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!
Not sure if someone else commented similarly, sorry if I'm redundant--I often am.
No real chef (professional that is that isn't washed up or just laid off etc) would ever frequent a board like this or even answer a question like this. Trust me. The last thing they'd ever do is go to food site in their free time.
That said, I've been a two bit chef in the past and have many friends in the industry. I know MAC's are highly regarded, as are many other brands. I use a mix of Forschner, Wusthof and cheap shit in my home kitchen and they work well.
Hankstramm, I do agree!! If there are chefs (or anyone in food industry) on this forum please do let us know. I did a brief stint in cheffing but my long term interests were elsewhere. I appreciate good tools only because of my exposure to a professional kitchen. So I do not agree completely that chefs have no obsession with their tools. My personal experience with chefs have shown that they love their knives the same way an animator loves his/her new software/hardware.
I have never seen a chef with a handmade artisan knife at work... even though the pros introduced me to these. They all leave their best knives at home, even if they bring it to work, they never take it out. A busy kitchen will kill such knives.
Best knives for professional use are light, quick knives like Global. All stainless is best. Best knives when pure cutting performance is the only criterion are handmade artisan ones. I did not make this up. This was what many highly regarded professional chefs running large establishments have indicated to me before.
A good example: cutting soft fish for sushi or high quality restaurant grade fillet is impossible with a poor quality knife. You definitely need a sharp knife WITHOUT micro serrations on the edge. A sharp edge cauterises the meat as it cuts where as an edge that is poor will stretch the cellular structure and cause the fluids in the meat or fish to ooze out. Thanks for reading, Dee
Hi, I can recommend Takeda handmade one for its lightness and sharpness. I can also recommend Watanabe honyaki. Good for both meat and vegetable and keeps the sharpness longer. DO NOT DROP IT ON A HARD FLOOR AS THEY CAN BREAK! "best" knives have their kryptonite (weakness).
You only need ONE good knife! Maybe a second bendy (flexible) blade for filleting (Glestian is great there) Small commercial pub style kitchens are ok as long as you don't let anyone else touch your knife. Big restaurant kitchen may be a harsh place for a Takeda or Watanabe. So Globals are great for rough use but need frequent sharpening. Any knife over 60HRC requires high end sharpening equipment. As a chef if you want to keep sharp knives; then becoming good at sharpening is ultra important. It is worth investing in a Tormek or some natural volcanic whetstones (even most expensive synthetic whetstones are not as good as them) and a dmt for flattening the whetstone but never use the dmt directly on your precious knife!
Power steel, High speed steel etc etc or "Drop Forging" does not guarantee a good knife, it is the pressing and beating that will remove the micro air bubbles and deliver good knife.
Thin blades will glide THROUGH the carrot, while thicker blades will "split" open the carrot in a wedge effect NO MATTER HOW SHARP THE EDGE. This is the fundamental reason Globals are so successful.
In my opinion, the fundamental answer to your question is that many manufacturers deliver good metal quality and good tempering but poor edge angles or sometimes poor geometry or both. For example Glestian, Wustof, Henkel etc. But owning these knives are pointless unless you really know how to keep them hair splitting sharp! Especially for a professional chef who needs to use it for work everyday.
So the ability to define, redefine, and keep an edge is the key to owning the best knife in the world.
The BEST knife in the world will only stay sharp for a week!!
"It is worth investing in... some natural volcanic whetstones (even most expensive synthetic whetstones are not as good as them)"
Not sure exactly what you mean by volcanic whetstones - I was under the impression that no natural whetstones are made of volcanic rock, though I could be mistaken.
OTOH, I do know a little about how synthetic stones compare to either Japanese natural waterstones or natural Arkansas stones. And I would have no problem directing people towards synthetics over either of these two options with only the most minor of caveats. Synthetic waterstones cut faster and are more able to make a very fine edge than Arkansas stones in general. Japanese natural waterstones roughly match synthetics for speed, but can cost a fortune and are more likely to have flaws and without much functional benefit. If you're looking for a specific visual effect on a blade (like you might for a Japanese sword or some traditional honyaki knives), then Japanese natural stones may be necessary. But I haven't heard many credible reports that they truly outperform synthetic waterstones in terms of sharpening alone. Some people prefer their feel, while some others make semi-dubious claims about greater edge retention with naturals, and even more dubious claims about sharper edges from naturals (I call BS on this last one - find me a test of sharpness that a really good sharpener can't pass with synthetic stones).
