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Cheap knives

  • jillp Sep 3, 2007 07:52 PM
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Jackp and I began our marriage with a swell set of Henkels knives and we are still using them. But occasionally over the last few years I have felt the need for a different shape or size of knife. I have added a few really, seriously, shamefully inexpensive knives to our collection, in addition to more of the good ones. Today I bought a 5" Cuisinart Santuko with a granton blade. It set me back all of $7. What a handy little thing this is. Even Jackp - a known knife-snob - used it happily while preparing dinner.

It occurs to me that what matters most in knives is the sharpness of the blade and how it feels in your hand. As long as you can easily prepare food with them, does it really matter if they're the finest things on the market?

But having said that, I do have to mention that when our nephew was here a couple of months ago with a gorgeous Shun knife, I was delighted with the feel in my hand....

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  1. I've got what I think is a pretty spectacular collection of Henckels and Wustof knives, some of them actually modified for me by a knife maker. A couple of chef's knives, several boning, paring and utility knives...all excellent and expensive and wonderful knives.

    Almost as often as I use them, I use the set of four plastic handled, multi-colored paring knives from Henckels that I got on Amazon for $15 a couple of years ago. Any my new favorite knives in the kitchen are a paring knife and utility knife from Williams-Sonoma that were $3 and $9 respectively on sale...they're wood handled, stamped, super light and wicked sharp. I love them. My wife loves her Calphalon Contemporary Santuko knife, too.

    Bottom line, cost doesn't matter if you don't like how it feels and how it cuts, you won't use it.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ccbweb

      We are on our second set of Henckels paring knives... we put them in the dishwasher, cut on plates and other awful things we would never do with the "good" knives. Occassionally they get passed through the knife sharpener, and when they get too too bad (takes years), we get new ones!

      1. re: firecooked

        The knife police should have long ago confiscated your knives. I wonder why jilp and I did not intuit what you were doing and appear on your doorstep to give your knives better homes. No dishwasher. It takes less than a minute to wash and dry a knife and put it away.

    2. I actually prefer cheap knives...you don't worry about them and if something happens to one you don't feel bad. As you guys mentioned, if the blade is sharp they work fine. The only thing I miss about Wustof or Henckel knives is the weight for some uses. OTOH, a light knife is easier to use and can be less fatiguing.

      1. One problem is that the cheap metal will not hold up as well and although you may sharpen it, it will lose the edge much faster than a harder metal. Agreed that as long as it's sharp you can cut very well but it's a pain to have to keep sharpening. I gave my kids a lot of my old inexpensive knives. I tried to put a 15 degree edge on a thin paring knife but it would just chip. Subsequently a 25 degree edge was better suited to the metal.

        1. check out the knives your butcher uses and I doubt you will find nary a wushof, shun or global among them. most likely you will see relatively inexpensive forschners and dexter russells. why? because they cut better than the more expensive knives most of the time. you might pay around $80-$100 for a shun chef's knife, when for that kind of money you could get a slicer and a chef's knife and maybe a santoku from forschner and have knives that will last a very long time and will stay very sharp

          4 Replies
          1. re: chuckl

            Butcher shops don't use Shuns or Globals, but it's got nothing to do with quality and everything to do with price. And to be honest, a really great knife is overkill for meat cutting. You need a good edge, but affordability has the edge (no pun intended) over ultimate sharpness and edge retention. And most butchershops, unless they're a one or two person shop, will probably have employees- there's a "company car syndrome" associated with good knives. No one treats the company car like their own car and the help can't be expected to take care of a Japanese knife with a hardness of 65 Rockwell. Plus, really spendy knives have a habit of following the help home...

            I've usually been the primary meat cutter in the kitchens I've run. I will use some cheapos but it's great to have quality knives.

            That said, you don't need to spend a ton to get decent knives. I highly recomment the Fibrox line to anyone needing good steel at a bargain price.

