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If I can only afford *one* fancy knife; what should it be? Santoku? Chef's?

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Hi folks

Not a chef here, just a home cook who enjoys trying new things. I do alot of grilling and traditional BBQ in the summer time, and am looking for a very sharp knife, for every day tasks.

I have been looking at the Hattori HD-5 Santoku; but am curious -- will this be a sufficiently sized knife for every day tasks?

Slicing steaks? Carving a turkey? Dicing an onion? Slicing garlic?

I keep seeing differing opinions; Anthony Bourdain claims in his shows "If you are going to buy one good knife, it should be a GLOBAL Chef's Knife".. Chef's knife is longer and shaped differently than a Santoku. Should I go with this instead?

Thanks for the advice; looking forward to your responses

PS: Throw your 2 cents in even if someone else has responded.. I'm curious about the opinions of many :)

Cheers!

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  1. I LOVE my 30 yr. old Wustoph 10" chef's knife. It's the most important thing in my kitchen.

    1. With only one choice, I would go with an 8" or 10" chef's. WIthin limits, the brand is less important than keeping it sharp and finding one that fits your hand.

      1. I have both - but if you can only have one go for the chef's knife. It is the work horse of the kitchen. Just go to a store where you can try them & see what feels right for your body.

        1. I would definitely recommend a Global Chef knife. It is very lightweight and comfortable. It is great for doing all kinds of tasks. I would recommend going to a cutlery store around you and trying out the knives to see what you prefer.

          1. i have a global heavyweight 8 inch chef's knife. i'm really happy with it. i went through the same debate as well. i thought that being able to rock the knife properly was important, which was not possible as easily w/ the santoku. i'd def recommend like everyone else that you feel them in your hands. its an incredibly personal decision

            1. 5 sun (6") is awfully short for a gp slicing/dicing and especially carving knife. I wouldn't go under 8" (7 sun).

              If you can save a bit longer, upgrade from the HD to the FH series - VG-10, really thin and light - I think you will feel the difference. The damascus finish on the HD's is for show - doesn't do a thing for dicing your onions - not that they are bad knives or anything, (I own one), but these FH's are true professional blades. There's a 8 sun Gyuto (FH8) for $272 - if I had the bread right now, I'd love to get my hands on that.

              http://japanesechefsknife.com/Hattori...

              1. Ok, this may be heresy, but I have a Henckel 8" chef's knife which is 18 years old, and an OXO Santoku I got about 2 years ago at Target. I almost always use the $25 OXO instead of the Henckel's. It's lighter, it holds its edge longer, and it just seems to eat through any chopping job. I know that common knowledge says the chef's better, but there you have it.

                1. Chef. and as far as brand, pick any of the "usual" manufacturers that YOU feel COMFORTABLE using...i.e. TRY every knife out...wusthoff, henkel, global, shun, all great, and its like a Ford/Chevy argument. I had my mind set on Globals until I tried them...and went with Wusthoff, not because global is "bad" but I liked the feel of the wusthoffs better.

                  I just can't get the hang of a santoku, doesn't rock well with me.

                  My girlfriend uses a small 9.99 santoku for everything though.

                  1. I just bought this exact knife, basically. The Hattori HD's are made by Ryusen, and they look to be identical to ones sold under the Ittosai brand. It's wicked sharp, and I admit being a bit reluctant to put it into general use b/c it's a nice-looking knife. The HD-5 actually has a 170mm (6.7") blade.

                    The rest of our knives are all Wusthof. My understanding is that the majority of the Japanese knives are heat treated to a higher hardness level. They can be sharpened more as a result, but the tradeoff is that they can chip easier. There are specific knives for dealing with anything with bones; using something else is taking a chance with your knife. Personally, I'm in the market for a Chinese cleaver to handle that kind of dirty work.

                    I'd vote for getting more bang for your buck. If you're thinking about spending $120 on a layered steel jaw-dropper, why not get maybe 2 knives for that? The Tojiro DP and Hiromoto AS series both get good marks for value. And they both have a carbon steel core clad in stainless. This means you get the serious sharpness potential of carbon steel, while limiting the potential for rust, although the edge still needs care to prevent this (and will develop a patina).

                    You could get a Tojiro santoku and gyuto for ~$100, or the the same in the Hiromoto AS for ~$160.

                    1. I have a Henckels Twin Cuisine 8'' Chefs knife. I wouldn't trade it for anything, but I know this knife isn't for everyone. My girlfriend’s hands are too small for the grip and the knife is just too heavy for her. So in other words you have to try out a variety and pick on that works for you. The one thing that is certain is that you get what you pay for. Anything in the 80-120 dollar range for a chef’s knife will last you a life time. Any more expensive then that may be excessive.

                      I would recommend handling them in the stores and then buy online for half the price. Just be patient, look for sales, and look for online coupons.

                      I 100% believe a Chefs knife is far more versatile then a Santoku. Especially if you are looking to carve meet. Chopping wise the edge may go to a Santoku (but it's all personal preference).

                      As far as size 8inches is plenty for just about any kitchen.

                      I recommend expanding your collection and building a 3 knife foundation, 8 inch chef, 4 inch paring, and some sort of serrated utility knife. Those 3 will do everything you can think of.

                      Hope this helps.

                      1. I would probably go with a chef's knife if you are getting one knife. Some of it depends on your cutting style, though... a chef's knife will work better for a rocking motion and a santoku will work better for a chopping motion. I've got a bunch of knives, including several chef's knives and a couple of santokus, but I reach for the chef's knife almost every time. I don't think it's an issue of size so much - though I would recommend getting a big knife. Just different styles.

