What are the best knives for a culinary student?

Joined Feb 23, 2010
I'm just curious what everyone feels would be the best knives for a culinary student. I've looked at Henckels a good amount but am unsure of what line would be best. Would their Forged Synergy or Forged Premio be ok? They're a little more in my price range.

I would also appreciate if anyone could give me some specific lines they like. Thanks.
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Joined Feb 13, 2008
The thing with knives is as much, if not more, how you're going to go about sharpening and doing other maintenance as the knives themselves. 

There is no one best knife for everyone, and truth be told, there probably isn't a single best kind for any one person either.  Rather, there's going to be a selection of knives which fit a price range, have good enough edge taking and holding characteristics, fit and finish and so on. 

The best value in professional knives widely available in the US are probably the Forschener Victorinox Fibrox and Rosewood lines, and the better Dexters.  These knives sharpen very easily to reasonable sharpness.  More easily and just as sharp as any of the more expensive Wusthofs, Henckels, and so on.  Like nearly all mass produced western manufactured knives their edges are subject to deformation (rolling and waving); but that's easily fixed by proper use of a "steel." 

I don't recommend that students take really nice knives to school -- even if they can afford it -- because of the risks of theft, abuse by other people, and creating a bad impression.

Personally, I prefer Forschner Rosewood over Fibrox and most of the Dexters.  It's only a couple of bucks more expensive, much better looking, and a lot more comfortable. 

There are much better knives -- but they cost a lot more, too.  If you want to get into that we can.

Also, as I said, you want to start thinking about how you're going to sharpen.  A pro should be able to sharpen on bench stones, and should have a reasonably good set which are suitable for his or her knives. Fortunately, the knives I've mentioned so far don't require you to spend a lot of money and can be sharpened with oilstones or waterstones.  But let's nail one thing down -- your choice for a chef's knife for instance -- before getting into a ton of other reccommendations.

You're also going to need a good sharpening steel.  DMT makes an "unbreakable," fine ceramic, the CS2, which would do very well in a student's roll.

Which knife profiles (e.g., chef's, paring, boning, etc.) has the school told you they want you to buy. 

My first, generic recommendation for a student on a budget is a 10" Forschner Rosewood Chef's; my second recommendation would be to hold of on getting "lifetime" knives for awhile.  Stay away from the likes of Wusthof, Henckels, Shun and Global -- at least for now.  I'd like to hear more about you before going forward with other recommendations.  

Joined Feb 17, 2010
Check with your school first.  Mine requires students to buy a specific set of knives from the bookstore.  It is a very nice set of knives, of course.  The issue is that they wanted everyone to have all of the equipment they would need and rather than say "Bring one chefs knife, one paring knife, one boning knife, one serrated bread knife, one carving knife, one set of measuring spoons, one large offset spatula, one small offset spatula, one pastry brush,...", they decided to contract with a knife manufacturer to provide kits at a very fair price.  For the $200 I spent, I got everything listed above and much more.  Do I wish I would have had a chance to buy my own knives?  Not at all.  I had no idea what to look for in a knife until we discussed knives in class.  Plus the knife kit has plenty of slots for extras that you purchase along the way.  I've added a microplane grater and a stippling knife to mine, as well as a digital thermometer, which sadly after 1 week has already met its demise (fell out of my sleeve pocket as I was getting into my car).  Grrrr...

If your school doesn't have a required kit, go to a cutlery store and hold them all, find ones that feel good in your hand, but as BDL said, don't spend a lot on your training knives.  Those are the ones that you are going to practice sharpening on.  Those are the ones you will accidentally drop out of carelessness.  Those are the ones that will show battle scars. 

By the way, my knife set is by Mercer.  They aren't bad knives.  I may buy another set or two before I graduate so I can have one set for home use, one for work, and one as a just in case set.
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