What will an expensive knife give me, that a cheap one won't?

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Joined Jun 19, 2016
@ Pirendeus

I think the point that others are trying to make to you is that one should choose the knife that suits based on a number of factors:

* the size and shape of the chefs hand matching to handle comfort

* the physique of the chef wanting a heavier or lighter feeling knife

* handling skills, techniques, intended purposes  requiring specific blade shape, size, edge curvature, bevel

* intended environment such as for showmanship may choose Damascus, or maintain the blackened finish to prove handforged

* aaaand... just because anyone who loves working with fire and sharp objects is definitely a little crazy, no?

I think most chefs would tend to follow that a particular knife being expensive does not make it the best knife for everyone, or anyone for that matter.

lets take my knives for example, I still use the same chefs knife for 30 years, I'm so used to it I can actually use it with my eyes closed and have proven in demonstration.... theres a special bond I have with that knife, its my baby. and while I'm sooo keen to "adopt" a Japanese hand forged knife I wont love my original chef knife any less, but reaching middle age I'm just looking for something exciting on the side, to keep the passion so to speak.

so in finishing, its not about the price-tag on the knife, but what is your budget, ability, and intended use, and personal comfort and feel, and buy the best knife you can that falls within those constraints.
Joined Oct 10, 2005
Yall did see the OP mention that hes an at-home cook and he specifically wants responses to match that scenario, right? Not everyone wants to just get by with a beater knife.


The $600 J-knife with the acute angle and all that is a "best" or "better" knife for the guy who buys $500 worth of Tuna, and converts it to a couple of grand worth of Sushi and Sashimi on a daily basis. The initial cost, high maintainence, and severe limitations of the knife are really nothing when you consider that that knife is being used day in and day out to pay the rent.

Same knife for an at-home cook? Honestly, it will sit in its presentation box most of the time. It won't be the knife he grabs to cut a sandwich in half, won't be the knife he uses to cut vegetables, and to slice up one lonely chicken breast means un-boxing the thing, then cleaning and sanitizing after the one cut, not really worth the effort.

A knife is a tool, and the "Best" tools are the ones that are useful. Nothing to do with cost, pedigree, fit and finish, or the background of the maker. Hats off to any home cook who can use a $600 knife for all the daily mundane tasks a regular 10" Chefs knife is used for.
Joined Aug 21, 2004
You seem to be accustomed to using your trusty knife for everything, and you've developed skills that might overcome flaws with lesser knives. Does the OP share your abilities? Or could those tasks be performed even better with a better knife?
I didn't say with my "trusty knife", what I said was
 with any sharp 12" chef knife given to me.
The point I was trying to get across was that for the vast majority of kitchen work, it doesn't matter so much about the pedigree of the knife being used. Today at work one of my tasks was thinly slicing a 10# case of crimini mushrooms. It took me 20 minutes to accomplish. For the first 10 minutes I used my personal knife. For the second 10 minutes I used one of the house knives. My knife probably costs 5 times as much as the house knives. Cutting to the chase, the price of the knife didn't matter, the job was done equally well by both knives used.

Bottom line is for the most part, knife work is about the user and not the tool.

I have an Epiphone Les Paul guitar. A decent guitar, not a world beater by any means, but decent. I can say with absolute confidence that Ry Cooder could play world beater versions of bottleneck blues, country, vintage jazz, Hawaiian slack-key guitar, Bahamian folk music and countless other styles on my guitar without even batting an eye.
Joined Nov 15, 2012
The grind
The grind is how a blade evolves from spine to edge (from a few mm to perhaps 0.2mm above the edge) and from choil to tip.
I didn't speak about the edge, but a good edge should be in conformity with the grind.
With a 400 grit stone you can easily do a lot to improve an inexpensive knife's grind. It's fun stuff, doesn't cost much, and really makes the knife your own. I did extensive work on cheap hand-me-downs before I ever actually spent money on a knife, and I actually had difficulty retiring them when I did, and continue to use a couple of them . One remains as my 6" utility/petty, the other I grab whenever I have a soft loaf of bread to slice.

