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Recommendation? Beginner tips for purchasing kitchen cutlery.

Discussion in 'Kitchen Cutlery & Tools' started by Lodd, Jul 15, 2018.

  1. Lodd

    Lodd Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 23, 2015
    As I mentioned in the other thread, I decided to put together my own set of kitchen knives. Because a past job involved me working in a professional kitchen quite often, preparing food for groups, I have a few ideas of what I want. However, I could still stand to use some tips and advice about what to look for when purchasing kitchen cutlery.

    So, please don't hold back. I want to know all your best tips and advice. What steel is good? What brands are good? What brands should be avoided? How about ergonomics? I hope your advice will be of help to me and others looking at purchasing good cutlery. Thanks in advance.
    c2d likes this.
  2. Ourorboros


    Jan 23, 2017
    So many things to say, so many things I'll miss.
    To me, you need to know yourself - how you use and treat a knife.
    If you use a knife, if you often hear blade on board, get a "German" or European knife. The softer steel will be better and not chip on you.
    Japanese knives (J-knives) are lighter, thinner, harder, and chippier. It allows more agility and control, but lacks heft. They will chip with abuse. The lighter weight means you can use a longer blade with no lose of control, giving you more versatility.
    Are you a rock chopper, push cutter, pull cutter, or straight up chopper? A chef's knife is versatile, but different profiles favor different styles.
    An example is the Shun Classic chef's knife - it is an exaggerated German profile and strongly favors rock choppers. A PITA for a push cutter.
    What is your real goal with the knife? This helps you figure out your budget. Some people just want something to get food into smaller pieces for eating and for them a Rada is a low cost knife that works fine. You want something where you can appreciate the quality and enjoy your knife work, you'll be spending more. It's a Rough Rider vs GEC vs custom question.
    What are your kitchen need? What kinds of foods do you process? Specialty knifes do their jobs really well and some generalist knives do several things well. But if you serve a roast for the holidays or cook large pieces of meat regularly, you'll appreciate a good slicing knife.
    Don't overlook the question of how large a work space you have. A cramped space means less room for your arm to move, meaning a smaller knife is better. Same with a smaller cutting board area. Generally you want a blade no longer than the diagonal of your cutting board.

    As for best steel, with the better German knives you only have the one option. Two for any of the quality "Sabatiers", but we can talk about that if you go that direction. For J-knives, there are a few options. Orthodoxy says White 1 or White 2 if you can deal with carbon steel, but I don't quite agree.

    Ignore the advice that the three knives you need are Chef's knife, Bread knife, and paring knife. The best set for you depends entirely on what you do and how you do it.
    Also, don't buy a set. Sets spend too little on the blade you'll need the most - the Chef's knife for most people, too much on knives you don't - do you really need a tomato knife?, give wrong sizes - like short bread knives, and are packaged to give an impressive # of knives per $$$.

    Hope this gets you started.
    jc57 and The Zieg like this.
  3. Ourorboros


    Jan 23, 2017
    Forgot to say, for kitchen knife people. the Victorinox Chef's knife is the floor for what won't drive them crazy.

    The TL;DR version of what I said above is: figure out your needs in total and work from there.

    A point I missed was if you want a knife for right now or one you can grow into.
  4. Lodd

    Lodd Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 23, 2015
    @Ourorboros: thanks a bunch for the input!

    My cooking habits are all over the place, so I guess I'm gonna need a lot of knives :). I mostly do push- or pullcuts though, not chopping so often. The cooking space is quite small, so that's a great tip.

    I had a few basic knives that were allright, but my wife abuses them a lot. She blunts them faster than I can sharpen them. So I decided to start my own set and she can continue abusing the old knives all she wants. (Bonus points if I can put 220 volts on them while I'm not using them :)). It;s my birthday tomorrow, so I figured I'd start with a nice and versatile knifeblock (see my other thread) and one or two good knives and build it out from there. I think I want both a santoku for slicing and a euro-style chefs-knife for harder jobs (like splitting a melon or something). Obviously after that there will be other knives.

    I do appreciate quality. The quality of tools available decide whether a task is fun to do or a real chore. I don't necessarily want the most expensive knives, but I am willing to pay more for quality.

