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Jan 7, 2011 06:43 AM

Talk about knives

I've been thru a few commercial and resto kitchens, and have never seen premium knives such as a kramer, rader, etc...always just the white handled forschners and such. While I love knives, I really can't justify spending such a sum on a knife, (even $250 and up sounds crazy to me) but it seems like the home-cook market drives these sales. Those who cook professionally: is an ultra premium knife important to you, or is it just another tool you use everyday?

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  1. Hey BiscuitBoy. I cook professionally,have been for 20 years. i have used those generic,nondescript knives(up here in Toronto we call them Nellas) and thought Hey they get the job done why should I spend hundreds of $$$ on a Knife just to have it stolen,abused,misplaced etc. Then I had the opportunity to purchace some Kasumi's at an unbelievable price and I've been hooked ever since.I now own a Moritaka 240mm gyuto and there's no going back.
    So,to answer you questions,yes an ultra premium knife is very important to me because it's a tool I use everyday.

    1. I think you got it the other way around. Historically, these premium kitchen knives (Japanese style) were first driven by professional chefs, not home cooks. Yes, most commerical kitchens use Forschners and Dexter knives, but most residential kitchen use Faberware and Henckels International knives. Do you expect you will see expensive Kramer and Hattori knives if your randomly tour 10 residential kitchens?

      Analogy, one cannot say the following "I have interviewed 100 scientists and none of them are not particle physicists. Therefore particle physicists are not scientists" You see the problem with that statement, right?

      If you look around on youtube or knifeforum or whatever, you will see a good portion of these high-end knife lovers are professional chefs/cooks.

      22 Replies
      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        That's my point...Given the home cook's propensity to shell out for sub zero, viking, lecreuset, I wouldn't be surprised if at least half of them owned such a knife. If biff and muffy can be talked into a $200 oil change on their a6 or rangrover, I betcha they feel the need for a spendy knife

        1. re: BiscuitBoy


          You know I love you man, but do you really think half of the home cooks own a >$350 knife or even 1/100th of the home cooks have these >$350 knives? I will tell you that many of the youtube videos on expensive knives are owned by professional chefs. Like saltydog, like Curtis:

          I cannot say for sure that most of these $350 are owned by professional cooks, but I am very comfortable saying that the percentage of professional cooks owning these knives are at least 10 times higher than that of home cooks.

          Like I said earlier:

          One cannot say the following "I have interviewed 100 scientists and I didn't meet a single particle physicists, and therefore particle physicists are not scientists" We cannot say that I toured 100 professional kitchens and I didn't see a >$350 knife, and therefore $350 knives are home cooks knives.

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            Chem, I have a knife question (Cowboy can jump in with an answer too).

            On yesterday's knife foray I got a French-made knife bundled with the Wusthof. I kept it because it looks interesting and I didn't recognize it. It's an 8" forged chef's knife, full tang, wooden handle, brass rivets. The make is Laguiole E'clair 440. I know the 440 refers to stainless steel. On the top of the handle near the bolster is a steel fly. The top edge of the tang is engraved with leaf design. There is also a fly logo on the left face of the knife with the name on the right side. 

            All I could find online about the brand is they make flatware, cheese knives and steak knives, none of which interests me.

            My question is, is this knife worth keeping? It must be impossible for someone like me to sharpen. It looks like a good knife except for the stainless steel part, which is a pretty big part.

            1. re: John E.

              I don't know that brand, but then I don't know many brands. 440 is a stainless steel grade, rather a group of stainless steel grades. There are 440A, 440B and 440C. In general, 440C provides better performance than 440B which in turn is better than 440A. If it is just listed as 440, then it is often 440A, but not always.

              440C stainless steels was regarded top of lines stainless steel decades ago and is still consider a good steel. 440A is not bad, but nothing too special. Some people think a 420HC is about the same as a 440A. If this is true, then this knife is on par with Dexter-Russell knives.

              I definitely think the knife is worth keeping. Of course, you should sharpen it just to be sure. I cannot say it is better than your Wusthof and it probably is not. Sorry I cannot be more helpful.

