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May 15, 2009 07:48 AM

Investing in

I am an avid home cook, and have finally decided to get expensive knives. I am going to buy two to start with, but need to know what I should buy. IAs far as usses go, I typically run the gamut....from butchering/bone cutting, to fine vegetable slicing.....any suggestions would be apreciated!!!

Thanks a lot!!!


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  1. I would start with an 8-10 inch chef's knife, whichever is more comfortable for you. I would also get a 4-inch pairing knife and a serrated bread knife to start.

    1. Expensive knives don't tend to me much good for bones. I agree with Jen Hen. 8-10" chefs, and a pairing knife. The chef's knife is important, so it's worth spending most of your budget on that one. I personally would advise against an expensive knife-set.

      Also, if you do a lot of vegies, you could invest in a heavy chef's knife, and a lighter thinner santoku for veg and fish?

      11 Replies
      1. re: Soop

        Great advice, thanks all. I will keep my old beat up cleaver for the bone work, and get a high quality chefs knife, as well as a santoku. Cant wait. Shun is looking like a great brand.


        1. re: RodVito

          Shuns are good, I have one of their stainless santokus. I would also consider the mighty MAC chef's, which retail for around the same amount. The F. Dick Premier chef's is a very nice knife and I like it better than Henckels or Wusthof. Messermeister makes a good knife too, esp. the elite and Meridian lines. I would recommend spending most of your budget on a great chef's knife, one that feels good and well balanced in your hand. You don't have to spend a lot of money on a paring knife or bread knife. If money is an object, take a look at Forschner/Victorinox and Dexter Russell.

          1. re: RodVito

            If you go with Shun, I would recommned the Elite or Kaji series. They are their best knives. Kaji and Elite have the same basic core metal. Rockwell hardness of 64+. The Classic series is rated at rockwell hardness of 61. Kaji and Elite handles are different and Kaji is sold only at Williams Sonoma. I bought my Elite through the internet. Most cutlery sites will sell with free shipping if you buy a minimum balance which is easy with a Shun and no CA sales tax if they are out of CA. Since you are looking at two knives, some sites will throw in a free Shun steel if you buy more than $300. You can try out an Elite at Sur La Table. I did. They even provide a veggie to cut up.

            1. re: bgazindad

              By all means, try before you buy. I know that my Shun handle has a sort of D shape that's meant to be used by right-handed people but might be uncomfortable for a leftie.

              1. re: chuckl

                Shun soes make left handed knives. My only problrm with the regular Shuns is thee lack of bolster. With my normal grip on a knife, up close to the blade, I nick my self. On the other hand the Shun Ken Onion has a wonderful deep bolster. I have the K.O. Santoku and I like it better than many others. Another plus with it is the cullens in the blade don't as close to the edge of the blade as thy do in Wusthofs and Henkels. It will have many more years of use and sharpening before you are getting into the cullens.

                1. re: Candy

                  just curious, how do you grip your knife?

                  1. re: chuckl

                    very close to the blade so it becomes an extension of my hand.

                    1. re: Candy

                      if you use the pinch grip you shouldn't get nicked.

                      1. re: chuckl

                        I think I'll stick with knives with good bolsters. I sell knives, Shun, Wusthof, Forschener and some Dexter Russel. I'm handling them daily and know what fits best in my hand.

              2. re: bgazindad

                Did you purchase through Sur La Table online?

                1. re: mateo21

                  No. I live in California. There is a 9+% sales tax if I buy here. I used a out of state vendor to avoid sales tax plus they will ship free of charge provided you exceed the minimum. I check the other sites and the price for a Shun Elite is the same. I will be glad to share those sites with you if you want.

          2. 8" chef's - try a Dick and a Sabatier for contrasting shapes and feel (I bought an expensive Dick and went back to my near 40 year old Sabatier). Then get a KitchenAid santoku for about $17.

            6 Replies
            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

              Sam, I almost fell off my chair when I read your post because jackp and I have a KitchenAid santoku we use all the time, despite owning Shuns and old excellent Henckels. That thing take a great edge and has a very comfortable handle.

              1. re: jillp

                Yup. Couple of other hounds are like me and the two of you - swear by that KA and wonder why we spent $$ on anything else.

              2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                Sam -- sorry I didn't see this earlier. Have you one of the legacy Sabatier carbon steel models? I was directed to a link by someone on this board and I found it very intriguing :


                I'm looking to get a heavy monster -- 12 inches or so, and I am not afraid of something that is not stainless steel. There is another Sabatier out there with the name K Sabatier that also sells ":authentique" knives that were imported into Canada. Do you have one of these? Just curious if you have experience with one of these.

