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Why would I need a new knife?

JuniorBalloon Jan 5, 2011 02:04 PM

Reading all the recent threads about knives has gotten me thinking aobut getting a new, higher end chefs knife than what I have, but I can't think of a good reason why I actually need one. I have a 10 inch Chicago Cutlery and an 8 inch Henkel. I chop vegetables, slice strips of bell peppers, slice tomatoes, chop garlic, cut up chickens, slice meat into cubes, remove skin from fish, just general home cooking stuff. So why do I need one?

Thanks,
jb

  1. kaleokahu Jan 5, 2011 02:28 PM

    JB: You have two chef's knives from reputable makers that you like, and they work for you. You have mostly answered your own question.

    Use someone else's knives (or demos) and see how they compare for you, and TRY to ignore the brand, price, finish, color, etc. Do they make cooking faster, easier, more enjoyable? Unless they improve or enhance something, then you have your final answer: You don't need one.

    1. Eiron Jan 5, 2011 02:42 PM

      Of course, sometimes it's not about the need..... ;-)

      1 Reply
      1. re: Eiron
        JuniorBalloon Jan 5, 2011 02:47 PM

        Yes my precious, we wants it. :0)

        jb

      2. srsone Jan 5, 2011 02:42 PM

        and are those the only two knives u have?
        as far as all around chefs knives if those 2 work for you and are comfortable then no....

        but if those are your only 2...then maybe a small vegetable knife and maybe a decent cleaver for really heavy chopping (if the chefs cant )

        i usually use my chefs knives for meats and have a small knife for vegetables to also avoid cross contaminating

        1 Reply
        1. re: srsone
          JuniorBalloon Jan 5, 2011 02:49 PM

          These are the only two chef knives I have. I have several other knives, cleavers and such that I use for other purposes.

          I am pretty happy with these. After reading the other threads I think buying some sharpening stones and learning to sharpen what I have will give the biggest bang for the buck.

          Thanks,
          jb

        2. Chemicalkinetics Jan 5, 2011 03:58 PM

          "I can't think of a good reason why I actually need one"

          I think you have answered your own question. If you don't think you need one, then you don't need one. That being said, people cannot desire what they have never experienced. The real question for you is: Have you tried a high performance knife for a few days? If you have and you came out say, "I don't need it", then you really don't need it. Otherwise, there is no good point of reference. A person may never have the desire to eat sushi, if he has never tried sushi. Even if he tried it and like it, does the person really NEED sushi? Of course, not. Most of the things discussed on CHOWHOUNDS are not necessity. I know my friend here Kaleokahu loves copper cookware, but I am sure even he will tell you that copper cookware is not a necessity.

          42 Replies
          1. re: Chemicalkinetics
            JuniorBalloon Jan 5, 2011 05:32 PM

            Very good points Ck. I should clarify the "need" is really meant to represent the benefits I might see using a better knife doing the usual tasks. I have never experienced a really good knife. I have stepped up from the budget Chefs knives you get in those block sets and would never go back. What I like about both the Chicago and Henkel is the solid feel, the weight and the balance that makes using them both more efficient and safer, and of course that they are sharp and cut with less effort.

            Are there stores that will let you take their knives home to test drive?

            jb

            1. re: JuniorBalloon
              Chemicalkinetics Jan 5, 2011 06:05 PM

              I thought you mean "need" as in necessity. Now, my prejudice impression put Chicago Cutlery knives below Dexter-Russell based on what I read and heard. However, if Chicago Cutlery is equally as good as Dexter or Victorinox, then they are what I considered the functional knives. Anything below a Dexter is not what I considered as a good knife. I am not talking about really expensive knives here. Victorinox and Dexter-Russell Chef's knives are about $25-35.

              As for Henckels, that is a bit more convoluted. Zwilling J.A. Henckels knives are made in German using decent steel. Henckels International knives are made outside of German using subpar quality steel. Depending which one you have, you may have a good solid knife or not.

              Zwilling Henckels has this logo:

              http://t1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQkNXDs8nMtN-Nzj29KHqPurLfNQAr1cuKGZTuHWt_D_KlHeY6xyg

              Henckels International has this symbol:

              http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/4/44/Henckels_intl_logo.png

              Henckels International knives, frankly, are overpriced for their performance and therefore they are actually expensive in that sense. I have seen <$10 knives better than them, like the Kiwi knives. In fact, here is my thought after I sharpened and played with a few different knives including Henckels International:

              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7363...

              Frankly, I was disappointed after I sharpened them. Now, I also have those very cheap budget knives from a $20-30 knife blocks and those are really bad. I cannot even form a good burr on them.

              There are stores which allows you to test their knives with real foods. However, that may not fully show how a knife may behave. Still, it is better than nothing. I think you should just borrow a knife from a friend. Alternatively, buy a $5 Kiwi knife and if the $5 Kiwi knife performs better than the knives you have, then you know something is wrong.