            1. re: Beowulf

              Where do you get them? Thanks

              1. re: cocolou

                You can purchase them at most restaurant supply stores, and many places on the web. I love my Forschner paring knives.

                http://www.knifemerchant.com/products...

                http://www.cutlery.com/forschner.shtml

                1. re: Kelli2006

                  I bought one for my baby brother for Christmas on amazon; the had the best price I saw.

          2. While expensive knives are generally good, good knives need not be expensive.

            My good expensive knives include Dicks, Sabatiers, and Japanese.

            My equally good but inexpensive knives include Brazilian Tramontinas,.no-name Japanese, KitchenAid santoku, a huge LamsonSharp, a cleaver from China...

            3 Replies
            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

              I just discovered a cheapo knife I've had for years is a Tramontina. Now I think I would seek it out specifically. I bought it well over 10 years ago as an all-purpose knife. For a while it may have been the only one I had. Still use it regularly even though I now have a few Wusthofs. It's one of those silly serrated eversharp type of things, but it does some things well.

              1. re: CrazyOne

                By the way, their stainless cookware is wonderful! I honestly believe, that if you make sure that your knifes are sharp and they feel good in your hand, that's all that matters!

                1. re: CrazyOne

                  I bought a set of Henkels eversharp knives for a bargain and I'm really happy with them for smaller knifework. Add a big sharp chef's knife for when I really want to chop instead of saw, and that's all I need.

              2. My favorite knife is a Kiwi brand, made in Thailand, 8 inch I bought for five bucks at an A Chau supermarket in Orange County. It is light, super sharp and sharpens easily. It might not last forever, but I can always replace it.

                2 Replies
                1. re: septocaine_queen

                  I can't say enough about the Kiwis. I've had mine for a few years, and they are sharp, sharp, sharp with no more than steeling (which I do religiously with every knife). One of the Kiwis did get dinged from dropping, but I was able to correct it with a whetstone.

                  They won't make my cookware-obsessed friends swoon, but they are the go-to knives in my kitchen. And for 5 bucks? Great gift!

                  1. re: septocaine_queen

                    Gotta chime in here - love my Kiwi also - paid $3.50 for a vegetable cleaver many years ago and it is a great knife - doesn't hold an edge like my Wusthoff but for the price ya gotta love it!

                  2. Bittman in the NY Times says professional chefs generally use inexpensive knives (he specifically mentions Dexter Russell); he recommends restaurant supply stores.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: mpalmer6c

                      They use inexpensive pans as well. Restaurants will generally not spend a lot on pans and knives. These are used, abused and replaced. Many chefs have their own knives that they use in lieu of the general ones used in the restaurant.

                      1. re: scubadoo97

                        Yeah, Bittman (for his article) priced three sauce in various sizes for $30 total.

                        1. re: mpalmer6c

                          Our house Knives are Dexter Russel 10",these are MUCH improved over 10 years ago--still I prefer a Forschner as a pro workhorse. While the Knives are typical of a commercial kitchen,so is the Norton triple stone..a great item with a 12" Arkansas fine stone and 2 carburundum stones in a holder. Those units cost about $200. With it...you can make a $30 Forshner cut better than the typical home cook's $100 knife....if you know how to really use it.

                          In my job...I might be doing veggies by the case. A few weeks ago my day was split and pan up 300 cornish game hens,trim/bone 60lb of rock cod and dice up 30lb of onions. A delicate 6" Santuko would not suffice.

                          Meanwhile...we have as many as 30 people in and out of the kitchen..temps..student part timers....I'd be afraid a flashy $150 Global 10" would just walk off. Someone walked off with my 10" Forschner from home,I had it 25 years..I'm getting another. I'll get the green handle version so it won't get mixed up with all the Dexters at work. I got a Kershaw 7" on order-cause it was on sale and is a laminated steel with the core the steel used in Shun + Global. It may mostly be my herb mincer at work. I think I can put a freaky sharp edge on it.

