Recommendations for Lightweight Chefs' Knives?
- Caitlin McGrath Aug 23, 2006 03:35 AM
My mother needs to a new chef's knife, and she'd like to find something good that's fairly light in weight but not crazy expensive. The one she's had for thirty years or so and uses daily, but which has detiorated and needs replacing, is carbon steel, so it's a lot lighter than most forged stainless, which is what she'll be buying. But she's small, and used most comfortable, physically, with the lighter weight of her present knife. She hasn't started knife shopping, but I'd like some suggestions to pass on to her when she goes to try out new candidates.
Not trying to be contentious, but wouldn’t the best grip or feel in her hand overcome reasonable weight problems? You know, soft, hard, contoured, fat, skinny?
The Forschner Fibrox handled knives are stamped, rather than forged stainless. They are light and I think a good value for the money. I have several of them in assorted lengths and types that supplement my forged Henckels chefs knives.
They tend to be lighter than forged knives and they are quite a good value. However they seem to require more frequent sharpening and steeling than my forged knives.
If your mother has been using a carbon steel knife, she might be partial to it. I've been using carbon steel as long as I can remember and I wouldn't think of switching to forge steel. Most kitchen ware stores do not carry them. If you're in San Francisco, Columbus cutery has a good selection and they are much cheaper than the forge steel. They also carry the line of Forschner that the previous post recommended.
Does it have to be carbon steel? If so, there's a custom smithyin Oregon that works in low carbon. Prices may be more than you want to spend:
When I lived in Tokyo, I inherited a Messermeister santoku made in Germany for the Japanese home cook market (meaning mostly women). If she can live with the santoku blade shape, it might be nice. For me, it's too light and the handle too small. But for your mom, it sounds about right.
It's got a light, stamped blade. Moderate, usable length. Being of a Japanese design, the blade cuts to its heel (no bolster like European designs). Reasonable price, too at $40. Not all Messermeister shops will carry this, as it's not really a US product.
See it here (and scroll 3/4 way down the page to the Messermeister Japanese series
)Item MDN 1001 71⁄4'' Santoku
Global makes the lightest easy to find knives. Go to a specialty store if you are close to one, but for convenience (and ability to return if your mom hates it) get a Global at one of the big national chains (Sur La Table, for example).
I had a Global santoku for awhile and love love loved the blade. Extremely lightweight and sharp, both things that I know my (Chinese) mother would love. However, the handle was too small for even my small hands so eventually I got a Shun instead.
If my hands were smaller, I'd go with Global, so maybe that's the one for your mom.
I've always thought that choosing knives is highly personal and subjective, much like shopping for shoes. I would take her to a restaurant supply store and let her try out knives for feel until she found one whose 'fit' and balance appealed to her.
Along with all the other good advice, I would also suggest that she might want to go an inch or two smaller than the standard 8". I have a 7" Wusthof after trying and returning a 6" Wusthof that was too small. (I also have a heavier 8" Chef's Choice for bigger jobs.) Matching person to knife is indeed personal. I would also suggest not going too cheap, as a good knife will get so much use that you will get your money's worth with the right one.
Try to find a decent knife store in your mother's area and try several out in her hand. A good knife is not only about quality and sharpness, but balance and comfort as well.
If you're in large metro area or the West Coast, Japanese supermarkets (places like Marukai in LA.)often carry Japanese made western style chef's knives. They're usually reasonably priced and very light weight. I've found even the inexpensive $8 buck knives keep an excellent edge. The only time I miss a heavy blade is when I slice tomatoes.
I love my Mac chefs knife. It is lightweight and stays really sharp for a long time. If I didn't have the Mac, I'd go for a Shun.
Knives are like underwear, very personal, and you probably care what they're made of and how they feel (also who uses them come to think of it). Crazy expensive might be hard to hit with a single chef's knife. What would be worse would be a knife that isn't balanced, or doesn't hold an edge. If she loves to cook then the cost per use argument works great to get her into the realm of top quality. There's so much inferior imitation stuff these days in all realms that a brand name with a high price is probably safe.
The above link is a pretty good rundown of good quality competition. Global does manufacture a line of knives with larger handles (not a problem for you, but there was an earlier remark - also holding the blade alleviates this problem for most). There's an american company called Dexter that makes a higher grade of knife called the forged Connoiseur. The edge holding capability and balance is comparable to Wusthof at a much lower price - and the rosewood handles are stylish.