    I'm not sure how to read your point about 'a knife for now or a knife I can grow into'. I mean, shouldn't a good knife be nice to use right from the get go?

    Anyway, thanks for all your help and I hope others will find this information useful as well.
  5. scott.livesey


    Nov 10, 2011
    see the knife in person, touch and handle it. buying online can be a pig in a poke. i do push or pull cutting and cook for 2 or 3 people. i mostly use a 4" ko-deba style that weighs a whopping 2 ounces. i have some bigger knives, but they seem only to be used for certain jobs, slicing a large melon or portioning a 10lb piece of raw meat. i would look more at feel and balance than maker and steel type.
  6. oldtymer

    oldtymer Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 7, 2014
    First off skip the knife block, they are germ breeders. Get a wall mounted magnetic holder,a plus with that you save work space.
    A good 8" chefs knife, a 6" boning knife, & a pairing knife will handle most of your needs. If you feel the need for a bread knife
    add that in as they do a good job on meat loaf & baked goods, better than a straight edge knife in my experience.
    If you eat a lot of fish a good fillet knife is handy.
  7. bikerector

    bikerector Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 16, 2016
    I like ergos above all else, and thing steel. I actually really like the boker color cut knives even though they're cheap and should be crap on paper. They're stamped thin and finished nicely. The handles are comfortable and they are lightweight. The set covers everything I needed and they are far better than the HJ Henkels my wife and I got for out wedding years ago. The henkels are okay as knives but they are really thick blade stock and slice like crap. They would make better hunting or field knives and are probably still thicker than some of my shorter bladed field knives. I almost think my bushcraft knife is thinner blade stock.

    The knives I actually use from any set:
    1.Big chefs knife or santoku (I prefer santoku but they're roughly the same purpose, IME). Blade length of your preference
    2.1 6" utility knife for pretty much everything else
    2.2 My wife likes the paring knife but I use the utility for a lot of that type of task too.
    3. opinel 8 for opening packages (leave in food prep areas)
    4. Good scissors that are cleanable, just nice for a lot of different things where thinner media is going to be cut

    I'm not a professional chef by any means and I don't cook a lot of variety but this pretty much covers everything I cook in the house and I know I can process any game I kill also with the hunting knives but could also do it with the items too, just maybe not as effectively. Even then, only cutting around joints is more of a challenge on larger animal. Big fish, 6" utility probably wouldn't fillet well either but it should be fine for most outside of salt water fish or big lake fish like salmon. The more you do the "other" stuff, the more I would consider getting a more specialized tool.
  8. Ourorboros


    Jan 23, 2017
    Well there are all kinds of levels to knives, kitchen as well as EDC. Some people believe in buying something more fitting to their current levels, while others buy knives that may be above their skills. I have certainly done the latter, but I'm not telling you how to spend your money, just telling you things to consider from my perspective. A Teruyasu-Fujiwara or Takeda gyuto will set you back some dollars, but will be a hell of an experience.
    Yes, you should keep your current knives. Thin knives with acute angles are terrible on hard things - crusty loaves, contacting bone, frozen food, or a bad angle on winter squash for example.
    You can go cheap with the paring knife - many pros suggest it and do it themselves. Unless it is one of your main knives, you aren't getting dollar value for it That said, the Shun Classic paring knife is great in the hand.
    For a short main knife, I guess your looking at no longer than 8" or 210mm. There are 180mm gyutos and shorter chef's knives, but for me there is too much curve. Certainly a santoku should fit your stated style while being good for a smaller work space.
    If you are looking in that size range, consider the bano bunka. While the santoku is a large wharncliffe, the bunka is a large coping blade and gives you more if a point to work with.
    If you are a push cutter, something flatter with less belly works better for you than the big belly of a traditional German. In that case the French Sabatier fits your style more, although the German companies have ironically moved towards the French style. The best of the sabatiers in current production (the name is not trademarked) are the K Sabatiers.
    The best Germans are the Wusthof Icon. The German knife that may best fit you is the Zwilling Pro - do not confuse this with the Professional S, a totally different blade.
    For the price of an Icon, I think there are far better Japanese knives, but we can talk further after you look at more things.
  9. jdm61

