Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Cookware >
Dec 1, 2011 05:22 AM

Cheap but decent knives for single, irresponsible guy

I need help with Christmas shopping for my son. He's 26, single, an engineer and just got his first apartment.

Over Thanksgiving I asked for his Christmas list. (It doesn't matter how old my kids get, I'll always ask.) He said he would love two things, some decent cookware and knives. Last year my daughter bought him some excellent Crate & Barrel dinnerware and glasses, so he's good on that front, but he's been using his cousin's castaway cheap pots and pans and he's not happy with them.

My son's zodiac sign is Taurus, which is fitting, because he is the proverbial bull in a china shop. He's not delicate. He doesn't go easy on anything. But he likes his food. When he cooks, he doesn't follow recipes. He tends to just peel, slice, dice, throw some olive oil in a pan, crank the heat up and voila.

I wanted to get him a decent, durable cookware set that didn't break the bank. Because shipping was free,I bought this set on Amazon: Cuisinart MCP-12 MultiClad Pro Stainless Steel 12-Piece Cookware Set. I read reviews on CH and numerous posters said it was a good set. At $214 it was priced well. I also picked up three cans of Barkeeper's Friend for Cookware to hopefully get him off the right start for pan care.

Knives are more challenging.

I just ordered a Blue Jean Chef 7" Kyotsu Knife with Micarta Denim Handle, from QVC. It was on clearance for $12. But now I'm feeling guilty. I wonder if it will be good quality and helpful for his slicing and dicing.

So now I am thinking about a set. The colorful Kuhn Rikon Kolori and Komachi knife sets caught my eye. People who bought them said they were sharp, but many have cut themselves accidently. I know my son, and let's just say that concerns me...a lot. Because he is not the type to properly care for or sharpen his knives, he needs something easy to use but can do the job. I'd also like to get him a set of four decent steak knives.

Any advice you can offer would be most appreciated. Thank you so much!

Link to the Kyotsu kinfe:

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Victorinox Fibrox might do the trick: affordable, tough, good value. A chefs and a paring might be all he needs.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Kagemusha

      +1 on the Vicotrinox Fibrox. Fits the ticket exactly, and if he breaks it, you get another one.

      1. re: arashall

        I own this one and am buying another for my son for Christmas.

        1. re: AreBe

          Adding my vote to this, too. They're decently priced, but still really good knives.

      2. re: Kagemusha

        You know your son well so yes - a decent STAINLESS knife is the way to go. For the price point, Victorinox is highly appropriate. Henckles Internatoinal has a very nice dual santoku set for $20 that is quite impressive - they are VERY sharp and are stainless. I got this for my folks last year and they are most impressive for the money.

        Avoid sets, unless it's a set of 2, one larger and one smaller knife. For your son at this point - ONE decent chefs knife or santoku will do the trick.

        An inexpensive $10 or less pull-through sharpener is the correct choice for him at this point also. He'll probably use it since it's simple. Until he gets INTO cooking and merits a good knife and will care for it, it doesn't make sense to get a good sharpener.

      3. A Victorinox Chef's knife or a Dexter-Russell Chef's knife is good -- if you want to get him another Chef's knife.

        1. I will also hop on the Victorinox Forschner brand. I bought a Santoku knife from the local kitchen supply warehouse for $50 a few years ago. That was a stretch for me then but I have never, ever regretted it. It is my knife of choice for all tasks. No long use the chef's knife, slicing knife or an of the other in my set of Henckels, save for the occasional use of the bread knife. You might consider also a few gift certificates to his local knife sharpener and, of course, a sharpening steel.

          Merry Christmas!

          1. Sets are generally overkill, as others have said a chef's and paring can handle almost every task. A butcher's steel would keep the knives in nice shape for a while and he may recognize that a sharp knife benefits from a little maintenance.

            1. Wow, thanks for those quick and excellent responses. The Victorinox Fibrox chef knife looks fine and the price is right. They also have a paring knife I could get with it.

              Now, which size? 8, 10, or 12? Any suggestions? I'm thinking 12 will probably be more than necessary. Not sure about 8 or 10.

              I'll keep the Blue Jean Kyotsu knife for myself.


              20 Replies
              1. re: TrishUntrapped

                You would be hard pressed to find better than the sale at Cutlery and More on the 125 year Victorinox set. 4 knives for $60


                1. re: knifesavers

                  Wow, the price is very good for that five-piece set, $59 plus free shipping....

                  1. re: knifesavers

                    Oh, that's nice.

                    I bought a friend the 8" chef's knife for Christmas, then gave it to him for Thanksgiving so he could cook.

                    What is the story about giving someone a knife = bad luck? I read that here after giving this knife to my friend. I told him he has to give me a penny next time I see him.

                    1. re: Jay F

                      I think you're not supposed to give knives as a wedding gift. It's considered bad luck. I found that out the hard way years ago when I gave steak knives to a friend at a wedding shower and the older women were horrified.

                      1. re: TrishUntrapped

                        Oh, I hope you're right, Trish. It wasn't a wedding gift.

                        1. re: TrishUntrapped

                          She was horrified that you didn't put money on top of the knife gift :D

                        2. re: Jay F

                          It's an Asian tradition that you never give a knife (or scissors) as a gift as it symbolizes the severing of the relationship. That's why the giver usually asks for a token payment in return.

                          1. re: ahack

                            I think it is a Asian concept, but not exclusive to Asians. In other words, many other cultures also view negatively of knife gift.