              Cowboy and others will know more.

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                I'll bring it in and see what the guy at Eversharp has to say. I'll keep it because it's a beautiful knife. It will be interesting to see if it holds an edge. The problem I have is that I have so many knives that if I want to use them all it's mostly just to mildly entertain myself.

              2. re: John E.

                Laguiole is a high end French knife maker. Nice find John E.

                1. re: scubadoo97

                  Thanks. My search only found one page on that website. Apparently I didn't try hard enough. I did search the site but didn't find any chef's knives. I did find one for sale for $2,600 Euros ($3,300 USD).

                  1. re: John E.

                    I didn't see a Chef's knife but did see a two piece Game Server and Fork for 280 Euro and a Cheese Clever for the same price. The carving knife in the server was smaller than a Chef's but similar

                    1. re: scubadoo97

                      It will be interesting to see what my knife guy has to say about it. The one I got has a wood handle. The website says the knife is made with 'surgical steel'. I think that makes it difficult to sharpen but with care will hold an edge quite well. That's how ceramic knives have to be treated, ie no bones, just use it to cut meat and vegetables. I have a lot of cheaper knives to abuse for other situations.

            2. re: BiscuitBoy

              Frankly, as a home cook who uses nice knives, I'd appreciate if you tried to be a little less insulting. Thanks.

              First off, you're asking in the wrong place. Go pose this question at knifeforums/inthekitchen. Those guys have knives and experience that put me to shame. And while there are all sorts who hang out there, the biggest demographic is certainly professional cooks.

              Also if you ask over there, you'll find that most (not all) of the professional cooks with nice knives don't take their nicest knives to work. Some take cheap but effective beaters (forschners, dexter-russels etc). Others take nice knives (often older) that they wouldn't be heartbroken if someone stole - Tojiros, Hiromotos, Globals, etc. A few bring nicer knives yet - typically not because they need them but because they like them or because they make work that they could do otherwise go even more smoothly.

              Now if you're wondering, as you seem to be in your first post, whether these knives are - strictly speaking - necessary: there is another thread open and active on this very page where all of us chowhound knife enthusiasts agreed that they are not. They are luxury items and/or expensive tools for picky specialists. A few cheap forschners should do most homecooks and even pros just fine. And as I said in that thread, if you aren't interested in learning any knife technique, you can get by with $5 serrated offerings from Walmart or your local dollar store.

              Keep in mind, when the price of a knife ($250) seems 'crazy' to you, that it may be less crazy to those of us who buy em than spending $25,000+ on a car or $100+ on a watch. Or not. In my case, I drive a cheap, ugly sedan that runs well; I have a small non-flat TV; my dog's a mutt from the animal shelter (adorable, BTW); and my cellphone is as much wristwatch as I need. But I like nice knives. There are worse (and much more expensive) things to enjoy.

              1. re: cowboyardee

                Nope, from the responses, looks like I'm in the right place, besides, it looks like I have a few home cooks here too....and no insults were tossed around, sounds like a bunch of dudes talking knives, and I love knives. I have a benchmade in my pocket as we speak. I was just trying to get a feel for the pro's point of view

                1. re: BiscuitBoy

                  "If biff and muffy can be talked into a $200 oil change on their a6 or rangrover, I betcha they feel the need for a spendy knife"
                  I don't try to take insult where there was none. You implied that home cooks who use more expensive knives are dupes. Suckers.

                  Anyway, it's not that you were wrong to ask here. Not at all. There are just a lot more knife enthusiasts over at knifeforums. And also a lot more professional cooks (per capita, at least). Which is at least in part an answer to your question.

                  1. re: cowboyardee

                    I think I know what BB was referring to, and it's a sign of greed or the times in which totally inept and clueless "cooks" have top shelf items not because they can use them or for that matter appreciate them but due to what they represent. It's more about impressing the guests than a love of a well crafted knife.

                    Unfortunately with the surge in popularity of all things food related we are getting increases in prices because of twisted demand. When the fad aspect of food passes, the marketing and sales people are going to figure out where a percentage of their sales where going and will have to adjust prices accordingly or be under cut by those who do.

