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Dec 23, 2008 09:15 AM

In need of knife advice

I am in the process of upgrading my knives a couple years ago I purchased some Henkles that I have never really been happy with. On a recent trip to Williams Sonoma I was talking to the manager and in conversation mentioned this while shopping she told me that if there was any other knives in the store she could go ahead and return the ones I bought there TWO YEARS AGO!!!

I went straight home grabed my knives and went back into the store. I first looked at the Shun classics but being that I am left handed and have would like something others can comfortable use if need ( Very few trusted others ) then I moved onto the Shun Kaji which I really liked the feel and look of.

I went through and picked out the knives I wanted and they are as follows.

8" Chef
9" Slicer
9" Bread ( it was free through a promotion )
5.5 " boning knife
3.5 in paring knife

Which in my mind covers my basics.. However after getting everything home and reading online I noticed they also have a 10" chefs knife availible that I didnt know about. I have never owned a 10" chef now I am wondering if I should trade my Chef and boning knife out for a 10" chef knife and 7" santoku.

Please if anyone has any advice I would greatly appreciate it...!! I need to make my decision by tomarrow as it is the end of there 20% off Friends and family discount I am fighting the urge to use these knives until i make up my mind...

Thank you for any help you may be

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  1. You know, I think only you can answer this question for yourself. You're basically asking if you should trade out the boning knife for a santoku plus or minus a larger chef's. The boning knife will obviously excel at breaking down primal cuts of meat or whole birds and fish. If you do this at least weekly, I'd stick with the boning knife hands down. The santoku is often preferred for prepping vegetables but is a bit more challenging to use with herbs (which is why you'd use your chef's knife for this).

    Frankly, my own biased opinion is that the santoku and chef's knife are redundant, but the boning knife offers something that those two cannot. I would argue that you should have a chef OR santoku, AND a boning knife in addition to that one.

    As for 10 versus 8 inches,you've just gotta try it for yourself. No online advice will tell you how the knife feels in your hand or on your cutting board.

    After considering what is practical to have - and my humble opinion is above, take from it what you wish - you naturally have to consider what is practical to own, price wise.

    I think you've done well in selecting only useful knives, which is great. But you probably don't have money to burn, so you can priortize a bit based on your cooking style. A nice 9 to 12" slicer is great to have, but I use mine maybe 5 times per year. I bought a cheapo Forschner which gives me 90% of the Shun at 15% of the price. Ditto my boning knife; I use it at least weekly, but it's a working knife that will encounter bone and gristle and occassionaly bash into my board if I'm not careful, and ultra hard and brittle Japanese steel does not inspire confidence in this regard, so I bought Forschner. As for the bread knife, they're generally a pain in the ass if not impossible to sharpen - yours is free, but my advice otherwise would be to buy cheap (ahem, Forschner).

    I have the Shun Classic 8" chefs, 3.5" paring, and 6" utility because I use those knives the most and wanted the best, but for my single-purpose "utility" knives, I always advise to buy cheaper but "good enough" brands that will save you a small fortune.

    Use the savings to buy a good sharpening kit, like an Edge Pro, and you'll never need to upgrade your knives again.

    The above is just a humble opinion, I hope it was helpful an not too condescending.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Zedeff

      I agree that the chefs knife and santoku are similar. I have a set of Wustoff knives, including and 8" chefs knife, but then I got a Global 7" santoku. I love it. Now, when I go to pick up the 8" chefs knife, it feels like lead in my hand.

      My go-to knives are the Global 7" santoku, 3.5" paring and, like Zedeff, the 6" utility knife (I think that Wusthoff calls mine a sandwich knife).

      To me the 10" knife sounds huge. And I'm not small.

    2. If you're looking for opinions, I would keep the 8 inch chef's knife. I have an 8, 10 and even 12 inch chef's style knife and I reach for my 8 inch more than either of the other 2. Part of my decision there is that you also now keep the boning knife. I find that a very useful tool. If anything, I would trade in the slicing knife unless you know you'll use it.

      1 Reply
      1. re: HaagenDazs

        I guess now that I think about it further The santoku and chef knives do serve mainly the same purpose. I think I was just afraid since I have never owned anything over an 8 inch chef that the 10 might be to large for some jobs. I called WS and asked about the 10 they don't carry in stock in the stores so it would have to be ordered. I guess I will stop by tomorrow and try out the shun classic 10 inch just to get an idea of the blade size.

        I guess it really only boils down to the choice of an 8 inch chef vs a 10.

      2. Something I don't understand about your posting.

        You stated you've never been happy with the Henkels. What is it that you've never been happy about?

        If it's the fit and feel then I get it, but if you're unhappy because of the sharpness then I think it's important to remember that all knives need care, grooming and sharpening.

        BTW, I suggest going to a restaurant supply at buying a regular foodservice grade bread knife. To my mind, it makes absolutely no sense to pay top dollar for a knife that will get dull and that cannot effectively be resharpened. For ten to fifteen bucks you get a great knife and when it wears out, just buy another.

        1 Reply
        1. re: onocoffee

          I wholeheartedly agree with the statement about the bread knife. the set we registered for when we got married was quickly retired (Henkels? "Eversharp" - all knives, even the chef's knife have tiny teeth making them impossible to have sharpened.) The only knife worth keeping was the bread knife.