                            1. re: ahack

                              hmmm my japanese girlfriend gave me a knife as a gift with no token in return, is she trying to tell me something :p

                              1. re: TeRReT

                                Asian culture allows gifts of knife. As the recipient of knife. You are expected to give a coin in excange it is a symbol (token) to give the recipient good luck and prevent problems with the knife.

                                1. re: TeRReT


                                  Naplestan is correct. But I want to spell out just a little more.

                                  In some East-Asian cultures, they view a knife gift as a bad omen. Not all do, but some do. They cannot accept a knife gift especially on big occasions like a wedding or New Year. To get around this problem, the recipient can buy the knife from the giver, so now the gift has become a purchase. So ultimately it is about the recipient buying the knife from the giver – how much to pay does not matter. To make this easier for the recipient, the giver can tape a small token on the knife gift. This makes it easier for the recipient.

                                  Keep in mind, this transaction of the token or coin or cash… should be done on the spot. It isn’t just about taping a coin on the box. You cannot just tape a coin on box, and leave the gift hidden somewhere at corner. You don’t want the recipient to find out days later that he/she has a knife gift.

                                  In your case, she is trying to tell you something without the attached token/coin. She is waiting for you to give her that thing, ya know? ;)

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    It's not just Asian cultures; European and wasp culture too. Now, here's a confession: I am not a superstitious person at all, but this one I am paranoid about. My mother brought me back a Henckle knife from Germany for my 15th birthday. Not knowing anything about the tradition I did not pay her for it, and she despises superstition anyway so she wouldn't have gone along. Within one 6 months I had left home and my family did not really speak to me again until I was 29.

                                    1. re: dianne0712

                                      Wow, did she buy you anything else? Or do you think the knife was the only thing which stands out.

                          2. re: TrishUntrapped

                            I agree with others. Try to avoid those 6+ pieces set. The Chef knife plus paring knife ( 2 pieces set) is good though. In term of length, it is really personal. Some tall people like small knife, and some short people like long knife. In general -- that is in general, the 8" is the most common household Chef knife, but some people do like it a bit larger at 10". 12" is really more of a professional knife.

                            In addition, your knife length should not be big compare to your cutting board. There is little need to use a 12" knife on a 10" cutting board.

                            1. re: TrishUntrapped

                              I'll also recommend the Victorinox Fibrox stuff. (I bought a 7" santoku & 3-1/4" parer to give to both of the kids when they moved into their own places.)

                              I'd say get him the 8" chef & the parer to start (it's the most popular size, & the best size for most people to start with), but that $60 Anniversary Set (that knifesavers found) is a screaming deal.

                              1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                Unless he's got one of those huge kitchens dreams are made of, anything bigger than 8' just gets in the way IMO. I cook professionally and have only once wished for a longer knife, and I think I dealing with a sub primal cut of meat. At home, I often reach for a 6" for chopping a small amount of veg and herbs for two people.

                                I haven't used Victorinox, but if your budget is higher the Wusthof Ikon knives are nice, hold their edge relatively well, and can take a beating. I use them at home because I know my husband will use them and doesn't wash them right away. I plan on getting an 8' chefs, 6' santoku, and 3' pairing for my parents for Christmas. The only other knife your son might need is a bread knife. Save the extra money that you'd spend on a block set and get him a honing steel and a magnetic strip or an in-drawer organizer for his knives. I've also heard wonderful things (on this website and elsewhere) about the Kiwi knives. They are dirt cheap and are supposed to hold their edge well. You might want to tell him to look up you-tube videos on how to use a honing steel and basic knife skills. I'm guessing since he's an engineer (like my dad) he has an innate need to do things properly.

                                Lastly, that set you got him is very good quality for the price. I purchased a similar Cuisinart set a few years ago (fully clad, tri-ply, 18/10 stainless steel) and it has proved a great bang for my buck! All Clad are great quality and so beautiful, but the handles are so uncomfortable! Another gift idea (for another occasion, obv) is to get him one non-stick Scan Pan. Then he'd be pretty much set :)

                                1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                  If you want to buy him a Forschner set this is what I would suggest. It has a chefs knife, a paring knife, shears, boning knife, a slicer and a steel a all in a very nice block. 8 piece set,

                                  A 8" chefs knife a 4" parking knife and a steel, purchased ala carte is also a great idea.

                                  1. re: Kelli2006

                                    Seems like overkill - we're talking about $150 here! Sure, the kid likes to cook but he's not a chef. One or two truly decent knives - plus enthusiasm and creativity - is really all he needs right now.

                                    The set that I got for my folks is this:

                                    At the time I got it, I think it was more like $30 but now it's less than $20 and probably available at many department stores also. These are VERY sharp, out of the box, and would be mostly all your son needs for quite some time, plus something to keep them sharp.

                                    Any cheap paring knife will do. For that matter a sharp steak knife can substitute for a paring knife and he may or may not really need one, depending on how he cooks. I only use mine a bit here and there. But I use my Santoku every single time I cook.

                                    I would not recommend buying your son a steel. He would be much better off having just a simple pull through sharpener - that way the angles are pre-determined. It's pretty easy to mis-use a steel. Real honing is best done on a strop anyway.

                                  2. re: TrishUntrapped

                                    If it's not too late, definitely the 8". My 8" chef's knife probably does 80% of the work in the kitchen, and unless I'm carving the Thanksgiving turkey or the Christmas roast the 12" never comes out of the drawer.