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First Chef's Knife?

Hi all. I've recently started cooking more since my SO and I have graduated college. I think its time for me to get a real chef's knife rather than the flimsy one that my parents gave me as a "kitchen warming" present. I was hoping y'all could help me find a good chef's kinfe to start my collection with. Price isn't really an issue. I'm looking for a relatively heavy knife since I'm a decent sized guy and the weight would help me control the knife better. I was thinking about a Henkel 4 Star (primarily because I saw it in Macy's) or something in that vein. If it matters, I live in the Washington DC area and would love to go to a store to try a knife out but I don't think thats crucial. Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated.

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  1. Hi. I think when you're buying knives it's all about the grip, really. Whether it's Henkel, Wustoff, Shun, Global or whatever, hold them and find one that is comfortable for you. I've been using Henkel 5 Stars for years because i love the way the handle feels in my hand. I also like the Wustof Grand Prix and the Shun.
    Good luck!

    1. jjb75 took the words out of my mouth. My SO is smaller than me so we have 2 knives, one that fits her hand and one that fits mine. Both are 5 stars as well. Good knives and will last a while. Feel and balance are key.

      If I ever were to look at another knife it would be the Shun. Im an AB fan. What can I say. The guy makes sence. He has a book called 'gear for your kitchen' Rather than promote a particular product he talks about why its good. More here: http://www.altonbrown.com/shun/shun_e...

      Best of luck as well.

      1. I'm a fan of Wusthof-Trident. I started out years ago using Henckels, and made the switch to Wusthof after a couple of years. For me, the grip and balance feel better, and I find the blade stays honed better than does the Henckels.

        I use a 10-inch Wusthof Classic.

        I'd recommend that you take a knife skills class. The chef's knife is the most-used knife in the kitchen. If you know how to use it properly and care for it properly, cooking becomes more fun and hassle-free. If you can't afford a class, take a look at a book called "Maran Illustrated Cooking Basics" (www.maran.com/cooking.htm ). It has step-by-step colour photos and instructions on knife skills, and demonstrates how to cut various fruits and vegetables.

        1. While all of the above advice is good, I would really suggest you look at the Global knives. Big and strong or not, you'll find the Global to be beautifully balanced, in spite of your desire for weight and heft.

          Whatever you do, take good care of them and they'll last a lifetime. And, by the way, you don't have to go to the lengths described on some of the posts here when sharpening and honing your knives. All very well for the OCDs among us, but not necessary for everyday cooks!

          - Sean

          1. Nice thing about Global is the box stores allow discounts to be applied which are not applicable to Henkel and Wusthof in most cases. Anyone have an opinion on the ceramic blades ? Seem to have a nice edge but may not be very durable...

            1. Yes, the ceramics look and feel great, but the edges chip. I have two that are now useless, both gifts thank goodness. They look like bread knives gone wrong!

              - Sean

              1. I agree with all the comments above about comfort. You've got to enjoy using the knife you choose. That being said, I'm a fan of Japanese steel, although, as a beginner, a Japanese knife needs a little more attention, and respect. From your list of favorite restaurants, I'm gonna guess you travel the east coast from time to time. I'd suggest you stop in at Korin's, 57 Warren Street, New York, NY 10007, during your next trip to NYC and compare knives. The Tojiro DPs seem to be great starter knives, and not too expensive, especially for what you got. Korin's web site is http://www.korin.com/knife.php . If you're going to shop via the web, check out http://www.japanesechefsknife.com/ , they have a 10% sale going right now, and they're great people to deal with.

                1. Definately have a look around some good kitchenware stores and try and get a feel for the weight you like. I have a Sabatier au corbonne that has quickly become my favorite. It is very well balanced, extremely easy to sharpen and the larger size of it gives me great control. It takes a little more work than other knives to care for but all in all, it is a great piece of equipment.

                  The real issue is that knives are very personal and it is only through repeated use that you will find one you really like.

