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#1 Mon 07 Apr 08 2:59am

bennyb0

Member
Member since Mon 07 Apr 08

Knives in a Nutshell

I've read many posts about knives in this forum... "which one does Jamie use?", "which are easiest to sharpen?", "can serrated knives be sharpened?"... etc etc...

Let me share some of my knowledge to the masses.  About me, I've sold and collected knives for about 15 years now and I am an engineering technologist who specialized in metallurgy... and I have a bit of an obsession with all kinds of knives.  I'm not going to tell anyone what kitchen knife is best because it really is a personal preference thing... to a point... (there certainly are knives out there not worth the vast amounts of money they retail for).  But here are some facts on the most common 4 manufacturers.  The suggested costs listed below may differ depending where you live, but should give you a good idea of cost comparisons.  I live on the west coast of Canada.

Henckels (or Zwilling J.A. Henckels):
For the most part, excellent German made knives.  However, Henckels used to have a little more pride in their company and would only make or put their name on the best quality forged knives.  Unfortunately, over the last decade, you can find all quality ranges of kitchen knives with the Henckels name on them.  Avoid knives sold at outlet stores like Costco with the Henckels name, they are NOT top-quality GERMAN FORGED knives that you would normally associate the name Henckels with (some are even made in China).  The best lines of Henckels are Professional S and FourStar.  There are a couple others but not often found (I've heard really good things about their Cermax line for instance...)  Yes, Henckels (Professional-S line in particular) is the knife I see most often used by Jamie, however maybe not the best bang for the buck... 8" chef knife will run roughly $120.  The Professional S and FourStar hold an excellent edge, however the trade-off is they are much more difficult to sharpen and the tips are quite brittle.  Some of you might say, "tips brittle? not a big deal, Henckels have a life time warranty"... however, if you read the fine print, Henckels warranty does not cover broken tips and if this happens you are normally reduced to having a professional sharpener grind a new tip onto your expensive chef knife shortening it to a funny stump.  If you are looking for Henckels I recommend going to a good cutlery shop and play with a few as the balance from one line of Henckels to another is radically different and really is a personal preference thing.

Wusthof Trident:
Another top-quality German knife company.  If you buy any Wusthof knife, you are sure to have bought a great knife.  There are no "cheap" Wusthof knives, an 8" chef knife will run a little more than Henckels, about $140... but in my opinion, worth the extra $20.  Like Henckels... life time warranty, forged quality, great edge, etc etc... however the difference comes with ease of sharpening.  I have no trouble making a dull Wusthof knife sharp again with a few swipes on a ceramic or diamond steel, maintenance is a breeze, balance is brilliant, and they are much less brittle than other forged knives.

Global:
An all stainless Japanese kitchen knife with a hollow handle.  Global knives are, for the most part, not a forged knife... they are laser cut and then welded to a handle I believe mostly to save on manufacturing costs.  I'm not a big fan of Global knives mostly because they are too light and I like the weight of the knife to do some of the work for me... however, Global makes a great knife and they are relatively easy to sharpen and very durable.  I warn you though, Global knives are sharpened to a traditional Japanese angle which is approximately 11.5 degrees which means you have to be careful what kind of sharpener you buy... if you buy the wrong one, you may severely damage your knife.  Also, because of this Japanese angle, they do not hold an edge as well as a good "European style" knife (ie. Henckels or Wusthof) however, a well-sharpened Japanese knife will always be sharper than the "European style" knives.  A Global 8" chef knife should run about $100.

Victorinox:
A Swiss made kitchen knife.  Not typically forged... they are stamped out of stainless steel and then fixed to a variety of handle styles.  Typically very inexpensive however good bang for the buck.  Because they are not a forged knife, the steel is very soft which means they are very easy to sharpen but do not hold an edge for very long.  They are very durable and good enough for most aspiring chefs.  A Victorinox 8" chef knife should run about $50.

Santoku vs. French Knife
Lots of people have asked in the Forums "which is best, Santoku chef knife or a traditional chef knife (also known as French knife)?".  It is true what the other people say, it really is personal preference... however, I can tell you, if you like rocking your knife back and forth on a cutting board (what I like to call a "rock-and-chopper") you should get a French knife.  If you like rapid dicing you should get a Santoku... they are typically much lighter and their edge is much straighter which allows more contact with the cutting board.  Also, be warned of the angle thing I mentioned in the Global section above... Santoku knives are typically sharpened at a different angle so be careful what kind of sharpener you buy.

About serrated knives...
Most serrated knives can not be sharpened... to some degree you can put a round ceramic or diamond file between the teeth of the knife and "sharpen" it a bit, but you will never get a perfect from-the-factory kind of edge again.  So... my recommendation is, use a serrated knife only for it's intended purpose.  That is to say, a bread knife for bread, a steak knife for steak etc... if you wear out or damage a serrated knife using it for some other purpose you normally end up having to buy a new knife.  Another not so well known fact... a $200 serrated knife will typically cut as well as a $25 serrated knife.  Due to the nature of a serrated edge, you are actually kind of 'tearing' what you are cutting, you are not counting on the quality of steel to be very sharp.  So, unless you get a free Henckels bread knife with your Henckels chef knife purchase, I'd suggest spending mush less money on your serrated knives as you would on your chef knives.

I hope this sheds some light on the 'mysteries' of kitchen knives.