                        My main squeeze is a Misono 9.5" UX-10. Love it. I also have a 10" Forschner, an 8" Henckels, and I think we have a Mundial or two. Part of the decision should be based on how much maintenance you want to do yourself, or how close you are to someone who can sharpen knives well. Most of the high end Japanese knives will hold an edge for a pretty long time, but the edges can be a bit hard to maintain (many are asymmetrical), and a really sharp edge can also be a little on the delicate side. I would suggest investing in an edge pro / sharpmaker, or else get some waterstones and learn how to use them. That or send your knives out.

                        As far as slicing meat, I'm not an expert on this (I'm a vegetarian), but I think most people would use a slicer for that.

                        you should also have a look at the archives, such as:
                        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/470107
                        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/481001

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: will47

                          first off, get a knife that feels good in your hand. Having said that, and as the owner of several santokus, i think a chef's knife might be a little more versatile, mostly because of the shape. the tip is pointier, which comes in handy sometimes, like when you're dissecting a chicken. santokus also tend to be a little shorter, shy of 7 inches, whereas for me, the perfect size chef's knife would be the 8 inch. unless you're really set on japanese knives, which are nice but expensive, check out forschner, especially on ebay. their 8 inch chef's comes highly recommended and costs a fraction of what you'd pay for a german or a japanese knife. i have a couple of their slicers too, and they are real workhorses.

                          1. re: will47

                            I'm with will47 on this one - I absolutely recommend looking into the Misono UX10 chef's knives; they are fantastic and the standard of many professional chefs. Also as he said, these knives are sharpened at quite a different angle than most German knives, so it's not advised to use a standard sharpener. My Fujiwara FKS Santoku is sharpened at 11 degrees, as opposed to the 24 degree edge on my Henckels Pro S.

                          2. 8" chef's knife. I have 'em in 6", 8", and 10"; the 6" is too short for me, the 10" works great but is too long for most of my cutting boards. The 7" santoku gets a fair amount of work, too, but the ergonomics aren't there for my knife skills; it just seems so much easier to "rock" the chef's knife to mince garlic, etc.

                            1. Many people recommend heavier German types (I have an 8" Dick--no double meaning intended). But I would recommend trying out a 7" Sabatier as well--lighter, different blade profile.

                              1. Santokus are good for cutting vegetables. They lack the belly that's goof for the rocking motion used in some cutting methods and they lack the pointed tip which is useful for some things. If I was going to buy one knife it would be a chef knife. The Japanese equivalent is a western gyuto.

                                1. I alternate between a 10" chef and an 8" santuko. Both are Wustof and are great knives. But if I could only have one I would go with the Chef. This is because I seem to have more ability to do the kind of cooking I enjoy with the slightly rounded blade edge and the more defined end point. Santukos are great if you slice a lot of stuff but I find they don't chop as fast as the chef.

                                  If you have a cooking store in your area stop by and ask them if you can practice a little with their display knives. You will get a better feel for which brands suit your hand and which blade works with your style of cooking, talk to the sales person about what dishes you make most often and they should be able to give you solid advice.

                                  Lastly, Williams-Sonoma has an awesome return policy so if you need to mail order, get one of each and return the one you don't like. Or return both and get a less expensive one of your prefered blade at Target. :)

                                  1. Any knife, sharpened correctly, will be very sharp. I have a 10" Wustuff that I've had for over 30 years and it get a lot of use.

                                    If I only had the money for one good knife, I would think hard about getting a $20 Forschner 8-Inch Chef's Knife and a $100 DMT diamond stone to keep it sharp

                                    1. Like some others have said, get one that feels good in your hand and for how you'll be using them. Mr OCAnn and I each use different knives. He's got humongous hands and prefers heavier knives. Me, I like my Global Santoku, but it still feels a bit heavy for me.

                                      And don't sharpen your knives @ home. If you're spending a pretty penny on a knife, it's worth it to take it to a professional and have them sharpen it for you (a knife store a restaurant supply store can do this for you for free).

                                      30 Replies
                                      1. re: OCAnn

                                        I'm sure most folks that are into knives know this, but the best advice on sharpening is to not let a person that doesn't know enough about sharpening your knife, sharpen your knife. If that's you, then by all means, take it to someone else. But please don't assume that someone that buys a grinding machine and hangs out a shingle that says knives sharpened, knows how to sharpen your knife - the great majority would ruin Japanese steel. And conversely, it isn't all that hard to learn how to hand sharpen your knives yourself - many people sharpen everything from their Hattoris and Ryusens to Globals and Wustoffs at home. It's traditional for Japanese chefs to sharpen their knives every night as a part of their daily routine.

                                        I'm particularly amazed that people blindly trust their knives to retail sellers, like Crate & Barrel or William & Sonoma. I mean - it's 11 pm - do you have any idea where your knives are? Which ice skate blade was on the 2000 rpm grinder before your Shun took a turn at becoming so hot that it loses its temper? A super-hard, super-thin knife, even a Global, ground on a vertical wheel, would get a useless hollow-ground edge, which would just snap off in pieces, the first time you cut anything harder than warm butter.

                                        So my advice would be, DO sharpen your knives at home. Just take your time to learn to do it right - you'll eventually be better at it than all but a few, very expensive, hand-sharpening services out there. You can search past threads on knife sharpening which have lots of links to web pages with lots of info, including good DVD's which can begin to teach you the process.

                                        1. re: applehome

                                          I made no such assumptions on just ANY knife sharpener...did you read more into my post more than there was in it?

                                          I prefer a professional to do it for me--and there isn't anything wrong w/that; I know the guys @ my knife shop and they always do a great job, sharpening on stone while I wait. (I've even had my itamae-san sharpen my sashimi knives, no charge.) I've been told that some folk sharpen their knives inappropriately and then return to him to fix it. Perhaps you and others are fine doing it yourselves @ home, but I think most people are better off taking it to a pro.

                                          1. re: OCAnn

                                            Your statements include:

                                            "And don't sharpen your knives @ home."

                                            "a knife store a restaurant supply store can do this for you for free"

                                            Did I jump to conclusions?

