Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Cookware >
Oct 9, 2010 04:25 PM


I am looking for opinions on quality essential knives. Just bought a 3 inch german pampered chef knive and am in love with the quality and function. What other knives would you suggest?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. What are the important attributes you look for in a knife? Does it has to be stainless? Do you prefer thicker blade softer steel German style knives or thinner blade harder steel Japanese style knives? What is your prefer price range? etc etc. Additional information will be helpful.

    On to suggestions, if you are looking for stainless steel knives in the $30-50, I would suggest Victorinox/Forschner knives and Dexter-Russell

    A wild card is the Thai Kiwi knives. They have a very low quality look, mediocre handle, but they are very inexpensive (~$10) and have a blade which can take a nice edge.

    If you are looking for higher quality with better fit and finish stainless steel Japanese knives, I would look into Shun, Tojiro,... etc:

    8 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      Hey Chem, the problem I see with your post is the that OP just purchased, for the first time, a German knife and does not have a lot of experience shopping or using them, hence the questions in the original post. How in the world would he/she know how to answer your questions, which BTW, would be very appropriate for someone like ... me, not someone currently admiring their first decent knife.

      First question: Is the OP in the mood to learn how to steel and sharpen knives on his or her own, or is the once-a-year to the shop or else learn how to use waterstones plan, which the Japanese knives require, more to his or her taste? I personally find the idea of shipping off my hard Japanese blades off to be sharpened a nuisance, so I have learned to use waterstones. However, until this point, the German stainless steel knives worked very well for me with the use of good steels (yes, the diamond ones remove metal and do sharpen), or else a few pulls through the Wusthoff sharpening gadget, and made me happy for many years. Same with French stainless steel -- easy to use, easy to maintain.

      I would categorize the harder, and therefore, harder to sharpen, Japanese varieties as an acquired taste for the more seriously committed. They are also more brittle. I still reach for a Henkels 8" when I am taking a chicken apart and need to cut through small bones because I think it is sturdier.

      Your brand recommendations are fine if the OP wants a stamped knife or just cheap knives. If the OP is interested in forged knives with a full tang, he or she can shop for a good Wusthoff classic chef's knife on sale, maybe an eight inch, and a slicer, and that should be enough to get through most jobs. K Sabatier also has some nice similar models with a French profile -- a little more curve at the bottom of the chef's knife. Get a sharpening steel and learn how to use it, and supplement with a manual pull through sharpener. Those babies can handle it. Just don't buy Japanese and treat them the same way.

      1. re: RGC1982

        "Your brand recommendations are fine if the OP wants a stamped knife or just cheap knives"

        Which is why I asked about what attributes is the original poster looking for. My three questions are not as difficult as you have suggested. Certainly two of the three questions are easy enough for anyone:

        1) Do you want a stainless steel knife?
        2) What price range are you looking for?

        You probably think the "Japanese vs German knives" question is too difficult for the original poster. Maybe, maybe not, but these questions are serve mostly as examples, so the original poster can tell us about his/her preference.

        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          Agreed and yes, it was the German versus Japanese question that I think an inexperienced buyer will have difficulty with. Don't get me wrong here -- I am a big fan of Japanese knives, (as well as French carbon steel, but those are for people committed to maintenance). For me, the brittleness of the super sharp Japanese stainless steel knives may come as an unwelcome surprise to a novice, as is the sharpening ritual. Price aside, it is easier to live with more forgiving knives, or at least at the beginning it is. Wusthoff and Henkels are not exactly "throw aways" and could be relegated to special duty later on if the OP discovers that Japanese knives are preferred.

          Forshners are great for the money. I even have a couple of stamped Kershaws (cheaper Shun line) around here that I originally purchased for my mother before she passed away last year, and they are fine knives too. Me? I don't like the feel of stamped knives. The weight seems strangely distributed when I compare them to the full tangs of most forged knives. They seem too light in my hands. It is just a personal preference.

          At the beginning, there probably is no substitute for going to Sur La Table or WS and trying a few out to see what feels good, but I would be cautious with the Shuns etc. unless I had another knife to use when doing hard labor. All the OP really needs is a chef's knife and a slicer to get most jobs done, now that he or she has a paring knife.

          1. re: RGC1982


            Thanks. It is understandable that some people don't like stamped knives because of the lighter weight. It seems you like Japanese knives alright. Do you consider them to be exception. I do agree that the original poster next knife is a good main cook knife, like a Chef's knife. I say a good Chef knife is more important than a good parer.

