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Any opinions on best cheap knife brands and models under $30.

Please no $130 knives, just ones that one can typically buy on sale for $30 or less (and someone almost always has a sale on knives). In particular, I just bought a Chicago Cutlery Santoku on sale for less than $20 and a Kitchen Aid for less than $10, and a three piece Cusinart paring knife set for under $10, any opinions on these brands. I actually have two Kitchen Aid Santoku knives, both identical size but the pro series blade is thinner and sings when thumped, instead of the dull thud I get when thumping the blade of the cooks series. BTW, is the sound a blade makes when thumped with your finger indicative of the quality of the steel in the blade?

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  1. Hi Lazycook,

    Well, it is said that the best value knives are the Victorniox knives:

    http://www.amazon.com/Victorinox-8-In...

    If you are into US made knives, especially wood handle knives, then Dexter-Russell knives are not too bad if you can get hold of a restaurant supplier.

    http://www.katom.com/135-24153B.html

    On the other hand, you can get reasonable priced German made knives at TJ Maxx, Home Goods, Marshalls from time to time, especially for J.A. Henckels.

    Oh yes, there is that theory that a good knife should give you a "ring" sound when you hit the blade. There is a little truth to it, but it can be more misleading from time to time, so I won't go straightly with that test.

    1. What chem said.

      Briefly - Forschner, F. Dick, and Dexter-Russel are the best I know of in this price range.

      Also, take a look at this thread.
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/405198

      1 Reply
      1. re: cowboyardee

        When I hear "cheap" and "knife" I think Dexter-Russell. Their fish filet knife is one of my favorites.

      2. The F Dick bread knife is great knife for >$30. It has a lot more uses than just cutting bread.

        http://www.amazon.com/Dick-Offset-Bre...

        1. http://www.chefknivestogo.com/fokn.html

          Forschner Fibrox

          3 Replies
          1. re: jeffreyem

            +1 on the Forschner Fibrox knives. I'm no knife expert and was overwhelmed by the pricing and attendant research involved. So I bought the Forschner $25 chef's knife on the recommendation of Cook's Illustrated which consistently rates it their top chef's knife. It's pretty much all I use; I've had it for well over a year and love it. I also have their paring knives -- you can get a set of three (regular, serrated and bird's beak or whatever that curved knife is called) for $10.

            1. re: herring

              +2 on the Forschner.

              It can handle anything from chopping veggies to butchering a chicken. For ~$25, you can't beat it.

              1. re: BigE

                ditto that. I've had mine for three years and it is still going strong. I use it everyday and it cuts like a dream.

          2. I haven't done this myself, but some Chow posters have scored very good vintage knives on ebay.

            I look for knives at Home Goods and have found Henckels knives there. I did buy one for more than $30--a large chef's knife that I absolutely love and use daily. I've bought smaller paring knives there, a serrated tomato knife and I think an OXO carving knife which is all I need, since I almost never buy meat which needs to be carved. I've also bought ceramic knives which I think are dangerous.

            I would not buy Kitchen Aid, and I am not impressed with Chicago Cutlery. I have purchased Caphalon knives, but they are not fabulous. My son uses a Sabatier chef's knife that he says I bought him years ago. I am sure I bought it at a place like Home Goods or Tuesday Morning.

            Its taken me awhile to get knives I really like. I've traded up as I found better knives at a good price. But I think visiting Home Goods or similar often will yield you some servicable knives. Always try to buy forged, rather than stamped blades.

            17 Replies
            1. re: sueatmo

              I agree with most of what you said except the part about "always buy forged and not stamped blades". There are plenty decent stamped knives. Shun, MAC, Global, and many many excellent knives are essentially stamped knives. The idea that you have to buy forged German knives is more for marketing than based on real peformance.

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                CK,

                I agree there are some excellent stamped blades out there, but I thought knives were either forged or stamped. What's the difference between a stamped knife and an "essentially" stamped knife?

                1. re: Zeldog

                  Yes, I were being confusing. Those knives (Global...etc) are stamped. Some people like to distinguish the really good stamped knives from really bad stamped knives. Chad Ward like to call the good one: machined knives :P

                  I don't mean forged knives are bad, but with today heat treatment technology, there is no real reason to believe a "forged" knife is necessary better than a "stamped" knife.

                  It is almost like saying men are better writers than women because men are more educated. Well, yes, maybe 1000 years ago, but that is not true now.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    You obviously know more about this than I do. I do look for forged knives, as I almost always buy them at discount. For me it is a shorthand sort of way to sort through the goods when I don't know the brands all that well. I have in my possession and have used stamped knives. I think the forged are sturdier around the handle. However I also have a forged "German steel-made in China" Caphalon Santoku I can't warm up to. And the Calphalon knives I gave my sister aren't that great, in my opinion. I wonder who makes them? They aren't easy to use somehow. Maybe I should have said, always try to buy knives from the knivemaker, rather than from a general cookware mfg. Sound better?

