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"Budget" knife recommendation needed for holiday gift

I have a friend who is getting into cooking. I helped prepare dinner at her house a few weeks ago, and was very dismayed when I tried to chop some herbs and veggies for a dish I was contributing. Her "chef's" knife was simply awful (not just dull... downright awful. It was not a "brand" knife). I want to buy her a better knife for Christmas, but I don't want to spend more than about $40 or so. Are there any workable chef's knives out there that won't set me back a ton? I really like my own knives, (Wusthof and Cutco). I prefer my santoku over my chef's, but that's personal preference. So what I'm seeking for her is a decent 8' all-purpose type knife that won't mutilate vegetables (or whatever else she decides to cut, since this will be just about the only knife she uses) but won't cost me Wusthof or Cutco prices. Am I seeking the impossible?

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  1. I got a kitchenaid knife free as part of a promotion when I bought my stand mixer. I was skeptical as I also have Wusthof knives. It has worked beautifully and I use it a lot. I have since seen them at Marshalls and TJ Maxx reasonably priced.

    1. Yes. Victorinox is considered one of the best valued knife.

      http://www.amazon.com/Victorinox-4752...

      http://www.amazon.com/Victorinox-4752...

      Dexter-Russell also makes some very practical knives:

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

      3 Replies
      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        The Victorinox is an excellent suggestion. I just want to add that the rosewood handle version seems more 'gift-y' and still comes in below $40.
        http://www.amazon.com/RH-Forschner-Ro...

        Sometimes even cheaper if you get it on sale. Like here:
        http://www.chefknivestogo.com/foro8ch...

        1. re: cowboyardee

          Good point, cowboy. I also like wood handle knvies and they do look a lot nicer. Unless of course, if the original poster's friend prefers to put the knives in a dishwasher.

      2. I found a set of Henckels on sale at Macy's once a few years ago that individually would have broken down to that price point, nice balance, hold an edge.

        17 Replies
        1. re: hill food

          Victorinox all the way. I have several Japanese knives but go to this one often as you don't have to treat it with kid gloves about cutting certain things without damaging it. I actually would take one of these over Henckels - had one years ago and vowed I'd never buy another.

          1. re: lominator

            I'm interested, I'm on the verge of resetting up a kitchen (soon, please) what I liked about the Henckels were they were a solid piece of steel from point to haft with hand grips attached, rather than a blade inserted into a handle (I couldn't tell from the photos if Victorinox does this).

            1. re: hill food

              It depends which one you get. The Fibrox series has no bolster, but I think the rosewood handle and forged ones have a bolster. My Fibrox gets all but abused in my kitchen, and is still very solid.

              1. re: hill food

                There's no bolster on either version (fibrox or rosewood). The Victorinox forged line does have bolsters and is also a good deal more expensive. All of the above are full tang.

                I'm not sure whether you were referring to a bolster or to a full tang or both. There are some truly excellent (and at times expensive) knives that don't have either, so while everyone is welcome to their preferences, I'd recommend keeping an open mind if you don't already have a strong preference based on years of habit.

                1. re: hill food

                  "rather than a blade inserted into a handle "

                  You are talking about a full tang rivet knife, right?

                  The idea that "only a full tang kitchen knife is stable" is a bit of an over-exaggeration. Similar to Chad Ward said, isn't it a bit odd to claim a kitchen knife has to be full tang when partial tang swords were sufficient for many ancient swordmen to bash shields and pierce armour. Modern days butchers often use knives with partial tang with no bolster because partial tang knives are believed to be more sanitary (as opposed to full tang). So, it is perfectly safe to use a partial tang knife.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    The internet provides access to so many experts or those who claim to be experts, and opinions vary all over the place on issues from the sanitation of wooden handels, to bolsters, to full tangs, to stamped blades and forged blades, rivits or overmolded, it's got to be very confusing. I think Chem has a good point, you may want a full tang to split an acorn squash, but you don't need that to chop onions or slice mushrooms.

