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length of chef's knife desired

z
Zengarden Jan 24, 2010 02:49 PM

I have a question about chef's knives. Is there a particular length that is more desirable than others? I was looking at the Global brand and there are three sizes listed. Just do not know what I should be looking for when it comes to length of the product.

  1. johnb Jan 24, 2010 04:43 PM

    I think it's mostly a question of whether you're comfortable working with the larger sizes. If you're small, a large knife may be a bit much to handle. That said, there are a few jobs where a big knife really does come in handy, such as breaking down a chicken. But I think most cooks would agree you can do nearly anything with an 8" chefs knife, and that is certainly the one to have if you only have one. It is the most versatile.

    1. b
      bobo_1314 Jan 24, 2010 11:01 PM

      My sister's a chef, and she recommends an 8-inch knife for everyday vegetable and meat cutting. At first I thought a shorter knife, like a 6-inch, would be more nimble, but my sis says actually a longer knife is more versatile.

      1. Chemicalkinetics Jan 24, 2010 11:20 PM

        Zengarden,

        Obviously, different people have different preference for Chef's knife which is the reason for different sizes. That being said, 8"-8.5" Chef's knife is considered the most popular for home cooks.

        1. z
          Zengarden Jan 25, 2010 02:15 AM

          That's all good info to consider. This is being brought back as a gift from an overseas trip so I can't actually try out the blades ahead of time.

          Thanks for your help!

          1 Reply
          1. re: Zengarden
            Soop Jan 25, 2010 06:20 AM

            I'd say it depends how big you are. I have a 8" Global, and I'm 6' tall medium build. My girlfriend tends to prefer my pairing knife for many things, but for me 8-10" is perfect

          2. w
            Whoopingcrane Jan 25, 2010 06:26 AM

            I don't think your size has much to do with it unless you're shorter than the knife... I agree that whatever your size personally, 8" is a good general length. It's more about the balance of the knife. I find 6" chefs to be too handle heavy and 10" chefs to be too heavy toward the tip.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Whoopingcrane
              Chemicalkinetics Jan 25, 2010 07:28 AM

              Ha ha ha ha. That is funny.

            2. cowboyardee Jan 25, 2010 07:04 AM

              You want as long a knife as you can comfortably handle in the space you have. A longer knife lets you cut through larger foods more easily and cleanly. More of its edge will make contact with the board at the same time, leading to cleaner and easier cuts. And a longer edge is better for slicing, getting more work done with each slice.

              Of course a 12-inch knife won't do you much good if you can't control it nimbly or if you're using it on an 8-inch cutting board. If you're looking into gyutos (like the Global cooks knife), you'll find they are lighter and more nimble than their German counterparts. A 240 mm (approx 9.5 inch) Japanese knife will generally feel about as easy to control as an 8-inch German knife. So if you're used to 8-inch German knives, try a 9.5 inch Japanese knife.

              If you can, try out a couple longer knives. Borrow one from someone you know if possible, so that you can try one for a couple days to get used to it. You want as long a knife as you can get nice and comfortable with.

              1. RetiredChef Jan 25, 2010 08:49 AM

                Hopefully you have seen that there is no correct answer. As you get more proficient you will be able to use a larger knife but your goal should not be to use the largest knife you can but the one that you get the best results and have the most control over.

                I personally use a 12 inch knife for almost everything but I have 50 years of having a knife in my hand. I would suggest you go to a knife store and try out a bunch of different 8” and 10” knives, see which one feels better and more balanced in your hand and buy that one.

                Also don’t get to impressed with brand names, knives are personal, my favorite knife is a Dexter-Russell, the handle and weight of the knife is perfectly balanced for ME. My second favorite is a F. Dick again it is all about the feel of the knife and the balance and control I can have with it. I’ve used knives that have cost 10X’s as much as my lowly little D-R but I have more control and can turn out a higher quality product, quicker with that knife so I stick by it.

                11 Replies
                1. re: RetiredChef
                  Chemicalkinetics Jan 25, 2010 09:45 AM

                  RetiredChef

                  My Dexter-Russell experience is decent. I have a Chinese chef's knife from D-R and I really like it. I have a boning knife and a sheep feet paring knife. I am not too impressed with the sheep feet paring knife. It is still a good knife. Very light, very easy to sharp, but for some reasons I cannot get it extremely sharp. While my other knives can easily shave my arm hair, the D-R paring knife does not give a clean shave -- even right after sharpened on a stone. The boning knife is very solid, but also cannot take a sharp edge for some reasons. I don't care for the boning knife being extremely sharp because of its function. Maybe it is my sharpening skill, but then I sharpen all my other knives the same way.