                    1. re: sueatmo

                      Sueatmo,

                      I am learning as you are about knives. I think there are some good stamped knives these days, so we don't have to limit our selection. Many people do like the balance of forged knives and that is a personal preference.

                      Yeah, we have knives where the steels are made in German and Japan, but the rest is from China. Calphalon LX knives are made from German steel (no idea about the exact steel grade) and it is finished in China.

                      http://www.amazon.com/Calphalon-Cutle...

                      Calphalon Katana knives are made from Japanese VG-1 steel (a pretty good steel) and finished in China as well.

                      http://www.amazon.com/Calphalon-Katan...

                      I have played around those knives abit in the stores. They appear to be good for their prices. I find the Katana handle a bit too weird and heavy. There are the Calphon Contemporary knives which are made with German steel and finished in China. I think Contemporary knives are not as well made as the LX and Katana.

                      http://www.amazon.com/Calphalon-Conte...

                      I think all of Calphalon knives are made in China. In fact, I think almost half of J.A. Henckels knives are made in non-German countries as well. American LamsonSharp and Chicago Cutlery have long made their knives out of USA. American Dexter-Russell is starting to make their knives oversea as well, but most of theirs are still in USA.

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        Read this quick primer on knives from Chad Ward over at Egullet.

                        http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?/...

                        Debunks a ton of myths surrounding knives. I've heard good things about the Forchners, but have never handled one. I saw the Cooks Illustrated episode where they do the bbq/slow cooked beef, and I watched in horror as the female (forget which one) sawed at the piece of beef. I mean, they just did a segment on sharpening knives (using the Forschner). If I had to saw like that cutting a piece of beef I'm throwing that knife out of the window. Ok maybe not the window it still may be sharp enough to cut someone.

                        1. re: deeznuts

                          Deeznut,

                          Just noticed that you wrote to me. Yeah, Chad is a great writer. Very funny. I also like the fact that he is willing to debunk some myths. Reading his book, it is very difficult not to get the impression that he thinks very highly of the Japanese hard steel knives over the German knives. He didn't right out say that, but he pretty much said everything else.

                          I read some of Cooks Illustrated publications. While they are fairly unbiased, some of their conclusions are not very reflective. In one issue, it tested several Westernized Japanese knives and ranked their edge holding ability based on grinding the knives against sandpapers. I thought using that alone to rank knives is a bit odd.

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            Yes, I read that same article (I'm a cooks illustrated member). I like them for their science, and testing. I don't always agree with them, but they do their research and they test and test and they test. Chad does prefer japanese knives probably but reading his various articles and his posts at knifeforums, he isn't a japanese knife snob. A good knife is a good knife. He thinks highly of the forschners for budget knives, while others scoff.

                            1. re: deeznuts

                              I am not a Cooks Illustrated member. My friend just lent me that issue. The sandpaper results were not wrong per sa, but using that data set alone to rank knives is a bit much. I don't know many people scoff at Victorinox/Forschers knives.

                        2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                          Oh I'm sure the latter is true. When I bought a my first chef's knife over a decade ago, I bought the single twin icon Henckels, which blade says "made in Spain." I checked this same model knife fairly recently and the blade says "China." And I didn't think the handle was as nicely finished as my old one. My 8" chef's knife is the one I love to use. Its a Twin Fourstar II, Ice hardened, and it was made in Germany. This the knife I use for almost everything. Found it at T.J. Maxx!

                          My son used Cutco (his roommate's) and raved about them. Aren't they stamped? But don't they cut well?

                          1. re: sueatmo

                            Sueatmo,

                            It is not too difficult to find Four Star on sale, but it is not as easy to find Four Star II on sale. Good for you find one in TJ Maxx..

                            I don't have hands-on experience with Cutco knives really. My criticism of Cutco knives is that they are not high quality knives (from what I read) and yet they charge a lot (like typical Henckels and Wusthof knife). Here is a comparison test of French Chef's knife:

                            http://www.cookingforengineers.com/ar...

                            I think Dexter-Russell knives are better buy. It offers more options and cheaper.

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              I do have first hand experience with cutcos. They were the first "nice" knives I ever used - my mother was goaded into buying them when I was a kid. Though they were undoubtedly nice compared to the pure crap we had been using before, in retrospect they had quite a few limitations.

