Your work chefs knife, a discussion.

Discussion in 'Cooking Knife Reviews' started by algavinn, Nov 27, 2009.

  1. algavinn

    algavinn

    Messages:
    59
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    Other
    If for nothing else but the fruits of discussion I'd like to hear what you guys use, or would use, should you be say an average prep/line cook pumping out volume, for your chefs knife. What attributes do you consider ideal for a knife in this atmosphere, and why?
     
  2. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

    Messages:
    8,550
    Likes Received:
    202
    Exp:
    Cook At Home
    Loving cooking the tactile sensations of cooking, and respecting the role of the knife in providing them, it's a question to which I've given much thought over the years.

    Sharpness: The "absolute" sharpness of the knife at any given moment; it's ability to take a truly sharp edge; the lack of difficulty required to put that edge one; and the knife's ability to hold the edge over time with only simple maintenance between full sharpenings.

    Geometry and Ergonomics: Is the handle comfortable? Is the blade long enough? Light enough? Too much belly? Not enough? Thin enough to satisfy the sharpness criteria?

    Robustness: Can it handle the jobs I see frequently? A cook who splits rib tips and chops gourds needs a stiffer and tougher (in the metallurgical sense) than one doing fish and mirepoix.

    If I were going back on the line tomorrow, there are three knives I'd consider first: 1) An Ikkanshi Tadatsuna, white steel (Shirogami 2); 270mm wa-gyuto if I could get away with something that thin; 2a and 2b) the Masamoto KS 270mm wa-gyuto, or Masamoto HC 270mm yo-gyuto if I couldn't; and just maybe... 3) After all the decades I still like my 10" K-Sabatier au carbone quite a bit.

    The Sabatier doesn't get as sharp as either Japanese knife, but sharpens far more easily; wears at a geological rate; world's best geometry; needs frequent steeling, but almost never needs more; and is hard to hurt by merely abusing the $#*! out of it. A few other knives have tempted me enough to buy, but I keep coming back to the Sabs.

    If you've never used a super-thin knife made from a quality alloy like a Tadatsuna wa-gyuto, you have no idea of how sharp a knife can be and don't know what you're missing.

    The Masamoto KS wa-gyuto and Masamoto HC western style gyuto split the differences very nicely -- and with Masamoto geometry. The most outstanding thing about either Masamoto (and a few other lines as well), is not the things they do super well (which are manifold), but that they do everything very well and nothing poorly.

    Finally, don't underestimate the importance of a good sharpening kit and the skills to use it; nor the importance of good knife skills either. Those three things, the knife, the way it's sharpened, and the skill with which it's used form a picture that would be incoherent with any one of them were missing.

    BDL
     
  3. foodpump

    foodpump

    Messages:
    4,985
    Likes Received:
    538
    Exp:
    Professional Pastry Chef
    Sharp, clean, comfortable, and.... that's it.

    Anything over $100 a knife and I get nervous. Theft/ loss is common and the fallout from something like that can effect a kitchen for days, if not weeks.

    If the knife is over $100, that usually means it's too expensive to get sharpened by a "regular" sharpener. THAT means that either A) the guy knows how to properly sharpen, which is quite rare, maybe about 25% of most cooks can competantly sharpen, or B) that the guy messes up "sharpening" his knife and shows up for work with a cheap (dull) "backup" knife.

    When you start to really navel gaze, you'll come to udnerstand that a knife is just a hunk of steel with a sharp edge, the magic is in the user's hands....
     
  4. algavinn

    algavinn

    Messages:
    59
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    Other
    Aye, those are the types of considerations I like seeing BDL. I've been through plenty of discussions of peoples 'ideal' knives, but a lot of us don't talk strictly about 'work' knives much.


    Certainly some valid points FP, and nothing that can really be argued with too much. I would certainly not wish to bring an all star cast of knives to a place of work I couldn't trust too much, but I don't feel too much worry in bringing perhaps just a nice quality chefs knife, or whatever other main particular knife I'd be using most should I feel the quality makes adequate difference to purchase in the first place.

    However, what Would you bring to work as your chef de chef, and what attributes seal the deal for you, for a Work knife, as opposed to just a general 'ideal' knife.
     
