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Advice - First Quality Knife

Discussion in 'Kitchen Cutlery & Tools' started by Craig James, Oct 30, 2018.

  1. Craig James

    Craig James

    7
    Oct 30, 2018
    Hi there all, despite lurking around this forum for close to a year now. This is actually my first post.

    I should also say thank you to the writers of all the posts that have been successful in allowing me to free hand sharpen all of my (kitchen) knives to shaving sharp. Before visiting here it tended to just happen in disaster!

    So a bit of background - I’m not a knife enthusiast and have little in depth knowledge, but I am a fairly competent and enthusiastic home cook. I currently use some unbranded faux Japanese knives that do the job and can take an edge (even if it wears down fairly quickly) but I would now like to invest in a real quality piece and am looking for some advise. My price point is probably £150 or £200 at a push.

    The knife I use the most is a santoku so it would seem to make sense that I make this my first investment? Or maybe I should select a knife for when more precision is required?

    Anyways I was hoping to get some insight into particular brands that would be recommended by the users of this forum.

    Many thanks

    Craig
     
  2. huelsdonk

    huelsdonk Gold Member Gold Member

    620
    May 2, 2016
    Hi Craig,

    I’m sure you’ll get a lot of great advice here. There are a lot of really awesome options in your price range, so there really isn’t a right answer. I’m personally a huge fan of Japanese and Japanese-style Knives. Given that you’re using some Japonesqe (ahem) Knives already, something Wa-styled might be a good way to go. I’ll just give one piece of advice and then list some of my favorite makers as a way to maybe get you started.

    Advice: Get a 210mm Gyuto instead of a Santuko. The profile is similar enough that it should feel comfortable to you, you’ll have more useful cutting edge, and you’ll have a lot more options.

    Some favorite makers:

    Masakage (I’m partial to the AS Koishi series)

    Makoto (just got a 240 AS Ryusei for $200 that is just awesome)

    Shibata

    Kikuichi (might be a little easier to find on your side of the pond)

    Kohetsu

    Konosuke

    Also, this is a above your price range, but you could even look at something like this: https://www.bladeforums.com/threads/nitro-v-gyuto-with-tasmanian-blackwood.1617765/#post-18504897

    Robert makes fantastic knives, and it’s a really great deal for a custom.

    Best of luck with the search,
    John
     
    Seesteel likes this.
  3. Seesteel

    Seesteel Gold Member Gold Member

    112
    Jul 7, 2018
  4. Ourorboros

    Ourorboros

    139
    Jan 23, 2017
    Well ultimately the knife you pick must be something you are comfortable with. While a gyuto is more versatile, a santoku will do most tasks in a home kitchen.
    Because the santoku is shorter and straighter, it is easier to be precise than with a gyuto. However, the tip is not as fine and can be less useful. Both the shortness and straightness of the santoku means it is easier to instinctively know where the tip is.

    Another choice is the bano-bunka, with is like a large coping blade in comparison to the santoku's sheep's foot. More tip than a santoku, less than a gyuto.
    If you do look at gyutos, consider the profile. With the santoku you are used to a flatter profile than a chef's knife. The curvature of the chef's knife also means it takes a little longer to gain coordination. However many gyutos are based on a modified sheep's foot profile, yielding a lower tip and less belly in the front. This will make it easier to transition.

    That isn't giving you brands, but rather tips on what to look for and consider. However for your price range there are a lot of quality choices. I wouldn't be worried about the quality you find at Chef Knives to Go. There would be other considerations like workhorse blade vs laser and carbon vs stainless.
     
    huelsdonk, Eli Chaps and Seesteel like this.
  5. Craig James

    Craig James

    7
    Oct 30, 2018
    Thanks all.

    Those knives from Robert are almost too nice to use!

    Ourorborus,

    Must admit re. the steel, that is one of the questions I wanted to ask. I appreciate that carbon can generally take a sharper edge but requires more maintenance and looking after, but is it actually going to make a noticeable difference for me when compared to something like VG10? I’m not opposed to taking a bit more care and attention over the knife but having never owned a carbon blade I’m finding it difficult to way up the pros and cons.

    Cheers
     
  6. Eli Chaps

    Eli Chaps

    191
    Apr 20, 2018
    Personally, I would leave the carbon steel alone. people get all worked up over how awesome the edge is, and it does take a keen edge, but so do all the good stainless steels out there and you don't have corrosion concerns. As odd as it sounds, given that carbon steel is very old school, I look at it as a splurge rather than a workhorse. I'm good to my knives but stainless just gives me something less to think about.