                              The serrated knives were nice but significantly overpriced. And all cutcos claims that their knives were not serrated but instead featured a unique "double D" edge were marketing BS. Their chef's knife was somewhat soft, way overpriced, and worst of all had awful geometry - way too thick at both the spine and behind the edge, poor tapering, very obtuse.

                              All that said, using cutco initially was a revelation. They were the first knives I used that were sharp enough to cut a tomato. Cutco was arguably responsible for my later love of fine kitchen knives. But the problem is they wouldn't compare well to forschners, even if they were priced the same. And cutcos are... not priced the same.

                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                Cowboyardee,

                                Thanks. So they (Cutco knives) are better than many average American knives from Dexter-Russell, Lamson Sharp and Chicgo Cutley, right?

                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  In general, I would rather have Dexter-russell than cutco, though not by much. I prefer the geometry of their chef knives, anyway. I'm not too familiar with lamson sharp so I can't evaluate. The chicago cutlery knives I've used had a hard time taking much of an edge, so I didn't like them too much. But for the money, they're a better deal than Cutco at least. I couldn't recommend cutco to anyone really unless their prices plummeted.

                                  1. re: cowboyardee

                                    Cowboy,

                                    You mean you would rather have Dexter over Cutco even if the price is the same, right? Originally, I thought you meant Cutco is the first "nice" knives, so I assume they must be nicer than something, which leads me to think you were referring to other US manufacturer knives.

                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                      Yeah, they're nicer than farberware and waaaay nicer than the godawful nameless mini-serrated department-store knives my mother was using in the 1980s. Dexter Russell would have been just as "nice" compared to what we were using.

                                      1. re: cowboyardee

                                        Oh, oh those knives. I completely forgot about farberware. I had some of those, but not anymore. I still have the "Tools of Trade" knives which I bought as a student. They were very cheap. I got a whole knife block set of knives (15 knives) for $30-40 and they were not even on sale. They go dull very fast. I remember specifically sharpening these knives along with others and these tools of trade knives lost their edges incredibly fast compare to others. How dull? I feel very comfortable using them to pick my teeth or fingernails if I have to (which I don’t by the way).

              2. Lazycook,

                Can't say about the others, but you got what you paid for with the Chicago Cutlery knife.

                The sound of the blade is important in Quentin Tarantino movies, but not necessarily in cooking. It depends on the geometry of the blade as much as the properties of the steel. Even the term "quality" is vague. It's said high carbon steel (e.g. Sabatier) knives, which are not very musical, hold a sharp edge better than stainless steel knives. If holding an edge is your only measure of quality, then a nice ringing sound is a bad sign.

                1. I just bought a Calphalon Katana bread knife at HomeGoods for $30.

                  Um... It looks pretty!

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: bovinekid

                    I have seen the Calphalon katana knives. They actually look pretty good. Very stiff, good finished, made from VG-1. The only thing is that they have very heft handles. Some people may like it, but I feel they should be lighter since they are trying to be semi-Japanese knives. However, they are inexpensive.

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      I actually had found the 8 inch chef from the Katana series at HomeGoods as well for only $40. I bought it, but ended up returning it for that exact reason: the knife was extremely unbalanced in favor of the handle. For the bread knife, it doesn't really matter to me much.

                      I didn't initially have positive stuff to say about it since it had trouble with the first loaf I tried to slice, but now I think that was more a function of the bread being slightly overcooked than the knife. I sliced a fresh loaf bread last night and the Katana cut through it quite nicely.

                      1. re: bovinekid

                        Oh good. The Katana knives are made from decent steel. I think Calphalon is too smart for its own good. Katana tries to distinguish its knives by putting very stylish handles on them. However, that made the knives worse because the knives are so handle-heavy.

                  2. Your KitchenAide santokus are great value for the money. Fuggeddubout the sound of the blade - see how fast, comfortable, and accurate the knife is in your hand in your kitchen.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                      This is true. How does the knife feel in your hand, and how well can you use it? The best knife is the one you can use well.

                    2. I would also think about buying a nice electric knife sharpener, and foraging through a resale shop for knives. I have a kitchen full of nice new knives and nice old knives. I love knives. You can find some REALLY nice knives for dirt cheap at a salvation army or other resale shops. If they feel good and balanced in your hand, and only cost 1.00, take it home, and sharpen it. If it takes an edge nicely, then you win.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: gordeaux

                        I just got a bunch of Sheffield and also a set of German knives (Solingen) for 50 cents each, one the handle was sort of broken so I threw it out, but still got 6 knives for $3. It's shocking what you can find at certain thrift stores. And you're being green!