                  All three of these D-R knives are from the "traditional" line from D-R.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                    Chemicalkinetics Jan 25, 2010 02:08 PM

                    Sheep's foot paring knife, not sheep feet.

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                      cowboyardee Jan 26, 2010 06:42 AM

                      Chem, if you've tried each of these knives more than once and each time had the same problem, you can rest assured it's probably not your sharpening skill that is the problem.

                      Some knives simply will not take a very fine edge. It is a property of their steel and/or heat treatment that leaves them with a large or uneven carbide grain structure. Still too small for you to see, but you can notice it if you're used to putting shaving edges on knives. Think of it like trying to sharpen a block of concrete or styrofoam to a shaving edge. Instead of creating a very sharp edge, eventually you'll just be tearing out grains without improving the edge in the least.

                      When sharpening knives with this problem, I've had what appear to be better results using a carborundum stone (cheap hardware store oil stone) than waterstones. I have a host of theories for why this is, but so far I can't really confirm that I'm not fooling myself or that others would have the same results. So for the time being, I'll keep my crackpot theories to myself. But if you already have an oil stone lying around somewhere, give it a try on those two knives and see if it helps.

                      1. re: cowboyardee
                        Chemicalkinetics Jan 26, 2010 09:31 AM

                        Cowboy,

                        Yes, I don't think it is my knife sharpening skill because I notice that problem and a few day ago, I sharpen two knife side by side and the Dexter-Russell paring knife just cannot take as nice an edge as the other knife. It can shave my arm hair but -- but very inconsistent, like here and there. I suspect the D-R steel just does not have the finer grain, so it just cannot take that very fine edge. It wasn't even about edge retention. It just could not properly take an edge.

                        I do have those very cheap $2-3 stone as well. Thanks.

                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                          cowboyardee Jan 26, 2010 09:35 AM

                          Do you mean you have already been sharpening it on a cheap oil stone? Or that you have one that you could try instead?

                          If you mean the latter, please report back your results if and when you do try the oil stone. I'm really curious if others have noticed this subtle phenomenon or if I'm just imagining it.

                          1. re: cowboyardee
                            Chemicalkinetics Jan 26, 2010 09:56 AM

                            Cowboy,

                            Nope. I have not sharpened it on a the $3 stone yet. I meant I sharpened the Dexter and Wusthof paring knife side by side on a Japanese water stone. I stopped at 1000 and then stopped at 6000 grits, and the Dexter one just is not as sharp. I also tried stropping on leather.

                            I will try to resharpen the dexter on my oil stone, but then I don't think I will sharpen my Wusthof on the oil stone, so there will not be a head to head comparison in that case. Still, I can see if the Dexter can shave better. I am seriously losing a lot of arm hair (seriously).

                            I don't know if I am imagining, but I think my Dexter Chinese chef's cleaver shave my hair better. Of course, it is very difficult to wield a Chinese chef's cleaver to shave my arm, but it seems to shave better. This was why initially I thought it had to do with my knife sharpening skill because I suspect the Dexter Chinese chef's, Dexter boning and Dexter paring knives are all made the same.

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                              cowboyardee Jan 26, 2010 10:11 AM

                              Quote: "I don't know if I am imagining, but I think my Dexter Chinese chef's cleaver shave my hair better."

                              You're probably not imagining. A lot of big knife companies skimp on the steel or heat treatment for their lower-priced knives, even ones in the same product line.

                              Also, my arms have looked like I have a disease for a long time now. Alternating patches of hair in different states of growth like I'm rotating crops. Long sleeves are easier than explanations.

                              1. re: cowboyardee
                                Chemicalkinetics Jan 26, 2010 03:27 PM

                                Cowboy,

                                Just double-check, came back home and starting shaving with my Dexter Chinese chef's knife. The center of the edge does not shave well, but front and back, where I don't use much shave nicely. It is true that this Chinese chef's knife is sold at a higher price but these three knives are from the same line: tradition. Maybe I got lucky with this Chinese chef's knife or unlucky with the other two.