    I also freehand sharpen but I don't use water stones so I basically stay away from clad blades. I tend to prefer double-bevel blades if for no other reason, they are what I know best and am very confident in sharpening with my gear. Although I'm proficient with western-style chef's knives I'm finding I prefer the chopping motion that a straighter blade encourages. For me, the 8.5" Yaxell Dragon Fire Asian Chef's Knife (gyuto) in BD1N is fantastic. The build quality is excellent, it is thin and very slicey, I love the blade profile, the steel is excellent and the price doesn't break the bank. If I could only have one knife in my kitchen, I would choose this one.

    The Wusthof Gourmet line is also excellent. Yes, it is their "budget" line but they are very comfortable, robust, and high performing knives at a reasonable cost. You might look at the santoku in this line.

    One thing to keep in mind when researching, is the difference between a pro cook and a home cook. Things that are issues for someone wielding their knife many hours a day under significant stress and time constraints may not have any bearing on those of us who are just excited to make that awesome dinner we planned. Edge retention is a big one here and something I find is not too big of a concern for a home cook. Sure, junk steels can dull real quick but event the 56HRC of the Gourmet line is resilient enough for most home cooks, especially if you maintain your own blades. BD1N gives you more longevity without compromising ease of sharpening so it's pretty sweet. Another thing you'll see a lot in reference to pro's is weight. Again, you're not flipping this knife up and down hundreds if not thousands of times a day so this might be different for you. A lot of home cooks prefer a blade-heavy knife or a handle-heavy knife. I like knives that are light and nimble.

    If you look at santoku knives, be aware of the edge shape. This is a pretty loose category of knives these days and you find all manner of shapes. Some have a lot of belly and others are very flat. So be looking at that and deciding what style you like best.

    Oh, I also avoid full bolster knives cuz they're a pain to sharpen.

    I have knives from $30 up to $200 and they can all make translucent radish slices and most can "no hand" cut a tomato. You don't have to spend a lot of money to get good performance. Not in any way dismissing high-er end knives, they are awesome for sure, but they are not necessary to get satisfactory results and find enjoyment in use.

    Just some rambling thoughts over morning coffee. :)
     
  7. Ourorboros

    Ourorboros

    139
    Jan 23, 2017
    Not everybody feels the difference with carbon steels. Some people say they feel the difference between a monosteel blade and clad. It's just like some people hate diamond stones, or even Shapton's because of the feel and some people aren't sensitive to the harshness and use them for the speed.

    With carbon and carbon clad with iron or non-stainless you have to be diligent about wiping down your blade dry. Not only after cleaning, but when stopping prep work. You will find that a patina is your friend. With clad carbon, whip down the edge.
    Generally carbon steel does not have the same edge retention as stainless at the same HRC. So the ease of sharpening is a plus, because you will do more of it. Then there is Blue Super & HAP40, but that's for later if you want.
    So the question is if you can keep a clean (food clean) cloth relatively dry to wipe down when doing prep work. If not either go stainless or force a patina fast.

    Steels like ginsan (ginsanko) replicate the feel of carbon with a fine grain size and ease of sharpening. Of course it costs a bit more than VG-10 too.

    VG-10 is fine. The truth is that right now we are spoiled for choices in quality steels so people can be picky about it. But stat monsters don't translate to proportional real world performance, especially in knives. You will find profile and grind are also important in a knife and everybody has their own taste in what balance of qualities they prefer. Again, spoiled for choices - it isn't just the village blacksmith.

    Another thing to consider is if this will be your last planned quality knife, because you can always get a carbon later.

    Tell you the truth, for big holiday meals I use stainless. For something like a nice weekend diner where I'm not swamped, I can enjoy carbon. But I look at profile and grind before the steel when getting (another) knife.
     
  8. Smaug

    Smaug

    573
    Jun 30, 2003
    A Santoku is the one I invested the most in. I bought Henckels' to of the line model, and it is a treat to use. It's heavier than it needs to be, on account of the steel in the handle, but I realized later that steel was added so the knife would have perfect balance in the hand.

    That was maybe 5 years ago, and I can't find that model now, but I'm sure you won't go wrong with whatever their high-end is now.
     

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