                          We cook on a pretty big scale. Our pans are not fancy...but are not cheap because they hold 5-30 gallons. We use a tilt skillet and several sized steam kettles a lot. In a Restaurant or institurtional kitchen...there's so much speed and volume that the hardware does not always get TLC

                    2. As silly as it might sound, the forged vanadium steel knives by Ikea actually aren't bad. I bought the smaller 11" chef's knife on a whim for $15 to test it out, and it is able to take an edge well assuming you use a ceramic sharpening steel and stone. Performance is almost similar to the Global vanadium steel knives. The Ikea handle/tang is more comfortable to hold and has more heft than the stamped global knives.

                      Note: I'm not talking about the super cheap trash Ikea knives (~$5-10) that are stamped and flimsy and often come with a small knife block.

                      1. I see quite a few posts for the dexters. My main chef's knife is the white handled Dexter. Great balance, takes an edge well, and easy to clean. My other knives include a Dexter Chinese cleaver and Asian vegetable knife. Not as fun/cool as the Shuns of the world, but more than adequate. I would love to get a sset of good carbon steel Sabatiers, but in the meantime, my Dexters are just fine. Just a note, though, they also make a set of forged knives. I checked them out at a restaurant supply shop - I liked them a lot. Fantastic balance.

                        1. I have a couple of Victorinox pairing knives and a chef knife. I love them! I've owned lots of cheap knives, but these are the ones that keep on cutting.

                          Heck I've carved up entire butternut squashes with one of their pairing knives.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: adventuresinbaking

                            I just bought 4 Forschnerr paring knives to replace a few that I have had for 12+ years. They will tolerate amazing abuse, sharpen up on a steel like a razor in a few seconds, and only cost peanuts.

                            I love my forged chef knives, but Forschnerr makes a amazing knife, plus they aren't made in China. I love them.

                          2. Jfood is a big fan of Forschner/Victorionix knives. His 10" Chef's is 29 years old this month.

                            The trick he has discovered over the last few months is the "steel". Every time he washes and returns the knife to the knife drawer he uses the steel twice on each side. The blade stays sharper much longer.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: jfood

                              My 10" Forschner vanished somehow...I got it about 20 years ago and it was a great knife and I worked in kitchens where that knife was in my hand much of the shift. While heavier forged knives have some points...for professional cooks a stamped 3/4 tang is just quicker and won't wear out your hands. I'm very addicted to using a whetstone a lot. Most kitchens I worked in have the Norton with the 3 12" stones,the key one being the fine India Stone. Dexter-Russel has improved...very common as the "house" knives in commercial kitchens. The older ones would never get very sharp. Where I work now-I sharpened up all the Dexters and was surprised. They can't get as sharp as a Forschner but were way better than the Dexters of a few years ago. The Forschner and Dexter chef knives are about the same price now,however,so I'd take the Forschner. Anyone have experiance with the Mundial that's in that price range?

                              I used a 12" Forschner slicer yesterday as a Sashimi knife. Worked so good I may reshape it. It was a yardsale bargain but at home-I don't do big roasts-hams for just myself,so it had mostly gone unused.. I DO love Sashimi.. I may cut and regrind the tip and turn it into a Yoganami type sushi knife. Cuts paper thin salmon slices.

                              1. re: rerem

                                TT is a knife snob so uses mainly Wusthof but does have a MAC 8" chef's knife.

                                TT

                            2. I don't believe in cheap knives. To me, it sounds like poor quality. Now, good knives do not have to be expensive, though. French Chefs use low carbon steel knives that are close to straight iron. They can be easily sharpened with a whet stone. They should not be washed, only cleaned with a paper towel, then rubbed with Borax to prevent scaling. They will last you a lifetime. For such knives, I suggest Laguiole (laguiole.com)

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: cocolou

                                I cooked at kitchens years back where there were old style Carbon Steel knives...and I don't miss them. SOME could get sharp.....for an hour or two. Kind of inspired me to go buy a knife I LIKED...could get sharper and keep sharp. If you only need it for 5-10 min a day and like fussing with it...a Carbon-steel QUALITY knife can be fine.
                                However....There's so many fine STAINLESS knives now that don't cost more and are overall-more durable...and sharper too,that I just can't see buying a Carbon-steel.