This is admittedly a tricky comparison since there just doesn't seem to be many people who have extensive experience with both Japanese natural and synthetic waterstones.
<I haven't heard many credible reports that they truly outperform synthetic waterstones>
Me neither, not from solid reports, but I have definitely heard similar statements ranging from internet sites to knife sellers. Last time I was in Toronto, I stopped by Tosho Knife Arts and talked to the owner, Ivan Fonseca. One of the many things we briefly discussed was natural sharpening stones. I was considering a natural stone, and I really need to see a natural stone in person before making a purchase (unlike a synthetic stone). He said that synthetic stones cannot match natural stones in term of creating the best edge. So this statement is definitely repeated by many people.
What I will say is that "maybe" it is true that natural stones can create a sharper edge. Improbably, but possible. Even with that said, 99.9% of us will not own the high end knives which can take advantage of this minor difference, nor will we have that sharpening skill to implement it.
It is a moot point for 99.9% of us.
TBH, I think it's a moot point for even more than 99.9% of us when we're talking about kitchen knives.
Because what job in the kitchen do you need a knife sharper than a straight razor for? If anyone can think of one, I'd love to hear it.
Plenty of people can use synthetic stones to sharpen a good kitchen knife until it comfortably shaves one's face. Murray Carter has demonstrated this off a 6k king stone and newspaper stropping (I need at least 8k and chromium oxide, but I can still do it - and there are many sharpeners out there better than I am). If you want to create an edge significantly sharper than that, you have two problems:
1) How to test it.
2) What's it good for.
As you know, if you read around you'll find a great deal of sharpening 'voodoo' and claims of barely perceivable advantages between different techniques and equipment, even coming from experienced sharpeners. I do it myself at times (though I try to point out when I'm doing it). Then there's seller claims, mistaken claims from beginner sharpeners, etc. Most of which should be taken with a grain of salt. Synthetic waterstones have a few well documented downsides. Inability to create an extremely fine edge isn't among them.
Yes I was also initially suspicious of "natural" whetstones. It is a huge gamble because it costs so much money. I have a suita stone which I use frequently. It gives a nearly-mirror shine on the blade and creates a super edge. For nearly a year I was using it wrongly. As time went by I have learnt to use it better.
The 4000 grit stone on Tormek is good too. but I still go back to the tiny nakayama suita stone to lap my knife.
(P.S. I tried Kamisori shaving with a cut throat razor but found constant sharpening way too much hassle, nothing beats Gillette! So sometimes technology is a better sharpener than whetstones.)
MY original point is just that a good sharpening skill and a good set of whetstones (or a tormek) are both essential if you want to have the best knife in the world.
59% sharpening skill 39% metal, 1% handle and 1% profile-shape etc.
I have a Bob Kramer which is a beautiful knife that was given to me as gift. I dont use it. The handle has a weird bump in it and is too wide.
My wustofs seem to feel heavier.
I use my Globals because they fit my hand and feel more balanced.
the restaurant where I stage there are no kitchen provided knives. There is a pair of kitchen shears on a string by the freezer to open boxes.. one of the first questions they asked me was " Do you have your own knives?"
I am a home cook now, but have worked as a line cook and prep cook in the past. I have large hands. When I was being paid to cook I could not afford the top end knives described in this tread. I used a Forschner that I kept sharp and locked up every night. Now I have more disposable income and have a wall full of chef knives including Shun, Wustof, and carbon Sabatier. None are perfect. The handle of a Dexter is perfect, though looks cheep. The 100 year old Sabatier slices like a dream, though the belly is too small. The Shun feels pretty good, as does the classic Wustof, though don’t cut any better than a $30 Forschner. So if I wanting the perfect knife for a commercial kitchen and could spend some money, I would have something custom made. High carbon blade about the thickness of a stamped knife with a custom large handle in a classic German blade knife profile. Though I would be really upset if the knife walked off from the kitchen.
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?...