                    Although I believe the initial recommendations were excellent choices for the price range, one might also look at the Wusthof "Gourmet" series, stamped vs forged blade and F. Dick "Superior" series is about in the price range also stamped. US made LamsonSharp is available with a stamped blade and a rosewood handel in this price range as well. Based on some of the knives my girls have bought, I would stay away from the "Name Brand" stuff that's not a knife name brand and is made in China.

                    If you shop around you might find a bargan, I got my girls each a 8 pice set of Henckels Four Star for Christmas, forged blades and overmolded full tang handles for under $60.

                    1. re: mikie

                      Some time ago we had Paul from Paul's finest stopped by. He like the the Wusthof Butcher Series quiet a bit (yes, the name is very confusing, I know).

                      http://www.paulsfinest.com/Wusthof-Bu...

                      The Butcher series is also stamped like the Gourmet series. The Butcher line does not offer a Chef's knife. It mainly focus on heavy duty work as the name implies.

                      1. re: mikie

                        '"Name Brand" stuff that's not a knife name brand and is made in China'

                        Took me awhile to know what you meant. You mean something like a KitchenAid knife (name brand, but not knife name brand). Yeah, I tried to sharpen and played with KitchenAid knives and they have pretty "below average" blade. On the other hand, I read from several sources that the Calphalon Katana knives are not too bad. It has a deent steel (VG-1). The only problems is that the handle is wierd and it fused with the blade at some strange futuristic way -- making hand sharpening difficult.

                        http://common1.csnimages.com/lf/1/has...

                      2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        thanks for clarifying the terminology, now I won't feel like a moron when it comes to asking for what I'm looking for...

                        I wasn't even thinking safety, I just like how a full tang feels in my hand. esp. when carving a bird with a good 8+ inch

                        1. re: hill food

                          Hi Hill,

                          Some people like a bolstered knife. This is a picture of a knife with a bolster.

                          http://culinaryarts.about.com/od/kniv...

                          A bolster is where the blade join the handle and many people like it because it feels good to them.

                          While others like a full tang knife. This is a picture of a full tang knife:

                          http://culinaryarts.about.com/od/kniv...

                          Some like to have both.

                          To answer your question about Victorinox rosewood. I think it is a full tang stamped knife (no bolster).

                          I personally disagree with the assertion from culinearyart.about.com that knives with no bolster and without full tang are horrible by definition. If that is true, then the following knives must be horrible:

                          http://www.japanesechefsknife.com/Miz...

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            This is where all that contradictory advice comes in. The person in the link definately favors full tang forged knives. Other web sites may have a slightly different opinion.

                            Back to a previous post, other than it's made in China, the issue with knives made in China is that you really don't know what you are going to end up with for the most part. The components are rarely cited as they are with EU, Japanese, and US manufacturers, and even if they are, there is no assurance that this is what is actually being used. In many cases, they start out with the proper components to get manufacturing approval and then switch to a less expensive component and pocket the difference. Just for the record, this is not speculation on my part, although I don't have first hand knowledge of knives being made this way, I do have first hand experience with other products made in China. Thus my typical reluctance to anything made in China.

                            1. re: mikie

                              The Victorinox Fibrox is an excellent suggestion and ChemicalKinetics has given such good advice I have nothing to add except that I have often given the Victorinox as a gift. I keep one in my own kitchen though my primary knives are Global. I prefer the Global but I have to say the Victorinox is a good knife. If I was to start over and choose just one, I'd definitely consider it.

                            2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              Thanks CK, I always knew what type I preferred, and now I know the words!

                              1. re: hill food

                                :) Your welcome. So what is the type of knife you preferred? A full tang knife or a bolster knife or both?
                                That rosewood Victorinox is full tang I believe.

                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  for a honking big knife - full tang, if it has a bolster so much the better but I'll live without one. for a small knife I still like full tang but don''t see the need for the bolster. basically I like a knife that I can balance on a finger right behind where the haft meets the blade and mostly have only found that in a full tang.