                                            You say, "I think most people are better off taking it to a pro". Obviously, I think most people are better off learning to do this themselves. It takes time - but its worth the effort. I understand that the general western thought is that we're cooks, not knife sharpeners. But the Japanese thought is more like that cooks have to know their tools - its part of the process.

                                            Every night, after the shop is wiped down and all the ingredients are put up, the chef sits with his stones in a bowl of water, and takes his knives out. He inspects each one carefully, decides what each one will need that night. It is indeed a zen experience - a mindful process of the mindless act of grinding the steel against the stone, covered with water and the loose grit. The joy of taking each knife, when done, and placing the fingers on the edge and the thumb on the back and feeling the sharpness... Do you have to do this to enjoy eating the toro maguro? No - of course not. But if you do, do this, then when you slice that toro piece perfectly, and slide it into your mouth, there is an extra dimension that cannot be appreciated by those who have not done this. When you eat the piece of toro at your favorite izakaya, and you feel the smoothness of the cut sides, there is a degree of appreciation that you have, that you know is unattainable, otherwise.

                                            1. re: applehome

                                              Um...those aren't assumptions, they're perspectives from my own personal experience. This is what CH is here for; for users to share experiences and information. I'm sorry you think that telling someone to go to a professional, reputable knife store to get their knives sharpened is equivalent to "someone that buys a grinding machine and hangs out a shingle that says knives sharpened." I think that's a hyperbole; so yes, you jump to conclusions...and that's not an assumption, it's my opinion. ;)

                                              If you saw this thread www.chowhound.com/topics/491938 you'd realise that not everyone's into "zen experience - a mindful process of the mindless act of grinding the steel against the stone, covered with water and the loose grit."

                                              We can agree to disagree. I prefer that my local knife shop get the zen experience from doing their work. Nothing wrong with people suggesting that others learn to sharpen their own knives, nor with people suggesting to take it elsewhere...or even get it done by an electric machine @ home. Everyone's different.

                                              1. re: OCAnn

                                                Everyone is different indeed - I, for example, have never seen this professional quality shop that hand-sharpens knives for free - never, not even once over the last 55 years. The best shops, with real experienced craftsmen usually charge in the area of $20-25 per knife. (Here is Korin's list of charges: http://www.korin.com/korinServices.php). The ones that charge $5 per knife or do it for free (often out-sourced from a retail shop or restaurant supply store) are using machines. The "free" to you is $2/knife to the store that eats it up and charges enough upcharge per item to overcome it, so you're paying one way or the other. This isn't hyperbole at all - just experience.

                                                What if...

                                                Rather than isolated experiences and a slew of opinions, where everyone is correct, there was actually a learning curve. From the time that one awakens to the need for good cutlery, they are on a path - how far they want to go down that path is entirely up to them - each person decides how much time to spend on any activity while here on earth. But nevertheless, the path exists, and it starts with Ginsu knives from TV, or Ekco knives from supermarkets. Then to Chicago Cultery and Cutco. Next to Sabatier, Wusthoff, Henckels, Victorinox - and then to Global and Shun, and then to the real Japanese swordsmiths - Hattori, Masamoto. The need to sharpen grows from the pre-formed angles on ceramic stick kits, to electric grinders that become truly destructive as your knives get harder and thinner, to finding others to do it for you, then eventuality to the understanding of the value of hand-sharpening with stones.

                                                As with all other paths of learning, it's not a question of people being better or value judgements being made for better or worse, but the understanding that as one travels a path, knowledge accumulates with experience, and that this knowledge can be passed on to those that are willing to learn.

                                                It's one thing to say that I understand that there is more down this path, but this is where I'm willing to go for now. But it's something else to think that using a Chef's Choice electric sharpener on a Cutco is as good as a hand sharpened Global. Or that a machine sharpened Wusthoff by a reputable, professional knife store's free service is as sharp as a Hattori that is honed and sharpened on stones daily, by its owner and sole user, a discerning chef, who knows fully the function of the perfect tool for each job.

                                                I'm just saying - what if...

                                                1. re: applehome

                                                  I sharpen my knives with pride and continually work to be able to do a better job of it. Yes, it is a part of cooking. But if I had someone else to do it as well or better than me at a reasonable price, I might go for it.

                                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                    Even if you miss out on the zen of sharp knives? ;-)

                                                  2. re: applehome

                                                    Ha! I'm going to sharpen my knives at home using Chef's Choice...the best of the three options!

                                            2. re: applehome

                                              Gotta say I disagree. Most people lack the knowledge and the skill to properly shape a knife's edge at home. The abstract knowledge isn't difficult to acquire, but the skills take practice. Given that the edge on a properly-maintained, properly-sharpened knife will last for months or even years with proper maintenance, that practice is the limiting factor.

                                              No, the solution is not to entrust blades blindly to the butcher counter at the local supermarket. But in any metropolitan area, finding a reputable knife sharpener isn't rocket science, either. Somebody who knows and cares about what they're doing will put a better bevel on a blade than 99.99% of all end-users.

                                              And it should cost less than $5, not $20-25 as you indicate below, because the vast majority of knife sharpeners have stepped out of the middle ages and use electric tools to do their jobs. You appear to believe that this is a bad thing, but the fact is that every single knife manufacturer (with the possible exception of a couple of master Japanese swordsmiths, about whom I know nothing) uses grinding wheels and/or belts to shape the edges of their knives at the factory. If the use of a grinding wheel invariably ruins the bevel and/or temper of a blade, then every blade is ruined before the customer ever touches the knife. I don't think so.

                                              Power tools in the hands of an expert can quickly and efficiently produce a bevel identical to the one that was on the knife when it left the factory (or a different bevel, if that's what's desired). Of course, they also allow an incompetent to ruin a blade in a matter of seconds. But that's why you don't entrust your knives to incompetents.