                    1. re: SanityRemoved

                      Fair enough.

                      Don't mind me too much. Sometimes I just get in a fight-y type mood.

                  2. re: BiscuitBoy

                    Biscuit Boy

                    :) I think you are correct that there are many home cooks here. In some way, I do agree with cowboyardee that you probably will get a more accurate view if you send this question out in the knifeforum. The reason I said this is that CHOWHOUND audience is still home cooks. On the knifeforum, you will truely get a better picture because those are the people who invest in in >$200 knives and you get a more selected audience. You get a sense of who are the people buying $350 knives. Cowboyardee is a regular on the knifeforum and a respected one, so he may able to answer your question here, but it is even better if you go on knifeforum.

                    This is not to discourage you from posting here at all, as I find this is a nice post, I am just not sure you will get the correct representation here.

                  3. re: cowboyardee

                    While I agree with you on all your points, This one " A few cheap forschners should do most homecooks and even pros just fine." while this statement is true it should be noted if these people tried using a really sharp narrow angled knife they would likely shell out the money for one,

                  4. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    I would bet that most home kitchens don't have knives as good as farberware and Henckels International. I have been stopping at thrift stores looking at their knives recently. Most of the knives are crap (I believe it is representative of average home kitchens). The reason I continue to look is because there are also homes that have good knives but somehow they get donated anyway (I assume not by the purchaser) and the staff at the thrift stores know nothing about knives. Today I bought a Wusthof Classic 9" slicer for $1.80.


                    1. re: John E.


                      I am amazed you kept getting all these great deals (<$3). Well, either the staffers at the stores don't know about knives or they don't care for them. Bad for them, great for you.

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        If it was at Goodwill that I was buying these knives I might feel a little guilty. I don't know what they're doing with the donated knives but they aren't in the stores here. I certainly could afford to buy knives retail but there is a thrill in finding them in this manner.

                        1. re: John E.

                          Well, let's hope the people who donated these Wusthof Classic knives are at least upgrading their knives and not downgrading. I swear I have heard of people retiring their good for "attractive but worse" knives.

                          The stories usually go like this. Their Wusthof/Henckels/whatever got dull, so when they watch TV and saw a new attractive knives endorsed by a celebrity like Rachel Ray or Oprah, they bought the celebrity knives and they are sharper than old knives. What they didn't know is that A) these old knives would actually perform better if they are sharpened and B) these celebrity new knives actually dull at a faster rate.

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            Yesterday's knife is really dull but the 8" classic chef's knife was perfect. Somebody that never learned knife skills and probably used a paring or boning knife for everything decided they never used this knife and got rid of it. That or a parent died and it ended up in the thrift store. Even if someone knew nothing of knives they should be able to pick the Wusthof out of a pile of knives as the good one.

                  5. Here's another perspective. I'm not a professional cook but for about 20 years I arranged catering for hundreds of professional conferences at premier venues and convention centers nationwide. So I've worked with lots of busy chefs and seen many many kitchens. The consistent message I got (and I asked) is that while premium knives are really excellent, in everyday use there is very little difference and certainly not enough to warrant the high prices. Dexter Russell knives and other inexpensive trade brands were often mentioned. These chefs told me they can afford to personally use whatever tools they wish and they don't waste money on premium knives.

                    No doubt there are chefs who disagree. But the point is that the functional difference must be very small. And many chefs have relationships with knife makers that raise questions for me about their public recommendations.

                    So I tried some of the Dexter Russell knives, like the 8" chefs knife that Bittman recently advocated. (About $14 via Amazon.) I used them along side my Wustoff and Shun blades. In a home kitchen where I cook almost every day, the Dexter Russells did great. They've held up well over the last few years. And each time I pick one up, I have a good feeling because I'm no longer being a sucker and buying into the marketing barrage regarding high end knives. I don’t suggest my use of knives is comparable to that of a busy commercial kitchen, but I believe you are talking mainly about home use.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: bkling

                      depends. do you want to hone daily? if you get premium steel, you won't need to. OTOH, you'll have a devil of a time sharpening it! (free sharpening service is... a feature, but not a "bonus" feature. most sharpeners can't handle premium steel).