  5. phaedrus

    phaedrus

    Messages:
    1,563
    Likes Received:
    136
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    You're luckier than me. In my experience almost no cooks can competently sharpen. In 20 years in the kitchen I can count 'em all on one hand.

    What I look for in a duty knife:

    1) It must be able to take a screaming edge. No point in talking about how long it stays sharp if it doesn't get sharp to start with.

    2) Edge retention. Once sharpened it should hold an edge well; not for months- that's not realistic in a knife that gets heavy use- but certainly for a good length of time.

    3) Ergonomics. It has to have good balance and geometry.

    4) Geometry. To expand on the above, it has to be thin behind the edge yet have enough metal behind it to be sturdy. A delicate balance to be sure.

    5) Toughness. It should be fairly durable. When properly sharpened it shouldn't be overly prone to chipping or rolling of the edge.

    6) Attractive. Assuming you work with a trustworthy bunch, it never hurts if it inspires a little envy.;)

    My current favorite gyuto is an Akifusa 240mm. It's very thin, very light and very sharp. It seems to hold an edge forever, too. And it passes the 'envy test.'
     
  6. chefboy2160

    chefboy2160

    Messages:
    818
    Likes Received:
    16
    Exp:
    Retired Chef
    Pumping out volume I am familiar with. Most chefs and cooks I worked with in the hotel casino biz used the Forschner fibrox and Rosewood stamped blades.
    Why? Easy to sharpen and maintain as well as the local supply house gave a discount for them to casino employees. Once a year there was even a 1/2 off sale so why not.
    Also when a knife roll gets pinched by a friendly co-worker it just does not hurt as bad. Greatest knife NO. Good yes and a work horse. I love my old Hi Carbon knives and also rotate them frequently but I watch them a little closer also:thumb:
     
  7. phaedrus

    phaedrus

    Messages:
    1,563
    Likes Received:
    136
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    All our house knives are Forschner Fibrox. They're solid knives for the price but I'm not impressed by their edge retention. Then again, they're definitely not being babied, either.
     
  8. algavinn

    algavinn

    Messages:
    59
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    Other
    My knife roll certainly has a cheap chefs knife tossed in for grunt work (at the moment honestly a henkles international), however the next logical question for you guys is when do you rotate in your nicer knife over your workhorse, and vice versa? When do you decide to use your 'premium' knife, aside from jobs that may damage the blade? For those of you who choose a premium knife over something like the fibrox, what is it that makes the decision for you? Increased sharpness? Other attributes?


    Thanks for the input thus far all.
     
  9. chefboy2160

    chefboy2160

    Messages:
    818
    Likes Received:
    16
    Exp:
    Retired Chef
    Edge retention is an issue:look: Most knives in your operation sound like they are used hard. For a pro fast volume I would go cheap { Like mine ] :smokin

    Learn how to maintain the edge! Be it machine or store bought Pull through
    {Yikes}.BTW, Impressions are that. Reality just slides through :lol:
     
  10. chefboy2160

    chefboy2160

    Messages:
    818
    Likes Received:
    16
    Exp:
    Retired Chef
    I love it! Just a hunk of steel. So true..................
     
  11. phaedrus

    phaedrus

    Messages:
    1,563
    Likes Received:
    136
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    At the moment that falls under the heading of "not my problem.":lol: A couple years ago I took a step back from being a full time chef in order to become a full time student. Now I work the line to pay the bills. I do a lot of sharpening for coworkers and my boss but I'm not really ready to take on the task of maintaining the house knives, although I've considered it. I have a belt grinder and a lot of belts that are nice for knives, just not a good place to leave it set up just now. And there's the time issue.

    A working kitchen is a tough environment for house knives. For every person with good habits (wash them, use a cutting board, use them for cutting food as opposed to opening cans, etc) there's at least on clueless guy that tries to send 'em back to the dish room. :laser:
     
  12. chefray

    chefray

    Messages:
    438
    Likes Received:
    14
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    I once had a dishwasher trained to bring all of the knives up and hand them to the Chef or myself(I was Sous at the time). We knew who had what in their personal kits and the house knives got hand washed and hung for the night. It kept some idiot from sending a good knife through the washer and messing up someone else's edges.
     
