What Makes a Good Knife Review?

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by boar_d_laze, Aug 30, 2010.

  1. the-boy-nurse

    the-boy-nurse

    Messages:
    107
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Cook At Home
    Yeah, what he said, I agree with him. I have found that kind of setup works well for tools, appliances etc. Why not knives? Sounds like a wiki article series to me, so get crackin' guys.
     
  2. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

    Messages:
    8,550
    Likes Received:
    206
    Exp:
    Cook At Home
    The idea of a gang knife review is interesting.  Unfortunately I don't have access to that many knives at a time.  But the next time I do review a knife, I'll try to compare it to knives of the same and different types in a similar price range.

    KY brought up a lot of good points, I may not agree with some of them but respect all of them.  It would be stupid not to if for no other reason than that his thinking is representative of a lot of other peoples'.  I don't expect everyone to share my views regarding what does and does not constitute good shopping practices, or what is and what is not adequately sharp.  He and I seem to have very different standards regarding the latter especially, but it's pretty obvious he knows how to sharpen and different standards aren't the point -- it's having a good idea of what to expect.  I'd like to think that when I review a knife, he can say whether or not it fits within a small group he'd like to try at a store if they had them. 

    As to what kind of disparaging comment my "waving around" remark was... Mundane sarcasm, pretty much.

    Chris's thinking is very close to mine on the utility of the sort of trials you get in a knife, kitchen, or department store.  While I do think you can weed out a few knives which are absolutely unacceptable, I don't think you can make meaningful evaluations without trying the knife with an edge you'll actually be using.  Cooking and Boy seem to be of similar minds, too.

    I HATE reviews that are based on OOTB edges. The first things I want to know from a review is what kind of edge a knife will take and whether it will keep it.  On the other hand, it may be better to keep the "edge characteristics" part of the review brief and not too technical.  

    Your thoughts?

    I just took this picture for another purpose, but thought it might be interesting to anyone who wants to look at a wonderful knife, may help dispel the mistaken notion I don't like European knives, and because phatch mentioned it.  So, at great expense to the management, without further ado, Ladies and Gentlemen I give you the talented and the lovely,

    T[​IMG]

    35 year old, 10" K-Sabatier au carbone chef's knife, used daily for the past 8 years, freshly cleaned with baking soda and a Scotch Brite.  Note that despite age and frequent sharpening, the blade retains its original profile; also that the bottom of the finger guard has been ground down (every year or so, on a coarse stone) so the heel isn't notched.

    Feel free to lust.

    BDL
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2010
  3. cookinmt

    cookinmt

    Messages:
    67
    Likes Received:
    13
    Exp:
    Line Cook
    At the risk of simply parroting an idea already mentioned, I think the relevance of those specifics hinges entirely upon the target audience; a quick perusal of knife reviews on CT shows an extreme variation in interpretations of sharpness and retention, to the point that being particularly specific just wouldn't be worthwhile.  As KYH mentioned:  to many, the details can get boring. Conversely, were you writing for Alligator's audience, you damn well better have all the explicit, scandalous details complete with a naughty centerfold. 

    Speaking of naughty centerfolds (cheap segue to phatch's comment, regarding photos as a way to pique interest): researching a knife for a potential purchase means looking at dozens of identical stock photographs, so I strongly "+1" this idea.    To me, what made Jim Berman's review of the New West knife, here on CT, particularly interesting was the inclusion of the two thoughtful, well picked photographs that showed me the product at different angles and in different light.  No, I don't need individual pictures of spine and handle and a "blade geometry money-shot," but a different perspective is always great.
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2010
  4. trooper

    trooper

    Messages:
    246
    Likes Received:
    23
    Exp:
    Private Chef
    Some comments I hear from people; Some things I see cooks do.   Who are you in these examples?

        - All I ever do is cut miraPlox and cook chicken breasts all day. I hate my job and have no passion for what I do.

        - My chef loves diamond-cut bells, fine julianne and perfect carrot cubes and accepts nothing less than perfection. I have to filet tomato skins and prep tenderloins all in a days work.

        - I work at a sandwich shoppe or hotdog stand. I only use a knife to defend myself from robbers and health inspectors.

        - I am the meat or fish chef and am responsible for all break-down, portion, sous vide, cooking and plating from the time the fish/meat is delivered until it hits the window.

        - I am the bread and pastry chef. I am never seen during service, in fact, I only work three days a week but make twice as much as the sous chef. I wield a 12" pallete knife.

        - I just want my own knife because I hate the Dexter-Russles they have at work.

        - I just want a cool knife because next to the chrome spinners on my 1972 Dodge Dart, it is the only status symbol that defines me.

