommend and please don't say since it is for home use anything will do. Buy quality once, use it for a long time. Buy garbage, buy a whole ton rather often and spend way more in a short period of time.... :-(
 
2,394
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Joined Oct 9, 2008
Okay, you're starting where you should start -- at the beginning. So, first of all, I wrote an article a while back that may help you get oriented. You can find that here.

Next, you've been badly misinformed about nakiri. Setting aside the many problems with that knife in general, it's especially bad at dealing with very hard things like kabocha. At base, a nakiri is like a cheap, easy-to-use (and not very good) usuba, and the one thing you must NEVER do with an usuba is split things like kabocha (or bones, of course).

In all likelihood, you should be investing in a French-style chef's knife, what the Japanese call a gyuto. This will do pretty much everything you need a knife to do, and if at some point you find yourself needing something more (a slicer, for example), it's very easy to add on to the chef's-knife base.

I'm not the one to ask about brands; someone will be along soon to give suggestions. I recommend that you go for at least an 8" blade, but a 10" would not go amiss, and if you're buying Japanese, you'll probably thank me for it if you buy one.

There are two further questions you need to address: steel type and sharpening.

1. Steel type: Carbon or stainless? Carbon requires more attention and care, but not by a lot; for a home user like you or me, it's just a matter of whether you can be diligent about things. As a former contributor here use to put it, carbon and stainless require the same care, but carbon needs it right now. You do get more bang for your buck in carbon, though not perhaps by a whole lot; where you get HUGE bang for your buck is if you're going up-market a bit and are going to be serious about sharpening, in which case some of the really good carbon steels are a dream. Which brings us to...

2. Sharpening: All dull knives are the same. If you're going to invest in a good knife, you must axiomatically decide how you're going to take care of it, and that means (especially) how you're going to keep it sharp. There are basically three methods:

A. Sharpen yourself on bench stones
B. Sharpen yourself on some kind of jig or rod system
C. Have someone else sharpen for you

You get the best results with A, and the worst with C, but some people find learning to sharpen an intimidating thing. It shouldn't be -- it's just rubbing steel on a rock -- but some people find it so. A rod or jig system does make hand-sharpening a lot simpler, but it's trickier to get really fabulous results.

If you're going for bench stones, start with a King Combi stone, I suggest the 1000/6000 if buying good Japanese steel, or 800/4000 if you prefer. Doesn't matter all that much; they'll cost you maybe $50 at the most. If you're going to have someone else do the sharpening, which you'll need done every 6-12 months, you're going to need to go with symmetrically-ground soft-ish Western steel (or you're going to pay through the nose for every sharpening), and you're going to need a honing rod to keep the teeth aligned between sharpenings; the general opinion seems to be that the IdaHone rods are the best, and will set you back about $75 I believe.

--
My recommendation is that you drop almost all of your budget on one truly excellent carbon steel Japanese gyuto, and spend the last $40-$50 (whatever) on the King Combi stone. Once you have polished up that knife to the maximum the stone will achieve, you will never look back. But I am well aware that there are other opinions on the matter. They'll be along soon!
 
1,258
797
Joined Mar 1, 2017
Hey everyone!
I am new to the forums here, I cook at home 3 to 4 times a day for 5 people. I am a home chef but I love to cook when I can. Up until now I have been using the pots and pans I have but no idea what brand they are and some Cut Co knives.
Well I want to up my game, I am taking some cooking classes to improve my skills, I am looking around at different magazine subscriptions and books to try to learn anything I can.

To specifics, I want a full set of new knives. I cut up a lot of vegetables, most don't give me much issue however cabbage, squash and such do give me alot of issue as it is hard to cut through initially. I have read that the Nakiri is the Japanese specifically made for this purpose. I do some cutting of proteins, from cutting a roast, chopping a chicken and even to full on processing of a freshly slaughtered cow, pig, game, whole chickens and fish.

I am trying to learn how to run my knives more like a professional chef would since you are able to cut evenly and very quickly so I wish to learn a better way. Thus I do push cut my vegetables and pull cut my fish.

Given my full time employment I am not terribly concerned about the cost of the knives. I was thinking the $200 knife prices don't bother me. I was looking at the Yoshihiro Nakiri but I don't understand the difference between the lines. To the rest, I see online that Wusthof Ikon is very popular. I also understand the Yaxell Dragon Fusion chef's knife is suppose to be good but I can't seem to find it for sale currently.

Please let me know if there is any other information that would be needed for appropriate recommendations to be given.

Please help guide me on high quality knife gear, what do you recommend and please don't say since it is for home use anything will do. Buy quality once, use it for a long time. Buy garbage, buy a whole ton rather often and spend way more in a short period of time.... :-(

Hello and welcome to CT :)

In the first instance, selecting a knife is by definition a personal issue. What is right for one person may not be right for another. Having said that, we can recommend a laundry list of quality cutlery but, in the end, its you who has to make the decision.

