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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!

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  1. ok. Maybe if I throw some bait out there it'll get things started. Here are some models I'm thinkin of:

    -Wusthof Ikon
    -Henckels twin
    -Shun Premier
    -Shun Classic
    -Mac Mighty (Chef Pro series)
    -Mac Chef knife (with dimples)
    -Global G-2
    -Global cooks knife (heavy duty)

    any others i might be missing?...

    2 Replies
    1. re: djdarroch

      shun's ken onion designs are supposed to be good for arthritic hands.

      1. re: djdarroch

        Messermeister Meridian. I love my expensive knives, but when I need to go fast and not worry about what I'm doing to my knife, I go to my Messermeister.

      2. 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.

        5 Replies
        1. re: JayL

          Why do you want to steal from Japan? :D

            1. re: djdarroch

              I cannot really say because I am not a professional chef, so I won't want to presume too much. But if I am a Chef, I would probably use a knife like CCK Chinese Chef's knife if I work in a Chinese kitchen, or a Tojiro DP gyuto if I work in a Western kitchen.

            2. re: Chemicalkinetics

              HA! I'd love to claim 'autocorrect', but I can't.

            3. re: JayL

              Thanks. I had a feeling that Shun and Global were too commercial. What about MAC Chef knives though? They've been recommended to be me also by pros.

            4. Who do you want to answer, and what's your point?

              1. 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.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Meltemi

                  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).

                  1. re: djdarroch

                    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.

                2. 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.

                  1. 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)

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: TeRReT

                      Thanks for the input. The name I keep hearing is Gyuto, but I was afraid of that because of the price. What Gyuto you looking at? I've never been a huge fan of santuko, though.

                      1. re: djdarroch


                        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.

                        1. re: TeRReT

                          TeRReT, thank you for the great link. Curios to know what you get.

                    2. 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.

                      1. 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.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: petek

                          This is true, for hacking bones for stock or for cutting lobster in half I used the restaurant provided knives, except the restaurant I worked at that cut the lobsters in half while they were alive, used my twelve inch henckel chef knife for that, much easier to cut

                          1. re: TeRReT

                            I agree with the 'grab bag' technique. I have been to culinary school, but have also come up through the kitchen ranks since I was only 12 years old. I have a couple of Shun Knives in my kit, the classic nakiri and chef's knife. However, I only use them when I want quick, clean, pretty cuts. When I'm working the line at night, I keep my Mercer 9" chef's knife next to me. Its a European blade, so it can take more abuse, however has a thin spine, and about a 17 degree bevel. Its much more rugged. That way I can slam through meat, bones, whatever, or dice or chop at a furious rate without worrying about rolling my Japanese edges over. A good combo of decent knives according to your own flavor is whats needed.

                        2. 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.

                          2 Replies
                          1. 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?

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              The handles on the Globals could stand to be a little deeper, but I like the width of them fine..

                          2. 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.

                            1. 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:

                              Edge retention
                              - 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.

                              Face grind:
                              - 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.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                Straight edges cannot be resharpened.

                                1. re: Jak1687

                                  "Straight edges cannot be resharpened."

                                  Cutco's marketing disinformation is apparently getting even more ludicrous.

                                  1. re: Jak1687

                                    Lets see them 'splain their own lifetime sharpening on things that can't be resharpened.

                                    This ought to be good.

                                    FWIW I do about 2 or 3 of their straight edges a week from can't cut Spam to filleting Spam. Oh but that isn't sharpening right?


                                    1. re: Jak1687

                                      <Straight edges cannot be resharpened.>

                                      Who said that? You must give as the weblink. In my wildest dream, I won't think of saying something like this.

                                  2. 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.


                                    1. 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.

                                      1. 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:

                                        1. 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.

                                          1. 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?"

                                            1. 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!!

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: SomersetDee

                                                "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.

                                                1. re: cowboyardee

                                                  <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.

                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                    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.

                                                  2. re: cowboyardee

                                                    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.

                                                2. 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.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: hankstramm

                                                    You cracked me up. And I tend to believe truer words were never spoken. . . :)

                                                    1. re: hankstramm

                                                      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

                                                    2. I've got almost 10 years on the line, both line prep and (working) cheffing, i.e. I cook things instead of standing around telling people what to do and stroking my menu.