                  2. As others have stated, the Victorinox Fibrox knife for about $30 is a good knife for a good price. An 8" Chicago Cutlery knife is a good value and a good knife at around $20. (I bought a ten piece set of Chicago Cutlery last summer at a garage sale for ten bucks. I gave it to a niece that had terrible knives).

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: John E.

                      Chicago Cutlery, Tradition Series, with the wooden handles used to be a fairly good value. I've had them and bought some for my kids when they were starting out. Unfortunately, and I can't remember the web site where I read this, they are no longer made in the US and quality has fallen to the point that they were no longer recommended. The good ones have the knife model number on the handle. I came across this a while back when we were replacing our 25 year old set. My mother in law now has that set, and their still the best knives she's ever had. If it was an older set, you got a great deal.

                      1. re: mikie

                        If you are into US made knives, then you can look into Dexter-Russell. I believe it is the oldest US cutley manufacturer and it is the largest cutley provider for professional kitchens. It has a very small line which is made out of US, but a very small one.

                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                          I've actually got a couple of very old Dexter carbon steel with wooden handle knives from my grandfather's butcher shop. We don't use them, they are boning or filet knives based on their shape. I'm not sure they started out that way though, people who lived and worked through the depression had a way of making things last beyond their normal life span. I wouldn't be surprised if as they wore, my grandfather reshaped them to get the most out of them he could. ;)

                          1. re: mikie

                            Sure. I understand that. I think partly has to do with the depression/WW2 mentality, and partly has to do with the fact that knives were not cheap back then. Most people today can buy a set of Wusthof or Henckels ($500-1000) every single month -- not that they would want to something that wasteful, but people can do it. It is literally impossible back then because I think a set of decent knives cost more than most people's monthly salary -- I have to double check on that.

                    2. I bought a Kiwi brand cleaver type knife at an Asian supermarket in Arlington, TX for about $7. I love it and have bought several more for friends and my mother. I saw them used on Youtube. I love it and almost use it exclusively. It's great for chopping vegetables and cutting up meat as well. This should be easy to find at Asian grocery stores in your area. I think it is a common brand. It is sharp, stainless steel, holds an edge great and inexpinsive to boot. Has a hard wood handle. I use mine just about every time I cook. My son loves chicken wings and I have found nothing better for cuttin them up.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: grumpy84

                        I agree. The Kiwi knife I tested can take on a good edge. Much better than many brand name knives like KitchenAid knives or Henckels International knives. I don't know about edge retention ability as I only use it for like 3-4 days, but it seems ok in that short period.

                      2. Another vote for the Forschner/Victorinox Rosewood knives. I have two (7" santoku & 3-1/2" parer) & love them both.

                        As someone else pointed out (wazat you, CBAD?), they're more "giftable" in appearance.

                        However, comparing them to the Fibrox line, I think they have a nicer finish to the blade & take an edge ever-so-slightly better as well. Of course, that could be just my imagination....

                        1. I'd vote either for a good Chinese cleaver or a Victorinox Forschner Fibrox. OTOH, you might want to make sure that your friend doesn't subscribe to the superstition that a gift of a knife is symbolic of severing the friendship. To counter that hex, include a coin of small denomination so your friend can give the coin to you, thereby symbolically 'buying' the knife from you.

                          1. I'll second what John E. said. My current favorite general-purpose knife is a Chinese-made Chicago Cutlery stainless chef with 8-inch bolstered blade and black plastic scales. Well balanced, medium weight, sharpens nicely (for stainless). This was going to be a knife for potlucks, where stuff often gets lost. But I don't let it out of the house. It cost $16 at Wal-Mart four or five years ago. I love good kitchen knives, and I have lots of supposedly better options. This is an excellent knife. No telling if current stock is the same quality, but I'd recommend buying one and trying it. If it turns out to be junk, use it for potlucks ... larger potluck utensils are less likely to disappear than small ones. You won't be out much money, however it turns out.

                            1. I know this is slightly off topic, but I just noticed that the Wusthof Blackwood Ikon 6" Chef's knife is on a special sale price. Yes, 6" is short for most people, but in case you prefer a small Chef's knife, the Blackwood Ikon is the very top line for Wusthof.