        - I just want a light knife that fits on a 16x16 cutting surface. I want reasonable quality because I pay to have my knives sharpened and only want to do it twice a year or so.

        - I chop everything like jackhammer, and like to see carrots and celery fly off my board like a weed-eater - i can chop at 750 hacks per minute and only hit my knuckle once a week.

        - I slice everything and the forward radius of my knife has never left the cutting board. Smooth, circular motions... that's what I'm all about.

        - I've been cooking for 30 years, and it doesn't matter what knife I use, as long as it is sharp. I can sharpen it my self if it is dull. Doesn't need to be perfect, just serviceable.

        - I am one of the three remaining cooks in the world that actually knows how to use a steel. I like a toothy but well-maintained edge, not a razor blade.

        - I spend more time getting a mirror edge on my RC-90 Asian light sabre than I spend actually cooking with it. I strope my knife on the the down feathers of baby angles.

        - I'm a three-knife kind of chef. If i can't do it with my chef's or paring knife, I go to the meat slicer, mandoline or delegate the task to some freak with a 19" single-bevel sushi knife.

        - I can't even bring my wallet into the kitchen without someone stealing it from my pocket. I just need a knife that works, but isn't expensive, because they already stole all the house knives.

        - My chef will randomly jump my station to cut something. If I have a dull knife he will ride my ass and assign all mincing, slicing and other delecate work to me for the rest of the day.

        - My wife/husband/kids use my knife and have no respect for me, my knife or what the dish washer, cookie sheet or granite counter top does to cutlery.

        - I fit all my work tools inside a bain marie, and want a knife that can fit inside a protector, and not tip-over the bain when I'm not using it.

        - I like proprietary handles, like Fury, Global, Porche... So i guess it doesn't matter, because I'm getting one of those.

        - My hands are gigantic (or tiny) and the handle is more important than the knife profile to be honest.

        - I'm not really an advanced cook, but I just want a good knife that is sharper than that crap Chef Tony sold me for 19.95 along with the slap-chop accessory.

        - When I grasp my blade and point it toward the sky, lightning strikes the tip and beams of light pierce from my eyes. I need a knife that deserves me as an owner.

        - I have 6,300 other knives but I want to cut little pieces from all of them and build the ultimate Voltron knife that has only the best attributes from each of the others.

        - It took me 35 hours to sharpen my mom's Shun after she neglected it for a year. I never want to experience that again - What's "almost" as hard but still good?

        - I process 18,000 chickens a day. I'd rather have a cheap knife and a diamond steel than something that takes me longer than two seconds to sharpen.

        - I want my expensive cutlery to match my expensive copper pans and expensive marble and ivory kitchen decor.

        - I want a knife that fits on the microscopic line station I'm crammed into, but it still has to be large enough to shred lettuce and slice duck breast.

        - My knife is almost as big as my ego, but sadly, it's about as capable too.

        - I want a knife that doesn't say Messimeister on the side, because I'm finally done with culinary school and ditching this tell-tale knife will equal a two dollar raise, I'm sure.

        - look at all the pretty patterns this clad steel knife has! Oh - If I hold two identical "damascus" knives side-by-side, they BOTH have an identical pattern! WTF?

        - Chef _______ uses a K-17X-Elite Series Knife, so I shall own one too!

        - I just want a knife what wont chip when I cut through a peppercorn or duck leg. :-/

        - I need a knife that will crack coconuts, lobster claws, acorn squash and cut the faces off of innocent little crabs!

        - I want a knife that can scoop up a hand full of diced onions but not look like a hatchet too.

        - Carbon Steel! Only Real Chefs use Carbon Steel!! W00T!

        - I need a knife that will replace that mistake I made about what ceramic knives are really capable of.

        - I need a knife that actually fits into my butcher block, or one that doesn't stab the counter when I try and fit it inside the knife block.

        - I need a knife that doesn't have a 1/4" airspace on the cutting board when I lay it flat. I probably need to learn how to sharpen properly also.

        - I don't need a new knife. I need a new electric can opener. This one isn't keeping my knife sharp anymore.

        - I really _DO_ want a knife that will saw through a brick and then supreme a soft grape, depending on what I need it for on a given day.

    I'm sure there is a knife for each of these people. I hope you find the one that fits your intended use. : ) 

      - Just having some fun. : )
     
  5. Iceman

    Iceman

    Messages:
    2,557
    Likes Received:
    451
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    HEY BLD, I'm only halfway through this thread but I'll ask you now for this favor. Can you please post up a pic of some of these "lasers" that you speak of please. I'm having a difficult time looking up "laser knives" TIA. 
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2011
  6. Iceman

    Iceman

    Messages:
    2,557
    Likes Received:
    451
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    trooper, .................... THANK YOU!