                                                      Basically, you can do anything with an 8 inch chef's knife. Meat, veg, miscelaneous quick tasks to order or heavy prep, down to fine desert/garnish work normally relegated to suzy-homemaker bullshit paring knives. Get a decent one, learn to use it, done.

                                                      10 inch blades are much nicer but are often a problem on tiny restaurant cutting boards, if you work at a place that can accommodate them they're the way to go, must of us have to use an 8 though.

                                                      I like a bolster, I doubt it matters. Personal preference I guess.

                                                      Wood handles trump poly any day if you can find them. Even slick with oil you can always get ahold of a wood handle.

                                                      Granton edges aren't worth it.

                                                      Most restaurants you want German, not Japanese. German steel is softer so it's easier to hone it a few times a day rather than go through the hassle of actually sharpening the Japanese knives. With harder, thinner edges, they won't stand up to being dropped, which WILL happen eventually. Kraut knives are just tougher, the obvious choice for the professional unless you're a sushi cook.

                                                      I'm trying to talk myself into replacing my Henckles Pro-S with an F.Dick natural 9-inch. "Pro" is a huge misnomer, that thin, slippery handle is nowhere near as good as the 4-star, and the blade feels a little to thick for general purpose work.

                                                      You asked for a 1-knife set-up, but I like to augment my primary chef's knife with a long, thin, flexible slicer or boning knife if possible.

                                                      4 Replies
                                                      1. re: coelacanth72

                                                        Hi Coelacanth72

                                                        What can we call thin, and what can we call thick and strong?

                                                        I suppose if a blade is flexible then it is a big NO for being an all purpose chef knife.

                                                        Meanwhile flexible knife has its use for boning fish and meat from around the bones. I can't think of anything else. For all other applications it is dangerous for the blade to be flexible. I have seen many knives sold for various applications which are flexible when, in my opinion, it should absolutely have no flexibility.

                                                        I imagine the flexibility prevents breakages when the knife is dropped on a hard floor.

                                                        As for Japanese knives, there are very few flexible knives. So they tend to be good at making rigid knives. So you can request your main chef knife to be tempered lower (to 56) instead of 62 to 66 RH. This way you can have a knife that does not bend all over the place, but still does not chip or break in a restaurant kitchen environment. Thickness is over-rated in my opinion :)

                                                        There are many custom knife makers in USA and they can also make to the same standard as the Japanese custom knives.

                                                        I just looked at the F Dick 9" chef knife and they do look stunning.

                                                        1. re: SomersetDee

                                                          It could be my imagination, but the full-bolster German knives tend to be the thickest from what I've seen. You can also special order "lobster crackers" which are thicker yet. Messermeister is just a bit thinner, then you have the German-Japanese hybrid type designes like Wusthoff Le Cordon Bleu which are as thin as Japanese knives, but still have the same 56ish RH steel. While the Cordon Bleu, and some of the Japanese knives I've used, have a bit of flex to them, it's not enough to be a deal breaker. If you tend to do a lot of fine work, like deserts, garnishes, generally stuff to oder rather than heavy prep, they're pretty nice, certainly not too flexible.

                                                          In any case, when you're talking overall toughness, i.e. the ability to stand up to a commercial kitchen, the imortant factor is the rockwell rating. Softer steel, whether thick and rigid or thin and flexy, will bend rather than chip when it hits a bone or the tile floor. A thinner blade will deform more, hence why thick blades are still around, but you can usually just steel them back into shape rather than sharpen. So, the 56 RH thin knife you describe would be like the Cordon Bleu, great knife, but not really suited to heavy prep so you'd probably need to bring another dedicated prep knife (I've seen cordon bleu users do this). Go a little thicker (but not lobster-cracker thick) and you've got a more versitile knife. This is why Globals and Shuns are so popular, they're only about 61RH, so not too crazy, but can get away with thinner blades. Still, even at 61RH I've seen plenty of chipped Shuns and Globals, never yet a chipped Henckles.

                                                          I'd love to do a custom knife someday, but I dont' think I'd bring it to work.

