What is the best Chef Knife for the Professional?
So this thread is designed to act as a knife buying-guide for professional Chefs and line cooks. Those of us who have worked in kitchens at a professional level know that most restaurants provide their workers with knives - usually a brand like Forschner - that are maintained by the kitchen, and every now and then, are shipped out to a professional sharpener. But what about the cook or Chef who wants to use his own knife at work? So we're not talking about home knives; you know, the kind that look good hanging from the wall. We're talking about the arm-extension - the knife that will be held for hours a day, the 'prep horse,' the knife we use for both tartare de boeuf and opening a plastic bag; the knife that sits beside us even during dinner service, in case of emergency.
With that being said, you can spend 9 bucks or 900 bucks. Personally, I'll narrow the gap to $50-$250. Let's get a discussion going that sorts through the pros and cons of all the popular makes and models. Remember, we're talking about the commercial kitchen, and we're talking about ONE knife. Let's hear it!
Komachi, Wustof, Henckles are good chef's knives. I'm sure others would agree these would be great choices also. I usually use my knife mostly for just chopping so I don't spend a lot on a chef knife.
This article lists a few others with a quick overview of knives:
Such a loaded question!
I can't even decide on one knife for myself, much less one knife for everyone all the time! Currently at work I am switching between a konosuke hd and a masamoto KS as my primary knife. Although being designed for just about the same uses, they feel completely different from one another and there are things I like about both. Since I use these knives, Im forced to carry my old wusthof around to use on jobs that are rough on a blade.
So I guess the answer is, if there is one perfect knife I haven't found it yet.
Give Jon at Japanese Knife Imports a call. He's a former chef and goes to Japan every year to visit and train with the people who make the knives he sells. He'll make sure you get the right knife for you and explain why you don't need more expensive knives.
As many have said, it depends on what the professional is looking for. People have different preferences, different cutting styles, different cutting duties at work - so different knives work for different people.
That said, there are various knives that are outstanding examples of one attribute or another. I'm not going to include offerings from custom makers, due to both lack of personal experience with em and also the can of worms it opens up (many, many makers, high price tags, the question of consistency, etc). But here are some of the better mass-produced knives in various categories of performance. This list is by no means definitive:
- Ceramic knives have the best edge retention - but they suffer so much in terms of edge geometry and sharpenability that I don't recommend them anyway. Still, they deserve a mention here if nowhere else.
- Also not really recommended but notable - serrated edges stay functionally sharp a lot longer than comparable straight edge blades. The go-to choice of people who never have their knives sharpened, ever.
- As actual chef knives go, the Aritsugu A-type gyuto is probably king of the hill in edge retention. Holds a low-angle edge like no other.
- Not far behind, most powdered metal knives also have very good edge retention. Examples include Shun Elites, Henckels' Twin Cermax and Miyabi 7000 series, and several gyutos including the Blazen, the Akifusa PM and the Hattori KD (not really mass-produced).
- Generally, Japanese knives have better edge retention than their Western counterparts.
Ease of cutting:
- Any of the so-called lasers (super thin Japanese gyutos) feel like lightsabers when you use em. Examples include the Konosuke, Sakai Yusuke, Tadatsuna, Suisin inox honyaki, the Ashi Hamono.
- Chinese cleavers are seldom quite as thin behind their edge as the knives mentioned above, but some are fairly close. And with the extra weight of the knife, they can be very easy cutters. The CCK cleavers are good examples. Many nakiris are also very effortless cutters.
- There are many knives that are easy to sharpen to a very fine edge. Of note though, Japanese knives in white carbon steel (shirogami) are very easy to sharpen to an exceptionally fine edge. Also of note, some of the older carbon steel Sabatiers take screaming edge but are quite soft, so there's not much work involved in getting em there.
- I'm talking about food falling away from the edge of the knife rather than sticking to it. Japanese single-bevel knives are usually the best here. These will ideally push food away from the knife. Some of the thicker gyutos do a pretty decent job as well. Many of the best grinds come on custom knives. For non-custom chef knives, Mizuno's offerings and the Masamoto KS are often praised for their grind.