                      1. re: Chowrin

                        A hone does not sharpen knives and you'd better know how to use it too. Western knives have a 20 degree angle on the blade, Asian 15 degree. The hone merely aligns the blade. True sharpeners, and there are many to choose from, Wusthoff has a dandy sharpener with a scissors sharpener for about $9.99. They go up in price from there with both manual and electric sharpeners. Most good cooking shops will have a knife sharpening service and depending on home use you should not need to have knives sharpened more than once or twice a year.

                        1. re: Candy

                          "Most good cooking shops will have a knife sharpening service"

                          I keep hearing this. Is it true? If I go to Williams Sonoma or Sur La Table, they can sharpen my knives? I am not really looking to have my knives sharpening, but I am curious.

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            Sur La Table sharpens knives in Pittsburgh, as does In the Kitchen (Strip District). I don't know about W-S.

                          2. re: Candy

                            I know that a hone doesn't sharpen knives! Premium steel (we're talking the powdered stuff here...) shouldn't be sharpened at WS... My knives are set at a 16 degree angle.

                        2. re: bkling

                          Well I know most here are cooks but now i'm speaking as an eater -- of my own words. I tried some premium Japanese knives and I'm converted. Man they just glide through stuff! I learned to sharpen very hard carbon steel when I used to make bamboo fly rods and had to sharpen plane blades, so that's no problem. I don't mind honing daily so that's not the issue, these knives are just incredible tools that are fun to use! Those words didn't taste so bad...

                          1. re: bkling

                            Wait - !!
                            So... what did you get?

                        3. I think it's also partly preference and environment. Take a mechanic for instance, they can get some pretty nice wrenches that command a high dollar amount or they can go with the india-made tools that are 10 bucks for a set. Both will get the job done, but once you use nice tools it might be hard to go back to your "standard stock".

                          that being said, victorinox and dexter's are good tools...inexpensive, but not cheap. If that knife were stolen or borrowed and mis-used i wouldn't be too heart broken about it. If i were in an environment where i knew that the other people i work with were capable enough to not abuse the knife i would have no problem bringing a nicer knife to work.

                          To answer your question it really just depends. :P

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: cannibal

                            Good points by all.The bottom line for me,as a "chef" is performance.As long as I can keep an eye on my babies I'll bring them to work with me every day.And by bringing my knives to work I've successfully converted many Mac,Wusthof, Henkel users to Japanese steel,whatever the brand.But to each their own.

                            1. re: cannibal

                              That is a very very good example on tools. I know many field-engineers own and pride their own set of tools and they shell out money for these very nice tools. Cheaper tools will do the jobs, but they enjoy using nicer tools.

                              1. re: cannibal

                                good point with the tool analogy....While my chest is full of craftsman handtools, I do own one snap on ratchet

                              2. It really depends on what type of professional kitchen one works in. Until recently, I worked at restaurants, mostly high-end, for over 25 years and there has been a slight shift toward different types of knives. Part of that is due to the wider availabilities of Japanese style knives and second is that cooks seem to take better care of their knives. When I first begin cooking in a restaurant kitchen, most of us use German made Wuhof and Henkels or French made Sabatiers with a few Forchers, etc thrown. There was a lot less fine cutting and precise slicing, therefore, German made knives serves its purpose. To this day, they are still my favorite knives for most purposes. I can split lobsters, cut up a duck or cut fish into precise portions. These knives can take abuse and requires less care that fits the fast pace of the kitchen. Recently, one see more Japanese style knives in commercial kitchens. But considering some cost in the hundreds, with the low salary of cooks, and the general hectic atmosphere of a commercial kitchen, one still most lightly see Forchers, etc. Cooks do not want to be constantly worry about someone picking up their $300 knife or worst, gets accidently toss into the big kitchen garbage bin. Of course, if one is working on the sushi line or a Thomas Keller, these do not apply.