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                m
                mikie Jan 6, 2011 05:07 AM

                Chem,
                I can't remember where I saw it, but it was a knife review, CI or CR or something, anyway, the Chicago Cutlery Walnut Tradition got a pretty good review, much better than their other knives. I also remember reading the quality changed when it moved off shore, supposidly the good knives have the model number stamped into the wooden handle, a practice not continued once production moved off shore. We had Chicago Cutlery walnut tradition knives for about 25 years, they were still sharpenable but didn't look so hot anymore. My mother-in-law has them now.

                I think as long as you are talking Henckels "Twin" you have a decent knife. Henckels and Wusthof have both come out with cheap knives made overseas that try to ride on their good names. Not a good stratagy in my opinion, they will soon be associated with crap knives not good knives for their brands.

                1. re: mikie
                  Chemicalkinetics Jan 6, 2011 06:33 AM

                  Mikie,

                  Thanks for the correction. Yes, I have read the old Chicago Cutlery knives are pretty good. However, I have also read that the recent Chicago Cutlery knives are not very impressive. The Walnut Tradition line may be the only decent line -- according Consumer Reports. Nevertheless, if you search the steel for Chicago Cutlery, you will find many lines of Chicago Cutlery are made from 420J2 steel. 420J2 is a very stainless steel (highly corrosion resistant), but its cutting performance is really poor.

                  http://www.walmart.com/ip/Chicago-Cutlery-Forged-420J2-Stainless-Steel-10-Piece-Knife-Set-Forum-Collection/5723108

                  http://www.walmart.com/ip/Chicago-Cut...

                  I think the 420J2 steel is a prime example what my friend Kaleokahu would call "forsaking quality for convenience"

                  Have you had a chance to play with a Dexter-Russell knife? Most of Dexter's knives are made in US and are made from better steels. Its knives can be difficult to find because it targets the restaurant business and not residential, but you can find them in restaurant supply stores.

                  Yes, I also agree with you that Henckels Zwilling also known as Henckels Twin makes good knives. ("Zwilling" is the German word for "Twin"). Henckels has many lines of knives made outside of German and those knives are marketed under the brand "Henckels International" and they are made of poorer quality steel. I do not know Wusthof has done anything to the same level.

                  I partly agree with you about Henckels is tainting its brandname and it already has, but I also understand business is tough and often being being "higher quality" does not translate into "better business profit margin". Take the car company Volvo. It has a good reputation, but it is small and not lucrative. First it was sold to Ford, and Ford couldn't get money out of Volvo. Now it is sold to Geely. Now look at Ford, the one good American car company has no luxary line outside of North America. The higher end business can be very tough and is subject to business cycles.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                    m
                    mikie Jan 6, 2011 08:19 AM

                    I clicked on the first link and it was interesting to note the reviews. There was a one star that claimed the kinves rusted, however as you posted 420J2 is very corrosion resistant. This probably speaks to the level of quality control that is currently in place for Chicago Cutlery.

                    The only Dexter knives I have were my grandfather's that he used in the butcher shop, so I can't really make a good comparison.

                    What you have to say about marketing is true to a great extent, however, take Chicago Cutlery for example. Their knives were origionally made in Chicago for the meat trade, think Chicago Stock Yards of years ago. They were successful because they made quality products at reasonable prices for the butcher trade which later translated to a consumer demand and market for their products. Now they make crap in China for the consumer market, but it's the low end consumer market and it's all riding the their reputation from the 1930's through '70's. Certianly not on the quality of the product they manufacture now. Our Dillards store no longer carries the Henckels Twins but the less expensive spin offs and the same for Wusthofs, no more classics, just the gourmet series and silver point or something. Most of the people that go into a department store looking for knives don't know the difference between a Wusthof Classic and a Gourmet series knife, so they buy the gourmet and think they got a deal. Sad really.

                    1. re: mikie
                      Chemicalkinetics Jan 6, 2011 08:43 AM

                      I think it is a bit of both really. I won't just lay all the blames on the companies for deceiving the consumers (which do happen), but partly this is driven by the consumers. We want a set of knives, we want very stainless knives, we want good looking knives... , we want a bunch of things which are not that easy to deliver really.

                      Most people do not want to save up $30 for one Chef's knife (which would only be 1/1000th to 1/2000th of their annual salary and much less than the monthly cell phone plan). In term of real purchasing money, people in the 1930's spend a much bigger chunk of their salary on knives and they take much better care of their knives. That is no longer the culture and expectation. Instead, most of us want an entire set of knives in a wood block for $50 or less and then we throw them in the sink.

                      "Most of the people that go into a department store looking for knives don't know the difference between a Wusthof Classic and a Gourmet series knife, so they buy the gourmet and think they got a deal"

                      I would argue the other way around. Most of these stores at one time or another carry the higher quality expensive and lower quality cheaper versions at the same time. As time passes these expensive lines of knives take up shelves space and have slower turn around. That is why they are being taken off the shelves. So it wasn't so much the consumers did not have a choice. We had a choice and we vote in masses for the cheaper ones.

                      There are still quality and functional knives sold at $25-35 per Chef knife like Victorinox and Dexter and others, and that would still be very small portion of our monthly salary. They are out there. Consumers just don't buy them.

