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Kitchen Knife(s) for Chef

Discussion in 'Kitchen Cutlery & Tools' started by ilyad, Jun 23, 2012.

  1. ilyad


    Jun 23, 2012
    Hey guys and gals,

    Im newly joined to this forum because I feel like I need a little help getting all this knife information in order. My gf is a recent graduate from culinary school and she has recently gotten a job as a head chef and I would love to get her a set of knifes that are better than the ones she currently has (ones she received upon enrolling in culinary school).

    I have done some leg work and researched about what kind of knives are the types that I feel would be best for her work, but although I have the information, I would like to confirm that I have good information as well as some names of brands where I can actually find a knife which has all the attributes.

    I suspect that I want to get her a knife that is japanese style rather than western style so that she can have a sharper knife that keeps the edge longer. From my reserach I found that a knife in the 60-64 hardness on the HRC scale wold do the trick.

    Next, I am considering an edge that is 12-15 degrees on each side for a total of 24-30 degrees so that its thin and can make great cuts

    Then, I want the knife to be light as she has to spend some days close to 13 hours in the kitchen so I need one that is light, most likely w/out a bolster and not a full tang, I also want to stay away from a bolster so that it can be sharpened better. (Im not too worried about the losing the "safety" of it as I understand it doesnt do much and she is really careful with her cuts.

    Finally, although Id want full carbon steel knife for her, I think it will be too impractical because of the regular maintenance during use she would have to do, so I want to get a steel that is more or less stain resistant Also, I believe a double beveled knife would do best, because she would be more familiar with cutting with one of those rather than a single bevel knife

    As far as I know she spends most of the time cutting up veggies, fruits and protein.

    Which types of knives should I go for so that she can have a chance to cut all of the above properly? I know most likely she will need a chef's knife (a Gyuto), a paring knife (have no clue what is the Japanese equivalent) and most likely a veggie "clever" (is that a Nakiri?)

    I would like to spend around $250 per knife, and for that I would prefer that they come from a brand which has additional knives so that eventually I can buy more and it will look as one set, also, it would be nice if it would have a good looking steel and handle.

    If any of you can shed some light on where I can look for something like that, would be appreciated. Also, if any of you have any recommendations as to vary any of the above mentioned, Im free to suggestions.

    Thanks in advance,

    PS. She's right handed, so I wouldnt really have the issue of finding a knife that comes in a left-handed variant
  2. bluntcut

    bluntcut KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Apr 28, 2012
  3. TornadoRaino


    Apr 11, 2009
    Your GF would just need a Chef's knife and a pairing knife. Getting a Nikiri would be great but probably not essential. With these two knives you would probably do 90% of your cutting tasks, the other ten% would be specialized type cutting e.g. Cutting crusty bread, slicing big cuts of meat, preparing fish etc.

    The knives from Japanese Knife Imports look awesome!

    I work in a restaurant now ( Front of the house ) and the Chef at work uses the Misono UX10 series of knives and really loves them. Here in Toronto I know a few Chefs using those knives.

    I personally have a Masamoto Sohonten Virgin Carbon Gyutou and I really like it. You can check out the Korin website, they sell both.

    Congratulations to your GF and welcome to the forums.

  4. ilyad


    Jun 23, 2012
    Thanks for the recommendation, I actually like what I see after I read about this knife, from that site and other reviews... this might just be the one and it is in the price range. I do want to see other recommendations that might work as well.

    I did have a question though, you said if you have some descent sharpening skills. Ive never really sharpened my knives (besides a sharpening service once in a while), I know that with these type of knives you need to hone it with a smooth steel or some prefer a honing stone. Any advice where I can look up how to do those things and what kind of supplies I will need?

    I know my gf will probably be able to hone the knife with the steel before work, but I'll probably end up doing most of the maintenance of it other than that, from sharpening, more precise honing than the steel alone.

    Thanks for the advice, I'll probably just get the chef's knife and a paring one for now, and then see how she likes them. I looked at the knives you recommended unfortunately the UX10 series is a little beyond my price point and I also would like to have it on a higher HRC scale, theyre only at a 59. As far as the Masamoto, I like the knife but I dont think she's ready for a carbon steel knife yet. Ill see how she treats the first knife I get, and if she picks up the good necessary habits to keep them long lasting, The next one I get just might be a nice carbon steel knife.
  5. macmiddlebrooks


    May 24, 2010
  6. Skimo


    Mar 28, 2009
    Knives are subjective, I think it would be great to take her shopping. She knows best what she wants.
  7. TornadoRaino