    jdm61 itinerant metal pounder Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 12, 2005
    My experience with "soft' German steel is that it miraculously can chip And roll on the very same edge. My experience with an Old Victorinox is that they got the HT better than Zwilling in the lower price ranges. Most on here will probably tell you to go with Victorinox if you are on a budget or if you can spend a little more, the Tojiro DP line has a lot of fans. When I bought my two Japanese knives, I was looking as much for profiles to steal as anything else. I went with the Carbonext 240mm gyuto and the Hatori 270mm "forum knife" suji both from Japanese Chef Knives out of Tokyo.
    With knives like the Misono UX 10 line, you are getting serious. It uses AEB-L/13C26 and has better fit and finish that what I have seen of the similarly priced Zwilling Kramer Essential line. The ones that I handled were not up to the same standard as the original 52100 knives.
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2018
  10. bikerector

    bikerector Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 16, 2016
    I should add, I think the ontario agilite kitchen knives look great, to me, and they come in a good steel. I do tend to favor rubber handles since wet hands are common and rubber seems to grip well when wet usually. But, I don't think it will last as well over time. I hate the hard plastic, delrin or whatever the heck is on dexter-russel knives. It works but it's uncomfortable. Those seem to be everywhere in food manufacturing circles I've been in.

    I would probably go for trying one of the agilite's next time around if I needed another kitchen knife that looks classier than my strawberry red boker color cut knives that look about ridiculous in my kitchen but they just work, for now.
  11. Ourorboros


    Jan 23, 2017
    Dexter-Russell is common in house knives and the lower end of food industry. I'm not saying they work, but I'm not sure how they hold up over time. Let me say this - I've never seen a plausibly skilled chef recommend them.
    bikerector likes this.
  12. Lodd

    Lodd Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 23, 2015
    Thanks for all your input so far. I've been looking at the recommendations in this thread. It's been a joy windowshopping across the internet. I'm hoping I have the time to visit some physical stores soon, and handle a few knives IRL before buying them. I'm also going to check out some second hand places as well.

    Once I have a place to safely store my knives, I think I'll start off with a Santoku or Bunka knife, a Euro-style chefs knife and maybe a paring knife. After that, I can slowly amass more.

    I am going to go for a certain level of quality. I'm thinking of spending the most on the chef's knives (Santoku/Bunka + Euro Style). For knives I want to spend less on, I think I'll be looking at brands like Victorinox, Robert Herder or Opinel as a baseline (when it comes to quality). I'm going to try and avoid rubber and plastic handles, unless they are really well done.
  13. valknut

    valknut Schmidt Forge

    Feb 18, 2016
    I just watched this video last night. It's long (42 min) but VERY informative.
  14. Lodd

    Lodd Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 23, 2015
    Interesting video, I can definitely recommend it to others visiting this thread!
  15. chipshopman


    Oct 9, 2017
    Buy second hand and carbon steel
  16. fuesting


    Aug 7, 2018
    I too am interested in building a set for kitchen use. I’m a complete newb but I’m learning. Is there a recommendation for a place to find second hand carbon custom kitchen knives? Is it just waiting game on some of the for-sale forums or is there a better place?
  17. scott.livesey


    Nov 10, 2011
    google second hand knives or go to online auctions like ebay and search for used knives. you may find old carbon steel knives by the pound or $200+ each
  18. David Martin

    David Martin Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 7, 2008
    The shape of Victorinox knives are correct. The 8" slicing/ breaking blade is my go to blade for carving or slicing large items like turkey, ham
    and brisket. The 6" boning knife is a workhorse. The 8" Sabatier is correct for veggie work. Their steel is decent. These are the foundation of
    my kitchen work knives. DM
  19. scott.livesey


    Nov 10, 2011
    for a newbie, or an kitchen knife user for that matter, try to find a place where you can see and touch the knives. any recommendations i make are for what works for me. your hands, height, eyes, and coordination will be different and the best knife for you will probably be different.
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2018
  20. scott.livesey


    Nov 10, 2011
    i have read postings from executive chefs on another forum who buy D-R or whatever supply house has that day, use them for 6 months, give them to Goodwill, then buy new. they all had had expensive knives either stolen or ruined by other folks and were done with expensive knives at work.

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