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high quality but inexpensive knife set [moved from Home Cooking]

My flatmate who owns the knife set is moving out, and I'm going to need a new full set of knives. I'm on my way to culinary school, so it needs to be a quality set to get me through the next year or so. Unfortunately, even though I know knives are a worthwhile investment, I really don't have more than a few hundred dollars to spend until after I finish school and start working. Any advice?

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  1. The school will likely have a knife kit deal through their school store or, as was the case when I went to culinary school, a local kitchen supply shop. I'd check with them before you buy a set separately. My experience was that the knives weren't worth much but we were required to have that specific set (yes, it was a racket). Since you've got a limited budget, make sure you get the essentials that will be required by your program before moving on to other knives.

    1. This may be terribly déclassé, but the plastic handled knives at Sam's are pretty nice - especially for someone who has a series multitude of flatmates and flats, as I did when I was in Grad School

      1 Reply
      1. re: rich in stl

        Second the kinives @ Sam's Tramontina 2 knife set @ $13. They are sharp, cheap, and clean. They do the job. But the blade is on the 'flimsy' side. The edge is sharp but it gives a 'fragile' feel on the hardwood board. I used it on plastic board and it feels all right though. Another thing, the blade of the 8" one is wider than usual, which makes rocking motion a bit more difficult to execute. The 10" is too long for me. My hands are not small either (Sabatier handle is too small for me).

      2. Yes, check first on school requirements. If buying on your own, look at Dexter Russell and Forschner from restaurant supply stores. They're widely used in restaurant kitchens, and in my experience are one-quarter to one-third the price of famous-brand stuff from department stores, gourmet catalogs, etc.

        You might find this story interesting:


        4 Replies
        1. re: mpalmer6c

          Forschner is a great recommendation if you have to go it alone on a knife kit for school. Also remember that you'll need several non-knife items for such a kit (peeler, melon baller, thermometer, spatula and off-set spatula, etc.)

          1. re: ccbweb

            I agree, the Forschners are terrific. I'd say at least half of the chefs at work use them.

            1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

              Not only are Forschners great knives but they also offer several different sets, including (I believe) one that is the basic five or six knives that are essential. This means that you get the buying-as-a-set discount without having to take the bird's beak peeler, or eight steak knives, etc.

              1. re: Carruthers

                Love my Forschner knives. I've pretty much stopped using all of my other knives. The only problem I had with mine was the 8" chef knife was a bit wider than what I had before and it doesn't sit flush in my knife block. No idea if this is because the block was for a narrow knife or if the Forschner knife is indeed wider than normal.

        2. i see you are in nyc, you can buy a good quality japanese chef's knife at a korean supermarket in Jackson heights (Chonghap? I always forget the name) Roosevelt ave and 72nd st in Queens, right by 74/Roosevelt ave subway stop. knives are under $20. good blade. I have bought a really good paring knife for under 10 bucks at Marshalls. IMO, if you have a very good chef's knife and a paring knife, you can pretty much furnish the rest of the set from thrift stores, yard sales and Cheap Jacks.

          1. I have a set of Forschner knives in my cooking kit that i use when I cook away from home, but my daughter gave me a Kitchen Aid santuko for X-mas. The Kitchen-Aid knives are very nice for the price, but I am somewhat hesitant of recommending a Chinese made knife over the American made Forschner's.

            Forschner slicing and paring knifes are best in the business.

            1. Unless you really cook a lot, you will probably only need a chef's knife, a paring knife and maybe a serrated knife for bread. Useful knives to have are a 6" slicer and a boning knife, and a chinese cleaver or maybe a santuoko. I would not get a set because they tend to have things you might not use, you will have to be the judge of that.
              Depending on the school, if you are going in New York, they will "give" you a Wustof (ICE)or Chef's Choice (FCI). Also I would try to buy now and spend whatever you can afford, since (sadly) as a cook you will probably make much less than you do now.
              A few hundred dollars can get you some very good knives.
              Knives are usually either stamped (cheaper, like Dexter) (a sheet of metal and the knife is punched out) or forged (much more expensive)(where a slab of metal is formed into a knife) Stamped can be very cost effective but hard to sharpen.
              Questions you should answer
              How do you or will you care for your knives? Can you sharpen them properly?
              Do you prefer a light knife or a heavier one?
              Do you want a very sharp knife and don't mind sharpening often? Japanese knives tend to be made of soft steel which requires constant sharpening but can be made very sharp, while German blades like Wustof is pretty hard to sharpen but keeps an edge for a long time.
              Do you have large or small hands, you have to try to hold each knife and see if you like the feel.
              Do you mind a bolster? (it curves from the handle to the edge of the blade) which can get in the way of sharpening.
              You can try to go to Broadway Panhandler on 8th between Broadway and University, as they have a knife section and you can try the knives and ask questions.

              2 Replies
              1. re: chocolateman

                "Stamped can be very cost effective but hard to sharpen." - but many forged knives have a heavy bolster (wedge of metal near the handle) that gets in the way of sharpening. One knife expert, speaking on the Splendid Table, explained that German forged knives were meant to be sharpened by professionals, while Japanese style ones without the bolster are made for cooks who sharpen their own.


                1. re: paulj

                  Perhaps, but in a professional kitchen if you have to cut some fish and that German knife of yours has no edge and you can't sharpen it unless you call a professional knife sharpener, I think you will have a pretty bad night.
                  For someone who plans on being a professional cook, knowing how to sharpen their knives should be a given. Most cooks that I know can't afford to get their knives sharpened by professionals.