                                              IMHO, proper knife maintenance makes the need for sharpening a very rare occurrence. Find a good knife sharpener and have him (or her) put a fresh edge on your knives once or twice a year. More importantly, buy a good steel, have the person who sharpens your knives show you how to use it, and hone the blade every time you use a knife.

                                              Maybe you have the muscle memory to put an ideal bevel on a blade after not having picked up the whetstone for months. I certainly don't, and doubt that many others do, either. For us, a good sharpening service is the only way to go.

                                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                                Yes- muscle memory is key for the angles - it took me years to develop that, and I'm really just a beginner. The thing about a machine - belt or stone, is that it's so easy, even as an experienced craftsman, to develop a hot spot, and then to grind it out, so that the customer would never know - hopefully the temper of the surrounding steel was not affected and the knife will last as long as it might have before such mis-treatment.

                                                There is a huge difference between the western blades and Japanese ones - not just in composition and angles, but philosophically. Japanese chefs do not use steels. They have numerous blades of particular types - even specialized ones that are only different by small details, made for a type of fish, so that special bones are easy to take out. Typically, a chef has what he needs to last him throughout the day without steeling. The edge on a super-thin, Rc63, blade doesn't roll over in the same way as those on western steel (Solingen, ATS-34., 440 A/B), so steeling doesn't provide the same benefit.

                                                I've said many times before on this site (eg - http://www.chowhound.com/topics/384754), that one shouldn't own an expensive Japanese blade without knowing how to take care of it. Even if you do send it back to the shop for periodic maintenance, (usually major repair after drastic incidents), you need to be able to use the stones to maintain them on a day to day basis.

                                                So even if you accept that - and perhaps agree that the expensive and timestaking Japanese hand-forged, hand-sharpened blades may be the pinnacle of sharpness and knife technique - there's the question of whether it's right for you. For most, a Henckels taken to the guy with the wheel and belt sander once every 6 months is going to be fine. Others will indeed be happy with the Chef's Choice. I did both of those for many years before I developed the ability to take care of my Hattori and Al Mar blades. I get such a high level of satisfaction now, with both the sharpening results and using the blades to cook with, that I would never consider going back, using either of the 2 Chef's Choice models I still have somewhere in the basement, or taking them to a knife shop. That's true even with my Forschner and Wustoff blades.

                                                Ultimately, does anybody get real satisfaction from owning a $2,000 Masamoto, if he steels it and takes to the local sharpener every 6 months?

                                                What gets more confusing, is when you begin to merge traditions. Where do Globals, all of which are hard and thin, but only some of which are single-sided, small angle edges, fit? They offer a ceramic "steel". Is that an optimum usage of this type of blade, or would they be better off, regardless of the US marketing, being maintained in more of the traditional Japanese ways? Well, one answer is that if you've developed the right skills to maintain knives, then it doesn't matter whether it was developed and forged in Japan, Germany, or wherever. You can restore and maintain the edges optimally, to your usage and requirements.

                                                If you own a Ferrari, you don't want to take it to a Chevy mechanic. You want to find the best Ferrari mechanic you possibly can. But if you invest no time whatsoever in understanding what goes into making a great Ferrari mechanic, how do you know one when you meet him? The more you know about your Ferrari or you Hattori, the more you can fix yourself, the better off your tool, your products developed using those tools, and your own psyche and outlook about the whole matter. Of course, it has to be in the right way - I agree that ruining an edge or burning a valve due to improper maintenance is not your ultimate goal - although they may be very expensive intermediate steps.

                                                I'm not saying that everybody in the world should start sharpening their knives, nor adjusting their valves. But having done both regularly for many years, I can say that the level of skill and understanding that one eventually develops is worth the effort. No different than eating out all the time vs. learning to cook.

                                                I objected to someone saying to everybody else, "And don't sharpen your knives @ home". That's no different than, "and don't try to cook at home." We're not all going to be great cooks or great knife sharpeners, but for some it will be worth the effort to develop the skills.

                                                1. re: applehome

                                                  "I objected to someone saying to everybody else, 'And don't sharpen your knives @ home.' That's no different than, 'and don't try to cook at home.'"

                                                  That's comparing apples and oranges. Cooking is a DAILY event FOR MOST PEOPLE; whereas sharpening knives at home is not.

                                                  "I'm not saying that everybody in the world should start sharpening their knives...." Then the only option is to take them out to a professional.

                                                  Get over it; others have different opinions...neither right or wrong. Go ahead and object to having knives taken out but don't be so ugly and vehement about it. Jeez.

                                                  1. re: JackDunkin

                                                    Are you clear on the difference between steeling a knife and sharpening a knife? A good kicthen knife costs over a hundred dllars, sometimes over two. You think people who may not know the difference between steeling a knife and "sharpening" a knife should just be left to their own devices and at risk of ruining the knife?

                                                    And no. Don't sharpen your own knives at home and don't cook at home are very different things. Very different.

                                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                                      I think you meant to reply to applehome, who went on the rampage when someone else suggested taking their knives to professionals.

                                                      The OP, a home cook, came here seeking opinions about knives. That suggests that he could probably use outside help on getting their knives sharpened as well. OCAnn was correct to recommend that he have his knives professionally done.

                                                      1. re: JackDunkin

                                                        You're absolutely right. I WAS replying to applehome. I don't know if there's something missing in my computer's communication signals with Chow, or if there's something strange going on with the boards, but when I post, my posting rarely (if ever) indicates who I'm responding to, and will often misalign itself with other posts.

                                                        Hey, Chow People, anyone know what's going on?

                                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                                          You have to click on "reply" in the post to which you are responding. Once you post your reply and reload, it will show to whom you have replied in the upper right of your post - in this one it should say re: Caroline1.

                                                          1. re: The Chowhound Team

                                                            re: Chowhound Team

                                                            Yeah, well, Chowhound Team, I DO thank you for the response, but for me it doesn't work! I ALWAYS click on "Reply." And it RARELY shows who I'm responding to. Can't figure out why. So I guess I'll just start typing in the response line myself. Better redundant than a puzzle.

