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Knive set for non foodie MIL?

My mother in law requested a new chef's knife or a photo calendar for Christmas.. since we've already missed the deadline to make the second option, knives it is. But instead of getting just a chef's knife for her, I thought a small knife set would be so much better since all her of knives are crappy, dull, and from the 70s. She cooks, but not a whole lot, so they don't have to be nice santouku knives, or any of the name brands. I considered getting her this Victorinox set that was just around $50 on Cooking.com a few weeks ago, but those were sold out when I was ready to buy them. On Amazon, there are a bunch of sets of Ginsu knives that seem to have good ratings but I have absolutely no experience with that brand at all. Any recommendations for a set ( preferably small) that is under the $50 range? For some reason, I've read that the Henckels knives on Amazon are really cheapy and fake?

I only own a few Wusthof Classic knives, so I really don't know too much about all the other brands out there. I'd appreciate any suggestions!

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  1. "On Amazon, there are a bunch of sets of Ginsu knives"

    Sometime a suggestion of "no" is more beneficial than a suggestion of "yes". This is the case here, please do not get Ginsu for the ones you love. If you hate them, then it is alright, but you have to really hate them.

    "I've read that the Henckels knives on Amazon are really cheapy and fake?"

    Not entire crappy, and definitely not fake. Henckels has two lines. One line is the Zwilling Henckels, and the other line is the Henckels International. Zwilling Henckels knives are reasonably good. Henckels International are crappy. Amazon sells both lines. Neither is fake.

    "I only own a few Wusthof Classic knives"

    Zwilling Henckels knives are comparable to Wusthof Classic.

    It sound like you want a set of knives under $50.

    I would just order one Victorinox Chef knife and one paring knife. Dexter-Russell knives are good too, but

    5 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      "I would just order one Victorinox Chef knife and one paring knife. Dexter-Russell knives are good too."


      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        >> Henckels International are crappy. Amazon sells both lines. Neither is fake.

        I have to respectfully disagree. They are inexpensive but they are not crappy.l For the money they aren't bad at all. We are down with my folks now - The dual Santoku Henckles International set that I got them is still going strong. Before sharpening it up, I first put one of them to use prepping a poblano pepper for roasting and it was fine. It took only a few minutes to hone it up to a razor's edge.

        All that aside, I agree to avoid a big knife set. At your price point, there won't be anything worthwhile. One decent chef's knife or santoku is an invaluable tool to any chef. Thing is ... you don't have much time to place an order with chefknivestogo etc and actually get it in time. You just may not have many options for a really good knife at your price point, given the timeframe.

        I have to wonder ... are her knives really that crappy or ... have they simply never been professionally sharpened and well cared for? I discovered yesterday that my Dad has a 10" Sabatier chef's knife sitting in his drawer .. The edge was badly neglected but the steel was pristine. It was a lot of fun putting an edge back on that baby.

        1. re: jkling17

          Henckels International knives are not the worst out there. They are better than Tools of Trade knives. However, for its price range, I find Victorinox, Dexter-Russell and Kiwi brands knives to be better.

        2. re: Chemicalkinetics

          Thanks.... the Ginsu knives would be perfect for MIL then! Okay, I'm only kidding. My MIL and I don't see eye to eye on many things but she's a generous lady and we've come a long way in our relationship. But thanks for those recs. I think that I really just needed someone to tell me to stay away from those Ginsu knives, although the high ratings from so many reviewers did cause me to wonder.

          I vaguely knew that Henckels are comparable to Wusthof classic, but didn't know the difference between the different lines... never heard of Dexter-Russell before, but the carbon steel chef's knife and the Rosewood Knife Fork Combo with Leather Sheath look pretty crazy. So I'm learning.

          1. re: tiffany

            "Thanks.... the Ginsu knives would be perfect for MIL then!"

            Ha ha ha. That is funny.

            "didn't know the difference between the different lines"

            Yes, you can read this following link for a brief introduction. The two Henckels have different symbols too. Zwilling Henckels is also known as Henckels Twin, which has a symbol of two persons:


            "never heard of Dexter-Russell before"

            Dexter-Russell is very much gear toward restaurants. You will actually have a very hard time finding them in household kitchen stores, but you can find them in abundance in restaurant supply stores. As it claims, it is the largest manufacturer of professional cutlery in the US.

        3. I suggest just a pair of knives ("starter set") rather than investing in a complete set:


          1. I'd strongly recommend that you stick with the original plan and find the Victorinox knives elsewhere

            1. Thanks everyone! Gonna stick with a Victorinox chef's knife and maybe a paring knife.. still haven't looked closely between Victorinox and Dexter Russel. I am running out of time since the previous weeks were spent planning a big birthday party we had for one of the kiddos this weekend, so Amazon it will be. I'll have to check out chefknivestogo maybe for me since Christmas deadlines don't apply to oneself. :) But thanks so much!!! This was a huge help & I learned something tonight.

              1. Can't beat this deal IMHO. Perhaps similar to what you looked at?


                Maybe her old stuff just needs sharpening. I find old stuff all the time that turns out excellent.

                The Dexter lines can be found on Amazon and are restaurant workhorse knives. The Sofgrip series has many available in black handles and many lines, SofGrip, SaniSafe, and V-Lo are made in the USA.

                The SofGrip, Duoglide, and V-Lo have cushiony handles.

                So for a bread knife consider this.


                If your MIL has a comprised grip in some fashion consider the Dexter Duoglide.