        2. re: RGC1982

          The problem with the big name German knives (Wusthof, Henckels) is that they don't perform any better than forschners (ok, they're better for hacking through chicken bones) and they cost several times as much. Being forged versus stamped doesn't translate to any functional advantage. They look and feel nicer though.

          I know this might be a bit controversial on this forum, but I don't have a problem with someone neglecting to recommend them.

          1. re: cowboyardee

            Exactly my point. They FEEL better to me, looks aside.

            I have to tell you, those Kershaws I referred to in my post above to Chem are great knives, and I am putting them aside for my kid to take to college. The handles feel very secure when your hands are wet versus the other materials. I bought them for my mother because she could not be trusted to care for expensive knives, and had the habit of just tossing all of her sharp knives in a drawer to bang against each other. I think I bought a three piece set for something like $60, and that includes an eight inch chef's knife, a paring knife and, believe or not, a 7" Santoku because she wanted one after seeing them on the Food Network. You can't beat the value, but I still like the feel of my more expensive knives in my hand overall versus these knives.

            1. re: cowboyardee

              There are a lot of good knives on the market and a lot of places to buy them. First talk to knife experts that can be found in many knife shops. Henckels, Wustof, Mundial are just a few that are out there. When buying a knife over the internet be sure of who you are buying from. Ebay has many knife sellers and many of the most popular and high end knives are available. HOWEVER, BUYER BEWARE! Make sure you ask the seller questions. For example a Henckel Fine Edge Pro may be for sale at a very good price and advertised as Henckels Fine Edge Pro 7" Santoku Hollow Edge S S Knife and give you all the specifications. The only thing they don't tell you (BUYER BEWARE) Is that the knife is made in China. If you get the cheaply made Chinese version you are out of luck and the ebay protection plan will not refund your money like they say they will. There are plenty of knife reviews on the internet if you type in the name of the knife you are interested in. Also go to the Henckels, Wustof, Mundial and other manufactures websites they are full of information. Henckels makes very nice knives (I wouldn't recommend the Chinese made ones) and have some new knives out Called Miyabi. They have the 7000 MC, the 7000 D, the 7000 Pro and the 5000S series. These are very fine knives made in the Japanese tradition and get the original Honbazuke honing.
              Henckel Twin Four Star and Twin Five Star are very good quality and if taken care of should last a lifetime. If you prefer the cheap Chinese version then buy at your own risk. finehomedisign on ebay sells a lot of these--the same knife can go from 5 dollars on up to 25 dollars or more depending on the bidding. You are better off buying from a reputable dealer who is honest about what he sells. One that guarantees satisfaction.

          2. re: Chemicalkinetics

            I'll second the kiwi knives. I got the tip on chowhound way back in the day...I wish I could thank the OP. They are my go to knives for travel cooking. The OP mentioned that they are so cheap that they are almost disposable and I agree. I've a range of knives and my fav is probably the Shun, but I reach for the kiwis just as often.

          3. I'm not sure what your question means - are you looking for recommendations of good brands/makers, or do you want to know which types of knife a home cook should own?

            If you're asking the former, Chem's suggestions are good. I've used knives from all the makers he mentions except for Kiwi - they are all good recommendations for their respective prices. (Chem knows knives pretty well, so I'd trust him on the Kiwi knives too)

            I'll add that I feel sharpening is more important than the brand of knife you buy - after a little while the nicest, most expensive knives cut worse than a brand new $4 offering from Farberware. To an extent, how you intend to sharpen can dictate what types of knives to buy. For example, if you don't think you'll try anything more than a cheap pull through sharpener, there isn't much point of buying Japanese knives, or really anything expensive. By the same note, if you're willing to learn to sharpen using whetstones (which take some practice) or an edgepro (expensive), you will probably need something cheap to practice on but eventually a knife able to take a fine edge - the more Japanese knives are a good idea here. If you want to use an electric sharpener or pay for occasional pro sharpenings*, the Japanese are mostly out, but there are some nice German knives that will work, as will Chem's cheaper suggestions (*some pros can do good work on Japanese knives, but they're usually more expensive).

            If you were only asking what styles of knife you should look into, a chefs knife is by far the most important and useful knife. 8 inches is the most popular length, though both 6 and 10 inch knives are also popular - it basically comes down to what you can control comfortably. You can do almost all of your knife work with just a chefs knife.
            A santoku functions as a chef's knife.
            So does a Chinese cleaver, more or less

            A paring knife is the next most important style - good for fine detail work and any in-the-air cutting. Sounds like you already have that one covered.