Cheers and happy cooking,
Ben

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#2 Mon 07 Apr 08 6:16am

The White Rabbit

Forum super champ
From Sydney, Australia
Member since Tue 22 Jun 04

Re: Knives in a Nutshell

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#3 Mon 07 Apr 08 9:30am

madamada

Forum super champ
Occupation living life
From Friuli northern Italy
Member since Mon 14 Jan 08

Re: Knives in a Nutshell

there is a place in Friuli called Maniago famous for its coltelli, have you heard about them?
I know a relative of a friend of mine constructing collection knives as hobby and going around to knives exhibitions where they are sold for  lots of money or simply changed with others. He says there are women who buy them as soprammobile (ornament??). I very much prefer my inexpensive little vegetable knives which do not hurt and cut all the same, but I'm not an expert in anything I must admit

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#4 Mon 07 Apr 08 9:24pm

bennyb0

Member
Member since Mon 07 Apr 08

Re: Knives in a Nutshell

That consumer test guide is good but the prices they quote are ridiculous.  If someone is paying $225 for a Wusthof 8" Classic Chef knife then they are getting ripped off.  I just paid $140.95 CDN for mine at a local cutlery shop.

I certainly have heard of Maniago coltelli... but not in the kitchen knife world.  They make world famous pocket knives and stillettos.

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#5 Mon 07 Apr 08 9:41pm

AskCy

Member
Occupation Engineer
From Lancashire
Member since Tue 11 Mar 08

Re: Knives in a Nutshell

it seems odd that so much time and effort goes into making knives out the finest steel (and other metals), careful rolling of the hot metal etc etc when you can cut your own flesh with paper !..  mrgreen

Steve

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#6 Tue 08 Apr 08 12:52am

ian1969uk

Member
Member since Tue 11 Mar 08

Re: Knives in a Nutshell

I note that most people say that a serrated knife cannot be sharpened, but the Chantry Knife Sharpeners claim to sharpen both straight and serrated edge knives. Certainly my Chantry does a good job on my Victorinox serrated knives.

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#7 Tue 08 Apr 08 8:05pm

ian1969uk

Member
Member since Tue 11 Mar 08

Re: Knives in a Nutshell

MsPablo wrote:

Thanks for Knives101 Ben!  What about ceramic knives?

Really sharp, hold a good edge and easy to sharpen. They need a special sharpener, though, and are quite brittle so no good for heavy jobs.

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#8 Tue 08 Apr 08 9:16pm

bennyb0

Member
Member since Mon 07 Apr 08

Re: Knives in a Nutshell

As far as sharpening serrated knives, there we have to establish a definition of "sharpening".  My definition of sharpening is "make knife edge as new again".  Certainly there are sharpeners out there that make serrated knives appear and feel sharper (and the Chantry is one of the best of them) but eventually these devices wear away the teeth of a serrated knife and can not be defined (in my opinion) as sharpening a serrated knife.  "True sharpening" of a serrated knife can not be done with any draw-through device... in fact it can't technically even be done with hand files and stones (although this is much better), if you really want to "sharpen" a serrated knife first you draw the temper out of the knife, then you buy a $100,000 CNC milling machine, program it to exact dimensions, etc etc... you get my point.  In short, if you want to through a quick edge onto a serrated knife and can afford to replace your serrated knife every 5 years or so, buy a Chantry... they really are the best of their kind out there.  However, if you have developed a working, almost loving relationship with your really expensive cutlery set and you would cry throwing away a serrated knife that never did anything wrong to you, buy some ceramic hand files and learn to use them... but most importantly... do not use your good serrated knives for chores around the house.  They don't appreciated being used to cut carpet.

As far as ceramic knives, I don't know what kind of ceramic knives ian1969uk has had experience with but the ones I have are certainly not easy to sharpen... in fact virtually impossible.  It doesn't really matter as most ceramic knife companies insist that to maintain the warranty on them you must send to them for sharpening.  In addition to this difficult fact, they are very brittle.  Dropping them can shatter them into a dozen pieces and this is not often covered under any warranty.  However, the trade-off is quite phenomenal... for one, incredible edge retention... ceramic knives keep an edge like no other knife on the market.  They are also very light, do not rust, and do react with food acids.  If this sounds good to you, buy one, you'll be impressed... however, I again warn you of how brittle they are... cut only boneless meats with it, don't pry apart frozen foods with it, and you might want to consider putting a bath mat down in the kitchen if you have tile flooring.

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#9 Wed 09 Apr 08 12:15am

ian1969uk

Member
Member since Tue 11 Mar 08

Re: Knives in a Nutshell

Kasumi do a knife sharpener with a diamond wheel that works brilliantly on ceramic knives. It is no longer necessary to send ceramic knives back to the manufacturer to get them sharpened, although I accept that some brands insist on this or they will say that the warranty is no longer valid.

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#10 Thu 10 Apr 08 6:36pm

proud mom

Forum champ
Occupation Proud mom....
From West midlands
Member since Wed 09 Apr 08

Re: Knives in a Nutshell

Hi Ben, (I hope that is your name)  whistle
I hope you don't mind me picking your brains but my son has been accepted into college as he is set on becoming a chef ( hence proud mom)  big_smile  anyway what I wanted to ask you was is it worth spending alot on a set of chefs knives for training as I kinda was under the impression the first set of knives is the set they will always use OR is it worth just buying the odd few untill he is qualified and then spending alot on a set of knives?
Looking forward to your input.
Anna-Marie x

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