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all things knife

i've been cooking for a while, but have decided that 2012 is the year where i finally get all the good stuff i've been wanting for ages. first things first: knives. i have one good paring knife (wusthof), but what else is indispensable? next on the list is a 7 or 8 inch chef's knife... what beyond that?

perhaps more importantly, i'm looking for storage solutions. i have zero drawer space, and hardly any counter space. to complicate things further, i rent, so i don't want to get those super nice magnet bars unless they're easily moveable and won't ruin the wall.

a friend told me about some magical magnetic knife stand, but i haven't seen this thing. what about the bodum ones with the sticks where you can put whatever knife in there - are those any good?

thanks in advance!

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  1. I think to add to your list is a bread knife .
    I just bought the Wusthoff 8 inch Ikor hollow edge blade chef knife and am loving it. I'm partial to Wusthoff.
    If you have the room, I'd also suggest a carving knife.
    For the bread and carving knives, I recommend Forschner. They're prices for value and terrific. For the chef's knife, go for the gusto, whatever you choose.

    1 Reply
    1. re: monavano

      After deliberation over what particular knife to ask for, I just got my first Wusthoff for Christmas -- I have had my Henckels set for a couple of years and it is great, but it lacks a 6" chef's knife and the 8" is just too large for all applications -- anyway, oooomg do I love this thing! You chow folk know your stuff :)

    2. A chefs knife (or Asian equivalent) is significantly far more important than any other knife you'll own. And sharpening is far more important than what knife you buy. So first off, if you haven't already done so either find a professional sharpener in your area who does good work (maybe your paring knife is due for a good sharpening) or invest in an at-home sharpening system. Next, invest the majority of your remaining knife budget into the chefs knife. You'll use it most, so prioritize it.

      Once you have a chefs knife, what other knives to buy (or not) depends on how and what you cook. Your chef knife can function adequately for most tasks. But say you love crusty bread - a bread knife might be nice. Or if you do some of your own butchering - a boning knife (Western or Japanese) might be nice. Slice a lot of large roasts? A long slicing knife might be useful.

      ... Or it's quite possible that the chefs knife (along with your paring knife) is all you really need, and that you'll get the most out of practicing with and focusing on that. Frankly, most people who buy big knife sets are just buying knives they don't need and won't learn how to use.

      Most wall magnets are mounted on a couple fairly small screws. Not hard to spackle them over when you move out, but that's between you and your landlord.

      As for a magical magnetic knife stand, maybe your friend meant this?
      Attractive, reasonably compact, but pretty steep.

      The Bodum and Kapoosh universal knife blocks are more or less what they look like. I had one, didn't like it too much, and gave it away. My qualms with it
      - it takes up more counter space than I'd like
      - it doesn't fit as many knives as you would imagine. After 7 or 8, it's too tight to jam any more in
      - If your knives are sharp, they'll cut little slivers off the sticks
      - Minor concerns about how sanitary it is
      - Some knives, notably any form of cleaver or nakiri, don't fit into to it easily at all.
      - Knives longer than 8" don't fit into it without some of the edge hanging out (at least the Kapoosh one


      Don't get me wrong - it's not awful or useless. I just decided I prefer a wall magnet.

      1. How about a good fillet knife? I basically have three knives - an 8 inch chefs knife, a pairing knife and a fillet knife. The fillet knife is good to remove the silver skin from beef and pork and also for slicing up small cornish hens, etc as well as filleting. I have a high end knife (wustof) but i have found that the cheap, plastic, food service chefs knives are pretty darn good. I use my wustof sharpener on them, and to be honest, I like the cheap knife better than my wustof. I think they are made by Bakers and Chefs.

        As far as storage, thats a good one - I found a cheap magnetic one at IKEA that attaches to the wall - It's so, so. I keep my blades in the drawer with an edge protector on them. Maybe you can use a knife block if you have the counter space.

        Hope that helps.

        1. Well, after I got a Santoku style chef's knife, I really don't use my chef's knife very often.

          The other 2 indispensable knives I use are the 10 inch serrated bread knife and the 6 inch serrated utility knife. I use them for slicing bread, tomatoes and chopping up chocolate. I did get a flexible boning knife but for the most part, you could use the pairing knife for boning and removing silverskin. You could use the boning knife for a filet knife, too.