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                        JuniorBalloon Jan 6, 2011 09:50 AM

                        I would only add that these cheaper knives are meeting the needs of most people that buy them. They may be crap to you (and understand I'm not taking any offense), but to the average cook that needs to chop some veggies and slice some tomatoes the Chicago or equivalent knife will do a decent job and do it for many years.

                        jb

                        1. re: JuniorBalloon
                          Chemicalkinetics Jan 6, 2011 10:29 AM

                          I am not trying to convince you that you need a knife better than you have. As I have mentioned in my first response, you don't need better knives. No one does. In fact, I would push the argument further. I would argue even the levels like Chicago Cutlery and Henckels International are unnecessary. Even the budget knives work. For many people, these are the kind of knives they have for their entire life, and they can prepare foods just fine, so why draw an artifical line at Chicago cutlery knives, right? You tried Chicago Cutlery knives and I am happy that you found them to be much better than your old knives, but why deemed the budget knives as unworthy (as you said "I have stepped up from the budget Chefs knives you get in those block sets and would never go back"). Yet, you deemed knives of higher quality than Chicago Cutlery as unnecessary, while admitting that you have not tried them. Like I said earlier, keep an open mind, try some and if you don't think you need them, then you don't need them. Nothing is truely necessary. My issue with Henckels Internationl knives has always been more about the pricing. They are sold at a relatively high price for their quality. I have experienced a $5 Kiwi knives which are of higher quality than a $15 Henckels International knives. I am almost certain that most people who have tried a $5 Kiwi knife would have felt the same.

                          Nevertheless, I was addressing mikie's point about the quality deterioration of Chicago Cutlery, which is really a different story. It isn't about what is good enough or not good enough (a very subjective point). Instead, what I was discussing is a more objective issue. Today's Chicago Cutlery knives are not nearly as good they once were and that is pretty much an accepted notion. I think it is tough to argue that the Chicago cutlery knives you get from Walmart today is better as the Chicago Cutlery knives you get 20-30-50 years ago. Please keep in mind, this is a completely different discussion. The question we are addressing is why a good and reputable company starts to make lower quality knives, and we see that in today J.A. Henckels as well. Henckels is/was the industrial giant when it comes to quality German steel knives, yet it is expanding toward the lower tier market. In other words, Henckels knives, on average, are getting worse than it was 20-30-50 years ago, and I think most people notice this

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                            cowboyardee Jan 6, 2011 10:58 AM

                            "In fact, I would push the argument further. I would argue even the level of Chicago Cutlery and Henckels International is unnecessary. Even the cheap knife block knives work."
                            ____
                            This is a tricky statement. For the average home cook, you're probably right. Problem is, your average home cook has poor-to-zero knife skills (no offense is intended BTW - this is not a value judgment, fellow homecooks). The difference between truly cheap, badly designed knives (or even just excessively dull nice knives) and something like well maintained Chicago Cutlery or decent Henckels is that you can't really use good, efficient cutting technique with the bottom-of-the-barrel knives, while you can with what the OP has.

                            This is an important point because ultimately there is a much greater functional difference between some serrated $10 piece of junk (that wedges and won't hold an edge and was never really sharp in the first place) and a new or newly sharpened forschner ($25) than there is between that forschner and a Bob Kramer handmade knife ($4000?). But only if you bother to learn to use a knife efficiently in the first place. This is also why sharpening is WAAAAAY more important than what knife you have, but only once you have stepped above the cruddiest and cheapest of knives, and learned a little technique.*

                            "Henckels are expanding the lower tier market. In other words, Henckels knives, on average, are getting worse than it was 20-30-50 years ago, and I think most people notice this."
                            _____
                            For the most part, I agree with you. But it's an interesting point. Henckels is a weird case - they seem to be expanding both into higher and lower tier markets. If you offered me a choice between Henckels' Miyabi lines and Wusthof's high end offerings, I'd take the Henckels, and I bet many other knife enthusiasts would do the same. But if you asked your average cooking enthusiast whose knives are better, I'd bet most of them would say Wusthof. I suspect that part of the problem with Henckel's reputation is that in the past, their low end offerings looked too much like their high end offerings, so people would buy a crappy Henckels and assume that all Henckels were crappy. Their newer high end knives look quite different. I wonder if Henckels is gonna have continued problems branding due to their playing with the low end market or if their high end offerings have become distinctive enough that it won't matter.

                            *For a little philosophical tidbit to mull over, a chicken and egg type problem - it's also really hard bordering on impossible to learn good technique in the first place using the crappiest of knives.

                            1. re: cowboyardee
                              Chemicalkinetics Jan 6, 2011 11:15 AM

                              I agree. I think you are correct that there is a solid difference between budget knives and today Chicago Cutlery and then another difference between Chicago Cutlery to Victorinox. By the way, I do consider Zwilling Henckels knives as good quality. So a Zwilling Henckels can definitely do a great job when nicely sharpened. However, I will not say that for the Henckels International knives. They are not as nice as a Victorinox or Dexter or Kiwi, which are all between $5-35. In my opinion, Henckels International knives are over-priced.