                                Well, let me tell you. My arm hair is very valuable. You see, I pretty much ran out of arm hair these days and now using leg hair (not joking). Unfortunately, my leg hair is much thicker than my arm hair, so they are much easier to cut. For example, my Dexter paring knife can cut most of my leg hair as it run through its path, but it cannot cut my finer arm hair as nicely. Again, it can cut my arm hair, but it misses here and there. Anyway, my arm hair is in shortage and yet they are highly demanded as other hairs just won't do. I think I will need those hair grow solution, so I can grow them faster.

                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                  Soop Jan 27, 2010 01:33 AM

                                  Invite someone round when you do your sharpening, and then you can use their hair :)

                                  I'm sure they won't mind if they get a beer out of it

                                  1. re: Soop
                                    Chemicalkinetics Jan 27, 2010 04:47 AM

                                    Soop,

                                    How has your smooth steel treating you? Well, if they get many beer, then maybe they won't remember anything the next day.

                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                      Soop Jan 27, 2010 05:00 AM

                                      :D
                                      Yeah, it's actually really good. I noticed a slight fold in my knife from something (you could feel it by running your thumb over it). Just ran the steel a couple of times and it smoothed it out :)

                  2. PegS Jan 25, 2010 11:03 AM

                    Even though the knife is coming from overseas, it doesn't hurt for you to go and test other knives to see what length works for you. You won't get the weight or the complete feel of the knife you end up buying, but at least you can figure out if you like a longer or shorter knife.

                    I'm small, with small hands, but I've discovered that for most prep work I prefer a 12". I like a length that can reach across just about any food I may be slicing.

                    1. m
                      Muskrat Jan 25, 2010 11:12 AM

                      It's not how long the chef's knife is that matters; it's how he uses it.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Muskrat
                        k
                        KTinNYC Jan 25, 2010 03:16 PM

                        You 'll have a much easier time splitting a large squash in half with a 10" knife then with a 6" knife regardless who you are and how you use your knives.

                      2. Bada Bing Jan 25, 2010 12:07 PM

                        Havng 10", 8" and 6" chef's knives on my magnetic rack, I go for the 10" for almost everything, unless it has got dull. That's even for small work, like mincing garlic. (Mine's a Messermeister.)

                        But as others have said, it's a personal matter, with a lot depending on weight, handle, and balance. Best to try several in a store, but few cities have a store that lets you handle numerous quality brands at once. My Messermesiter was a gift from New York, but I don't think that Messermeister could be found in my metropolitan area (which has over 300 thousand population).

                        1. tanuki soup Jan 27, 2010 03:23 AM

                          How about getting a 10" chef's knife for big jobs, but pairing it with a nice compact 7" santoku for everyday use? -- Maybe the best of both worlds at (hopefully) less than twice the price.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: tanuki soup
                            Soop Jan 27, 2010 04:12 AM

                            TBH, I got a santoku, a pairing knife and a chefs knife. I tried using the santoku as my "vegetable knife" as it's more of a chopper for me, but I'm gradually shifting more towards the superior chefs knife for everything

                          2. r
                            Randol Jan 27, 2010 12:43 PM

                            This is a great site for buying great knives at great prices. I particularly like the Victorinox Forschners. A good 8 inch chef's knife is key.
                            http://www.cutlerymania.com/

                            1. David A. Goldfarb Jan 28, 2010 08:52 AM

                              I think of the 8" chef's knife as the basic western-style kitchen knife, if you've only got one. My father loved to cook and used one his whole life, and that's always been my main knife.

                              Larger chef's knives are handy, though, if you've got a lot of cutting to do and the board space to use that extra length. I also have 10" and 12" chef's knives, and I'm likely to reach for them for splitting carrots, cutting a melon, cutting a pizza, chopping a whole bag of spinach quickly and efficiently, or any time I have a lot of chopping to do, and if you prefer the head-splitting method of dispatching a lobster, you'll want a longer heavier knife.

                              As to which knife is best, I recommend going into a shop and trying things to see what feels right in your hand and suits the way you cut. If you tend to chop with your elbow as the fulcrum, you may like a lighter knife, and if you favor the point of the knife as the fulcrum, you may prefer a heavier knife. A brand or style of knife that feels too light at a shorter length might be just perfect at a longer length and vice versa.

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