Should I get rid of these knives?
- DanaB Jul 31, 2008 01:53 AM
I know there have been a lot of knife discussions lately, and I've read all of them.
My question is, I've never been happy with my knife set -- Wusthof Trident Classic, made in Solingen, Germany, bought about 15 years ago. I have the 9 knife set, with all the standard knives (10 inch chef's, 8 inch chef's, paring, carving, bread (large and small, I think they call the small the sandwhich knife), cleaver, and another smaller one, plus a steel). My problem has been that I have never been able to keep them sharp. I've had them professionally sharpened (in Los Angeles at Ross Cutlery), and have honed them regularly, and when they still got dull quickly after being professionally sharpened, I bought a Chef's Choice, which works but I feel like I have to use it all the time, which I know can't be good for the knives. For background, I don't use them for professional cooking, just an avid home cook, and always use them on a wood or bamboo cutting board, and always handwash them (never put in the dishwasher).
Just how dissatistifed I was with the knives became clear to me a couple of weeks ago, when I was cooking with a friend at her house, and she had these lovely SHARP knives. My chef's knives, in particular, just weren't even close to that sharp. Her knives were Globals, and I'm not really in the market to go there $$-wise, but, even though my knives were expensive and are still in very good shape, I've been thinking about ditching the whole set and buying some of those R H. Forschner knives you all have recommended in other threads. Am I being silly? Are they just not that great of knives, despite the sticker price (I paid around $250 for the set 15 years ago, and an equivalent set sells for like $400 now)? Am I not taking care of them properly? Could the wood block I store them in be dulling them? Is there a way to get these knives to hold a sharp edge for longer than a month or two after they've been professionally sharpened?
Any and all help would be appreciated!
Chad Ward's book is a really good guide. The basic problem is that the steel isn't as hardened on the Wusthof's as in many Japanese knives. Makes for an edge that's harder to chip, but it doesn't get as sharp or stay sharp as long as a result.
You probably don't need the same set of knives to get by. Esp. since buying the block full of better knives is going to cost a boatload.
If the savings is worth moving quickly, Tojiro DP's are on sale at Korin through today. They are a great value knife. If the steel you're using has big ridges on it, look into getting a smooth steel or a ceramic one (Idahone is the brand I know). It'll do less damage to the edge- work on your technique, too.
FWIW, I have mostly Wusthof's, too. I've picked up a few Japanese knives now, and I'm tempted to get rid of the rest and replace them also. The MAC SB105 bread knife/slicer is definitely the cheapest/coolest of the lot- got it via Amazon.
You know, after I had my knives sharpened, I was told that I was whacking them on the cutting board with each cut, and that was partly why I was dulling them. Of course, I wasn't actually whacking them, but I tend to cut things like carrots, and the chef knife works sort of in a wedgelike manner there, so I'm slicing, but then suddenly the wedge effect sets in and the knife splits through and hits the board with a tap or thump. After that, it became clear that my chef knife is duller right where it tends to go thump.
I have arthritis, so I can't really improve my knife skills. Instead they are slowly evaporating. But you might be able to slice more, rather than thunk through food. Also, now I have a different angle of edge on one of my knives. It is so much sharper that way. The thunk-type of effect might change if I didn't usually use a chef knife. That has a rather thick blade. A thinner blade also might continue slicing the carrot, and not have a tendency to split it part way through the cut. One of those trendy Japanese knives is thinner...
I have plastic boards, though. Maybe my thunking wouldn't be a problem on a wood board. But I use a dishwasher to clean everything I can, as it is easier.
You could replace your whole set with 3 knives, a good 8-10" chefs, the MAC slicer/bread knife recommended below and a smaller 3-5" utility knife. I have not used the Tojiro DP but it get s great reviews everywhere on blade quality, fit & finish is sometimes noted a problematic but price for quality they are often noted as the best deal. Take a look here
Dana, there's some excellent advice here, which brings to mind a couple of thoughts. What sort of cutting board are you using and what are you using to steel your knives with? Wooden cutting boards are usually considered best for keeping a knife sharp, and unlike steel rods, ceramic rods don't take as much out of your blade, which is particularly important with knives made of softer steel. Having said that, I have a couple wusthoffs, henckels and an solingen that seem to stay reasonably sharp, though not as sharp as my shun or mac (both japanese). Your technique might also affect the blade, depending on how hard you come down on the board, particularly if your board doesnt have much give to it. If you do feel you need to upgrade, I would recommend starting with a good chef's knife, a paring knife and a slicer, no need to get a whole set. Forschners are a good, economical way to go, or you can look at some of the Japanese knives recommended.
I'd see if you could make your wusthoffs work first, though, they're not bad knives.
I own and use both Japanese stainless, carbon and German stainless. The German may not hold the edge as well but I keep my edges very sharp and if you are serious about your edges, get rid of the Chef's Choice sharpener and learn to sharpen them yourself. It's not hard, does not have to cost a bundle unless you get additcted to buying many stones as some can be costly. I don't have to do much more than run them down a ceramic steel every once in a while and when that doesn't go it give them a brief sharpening with the stones. I see no reason you need to give the knives away since I really don't believe they are the problem
I wouldn't give up on the knives just yet. How sure are you that your professional sharpener is really sharpening your knives correctly ? I've seen some abysmal jobs done by so called pros. Truly the best way to get a knife sharpened is to do it yourself, but if that's not in the cards, ask the chefs at a few of the better eateries you frequent who they use. You might see a pattern and get a couple of names to try out. When you get your knives sharpened think about taking the sharpener one knife and have the sharpener change the angle of the bevel to more Japanese angles, in the 15 to 16 degree range. My Japanese knives stay sharper longer. I use a Chefs Choice 100 and I've had good luck with it, but it's limited in the angle it sharpens to. That could be part of your problem. If your pro isn't using the same angles as the Chefs Choice does, when you run your knife through the machine you are actually dulling the knife rather than enhancing the edge.