                                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                                              It won't show up unfortunately until after you have posted, though the reply box should show up immediately below the post to which you are responding. If you continue to have this problem, please post about it on the Technical Help board.

                                                              1. re: The Chowhound Team

                                                                LOL! My last response to you is the first time it's worked in days! Maybe talking about it shamed it into working? '-) Thanks!

                                                  2. re: applehome

                                                    In most kitchens a knife's job is to cut things, and every one of mine will cleanly take the hair off my forearm. That's all most people want (except maybe for the cook to remember to rinse the forearm hair off the knife before cutting food with it).

                                                    I can understand and appreciate that some folks take a more philosophical approach to cutlery. And the tradition of Japanese blades is fascinating. But ultimately most people are pragmatists; German knives and German sports cars deliver plenty of performance without the fuss or hassle inherent with Masamotos or Ferraris.

                                                    1. re: alanbarnes

                                                      Well - let's not get into the maintenance issues of BMW straight-6's or Audi anythings... Porsche's are admittedly very reliable, and they are somewhat cheaper to maintain than Ferrari's. Of course, if you want something really reliable, buy Japanese. But that's got nothing at all to do with knives.

                                                      Try this one thing. Instead of using forearm hair or newspapers to test sharpness, use your fingers. Try putting your thumb on the back, and three fingers on the edge - you need at least three to spread the friction and to increase your sensitivity. Don't so much slide the knife back and forth, as just try to move your fingers back and forth to feel the pressure. A really sharp knife will grab, while a less sharp knife will slide. It takes some time to adjust the pressure so that your fingers are a consistent and good gauge - but you will gain a direct and personal understanding of true sharpness.

                                                      Japanese aren't the only ones stuck in the "middle ages". There is a significant American bladesmithing tradition outside of kitchen cutlery, and hand-made folders, hunting knives, and utility knives go for hundreds of dollars. They are eagerly sought after by collectors who don't own a Chef's Choice, and do not send their knives out for sharpening by the local $5 machine sharpener. They do argue about the types of stones to use, whether wet or dry is best, whether stropping is worth it - or rather what stropping is good for, etc.

                                                      Let me summarize my position. This is not about my telling people not to send their knives out. It's about saying that there is a whole level of appreciation for sharpness that goes beyond German cutlery and even professional machine sharpening. It is about my telling those that tell others to send their knives out, that there is more to it than that.

                                                      There is a true joy to the simplest thing - even the dicing of an onion - with a fantastically sharp blade. If you're considering that it may be worth trying such a blade (as the OP is), then it's definitely worth considering the satisfaction that comes with learning how to sharpen that wonderful blade yourself. And if you decide that it's not for you then at least do yourself the favor of sending or bringing in your Japanese blade to the people who charge $25 for a true hand-sharpening job, rather than seeking out even the most trusted $5 professional who uses a machine.

                                                      1. re: applehome

                                                        You keep coming back to the Japanese blade thing. Nothing against them, but you have to admit that the best of the bunch are highly specialized and maintenance-intensive.

                                                        The modern American bladesmithing tradition is a great thing (a Ken Onion lives in my front pocket), but most of the knives being produced by the current generation of American cutlers are far less fussy than those found behind your typical sushi counter. Not superior, not inferior, but different.

                                                        The sharpest double-ground European blade will never have as good an edge as the sharpest Japanese chisel-ground knife. But the sharpest chisel grind can't compare to a properly hollow-ground straight razor for sharpness. So why don't people dice onions with straight razors? It might be a religious experience, but it isn't practical.

                                                        A kitchen knife is a compromise. The hardest materials (obsidian, ceramic) can approach a molecular edge but are brittle; softer materials are more easily shaped but more easily dulled; steep-beveled edges are sharper, but broad-beveled edges are more durable.

                                                        If all you're going to do is slice raw fish, a Japanese blade is pretty close to the ultimate tool (although, if you want to be a real purist, you're going to need a full set, including the 6-foot-long oroshi hocho for fileting tuna). If you need to cut through poultry joints, though, a Chinese cleaver might your best bet. And for chopping through beef bones, a European meat axe is really what you need.

                                                        But the OP was looking for a single knife. Neither an axe nor a striaght razor answers the call. Traditional Japanese blades and 25-degree cleavers are outliers. A Global chef's knife MIGHT fall within the reasonable range, but IMHO that's pushing it. Most folks are going to be happiest with a Henckels / Wusthof / Sabatier chef's knife.

                                                        You apparently find that using a $2k Japanese blade brings you joy. By all means either maintain it yourself or cough up $25 for a traditional swordsmith to sharpen it. But for those of us who use ~$100 European knives, that's serious overkill.

                                                        Sure, there's always a risk that even a good sharpener will overheat a blade and reduce its useful life. But IMHO that risk is minimal with European steel. And given the incremental cost of having knives hand-sharpened, it's not an unreasonable risk to take.

                                                        1. re: alanbarnes

                                                          100% agreement (virtually).

                                                          Every person seeks his own level of joy and competence in any activity they pursue - it's just foolish to assume that you have an answer for everybody, or even to assume that you have the best answer for most. Do a search - I have a record of saying exactly what you have for over 5 years on this site - nearly every time that sharpening has come up, for the target audience that includes the Solingen steel and 440A/B/C, western blade crowd. I encourage steeling, I discourage the use of ceramic and diamond rod kits, and I further encourage periodic sharpening by a professional.

                                                          What I do try to make sure of, is that the picture is complete. It's true, that I no longer go wild on a "Cutco is a great knife" thread - there are lost causes, after all - but when a person queries about a Hattori, he has generally done some level of research and it's worth telling him that there's more to it than the old workhorse refrain, "And don't sharpen your knives @ home".