            A bread knife can be useful, assuming you occasionally cut crusty bread. Some people use their bread knives for all sorts of tasks (notably cutting tomatoes or slicing roasts), but if you keep your chefs knife sharp, you won't need a bread knife often - at all, maybe. I wouldn't buy one shorter than 10 inches, and I wouldn't recommend an expensive bread knife. I like the forschner 10"

            That's where I'd stop unless you find you need more specialized knives. A boning knife is only really necessary if you do much boning. A flexible fillet knife is good for filleting fish. A meat cleaver is useful if you want to cut through small bones. A hacksaw is useful if you want to cut through large bones. A slicing knife or carving knife isn't really necessary (especially if you have a longer chefs knife), but it's nice to have if you slice many roasts. Some people use kitchen shears for all sorts of stuff (mostly meat, sometimes small bones) - I need them for cutting nori sheets but that's it (and actually I just use clean regular scissors).

            1. Get a good chef's knife. Do you prefer a German or French pattern? Do you want a thicker heavier European style or a thinner harder Japanese model?

              I really prefer the low tip of the French/Japanese models to the higher tip of the German chef's knife. This is personal preference due to the way I cut with the knife. I also like the thinner profile of the Japanese knives because they slice with less effort since they don't wedge/cleave the food apart.

              1. Knives, wow, there are so many to choose from and such a wide range in prices and styles. At 3" I'll assume this is a paring knife. You should definately add some sort of Chefs knife, this could be either a traditional "western", French, German, style or a Japanese style santoku. You will probably want something around 8" in length. You'll probably want some sort of slicing knife or carving knife, again, 8" or 9" seems to be most common. You may also want a 6" or so utility or "sandwich" knife. Beyond that, some find a serrated bread knife handy as well as a serrated tomato knife. Once you get beyond that there are a lot of specialty knives that depending on how and what you cook may be of interest. I would suggest a good steel to go with those knives and use it regularly.

                There are so many brands and other factors that it's almost impossible to cover in a reasonable amount of space. A good stamped knife is going to be less expensive than a good forged knife, the process is just more expensive for the forged knife, but the actual steel could be the same. You have to decide what style you prefer. If you are new to knives, go some place where you can look at and try out various styles. Good luck.

                1. I'd like opinions on Global. My local warehouse club has a set of three for $180: 8", 6" and 4" in a box. I've been really happy with CCK Chinese style carbon steel, and less happy with my aging carbon steel Sabatiers. Water stone maintenance is not a problem for me.

                  25 Replies
                  1. re: jayt90

                    "less happy with my aging carbon steel Sabatiers"

                    Why? (because Sabatier is on my "to buy" list) Since you have experience on multiple carbon steel knives like CCK, I am very interested in your opinion. Thanks.

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      It takes a lot more work to get a good edge with the water stone on the thick-spined Sabatiers.
                      I'll use them for working on boned cuts, but generally I seem to prefer the thinner blades, for ease of use and maintenance.

                      1. re: jayt90

                        I don't have a problem getting a good easy edge on my Sabatier carbon steel knives. But I use a Norton multi-stone oil stone system.

                        I don't think waterstones are the best stones to use on carbon steel knives.

                        1. re: Leolady


                          It is possible that Jay90 like to put a low angle on his knives (like 15 degree of less). It is more work to grind a knife at 15 degree than at a 20 degree, so maybe you two are grinding at different angle.

                          I have a thin blade CCK carbon steel Chinese knife like jay90 and I also have a very thick blade Tojiro carbon steel usuba. The amount of times I have to grind on these two knives at 10-15 degree are at least X20 in dffierence if not much longer.

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            Chem, I'm not familiar with every carbon steel knife that Sabatier ever made, but traditionally their carbon steel knives were actually very soft carbon steel that doesn't take very long to grind (at least for me, and yes I use waterstones as you know). The old ones are often around 54 HRC, and take a fine edge easily. Steels are particularly useful for these knives since the edge tends to warp but not break or chip. This carbon steel is a very different beast from the hard stuff in Japanese knives. It seems as though there was a fairly wide range of hardness in the old knives though, and it's not uncommon to find one that's significantly harder than another of the same model.

                            The newer ones are said to be xc55 carbon steel with a listed HRC of 58-62 which as you know is still quite a wide range but harder (though I doubt you'll find many at 62 HRC in reality). None of their carbon knives, so far as I know, are particularly wear-resistant, so I doubt that's much of an issue in sharpening them.