  13. phaedrus

    phaedrus

    Messages:
    1,563
    Likes Received:
    136
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    Or worse yet, it keeps some poor bastard in the dish pit from losing a finger. Nothing is more inconsiderate, reckless and just plain dangerous than throwing a sharp knife in a bus tub full of silver, and yes I have seen it done!:mad: How's that for a surprise, reaching into a your water and hitting a razor sharp chef's knife?
     
  14. chefray

    chefray

    Messages:
    438
    Likes Received:
    14
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    I've never run into that, but it would be horrible.
     
  15. chefboy2160

    chefboy2160

    Messages:
    818
    Likes Received:
    16
    Exp:
    Retired Chef
    Ouch :mad: Yes you have a reason to be upset! I try to give all my new cooks a
    demo on how to use and treat a knife and I pay extensive attention to the part about you clean and maintain the knife you use as well as no dropping in the pot and pan sink and walking off! The results of course are human and there will still be those who lazily or perhaps from prior training want to send the knives to the dishwasher. In the casinos in Reno where I worked they had a good solution as they did not provide tools such as knives, whips, spatulas, tongs, ect. If you were hired you provided your own tools and upkeep! Just like a mechanics tools are normally not shop bought. I even had cooks who used there own egg and omelet pans ( these were company bought ) but would stash them away so no one could mess them up and wash them:;) Professionalism is the key to success but the larger and busier the operation the harder it is to maintain this level especially at the pay rate we offer our help. Maybe thats why I just maintain my cheap knives and am saving the more expensive for a good home kitchen when I get one (yes even the wife and brats are into knife abuse), although my old hi carbons are far from cheap knives in my world:thumb:
     
  16. trooper

    trooper

    Messages:
    246
    Likes Received:
    23
    Exp:
    Private Chef
    I have a grunt knife in the roll as well. I don't use it unless my primary knife has a major malfunction or walks away. To date, I have had the malfunction happen but no theft (thank God).

    My cool and nifty 240mm UX-10 is used for prep, and depending on where I am at service, and in what kitchen.

    If I'm crammed into a line that only has a deli-prep-size work area, I'll use a shorter knife. I haven't found the perfect "Petty" or utility knife yet - but any slicer-looking knife that's 6-8" works fine.

    The uber-complete knife roll is usually left in the car. I stick everything I use in my bain, and if I need a baller or a slicer or whatever, then I'll just bring the whole case in at that point.

    "Backup Knife" (or the one in my roll at the moment I guess) is a Wusthof Cordon Bleu 8" Chef. It's thin, fast and sharp. I have had to use it a few times - and have let another cook borrow it once.

    For my own personal preference, and the kind of cooking I do - the UX-10 at about 9 1/2" just worked well. It isn't the greatest knife in the world and not the worse either. It just works for me.
     
  17. dr owl

    dr owl

    Messages:
    12
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    Beverage Expert
    Just out of curiosity, Trooper, but why do you say this?  Is there some knife you see as being your ideal ... though possibly too valuable to take into a busy kitchen?  Or is it just a recognition that an expensive specialist knife is better at its task than a general-purpose gyuto?

    The reason I ask is that the Misono UX10 seems to be a strong candidate for being the best mass-produced stainless yo-gyuto in the world

    (along with Ikkanshi Tadatsuna, Hattori FH, and probably others).

    Later,

    John
     
     
  18. trooper

    trooper

    Messages:
    246
    Likes Received:
    23
    Exp:
    Private Chef
    I have to think now, to answer your question, Dr. Owl. . .
     
    I concur with the fact: A knife designed for a specific task is always better than any knife that is not - no matter the cost.

    The first time I walked into a commercial kitchen I had my full compliment of tools, cutlery, everything.

         (And yes, I laugh when I see a stage or new cook do the same thing now.)

    I made some minor adjustments to my UX-10 for practical reasons:

       - It sports a 15/15 bi-lateral edge

       - I sanded/polished the spine ahead of the bolster somewhat so it is more comfortable.

    The perfect knife (for me) would look very much like a UX-10 but:

    1. My above mods would come stock.

    2. The rear angle from bolster to heel would be another couple degrees forward - so the heel would land maybe 3mm ahead of where it lands as-is.