                                                          Whether you take my advice or not, the key to success is honing and sharpening. Softer german knives are easy, just hone it every time you use it, or a few times per shift, especially doing prep. Japanese knives require less frequent but more intensive care, if you're not going to get the fine grit stone they require and learn to use it, don't bother. NEVER hand you knife, german, japanese, whatever, to "the knife sharpener guy," use electric sharpeners, etc. Always hand sharpen to remove the bare minimum of steel and retain your edge shape.

                                                          1. re: coelacanth72

                                                            Rockwell Hardness "C" scale (aka HRC) is one measurement of the accuracy of the heat treatment process that manufacturers and knife makers use to verify that their process is producing the results that they want.

                                                            Of note is that HRC value does not always correlate directly with toughness--it is simply the measurement of the resistance to indentation from a 120 degree diamond cone under 150 kgf. One could quench a piece of steel without a tempering process to 60 HRC, but it would have a much different toughness compared to the same steel that had been quenched to 64 HRC and then tempered to 60 HRC.

                                                            HRC isn't the be all end all measurement of knife performance that many people might hope or expect it to be. It is, in general, not a reasonable way for people to gauge the heat treatment of a particular manufacturer vs. another and even less so between two different steels.

                                                            If I recall correctly, the majority of Global knives are manufactured to be in the range of 56 - 58 HRC. Of note is that HRC scale is logarithmic, so even "small" changes of a few points can be significant. As an aside, Global even did a study on waterstone sharpening and found that skilled waterstone sharpeners can improve the edge on knives by thousands of percent increase in edge retention:


                                                            Would I prefer a knife in Aogami Super at 64 HRC over a one at 54 HRC? Yes, I would, provided that the maker has done a good job with the heat treatment. The problem is that heat treatment is rather difficult to measure for the individual (as most people don't buy multiple examples of a single knife) and therefore we often have to rely on brand reputation (deserved or not), anecdotal use, and forums like Chowhound.

                                                            1. re: coelacanth72

                                                              My shuns have a rockwell hardness of 63.

                                                        2. I'd probably just get a couple of cheap chef's knives that feel comfortable, a decent steel, and a really nice electric sharpener. i don't know about you, but from prepping chicken I have sometimes had to sharpen every other day.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: green_manalishi

                                                            Glad you piped in, I hate electric sharpeners but this is an exception. Butchers require a different approach from line/short order cooks, i.e. you need more, cheaper knives that you are going to regularly sharpen. Prep 20 chickens from raw and you're going to be doing a lot of honing, so yeah in this case, I'd defer to the butcher-style approach and get an electric sharpener. No way I'd use my nice forged knife, no matter what, on a sharpener though (unless it's a proper 3-stone)

                                                          2. " NEVER hand you knife, german, japanese, whatever, to "the knife sharpener guy, "

                                                            Good advice.

                                                            When I was young we used to have a man in our small town come around once a month with a hand cart selling pots and pans and sharpening knives. As kids will do we used to follow him around, watching him work his foot operated grind stone, while he ignored us as best he could. Kind of a magic show, if you will for the young.

                                                            My mother bought a few items from him now and then but wouldn't let him touch any of our knives, as she said he had ruined some of our neighbours. My father or mother were the only one's to sharpen our kitchen knives and garden tools, until we were old enough to learn how it was done. That achievement was heralded by my father awardi8g us each with our own whetstones.

                                                            Decades later on a splurge one day I bought my most expensive knife, a 235 CHF F. Dick, the salesman mentioned that I should sharpen it myself adding " You must not give it to anyone else." I do keep it sharpened, but don't really use it that much. More of a treasured piece than anything else.

                                                            While a knife steel may be fine for a thick German or French knife, that same steel can ruin or break a Global from Japan. Best advice is to learn the differences in knives manufacturing, and to do it properly yourself.

                                                            6 Replies
                                                            1. re: SWISSAIRE

                                                              Even if a chef is cutting through lobsters all day. I would imagine that the knife being used must not require resharpening after every few lobsters. I don't think it is too much to ask for the knife to stay sharp at least for your entire shift so that you can sharpen the knife without sacrificing the production time or your tea break. Even cheap knives get killed by electric sharpeners let alone expensive ones. Electric sharpeners tend to generate micro-heat. What I mean to say is that it can heat up the very tip of the edge making the edge loose its temper (hrc). So even if they get very sharp the edge will be softer. So in effect the electrically sharpened knife will keep loosing its sharpness much quicker.