                8 Replies
                1. re: knifesavers

                  The one I was looking at was this for $41.73 if I canceled the subscription to Martha Stewart Magazine


                  but your deal actually looks better since it has the 7 inch Santoku instead of the sharpening steel... that actually looks like a *reallly* nice deal. Although my MIL wouldn't know what a Santoku knife is anyway, so I guess it wouldn't matter to her.

                  No really. I'm pretty sure her knife set are unbranded with that old brown wooden handle. Not sure if she's ever even sharpened them before, but I could probably try for her when I see her later this week.

                  1. re: tiffany

                    Old knives with wooden handles and blades that have turned dark are carbon steel and can take a wicked edge.

                    I have 2 old ones that were beat to hell but a little TLC and they rock.

                    1. re: tiffany

                      BTW I see you participate some in the San Diego board. Is your MIL down here?

                      I set up every Saturday sharpening stuff on the eastern end of the Little Italy farmers market. Bring her stuff down and let me take a look.


                      1. re: knifesavers


                        what do use to sharpen for your business? I have Forschners, one thing I don't like about them is that the top of the handle extends farther than the bottom of the blade. This interferes with sharpening on stones or a belt sander. It requires pivoting the knife to ensure that blade heel area is sharpened.

                        I recently ordered a MIU 8 in Chef's knife which is X50crMov15 (similar to German steel- Wustoff, Forschner, etc.) because among other things, like J knives the bolster area does not interfere with sharpeneing.


                        1. re: bbqJohn

                          Think Forschners are bad in that regard try a Mac original.

                          I use a Viel belt sander, Tormek T-7, and an F Dick RS-150 for electrics, a slew of stones, coarse and fine F-Dick steels, and a Spyderco Sharpmaker.

                          I lay the Viel down so the belt is horizontal and rotating away from me. For something like the Forschners I move back near the top pulley to get clearance.

                          For a German/ French/American style I typically go coarse steel, belt, Tormek wet stone, F-Dick, Tormek polish, and F-Dick fine cut steel.

                          Life is full of exceptions though. ;)


                          1. re: knifesavers

                            Thanks I use a $30 Harbor Freight with 80, 220, 400 grits, 5 mic, a leather belt and stones from Razor Edge Sharpening.

                            1. re: bbqJohn

                              The Viel runs at 1700 rpm not 3600 like the HF. I use 80,120 zirconia, then 3M Trizact belts from 80u to 6 and a leather belt with chromium oxide from Lee Valley.

                              FWIW the trizacts don't do as well for heavy removal like a bolster reduction or tip repair.

                              For horrific repair jobs, like the 8" bone cleaver last week, I'm getting a 40 grit zirconia next time.


                        2. re: knifesavers

                          Ah, I SO wish MIL was in San Diego... we're driving up to the Bay Area (Danville) to see her tomorrow.. We're in smell-A now, but SD is where I was born, grew up, and hope to one day move back to... San Diego.. the promised land.

                          Thanks for the offer though. :)

                    2. I bought a set of 4 Wolfgang Puck Santoku knives at Sam's a couple of years ago for about $25. They worked great for me and held their edge. Don't know if they still have them but Amazon has several cheap sets with Puck's imprimatur on them.

                      1. Never ever buy a set. They are a waste. You will get knives that will never be used and therefore a waste of money. Right now a number of the better knife makers have some real specials and bargains out there. Wusthof has a great deal with an 8" chef's knife, kitchen shears and a manual pull through sharpener to keep the edge on the knife in good condition. Look around but run away from the set nonsense. If she is a non-foodie and doesn't do a lot of cooking from scratch a set is money wasted if there are knives she won't use.

                        1. If she's asked for a chef's knife, I would say get her one that will hold a decent edge, because she probably won't use a steel or sharpen it as needed. If you can find such a thing in a set that you like, then that sounds like a bonus to me. At least she asked for one. My MIL also has dull knives from the 70's. I got her a "decent" set a two years ago for Christmas, because I thought she needed some knives in her kitchen that could actually cut. Well, on Christmas day she will once again go to the closet shelf and get out that same set, so tha I may slice the ham she has prepared. After dinner, it will again go back to the closet, to be brought out for the next "occasion". Sigh. I tried.

                          1. Ok I just can't hold it in anymore. EVERY time that I get an email from this thread, it looks like "non foodie MILF" - before it finally gets corrected in my head. There! I have finally said it, and am moving on. :-)

                            HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

                            1 Reply
                            1. Just got an email alert for a knife set. Henckels. Offer ends midnight. These are the forged steel 4 star from Germany. Here is the website.


                              1. Thanks to everyone for giving your expert opinions. I'm a basic home cook, but love to cook, and my el cheapo knives gave me the heeby-jeebies (along with multiple finger cuts and nicks). I just ordered the Victorinox 8 inch chef knife, based on your recommendations, and I can't wait for it to arrive. HOWEVER, I also bought a Henckels 2-stage pull through sharpener, and some reviews say they're only good for Henckel knives--hope that's not true or it's going back. Looking forward to being able to slice, dice and mince without doing a hackarama. Maybe the sharpener--if it works on non-Henckels--will even sharpen my ancient Chicago Cutlerys. Thanks for the ideas--I'm just not at the level of the ultra-high end stuff (yet).

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: pine time

                                  "I also bought a Henckels 2-stage pull through sharpener, and some reviews say they're only good for Henckel knives--hope that's not true or it's going back."

                                  It is good for most European knives like your Victorinox and Chicago Cutlerys knives. It is not good for Japanese influenced knives, like those from Shun and Tojiro

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    thanks, Chemical. I enjoy reading your posts, even tho' many are waaaay over my head!