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Knife help, please?

l
limegreen Jul 20, 2011 06:03 AM

Hello there! I need help convincing a penny pincher that I live that it's time to get a new knife.

We used to eat lots microwave meals because they were convenient and cheap. We are both overweight and at risk of severe health problems if we don't start eating better, so I'm taking the initiative by starting to cook healthy meals from scratch as much as possible. In doing so, I've noticed that our knives are *terrible* and honestly I felt like I was trying to cut raw chicken with a spoon.

Our budget is already stretched thin so I would love to know of any great knife bargains. I would prefer something available in an online store if possible. Thanks!

EDIT: Sorry, this probably should have gone in the Cookware section. I am new here and didn't even see that section until after this was posted. You can move it there if you would like. :)

  1. ROCKLES Jul 20, 2011 08:48 AM

    First of all a dull knife is unsafe, it causes you to have to chop much harder than you should which could cause slippage leading to a bad accident. also a sharp knife will make cutting onions less painful to the eyes. When slicing meats a sharp knife will make getting those paper thin slices much easier and when cutting up whole chickens it takes less force to chop through and keeps the knife from slipping off the bone and into your hand. Thats the safety convincing part ! Believe it or not, I got a great knife at Ross, it stays sharp and is light and easy to manage. The rest of my "expensive" knives came from Macy's, not a great bargain. Check foodnetwork for some good prices on knives

    1. Axalady Jul 20, 2011 09:01 AM

      Hi limegreen. Congratulations on your decision to start cooking in a more healthy way. You haven't mentioned if your *terrible* knives have ever been sharpened. You may not need new knives, what you may need is a sharpener. Here's a link to one that costs $30 - http://www.amazon.com/M4623-Diamond-S... Even a $100 knife will become unusable if not sharpened.

      1. GardenFresh Jul 20, 2011 09:02 AM

        Sharp knives are indeed very important to a safe and satisfying cooking experience. I have been in a situation similar to yours; before I bit the bullet to buy decent knives I was using serrated steak knives to prep ingredients because they were the only 'sharp' things in my drawer! I have had wonderful experiences with Victorinox knives. They consistently come up near the top of ratings in Cook's Illustrated tests, I find them comfortable, and they are very affordable. Their Fibrox 8-Inch Chef's Knife is a great all-around basic knife to get you started, and Amazon has it for less than $30.

        3 Replies
        1. re: GardenFresh
          Becca Porter Jul 20, 2011 09:05 AM

          I totally agree. They won CI's inexpensive knife testing. They are great, and very cheap.

          http://www.amazon.com/Victorinox-4052...

          1. re: Becca Porter
            mamachef Jul 20, 2011 01:20 PM

            Absolutely yes on the Victorinox Chef's knife. You'll love it. It's budget-worthy and you won't want to kill yourself or someone else if something God forbid happens to it. Next up, check out the Global knifeware selection. Honestly I'd go with the first though.

          2. re: GardenFresh
            d
            darrentran87 Jul 20, 2011 01:22 PM

            +1 on this. Victorinox. Great "beginner" knife in my opinion. Best bang for the buck.

          3. LiveRock Jul 20, 2011 09:03 AM

            I always recommend Dexter Russell knives for quality and value. They are not beautiful but they are so perfectly functional that they are owned and used by a majority of restaurant kitchens. Best of all, a good chef's knife will run you only a little over $30 bucks. Here is a link... http://www.dexter-russell.com/Univers...

            1. firecooked Jul 20, 2011 09:28 AM

              I have historically been a knife snob, but recently bought a chef knife and paring knife at Ikea for our second home. Not super cheap (I think maybe $30 for the chef's knife), but I'm not missing my high $$ Henkels as much as I had though. Also make sure you get a good cutting board.

              1. l
                LauraGrace Jul 20, 2011 09:48 AM

                First of all, limegreen, welcome to Chowhound!

                Second: a sharp knife is a safe knife!

                I have a 10" Cuisinart santoku knife that I spent about $25 on at a discount store, and I frequently see good-quality knives at TJ Maxx and Kohl's. Much as I'd like to have the kind of money required to spend $200 on a knife... I've been nothing but pleased with the one I've got. Here's what I like about it:

                - It's forged steel (not stamped -- a quick Google image search will show you the difference if you don't know already).
                - It has a comfortable grip that fits my hand. This really matters if you're going to be chopping lots of veggies with it! Don't buy a knife you can't hold before purchasing.
                - It holds an edge and sharpens well -- I have it sharpened professionally maybe once a year, and then sharpen/hone it myself once a month or so.

                The absolute worst thing you can do is buy those "never need to be sharpened" micro-serrated knives (like the ones sold on infomercials). They're basically saws, not knives. If your knives are like that, chuck 'em. But if they're not, do see if a professional cutler can put an edge back on them for less money than buying a new one.

                One more bit of advice: YouTube is an invaluable resource for knife skills videos. I'm no French chef but I can take apart a chicken and mince an onion in no time, and I don't remember the last time I cut myself (knock wood). You'll be amazed at how much less time you spend in the kitchen with a sharp knife and some basic knife skills.