                              Excellent point about the Miyabi. I think Wusthof has not much expanded like Henckels did. Yes, it is very difficult to learn knife skill or knife sharpening from bad knives. By the way, I still have my whole set of budget knives. :)

                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                cowboyardee Jan 6, 2011 11:24 AM

                                In truth, I haven't played much with Chicago Cutlery knives. Strangely, though I've sharpened a lot of cheap knives for people, I don't remember Chicago Cutlery being among them. I assumed they were capable of taking a useful edge and holding onto it long enough for a home cook to get some work done, but I could be wrong.

                                "Henckels International knives are over-priced."
                                __
                                This is one of the major reasons for their branding problems. They sold lameass knives for a good deal more than they were worth based on name recognition. That works for a while, but it definitely hurts their reputation, and for a while (and maybe still) consumers stopped differentiating between their crappy overpriced mid-to-low level knives and their more classic lines which were fairly consistent in their quality.

                                1. re: cowboyardee
                                  Chemicalkinetics Jan 6, 2011 11:29 AM

                                  People on knifeforums and etc more or less put today Chicago Cutlery below a Dexter-Russell. I hope that give you a feel.

                                  http://www.knifeforums.com/forums/sho...

                                  Some think they are good enough, while others say they won't take a good edge. They may be talking about different knife lines too. It seems there are at least two steels are boardly used among Chicago Cutlery. The 420J2 which we know much of, and the unnamed high carbon stainless steel which is probably a 420HC (if).

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                    cowboyardee Jan 6, 2011 12:03 PM

                                    Thanks for the link. The majority seem to rank them a solid step below forschners. That gives me a pretty good idea.

                            2. re: Chemicalkinetics
                              JuniorBalloon Jan 6, 2011 12:04 PM

                              I'm sorry I wasn't clear. I don't feel your trying to convice me and was only commenting on why we see more and more cheap to middle of the road knives from what were top of the line producers. It's really the same with most general consumption items. Mfg's want/need to deliver the least costly item for the greatest price that will satisfy the average consumer. A point I'm sure is not lost or new to any of the people in this thread and one of my personal pet peeves about mass production.

                              To further clarify I truly appreciate the comments and the expertise that I am fortunate to be able to learn from. It is only by arming yourself with knowledge that you can make an informed decision.

                              Thanks,
                              jb

                              1. re: JuniorBalloon
                                Chemicalkinetics Jan 6, 2011 12:11 PM

                                JB,

                                Those are excellent points. Sorry about my confusion. My apology. I think we know some manufactures are making more general consumption items or so called lower quality items. My original response to Mikie is that it is consumer driven.

                                I think it is true that some of the quality of knives have been poor. Yet, most of us are fortunate that we don't have to spend much to buy a knife. In the good old days, a knife is a big investment which explains why most people didn't use to have a whole set of knives in block. I kept hearing stories about people saving a whole week worth of salary to buy a single knife. That would be equivalent of a $500-2000 knife for most of us. People today are lucky that we can buy really cheap knife and really expensive knife.

                                Get a ok sharpening stone and bring out the best your knives can offer. A nicely sharpen Dexter or Victorinox will perform better than a factory seal Zwilling Henckels. It makes a huge difference.

                        2. re: mikie
                          Eiron Jan 6, 2011 10:06 AM

                          mikie: "There was a one star that claimed the kinves rusted, however as you posted 420J2 is very corrosion resistant. This probably speaks to the level of quality control that is currently in place for Chicago Cutlery."

                          From my experience dealing with Chinese manufacturing, I'd have to say both "yes" and "no."

                          CC may well have the proper quality-control stations in place, but for US manufacturing. As a US company relying on Chinese manufacturing, you need to become hyper-sensitive to what's being made for you. That takes an extra level of effort that many companies are not used to. And it can become almost as costly (from a labor standpoint) as simply continuing local manufacturing, so many companies lose sight of the quality goals amidst all of the dollar signs.

                          It can be done correctly; look at Bell helmets, or Calphalon Tri-Ply cookware. But if you're not familiar with accepted cultural and business practice differences, then you can end up with some unexpected surprises in your product line.

                          1. re: Eiron
                            Chemicalkinetics Jan 6, 2011 10:37 AM

                            Calphalon Triply is a good example. I don't know Bell Helmets. What are they?

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                              Eiron Jan 6, 2011 10:40 AM

                              Motorcycle helmets.

                            2. re: Eiron
                              m
                              mikie Jan 6, 2011 12:49 PM

                              My experience has all been second hand, my customers having things made in China. And I can telll you just because something is on the print as the material to be used, does not by any means mean that's what is being used. The Chinese are trying to make money just like everyone else. If they can make a substitution and think they can slide it through they will and pocket the difference. So yes you're correct, CC could be specifing 420J2 and that could be what they get most or some of the time, but perhaps not always, and that is one of the problems I have with purchasing items manufactured in China.

                              I think Bosh is another example of doing manufacturing in China right, they have Bosh factories and Bosh US engineers in those factories keeping tabs on things. I think that's the only way to insure quality products coming out of China.