- Some Western knives aren't bad in this respect - a little extra thickness can help here. But the symmetrical grinding makes it hard to convex the face of the blade to the same extent without making the knife very prone to wedging. Grantons or dimples usually make very little different, but Glestain makes knives that actually uses them well and to noticeable effect.
Versatility and durability:
- Here is where the German and French knives can really shine. A Wusthof or Sabatier can easily go from filleting fish to chopping onions to hacking through chicken bones. Even opening the odd can with em isn't too likely to do any damage that isn't easy to fix.
Ease of Rock Chopping:
- Many options. Curved edges make it easier to learn rock chopping. You can still rock chop with a flatter profile, but it's harder. Generally, German style chef knives have the most curve. Though Shuns often have quite a bit as well.
- Forschner/victorinox is pretty good here. An added bonus is that it won't likely be stolen.
- CCK cleavers are a great deal. Actually, many Chinese cleavers are good deals, but the problem is finding out which inexpensive brands are consistently well made.
- Kiwi knives are also a great deal.
- Mercer and Mundial make German style knives that are more or less identical to the more expensive offerings from Wusthof and Henckels but cost a fraction of the price.
I could go on, but that's probably a lot more info than you were bargaining for already.
There is no such thing.
As mentioned above, all restaurants are different, as are the staff (apprentice to Executive chef).
Most staff usually do not have a choice, and are given or "issued" as a loan, the tools of the trade, however inexpensive, and dull they may be.
I attended cooking school in Paris many decades ago, and was warned about bringing in my own set of knives and other tools. Either they would walk out of the kitchen on their own, or be "appropriated" by more senior staff as some sort of divinely deserved compensation.
So my first great task after dish washing, was cutting endless 30 Kg sacks of onions, all with a knife that defied all attempts to remain sharp. My many small cuts were hardly noticed due to the constant mist of sulfuric acid given off by the onions, day after day, week after week.
The emphasis in the restaurants with tools then as it is today, was on a " better value " knife, diplomatically meaning inexpensive, and realistically meaning cheap as you can get.
However, if the professional in this setting is actually cooking at home, then the sky is the limit. Buy and use whatever makes you happy, as most of use do. Messermeister, Global, Shun, F.Dick, etc. each has different characteristics one may like. You can do as you like and lock your collection up as needed.
Having attended Waseda University in Japan, I can say that Japanese food items are generally smaller, hence the different design of the Global sets. One is not talking about stringing a pig in four quarters and butchering it completely using Global products, as we might do in Europe with Messermeister, Bochmayer, or Rösle profi knives.
For elegant, smaller cuts and prep work, I too believe that Global Knife products are superior. Yes I have the big Global G8311 knife block for some of our more used knives, and it goes in a cabinet under the counter top when not used.
I am 6 foot four and 200 lbs. My wife is half my size with a much shorter reach and smaller hands.
My point? There is NEVER an omni answer for which knife is "best".
I am a butcher. I spent 4 hours today cutting and fabricating sub primals into retail ready cuts. Nearly every other butcher I have ever worked with uses a Victorinox or Forschner scimitar. The only real difference between the 2 is the material the handle is made of. If I needed a chefs knife I would buy one of theirs. At @ $25 it is an unbeatable value.
At home I use a global chef that I had before I started cutting meat. If Global made a larger version of their butchers knife I would have got one when I started cutting. I like the way their handles feel in my paw.
Anyone that does serious knife work should sharpen their own knives.
re: Brandon Nelson
I meant to write to you, but I was on the road. I am surprised that you like Global knives especially their handles. The most common complaints of Global knives are their handles being small, and you are a tall and large person. So I can only assume you do not find their handles being too small for you. Would it be true then, that you will Henckels and Wusthof handles being too large for you then?
Although I always reach for my Konosuke's,I have no problem using the house supplied knives for hacking through bones and any other tasks that require a heavier/cheaper tool(opening cans,chicken bones etc..)
As others have said no one knife or brand is "the best chef knife for the professional".I usually have 5-6 different styles of knives in my work kit.
