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Jan 7, 2010 11:59 AM

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:

    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.

    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.

      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.

          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


                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


                      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.


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


                      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.


                      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.


                        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


                          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


                            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:


                            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


                                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


                                    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).