A good sharpening starting behind the edge will improve any blade. Most knives, cheap and more expensive, come with a poor edge.
Sandpaper works
It's that way for a reason - you still get a good grip with your hands are damp.  It's a fairly soft wood just smooth it out a little, ease the edges, apply a little oil to it and you're good to go.  
Joined Jan 23, 2012
The whole, "an inexpensive knife is all you need" is oversimplified, IMO.  A more expensive knife will be "better" in a number of ways, some objective, some subjective.  But it's ultimately users who decide if the increased performance is worth the additional price.

Yep, I've got knives that are way more expensive than ones that are adequate to do the job.  But I find them to be worth the extra cost.  Not everyone will think so, nor do I think they should.  If you're sure a more expensive knife is not worth it, don't buy one.  If you're not sure, you might need to buy one (new or used) and make your own decision.  If you don't like it, you can probably sell it for a relatively small loss, and then you'll have a decision based on your own experience, rather than someone telling you what something is worth to you.  Or you might decide you want to try one from a different maker, or at a somewhat higher or lower price.  

In the end, it's a personal decision as to what any particular knife is worth.  We won't all agree, and that's fine.
Joined Nov 15, 2012
Then comes up the question of knife skills.  Well the average home cook does not have the means of acquiring these as a simple matter of course, not enough daily usage, no suitable mentors on hand to copy.  But the means exist non the less.

For mentors to copy you have easy access to superstars like Rick Theory:

Of course the $600 Tanaka helps some here, but you could do as well with much less.

Some comparatively mundane stuff

But the real secret of great performers, from every walk of life, is their use of mental imagery, which anyone can also learn.  Just google "Mental Imagery in sports."  In a nutshell, "Whatever the mind's eye can clearly see, the body can do."

Joined Apr 1, 2016
There's truth on both ends of the extremes. The reason these conversations get so heated is that there is no definition of "good enough" that we can all agree.
Whatever works...
Oh, i can agree that a victorinox is usually "good enough" for any given cutting task, and knife skills help, too. I thought that we were discussing the characteristics that it lacks when compared to more expensive knives, wherein a value decision must be made.
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Joined Dec 18, 2010
Oh, i can agree that a victorinox is usually "good enough" for any given cutting task, and knife skills help, too. I thought that we were discussing the characteristics that it lacks when compared to more expensive knives, wherein a value decision must be made.
Well, not exactly. Maybe that's what some folks are discussing but the OP asked a different question - basically what MORE will I get from a more expensive or technologically advanced knife.... so I can make a value judgment on whether it is worth it TO ME. There's a subtle but important distinction between the two questions.  /img/vbsmilies/smilies/smile.gif
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Joined Oct 10, 2005
Speaking of books, maybe its time you actually read about metalurgy and formation of different types of steel so you can form a cogent .....
From my understanding of metallurgy, everything is a trade off: Edge retention vs. ease of sharpening, Hardness vs. brittleness.  True, some of the powdered metals don't force you to make such trade offs, but you haven't discussed those.  So what is "best"?  And how much maintainence, sharpening equipment does it need, and what are it's limitations?

History is important too.  The earliest record of  Europeans were forging steel to wrought iron blades  goes back to the 1530's, as evidenced by the discovery of the "Mary Rose" in the late '80's (King Henry 8th's flagship), but probably goes much further back than that.
Joined Jun 14, 2016
I believe the earliest record of European steel forging is actually from the Roman era.  Both archaeological evidence and Pliny the Elder (in his Naturalis Historia) tells us that the Romans did in fact industrialise mining, smelting and forging (as well as countless other things) to a level and sophistication which weren't seen again until the late middle ages after their technology were lost after the fall of the empire.

Sorry, history is kinda my thing....
Joined Jun 23, 2016

Good book to read about knives

I personally enjoy my shun for veggies, my Mac as my chef and go to knife, I use a wusthof for bread knife and a paring, but dislike my chef knife it's to heavy and feels more like a cleaver. Also most European blades are heavier so figure what you enjoy and by appropriately.
I also have a victorinox for boning, slicing, paring, chef, and santoku. They get used often but do get worn down quicker even though my Mac has a more acute angle.


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Joined Mar 29, 2002
Made some edits, deletions, locked the thread. The content is available, and the worst of the snark is deleted. 
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