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Dec 27, 2010 10:31 AM

First Chef's Knife Purchase: A Post-Holiday Quandary


I'm a full-time college student as well as an avid cook and baker--so much so that I am strongly considering a couple years of pastry school after I graduate. At home, we have ancient, ineffective knives, and after working this summer with a set of classic Wusthofs, it's not exactly fun to go back. I've read in a lot of places that a good chef's knife is anyone's most essential knife purchase, and I am not opposed to laying down a Benjamin or so for a nice one.

I did my research. I'm thinking of purchasing a Wusthof Ikon 8" chef's knife (the classic knife was too bulky in my hands; this is a better grip) or the Global 8" chef's knife (I really like the feel of it and how sharp it is, but it seems like it may be less reliable--snapping issues? yikes!--than the Wusthof Ikon.) For Christmas, I received Mundial commercial-quality paring knives, a boning knife, and a wide chef's knife. The blades look good and they feel alright to the hand, but they look cheap. In any case, I kind of have my heart set on something that will last me a WHILE and still age gracefully.

Any suggestions? Should I just forget buying a knife for now and wait until I have my own place? Am I forgetting anything crucial?

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  1. Since you received Mundial knives, use them and see how you like them. These knives are nothing to sneeze at. Hold off from buying any knives until after. Knives are very personal; each person has it's own preference depending on how they feel. They are not trophies.

    9 Replies
    1. re: PBSF

      The Mundial forged line is actually very similar to the higher end German stuff - I believe they used to make some of the medium quality Henckels knives. I think it should last a lifetime if taken care of well, and you should also be able to put a very good edge on it.

      I'd be tempted to use that for a while until you get a better sense of what you need / want. If you're really going to splurge, or want something for more delicate work, look into the less mass-market Japanese knives like Misono, Tojiro. Misono UX-10 is quite well regarded by professionals, and not as silly looking as either Global or Shun. Fairly expensive, though.

      A slicer would probably come in handy, but it doesn't need to be something expensive.

      Consider spending some money on some decent sharpening stones and maybe a strop. As much as these are less sexy than a beautiful knife, it's really important to start getting comfortable with maintaining your knives.

      1. re: will47


        I agree with Will. It is much better to have "a decent knife with a sharpening strategy" than to have "an excellent knife and no sharpening strategy". I also like to reiterate Chuck's point. Forschner/Victorinox and Dexter-Russell make some affordable and good quality knives. A Dexter is not as good as a Wusthof Ikon (I own both), but a Dexter is 1/3rd to 1/4th the price and the performance is sufficient.

        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          Very true about the sharpening strategy point. You've given me some excellent advice!

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            I have been looking for years for a good sharpening strategy. Currently I have a hone that use every time I use a knife. I also have one of those V shaped sharpeners that has a carbide and a ceramic V. I've used it a few times and have read how they're bad for your knives and really honing keeps them sharp enough for the most part. I think I want to get a stone, but which and what?

            What is y'alls sharpening strategy?


            1. re: JuniorBalloon

              It really depends on the knives and the needs. In keeping an inexpensive knife sufficiently sharp, any strategy is better is than doing nothing. On the other hand, to get the most out of a good knife, water stones are probably the most popular and safest tools.

              For minor repair and maintenance, a ~1000 grit water stone is probably coarsest stone you need. A finer stone may be needed depending on the knife and the needs. For excellent knives, some people go all the way up to a 10,000 grit stone with at least 2 more stone in between 1000 and 10,000, and top off on a charged strop. For average knives, that is unnecessary. Many people are happy with a single 1000 grit stone.

              I personally have a 8 stones or so, but I really only use my 2000 grit and 5000 grit stones for knife maintenance.

              1. re: JuniorBalloon

                Junior Baloon: "What is y'alls sharpening strategy?"

                I gave up on the idea that I had to be the one who sharpened my knives. I'm just not good at it. I've used stones, and other stones, and Chef's Choice devices, including a non-electric that did not work at all, and nothing I've ever done was as satisfying as taking them to a hardware store near my house and getting them sharpened. It's called the Squirrel Hill Locksmith, and it's on Murray Avenue in Pittsburgh PA.

                It cost $12 for my 8" chef's knife, my 6" cook's or sandwich knife, and my 3" paring knife. They're all Wusthof. When I was buying knives, the choices were Wusthof, Henckels, and Sabatier (wish I'd never gotten rid of my carbon steel chef's knife).

                Now if only I could do something to make my knife callous not hurt when I cut for any substantial length of time. I think it's age (mine, not the knife's).

                1. re: Jay F

                  I've been to that very locksmith - my roommate used to sharpen his knives (Henckels i think) there when I lived in squirrel hill during college. They were using a high speed belt at the time - is that still their go-to? They did nice, clean work, but I wouldn't recommend them to anyone using Japanese knives.

                    1. re: cowboyardee

                      I don't know what they use. They had me leave the knives and pick them up a week later. It was only when I got them home that I realized what a good job they'd done. I didn't think to ask any questions either time I went in.

          2. I have a Wusthof Blackwood Ikon paring knife. It is a good knife. Beautiful blackwood, nice handle, thick hefty steel... etc. The standard Henckels and Wusthof knives are tough knives which can handle a wide range of jobs. Westernized Japanese knives like Shun and Global knives are made for higher performance duties. They cut and slice better, but they are not meant to handle bone crushing jobs. Here is a previous post on this matter:


            I think you should first decide what kind of knives you would like to have. European chef's knives like Henckels and Wusthof, or Westernized Japanese knives like Shun and Global, or maybe full traditional knives.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              I appreciate the link! Good things to consider, for sure.

              1. Erica - from my own limited experience with knives - I love the Global 8" Chef's knife which I splurged to buy. I think that for a female's use (sorry to be gender specific here) I have better control with a little lighter knife that has greater precision.

                And while it is not a trophy - to me it is my prize!

                1. Frankly, I'd skip upscale knives(possibly excluding Global or MAC)and look seriously at the Victorinox Fibrox line. These may be lacking in aspirational cachet but they're tough as nails and deliver extraordinary value. I gave some as gifts this year, mainly to stop a couple friends from pining for 250 buck Japanese blades capable of beheading a blue fin tuna. Function is the point and these were welcomed mainly because they did the job with aplomb. No fashion statement potential, aside from showing you're smart enough to know what counts.

                  1 Reply