                Best of luck! :)

                1. TroyTempest Jul 20, 2011 10:38 AM

                  For a good deal on some decent knives, try a restaurant supply store. I guarantee you'll get a better deal than at a kitchen store.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: TroyTempest
                    g
                    gilintx Jul 20, 2011 12:28 PM

                    I was just coming in to recommend the same thing. Even the cheap plastic-handled knives at a restaurant supply store will be *almost* as good as a Henkels or a Mundial. Of course, if you can afford it, do go for those brands, as the weight makes them all that much easier to handle.
                    Do: keep your knife in a block at all times. A knife edge is hard, but it is pliable, and you can take the edge off a knife just by having it knock around in a drawer.
                    Do: look up some of the knife skills videos on youtube. They will do you a world of good.
                    Do: find a knife sharpening service in your town. Properly sharpening a good piece of steel should be left to a pro.
                    Knives you need: chef's knife, paring knife, slicing knife, serrated knife. Beyond that, you're just gilding the lily. Yeah, you might need a boning knife once in a blue moon, and you might need a carving knife once or twice a year, but beyond those four, you're pretty much set to do anything.

                    1. re: gilintx
                      l
                      LauraGrace Jul 20, 2011 01:14 PM

                      WRT the knife block -- a block that doesn't fit the knives properly will dull the edges and can damage the knives. If you do use it, keep the blades pointing up. I have really limited counter space, so I keep my knives on a magnetic strip on the wall so the blade edges never touch a surface that they're not cutting! :)

                  2. Da_Cook Jul 20, 2011 11:27 AM

                    As a chef I have indulged in expensive, finicky, hand forged Japanese carbon steel knives. At home though, I use Global knives. My wife likes the looks and the forged line is really top quality.
                    However, the Victorinox black or yellow handled knives are excellent. They last forever, have good balance and are easy to sharpen.
                    Spend your money on 1 good x 8" or 9" chef's knife. Anything else is unnecessary with the possible exception of a 3" or 4" petty knife and a serrated slicer for carving and bread.
                    Whatever knife you choose, you need a steel and a sharpener. You must use the steel each time you use the knife This hones the blade and re-aligns the microscopic shards on the knife edge. This isn't sharpening. You should also properly sharpen your knives, using stones or a commercial device, at least 4 times a year as you get to a point that the steel is no longer effective.

                    1. cowboyardee Jul 20, 2011 12:53 PM

                      Victorinox/forschner and Dexter Russell reliably make good affordable knives. Both are pretty standard Western chef knives (more or less the standard German profile, double beveled, symmetrically ground, medium hardness, stainless steel, etc).

                      For more info, here are a few threads that pertain to your question:
                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/405198
                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/678948
                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/796012

                      Finally and most importantly - when talking about a straight edge knife (like pretty much all the recommendations in this thread and those I linked you to), sharpening is FAR more important than which knife you buy. There are a lot of sharpening threads on the cookware board - I suggest you have a way to sharpen in mind before you buy a new knife.

                      1. Hank Hanover Jul 20, 2011 02:53 PM

                        +1 for Victorinox knives. They are very good and significantly cheaper than most high end knives.

                        All you really need is a chef's knife and a paring knife. You can get by without all the others. A serrated bread knife would be number 3 on the want list.

                        You could watch craigslist but they might well need sharpening which will cost $5 - $10 a piece.

                        1. Chemicalkinetics Jul 20, 2011 03:51 PM

                          For an inexpensive yet functional Chef's knife, I suggest you to look at Dexter-Russell or Victorinox. Now, if you happen to like a Chinese cleaver, then I strongly recommend and CCK1303 knife for less than $40.

                          Here is a recent post on recommendation for knives under $40 and under $130. You can focus the $40 suggestions.

                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/796012

                          I agree with several posters that sharpening is more important than just getting a new knife.

                          1. SanityRemoved Jul 21, 2011 07:32 PM

                            For under $30 you can get a Dexter-Russell Sani-Safe 8" Cook's knife online. If that is still too high then I would try Rada Cutlery's French Chef's knife for around $15. Both are made in the US. With a brand new knife I would make a good steel the first priority and then a good sharpener.

                            1. John E. Jul 21, 2011 08:02 PM

                              I agree with the suggestions about the Dexter-Russell and Victorinox Fibrox suggestions, but if your community has a Goodwill or ither thrift stores, I'd check them out for a few weeks before making another knife purchase. I have bought older Chicago Cutlery knives ( which are decent by the way), Wusthof, Henkels, Dexter, and one French made Laguiole chef's knife. One of the Wustoff chef's knives had a broken handle so I sent it in and Wustof sent me a brand new knife that retails for $150. the most I paid for any of these knives is $3.60 plus tax.

                              1. k
                                knet Jul 22, 2011 07:05 PM

                                Another vote for Victorinox. I use Globals but I always have at least 2 -3 Victorinox around for travelling; for giving to new cooks and for those guests who are NOT allowed to touch my other knives.
                                Congratulations on your decision to start a healthier lifestyle.

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