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Jan 16, 2008 05:11 AM

Knife set

I know they are not recommended by most chows but I have an elderly friend who wants to buy a set. No talking him out of it. Which brand is the best and where would you buy it? I live in the Boston area.

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  1. Is he able to get out? If so, take him to a well-stocked kitchen store and let him feel different knives to see which he likes.

    9 Replies
    1. re: ziggylu

      He does not have a lot of confidence where cooking is concerned and just wants to replace his old set of dull knives w new ones.

      1. re: shaebones

        Maybe you could save him a lot of money and just have his old knives sharpened?

        1. re: KTinNYC

          Thats EXACTLY what I told him but he wants new knives. At age 82 he should have whatever he wants, :)

          1. re: shaebones

            I would recommend that you look at Forschner or Dexter Russel cutlery for him. The prices are very reasonable, and the quality is quite high, but he might find that the ergonomic handles might are a bit more comfortable to hold than the wood handles of other knives. You usually have to find a restaurant supply stores , as most housewares stores don't stock these brands.

            I would recommend a 8" chefs knife and paring knife, and maybe a slicer or bread knife, but please buy him a honing steel, and have a clerk instruct him on the proper use.

            1. re: shaebones

              I am not sure what his budget is, or if he is comfortable with really sharp knives. Keep in mind that if he is on blood thinners, and many older people are, it is especially important that they are comfortable with each and every piece in their hands and that they can get a really good grip on the handles, even when wet. A small nick for the rest of us might mean a stich or two in the ER for them

              That said, recently I visited my elderly Mom, who has the usual list of life-threatening conditions and the battery of meds to go with them. I found myself struggling to cut a whole chicken with her horrible knives, and after swearing that they we so dull that they were dangerous, I went to William Sonoma at the closest mall and found a great deal on a three piece set of Kershaw knives, which are the inexpensive stamped knives made by the same company that makes Shun. I think these are very similar to Forschner in construction. I bought an eight inch chef's knife, a seven inch Santoku (thinking tomatoes, because the blade was thinner), and a three inch (approx) parer for $57. They even came with knife guards, and I got an extra discount for buying all three. They are light and have easy grip, rubber/plastic handles. Not MY first choice, but the best knives Mom has ever had, and the only problem seems to be that she has difficulty with the guards. I think a small block is a good idea for the elderly, verus the magnetic holder. Add honing steel if he doesn't have one. The Kershaws seem to hold an edge well and can be sharpened and honed easily.

              If he wants to splurge and is really good with these tools, add a slicer to the repetoire. I did not see a Kershaw slicer or even a bread knife, but if you can get him into a store, he may be more amenable to picking other brands for these.

              1. re: RGC1982

                good job on short notice, RGC, those knives should come in handy. It's an interesting conundrum, you're afraid the knives might be too sharp for an older person, yet a dull knife can be dangerous as well.

                1. re: chuckl

                  It is a conundrum, but forcing cuts with dulled, horrible (and usually serrated) knives at Mom's house has almost cost me a finger or two in the past, and I have really good knife skills. I am thinking sharp, but controllable, is the best bet. Do I think she will use them? Who knows. She has always said she was "afraid" of my knives, but her knives are clearly more dangerous, at least to me. She said she tried the new ones and likes them, but she may just be saying that to be nice. There is a whole drawer in that kitchen that holds about fifty knives of all shapes and varieties -- loose no less -- just banging around against each other for at least the last twenty years. She has kept every knife she has ever owned, and probably her mother's as well, in that drawer. If I were brave enough to put an oven mitt on and poke around in there, the old gas station steak knives would surely turn up. I would have thrown the whole lot out when I was there, except that she would probably have gotten angry over my "meddling" and frankly, I have no idea of how to conveniently and safely dispose of that many knives. Wrapping one or two, or donating decent ones, is an option for some. Fifty bad and junky ones is a whole other story. When I think about it, my Mom and Dad were always fans of their electric knife (which I hated) and did decide to get a cleaver for chickens, which they hacked rather than separated. I think they just never learned to do things any other way. I never found the cleaver, because apparently she tucks it into some kind of special spot for safety.