                                1. re: rerem

                                  I still have two of them.. Somehow I just can't seem to give them up! To cocolou!

                                  1. re: Mother of four

                                    Mother of Four, take good care of them as they are hard to find. The closest would be the Laguiole ones. Of course, using one of these electric sharpening thingies is the worse you can do to your knives. The best is to invest into a sharpening stone and use natural oil.

                              2. My chef's knife is a $15.00, white plastic-handled Russel from our restaurant supply store which I bought when the handle on my Henckels broke. So far, the $15.00 knife has held up about three times longer than the Henckels, still holds a nice edge, and shows no signs of falling apart.

                                I have a Wusthof Santoku that I love for chopping onions, but not much else.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: mamaciita

                                  I bought my Henckel's knives in Germany, and paid the equivalent of $39 for my 8 inch chef's knife. When I took a knife class recently, the instructor looked over all the sets of expensive knives, held up mine and said, "This is a great basic knife. Just keep it sharp." He's also a big fan of ceramic knives, something he's come to since he trained at CIA.

                                  Essentially, you need a chef's knife, a paring knife, and a bread knife, unless you do speciality cooking. It's silly to spend big money on a bread knife since they can't be sharpened, and paring knives are utility players.

                                  1. re: brendastarlet

                                    . It's silly to spend big money on a bread knife since they can't be sharpened
                                    Most of them can be sharpened, not to hard to do either.

                                    1. re: Dave5440

                                      Actually they can be sharpened. Manually it is APITA but there are now sharpeners that can handle serrated knives.

                                  2. re: mamaciita

                                    I totally agree. My white bladed dexter is not flasy, lacks the impeccable poise of a great knife, but has held up very well day and day out. Holds a nice edge as well. Love it.

                                  3. My current favourites are a $40 CCK carbon steel vegetable cleaver - wicked sharp, with a thin, thin blade - and a $26 carbon steel no name French chef's knife. They outperform pretty much everything else I own and have become my go-to knives.

                                    8 Replies
                                    1. re: andreas

                                      Do you happen to know where I can buy this type of CCK cleaver for such a reasonable price, either in person in the Los Angeles area or online? [Specifically, I'm looking for a 1101 or 1301 model.]

                                      1. re: cantaloupe

                                        I don't unfortunately. I live in Toronto and here you can get them in most Chinese kitchen supply stores.

                                        1. re: andreas

                                          Action Sales (http://actionsales.com/) has informed me by email that they sell both the 1100 and 1300 series of CCK knives. The prices quoted to me were $44 for the 1101 and $27 for the 1301 knives. Note: I haven't bought one yet, because I haven't yet had a chance to visit their showroom.

                                          1. re: cantaloupe

                                            Action Sales is great! And they have good deals on knives in general - I've gotten some Mundials for pretty cheap there.

                                            In case anyone's looking for a source that will do mail order, this thread mentions a place in SF that might, though the thread is a couple of years old:
                                            http://www.knifeforums.com/forums/sho...

                                        2. re: cantaloupe

                                          I realise that this is an old thread, but in case anybody arrives here via search or whatever: I've just received a CCK cleaver that I bought from <www.cookwarekitchenware.com>, and I have to report that it is perfect. The service was absolutely excellent, and I received multiple updates via email on the status of my item in transit. Am now thinking about buying from them again...!

                                           
                                          1. re: benjamin23

                                            Hmm, link doesn't work for me.

                                            1. re: buttertart

                                              Butter,

                                              The link is slightly incorrect. Here is one that works.

                                              http://www.cookwarekitchenware.com/

                                              I won't buy your knives from that website. Yes, the product prices are reasonable. In fact, they are cheaper than infamous Chefknivestogo. For example, this CCK 1303 knife is sold for $32.50 from the above website and is sold by Chefknivestgo for $39.95.