                      2. Here is another web site, that I have recently set up, selling only professional-grade knives, ie NSF rated (also NSF rated cookware). Specifically, Victorinox/Forschner Fibrox (Switzerland), Dexter Russel V-lo (US), and Sanelli Premana (Italy). The Victorinox and Dexters are more-or-less in your price range, but the Sanellis are higher.

                        http://www.profpots.com

                        Click on either "cutlery by brand" or "cutlery by type" on the left.

                        1. For under $10, you really can't beat Kiwi knives from Thailand. Geared toward Asian styles (cleavers), they do offer some variety, and as I said for under ten dollars you can't go wrong. I just got one of their paring knives for $1.19, and it's a great little knife. If you can't find them at a local Asian ktichen supply store, try the Wokshop.com...

                          10 Replies
                          1. re: toddster63

                            Now that you mention it, I recently got a bunch of Ginsu knives I found on a back shelf at a dollar store. When it comes to cutting tomatoes, there's nothing like them. All sizes and shapes for $1 each, I was sorry I couldn't think of anyone to buy the rest of the case for at the time.

                            1. re: toddster63

                              Hey Todd,

                              Yes, I have heard good things about the Kiwi knives (repeatedly) and I have seen them at local stores, but I have never tried one. I am not sure if they are really good, or they are good for the $2-8 price range. Personally, I am still trying to hunt down a good CCK knife.

                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                I have to add on for the Kiwi knives! I would willingly pay $100 for the 8" Kiwi that I got from Wokshop in San Francisco (wokshop.com for non-locals). It's not "good for an $8 knife", its great for any knife, period. The only thing is, it's not that "attractive." Well, at least the handle and the fit & finish. The shape of the blade is beautiful in my opinion. It holds an edge well and mine was really sharp right out of the package. It's my go to knife now, even over some of my much more expensive ones.

                                1. re: Jemon

                                  Jemon,

                                  I heard of them. Thai Kiwi. I have seen them around in Asian grocery stores as well. Maybe I will get one and see what the fuss is all about.

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    I just bought a new cleaver last week in a Chinese market for $8.99 that I'm really enjoying. It was between a Kiwi cleaver and a Cleverest Son's Wife cleaver. I chose Cleverest Son's Wife because it looked like a good, heavy bone-cutting knife and I mostly need it to cut up whole chickens. Also it was hard to pass up such a quirky, idiomatic name. I got it home and noticed it said "文武刀” (wenwu dao) on the blade. I had no idea what that meant. According to Baidu it's a newish kind of cleaver popular with Chinese chefs. It's called a "military-civilian knife" because it can be used both to cut through bone (military) and chop vegetables (civilian). I've been using it for everything this week since I have a wrist injury and cutting with a cleaver is less painful because the weight of the knife helps with the cutting and I don't move my wrist as much as I do with a chef's knife.

                                    That's a long way of saying I like my new $9 cleaver and its name.

                                    I might get a smaller Kiwi vegetable cleaver next time I'm at the market.

                                    1. re: rhizomatique

                                      rhizomaique,

                                      I have no idea about Cleverest Son's Wife Cleaver. That is a really strange name. However, you are absolutely correct about 文武刀. It is a knife thicker than a thin blade slicer like 片刀/桑刀, but thinner than a full blown meat cleaver like 九江刀/骨刀. As you know most Chinese home cooks use what is called vegetable knife or 菜刀. It is my understanding that 文武刀 is a touch thicker than the vegetable knife and often larger. For vegetable knife 菜刀, Dexter Russell Chinese chef's knife has a very good reputation among Chinese chefs and cooks in US.

                                      http://www.katom.com/135-08040.html?C...

                                      Here is a list of CCK knives. CCK has very good reputation for Chinese style knives:

                                      http://www.chanchikee.com/ChineseKniv...

                                      Good wishes

                                      1. re: rhizomatique

                                        I've also got a cleverest son - it's great, especialy when I cut stuff like winter squash, melons, and such. It also takes a REALLY good edge with DMT diamond stones.

                                        1. re: jkling17

                                          "cleverest son"?

                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                            If you have any large asian markets or a chinatown in your area, you will easily have access to any number of inexpensive chinese cleavers. Just find one that has a "good feel in your hand" and seems to be made of halfway decent steel and you'll be fine. The brand that I bought just happens to be "cleverest son".

                                            1. re: jkling17

                                              Ah, but is it possible that it is called "cleverest son's wife"?

                                              http://i00.i.aliimg.com/img/company/v...