                  Funny, but I toyed with buying her one "good" knife versus the three, and decided that with her history of not taking care of them, this was the best investment because they are not as costly as some of the others WS has, and it wouldn't hurt quite as much if these suffered the same fate. The WS salesperson was very helpful and seemed even to enjoy the challenge of figuring out the best plan.

                  1. re: RGC1982

                    your childhood sounds somewhat analagous to mine, RGC, we did not have one decent knife in my house until i was in my 20s and decided to get a 3 piece sabatier set from Macys. honestly, i don't know how anything got cut in that house, but since my mom usually cooked everything til it practically disintegrated, it probably wasnt much of an issue. maybe our reaction to our childhoods has contributed to us being more proficient at cooking and more discerning in our tastes as it has in other aspects of my life at least. I think you did the right thing with your mom, how she responds to it is pretty much out of your control. good luck to you however it turns out

                    1. re: chuckl

                      Oh that's funny, because my mother cooked everything until is was disintegrated too! Heaven forbid if a roast had any pink in it!

      2. I'd recommend forschners, good price compared to most of the forged knives and very sharp. Pros love them. btw, all he needs is a chef's knife, a serated bread knife and probably a paring knife.

        1 Reply
        1. re: chuckl

          I agree 3 knives to start If money is an issue Forschner or MAC, Also good are Messermeister, Shun, Wustoff. The book below is a great read on just this very subject.

        2. I was looking into this in detail about a year ago. Most major manufacturers (Wusthof, Shun, MAC, Global, etc) seem to make good blades - but there are personal choices to be made.

          1) Some are designed to sharpen to a finer edge, but won't hold the edge as long. Others won't get quite as sharp, but hold their edge longer - which might be better for your friend.

          2) Another factor is weight and proportions. It's just a matter of how heavy you like your knives, and what feels good in your hand. Purely personal.

          3) Lastly - Granton edge or not. The advantage is that they supposedly cut with less 'grabbing' onto the food surfaces. The disadvantage is that after many rounds of sharpenining, the blade could theoretically start creeping into the divetted area. Seems unlikely to me, but I'd also say that the Granton thing is probably a fad.

          I opted for the Wusthof Icon line, because I like their natural wooden handles, and the blades are excellent quality. Their weight is also right for my hands.

          I agree with Chuckl - that your friend probably doesn't need a huge assortment of knives.

          2 Replies
          1. re: bellywizard

            ****1) Some are designed to sharpen to a finer edge, but won't hold the edge as long. Others won't get quite as sharp, but hold their edge longer - which might be better for your friend.****

            I thought this was a good point, but something I've personally found little information about. Do you know of any good source for analyzing the way different brands are designed (in respect to holding their edge vs. sharpening to a finer edge)?

            1. re: paraque

     for more info.

              basically, the HRc scale indicates the hardness of the steel. The harder it is, the longer it stays sharp. The drawback is that it is harder to sharpen, and also prone to chipping. Japanese blades are usually at least 58 and above. They're sharpened at a finer angle, 16 degrees.

              Western knives such as Solingen are softer, so they do dull easier. However, it is easier to sharpen them and they're much less prone to chipping. For most home cooks, these are more than fine. Combine w/ a steel and sharpening stone. They're sharpened at 20-22.5 degrees, any sharper and it will dull to quickly.

              Lastly, you have the new kid on the block, ceramic. Most known will be Kyocera. These knives stay sharp 10x longer than traditional knives. Drawback being they're more fragile and can't be sharpened at home. Kyocera offers a free sharpening service, you do have to pay for shipping to mail it to the office. I think it's in San Diego. This could be a good alternative for home cooks that don't want to bother w/ mastering the skill of sharpening. IMO they're too fragile for a professional kitchen.