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Do I need these knives?

I have another thread open here about sharpening my Henckel knife, and after doing some research, I realize I'm probably not using "the right knife for the right job." However, I'm a home cook who basically just cooks for her family...nothing too fancy but I like having quality tools and can't stand working with crappy knives.

I have a Wustof paring knife, a 6" Santuko Henckel and a 8" Henckel Eversharp Pro mini-serrated ( which my husband bought for carving the turkey one year....not a purchase I sanctioned). I use the santuko for EVERYTHING from veggies, fruits, meat. I'm thinking this is where I need another option...perhaps a longer chefs knife for meats? And I definitely need to add a serrated bread knife. Can I get away with one serrated bread knife that will double for fruits/tomatoes, cakes, etc?

Will I care? Do I need these knifes or since I'm relatively happy with using my santuko for everything, will it matter? I guess I just want to know if I'm missing out by not having some other knives to pick from and using the right type of knife for the job. Thanks!

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  1. I consider a bread knife essential since we make bread every couple days, and yes I also use it to cut tomatoes etc. My other main knife is a Chef's Knife--I have both an 8" and 10"--which I use for virtually everything from cutting up a chicken to slicing mushrooms. Can't stand smaller knives unless it's a paring knife for peeling or certain tiny tasks.

    1. It is always important to have one main knife which can be a European Chef's knife, Japanese style gyuto, Japanese Santoku, Chinese style cleaver (aka Chinese Chef's knife). Then, the second knife should be a short knife, like a paring knife, but it does not have to be European style paring knife. The third knife is flexible and personal. If you slice bread often, then a serrated bread knife is the natural choice. For me, a boning knife is actually my third most important knife. My bread knife comes after that.

      <I'm thinking this is where I need another option...perhaps a longer chefs knife for meats?>

      That is definitely entirely up to your personal choice. Some people are fine with using a Santoku for meat including professional chefs like TeRReT and bushwickgirl (our fellow posters here). Yes, Rachel Ray also prefers a Santoku over a Chef's knife, but I feel TeRReT's and bushwickgirl's opinions are just as important if not more. :P Others prefer a longer knife to slice meat. For home cooks, I think it is completely up to you. Do you feel the santoku is limiting you in term of length? Do you feel that you often run out of the length of the knife before finishing a cut on the meat? If so, get a longer knife. If not, a longer Chef's knife will not help.

      <Can I get away with one serrated bread knife that will double for fruits/tomatoes, cakes, etc?>

      You can definitely use a serrated bread knife for fruit and tomatoes, but I find a regular Chef's/Santoku works just fine for those. I don't know about cakes. I really don't think you need a serrated knife for a cake. In term of serrated knife, I want to point out that there are the regular serrated knives, and the reverse serrated knives. I am partial to the reversed serrated knives as they are more gentle, but it is really here and there.

      http://www.gpknives.com/images/shun/D...

      <since I'm relatively happy with using my santuko for everything, will it matter?>

      You can try to borrow a 8" / 10" Chef's knife from your friends and use it for a day and two to see if you like it. There are pluses and minuses. So it is difficult to say for sure if you will like it until you try it. I will try it for more than one cooking session. Sometime, it takes time for a knife to grow on you.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        Thanks...this is really helpful!

        I don't find I'm limited by length much with my Santoku...only on very rare occasion. So I'm not sure I need to make the investment. I'm generally happy with it.

        But I do think I need a serrated knife. I don't know why I said cakes...I always think when I'm cutting soft pastries or cakes, if I had a serrated knife, that is what I would use. My Santoku works fine I suppose. But if only for tomatoes, I would really use the serrated knife. I think I would probably use it more than my paring knife. Honestly, I keep lots of skin on my veggies and fruit for the fiber, or use my veggie peeler. I only peel by hand when I have to. : )

        I like the looks of the serrated above....I did not know there were variations. I was reading that many choose a less expensive serrated and then just replace as needed since sharpening is tricky (for a home cook).

        Again thanks for the insight!

        1. re: kittybart

          <I don't find I'm limited by length much with my Santoku...only on very rare occasion. >

          It never hurts to borrow a Chef's knife from a friend for 2-3 days. If anything, just to ease your own doubt about the need for a long Chef's knife.

          <Honestly, I keep lots of skin on my veggies and fruit for the fiber, or use my veggie peeler.>

          Just between you and me, I actually have to force myself to use a paring knife to peel. I prefer a peeler too. So easy. But I do try to use the paring knife if I can, just to develop more paring knife skill.

          <I was reading that many choose a less expensive serrated and then just replace as needed since sharpening is tricky (for a home cook).>

          That's right, and I have to agree with that, which is why I was slightly hesitated to fully recommend a reversed serrated bread knife (aka sometime called scalloped bread knife). They are usually more expensive. So maybe it is better just to get a relative inexpensive serrated bread knife and replace it every 5 years or 10 years.

          Good luck.