    I couldn't stop laughing through your post. It was fantastic. There but for the grace of goodness, did you not peg me into one of your examples. 
     
  7. trooper

    trooper

    Messages:
    246
    Likes Received:
    23
    Exp:
    Private Chef
    Wow, IceMan - I'm sad my list is incomplete. :(

    What statement would define you (from a cutlery perspective)?

    I guess mine would be:

        - I only use three knives now, but it took me dozens of trials and disappointments to get here.
     
  8. trooper

    trooper

    Messages:
    246
    Likes Received:
    23
    Exp:
    Private Chef
    To be serious, I agree that a knife review should be more technical and less "Best knife for 2010.... Blah Blah..."

    I look for three things right off the bat - in ANY knife:

    1. the Fit and Finish:

        - Are the scales perfectly fit to the tang?

        - Is the edge evenly ground?

        - Are all joints, fittings, rivets, welds and/or other components well blended/fit/meshed with eachother?

        - Does it rock and land uniformly? Does it rock slightly backwards toward the rear because the heel slips?

        - Is the bolster (if any) evenly bilateral?

        - Is the ground or taper clearly showing a grind pattern (Lack of final finish/polish, poor Quality Control)

    2. Does the steel, edge and temper meet the job application or intended design/use of the knife?

        - Is it made from soft, crummy steel that will bend like a paper clip and stay bent?

        - Is it perfectly aligned, or does it curve to the left or right slightly? (From a stamped roll or bad forging process)

        - Is it the wrong steel for the job? (A Stamped cleaver or a heavy forged filet knife, or a serrated chef's knife? wtf?)

        - Is it a full tang, a welded two-piece or an unknown/only held by compression or one pin in the handle?

        - Does the tip, radius, land and travel of the blade feel right? (I've picked up identical knives and they felt different. Handmade knives have "fingerprints" I swear.)

    3. Handle type and attributes:

        - Is the handle bulky and too large/heavy for the knife (Very bad for pairing and other small knives)

        - Is the handle going to be slippery when I get EVO, fat or butter on my hands? (Non-textured metal or plastic handles are always a no-go)

        - Is the handle too short or too long for the knife - will my knuckles clear the board - is the grip too high or low?

    If you think the knife rates well on these three inspections, then it is time to look at what you are wanting it for in the first place.

    This is also where subjective assessments only benefit you if they are done by you; Not anyone else.

    Example: I use a 240mm Minsono UX-10 - NOT because I think it's the best knife in the world - but because it is the best knife for what I do.

        - The Gyuto-style blade profile is very close to what I liked in the French-style (Not German-Radius Style) chef knife.

              - I don't like the Santoku/sheep's foot tip, I want a little radius, but not a lot. The Minsono just has it dialed-in to my preference.

        - The blade is thin, slightly flexible and works well for trimming beef, fish and veg filets and very thin coins and dice work.

        - The steel is hard enough to hold an edge, soft enough to take an edge without too much grief, and strong but not brittle to the point where chips and nicks are minimized.

        - I can use it from 10AM until 11:30PM and it doesn't start to feel like an albatross or a brick is tied to my hand.

        - The handle is long enough but not too long, small enough for my hand (diameter), "grippy" enough and comfortable enough.

        - My hand clears the board on any working angle, and my wrist isn't jacked into a 90-degree angle when I am at a high position on the board.

        - The ferrule(sp?)/Bolster is angled in such a way that my index finger is comfortable and happy.

        - It has a very long landing zone, like a French knife, so I can cut like 20 Haricots or four cucumbers or three of whatever else at a time.

        - I can split a squash, hard cheese or slightly miss a joint and not worry about F-ing up the knife.

    I live with all the things that do NOT make me happy with the knife as well .  .  .

       - I wish the heel angle was about 5-degrees forward of where it is now - because I nick my index finger (sometimes) Because I am in the weeds *sometimes*  ; )

       - I wish the bolster was made out of the same steel as the knife because patina isn't cool on a 300 dollar professional work knife.

       - I wish it had an octagon handle but still sported a full tang, and I wish that handle could be weighted/weight adjusted, and had a 30LPI diamond pattern like an old-school M1911.

    Is the UX-10 a perfect knife? No. And I don't believe there is such a thing. But I could write a review on the 3.5" Cordon Bleu paring knife and have an equal list of raves and rants.

    The important thing is that I thought long and hard about what I needed a chef's knife to deliver. And next to a 10" French knife, the UX-10 is as close to perfect as I can get.

    Trooper Sez:

    Chef Knives are like Women. Think of ten qualities that would make the perfect mate. If you find one that has three of those qualities - marry her.

    Maybe you could get six out of ten on a knife - I don't know. But I have yet to find the perfect woman or knife wander through my kitchen.