          For storage I use a block but I have a lot of counter space. If I didn't, I think I would look into a magnetic strip. You had better check that your knives will stick to a magnet first. Anyway, find some way of mounting them to the backsplash over your cutting area.

          Here is an interesting knife block. It mounts under the cabinets. I think that would be very handy and use zero counter space. http://www.amazon.com/Wusthof-8001-Un...

          1. Shun Ken Onion Santoku. You won't need much else.

            1. I recently bought the Wüsthof Create-a-Set knife block, which is still on clearance from Cutlery and More for a paltry $30. For that, you get a block, a honing steel, and shears (no knives). It's an inexpensive and practical way to start, because you can just get what you need, and get more expensive knives only where it matters most, such as your chef's knife. It is a small block suitable for a small kitchen.

              1. I've unexpectedly fallen in love with the Colori Santoku. It looks ridiculous and only comes in obnoxiously small sizes, but it cuts better than the Victorinox or any of the Henckels I've had. I think all you need is a chef's knife and a bread knife. If the chef's knife is good enough, you won't even need the bread knife. If you only have a few, you'll be better about not leaving them wet, and you won't need any fussy storage items.

                1. okay, dumb question - what's the difference between a santoku and a chef's knife? i'm noticing that a lot of people are recommending those.

                  thanks SO MUCH to everyone who is weighing in, also - this is all super helpful.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: poochiechow

                    The main difference is the shape of the blade and some would argue that Santoku is better for chopping while the Chef's knife is better for slicing.

                    1. re: poochiechow

                      Thinner which helps it cuts with less resistance, straighter edge which is better at push-cutting, usually a more acute edge angle, lighter, shorter which makes it a bit easier to control

                      (western) Chefs knife:
                      Thicker which can help it take abuse a little better, more curved edge which makes it easier to rock-chop with, more obtuse edge angle, heavier, longer which can make it slightly better at slicing

                      Santokus are more likely to be made of a harder steel, but are not always.

                      I personally prefer Japanese-made chef knives to either. They are called gyutos.

                      1. re: cowboyardee

                        thanks cowboyardee and monavano - very helpful!

                        1. re: poochiechow

                          I should add that I am sloppily using them as interchangeable. If it doesn't feel awkward in my hand and it's sharp, I'm sold.

                        2. re: cowboyardee

                          A santoku is not always thinner than a Gyuto or even a Western Chef's knife. There are many Gyutos that are very thin like the Ikkanshi-Tadatsuna, Suisin Inox Honyaki, Masamoto KS etc.
                          IIR Suisin is now making a Honyaki Santoku as well so the blade thickness is going to vary with the maker and the type of steel.
                          I'm not a Santoku fan myself as they are more of a jack of all trades kinda knife. Gyutos dominate my knife kit.


                          1. re: TraderJoe

                            I was comparing it to a western chefs knife, not a gyuto. I'm sure there is the odd extremely thick santoku or extremely thin western chefs knife, but as a general rule, the santoku is the thinner knife.

                      2. and another question - i thought you were supposed to avoid blocks because they dull the knives, or get damp inside, or something else. no? are they still in use by avid home chefs (it would seem so since several of you recommended them).

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: poochiechow

                          "i thought you were supposed to avoid blocks"
                          Not particularly. Just keep em dry, thoroughly clean & dry knives before putting them in, keep grit out of em, don't jam a knife into a slot where it doesn't fit - common sense stuff.

                          "...because they dull the knives"
                          If the knives fit well and the block doesn't have grit in it, a block won't dull your knives any more than contact with a wooden cutting board. Maybe not quite as ideal as a magnetic strip, but more than acceptable and 1000 times better than just letting em bang around in a drawer. Sometimes, storing them edge-up can be easier on the edge.

                          Most home cooks and even many serious home cooks don't keep their knives particularly sharp in the first place. Worrying about whether a knife block dulls an edge when your chefs knife hasn't been sharpened in a year and a half doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Like I said above, sharpening is probably the most important aspect of your kitchen knives, and the one most often overlooked.

                        2. I agree the chefs/santoku knife is the most indepsensible for most cooks. I think which one is a matter of preference. For years I have owned only three knives: a chefs knife, a paring knife, and a serrated knife. These three have never let me down.