          1. re: kittybart

            Hello, kittybart: "I don't find I'm limited by length much with my [6"] Santoku..."

            Maybe not, but I suggest that is because it is what you're accustomed to. Ted Nugent uses a Swiss Army folding knife to dress deer... I join in the recommendation that you borrow a friend or relative's 8-inch chef, santoku or gyoto to use for a week or two. I think you will find it easier to use.

            Yes, having one serrated knife can be a good thing. In posing your questions here, you have entered the Church of Sharp (I am but a tolerated apostate), so serrateds don't get much love here except in connection with bread. But serrated knives can be useful for many things, especially if you don't sharpen the rest of your knives yourself or regularly. They're not the scarlet letter!

            Enjoy,
            Aloha,
            Kaleo

            1. re: kittybart

              you have a serrated knife, don't you? isn't that what the henkels eversharp pro is?
              I've found they do work better on tomatoes... It's nowhere near a bread knife, but if you want a good cherry tomato cutter (they have much tougher skin/fleshy bits), you can't go wrong with a good serrated knife

          2. Some knife brands have both a bread knife and pastry knife. The difference is in the tip, the bread on being pointed, the the pastry rounded. I suppose the point is used to start a cut in crusty bread. But I find that the 'pastry' style works fine for bread. But some keys to a good bread knife are length and some offset - since you cut bread on a board.

            Serrated knifes intended for fruit and tomatoes usually are shorter (parring knife size), with smaller serrations. However one of my favorite knives is a 'KR sandwich knife', a bit longer than parring, serrated but with a rounded tip. Unfortunately I don't think they still make it.

            Now days good knives in the parring size are a dime a dozen. I regularly check TJMaxx to see if there is anything new that strikes my fancy, and fits in my 'experiemental' budget. Knives are one of those things I have to try to see if I like it.

            6 Replies
            1. re: paulj

              <But some keys to a good bread knife are length and some offset - since you cut bread on a board.>

              Excellent point, Paul. I forgot it. Thanks for pointing it out.

              Kitty. It is better to have a bread knife which offers you knuckle clearance. So you either need a offset bread knife:

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

              or a bread knife which gently curves up:

              http://www.amazon.com/Shun-DM0705-Cla...

                1. re: paulj

                  Hey, Paul:

                  I made myself one with even more offset, a profile more like this. http://www.katom.com/135-13583.html Chisel grind on mine though.

                  Aloha,
                  Kaleo

                  1. re: paulj

                    Paul,

                    Am I correct that bread knife you have is slightly curved and is able to provide the necessary knuckle clearance? It looks like that way from the photo, but I just want to be sure.

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      Knuckle clearance comes from several factors:
                      - length of blade
                      - slight curvature of the blade
                      - angle of the handle
                      - slight offset in the handle (a plastic bolster)

                      I haven't handled one of those with a strong offset.

                      1. re: paulj

                        "I haven't handled one of those with a strong offset"

                        If you are interested in an offset bread knife I think they have some on close out at lambson sharp and marked down from $60 to around $15.

              1. I agree with those who suggest you try a longer knife. The first time I used one I was intimidated, now if I had to cook with only one knife, it would be the 10" Chef's.

                1. I think what you have is fine, particularly because you are happy with them.. You might look into a serated utility knife...that along with my 8" chefs knife is my most used knife in the block. I would go to a restaurant supply store and pick up an inexpensive bread knife which does a lot more then slice bread...tomatoes,cakes,etc. Most important is to make sure that all of your knives are sharp.

                  1. A sharp ten inch chef is the closest thing in a knife to a fait tout. Mine is French, carbon, and light. I usually use it even for paring tasks because it is quicker than grabbing, honing, using, and washing my paring knife, and it slices bread as well as or better than my henkels serrated bread knife. the only thing it is necaary to use a different weapon for is boning.

                    1. Bread knife aside, if you feel you are missing a knife then perhaps you are. If you haven't had any problems so far then you don't. 6" would be a bit small for me, but I was trained on a 12" knife and am not a small guy. After the 12" I switched to a 10" and preferred it to the 12". Both were chef knives. After using that a couple years I switched to a 7" henckel pro s santoku and loved it. I have since switched to a different santoku but still 7". I wouldn't try to butcher subprimal cuts of meat, but I suspect you aren't either. I can cut chicken breasts, I can cut fish, I've carved whole chickens with it. It works for me for everything I need.

                      You can go to a thrift store and pick up a cheap chef knife or buy a victorinox to see if its something you'd use. 8" or 10" is fine. Not everybody needs 10".

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: TeRReT

                        The idea to just try a cheap, longer knife might be a good one. The recommendation (from others on this post) to borrow from a friend is a good one...but among my friends I probably have the best knives...and that isn't saying much!

                        The only time I've felt lacking in "power" is when I try and break down a whole chicken. It was hard to get enough leverage to get through some of the cuts, but that was probably due to the lack of sharpness on my santoku.