                1. re: RGC1982

                  Retactable Gear Cessna, my Sabatier must be early stainless. The stamping only says. "Sabatier Made in France Stainless." The wood grip is now worn down to a kind of light chocolate and milk brown with the three brass studs looking like a few centuries. It is not so curved like all Sabatiers, wicked sharp, and FAST! It was a message from god / buddha / whoever that I got it for $2.00 mixed in with a basket of trash knives in a garage sale in Fresno in about 1988. It was old and worn even then.

                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                    You might know this already, but there are many, many Sabatiers, some allegedly higher quality than others.

                    From Wikipedia (which states that the brand owners are required to provide a second symbol or word - Sam, yours might be so old it was made before that ruling)

                    ETS Sabatier Aîné & Perrier

                    Sabatier Aîné & Perrier claim to be the oldest Sabatier knife maker still in existence and operated by the descendants of Phillipe Sabatier of Bellevue, Thiers, France. They have operated for more than 150 years and have sold under the brand name [Sabatier-k] since 1834. First references to the mark "K" can be found in the town archives, engraved on the Silver Tablet of Cutlers, dated 7 June 1813 under number 231. (citation needed)

                    So the "Sabatier K" could be a good choice. Obviously it doesn't mean they're guaranteed to be good, but I imagine they want to protect their rep.

                    1. re: Soop

                      Soop, I have a great five inch Sabatier marked "Maitre de Cuisine Sabatier Made in France" with a little French Chef. I got it in London maybe 8 years ago for about $20 dollars if I recall correctly. Anyway, dirt cheap. The lady running the tiny shop said that mine was no longer a poular style that people wanted silver rather than brass colored studs!!!

              3. My all-purpose knife is a Wusthoff 8" chef's knife. It's wonderful, holds its edge without frequent sharpening, has great balance and a smooth, but non-slippery handle, and is a manageable length for a shorter-armed person with smaller hands. If you're on the taller side, with big hands, you could play around with longer knives.

                I don't butcher or cut through bone very often. For that, you might want to look into a Chinese cleaver. There's a recent, separate thread discussing inexpensive, high-quality ones.

                Finally, most cooks / chefs have a paring knife, as prior posters have mentioned. For a long time, as a poor grad student, I used my chef's knife for EVERYTHING, including paring and other fine-tuned stuff, believe it or not. I just recently purchased a very inexpensive, but well-made Forschner brand paring knife that I'm liking. The blade is thin and more flexible than what you'd find on expensive knives, but it holds its edge pretty well.

                The Wusthoff will probably last me the rest of my life, the paring knife at least another 10 years, I'm guessing. And I cook a lot!

                3 Replies
                1. re: cimui

                  For bones I don't think you want a Chinese cleaver. Meat cleaver maybe. Similar shape, different animal.

                  1. re: Robin Joy

                    I remember my mama hacking up whole chickens with her Chinese cleaver, in the kitchen, when I was a kid. I could hear that from down the block!

                    So are meat cleavers quieter? :)

                    1. re: cimui

                      Yeah, much. Don't want to alert the veggie neighbours, for they are the enemy. Also I find that live chickens make far too much noise, no matter what cleaver is used.

                2. My only advice would be to understand the maintenance issues before jumping into high grade knives. There's a world of difference between the Western and Japanese knives that has as much to do with the culture they come from as anything else.

                  In general, western knives are thicker and softer - they are more forgiving and easier to maintain. The softer steel means that the edge folds over, but constant honing with a steel will keep that from being a problem. They wear faster than harder steel, but can be machine sharpened, cheaply, and ubiquitously.

                  Japanese steel is harder and is thinner. They are often made as bifurcated or clad units, where a hard, thin core is sandwiched by softer metal. The edge is the desired hard metal, while the body of the knife can absorb some shocks (like being dropped). But the edge can still get nicked, so you do have to be conscious of this. Harder steel edges do not fold over and so do not gain as much from steeling. Various combinations of ceramic and diamond "steels" (rods) and other gadgets can help prolong the edge through touch-ups, but unlike honing with a steel on softer metal, using ceramic and diamond rods abraid even the harder steal of the Japanese blades. While the edge will last longer than a western blade, you will eventually have to get it sharpened. This is best done by hand, not on a machine, and you can't give it to your local scissors and skates guy - you have to find a specialist. Or mail order. Or learn to do it yourself.

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: applehome

                    That is so true applehome. I sharpen my Japanese knives often and when I need to chop through some chicken bones or cutting a box of frozen spinach I pull out the German knife to hack away. The Japanese steel would certainly chip. For fine knife work the Japanese blades excel.