                        3. re: mikie
                          John E. Jan 6, 2011 02:57 PM

                          We have old CC Walnut Tradition knives that still get used and are decent knives. I recently bought an 8" CC walnut chef's knife at a thrift store that still had the model letter/number on the handle but felt different. I weighed it and it is 1-1/2 ounces lighter than the old one.

                        4. re: Chemicalkinetics
                          JuniorBalloon Jan 7, 2011 06:45 AM

                          Based on the logo Mine is a Henckel Intl. Noooooooooooo. :o)

                          I would now like to entertain a few recommendations for a knife in the $150 - $200 range. I'm interested in a 10 inch Chefs knife. I'll be buying some sharpening stones to go with it. I promise not to put it in the dishwasher or a drawer with other utensils (unless it has a cover).

                          Thanks,
                          jb

                          1. re: JuniorBalloon
                            Chemicalkinetics Jan 7, 2011 07:13 AM

                            Hi JB,

                            I am a bit surprised that it is a Henckels International. The reason is that you felt it is a better knife than your Chicago Cutlery knife. I think it is not a bad idea to upgrade from a Henckels International. $150-200 is a very generous budget and will get you a very nice knife. I must add that you can probably get a noticeably good one at $75-100 range too.

                            May I ask two questions? I think it may focus us more.

                            1) Do you like a tougher German style knife? Or do you enjoy a stronger/harder Japanese style knife? On average, a German style Chef's knife can handle a wider range of thing from breaking bones to normal cutting, while Japanese style Chef's knife tend to be cut and slice much better. If you don't think you will do a lot of tough works or if you think you have another knife for tough works, then a Japanese knife may not be a bad choice.

                            2) Do you like a stainless steel or carbon steel knife? A stainless steel knife is easier to take care of, but a carbon-steel knife often is higher performance when at the same price point.

                            For stainless steel Japanese knives under $100 and high performance, I recommend a) Tojiro DP 240 mm Gyuto:

                            http://www.chefknivestogo.com/todpchkn24.html

                            and b) Fujiwara FKM 240 mm Gyuto:

                            http://www.chefknivestogo.com/fufkmgy24.html

                            For a stainless German style knife, that a) 8" Wusthof Ikon is a great deal (yeah, I know 8"):

                            http://citykitchensseattle.com/monthlySpecials.html

                            b) F. Dick knives are usually offered at a more afforable prices than Wusthof, Henckels and Messermeister, like this 10" F. Dick:

                            http://www.chefknivestogo.com/chefknife.html

                            On the other hand, Messermeister knives are easier to sharpen because they do not have a full blown bolster... look at the picture:

                            http://www.chefknivestogo.com/10inche...

                            So far I tried to look under $100, but if you are really looking at a higher price point, please let us know.

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                              JuniorBalloon Jan 7, 2011 07:27 AM

                              Some of those questions are difficult to answer since I have no experience with Japanese knives nor do I know anything about different types of steel. What I can say is I want a versatile knife I can use for all the work. That probably means one of the German style stainless steel. At this point I prefer a stiff knife with a solid feel. I'd like it to be somewhat low maintenance and not too difficult to sharpen. I'll certainly be practicing that on the Chicago and the Henckel. Hopefully I'll get good enough at it by the time the new knife needs it.

                              There's a joke in that last sentence, but I'm not gonna touch it.

                              Thanks,
                              jb

                              1. re: JuniorBalloon
                                Eiron Jan 7, 2011 07:39 AM

                                If I were going to start out again, I'd probably get one of these:
                                http://www.japanesechefsknife.com/Pro... 401px; HEIGHT: 233px

                                1. re: JuniorBalloon
                                  m
                                  mikie Jan 7, 2011 08:00 AM

                                  You can get a 10" Wusthof forged knife easily in that price range. I've got the 10" Clasic, similar handle shape to the Chicago Cultery (3 rivit sandwich) and that's what I was used to. This is a very solid knife, you can split a squash or watermellon with this beast. It steels very well and seems to hold it's edge as well as one can expect from the type of steel you're talking about. The same blade with a different handle design is availabe in the Grand Prix II line and a blade without the full bolster is available in the Classic Icon or Icon Blackwood or the Cordon Blu line with the regular Classic handle. A similar knife is available from Henckle in the Pro S line (traditional 3 rivit handle) or the Twin Four Star II. This of course if you are looking for a step up in a German style Chefs Knife.

                              2. re: JuniorBalloon
                                Eiron Jan 7, 2011 07:33 AM

                                Chem makes some great points about deciding on knife ethos first.

                                A nice middle-of-the-road choice is the Forschner Rosewood line.
                                http://www.cutleryandmore.com/forschn...
                                They sharpen easily & hold a decent edge. The steel appears to be slightly nicer than what's used in the Fibrox line. The weight is nice & light, & the balance is excellent. The wood handles are much more enjoyable to hold than the plastic of the Fibrox line.

                                But they're not the brutes that the Henckels are, but their affordability will give you a very nice knife while you ponder what you want to spend some serious money on.