                        1. re: kittybart

                          <but among my friends I probably have the best knives...and that isn't saying much! >

                          But to some extends you just are trying the style, so you may not need a great knife to find out your answer. You want to see if the longer Chef's knife makes sense to you. On one hand, many people find the longer and curve Chef's knife make slicing more graceful. On the other hand, others find the extra length too heavy and cumbersome (getting in the way).

                          If you are simply going to buy a cheap longer Chef's knife, then it won't be too different from borrowing a cheap longer Chef's knife from your friend. Of course, you can put this as a low priority target since you are happy with your Santoku for now.

                          1. re: kittybart

                            I find that a longer chef's knife does this job better than a smaller chef's knife. I also find that I get better the more I do it.

                          2. re: TeRReT

                            I like that idea. In the case of Victorinox/Forschner cheap means inexpensive, not inferior, plus they are fairly lightweight. 27 plus s and h for the 10" chef. You'd spend that much on wine for the neighbors who loaned you their knives and end up owning the knife!

                            1. re: tim irvine

                              <You'd spend that much on wine for the neighbors >

                              Can't you not buy them wine?

                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                You could, of course, not buy them wine, but if my neighbor talked me out of the use of my favorite knife for a few days I would guilt them into a bottle of wine and surely they'd be embarrassed to give me a bottle of plonk. They'd want to show their undying gratitude. Surely that is good for a nice Willamette Valley Pinot noir. Don't forget, once they have borrowed the magic knife they will magically become total foodies. Heck, I am guessing that a month or too from now, when they have bought some blade of mythical greatness of their own they will be mortgaging their all just to get one more! Is wine too much to expect of such people?!?!

                          3. You know, you only need a bread knife for hard crusted breads. If soft crusted breads are your angle, then a sharp goto knife (gyuto, chef's knife, etc.) would do just fine. Also, please don't use a serrated knife for anything but bread. Serrated knifes produce more jagged or "grainy" cuts than plain edges. This is acceptable or even desirable with breads, but terrible elsewhere. If your knifes can't cut tomatoes acceptably, then your knives are not sharp enough.

                            I can't speak too much on what knives you need because I'm a freaking loony that wants to use traditional j-knives. I will say the longer knife will let you get more work done faster and let you get better cuts on big items (less sawing). If I were in your shoes, I'd try selling the santuko and get a 240mm gyuto or a 10 inch chef's if I was a loser who puts his good knives in a dishwasher. Of course, you don't do that, of course. Finally, common knives found in a western chef's knife roll usually is something like a 10 inch chef's for general use, a 12 inch slicer for meats or other items that could use long slices, a 12 inch bread for breads, and a 3 to 6 inch paring/utility/boning/petty knife.

                            1. From the brief sound of things, I'd say get your santoku sharp first & see if you feel you need something bigger. I love both my 7" santoku & 8.3" gyuto. The santoku is more maneuverable since it's shorter, & the longer gyuto lets me slice better. But I keep both knives very sharp (my wife says too sharp), so working with either one is a pleasure.

                              I enjoy my serrated knife for bread, so I can recommend one for you too. :-) No, it's not necessary (my gyuto slices bread just as easily & more cleanly), but if you cut crusty breads then a serrated knife will work more easily than my gyuto. And if your santoku is properly sharp then you shouldn't need a serrated to cleanly slice thru tomatos.

                              1. Knives can get very personal. At work I use a 10 inch Chef's for just about everything except cutting large amounts of crusty bread. I also have big cutting boards and a lot of counter space there.

                                At home I use a 8 in Chef's mostly because I don't prep much (compared to work) and I don't want to wash a large cutting board. I do have many other types of knives including a Santuku, 10 in Chef's, Bread, Breaking, Filet, Paring, Petty (VG-10) and a Chinese Cleaver.

                                I don't use a paring knife.. but I do have a cheap folding pocket knife for the odd stuff like opening packages and also use a peeler.

                                If I had to pare down all my knives I would keep a 8 or 10 in Chef's knife, a serrated bread knife, peeler, and the pocket knife.

                                You don't need a dedicated Tomato knife as long as your main kinfe is sharp enough or use a serrated steak knife.

                                The Richmond Artifex at $70 appears to be a good value and the videos show some tomato cutting.

                                http://www.chefknivestogo.com/riar21....

                                or at a much lower price point MIU France at $20 ...

                                http://www.cutleryandmore.com/miu-fra...

                                But I think it's important to learn how to sharpen and maintain.. without those skills it doesn't matter much what you use.. a dull knife is a dull whether it costs $200 or $20.

                                Also consider learning some skills like pinch gripping and various cutting techniques like using your opposite hand to guide your cuts.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: bbqJohn

                                  "The Richmond Artifex at $70 is a good value "

                                  I haven't seen the Artifex but the Addict 1 had a lot of problems and the new Richmond Ultimatum is getting some bad press from lousy F&F as well. Those are a bit more than $70 though and once you get in the $150-200 price range there is a lot of good choices.