                  1. I think that trying knives in your hand is crucial for your first purchase. I have a German blade Fritz , but my favorite knife is a 6" forged Forschner.

                    There are slight differences in the blade shapes between German and French forged knives and some people like the longer/narrower blade of the French shape.

                    Forschner makes a very nice stamped knife that is the standard in the food service industry and it deserves a try. Some people find the Japanese santuko shape is preferable for a standard kitchen knife too.

                    P.S, Sean, I liked that idea/sharpness of a cermanic knife but I have seen the same result in professional kitchens.

                    1. Try the German brand Dick.

                      1. Like many others have said, you really need to hold the knives to see what's comfortable for you. I have Wusthof Grand Prix's and love them, but do not like the feel of the Wustof Classic at all, huge difference in feel for me.

                        Is there a Williams Sonoma out there? They have a good selection for you to try out.

                        1. Don't get too stuck on Wustof and Henkel for good German steel, they are great knives with great US distribution, but there are others...

                          Check out this link to A Cook's Wares' great page on knife brands (I have a Messermeister San Moritz Chef Knife from them, my favorite knife): http://www.cookswares.com/discussions...

                          And remember, having a matched set of knives has nothing to do with cooking... I've bought best quality knives for things like Chef's, boning, and Santoku knives; consumer quality for some (e.g.: a paring knife from Analon for the grippy handle while peeling fruit); and a Goodwill serrated utility knife for processing tomatos at end of summer (though I might semi-spurge on another Analon tomato knife for that grippy handle). If you don't care that they don't match, choose which brand had the best knife for each type of knife you need. Spend the $70-100 on a Chef's knife you can use everyday for the rest of your life, and save on the less used, less critical applications.


                          1. The brand question has been well tackled - there are many excellent knives out there and definitely go with what feels best in your hand - size, weight and balance.

                            I'd suggest whatever you choose, for first "good" knife, go for a 6 inch chefs knife. I find it to be a great workhorse of a knife. I've got a few of them - mostly use a Japanese "cosmic steel" aka Kiya knife.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: bigonion

                              I would actually respectfully suggest a bigger knife than this--8 or even 10 inches. I got a 10" Henckels chef knife (I like a very heavy knife for control, and I have very small hands) after taking a knife skills class (at L'Academie de Cuisine in Bethesda). The instructor recommended getting as big a knife as you're comfortable with, and, now that I am using the proper technique, I would agree. I used to use a smaller knife but for regular chopping--even small things such as shallot or garlic--I always use the big one.

                              Definitely go to a Sur la Table or W-S and hold a bunch of them to see what's most comfortable to you.

                              And buy a steel at the same time, and use it each time you use your knife!

                              1. re: LindaMc

                                I agree a 6' " is too small even for small hands. While a larger knife may at first feel uncomfortable it is more versatile and easier to use. A think that a chef knife in the 10" size ideal and a good pairing knife also a must. I use a Henkel because thats waht was given to me when I graduated culinary school but there are so many out there to try. Someone mentioned forshner which might be a good idea if your not willing to spend as much. Oh, and definitely don't forget the steel.

                            2. Not a lot to add except don't wait much longer - in my opinion a proper workhorse knife is absolutely essential. It drives me crazy to see friends drop serious coin on All-Clad or other fancy cookware yet still use their old crappy flexible dull knives. Scary stuff.

                              The weight is important but once you use a truly sharp knife you will understand that unless you are cleaving or something, sharpness is the key to control. (Well that and technique!) Global knives are relatively light but offer great control.

                              And I personally find that an 8 or 10 inch chef's knife is more versatile than 6" for all around use. Ask most chefs what they would want if they could have only one knife and the answer would be an 8" or 10" chef's knife.