Although I have moved away from a pro kitchen (at one time as a prep cook with knife work 6+- hrs a day) I used both the provided knives and my own.
To me, it didn't matter too much what I used as long as it was sharp. So the sharpness, in my opinion trumps any specific knife brand. All knives will dull especially in a pro kitchen.... so if one does not have the maintenance part of it down, then it doesn't matter too much what knife brand it is.
Dexters, Forschners are OK.. I once used an 8.5 inch forged Update International for a while which worked fine but felt a little short sometimes.. All kitchens are a little different and some have more room than others.. but for the most part room is scarce which means that the knife has the potential to get banged around by different objects or dropped ... so I would favor the less expensive brands like Dexters, Forschners, or Update Internationals instead of Gyutos.
I don't think there is any one knife. I have always had a primary knife at work and a few others for specials tasks, but my one workhorse is constantly evolving. Beginning with a 12 inch Henckel Pro S chef knife from school, to switching to a 10 inch Henckel Pro S chef knife, before then using the Henckel Pro S santoku as my primary knife, then moving on to a Miyabi 7000mcd santoku now, and now looking at getting a Gyuto, looking to go to to Niimi in February to visit Takeda and see his knifes before going to Kyoto to see Konosuke and a couple others to figure out what my next purchase should be. My fiancee has finally decided to allow me another knife :P
Popular knives among my friends were Global, Shun, Mac and Miyabi 5000, many were happy using the Victorionox provided at the restaurant, but most were in deplorable condition.
At first I thought carbon steel in the restaurant would be a pain in the ass, but all it takes is a quick wipe to keep them dry and they are easy to keep sharp so I am happy with them. (though only my Nakiri and petty are carbon)
there is a vast price range, all are good. I was looking at Takeda as I am living nearby in the same prefecture they are made, but then I got to thinking I might want a laser so might go to Kyoto and look at Konosuke or Osaka and look at Sakai Yusuke or Suisin. Just in the research stage now but expect to pay between $150-$400, though hopefully I can get one cheaper living in Japan.
Why not ask a less debatable question like does chili have beans or not. ;)
Everyone is different and every situation is as well.
Germans, Dexters, and Forschners take lots of abuse and are easily fixed.
Japanese are remarkable cutters but cannot take the same amount of abuse without damage or be as easily fixed as Germans.
There is no perfect knife for everything.
High end stuff is more attractive to thievery.
Yes, what's your point? I'm a professional chef and I can't grasp your question. It seems a bit non-nonsensical. Are you looking for advice for you? If you worked in a kitchen, you should know this is relative. For example, I like a chef's knife with dimples to unstick veggies like cucumbers, zucchini and such. Someone who mostly fabricates meat would not really care about that but care about weight and hand feel, provided we are only dealing with good reputable knives. Bottom line, it's subjective to the user as you, yourself should know.
My question is "what knife makes are most appropriate in a commercial kitchen?"; but my point is to hear the pros and cons of the various popular makes, seeing as I have NOT physically tried all of them. Of course I know it is subjective, however, in order for the subject to be understood, it needs to be grasped (literally). Basically, I'm trying to test drive as many knives as possible without leaving my house (there's quite a blizzard outside).
Nu. Okay, what is important to you?
If it is "don't need to sharpen all the time" you might want to look at Shun's high end steel.
If it is "can be used to cut through bone" then you want a cleaver.
If it is "can be safely used near bone, occasionally grazing such" I'd recommend German steel.
If you're a chef or cook and want to use your own knives in order to get away from the supplied Dexters & Forschners, look for Japanese steal. Many professional cooks are more than happy using a good quality gyuto at work in place of European chefs knives.
And no I'm not talking about the stuff you get from Shun or Global. Look for a real hand made gyuto. Length is your choice, but a 240mm gyuto seems to be the most popular.
ok. Maybe if I throw some bait out there it'll get things started. Here are some models I'm thinkin of:
-Mac Mighty (Chef Pro series)
-Mac Chef knife (with dimples)
-Global cooks knife (heavy duty)
any others i might be missing?...