                          Disclaimer: I don't do many large cuts of meat or whole birds, maybe if I did I'd want a cleaver or a carving knife.

                          Also, I do use a wooden knife block. Probably more out of convenience and laziness than anything else (the knife block was a gift with the chefs knife). I make sure to dry my knives really well before putting them in to make sure nothing gets mildewy.

                          1. The size of the chefs knife also depends on your size. Somebody weighing in at 110 lbs and with minmal strength in wrists and hands may need something quite a bit lighter than the 6 foot, 200 pounder that uses their hands daily. I also buy large portions of meat and break them down at home, so a 2 inch boning knife is a constant tool. I have a 7 incher, but it gets in the way. Since I slaughter 4 to 6 pigs a year, I can break a pig down faster with the little one than the big one. Since I don't eat bread, a bread knife is useless for me. Since I catch fish, a filet knife is also readily at hand. The biggest problem I see is for you to "test drive" the different sizes and styles. Hopefully you will find a store or web site with a liberal return policy.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                              The size of the chefs knife also depends on your size. Somebody weighing in at 110 lbs and with minmal strength in wrists and hands may need something quite a bit lighter than the 6 foot, 200 pounder that uses their hands daily.

                              Sara Moulton uses a 12" Chef's knife and she's like 4'10" and 90 pounds soaking wet. Test driving a knife is over rated. I've bought most of mine direct from Japan with no regrets but there are plenty of US based dealers.


                            2. I'm with the people who recommend having a santoku, and you might also want to pick up a cheap-ass cleaver that you can sharpen -- that way you can make quicker work of hard veg, meat, and who knows what else once you're used to wielding it.

                              I have a pretty good set of Henckels now, but I got by for a few years with a no-name cleaver and a couple of mid-range chef's knives. And a good paring knife; I think you were correct in prioritizing that. My two paring knives rarely make it to the drawer: I use them, I wash them, then by the time they're dry in the rack I pull them to use them again :)

                              1. Broadly, I agree with just about everything that Cowboy says. He knows his stuff and you would be well-advised to heed his advice.

                                Here are my thoughts:
                                - Get one really good Japanese knife to start you off.
                                - Get a sharpening system to keep it really sharp.
                                - Get other knives as your needs dictate.

                                I have lots of knives but I generally use about 3 of them. My nakiri (veggies), santoku, and paring knife. Here are a few knives that are very good for the money:

                                I have the nakiri version of this knife and it rocks: http://www.chefknivestogo.com/dojogyu.... Very sharp, blue steel core with stainless cladding

                                http://www.chefknivestogo.com/todpsak.... Tojiro stainless santoku. A solid choice. Western handle.

                                http://www.chefknivestogo.com/toshsa1.... Tojiro high carbon santoku. Core isn't stainless so you'll give it slightly more care. Japanese handle.

                                Magnetic Knife Holder: Lots of options and many of them are reasonable. You can easily mount these to a wall or fridge, etc.

                                SHARPENING. If you would be comfortable doing freehand sharpening, then for $31 this is all that you'll need. http://www.amazon.com/DMT-FWEEE-Doubl.... I have finally started to freehand sharpen after using the DMT aligner for a long time. If you are anxious about whether you can hold those angles on your own, as I have been, then spend $15 more and get this: http://www.amazon.com/DMT-DMG-Magna-G...

                                I hope that this helps!


                                1. The rule of thumb for knives are: One main knife and one paring knife. The main knife can be a European Chef's knife, a Santoku, or a Chinese cleaver (more accurate Chinese chef's knife). Your third knife will depend on what you like to do the most. The third knife can be a bread knife, a boning knife, or a craving knife.

                                  For knife storage, you may consider a magnetic knife block as cowboyardee suggested or a Kapoosh which is similar to Bodum.


                                  There are some pros and cons with the Kapoosh and Bodum.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    "The rule of thumb for knives are: One main knife and one paring knife. ... Your third knife will depend on what you like to do the most."


                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                      +1 on the above!

                                      1 main (6-10" chef or 6-7" santoku) (kinda' depends on cutting board size/counter space/what you can handle)
                                      1 paring (3-4.5") (longer ones can be used as boning knives)
                                      1 bread (7-10" serrated) (also for tomatoes, etc.)
                                      then add whatever you need.