In arriving at that decision, you must ask yourself a few questions about what the knives will be used for and your skill level.

- What will the knives to be used for? Typical vegetable/protein prep i.e. slicing and dicing or specialty cuts such as filleting fish? If you are mostly going to use the knife for typical ingredient prep, there's really no need to spend the extra money on a specialty knife. You can, if you want to. But, if you are using a $400 Japanese specialty knife made for precision cuts as your workhorse to prep veggies and proteins, that may be a tad bit of overkill.

- How often and for how long will you use the knives? This lends itself to the style and comfort of the handle and blade quality. The general rule is a knife that is used more often needs to be sharpened more often. Sharpening diminishes the life of the knife because it removes metal from the blade. More use usually necessitates a harder blade at the sacrifice of flexibility. Knives made specifically for specialty cuts such as filleting are usually made of softer, more flexible metal. These knifes typically require more frequent sharpening depending on frequency of use.

- What is the level of your knife skills? Its good practice to match the abilities of your knives to your skill level. I have seen quite a few overzealous cooks take a trip to the ER because they were using a knife that was beyond their skill set or because they had poor knife skills. Knowing how to use a knife properly and efficiently is only half the ball game. Knowing how to sharpen and care for the knives is the other half. That means learning how to use whetstones. You don't want to send your expensive knife set out to be sharpened by someone who uses the same machine to sharpen both lawn mower blades and your expensive knives.

- What style knife works best for you? Western style or Japanese? Most professional chefs have a set that includes both. Typically, we put together hybrid sets so we have knives that cover the variety of uses that are needed i.e. filet knife, two chef's knives - one short blade and one longer blade, pairing knife, a "laser", good honing steel, kitchen sheers etc.

So, once you have examined what the knives will be used for given your skill level, the next question is a knife set the best choice or should you put together a set of individual knives? Again, that's up to you. But, $200 is not going to go far in either instance if you are looking to put together a knife set of any real quality. You can easily spend $200 or more on a single knife, as I am sure you already know.

If you are looking for an already assembled knife set of good quality knives, plan on spending around $300. For higher quality sets, you could easily spend double that amount or more.

As for the Japanese knives that you looked at, they have different style blades made of varying types of steel designed specifically for their intended use.

VG-10 steel, for instance, is a high carbon steel made in Japan. High carbon content means the steel is hard which produces stiff blades. Hard steel typically retains an edge longer, however, is harder to sharpen. Inferior quality knifes can chip and break.

"Damascus" is a forging technique that involves the use of different types of steel layered together in the forging process. In the context of Japanese knives, a harder steel is often used to sheath softer steel within the blade. The hard steel provides a durable edge while the softer steel gives the knife flexibility. Damascus forged blades are known for the banding and mottling patterns found on the blades. They can be quite beautiful and quite expensive.

The various knife lengths, blade widths and thicknesses found in the Japanese knives are factors that are relevant with all knives. Knives made of flexible metal with narrow, thin, sharp blades are excellent for precision cuts such as filleting fish and making paper thin cuts. Thicker more stiff blades are good for veggie prep and chopping.

There are many useful videos on YouTube that talk about the differences in knives and the materials used to make them.

As for Wusthof, they are a good manufacturer of Western style knives. I own quite a few Wusthof products and I have nothing bad to say about them whatsoever. I don't think you will go wrong if your first real upgrade is a good set of Wusthof knives. But, that's up to you.

I hope this helps. Good luck. :)
 
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Joined Nov 18, 2010
No need for a set. A chef's knife — known as a gyuto when it comes from Japan — is made to perform almost all of the tasks. Nakiris do look very nice, most people have at least one of them, but use them only rarely. Too short, no tip. Too specialised. Apart from the chef's you may want a smaller knife as well — no absolute need for it, but if the gyuto is made of carbon steel, a stainless petty can be useful. And you will need a peeling knife.
Have a 240mm gyuto and a 150mm petty and you will be fine.
Have a look at
japanesechefsknife.com
You can't go wrong with their home brand, or with the Misono series. Even a relatively unexpensive knife will be an excellent performer.
I would start with a gyuto with a Western handle. There are enough other changes you will to get used to. Harder, thinner blade, forward balance, some asymmetry, a very different notion of sharpness compared to what you probably are used to. And you will have to adapt or fine tune your technique. Rock-chopping and walking are a bad idea with a hard, thin Japanese edge.
Think about maintenance. Any blade will dull. A minimal requirement will be two stones to sharpen your own knives.
 