                                              http://www.cookwarekitchenware.com/kn...

                                              That being said, they will be sending the cookware from China to you which means there is a huge shipping cost. They are charging you for $40+ worth of shipping fee for even one knife. So unless you buy 100+ CCK 1303 knives, it will not make any sense to buy the knives from this website. Truth be told, if you are going to buy 100+ CCK knives, then I am sure you can directly buy them from CCK for an even greater discount and everything.

                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                Thanks, ck, I appreciate your input as always!

                                      2. A knife is as good as it cuts. I've seen tons of "chef's" who have their "own" knives, that can't cut hot butter. Spend as much as you like, but it's about the edge maintenance, not about the price. It's about the service of the knives, not about the knives. If you're a "pro" and producing volume, the last thing you have time to do or want to do, is rub a knife on a stone.I sharpen knives for pros all day, everyday, and I can tell you, when they get a taste of my service, they never go back to the stone age.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: cookman

                                          The 'stone age'? I'm curious- how do you sharpen? Paper wheel? Belt sander? Tormek grinder? I've used a professional sharpener for the kitchen's "disposable" knives but wouldn't trust them with my laminates. I use a variety of sharpening methods but for my Japanese knives it's nothing but waterstones.

                                          1. re: Beowulf

                                            professional sharpener? the only thing "professional" about the sharpener is the professional doing the sharpening. It's all about the hands, the eye for the shape and the amount of stock removal, and about the hand eye coordination to achieve the proper angle and sharpness. We use aluminum oxide vitrified bonded 36" wheels to shape, and a variety of different grit polishing wheels and fine grit honing stones, to achieve ultimate sharpness.

                                        2. I own a small Cuisinart Santoku and i love it.

                                          1. See http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/ho...
                                            among other sites that deal with knives. IMO sharpening is very important and should be done properly.

                                            1. this is the 1st I've heard of Kiwi knives...where are they available (would rather not mail order). Gracias.

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: pine time

                                                Tough to say. They are particularly popular among Asians, so you can find them in various Chinatown and Asian supermarkets, but they are so popular that you will definitely find them in every Asian stores.

                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                  "...but they are so popular that you will definitely find them in every Asian stores."

                                                  uh. your comment must be very regional, because i live near a very asian area of california and they are not that common. amongst the many asian markets, only 1 market close by i know sells them (another one sells them but it is very far away). ...the way they have them out is very dangerous too. they place em in neat piles on the shelves and do not come in boxes or any packaging...

                                                  1. re: catbert

                                                    Catbert,

                                                    You are correct. That was a complete typo and as you can read there was something strange about the way how I wrote it. It should have read the following:

                                                    "you can find them in various Chinatown and Asian supermarkets, *but* they are NOT so popular that you will definitely find them in every Asian stores."

                                                    In other words, you cannot find them in every Asian stores. I would say I only see them in maybe 1 out of every 5 or 1 out of every 10 Asian supermarkets. Thanks for the correction.

                                                2. re: pine time

                                                  since kiwi are thai knives, you might wanna check in the local thai area of where you're at. from there, branch to other asian areas. i find mine at a vietnamese market

                                                3. I see references to go about shopping for an asian knife. I really like my Dexter cleaver. If I had one knife to pick from, this would be it. Not sure why they manager to make a knife so suited to Chinese cuisine, but they sure id it.

                                                  7 Replies
                                                  1. re: Westy

                                                    For some historical reasons, Dexter-Russell got very early in the game for making Chinese chef's knife (aka Chinese cleavers) for Chinese immigrants. Unfortunately, Dexter-Russell has not upgrade their steels and still using the 420 or 420HC variation for their knives.

                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                      I have a Dexter cleaver ("Chinese kitchen knife" engraved on the blade in Chinese) that I got in 1976 and it's still going strong. Sharpens well too. I love it.

                                                      1. re: buttertart

                                                        I love my Dexter too. jillp works with me and is setting her sights on some Shun Ken Onions now. This thread is 4 years old.