    Apr 11, 2009
    I think thats a good decision. When things get crazy and the food has to go out, knives get forgotten and its hard to take care of them. Most Chefs like knives but they are tools first and foremost.
  8. bluntcut

    bluntcut KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Apr 28, 2012
    In this case, the recommended Yoshikane SKD11/12 (D2/A2) at 64 HRC would be a good match - it's a semi stainless, will patina but won't rust even with minor neglect/abuse. It can (probably will) get micro-chips (impact hard stuff such as hard-cutting board, bones, etc..) over time which only go away with sharpening or simple ignore them. When the edge is still 'very' but not 'scary' sharp, just strop it on a piece of oak-wood (balsa is ok, leather is too soft) loaded with 0.5 micron diamond (or cubic boron nitride) 2 or 3 gentle strokes per side, wipe clean, then strop on plain leather 5-10 strokes per side. btw - my family is rough/abusive with my Yoshi knives for 5 yrs - sharp work horses they are.

    If you decide to buy Yoshi from EpicureanEdge, use the free sharpen to get a superior bevel&edge OOTB instead of so so factory edge.

    In general, high hardness (HT relative to steel type) knives don't respond well to steeling, they have chippy tendency.

    Sometime, people afraid of using a sharp knife, well lookup pinch-grip, claw-fingers - :cool: I love my digits like everyone else.
  9. bluntcut

    bluntcut KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Apr 28, 2012
    :thumbup: and a 180mm petty. Recommend thin over thick blade.
  10. SPNKr


    Jun 11, 2011
    Keep in mind that high end Japanese Knives are usually made from Aogami Super and are laminated. Both the steel and the laminate will rust if not taken good care of, and most knives with stainless laminates are out of your budget. If your GF is much more into cooking than her knives, she may find the care required of these carbon blades to be too much hassle. Of course japanese blades also come in VG10, but these don't take an extremely fine edge and lose edge stability when ground very thin.

    Henckel's Miyabi line has a series called the 7000MC. These are made from MC66, henckel's designation for ZDP 189. This actually does fall within your price range, are wonderfully built and of course ZDP 189 will hold an edge forever. However, it can be chippy and relatively difficult to sharpen. Once again, if she's not into knives she may find the hassle of sharpening them too much.

    A couple of knives I'd also like to recommend are Mark Richmond's (of chefknivestogo) knives in AEB-L, which in my opinion is the very best steel for food prep (outside of choppers). AEB-L has a carbide size of just 0.6 microns and to my knowledge, is the finest stainless steel there is. I've read that it can take an even finer edge than Aogami Super, but it was an unsubstantiated claim. Of course, it's also stainless and Mark gets it heat treated by Peters to 60-61HRc. Compared to ZDP 189 and VG10, AEB-L sacrifices wear resistance, which is really not that relevant in food preparation. It gets much more toughness and ease of sharpening in return, but most importantly, that fine grain. As far as I know Richmonds are the only knives in your price range that come in AEB-L.

    All in all, the Japanese carbon knives are fine if you don't mind the maintenance, but if you do you should get some in ZDP 189 or AEB-L.

    Most western chefs would use a gyuto, yes. The Japanese equivalent of a paring knife is called a petty, and their vegetable knife is indeed a Nakiri. However, Skimo is extremely correct to say that you need to take her out to try the knives. I've bought my mother a couple of knives before which I thought were great and recommended more, but she insists on using her chinese chopper, simply because she's used to it and likes the way it handles. Many women also prefer Santokus over Gyutos as they're physically smaller, and hence prefer smaller knives. The point is the design of kitchen knives is a very subjective thing, and when you're spending that kind of dough on one you should ensure that she loves it.

    One last thing, before spending such money on these knives, you should make sure you have the skills or equipment to sharpen them properly, or have a professional sharpener nearby. All knives will lose their edge eventually, and if you're unable to restore them when they do, it won't matter if your knife is made from AEB-L, Aogami Super, 420Js or cardboard. Your budget of $250 per knife, in my opinion at least, is a little excessive if you intend for them to be purely utilitarian. You might want to take some of that money out and spend it on an Edge Pro or another sharpening system, if you don't have someone who can sharpen the knives for you.

    Edit: Just like to add that all the knives I've recommended meet your criteria. Actually most decent kitchen knives on the market will meet your criteria.
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2012
  11. bluntcut

    bluntcut KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Apr 28, 2012
    Great reply! CKTG Richmond Fanatic2 cpm154 is also nice but a bit thick (call it sturdy), again - sharpening skills = biggest bang/buck.
  12. ilyad


    Jun 23, 2012
    Thanks guys for the replies... Like I said earlier, I dont want an all carbon knife because of the difficulty to maintain it. But a semi stain resistant one, will be very manageable. I also expect that with a knife like that she will be able to upkeep it enough not to damage it such as wiping it clean, keeping it away from hard surfaces, washing it after use by hand. And I will oblige and strop and touch it up at home every couple of days.