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Joined Aug 23, 2018
@ chrislehrer – Thank you for your response it is a excellent read. I do have one thing with your comment. You recommend a chefs knife or a gyuto which is fine but I have the worst habit of creating the accordion theme of leaving that thin little connection. Is that a knife issue or is that just an issue of how I am using the knife? I am guessing it is me :-(

I think I like the idea of Carbon based upon what you listed. I can try to learn to sharpen myself but it is not something I have done before. Does anyone have a recommendation or feedback on the TSProf sharpening system? Or should I just suck it up and learn how to use stones? I am just nervous about holding the correct angle and ruining my blade. I can learn of course but it will be interesting :p

@ sgsvirgil – Thank you for your response, it was informative. I can run a knife ok, most tell me I am far better than them however I think I am slow and pathetic. (NOTE: I do not know any real trained chefs) I can keep my slices fairly even but not even close to my satisfaction. On average I spend close to 0.5 hour cutting when cooking up a meal. It ends up being a standard baking pan full of cut veggies plus a fresh veggie tray and a salad. I do this twice a day plus I use quiet a bit of veggies and fruit for breakfast. None of that includes protein processing. I have A LOT to learn in the skill department IMHO. $300 per knife wouldn’t concern me my question for spending more though would be, how does the bell curve fall for quality vs price? I am willing to spend significantly more if there is a measurable reason to that I can get behind.


Please keep the replies coming! I love the information!!! :-D
 
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Joined Nov 18, 2010
A carbon gyuto would indeed be a good choice for learning sharpening, without the complications that often occur with different types of stainless. Please be aware that you can hardly ruin a knife beyond repair, unless you use power tools, very coarse grits and a lot of time.
As this will be probably your first decent knife I would choose a middle-of-the-road one, so you can explore and develop your preferences before spending a great sum in getting a knife that might not suit you.
 
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Joined Oct 9, 2008
@ chrislehrer – Thank you for your response it is a excellent read. I do have one thing with your comment. You recommend a chefs knife or a gyuto which is fine but I have the worst habit of creating the accordion theme of leaving that thin little connection. Is that a knife issue or is that just an issue of how I am using the knife? I am guessing it is me :-(
That's purely skill. Believe me, it's easier to learn how to do this right with a gyuto than with anything else.

I think I like the idea of Carbon based upon what you listed. I can try to learn to sharpen myself but it is not something I have done before. Does anyone have a recommendation or feedback on the TSProf sharpening system? Or should I just suck it up and learn how to use stones? I am just nervous about holding the correct angle and ruining my blade. I can learn of course but it will be interesting :p
As someone else said, don't worry. If you use a good bench stone and aren't utterly insane, you won't screw up your knife irreparably. I recommend the King stones because they're especially forgiving. And white carbon steel is also very forgiving. Best all around!
 
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Joined Oct 9, 2008
As to quality vs price, I look at it differently than most. My first really good knife was a Masamoto KS wa-gyuto, 270mm, which is sort of Ferrari territory (I bought it in Japan, so it wasn't nearly as expensive). I have never come across anything to beat it. I'd rather start with a spectacular knife and let it teach me, and it has. I can't face the notion of buying a knife to outgrow. But pretty much everyone else here would disagree, so I am a statistical outlier. (I also use an usuba now about 2/3 of the time, so I'm way, way outside normal.) Still, my advice, for what it's worth, is Masamoto KS.
 
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Joined Jun 11, 2013
First, whatever you do . . . don't buy a set of knives. A set usually doesn't include the best of the brand.

A good chef's knife is key. 8" is a good start . . . a good paring knife too. I also think a quality (and long) bread knife is handy . . . at least 12" long. The ones I have work well for slicing bread, tomatoes, etc.

Second, learn how to use and maintain the knives. Get some instruction and feedback if possible. It will help elevate your knife skills. If instruction is not readily available, there's a free knife skills video on Craftsy. I don't agree 100% with the instructor, but it's on minor things. It's well worth the hour to watch it . . . plus, as I mentioned . . . it's free! Below is the link.

https://www.craftsy.com/cooking/classes/complete-knife-skills/35338
 
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Joined Nov 15, 2012
$300 per knife wouldn’t concern me my question for spending more though would be, how does the bell curve fall for quality vs price? I am willing to spend significantly more if there is a measurable reason to that I can get behind.


Please keep the replies coming! I love the information!!! :-D

Just cruising recent posts for the heck of it, and to answer this question there are diminishing returns happening around that price point. After that it's mostly F+F stuff, till you get to honyakis around the $1,000+ range, and of course customs.

For $300 there is my favorite general prep knife the Geshin Kagero, stainless, does everything extremely well and has insane edge holding. For Carbon a Geshin Gengetsu is impeccable quality, thinner at the edge than a KS (though lacking the KS profile many adore) and it's in stock, which is something the KS hasn't been in a couple years now. Knives in Blue #1 tend to be fewer and pricier, hard to say if the extra edge retention and difficulty in sharpening would be worth it to you, I'd say go with the Kagero for the edge retention, even if it does trades off a little in initial sharpness.
 
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