                                                              (Maybe someone manufactures a miniature water cooled electric sharpener for busy chefs?)

                                                              1. re: SomersetDee

                                                                I wonder how laser sharpening stacks up to this? Probably less heat, actually...

                                                                1. re: Chowrin

                                                                  Best I can tell, laser sharpening is marketing BS. I know of no actual process wherein knives are sharpened by lasers - that would be problematic in a few ways.

                                                                  Perhaps some manufacturers use lasers to measure the angle of the blade or test for deficiencies, either of which is unnecessary from a functional standpoint but allows the marketing team to make vague and misleading claims about their laser technology. "Laser sharpened" apparently sounds better than "we use a laser pointer superglued to an old protractor in quality control."

                                                                  1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                    Hi Cowboyardee. Thanks! I was hoping someone will mention such marketing terms in sharpness/sharpening and get it out of the way. I used to think this before I found out that no lasers are used to sharpen Gillette razors. Here is some interesting trivia: The power of a laser when it was first being seriously developed in the 1950’s was measured in the number of Gillette razor blades it could penetrate! A Gillette equals about 1.5 joules; today’s strongest laser produces about 1.8 million joules, or 1.2 million Gillettes.

                                                                    Yet Gillette blades were not sharpened using lasers as their old ads implied. Edges are smoothed out usually using acids and ultra smooth spinning stones.

                                                                    Thanks again for bringing this up :)

                                                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                      hm, yes, it does seem like they're just using lasers for measurement. Not that that is a bad thing (particularly for weird angles).

                                                                      1. re: Chowrin

                                                                        The problem, though, even if they are using a laser goniometer, is that the bevel and microbevel are still going to be done by hand for the majority of kitchen knives. It's one thing to say that the edge has a 10 degree inclusive bevel with a 16 degree inclusive microbevel that was meticulously sharpened by hand on waterstones and then measured by a laser goniometer, and quite another to say that they use lasers while sharpening to 17 degrees (meaning 34 inclusive) without mentioning the minimum wage worker hand grinding the edge onto their knives.

                                                              2. hi to everyone that has been on this site. I have been in the industry for the last 15 yrs and just recently landed a exec chef job. I have worked from burger places to high class fine dining with a lot of molecular gastronomy. Professional knives and at home kitchen knives are completely different!. Don't get me wrong I have bought some cheap @$$ knives just to get me through what I knew was going to ruin some of my more expensive ones. I have bought Henckles ( good for prep, and the dirty work), global( smaller more delicate items ; along with the fact it works well for people who have small hands! (me) shun,( good with meat and everyday use but does chip easily) wustfof,(harder, more thick items like lobster or boneing a duck ect) and calphalon( a good cheap whatever you want to use it for and don't care about the $30) . each one of them I have bought piece by piece and use them all for different things. So if you are looking for a knife for a specific function its best to look at what it is good for aka, thick or thin, forge or not, slope tip or straight point, how big of a knife you are comfortable holding ect.!

                                                                1. I agree with cheflish that it is better to buy knives one at a time and each from different manufacturer, each tailored for the particular job you are buying it for. Also keep an option to replace or return if the balance does not feel right or if you don't connect with the knife. After all it is a sharp implement being used in a stressful kitchen where you must feel like it is an extension of yourself.

                                                                  1. No jokes now, but I caught the wife in the act.

                                                                    She was struggling using a large Chinese vegetable knife to cut-up a whole chicken. Why ? " I could not find our cleaver. "

                                                                    Never doubting " She who must be obeyed, " I did a check and found that the cleaver went up to our vacation chalet, and was left behind a to enjoy the Winter.

                                                                    Down to the city to look around, I visited 5 stores to look at knives, and found that there is much more selection available today. Cleavers were running 50 CHF and up. Rösle now offers one model for 169 CHF, and the Global model did not look heavy enough. There were two other cleavers available, each in excess of 200 CHF.

                                                                    I then went to an Asian market and found a good, heavy, stainless steel cleaver, identified as " bone-cutting " from China. It has the hook hole at the top of the blade, so it can be hand-washed and hung to dry. A little wood on the handle, it was taken home and washed under the watchful eye of my wife, and is ready for our next dinner.

                                                                    Boxed, and out the door with two fresh canard (ducks), and a large tin of Hoisin sauce, the knife alone was purchased for 11 CHF.