                            That's one of the issues with Sabatiers - it's hard to know what you're getting until you put it to a stone.

                            Their stainless knives are a whole 'nother story, BTW.

                            1. re: cowboyardee


                              Yeah, I heard from you and others that the Sabatier steel is soft, but I didn't expect it to be below 55 HRC. That is kinda of low. If this is the case, then I think it also makes sense why jayt90 has a hard time putting an edge too. Not so much about wear resistant (ease of grind), but rather the knives are no hard enough to take on a low angle edge. As you grind at a lower and lower angle, a knife need to be hard to take on that sharper edge. For example, I bet I cannot put a 12 degree primary cutting edge on one of these softer steel knives.

                              "a listed HRC of 58-62 " That is a wide range. I understand if the range is a result of a collection of knives made from different lines. If it is made for the same line of knives and they have this wide range of HRC, then we are talking abour poor quality control.

                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                Generally, you can put on a low angle edge as long as the steel has a fine grain structure, though unsteady hands could make it hard. The point is that the steel will take a low angle edge even at that HRC. Holding a low angle edge after actual use on a cutting board on the other hand...

                                1. re: cowboyardee

                                  Thanks. Edge holding ability is probably the right term then. I sharpened some more KitcheAid knives from friends. I tried to put an edge at about 15 degree (30 degree inclusion) and they formed the edge and they seemed sharp by touch. However, the edge was gone after I honed them on a leather belt (just 4 passes). The edge probably folded. I had to put a ~20 degree primary edge on.

                                  I wonder what is a realistic edge angle for these <55 HRC Sabatier knives. I believe you own these knives. What angle do you put on? Thanks.

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    I don't own one - it's one of those knives where I've sharpened a few for other people, though one friend lent me his (an old, soft one) to try it out for a month.

                                    As such, I generally sharpen em at whatever angle they're already set - seems like ~ 20 to 22 deg is most common. I think some could hold an 18 deg edge or even lower, but again, the temper (or something, anyway) seems to vary a lot from sabatier to sabatier.

                              2. re: cowboyardee

                                This is my experience exactly with two brands of Sabatier carbon steels. They are very easy to sharpen and take an edge with ease bacause they are so soft. That said, you need to steel and sharpen them much more often. I haul out a 12 inch chef's knife for heavy duty meat prep (briskets, many boneless breasts) and nothing, not even my Japanese blades, is as sharp and easy to use in this scenario.

                              3. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                The CCK cleavers have a shallow angle. My stainless steel cleaver must be around 13 degrees, but I have probably lowered it over the last year. It is sharper than my shuns. I have three grades of stone but only use the coarser two if the edge is damaged.

                                I never use a steel - just sharpen them on a waterstone.

                                1. re: Paulustrious

                                  Holy cow, you can lower it below 13 degree on the stainless steel version of CCK? If so, then stainless steel version of CCK is pretty good too. My gosh.

                                  Yeah, it is sharper than your Shun because your CCK has a lower edge angle than your Shun. I bet if you lower your Shun to the same angle, then they will be equally good.

                                  Paul. For knives which can take on such a low angle, I would think it is counter-productive to use a honing steel (honing rod). First, the knife steel is probably a hard steel or hard stainless, and hard steel are more prone to chipping and less prone to rolling (blending). Second, when the edge is that sharp, the honing steel is probably going to chip the edge as opposed to realign the edge. That is exactly why we (you and I) didn't believe using a honing steel is a good idea for knives like Shun in the few months back.

                                  As always, you are very helpful

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    To be fair, I am fairly gentle with my cleaver. It is only used for boneless meat, vegetables, fruit etc. And my edge angle is a guess. Finally it is stored on a magnetic strip. I don't think the steel is particularly hard, but it gets a 'resharpen' two or three times a week while I wait for the kettle to boil. I feel that honing it would damage the edge.

                                    And thanks for the compliment, CK.

                        2. re: jayt90

                          "I'd like opinions on Global."
                          I like Globals personally, but I seldom recommend them anymore.

                          -Globals come with a sharp factory edge
                          -They look cool
                          -The blade has nice thin geometry* and uses the gyuto shape that I prefer - they perform well

                          -They're made of softer steel that's very wear resistant, which makes sharpening an enormous pain in the ass. Basically, it sharpens like a harder steel than it is without very much benefit to edge holding
                          -*They come with a convex edge. That makes for an initial edge that lasts longer than most, but since most people don't maintain the convex edge, it makes that first major sharpening A LOT tougher. BTW, keeping the convex edge is a fine option, but require some special techniquiesand materials and eventually the knife will need to be thinned out behind the edge.
                          -Maybe half the people who try a Global hate the handle (I'm making that figure up, but it's a lot)

                          ...and finally

                          -Tojiro makes a cheaper knife (their DP line) than Global that has all the advantages and none of the disadvantages.