                                                          Five years ago, when I got my first Japanese blades, I started using Japanese whetstones. I am not the world's most coordinated or agile person - it has taken a while to get good enough. But I eventually got good enough to abandon the Chef's Choice professional, and even the sharpening service at the local Chesapeake Knife Company chain - although I did find an individual kindred spirit there that hand-sharpens, and in fact gave me excellent pointers - his sharpening abilities kept me going on the Hattori until I got good enough on my own. So I say that there's a chance that others may enjoy this activity. Why restrict their vision of what having a sharp knife is all about by inferring that the only real way to keep a knife sharp is to bring it to a machine sharpening professional?

                                                          1. re: applehome

                                                            Well, your input got me thinking. Over the last couple of months I decided to figure out a way to sharpen my own knives properly. Freehand wasn't cutting it, but I found this:

                                                            http://edgeproinc.com/

                                                            There's a table that you lay the knife on, a vertical rod that allows you to select the bevel angle, and a moving arm that holds a water stone as you move it back and forth across the blade. The bevel angle is adjustable from 10 to 30+ degrees, with marks at 10, 15, 18, 21, and 24.

                                                            It came today, and within an hour I was able to put a mirror-bright razor edge on my pocket knife. The kitchen knives didn't get quite the same level of attention, but they'll all remove hair from my forearm now.

                                                            Anyhow, for those who are unwilling, unable, or simply too impatient to develop the skill to sharpen freehand, this gadget allows a complete knucklehead to produce a professional edge. With a little practice, ...

                                                            1. re: alanbarnes

                                                              Wow!

                                                              This looks great. I'm saving my pennies. I can imagine that a pro would really want to get the pro model to offer hand-sharpening services. My problem is that since you hold the handle with one hand, and each handle is different, you have to learn the feel of each and every knife. Over the last several years, I've learned all of mine, even my collection of folders (mostly Spydercos, where many feel the same), but given a totally foreign knife, it would take some time to get a feel. A unit like this would allow you to get beyond that learning curve quickly.

                                                              1. re: applehome

                                                                The guy that invented the thing is a professional hand-sharpener in Hood River, OR. You see the rig and have one of those "why didn't I think of that" moments.

                                                                Sharpening knives with different handles is definitely easy, since all you need to do is keep the blade flat on the blade table. But the flip side of that is that a blade that's convex or has two flat surfaces may have trouble laying flat; sharpening freehand, this isn't an issue.

                                                                All in all, it was the right solution for me. The price wasn't cheap, but it's well-made, and given that I had over a dozen knives that needed to be sharpened, it has half paid for itself already.

                                                              2. re: alanbarnes

                                                                I've seen that before, but I still can't get over the $150 price.

                                                                1. re: sobriquet

                                                                  I've been using mine for over a year now. Absolutely no buyers remorse. Worth every penny. Good stones are not cheap if you decide to go freehand and you can spend more than the cost of an EdgePro Apex on a couple of whetstones. Also look at it this way. Knives are not cheap and this device will help you keep those knives in great shape at the price of one mid priced Japanese chef knife. For me it was a no brainer. Knives are an investment and will last you a life time. The price of this system is pennies a day over just a few years. For most of us, finding good professional knife sharpeners is not easy and to send your knives off and wait for their return is not practical. At the spur of the moment you can give your favorite knife a razor edge that will energize your thrill and love of cooking.

                                                                  1. re: sobriquet

                                                                    I have an Apex too and love it. I'm definitely still learning how to get the best results, but getting the angle right is a huge step up over freehand.

                                                                    1. re: sobriquet

                                                                      I use a somewhat cheaper but also somewhat inferior device. I bought it at one of my favourite stores here in Canada but they ship to the US as well. Not bad for $12. http://www.leevalley.com/wood/page.as...

                                                                      1. re: Alacrity59

                                                                        i'm very tempted to get this. do you have any advice with regards to its inferiorities and best methods?

                                                  3. I have a forty eight(?) year old Sabatier ten inch chef's knife, and would use it to carve up anyone who tried to take it away from me! I also have to add that I have never used a santoku, and have never felt a need to.

                                                    Logically, when dicing or making a chiffonade of lettuce or anything else, it is the long blade against the cutting board combined with the curve of the blade that makes the slicing and dicing so comfortable and easy. I just don't see the same potential in the shape of a santoku blade.

                                                    If my knife block wasn't already full, I would probably buy a santoku, but I have no interest in buying a new knife AND a new knife block! I know. Picky, picky, picky. I'm hopeless.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                                      My mainstay is a 7" Sabatier of about the same age. Old enough that the wood handle is a bit shrunken and grey. I like Sabatiers over heavier Germans because of their speed--but the same holds true for santokus and vegetables.

                                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                        I have promised myself my next knife investment will be a good bread knife. I can't believe I bake as much bread as I do and don't have a bread knife! I don't even have a serrated knife! <tsk><tsk><tsk> Shame on me!

                                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                                          I think that you would be happy with an inexpensive bread knife from a restauant supply store. 'I've seen restauarant chefs using them for everything including cutting lettuce.

                                                    2. Well I love to chop. I make coleslaw all the time so I can chop cabbage. I have an 8" shun my daughter bought me as a gift. I use it everyday. I also have a ceramic 6" I use all the time. I don't get the santoku. Its awkward for me. I can peel a grape or carve a turkey with my shun, so I would say Japanese is the way to go.

                                                      1. My everyday favorite is my Wusthoff 8 inch chef - had it over 20 years and it is like an extension of my hand. Hold one at a knife shop and see how it feels. Good luck~

                                                        1. Have you used a Santoku? If not, buy a very cheap one to see if you even like the shape before investing in an expensive one. I have one that came as part of my knife set that I hardly ever use. The lack of a belly on the knife makes it very difficult to rock the blade for high speed work. It also makes it far less useful for things like carving meat (which you mentioned).