        2. why "I have never really been happy with"? Unless you give us a specific clue as to why, our answers will be not necessarily on target.
          1) not sharp? take your knives en masse to a local knife smith, and spend time with him/her, explaining how to keep 'em sharp and useful. Like: how to use a steel, how often to have sharpened, etc.
          2) inferior steel? Using "hi-carbon stainless" ala Henckels is industry standard, but it does have a few drawbacks; humbly suggest that a home cook will not know the difference. There are any number of hi-tech alloys, like VG10 (I have a few knives of this stuff, and boy are they better than 440c or 420J).
          3) size, form, weight, not correct? suspect that this you. Best advice I got I still carry to this day (would to give credit, but honestly do not remember who I got his from). You really only need 3 knives:
          a) 10 inch chef knife
          b) serrated bread knife
          c) a few paring knives
          Most people make the mistake of getting an 8 inch chef knife, because that is what all the TV cooking shows will say. Beg to differ big time. The 8 inch is only suitable for a short person (5 feet or less) with small hands, like my mom. I recently had a college basketball player in my kitchen; gave him my 14 inch chef knife (yes, there is such a thing, and I have one to prove it), and it was just right. I am 5 and a half feet tall (like my dad), and 10 inch chef knife is just right.

          4 Replies
          1. re: jerry i h

            I had three problems with the knives I had.

            One was simply ergonomics when I bought the knives I was just getting serious about cooking and tried my best to buy what felt best in my hand or so I thought I ended up buying the heaviest knives i could I guess at the time thinking it was best. However experiance has proved that not to be true for me.

            Second thing was build quality the set that I bought had to knives that had to be exchanged the day I bought it once was missing almost a 1/4 inch of the tip and the other had a large dip in the cutting surface that was obviously done while the edge was being formed. I also had one of the handles fall apart on me and had to be replaced.

            The third thing was there ability to hold an edge while I will not say they were really bad they did tend to lose roughly 30-35% of there edge in a about 4 months. I honed them almost ever use and cared for them Meticulously.

            I can defiantly understand not wanting to spend alot of money on the bread knife but as you can read in my first post it was free...

            As for the Chef's knife I ended up trading the 8 "for the 10" and after a few test veggies early and making dinner WOW why didn't I make this move sooner...

            1. re: quad150db

              Ahhh, now you're talkin':
              1) y'know, this is the reason I think that buying kitchen knives on the internet is a really bad idea. They only way you can tell if a knife is right for you, is to hold in your hand for a few minutes while you chat with the salesperson. Best idea is to visit a local knife store, make the salesperson really annoyed by taking out all knives that look interesting, trying them all, and buying the one that feels best in your hand. Yes, you will pay full retail rather than wholesale $$$, but remember that a good knife will outlive you and probably your offspring.
              2) Uh-oh. Variations in build quality will exist, but these differences should not be noticeable to the consumer. What you describe is typical of those 20-knives-for-$30-hi-qualtiy-professional-caliber-knives that you see on late night TV informecials.
              3) What you describe is NOT typical of hi-carbon stainless blades. It DOES sound like cheapie, stainless steel "professional knives" that you get in chinatown for a buck or two each. Any decent chef knife should be able to hold its edge for at least a year, before you notice that it gets dull, and needs a sharpening.

              1. re: jerry i h

                1) you can't tell anything by holding a knife in your hand and waving it around for five minutes. You need to use it. I've used quite a number of knives (here's looking at you, Global) which are comfortable to hold and wave around, but which are unusable to, you know, actually cut things. Buy your knives from someone who will take them back after you've used them.
                3) only knife that will stay sharp for a year is one that lives in the block. Or maybe one used by someone who doesn't cook.

              2. re: quad150db

                So glad you went for the 10" chef; I always advise people at least to give it a try, but usually they won't. A food writer and cook really pushed me way back when I got my first good knives to go with the 10", and I've been ever grateful to her. The 8" santoku is my other go-to knife (I LOVE it) and I round out with a wursthof 6" paring knife (I'd guess it's 6 inches, maybe 5). As for a bread knife, I just bought an offset Lamston (which is actually made in the USA, here in New England). Another great product. I have a boning knife, and a slicing knife; but with just the first four, I'm a happy knife-wielder. Happy New Year with your new knives!

            2. Knife selection is very personal, but one of the neat things about this website is you can get some pretty well-articulated personal observations and apply them. I use my 10" 40 year old Sabatier carbon steel chef's knife for everything, even for paring. It is very light and takes and holds an amazing edge. I tired Henckels once when trying to make the transition to the 20th century (and dang, now it's the 21st! century). I liked the 8" better than the 10" and also used the 6" and the pariing knife a lot, but the German shapes were wider and more specialized and they were a good bit heavier, great for rocking, if that is your chopping style. I have never tried the Shun knives, but they are beautiful. I agree on the importance fo a good boning knife if you bone a lot of cuts. As regards bread knives, the only one I have ever had is a Henckels. I bake a lot and it does good complaints after about five years other than that I wish it were 10" instead of 8".