                    1. re: scubadoo97

                      Thanks everyone for the advice! I had no idea I would be opening up a debate on California Tx Laws when I started this post...but thats chowhound for ya.

                      I picked up a Shun - Ken Onion 7" Santoku and a Henkles Paring Knife. The Santoku is amazing.....I tested it on a shallot and was amazing at the control and precision I had. Truly, it was an extension of my hand. I am a leftie, and the grip fits perfectly for me. I wont try to sharpen it, I have allready found aknife sharpener here in town that will do it for me. Now, if I only the Fiance doesnt put it in the dishwasher, Im good for life with this knife!!

                      I have an old, cheap, heavy butchers knife that I use for bones and hacking.....I sharpen often, but it works.

                      1. re: RodVito

                        Remember Japanese knives should be sharpened on s series of Waterstones and not on a grinding wheel (as most sharpeners will do) Below is a link for a very good sharpening source. or buy soem stones and learn to do it yourself. Enjoy


                        1. re: RodVito


                          Shun recommends that when it is time to sharpen your Shun, you can send it to Shun for resharpening, have a pro do it or use the Shun electric sharpener. if you have a pro do it, make sure they are familiar with sharpening Japanese knives.

                          1. re: bgazindad

                            I personally feel that if one is investing in Japanese knives it would be a good idea to learn to sharpen. It's not rocket science and the knives need frequent maintenance if you want to get the best out of them. If you had to send them to Shun, even if it was free how often would you do that in a year? Electric sharpeners will do a passable job but if you want to really see your knives excel at their job learn to sharpen them your self. Don't think you can't do it it's not that hard believe me.

                            Edited to add; that is one hell of a tuna bgazindad

                            1. re: bgazindad

                              Pick yourself up a wet stone and teach yourself to sharpen your knives. You will be so much better off and your knives will appreciate not being run through a grinder even if it is a Shun with the proper angle for a Japanese ground blade. Korin sells a great video or there is always Chad Wards book.



                              1. re: Fritter

                                Wusthof makes a 2 stage pull through sharpener that is simple to use. There is one for Western knives and one for Asian. They sell for about $19.99

                                1. re: Candy

                                  All those things are ok for light maintenance, but to really service your knife, you need to use a whetstone. Or you need to take it to someone who will do so. Even with western knives, there are often problems with the bolster or tip that need attention from someone with something more than a pull-through or a chef's choice. If you learn to use a stone for yourself, you'll be so much better off. I understand that it's not for everybody - we all have better things to do. But the point is that even excellent versions of these pull-through devices will never replace that ultimate sharpening tool - the whetstone. Whetstone, btw, is from whetting - to sharpen (as a tool edge) by rubbing on or with something (as a stone) - not the same as a wet stone. Many stones are used dry or with oil - Japanese stones are generally used with water. They're all whetstones when used to sharpen.

                                2. re: Fritter

                                  I have whet stones. three Japanese, 1000 grid global, 1200 grid king and a 3000 grid naniwa. I also have an arkansas black, Gatco sharpening system with ceramic ultra fine hone, a henckel steel. a chef's choice model 120 and a chef 's choice model 316. I own henckels, shuns, buck, a sakai yanigiba, deba, a ceramic knife and few others that I do not know the manufacturers cause the name is in Chinese or Japanese. My father was a barber. I grew watching him sharpening straight razors and scissors. I have worked in a butcher shop and a fish market. I know how sharp a knife can be. I know how to sharpen a knife with stone. Its in the boy scout manual. It is a skill to do it correctly especially with Japanese knives. I have also screwed up knives by sharpening to incorrect bevels or using the wrong type of stone. As my knives get more expensive, the more cautious I am about what knives are sharpened, how they are sharpen and who does it. Which is why I tend to remind folks of the manufacturer's recommendations.
                                  While they may not be optimal for everyone, they tend to produce the least amount of harm to the knives.

                                  1. re: bgazindad

                                    "While they may not be optimal for everyone, they tend to produce the least amount of harm to the knives"

                                    If that was in reference to the grinder nothing could be further from the truth. Hard steel like your quality Japanese knives will chip in any grinder. Nearly every high end Japanese knife maker issues fairly stern warnings not to put their knives through any grinder. The harder the steel the longer it will hold an edge but it also becomes more brittle.
                                    If it's in the Boy Scout manual then even kids can do it. It's not difficult.
                                    However if that's what trips your trigger by all means enjoy!
                                    PS Nice tuna.