                          Honestly, I don't think that $180 deal is much of a deal. Something like this, right?
                          The 6 inch knife is unnecessary and doesn't fill any real niche if you have a chefs knife and a paring knife. The Global paring knife is not one of my favorite paring knives.

                          For most people, I'd recommend saving $60 and trying this Tojiro set:

                          If you've tried and liked the feel of Globals on the other hand, go for it. Despite their flaws, they're good knives. Consider a set that doesn't bother with utility knives though.

                          1. re: cowboyardee

                            I borrowed a friend's Global gyuto (like in your link) & couldn't stand the handle shape.
                            I'd never buy something that felt so poorly ergonomic, even at 1/10th the price! The owner even admitted that he only picked this style for its fully-SS construction (ease of washing), even though he liked other knives better.

                            I'll have to disagree with you & say that I use my 6" Shun utility knife nearly as much as my 8.3" Kanetsune gyuto. Its natural-feeling (to me) D-shaped handle gives great control & cutting feel. And its pointy, not-as-tall blade allows me to pierce-cut better than the gyuto shape.

                            1. re: Eiron

                              Yeah, their handles are problematic. They are very much designed for a pinch grip. They're not perfect but not uncomfortable either in that grip, though even some pinch-grippers hate them. 'To heck with you' says Global if you hold the knife another way.

                              As for my comments on utility knives, my recommendations are trying to be quite general. For example, I have and enjoy using a nakiri, but I don't suggest one to people who don't yet own a chefs knife because I don't think it fills an important niche for someone only looking to get a couple knives.

                              With a utility knife, there is no knuckle clearance, making it much harder to use on a cutting board than a chefs knife, and it is long enough to be more awkward in the air than a paring knife. You're right that its pointy tip is well-suited to piercing cuts, but aside from trimming silverskin off a cut of meat or skin off a fish (both of which jobs where I'd reach for a fillet knife, BTW), how often do you make piercing cuts?

                              Now if, on the other hand, you've used and enjoy a utility knife, by all means continue to do so. My advice doesn't trump anyone's personal preference - I just can't get behind pushing a utility knife on someone who's just getting their first nice set together.

                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                Oh sure, I understand. I guess I'm still a little miffed about buying the Shun 3-1/2" parer based on the recommendations of others (here & on KF). After trying to like it for about 6 mos, I realized it was just too short for me.

                                Part of the problem was the Shun D handle that I like so much on the 6". It threw the handling way off for me, for some reason. The Forschner 3-1/2" Rosewood parer ("large handle") works fine for me, but not the Shun.

                                So, about 2 mos ago I bought the Shun 4" parer. What a huge difference that 1/2" made! I now enjoy using the Shun parer much more than either the Forschner Rosewood or Victorinox (plastic).

                                1. re: Eiron

                                  Wow, so the 4" Shun parer is great for you, but the 3.5" Shun parer is not. Man, I am trying to go from 3.5" to 3" or 2.5".

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    LOL, yeah, that's why there's so many knife lengths I guess.....

                                  2. re: Eiron

                                    That's funny because I prefer a shorter paring knife. No particularly good reason why either. I've always used a shorter paring knife and 3.5 inches just feels more paring-knife-esque to me.

                            2. re: jayt90

                              I can't recommend Global because the edge is convex.

                              1. re: jaykayen

                                I know cowboy and you said the same thing about convex edge, which I agree is an edge for the first sharpening. I also have reservation about Global, but mine has to do with the complaints I read. Everyone once awhile I read about a Global knife snapped in the middle (between handle and blade) and breaking points were always the same, so I think there is a systematic problem here.

                                1. re: jaykayen

                                  I think convex edges are quite common due to the fact that a lot of factory edges are done on belt sanders

                                2. re: jayt90

                                  I have a Global utility knife and a paring knife and love them both. I have small hands so they really work for me. I would suggest that you go to the store and hold the knife in your hand to see how it feels. My chefs knife is a Mac which I also love. Those are my good knifes, at least good to me, as they are the one's I use all the time. A breadknife,boning knife,slicing knife are more in the Forschner and Dexter-Russell price range.

                                  1. re: Mother of four

                                    I love every one of my Global knives and wouldn't trade them for anything.