                                                          You need to try the knives out in your own hands. I know people that swear by Global, but for a 6' 1" male like myself with giant hands, the Globals aren't an option - the handles are just too small.

                                                          You need to try out MAC, Shun, Misono UX10, and Global. If I were buying a new knife knowing what I know now, I'd go for Japanese steel rather than German. I have forged high carbon stainless German knives, but will soon be investing in a Japanese 10" chef's knife. I need to go find something that has the heft of my German knives but with that harder Japanese steel.

                                                          Also seriously consider whether you want a chisel ground edge or a symmetrical European design. If you're going to be using it for boneless meats and veg, the sharp chisel edge might be perfect, but if you're really going to use it on carving with bones, a stronger (yet less sharp) symmetrical grind might be the way to go.

                                                          Do some research on metal properties and the importance of checking Rockwell hardness ratings. Think about what edge you really want to have (not what sounds exotic). Most importantly, make sure it's comfortable to you.

                                                          7 Replies
                                                          1. re: sobriquet

                                                            Things to concider when choosing the ultimate kitchen knive for you.look for comfort. How well does it fit your hand and how ergonomic is the curvature of the blade in relation to how you intend to use it. Steel, Most people have no idea what to look for in a blade steel. Do you want a high maintenance knife or do you want a low maintenance knife ? What benefit do you get from a carbon steel knife as opposed to stainless? Do you want a softer steel so you can sharpen it easier ?Or do you want a knife that will hold it's edge for as long as possable with minimal sharpening required? How much are you willing to spend ? Super steels are not cheap and although you can't see the difference between a super steel and a mediocre steel.You will definately feel the difference. How well is this knife ground ? Geometry is just as important as the steel choice and sharpness. If the cross section of your knife is to thick just behind the edge bevels reguardless of how sharp it is, you will have to deal with drag/friction.
                                                            I also need to point out that steel technology has come a long way in the last decade. The new powdered metal alloys are breaking all the rules.Stainless steels are not inferior to carbon steels in terms of edge retention or sharpenability. Quite the opposite.
                                                            If you are planning on chopping chicken bones Maybe an ultra thin knife isn't the best choice for you however if you are looking at your knife as a precision cutting impliment and want it to perform with grace and ease on everything but hacking bones . Well then maybe a nice thin ,well balanced, ergonomic,super steel kitchen knife is the answer. Another point to concider is that since the introduction of these super steels and if you decide one is right for you . You may need to reconcider your sharpening steel . Most of these super steels like SG-2, ZDP-189, are much harder than any standard sharpening steel and as such they will do little to nothing in honing your knife . You may want to concider either a ceramic crock or a very fine 1000-1500 grit diamond steel preferably oval in shape and or the best choice is a well made Japanese water stone.

                                                            1. re: Ken Onion

                                                              Post a simple question, get advice from one of the top knifemakers in the world. Wow, I love this board!!!

                                                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                Ain't it the truth.

                                                              2. re: Ken Onion

                                                                Thanks for your very informative post. If you have the time, can you elaborate on the steeling issue? The accepted train of thought seems to be that steeling is honing as vs. actual sharpening, and that you are straightening the edge, rather than taking any metal away. If you use a harder material (ceramic or diamond), are you entering the realm of removing metal, or at least, polishing it. Does that matter, in terms of the goal of maintaining your edge?

                                                                Thanks again - I hope you keep posting on chowhound, it's a real pleasure to have your expertise available to all of us.

                                                                1. re: applehome

                                                                  applehome, sorry for my delayed response .
                                                                  If we look at the origin of the honing /sharpening steel it is easy to see that they were used by butchers and were practical and easy for a butcher to quickly get an edge on his knife without cleaning it and without down time . These butchers knives were deliberatly made relatively soft,cheap and wore out quickly. sharpening steels were idealy suited for maintaning an edge on this sort of knife. Fast forward to todays kitchen knives and todays powdered metal alloys,Nitrogen alloys and high vanadim content alloys. The focus for the profesional and household kitchen knives is to make knives that are super wear resistant and have great edge holding abilities . Most of the higher end knives today are harder,tougher and more wear resistant than the honing steels that are available to hone these knives. This bieng the case ,how is it possable for a honing steel to hone a kitchen knife that is harder,tougher and more wear resistant than the hone? Answer It isnt, you have to upgrade your hone as you upgrade your knives. One medium has to dominate the other which is why I recommend a very fine ceramic or a very fine diamond. You will do little to realign your cutting edge on a super alloyed knife with a steel. Going with ceramic or diamond will help keep your edge crisp in between sharpening with very minimal steel removal . Realistically you should rarely have to hone a knife made with these super alloys and should only touch up when you feel it is loosing it's cutting ability. I hope this answers your question?
                                                                  Thanks for the welcome!!

                                                                2. re: Ken Onion

                                                                  I thought that you want a harder steel so that it'll take a steeper edge? Is this why professional chefs love the Misono UX10? It's actually softer than a lot of the other Japanese premium knives. Because it's easier to sharpen?

                                                                  Do you have any favorites from the non-custom world, Ken?

                                                                  [edit: I just found this. http://www.surlatable.com/gs/shun-eli...

                                                                  ]

                                                                  I wonder what the performance difference is between Shun and Shun Elite? Alton Brown sticks with the Shun Classic. I wonder why...? I doubt he paid for the knives.

                                                                  1. re: sobriquet

                                                                    sobriquet, Harder , tougher ,more wear resistant steels are important for edge retention. Having a knife that is ground nice and thin so as to reduce drag/friction is very important. Super alloys allow for a finer /thinner ground blade and still maintain the ridgidity and toughness. Misono are great examples of a well made well thought out knife. They are ground nice and thin and use great steel. With any kitchen knife (except the cleaver)I recomend a sharpening angle of 18-22 degree combine angle for the best performance .

