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Jan 11, 2009 12:09 PM

Need help with a knife selection

I got my Dad a 6" Shun Classic Chef's Knife for Christmas. He has used it but it is for right handed people. He asked me if it was returnable and it is after checking with Amazon. He is in the kitchen quite a bit and uses a chef's knife a lot. What are some good replacements. I have the Henckel's Twin Cuisine set and am thinking of getting him one of those. He is shorter than I am and has smaller hands that is the downside to the Twin Cuisine set. He has never spent more than $20 on a knife and I would like to get him a nice one but also one that justifies the purchase price. Thanks!

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  1. Henckels 6" Wide Four Star.

    Ambidextrous handle. Fantastic 6" Wide Chef's blade. Most people are better served with a smaller chefs knife these days as their meats and veggies are often very pre processed to the point that obviates the need for a larger 8" to 12" Chef's knife for prepping. The smaller blade is easier to handle and control, lighter weight, and often just the right size. The Wide version is superior in usefulness to the standard width 6" Chef's knife....however the standard size is good too. The 6" Utility knife is a knuckle cruncher and not nearly as user friendly as either of the other 2 widths described here.

    1. if he likes the feel of the Shun, I'd suggest either a Meridian elite or an F. Dick premier 8-inch chef's knife (6 inch is sort of short). Like the shun, they are very well balanced and use very hard steel. Make sure he has a nice ceramic rod to keep the edge straight.

      6 Replies
      1. re: chuckl

        While the Messermeister Meridian Elite and the F Dick Premier are very nice and good recommendations.....(especially the Meridian Elite), I have a plethora of knives and my most used knife is a 6" Chef's. I almost never use the 8"....and sometimes use the 10".

        1. re: EscapeVelocity

          I'm curious, you're obviously an experienced cook, why do you prefer the 6-inch, and for what sorts of tasks?

          1. re: chuckl

            Well, what is the largest thing that most people are hacking up in the kitchen these days? Most meats come in pre cut packages.....people arent doing a lot of prep that was done before in the home. Like doing their own butchering.

            Id say the most common large items you are prepping is Chickens, Whole Heads of Cabbage and Greens....and slicing Pizzas. The Pizzas get the big blade, and the 8" usually wont swipe a pizza in half like the 6" anyways.

            The smaller knife is lighter weight and a smaller blade is more dexterous in the hands...that is why you have a 4" or 3.5" paring knife and are not using a 10" carving knife for paring.

            The 8" chef knife was the standard recommendation for several reasons from recieved wisdom in the past. First the larger the knife the more it cost....there werent as many producers and competition for quality knives back in the day. Also you had a lot more prep in the kitchen back in the day....larger cuts of meat that needed butchering were common. Thus the 8" became the most widely produced length and thus it was cheaper(mass production) and it was easy to find. These days their are more choices at good prices.

            I usually bust a 10 or 12" knife out for pizza slicing.....a lot of people also have a pizza roller cutter for this purpose also. Sometimes the 10 for lots of cabbage work...large parties...but you can do this with a 6" as well. For general purpose use the 6" is my favorite....for all sorts of tasks.

            6" Chefs (Regular or better yet Wide)
            8" Serated Bread Knife
            10" Carving Knife
            4" Paring Knife

            Good set.

            The 8" isnt a bad knife. I just prefer the 6" 90 percent of the time....and can get by just fine with the 6" the other 10 percent.

            BTW, if you Dad has small hands and would like a smaller handle, the Classic style 3 rivet is generally the smallest diameter knife handle available.

            1. re: EscapeVelocity

              I cannot remember the last time I cut up a chicken my chefs knife. I think the majority of prep work done by people these days is cutting up onions, carrots, slicing bread, garlic, etc. Personally when I'm cutting up a large onion, my 6" chef isn't big enough, doesn't have the leverage nor the blade length to get the job done. It's certainly possible that I "slice" more when I cut and you simply "push" more; a valid point and preference this is, and necessarily a sound recommendation that most people don't need an 8-12" chefs knife.

              Soccerdad -- you can order the Shun in a left handed version very easily (I think Amazon might even carry it). If not, check out some specialty knife shops ( comes to mind). I think if he liked the feel, length and performance of the Shun, he should stick with that!

              1. re: EscapeVelocity

                If a home cook is never going to breakdown their own poultry or cut up a big melon, then I could see the logic of getting a high quality 6" chef's knife (or about a 180mm Santoku). A couple of points:

                1) The user's grip on the knife will largely determine the overall effective blade length and maneuverability. A pinch grip will essentially remove an inch or so away from the blade length. I find my 240mm gyuto (9.4") with a pinch grip is the perfect combo of balance and length for me.

                2) When making horizontal cuts (dicing a shallot/onion immediately comes to mind), a 6" chef's knife can be cumbersome to use because one may have to move the object and knife-holding hand close to the edge of the cutting board (or counter even) to make room for the back of the hand and knuckles. A minor point, but can be annoying if one is chopping up a lot of stuff.

                1. re: Cary

                  While a 6" chef's knife is fine for chopping, it seems a little too short for anything requiring a slicing motion. I've been training myself to move the knife more instead of push-cutting, and you need some blade length for that.

                  Just last night I was cutting an onion into paper-thin rings using a 210mm gyuto. Even though the blade has a razor edge, the very gentle pressure I was using made it necessary to start near the heel and use most of the length on each stroke. Sure, I could have push-cut the onion, but the slices wouldn't have been so thin or uniform.

                  Even on a push-cut, a little extra blade length comes in handy. If you're halving an onion through the root end, it's nice to have enough blade sticking past the far side for you to push down on.

                  This isn't to say that a 6" knife isn't a useful tool; I just believe that a couple more inches make it much more versatile.

        2. Compared to the Shun, the Henckels is going to be heavy and awkward. Maybe a MAC?

          2 Replies
          1. re: alanbarnes

            Good observation, alanbarnes. There is a very big difference in the weight.

            She might consider the KAI or Kershaw knives from Shun too. They are less expensive and light, typical of Japanese knives, and do not have the D shaped handles. Although I am not a fan of the handles, many people also love Global knives. It all depends on what you are used to. alanbarbes is right here - if he likes the feel of the Shun, stick with a Japanese manufacturer.

            1. re: RGC1982

              Well, I certainly am a fan of Japanese steel. However there are several manufactuerers that ditched the heavy bolster (like the Messermeister Merridian Elite noted above). Mundial also offers this bolsterless Japanese style.

              Macs are nice and may be a good choice.

              However weight isnt the whole story with regards to knife agility.

              The Forschner Stamped are pretty good too and lightweight, they they have largist diameter handles...maybe look at the Rosewood classic style handle.

          2. Shun Classics can be ordered Left-handed. If he likes the feel of the Shun why not look for a left handed version?