                              http://www.chefknivestogo.com/blackwo...
                              http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000...
                              http://www.cutleryandmore.com/details...

                              1. 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 -- you can afford the 6" version, too, on your budget.. Here's an amazon link.for the 8":

                                http://www.amazon.com/Dexter-Russell-...

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: bkling

                                  When OP said "budget" this is the Dexter that came to mind.
                                  Also get them a steel so they can maintain the knife.

                                2. Your friend doesn't seem to know the difference between using a sharp or dull knife. Name brand or not, you can make them sharp and depending on how good they are will determine how long they will hold an edge.
                                  You can get your friend a $100 knife and they will use it until it's dull.

                                  10 Replies
                                  1. re: monku

                                    oh, it's worse than that... her "chef's" knife is this weird long serrated thing. I am enjoying all of these suggestions... gives me so much to go on and such relief to know that decent, workable knives exist out there without having to spend a mint!

                                    1. re: CapreseStacy

                                      that sounds like a bread knife. I may not be an expert but I cringe when the wrong knife is used for the job at hand.

                                      1. re: hill food

                                        Nah, there are really some serrated chef's knives. Horrible things. Henckels Eversharp knives are such:

                                        http://www.amazon.com/Henckels-Intern...

                                        They should be called "Neversharp" because they are not sharp from day 1.

                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                          neversharp, i like that. however, they do cut cherry tomatoes better.

                                          response to op: calphalon makes a good 8". def. get a honing rod.

                                          1. re: Chowrin

                                            True, but a much narrower function than it should be. It tears up other foods especially delicate meats.

                                            I read Calphalon Katana is not bad.

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

                                            I looked at and touch the Calphalon LX and they look very solid. Hefty, but solid.

                                            http://www.amazon.com/Calphalon-LX-Cu...

                                            On the other hand, the Calphalon does not look impressive to me, but just my gut feeling.

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

                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                              the calphalon is solid. used it for years (a few without honing, sadly). don't get a novice a japanese-style knife, unless you KNOW they won't go near a whole chicken or turkey with it.

                                              Germanstyle works much better for turkey day. ;-)

                                              1. re: Chowrin

                                                Which Calphalon line are you referring? As mentioned, there are several lines.

                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                  I found the contemporary a good value. 'course, i got it for cheap, after christmas, along with the santoku. viva 2006, when nothing would sell!

                                      2. re: CapreseStacy

                                        That's a bread knife you were using.

                                        1. re: monku

                                          well, that's all I would have used it for, but it was shaped like a chef's knife and had tiny serrations instead of the big ridgy ones. But she was using it to cut everything. I had to cut scallions for the dip I was making and it turned them into shredded green mush. After reading all of these suggestions, I'm thinking more than one of my friends is going to get a new chef's knife for Christmas!

                                    2. I'll go with the consensus...Dexter or Forchner. My vote for a gift certainly would begin and end with the 8" Forchner with rosewood handle. Just tell your friend that a good knife does not need to be put in the dishwasher. It takes 10 seconds to clean a knife after use. My "set" is Forchner rosewood and I enjoy them. Dexters are great for basic utility knives...inexpensive, but not gift fodder if you're looking to impress anyone. I use Dexters also.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: JayL

                                        "Just tell your friend that a good knife does not need to be put in the dishwasher"

                                        You make this sounds so easy. People who are used to dishwasher do not just switch out of that mode. I know a person who is putting end grain wood chopping block into dishwasher, what do you think of that? The wood block, of course, would mystically crack after a few months or so.

                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                          now what could possibly explain that phenomenon? (actually I've done that, but only with a POS that I don't care if it cracks)

                                          I have to convince my mother it is ok to put corningware and melmac dishes in the washer...

                                          1. re: hill food

                                            What is a POS? I don't have a real explanation. All I know is that some people like to put everything into a dishwasher, while others do not want to put anything at all.