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Aug 9, 2009 08:38 AM

Chefs Knife

I'm going to embarass myself with my lack of knowledge, but I need a chef's knife and was wondering which brand to buy? I already have the large chef knife, I just need a small one that's a little easier to control for me. Any suggestions out there?

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  1. Find a really good speciality kitchen retailer in your city that has a decent breadth of knives (easier said than done in some places). Visit them with a potato and carrot, or whatever will give you a good sense of cutting, and test drive some knives.

    Any shop that is actually interested in your business will let you cut and test. The best knife is the one that feels comfortable in your hand, and you feel comfortable using. Next is quality - a super high quality knife that you hate using just isn't worth it!

    In my knife collection I have several brands, and some 'un-branded', each one is chosen because it felt best for that job.


    1. There are a lot of good brands of chef's knives out there, from Forschner (under $30) to Hattori KD (over $1,000). The first thing to do is establish your approximate budget.

      The next thing to do is decide what style of knife you want. The current trend is away from German blades (Henckels, Wusthof, etc.) in favor of Japanese steel (Global, Shun, and MAC are the most common, if not the best value). Japanese steel is harder, so you'll have a lighter, thinner blade that gets sharper and stays sharp longer with less maintenance. The tradeoff is that the knives are more difficult to sharpen. You don't need to follow this trend, but you should at least be aware of it.

      While there's something to be said for trying out knives in person, doing so assumes you already have good knife skills. And even if you do, you're going to gravitate toward knives that are the most similar to what you're used to using. Not a bad thing, but there's nothing wrong with learning to use a new kind of knife, either.

      So give us some more info. What kind of knife do you use now? What about it do you feel is difficult to control? How much do you want to spend? There are lots of folks here who will contribute if you narrow your question down a bit.

      1. This is just a thought, from a cook with only mediocre knife skills, but who uses a large chef's knife daily. Is your present large chef's knife a really good knife? If it is, you can learn to use it for almost everything. I have learned to manipulate the knife by holding both blade and handle. A good cookbook, like Joy of Cooking should show you how to hold a knife. I know this sounds silly, but I promise, once you learn to manipulate your large knife, you probably won't want a smaller chef's knife.

        12 Replies
        1. re: sueatmo

          This video changed my knife skills immeasurably. Like you say, I learned the pinch with my fingers on both the blade and the handle. BIG difference.

          1. re: c oliver

            All of Chad's viedos are worth watching and his book is worthy of adding to your collection as well. The claw is just as important if not more so than the pinch grip. If you slip and take the skin off your knucles it will grow back. Many tend to use their finger tips as a guide. Slip and take your finger tip off with your knife and the flesh pad betwen the end of your fingers and the end of your finger bone witll never grow back.

            1. re: Fritter

              I have a couple of regrown flesh pads that beg to differ. But the cuts are a lot more painful and far bloodier, and they take longer to heal.

              1. re: alanbarnes

                Nothing removes a fingertip like a mandolin. They were designed for just that purpose. Every tool has it's use :-)

                1. re: margshep

                  I have to admit -- your posts have made me weak at the knees. Ewwww! All of you! Make it stop!

                2. re: alanbarnes

                  If you cut them completely off then you are the only one I have ever heard of that has had them re-grow. The typical cure when you lop the end of your finger off is to stretch the skin over the end and sew it.
                  Either way I'm assuming that's a lot more painful than taking the skin off your knuckles. I've worked with others who have commented that once this happens it's like getting a shock every time they touch some thing with the end of their finger.

                  1. re: Fritter

                    Depends on what you mean by "cut them completely off." The most I've taken off is a couple of millimeters, including callus. I assume that there were still skin cells left underneath, because the skin regenerated.

                    If you cut deep enough to remove all the skin cells, I can see how it wouldn't grow back. Once you cut that deep, you start getting into more nerve tissue as well. It's the severed nerves that cause the "electric shock" feeling. I have that too, but got it by filleting my middle finger at the second joint rather than by cutting off the tip.

                    Some people shouldn't be allowed around sharp objects.

                    1. re: alanbarnes

                      Alan I'm talking about taking the whole tip of your finger all the way off like Daniel describes. It's fairly common. The part that won't grow back AFAIK is the meat on the end of your finger bone out to the skin. There's not all that much there to begin with. Oddly enough it's fairly common in professional kitchens with inexperienced staff. I've seen it happen more than once where the tip was never found. If you can find the tip and get help ASAP I suspect in many cases they could sew it back on as they did for Daniel.
                      If you use your knuckles a guide you avoid all of that.
                      Makes my toes curl just thinking about it. The closest I ever came was a chain saw across all of my left fingers.

                    2. re: Fritter

                      I can tell you from painful experience that the best treatment is to reattach the severed portion of the finger. Only when this is not available will they use the method you describe.
                      In my case, the reattached fingertip was extremely sensitive for about two years after it was severed. It also looked pretty awful for the first year. The sensitivity is totally back to normal now, and there is no visible scar. I can see where using adjacent skin in lieu of reattachment would cause the scar tissue and sensitivity to become permanent, however.
                      Either way, it sucks, and should be avoided at all costs.
                      And, for the record, it was not a kitchen accident, but a home remodeling mishap.

                      1. re: danieljdwyer

                        I had misplaced this side trip into digital mayhem, thinking the Moderators had removed it....
                        I had the end of my left index finger torn up pretty good by a car's coil spring.
                        It has that electrical tingle that has been mentioned.
                        Hard to imagine that someone hasn't cut their finger while cooking. I rub the blade against my knuckles, yet have kissed the edge of the fingernail on that damaged finger enough to make me wake up!

                3. re: c oliver

                  Is that a Nenox he has there?

                  And BTW, eww, fingers...

                  1. re: Soop

                    A Nehoni it is.

                    As long as there are no fingertips in my food, I'm fine.

              2. Since you already have a large chef's knife, I wonder whether you might want to consider a santoku-style knife. A santoku has a shorter, wider, thinner blade with a blunter tip. Might be just what you're looking for. You can get one from pretty much all the European and Japanese knife makers nowadays.

                1 Reply
                1. re: tanuki soup

                  Oh, yeah. Here's a picture of a santoku knife.

                2. I am not a slave to all my knives being the same brand and as has been mentioned, a Japanese knife, like a Shun Santuko, is harder steel and I love it for veggies. I have found that my 6" Henkels slicer has become a favorite for me for light duty work. I really like the thin blade. It is a snap to get a sharp edge again with a steel. My smaller, 7-8" chef's knives are some of my least favorite knives.
                  Perhaps something like this would be a inexpensive addition: or
                  I do not agree with choking up on a big knife to make it more versatile.You still have the weight, it is clumsier and a compromise.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Scargod

                    How would someone "choke" up on a knife? Wouldn't they cut themselves? Sounds dangerous.

                    1. re: Scargod

                      If by "choking up" you mean using a pinch grip, most knife skills teachers prefer that grip because it gives greater control over the blade, regardless of its length. But if you've been holding your knife like a bat the pinch will definitely reduce its perceived length.

                      I agree that a thinner blade makes quicker work of most food. And a thinner blade is also lighter. So if weight's an issue, then focus on weight, not length. A typical 12" Japanese chef's knife will weigh about the same as a typical 6" German chef's knife.

                      Not knowing anything else about the OP's taste, skill level, or budget, here's the knife I think will be most acceptable to most people:


                      1. re: alanbarnes

                        As I noted above, the pinch grip makes a huge difference to me. I have chronic tendonitis in my right thumb and weak hands also. The pinch technique gives me incredibly more control, with my hand being a bridge or stabilizer between the handle and the blade.