    As far as sharpening is concerned, I do have some reputable sharpeners in the area and dont mind paying every couple of months to sharpen it up very nicely. Also, I am very much interested in learning the art of sharpening knives. For now I plan to start out with cheaper practice knives and then as I get proficient enough, I'll be able to sharpen and upkeep these knives myself.

    For now I plan to get one knife and as I learn to sharpen them myself, I'll be able to expand the collection. Plus, if my gf proves to care for the knife really well, the future ones can be all carbon knives.

    So for now this is a surprise present/test for gf to see if she can upkeep her knives well and eventually make it my first serious practice knife for sharpening these babies.

    As far as her being able to control a big knife, I am assured that she will have no problem doing that because her current chef knifes are 9 1/4 and 9 3/4 long the same length as the knife I want to get. Her current knives are also western style with heavy blades, so I know that the lighter knives will be easier to move around.
  13. macmiddlebrooks


    May 24, 2010
    I'd like to go on the record as saying carbon knives do not require a great deal of care. When I first get one, it gets a hot vinegar bath for a couple hours. This helps bring down the reactivity a bit and turns the steel gray. Then I take it to work and use it for everything. The steel will still be reactive at first, but if I'm mindful of drying it with a towel every once-in-a-while, all that's occuring is the foundation of a beautiful patina. The patina will continue to evolve indefinately, sometimes being partially erased by very acidic foods, then being built back up by raw meat, ect. So don't let carbon's scare you away...I work in a pro kitchen and don't use anything but white #2 knives and I'll never go back to the shiny stuff :). Good luck!
  14. ilyad


    Jun 23, 2012
    I was wondering if you guys have any experience between SKD and white #2 steel. How well it holds up, keeps the edge, how easy is it to sharpen and any other information you might have.

  15. bluntcut

    bluntcut KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Apr 28, 2012
    I've been using my Yoshikane skd11 & Kumagoro v2 (Takefu equiv to Hitachi white#2) knives for over 5 yrs now. A quick summary:

    pros: semi-stainless (in my perspective/environment), long last edge retention - 3x longer than v2, tough - no problem hack thru with crusty baguette.
    cons: difficult to sharpen - more less D2 except at 64hrc but easy when compare to s30v (I sharpen thing for fun, thus not really a con to me), will micro-chips on bamboo cutting board, avg foods release (stiction).

    pros: very easy to sharpen, silky bite & slice through stuff - including beef tendon (for pho soup), take acute edge angle - laser.
    cons: reactive to pineapple/bitter melon/banana flower/citrus, quick to loose its scary sharp but take seconds to strop it back.

    btw - a year ago, I switched to a cutting board made out of a Calophyllum inophyllum tree trunk, it's better than all my previous end-grain boards.
  16. scott.livesey


    Nov 10, 2011
    have you looked at the reviews of kitchen knives at "gator97's" site, zknives? lots of good reviews. imho, find a knife maker nearby whose work you like, go see them with your wife and have a several knives made to her specifications. all store bought knives have handles that are one size fits none. almost all store bought knives are made with the cheapest steel, ground, heat treated and finished in the most economical manner. I cringe when i see in the description "easy to sharpen". that usually means the blade was tempered soft so the edge could be easily ground by the automated sharpener. but what do i know? i am just a cranky old sailor who has been cooking for 40+ years and is still looking for a decent knife.
  17. bluntcut

    bluntcut KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Apr 28, 2012
    Carbon vs SS opinions from Pro

    :thumbup: Good to be cautious & wise. I got Shun lessions in 2005 however gift receivers are happy:p

    "easy to sharpen" in this context applies to high end simple carbon vs more difficult to sharpen high+hard carbide alloy knives at 60+ Hrc. e.g. 52K vs AS, 1095 vs 10V, White vs SKD.
  18. Rapt_up


    May 4, 2012
    I'd contact some of the custom makers found on on here...From what I've seen there are sorme superb makers who make nice very functional chef's knives at reasonable prices and you and your girlfriend can talk with whoever you choose and get exactly the knives that suit her and her usage. For that sort of money thats where I'd go for chef's knives.

    Custom you get more than you pay for in value. :D
  19. Benuser


    Nov 19, 2010
    I would think it is wiser to start with a variety of factory made knives before you go custom made. You should experience different steels, profiles, geometries, handles. It allows you to explore and develop your preferences, understand different options and fine-tune your technique. And so you will eventually be able to formulate more adequately your needs.
  20. ilyad


    Jun 23, 2012
    I agree with Benuser, going custom is great, but you have to know what you want. This being the first j-knife we'll own, we'll be able to see how we like it and then make tweaks going from there... and maybe custom knives then.

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