       - In the image I have the tip of my Sharpie pointing at where it should start, and the black line at where the heel should land.

    3. The belly would be just slightly flatter before the radius comes off the board - Give me another couple centimeters of full contact on the board.

    4. It would be more like a full 10" instead of 9.5", but no longer than 10.25"

    5. The knife as a whole would be forged with the bolster, or at least make the bolster the same material as the blade.

    6. The whole of the knife would be better finished - like the grinds you see at the handle radius (I'll post a pic)

    7. The handle is perfect in every way for me - length, geometry, diameter, everything - but I would make the pommel (back) of the handle solid - much like the bolster.

        - The solid pommel (just a couple centimeters at the rear of the handle) would help with some of the beating the wood handle takes through normal use.

    If I found a knife that did all that, and had the same thickness and flex as the UX-10 - I would buy one and probably two.

    And I would never deny a working knife the right to be dropped, chipped abused and banged around in a commercial kitchen.

    No matter how much a knife costs, if you can't use it to earn money, it is worthless.

    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
     
  19. dr owl

    dr owl

    Messages:
    12
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    Beverage Expert
    Goodness, Troop!  You have thought about your ideal knife in detail.  Thank you.

    And thank you for the photographs: they make your dreams very clear.

    A number of thoughts ran through my mind as a read your post.
    1. I shouldnt be surprised that a professional has a much clearer picture of his or her ideal knife than an amateur like me.
    2. In my limited experience, and substantial reading, I've never seen anything exactly like your ideal.  I suspect it would have to be custom made.
    3. The Workshop Style of many of the smaller Japanese smiths means that they might not understand some of your wishes.  The quality of the blade is everything: the fit of the handle is much less important, and the finish of the blade hardly matters at all.  Of course the customer will have his or her views on the initial profile and on a rounded spine, but he or she (or the shop) will implement those when preparing the knife for use.  (I've even had a couple of Global knives arrive unsharpened.)  On the plus side this does mean that Workshop Style knives are very good value for money compared with western-made Wedding Present knives.
    4. Some of your wishes would be met by French-made knives.  Looking at an elderly carbon Sabatier chef's knife, the edge remains straight for about 70% of its length.  And of course a length of 25cm would be no problem.  But it would be ruined for you by the heavy vertical finger-guard at the heel of the knife.
    5. You could always, I suppose, start with a 27cm UX10, reprofile the blade, round the spine, grind a forward angle on the heel ... and then grind the spine down in a gentle curve to meet the edge 26cm along.  But that's easy for me to say: I wouldn't have to spend two day's sweating over a coarse whetstone!
    Later,

    John
     
  20. trooper

    trooper

    Messages:
    246
    Likes Received:
    23
    Exp:
    Private Chef
    1. I think people who use knives every day fall into one of three buckets:

        a. They don't care and are more likely to use the house knives if there are any, or whatever they got in culinary or along the way is just fine.

        b. They will use any knife, but expect it to be sharp. They will use their own knife - but may or may not sharpen it themselves.

        c. The have a clear picture of that they want, and care about and for their cutlery, but will use any knife on hand if that's all they have. (I'm in this bucket)

        d. They spend more time and money buying and sharpening their knife than they actually spend cooking with it or investing in other key items the job demands quality from.

    On 1.d - a perfect example is a cook that wears ratty whites, ratty shoes and always needs a peeler, a microplane, a silicon spatula, whatever - But they have a $400 knife on their board.

    2. Maybe Minsono or JCK will read this post and make a Chef trooper, special edition knife? That would be awesome! :D

    3. I think the workmanship of any effort would consider those other elements. I'd bed the steel is made in one factory and the fitting is done in another in most cases.

        The Shun Elite is a perfect example of quality steel and no thought in design. The handle on those knives may work for Hulk Hogan, but not most cooks I know.

    4. That is exactly why a lot of experienced cooks like their old K-Sabs - The geometry. If they could take a 10" K-Sab profile and use a Minsono blade, that would be a very cool knife.

    5. Wouldn't it be cool if you had to build your own knife as a requirement to be called a cook? Like your unique Jedi weapon, LoL. I built my own M1911's - same concept.