                                      If space/cost is an issue, main/paring/bread will do it all.

                                      Knife block works with dry, clean knives. Don't want to put wet, food laden blade in a block. Good way to get sick from bacteria on contaminated knives.

                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                        Thought about serrated bread or serrated utility (probably shorter than bread knife). I thought that a serrated utility (6") may have the most use until I had to cut a thick cake layer in half for icing. An 8" long serrated bread knife really came in handy. I think a 7" serrated would have also worked.

                                      2. Here is what a Santoku knife looks like. http://www.amazon.com/Wusthof-4183-7-... It has a flatter blade that s more conducive to chopping veggies. The good ones have a "hollow ground edge" which is those dimples running near the edge. They minimize the drag and help prevent the veggies from sticking to the knife.

                                        It is very important for you to know one thing. DO NOT Use those gawd awful glass cutting boards. Those things will dull a $100 knife faster than you would believe.

                                        This is the order in which I use my knives most.
                                        Santoku chef's knife
                                        3 inch pairing knife
                                        6 inch flexible boning knife (I use it because I have it. Before I got one, I used the pairing knife
                                        )10 inch serrated bread knife (Mostly for slicing french bread and chopping up large chunks of chocolate)
                                        6 inch serrated utility knife (mostly for slicing tomatoes and cutting toast diagonally at breakfast)
                                        my regular chef's knife (It handled everything fine before I got my Santoku... the Santoku just feels better)

                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: Hank Hanover

                                          "The good ones have a "hollow ground edge" which is those dimples running near the edge. They minimize the drag and help prevent the veggies from sticking to the knife. "

                                          The "dimples" are a Graton edge not a hollow grind. See below for Graton in the UK who originated it.


                                          See here for many things knife and hollow grinds are halfway down.



                                          1. re: knifesavers

                                            "The "dimples" are a Graton edge not a hollow grind. See below for Graton in the UK who originated it."
                                            I usually see that spelled 'Granton.' You distinguish correctly between grantons and a hollow grind.

                                            More importantly, not all the good santokus have em. Some (most, actually) of the best santokus I've seen do not. The geometry of the knife makes a lot more difference than the presence of grantons does.

                                            1. re: cowboyardee

                                              I was typing while low on coffee. Ooops.


                                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                                "The geometry of the knife makes a lot more difference than the presence of grantons does."

                                                I have 2 santokus 1 is a SS Kasumi,thick,blunt nosed,good for heavy duty(squash,turnips etc),low maintenance
                                                The other is a carbon steel aogami #2 blue-thin,nimble with more of a point to the nose(good for tip work) used for finesse jobs.
                                                So basically what I'm sayin is not all santokus(or any other style of knife for that matter) are created equal..

                                                The middle 2 are the santokus

                                                1. re: petek

                                                  Was using 8" chef knives for years. Then tried a santoku (Wusthof). I find I'm reaching for the santoku more than anything with the parer right behind (with a 6" serrated utility completing the necessary group). This thread got me thinking why.

                                                  One of the reasons is I feel more comfortable with the 7" santoku. Although only 1" difference between chef and santoku, the point and cutting edge are on two different planes with the chef (round belly) and on the same plane with the santoku ("flat" belly). The point of the santoku is down and low. The blade shape is sheepsfoot which means when you place your non-gripping hand anywhere on the top of the blade, you touch the blunt spine. The point is on a level below your hand.

                                                  With the chef, I have had to pay attention to two places: point and cutting edge (especially with a 5" Wusthof chef I used for general prep. Used to stab myself with that darn thing all the time). With the santoku, basically if you're looking at the point, you're also looking at the edge. Any comments?

                                                2. re: cowboyardee

                                                  As CBAD mentioned, geometry is indeed more beneficial. A convex edge will allow food to fall off the knife better than those cool looking dimples.

                                            2. When people post questions on these threads about which knife (or any cooking equipment really) there always seems to be a ton of information provided, much of it conflicting which can make things confusing. That being said, I'll refrain from providing any knife advice and simply answer your question about the 'magical magnetic knife stand'. Here is the one I believe to which your friend referred:


                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: John E.

                                                Haha, good thing I don't have that—I'd have used it totally wrong.