                              1. Once you get the knife of your dreams, remember to keep it sharp. A dull knife is *much*
                                more dangerous than a sharp knife. And not nearly as much fun. Use a steel every time, before
                                use and after cleaning; any steel will do, no need for ridiculously expensive things, you're
                                basically just bending the edge back straight. But also consider investing in a sharpening
                                stone. I like the fine-grit diamond "stones'. Practice on your old beater blade. There's lots
                                of good info on the net about sharpening technique. And if you spent all your spare cash
                                on the knife, search for "scary sharp", which should lead to a messy but *extremely* effective
                                process for sharpening blades with sandpaper.

                                1. Lot's of good advice above, but after 20 years of using german 6 and 8 inch chef's knives I switched to Shun's 7 inch santoku. It holds an edge so much better, but the main reason is I never really got comfortable with the french style of chopping (rocking the blade back and forth). The edge of a santoku knife is less curved, so you find yourself using a more choppy style once you get used to it. Kind of like using a cleaver with a just a little bit of rocking (like if you're dicing veggies). Or you can just chop away (mincing herbs for example). And the wide blade is handy for scooping up the works. And it's really pretty.

                                  The Shun costs about $100, probably a little more. There's a larger Shun santoku that looks a bit unweildy to me, but if you like large, it may be the one for you. Other than that, go with Forschner knives for boning, utility and paring. Excellent quality steel, and extremely well designed handles the high priced brands would adopt if they valued function over form.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: Zeldog

                                    Shuns are nice but they're designed for righthanded people. If you're a southpaw
                                    it will rest in your hand at an odd angle. That might be ok for short periods of time
                                    but it's worth some consideration if you're going to be doing a lot of cutting.

                                    Are they making leftys yet?

                                    1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                      Sadly, no good news for leftys. Shun even came out with a new "Alton Brown" line that put a bend in the handle but kept the same cross section.

                                      1. re: Zeldog

                                        I thought I had seen left handed Kershaws at the Blade show in Atlanta last year, (I used to be the knife buyer for a couple of sporting goods stores). Alton was really high on them at the time. Metokitchen.com has some other lefties as well.

                                    1. Best suggestion and an absolute must is the hold the knife in your and and if SO will also use SO should hold as well. Some people like heavy others lighter. Personally I would not buy a ceramic, seems more like a hip thing to show and tell versus slice and dice.

                                      If you want light, the Forshners are the best buy anywhere. Bought a 12" in 1979 and is still a staple in my drawer. Over the years I also bought some Costco's and I like them a lot, a nice middle weight. The Henckle's et. al. above are always viewed as top notch but do not own any, just too heavy for DW.

                                      A must to buy as well is a sharpener and steel. Gotta keep a heavy knife sharp to control or will slip and cause some damage to fingers.

                                      1. In culinary school, most of my chefs said that bigger is better but my 10" Wusthof Classic is just too heavy for me to handle. I find that I am most comfortable with my 7" Wusthof Santoku. Against my instructor's advise, I started using it almost exclusively...after a few months almost everyone in my class had converted as well. I'm not sure what that says is the 10" just unbalanced or were we just not into the rocking motion you use with a French knife or maybe it was because everyone in my class had small hands...I don't know.

                                        1. I've owned Henkel, Wusthof, and nameless brands, and love Global the best. If you get one/some, please be sure to buy the ceramic water sharpener for about 20 bucks, and learn to use that (easy) and a steel, and store the nice knife on a magnet strip, not in a dulling/moisture collecting knife block.

                                          1. An 8-12" Chef's knife will last you a lifetime so it's worth spending the money. The choice depends on whether you want to sharpen it yourself or not. Shun and Global (Rockwell hardness of 61) knives are made of harder metal than Western knives (Rockwell hardness of 55) and it takes more effort to sharpen them. On the plus side, the harder steel can support a more acute angle and this reduces the cutting effort. Shun, like most Asian knives are designed for right handed chefs because there are no left handed people in Japan (it is socially unacceptable). But Global makes some of their knives in a left handed version at no extra cost.