                                              http://www.yjqxf.com/en/

                              2. I have a block full of really expensive knives. The knife I use 95% of the time is a knife that is the lovechild of a cleaver and a santoku-- the shape is vaguely reminiscent of a Shun Ken Onion knife. The blade is stamped with "CADalog Distribution" and cost $14. I LOVE this thing. If I could find out where to buy them (my Mom picked this up at a shop in Toronto's Chinatown) I would buy 4 or 5 of them.

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: chococat

                                  Are you talking about a knife with this shape?

                                  http://cgi.ebay.com/Japanese-VG10-Che...

                                  This is a knife which mean to merge a Chinese Che'f knife (Chinese cleaver) with a German Chef's knife. I am not a huge fan of this particular sharp, but a lot of people like it.

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    YES! That's the shape EXACTLY. I bow down to your internet investigative skills!

                                    1. re: chococat

                                      Chococat,

                                      Thanks. :) Actually, it has less to do with internet browsing skill and more to do with reading your mind. Afterall, it is about knowing what knife you are refering to.

                                      Anyway, you can find these fusion or hybrid knives in China town, so if you ever swing by you can probably pick up some around $15-20 each. The one I saw are made in Japan.

                                      Martin Yan also has his hybrid knife. It leans more on the Chinese side and less on the German side, but there is definitely a curvature to the edge:

                                      http://us.st12.yimg.com/us.st.yimg.co...
                                      http://www.yancancook.com/store/knife...

                                      Martin Yan has endosed many knives and his earlier knives are more traditional. His last two were made in US and German. I don't know who makes this recent hybrid knife of his. Good luck.

                                      1. re: chococat

                                        That is the shape of the Kiwi knife...

                                        1. re: Jemon

                                          You love Kiwi knife, don't you? Yes, some of the Kiwi knives sharp like that:

                                          http://importfood.com/media/set_plast...

                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                            hahaha! They have turned me into a fan. Mine has a wooden handle, however. Never seen the plastic version.

                                  2. I was in Hong Kong Market, a supermarket on International Ave, in Calgary. They had 2 very interesting cleavers - one a chopper, one a slicer - both carbon steel - 32 dollars for the chopper and 28 for the slicer. They were similar in size to my CCK KF1102 - read 'big'. The chopper was very heavy - thick thick spine. The slicer was not quite as thin as the 1102 but very close and half the price. I probably wouldn't notice the difference in use. Their similarity to CCK products was amazing - one, on first look, would say 'CCK'. I think the brand name was Royal Store.

                                    They also had a slicer, stainless steel, same size as the carbon steel, and razor sharp.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: rosetown

                                      Dude,

                                      How are your two CCKs doing? Is KF1102 still as unwielding as it has been? I have seen similar carbon steel huge Chinese chef's knives in Chinatown. About $17-25 depending on the thickness. The thicker the more expensive. Those I saw were made in Taiwan.

                                      Chefknifetogo has dropped the prices on several CCK. The KF1303 is only $25. Can you believe it? I wish I bought it with that price :)

                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                        No, they are no longer unwieldy - I've adapted - I just used the 1102 to slice and clean a few green peppers - no handling problems. Their biggest benefit is the amazing ease of use when slicing. It's almost sick. : )

                                        1. re: rosetown

                                          You know what this mean, right? This means I can get a KF1103 or KF1102. KF1103 is only $55 at Chefknivestogo :) Nah, I am happy with the KF1303 for now. Yes, the thin blades are very good at making thin and precision slices. I didn't notice it until I went back to my medium blade Dexter-Russell Chinese Chef's knife and realized it is much more difficult to make thin slices with it.

                                    2. The Dexter-Russell 8" Chef Knife is an incredibly good value. I've used their knives next to my Wustoff (top of the line) and comparable blades. They hold an edge just as well or better, and although they're not full-tang they hold up well to years of daily use.. The handles are ergonimically shaped. All they leave out is the snob appeal. I've talked to several experienced chefs who say only suckers buy the really expensive premium knives for everyday cooking. Best of all, they're inexpensive. Onj Amazon this knife is under $15.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: bkling

                                        I've had a boning knife of theirs for ages (like 30 years or more) and it's still in tiptop condition.

                                      2. I have used Henkels and Sabatiers in the past, and also own Shun and Wusthof knives, but my current favorites are ones I picked up in a restaurant supply store that are made by a company called Mercer. They are great tools for the money. They sharpen and hold an edge well. The weight is good, substantial and well-balanced, and the handles are round and covered in a grippy rubbery substance, which I find much more hand-friendly than the squared-off handles of Henkels or the smooth Shun handle. The 8" Chef's Knife, which I use for almost everything, is $40 on Amazon right now, but their boning, paring, and utility knives can be had for well under $30.