                                1. re: Eiron
                                  Chemicalkinetics Jan 7, 2011 07:38 AM

                                  Hey, that is a good choice. Less than $40. In this case, JB can get a $40 Victorinox Forschner Chef's knife and a Tojiro DP Chef's knife (<$90) and still be under $150 :P (partly kidding)

                                  That said, JB said he want a stiff and solid knife, and by solid I am wondering if he want a Forged knife. Like big thick knife. JB, is that what you want a full blown Forged knife? Or will you like a stamped knife? There are many excellent stamped knives.

                                  I must add that for most home cooks, a Japanese hard steel knife is very versatile. This is because today home cooks rarely have to butcher a dead animal. Seriously, everything in supermarkets are largely cut up already.

                                  Like I mentioned above, if you are like a German forged knife, Messerimeister knives offer forged knives that are not full bolster. Having a partial bolster makes knife sharpening much easier. In a full bolster knife, the bolster may get in the way of knife sharpening. I am not a fan of full bolster.

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                    JuniorBalloon Jan 7, 2011 08:15 AM

                                    I don't know the difference between stamped and forged. This knife will be a replacement for the Chicago. I like the weight and feel of the Chicago. You can see an 8 inch version in this link.

                                    http://www.amazon.com/Chicago-Cutlery...

                                    Something like this with better quality materials would be perfect.

                                    Thanks,
                                    jb

                                    1. re: JuniorBalloon
                                      Chemicalkinetics Jan 7, 2011 08:22 AM

                                      Got it. That is a forged or forged-like knife. This really help us narrow things down. Now, I must say on a personal level I don't believe forged knives are better, they are more expensive, not better, but it is not about me. It is you. So among the forged knives, I say all the standard Henckels, Wusthof, Messerimeister, F. Dick are well-regarded. F. Dick is more afforable (<$90 for 10" Chef's knife), while all standard Messerimeister knives have partial bolster. A few lines within Wusthof have partial tang, like the Ikon line and I have a Blackwood Ikon knife, but Ikon are much more expensive than Classic Wusthof and Messerimeister. Again, I don't like full bolster. Have you looked at the Messerimeister link and the F. Dick I provided above? What do you think of them? What about the Wusthof Ikon link?

                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                        Chemicalkinetics Jan 7, 2011 12:28 PM

                                        "A few lines within Wusthof have partial tang"

                                        Opps. Correction: I didn't mean partial tang. It should read partial bolster. In addition, I just want to add that although Messerimeister does not have the big name recognition. It makes good knives. Messerimeister X55CrMoV15 is just good as Wusthof's X50CrMoV15. The factory edge angle is sharper than standard Wusthof and Henckels knives. .. etc

                                      2. re: JuniorBalloon
                                        m
                                        mikie Jan 7, 2011 08:35 AM

                                        I think you would find this suitable, it's what I have.

                                        http://www.amazon.com/Wusthof-979789-...

                                        1. re: JuniorBalloon
                                          John E. Jan 7, 2011 08:44 AM

                                          If it were me, I'd buy the Wusthof Classic Ikon from the Seattle kitchen store for $70. The regular price on that knife is about $200 and is on sale locally (for me) at an authorized Wustof retailer for $149 (they are a knife store/repair/sharpening store that is attachd to what used to be a Wusthof factory service warranty center before they consolidated it into one location in CT).

                                          Anyway, the Wusthof Ikon is a great knife because it has a much more comfortable handle than the regular classic. I know it's only 8" but you shill have the 10" CC knife when you need it (I have one too but it mostly only gets used for melons and squash).

                                          1. re: JuniorBalloon
                                            cowboyardee Jan 7, 2011 08:55 AM

                                            If that's what you're looking for, you'll like any of the above suggestions by Chem and Mikie.

                                            The Wusthof Classic especially seems to be a bonified crowd pleaser just by virtue of being dependable and not having any design features that annoy their target audience.

                                            That said, if you're gonna be learning to sharpen, I recommend you look into something with a half bolster - a full length bolster is a pain in the butt eventually - it gets in the way of sharpening and eventually leaves a step at the heel, leaving you with either less knife to use or cuts that aren't as thorough as you want them.
                                            http://www.amazon.com/Wusthof-Classic-8-Inch-Hollow-Ground/dp/B001RNP8MO/ref=sr_1_44?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1294422367&sr=1-44
                                            http://www.amazon.com/Messermeister-Meridian-Elite-Chefs-Knife/dp/B000MASOZG/ref=sr_1_11?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1294422435&sr=1-11
                                            http://www.amazon.com/Friedr-Dick-Exc...
                                            Those are just some examples. There are plenty of other heavy German style knives without a full length bolster.

                                            1. re: cowboyardee
                                              JuniorBalloon Jan 7, 2011 09:23 AM

                                              Having looked at the knives in all the links I now need to go to a local store and lay my hands on them. I lean towards the Wusthof and the Henckel.

                                              Thanks for all the suggestions.

                                              jb

                                              1. re: JuniorBalloon
                                                c
                                                chuckl Jan 8, 2011 08:13 PM

                                                Like chem says, dont rule out messermeister. I think theyre better than henckels and wustoff.

