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Apr 18, 2009 06:49 PM

Good knife choice <$30 for prep, with a little mezzaluna action? ...

Of the basic Henckels set we have, I've been preferring this 8" carving knife over the wider 8" chef's knife that I also own, but just don't like, for veggie chopping and prepping (basically the carving knife has become my go-to knife for anything non-meat):

What other knife might I like as a similar-but-better? Both of the above knives let you rock them slightly like a mezzaluna for fine chopping. The carving knife is just a little easier to wield.

I'd like: some sharpness, that rocker ability, some ergonomy in the handle, and I wonder also about blade weight... are there weightier blades that make cutting a little more fluid?

We could also be talking about two knives - one for finer mincing and one for rougher chopping. I still like the general size.

I don't want to get off-topic, but while I've been interested in santoku knives, it looks like they're more flat on the bottom, no rocking, so how is the holding/use of one a bit different from a carving or chef's knife (if we're talking basic veggie slicing and chopping here)?

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  1. The classic all-purpose knife is a chef's knife in the 8-10" range. Develop good knife skills and it will do 90% of what needs to be done in the kitchen, including slicing and dicing.

    At the price range you're talking about, there's only one knife that merits serious consideration - the Forschner / Victorinox. It has a light blade, which is good - the best knives out there are lightweight Japanese models, so if you ever decide to upgrade you'll be used to the feel. Keeping the edge sharp will contribute more to fluidity than a heavy blade can ever hope to.

    I've never liked santokus, but that's just me. In your shoes I'd buy an 8" Forschner chef's knife and a 4" paring knife, then learn how to use them and care for them.

    2 Replies
    1. re: alanbarnes

      Thanks. The chef's knife you mention has a great rating and 282 user reviews. I'll certainly keep this at the top of my list if I decide to go with a chef's knife. The paring knife 'user photos' are hilarious, also.

      I get the feeling I wouldn't be much of a santoku fan either. Good point about keeping a knife sharp vs. relying on weight, although I'm still somewhat interested in how small cleavers might be of use.

      1. i use both chef's and santokus almost interchangeably. you can't rock the santoku the way you can a chef's knife, but they're still great for chopping, in my opinion. Lately i've been using a short, 5 inch santoku made by messermeister elite. the blade is broader than most santokus of that length, and it's great for scooping your chopped veggies. Forschner makes a great knife too, I like the 9-inch chef's knife quite a bit, and Forschner is probably your best bet within your price range. I've had pretty good luck on ebay with knives. Ultimately it's all about how it feels in your hand, i think.

        1 Reply
        1. re: chuckl

          So in the spirit of trying something new, I picked up a $3 Chefmate 7" Santoku at Target to try just to see if I like the shape, though it largely lacks rocker action. It seemed very odd to use at first but keeping the far point on the chopping block while slicing kind of approximates what I was doing with the chef's knife. It did make some pretty thin slices and mince nicely, and I didn't find much food sticking to it, which the indents along the body of the knife purport to help. It's a nice length... the way I use one I wouldn't want shorter. I do miss the ability to use the end as sort of a corer for stem areas on fruits etc. But will give this a go, alternate with the old chef's knife I have and then... maybe months from now.. buy a great knife.

          I noticed santokus (or wannabe santokus anyhow) vary a bit as to whether they're completely flat or curve up just a tiny bit at the end in a nod to chef's knives. I did like the amount of flat surface for scooping veggies, but I don't think I'd enjoy a square knife like a Chinese chef's knife.

          1. Of the classic German/French style blades, the Wusthof has a more rounded blade than others.

            However, you might like this from Dexter Russell (or something similar from another manufaturer). The DR Chinese Chef's Cleaver is pretty weighty.....but not so much as like a Butcher's Cleaver, its more for use chopping vegetables. It also has the rounded blade you are after.


            Here is a similar one by Victorinox/Forschner and slightly cheaper. Search Chinese clever at Amazon for more....


            I like Nakiri knives too...these are lighter and have somewhat flatish blades. But they rock on vegetable prep. This is the Kershaw Wasabi version, there are lots of others.


            8 Replies
            1. re: EscapeVelocity

              Thanks all... that Victorinox looks tempting, but I might be more naturally inclined to use the Nakiri.

              1. re: Cinnamon

                A nakiri bocho is good to have, but it is NOT an all-purpose knife. It's specifically designed to slice soft vegetables, and does that job admirably. But it's less than ideal for other applications.

                As far as your initial comments, a nakiri bocho is the antithesis of a mezzaluna. The edge is supposed to contact the cutting board along its entire length. There's no curve at all, so cutting with a smooth rocking motion is nearly impossible.

                If you do decide to go with a nakiri bocho, you'll want to pick up other knives (if you go with traditional Japanese blades, a deba and a yanagiba) in order to be able to handle a variety of kitchen tasks.

                1. re: alanbarnes

                  I agree, Alan. I like my nakiri very much but it is definitely NOT an all-purpose knife. I would have to say the chinese chef's cleaver fits that bill quite nicely and it will rock if you rock it on the point. I use it for 95% of my making little things out of big things.

                  1. re: alanbarnes

                    Thank you (and billieboy who posted below). If I go this route, I'll get the trio. It's tempting. The deba looks like something I'd like to use.

                    1. re: Cinnamon

                      This video will give you an idea how to use a cleaver. The rock method is about 2/3 of the way through. The video takes awhile to start. Once it starts, stop it and start at the beginning.


                        1. re: Cinnamon

                          Cinnamon, in your original post you state that you prefer using an 8" Carving/Utility knife over the 8" Chef's knife. I hate those Carving/Utility knives for anything but Carving....they are knuckle crunchers for me.

                          You might try a Standard German Style 6" Chef's knife. It has a wider blade than the carving knife, but not as wide as the 8" Chef's knife. It is also smaller, and you seem to prefer smaller blades from your discription. Smaller blades are more dexterous and weildy in the hands. And Ive found that the 6" Chef's knife is one of my favorite knives. And women with smaller hands really love it. However I prefer it often to a larger knife, myself. It will do most of what an 8" will do.

                          Another route would be a French Style Blade knife. Like the Sabatier Au Carbone 6" Cook's Knife. Be advised this is not stainless steel. However the blad is flat and not mezzaluna-ish.

                          And last but not is a great site.....Cooking for Engineers....Chef's Knifes Rated. You will notice that the Wusthof has a more rounded blade than most of the others. Perhaps a Wusthof 6" Chef's knife is just what you are looking for.

                          The Victorinox/Forschner recommended earlier by alanbarnes, gets good marks.


                          Good Luck!

                          1. re: EscapeVelocity

                            This is terrific, thank you. (I know in my other answers I've considered all manner of knives somewhat different from what ends up being my go-to, the carving knife.) I'll look into several of the things you mentioned here. Also will strongly consider the 6" - what you say of that and the ease of holding, for people with relatively small hands - may end up being exactly what I found with skis, kayaks and power tools. (That a small enough size to be wieldy matters hugely!)