                                                    2. re: Westy

                                                      There is something to be said about a good quality knife, I have a Shun Kai Hallow Ground 8" chef's knife (Model DM-0719) and I absolutely love it; however, they are very limited in what you want to do with them.

                                                      If I am going to be hacking apart half a pig, I am going right for the Sunbeam 8" piece of crapola, because at $16.00 for a set of 20 knives, I can ruin it on bones, connective tissue, etc. and not loose sleep (I have three full sets from various well intentioned family members).

                                                      My Shun, I use for all of my vegetable prep, finish cuts on meat that I have de-boned, and not too much else. Knives like the Shun need to be honed quite often as the edge is so much finer than machine made edges and the edge is easier to loose. I try to stay on top of honing, I hate the sharpening stone. Once you start taking metal from the knife, you can't put it back.

                                                      Also, immediately after I done, I hand wash the blade, and immediately re-hang the knife. At the end of the day, I think the original poster had it basically right - if the knife feels good in the hand, cuts well, and keeps an edge - I think it can be considered a good knife, whether it is $5.00 or $500.00

                                                      1. re: nfroio

                                                        "Knives like the Shun need to be honed quite often as the edge is so much finer than machine made edges and the edge is easier to loose...I try to stay on top of honing, I hate the sharpening stone. Once you start taking metal from the knife, you can't put it back."

                                                        From one knife owner to another, beware of honing your Shun knives. Knives like Shun Classic, Tojiro DP, Hattori HD... are made from hard steel (with hardness above HRC 60). Consequently, grooved honing steels can do more harms than goods to these knives. There were several discussions on this topic in CHOWHOUND. A favor of mine is the following:

                                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/666432

                                                        This includes some of then most active knife enthusiasts, like cowboyardee, deeznuts, paulfinest. Cowboyardee and deeznuts know a lot about knives, and paulfinest is not only a knife lover, but also the owner of the famous Canadian online knife store:

                                                        http://www.paulsfinest.com/

                                                        In this thread, none of us thought it was a good idea to use a grooved honing steel on Shun knives.

                                                        If you are interested, here is also a short and informative online article on honing steel written by instructor Chad Ward who also wrote the famous book: An Edge in the Kitchen:

                                                        http://www.amazon.com/Edge-Kitchen-Ul...

                                                        http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?/...

                                                        If you jump to the "Type of Steels", you will read that medium grooved steels are bad choices for kitchen knives, especially for Japanese hard steel knives. I quote: "...The grooves in the steel create tiny points of contact with the edge. A smaller contact area makes for greater pressure on the edge. Used lightly, a grooved steel can realign the edge of your knife, though it does it fairly aggressively. Used with too heavy a hand, however, a grooved steel will act as a file and take microscopic chips out of your edge. Your edge will feel sharp because it is now, in effect, serrated, but it won’t last very long....."

                                                        If you use a grooved steel on your Shun knives, you will find your knives unable to hold an edge for long. The damage it does is far greater than that of a fine sharpening stone.

                                                        I hope you may find these information interesting.

                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                          Cool, thank you, that's a great bit of info - will definitely look into it.

                                                          I always love getting new info, especially when it comes to my knives - you know how you learn something, in my case, at the restaurants I worked at in the City, but, the info all starts with one person, that may not have all the info, then you hold on to it like gold, well, sometimes, its a good idea to re-pan that area of river, as you may have missed a nugget or two! Thanks again.

                                                        2. re: nfroio

                                                          I agree. One of the big differences is how often do you want to sharpen, hone and maintain them. Cheap knives generally require more maintenance if you want them razor sharp for precise cutting. Of course a Ginsu knife doesn't require sharpening but is crappy for any kind of cutting accuracy. One thing I think isn't considered enough is the weight and heft of the knife. I have found that using a heavier knife is better if you are cutting a large amount of things like onions, for example. Using the weight of the blade actually seems to reduce fatigue (in my experience).