                                                                    The difference B/T Shun and Shun Elite are quite dramatic . Shun knives are VG-10 steel which is a great alloy . Very fine grain and a great overall choice for the kitchen . Shun Elite however utilize Supergold 2 steel which is a powdered metal nitrogen rich alloy which has a working Rc 64-67 Usually to hard for most alloys to handle without becoming brittle . By purging the chamber with nitrogen while making the metal powders this process helps transfer chromium carbides into ceramic carbides which are much harder than chromium carbides giving this alloy enhanced working hardness and unbelievable edge retention. Though not a steel meant to abuse it is the best there is in my opinion for super keen edge retention and lasting sharpness. My personal favorite choice for a precision cutting impliment.

                                                              3. a big chefs knife(German) hands down. imho

                                                                1. I have 11 Global knives, although I've now replaced three of them with Hattori - HD-1, HD-3 and HD-5, and I also have a Hattori KD-31 for *very* special occasions. I'd say that a HD-5 Santoku or the HD-7 Gyuto would be ideal as an 'only' knife, with the rounded belly of the gyuto (like a chef's knife) being more suited to the Western chopping style. The damascus construction of the Hattoris is *not* merely cosmetic, it allows a very hard steel cutting blade to be ideally supported by tougher steel either side, giving a razor-sharp, thin yet rigid blade which holds its edge longer than any Global.

                                                                  1. After trying heavy German knives and arsenals of specialized weapons for years I almost always go to my 35 year old Sabatier carbon steel 10" chef's knife. It is incredibly easy to hone, but the real trick is that French style knives are lighter, trimmmer, and more nimble than most others. I can use the 10" chef's tip to core a tomato or trim a courgette. It can also wade through a brisket getting cubed to make chili or slice a roast paper thin. It does it all well. When I am looking for a small knife Sabatier Nogent paring knives are awesome. The are narrower and more pointed than most paring knives. The longer ones (3" - 4") are flexible enough for boning.

                                                                    1. FWIW, I believe Korin is running a santoku sale currently.

                                                                      1. First, you are not going to find a knife that does EVERYTHING - but a good chef's knife will do MOST things. Think about how much work you do with small fruits and veggies, cleaving meat, boning, carving.. you might need a special purpose knife or two.

                                                                        Second, knives are personal things - the heft, how the grip feels, how the motion on the cutting board feels to you - you have to try them out...bring a cutting board and some cheap veggies to the store..

                                                                        Third, to your question.. santoku's originally were thinner metal - meant for cutting softer things, so be careful if you want something that can go through hard stuff. As of late, they seem to be the knife industries excuse to sell you something new. I suppose it is just a matter of taste. I don't think you could justify buying both a good chef's knife and a good santoku - they'd be too redundant.

                                                                        1. Bob Kramer 10" chefs knife micarta handle

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: 27dogs

                                                                            For me the one knife would be a Chinese cleaver. Others might pick a chef's knife. I like Global knives.

                                                                            here's a forum just about kitchen knives:

                                                                            http://knifeforums.com/forums/showfor...

                                                                            and here's another one:

                                                                            http://www.foodieforums.com/vbulletin...

                                                                          2. Follow the tao of the KAI PureKamachi Chef's knife. Under $20. It's pink! If wielding a pink knife doesn't demonstrate your Zen selflessness, nothing will.

                                                                            1. i prefer a santoku to a chef's for almost every occassion. your slicing motion is slightly different, but i like the way it works with my arm and doesn't abuse my wrist. neither knife is appropriate for slicing a turkey however, though you could cut one into pieces easier with a chef's knif (i.e., cutting the breast off the bone before slicing). though for that, and many other things, i prefer a very flexible, very sharp fish filleting knife. and NOT a wusthof or henkel, i mean one of the plastic handled ones you can only find in a fish market. the other ones don't have enough bend and aren't long enough.

                                                                              most importantly, you should definitely try out each knife before settling. each hand is different and each person's cooking needs are different. for example, i don't have a hard time physically using a 6" chef's, but i only use it for certain things since it isn't very versatile. i tend to use an 8" when i need a chef's knife. my bf only uses the 8" or our 7" santoku because his bigger hand needs a bigger knife (though he could probably cope very well with the next size up santoku). good luck!

                                                                              1. One? What one knife can filet a fish, slice bread, carve roast beef, debone a chicken, mince garlic, and spatchcock a chicken? Answer: A Chinese cleaver in the hands of someone who knows how to use it. As for western knives, a utility knife of 5 to 6 inches can do most tasks well, but who would want to get by with just one knife? For under a hundred bucks a restaurant supply store can yield 3 very good knives.

                                                                                1. Find a good Sabatier 10"-12" Chefs knife. It will last you forever. If you have to have a Japanese knife, go for a good quality "Petty" knife or utility knife. I have a larger sized Honesuki which is wicked sharp and one i do not recommend for home cooks. I use mine for boning chickens and cutting meat. They need great care and if not careful you will be bleeding and not know it for awhile, yes that sharp. You will need a very high quality paring knife and as a Chef I cannot live without a really good cimiter butchering knife. You can always use a good serrated bread knife, but the Chefs knife is king and will suffice. I have 5 of them at home, some cheap some expensive. I use what feels right at any given moment. Happy to answer any questions you may have.
                                                                                  Chef!

                                                                                  1. 1 CHF's worth of opinion.

                                                                                    One knife only makes prep work in a kitchen difficult.

                                                                                    We've collected a number of knives ( probably too many ) over the years including a set of Global knives in a Global block. Today they get locked up at night.

                                                                                    I use Global half of the time, and while they are good, different tasks like pairing vegetables would be a absolute pain with a Global Chef's knife only.

                                                                                    My wife conversely prefers a mix of Wüsthof Classic white, and forged Rösle. But one knife only ? No way.

                                                                                    Perhaps to start a collection, then yes, a good knife to start with.