                                                1. re: chuckl
                                                  JuniorBalloon Jan 9, 2011 01:48 PM

                                                  Interesting that you should say that as I ended up with an 8 inch Messermeister Meridian Elite. 8 inch because that is the actual length of the Chicago and in part due to the recommendations here, but also the only decent (read not in the mall) knife shop I could find didn't carry the Henkel and Whustof. I wanted to buy from a local place that specializes in knives and found that at The Epicurean Edge. I wanted the guidance, especially when it came to the sharpening equipment. I also purchased a ceramic hone, and 4 stones a 200, 800, 1200 and 8000. It's actually two items as they are double stones. All new stuff to me. They are soaking now and in a bit I'm going to try my hand at sharpening the Chicago.

                                                  Thanks to everyone that chimed in, the education is greatly appreciated.

                                                  jb

                                                  1. re: JuniorBalloon
                                                    Chemicalkinetics Jan 9, 2011 02:42 PM

                                                    Great :) Because I was hoping you would not overlook Messermeister (I was doing some semi-subtle persuade for awhile in case you didn't notice). Epicurean Edge is an excellent and very respected shop. You bought a lot of stones which is good. ...I would have buy a slightly different set of stone, but that is just me. Best of luck.

                                                    1. re: JuniorBalloon
                                                      Eiron Jan 10, 2011 01:05 PM

                                                      By the way, I forgot to mention that I'm another person who's glad Messermeister was recommended to you.

                                                      I do like that line, even though I usually completely forget about them. I think they're one of those "We Try Harder"™ companies. When I bought my Kanetsune, the store also had a bunch of Messermeister knives. I 'd never seen them before, but they seemed nicer done than the comparable Henckels or Wusthof versions.

                                                      Actually, I've never seen them anywhere else other than that one store, & I don't work in that area any more.

                                    2. re: JuniorBalloon
                                      cowboyardee Jan 5, 2011 06:57 PM

                                      "Are there stores that will let you take their knives home to test drive?"
                                      _______
                                      Not that I know of. Though there are stores with generous return policies. And stores that will let you use one of their demo knives in the store. Otherwise, your best bet would be to befriend some knife enthusiasts in your area.

                                      As to your original question - I'm with the other guys. You certainly don't need a higher end knife. They don't really let you do anything you couldn't do with a cheaper (but well maintained) knife. I have em because i like em. That said, I have no intention of going back. They make cooking more enjoyable for me.

                                      So basically, if you view a knife simply as a means to an end in the kitchen, no more interesting than a colander or serving spoon, then stick with what you've got and what's working for you. If you find you enjoy the improved performance that Chicago Cutlery and Henckels gives you, then you're likely to enjoy taking the next step.

                                      The problem, of course, is this argument never expires - buy yourself a shun and soon a Hattori starts calling to you. Get that hattori, and it might be a Nenox next. And we're not even talking custom made knives yet. Then you gotta try some single bevels. A nice usuba - ooh, or maybe even a honyaki yanagi. You can see what I'm getting at.

                                      Basically you just have to decide what you'll be happy with - a knife that works well (i.e. what you already have), a very precise high performance knife, a handcrafted masterpiece, or thoroughly exploring as many knives as you can.

                                      1. re: cowboyardee
                                        kaleokahu Jan 5, 2011 07:20 PM

                                        Cowboy: Really well-said. Somebody bookmark this or permalink or whatever.

                                    3. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                      kaleokahu Jan 5, 2011 05:58 PM

                                      Chem: "[P]eople cannot desire what they have never experienced."

                                      LOL. Sure they can. Isn't that what advertising does? But I think I know what you meant: People can't fully appreciate something as being better than what they're accustomed to without first experiencing it. Lots of times, the expectation can vary from the experience, good or bad.

                                      Hey, JB: Check out some bigger kitchen stores that have demo kitchens--they'll probably let you bring in some food to work over with their knives. Failing that, buy a knife from a retailer whose return policy allows returns for refunds, NQA.

                                      1. re: kaleokahu
                                        Chemicalkinetics Jan 5, 2011 06:05 PM

                                        :) True. Still, at least they desire a concept of something from the advertising. I am not sure if JuniorBalloon has a concept which he can hold on to.

                                        I thought you were going to use better examples like "people desire to get married after watching all the Hollywood romance movies" :P

                                    4. John E. Jan 6, 2011 09:50 AM

                                      Your Henckel is a decent knife if it is their top of the line twin model. We used CC knives for years, still use them in fact. Just be sure to have them professionally sharpened once or twice a year. I started doing that with our Wustoffs and it really made a difference.

                                      I have to say that the Wusthof Gourmet line, although stamped and not forged, are still good knives. I got an old one recently and it's better than CC or the Wolfgang Puck forged knives that we have.

                                      1. scubadoo97 Jan 6, 2011 02:22 PM

                                        JB, you don't need another chef knife. Just a way to keep them sharp

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: scubadoo97
                                          kaleokahu Jan 7, 2011 07:59 AM

                                          scubadoo97: LOL, it's too late. The OP has been infected...

