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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.