Hopefully Santa will bring me the Edgepro Pro sharpener that's on the top of my list.
I agree with your sentiments, but I also have to wonder if Dana has a steel and is properly using it before she starts a cooking session. Even the best knife sharpened by a professional will become a useless club if the edge is not maintained by steeling on a regular basis. I have a twin abrasive F-Dick steel that is used daily to keep my knives very sharp, and it is not a difficult technique to learn or requires more then 30 seconds.
I doubt the wood block is a problem, unless you grind the blade into the bottom of the slot as they are removed and replaced. I would spend the money to have your favorite chefs knife sharpened, and then ask the technician to demonstrate the correct usage of a steel when you pick your blade up. If that doesn't solve the problem, you will only be out a few dollars and the steeling lesson will be applicable to any knife that you choose to buy. If you explain that you like the edge of the Globals, he can approximate their edge on your current blade.
I love my Forschner knives but I doubt they ill be what you are looking for if you don't like the sharpness of your Wusthofs.
Man - I have had a set of Wusthoff's for over 20 years and they have to be the best knives I've used yet in terms of overall quality. "professional" sharpening means squat. Find a chef you trust and have him/her sharpen your knives or take them to a good knife shop and have them show you how to sharpen with a good diamond rod or stone. NOT a handheld "sharpener" To think the Soligen steel of the Trident is inferior in any way to any other knife is just silly. At worst they'll need to be reground but then they'll take and keep an edge for years. Good luck.
Your knives can be every bit as sharp as your friend's Globals. What they won't do is STAY as sharp as the Globals, because the steel is softer. But that's not necessarily a bad thing; that hard Japanese steel is more susceptible to chipping, and is much more difficult to sharpen once it loses its edge.
I use German knives, and try to steel each of them using a smooth (nonabrasive) steel every time I use it. This doesn't remove any material, it simply realigns the edge. After a while it becomes second nature--pick the knife up, give it a couple of swipes on the steel, start cutting. If performance starts to lag during a big job, repeat as necessary. If steeling does not immediately produce a razor-sharp edge, it's time to resharpen.
As for resharpening, you're far better off if you can do it yourself. I have a Chef's Choice, but it does a terrible job. So I spent $5/blade for a "professional" to do it, and it was better, but still not what I wanted. So I tried to sharpen one of my knives freehand and failed miserably.
Frustration led to Internet research, which led to finding the EdgePro sharpener. It has a table to rest the knife on and a guided rod that holds Japanese waterstones at precisely the desired to the blade. Here's a video: http://edgeproinc.com/sharpeningtips....
At $150 for the most basic setup the EdgePro isn't cheap, but it's no more expensive than a couple of Global knives, and a lot less than a full set of Wusthofs. And unlike the Chef's Choice, it sharpens the blade correctly, and allows you to choose the bevel angle. Which is why quite a few professional hand-sharpeners use it.
So in answer to your question, unless your knives are defective, don't get rid of them. In the absence of proper maintenance you'll be just as unhappy with your new knives after a while. Learn to take care of your knives and they'll take care of you. Then you can decide whether you really need something more exotic.
Thanks for all the comments! Here's an update.
First off, it was interesting to learn that the basic problem was that the steel in the German knives isn't as hardened as the Japanese, which if I'm understanding correctly, makes them sturdier/more durable, but more difficult to keep a sharp edge on.
The reason I listed the name of the place where I've gotten my knives sharpened, is because it's one of the few places in Los Angeles that has been recommended on these boards as being a *good* place to get knives sharpened. If that's not good enough assurance that I'm getting them sharpened at a place that's qualified to do it right, I'm not really sure what else I can do except for learn to do it myself.
As I noted in my first post, I do use a steel and hone them regularly (not necessarily before every single use, but definitely on a weekly or more frequent basis, and always before any big cutting job).
I'm not really in the market right not to replace them with expensive knives right now, nor am I in the position to invest in sharpening steels and learn how to sharpen them myself (I'm off to graduate school in about a week!) In the interim, I am going to buy a few of the Forschner knives to see me through school and put the Wusthofs in storage. If I love the Forschners, I'll probably get rid of the Wusthofs and, in a few years, when I have an income again, I'll invest in some nicer Japanese knives. If I end up with similar sharpness problems with the Forschners, I'll know its ME and not the knives, and will have to take other action, such as learn to sharpen them myself and maybe take a knife skills class. I just feel like it shouldn't have to be so difficult or such a time/expense issue to keep a sharp knife around the house!
Thanks for all the feedback and suggestions!
Perhaps I use knives differently then you do, but I keep all my knives sharp enough to pass the paper test without ever taking them to a professional sharpener. Virtually every time I use them, I first hone them 10-12 times on the ceramic rodes on an inexpensive Wusfhof sharpener I've read good reports on the inexpensive AccuSharp, though, so I have one coming in the mail.