                                          1. re: kaleokahu
                                            JuniorBalloon Jan 7, 2011 02:00 PM

                                            Infected? No, no, no my dear boy. More like an itch and it needs scratchin'. Hopefully it doesn't spread.

                                            jb

                                        2. SanityRemoved Jan 8, 2011 03:54 AM

                                          Lots of good info so far, but it got me thinking what would the benefits need to be to rationalize replacing a knife that had seemingly served it's purpose for a number of years.

                                          Time.
                                          When I looked at everything, this was the element that became the common denominator for all the areas. The ergonomics and fit of the knife. Sharpness and ability to be sharpened and retain an edge. Non sharpening care of the knife.

                                          The easiest to toss out as a non issue was care of the knife as in keeping it clean. It's pretty well accepted that if you want a knife to last and perform well, you hand wash it regardless of it's metal composition.

                                          The ergonomics and fit of the knife. An analogy could be mittens and gloves. Both do the job but when you want a more precise feel, gloves are the champ. The new knife should feel better in your hand. It should act as an extension of your hand. The amount of time you can spend cutting and chopping without fatigue should be greater with the new knife. This can be a tricky part because one size does not fit all but in the case of Chef's knives there are usually various lengths available that may feel better depending on hand and arm size.

                                          Sharpness and ability to be sharpened and retain an edge. This has been where the most confusion comes in and where some in the related links have lost their focus. The basic rule is simple and once experienced is a no-brainer. A sharp knife performs better and is safer than a dull knife. Most knives can be sharpened by an experienced person to a level that they are happy with. Right here is where many lose focus. Just because a knife can be sharpened doesn't make it good. A lot of people want to put a great deal of time into the sharpening process to justify to themselves that a knife is not "bad". A knife should be relatively easy to sharpen in a given amount of time. Many people find the sharpening of knives to be relaxing and an enjoyable hobby. This should not factor at all in deciding whether a new knife should replace an older knife. Sharpening is a great skill to learn but it serves a purpose other than just getting a nice edge on a blade. It allows you to see that knives are not created equal. The new knife should require less combined time to sharpen and to retain that edge than the older knife. If the knife "spends more time in the shop than on the road" then it isn't a good choice.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: SanityRemoved
                                            JuniorBalloon Jan 8, 2011 10:44 AM

                                            Excellent points and well articulated. This fits how I decided to upgrade the knife. When CK said that I would see a similar difference that I saw between the cheap block knives and the Chicago as I would between the Chicago and the upgrade I realized it was worth it to try a better knife. While the Chicago is a decent, serviceable knife, and the blade is strong and sharp enough (and I magine even better when I learn to give it a decent edge) the handle is a bit loose from me smashing garlic with it. Add in that the new knife should make slicing and dicing easier pushed me over the edge.

                                            I will also admit to a touch of the "New Toy" syndrome. I cut, chop and clean something every day. It would be nice to have a new tool that I know is a quality made piece.

                                            Thanks,
                                            jb

                                          2. free sample addict aka Tracy L Jan 9, 2011 07:58 PM

                                            woops, worng thread.

                                            1. c
                                              clint1245 Jan 10, 2011 09:43 AM

                                              I would go to a profesional knife sharpener easiest way to find one ask restaurants if they have a mobile guy. Its normally pretty cheap and you will probably notice a huge difference making the ones you have normally better then new. A new knife is all preference I like a bigger chef knife at least 12" and am particular on handles. Also, I like a good paring knife and a smaller santuko like 8 for a utility knife. I also like a smaller boning knife around 7 inches. But if you like the knives you have and do not want a different type of steel like Japanese then no need to buy one. Its all preference.

                                              1. JuniorBalloon Jan 10, 2011 01:41 PM

                                                Look jb, you have to figure that out for yourself. We can tell you about all the different mfg's, the steel they use and why they hold a better edge, but in the end you'll have to figure out if that's enough to say you "Need" a new knife. A good quality knife will cut with less effort, they are more precise and easier to handle, but if you haven't used one you may not have a point of reference. Utlimately both will put dinner on the table, but I can say from personal experience it is more fun to use the good knife.

                                                Good luck,
                                                jb

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: JuniorBalloon
                                                  Chemicalkinetics Jan 10, 2011 02:51 PM

                                                  This is a very nice answer, better than most if not all of the answers here.

                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                    JuniorBalloon Jan 10, 2011 02:55 PM

                                                    But one I couldn't have written until after this thread. :o)

                                                    Thanks again to all the good advice.

                                                    jb

                                                    1. re: JuniorBalloon
                                                      SanityRemoved Jan 11, 2011 10:29 AM

                                                      Congratulations on the new knife. It's fun to see when someone gets a new knife that reveals everything that people have been talking about in this thread. That "I get it now" feeling is great. While this purchase may lead you to further purchases, this new acquisition is going to hold a special place in the years to come as it was the knife that allowed you to turn the corner.

                                                2. g
                                                  GH1618 Nov 21, 2011 10:23 PM

                                                  If you cut up chickens, you should have a sturdy boning knife for the purpose rather than use your chef's knife. It will do a better job, more safely, as well as being better for your Chef's knife.

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