                                                                    6 Replies
                                                                    1. re: SWISSAIRE

                                                                      Hi Swissaire
                                                                      It might turn out to be an excellent performer. Please can you let us know?
                                                                      thanks for sharing

                                                                      1. re: SomersetDee

                                                                        Evening SomersetDee-

                                                                        I can, as we just finished supper ( it is 9:14 here).

                                                                        Our new Chinese cleaver knife was washed and used on a whole large Bresse raw chicken. My wife and I took turns using it.

                                                                        First, the blade has a Damascus-style edging to it, and is identified as Yang Jiang Shi Ba, model Nr. C701-D, with a stainless steel blade. The carton it came in was printed in Chinese, English, with a secondary, local-label in French describing the contents. The company website is quite basic, did not illustrate this knife, but does indicate it manufactures a number of kitchen professional and Japanese-style cutlery.

                                                                        Using the current, local patois, we would describe this as a " Profi-Couperet à viande " or a " Profi-Fleischerbeil. "

                                                                        The wood handle is good to grip, and the weight of the knife went through the chicken leg femur bones very easily without much effort, or the need for height in raising the knife for a downwards stroke.

                                                                        Only one stroke was required to cut down through the chicken meat and bone to make a cut. We used the knife to make multiple wok style cuts on the chicken, leaving one leg to be cooked whole. After cooking the chicken in our wok, we then went back to the whole leg. The cleaver make short work of the whole leg, easily.

                                                                        Finishing, I washed the cleaver, and hung it dry over the sink on a Rösle rail hook, using the hole in the blade. It can also be hung upside down to dry, using the magnetic clips on the rail, which is our custom here. The wife states that she finds this cleaver very sharp.

                                                                        So far, good value from the 11 CHF purchase. Beats driving up the mountain to the chalet to find and retrieve our cleaver, which would require 2 tanks of fuel. And there is still snow there, so with the coming World Cup to watch, that visit may be put off until late into the Summer.

                                                                        I plan to slow cook marinated pork on the BBQ this weekend, and use the cleaver again for the meat prep. And oh yes, we counted and still have all our fingers intact. The first aid kit is always nearby.

                                                                        1. re: SWISSAIRE

                                                                          Thank you Swissaire. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your review. That sounded like a professional review.

                                                                          It never ceases to surprise me when a small manufacturer makes a knife so well once the technique is there. That is why there are so many traditional artisan manufacturers in china, japan and now in the US, (not many here in the UK).

                                                                          I am on the look out for a Chinese handmade wok (layered and hand hammered) but my wife is holding me back because our kitchen has hardly enough space even for the existing pans. I am not well versed with a cleaver. But if I remember what a Chinese friend told me, you should never use it like a hatchet. You are not meant to lift it much more than the height of the item you are cutting. So you place it on the chicken and lightly thump or press the back spine of blade with your other hand. That also has the added advantage of making sure that you are not holding the chicken when the blade comes down. Never hold the chicken when slicing through bone! I like my knives but I still remain ultra fearful of them!

                                                                          Thanks again Swissaire :)


                                                                          1. re: SomersetDee

                                                                            Hi Dee -

                                                                            " But if I remember what a Chinese friend told me, you should never use it like a hatchet. You are not meant to lift it much more than the height of the item you are cutting. "

                                                                            I just learned something. It is good to friends like you to share good information with, here on CH !

                                                                            1. re: SomersetDee

                                                                              <But if I remember what a Chinese friend told me, you should never use it like a hatchet. You are not meant to lift it much more than the height of the item you are cutting.>

                                                                              This is true for most cases. Mostly for safety and for accuracy. Sometime you do use it like a hatchet, but more of the time, not.

                                                                              and if you absolutely need to use more force than your hand can, then you use a mallet:

                                                                            2. re: SWISSAIRE

                                                                              I have used Chinese knives like this for a long while and find they do most jobs, from chickens to cabbage to onions to ribs, very well once you figure out the technique (mostly, push don't chop). As versatile as a standard 8" chef. And you can buy them so cheap you just can't understand how they can sell them -- I remember getting them for under $5 not so long ago and not much more last time I looked. As in so many things, the Chinese had it all correctly figured out while we westerners were still cooking in iron pots over a fireplace.