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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: http://www.chefsresource.com/mac-clea... or http://www.chefsresource.com/viking-s....
                  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.

                    2. Japanese may be the all the rage, but I put my 10" Shun Kaji chef's knife down tonight and reached for my trusty 8" Henkel's Twin Pro to hack through some chicken rib cages. I still think you can chip these harder, thinner blades, and there is a lot to be said for those sturdy German style chef's knives for certain tasks. (No, I don't have a Western Deba, maybe one day).

                      If you want a suggestion, there are two smaller knives that I frequently reach for when my ten inch chef's knife seems like too much knife. I actually usually do all my prep with the ten incher, but if I am only doing a smaller task, I reach for a smaller knife to start. One is a six inch French style chef's knife (K Sabatier, mine just happens to be carbon steel), and it is the perfect size for smaller and softer veggies, fruit, quartering mushrooms, etc.
                      The other knife I reach for is a 7 inch Santoku, which because of its flatter profile, I tend to use for straight chopping and a two-handed mincing motion. I don't like the Santoku profile enough to use it as a straight substitute for a big chef's knife, but there are plenty of people who love them.

                      You can find 6 inch Japanese gyotus, chef's knives and Santokus from Japanese, German and French manufacturers. If you haven't tried a Japanese knife, you owe it to yourself to see the differences. If you don't want to spend too much money, look at Mac, Global, Shun, and even Kershaw (Shun's manufacturer). They are very sharp and feature thinner blades, and you can find all but the Mac at Williams Sonoma to try out.

                      Japanesechefsknife.com and Korin all have beauties as well as more reasonably priced brands on their websites, but you have to order on line.

                      1. HamOnMyBones: "Any suggestions out there?"

                        A few years ago, we had every kind of (useful) knife except a (reasonable length) chef's knife, and we investigated the same question. (We had inherited a very, very long chef's knife that we now use mainly to dissect full-size watermelons in one stroke.)

                        We came to the conclusion that the "best" (for us) chef's knife (and we purchased accordingly) is an 8" Chef's Choice (Edgecraft). That is a very controversial result to arrive at, because the Chef's Choice is not made in Germany; it is not made in France; it is not made in Japan; it is never featured on Home Shopping Network. The Chef's Choice chef''s knife is made in Pennsylvania. Your mileage may vary. Others may -- and probably will -- disagree.

                        One good use of a chef's knife is to turn the blade on its side to crush garlic. Accept no chef's knife the blade of which cannot be used to crush garlic.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Politeness

                          The distinction between European and Japanese blades really doesn't have anything to do with geography. Rather, it has to do with the two most common current approaches to making knives.

                          The typical high-end European knife is forged, with a full bolster. The blade is fairly thick and heavy, and is made from relatively soft steel. The typical Japanese knife is stamped (or, most often, laser-cut) from much harder sheet steel. It is thinner and lighter, and if it has a bolster at all, it will be pinned to the blade and likely limited to the area near the handle.

                          I don't know about the Edgecraft knife or anything else made in Pennsylvania. But Joel Bukiewicz and Ken Onion - two highly respected bladesmiths - live in Brooklyn and Honolulu, respectively. Regardless of their domicile, the kitchen knives they make are fundamentally Japanese.

                          1. re: alanbarnes

                            alanbarnes, you are correct that the terms Japanese knife or German knife denote a style not actual geography; my point is that some buyers seek prestige over function, and cannot imagine that a knife made in Pennsylvania or Honolulu or Brooklyn can compare to one made in Solingen.

                            Part of the attraction (or repulsion, if you are a lover of French-style carbon steel blades) of the Chef's Choice knives is that while their geometry is similar to a that of a German knife, the (forged) steel the Edgecraft uses has a hardness more typical of the steel found in Japanese knives -- but the Chef's Choice alloy retains non-brittle toughness. Chef's Choice blades have a Rockwell hardness of 60; the Shun Ken Onion chef's knife has a Rockwell hardness of 61; Henckels makes a knife -- Cermax -- with a Rockwell hardness of 66, but most German and French knives are in the high 50s. The hard, thin Japanese-style knives tend to be brittle, and the function of a chef's knife, in particular, calls for toughness over finesse. One rocks the working edge of a chef's knife on the cutting board for chopping and dicing; for slicing fish fillets, for instance, a thinner, lighter knife, not a chef''s knife, would be the tool for the job.

                            1. re: Politeness

                              There are Japanese versions of the Chef's knife as well and the strong bias today is for the Japanese style Chef knife or gyutou. Many Japanese style knives are ground with a Western edge.


                        2. thanks for all the suggestions and advice, this is great !

                          1. Just picked up a Mundial ten inch chefs knife from surfas.com. This company makes knives for Henckels as well as its own brand. Great knife, high-carbon stainless steel, polypropolene handle. And a great price.

                            1. here's a wrinkle. the kitchen that i just started working out had me do prep with these knives. i really liked them, especially the way they felt in my hand. later on in the day i looked a bit closer and realized that they were rachel ray knives. so would it be silly to go buy a few of hers since the kitchen where i work uses them?

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: HamOnMyBones

                                Not if they fit your hand well and they are comfortable for you.

                                1. re: HamOnMyBones

                                  They're not pink handled are they? Probably the only thing unusual might be her take on the handle shape.
                                  They're made by Furi, a major manufacturer...Seems slightly softer thatn Furi's own handle design.

                                  Is this it? http://www.cutleryandmore.com/details...
                                  ORANGE handled.

                                  1. re: HamOnMyBones

                                    I've heard they have performance issues, but if it works for you, that's all that matters

                                  2. This is NEW (at least to me)! Henkel's Twin Profection line of knives. http://www.cutleryandmore.com/details...
                                    Anyone tried one? They look interesting... I have the Gourmet style Henkels, like the riveted handle style and this looks like an improvement.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: Scargod

                                      i have a few Henckels, among others, and for sure you can bet a better 8-inch chef's knife than that for $140

                                      1. re: chuckl

                                        I was at TJMaxx and Marshalls last night. Marshalls had the 8" Henckels Pro S Chefs for 49.99
                                        And at the local TJMaxx, they randomly get in a Shun, I picked up the Shun Classic 8" chefs for 79.99 last night.

                                        Both stores seem to be getting in several of the Henckels 4 Star knives, I suppose due to Henckels changing the handle to include an end cap, but the blade is the same. I'd say keep an eye out, you could find something that fits your needs for a lot less!

                                        1. re: grnidkjun

                                          I walked into Macy's in South Beach a couple of years ago and browsed the kitchen dept. They had a table of odd piece knives. Some had a touch of rust at the bevel, one had a broken tip and others were just odd lots. I picked out 6 Henckels 2 of each type including 4 star, pro S and twin signitures. Shapes were utilitiy, small chef, santoku and slicer. All were $9.99 each. I took them home and resharpened them and fixed the broken tip. Gave most of them to my kids to use. Now those were a good deal