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I'm overwhelmed. Can you help me pick a knife?

I have this one http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008... and I don't really like it. Even after sharpening, it just doesn't cut very well. Also, everything sticks to it. I have to yank zucchini or carrot or whatever off the knife after every cut. I do generally seem to like the size and shape, though (it's an 8" chef's knife). I've been reading about carbon steel, and I don't care if my knife gets discolored as long as it cuts. So, I'm in the market for a new knife and some kind of sharpener to go with it. I found the website http://www.japanesechefsknife.com/ on an old thread, and they are dazzlingly pretty, but I don't really know how to choose. I see different angles mentioned. Is there some combination of angles that will make the food not stick to the knife? I also saw this specific knife mentioned http://www.leevalley.com/en/garden/pa... and am curious about it because it's so cheap. I was reading also that there are other things that matter besides the knife material, like how the knife is made. Can anyone give me the kindergarten version of what I should be paying attention to?

So, I guess I'm looking for a recommendation for an approximately 8" chef's or santoku (or something similar, I don't know all the names), maybe in carbon steel, and let's say under $200.

Any help much appreciated.

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  1. A chef's knife is a pretty personal decision; my recommendation would be to pick out a few and then maybe go to a Sur La Table or Crate and Barrel or something and hold them / try them out. For the sake of concreteness, my friend has a Shun Premier 8" Chef's Knife and loves it; I've used it and am a fan as well. I'm sure you'll get a lot more recs before this thread is through though.

    3 Replies
    1. re: adk

      Wow, it's certainly beautiful. And it even says it's designed to reduce food sticking. Definitely one to consider, thanks!

      1. re: adk

        I have the Shun Premier 8", also, and it's been great. I picked up a 7" for a ridiculous low price, maybe $75? and I like it a lot, too.

        1. re: adk

          also, the kershaw shun line comes in left-handed versions as well as right-handed version.
          i've been more than happy with all of my kershaw shuns.

        2. If you had this thread moved to cookware section, you would quickly be inundated with more knife information then you ever thought possible. If you search the cookware section you will also have some ideas.

          Knives are very personal, there are many distinct categories to consider to help narrow down your selection.

          Japanese vs German vs French styles to begin with

          Typically the knife you have gets positive reviews, especially given the function vs cost of the knife. If you are ready to switch knives then that is fine, there are many to choose from.

          In addition to the website you have looked at, another popular one is http://chefknivestogo.com

          It does help if you can go to restaurant supply stores or to Williams Sonoma, etc to hold knives and see which ones feel good to you. A knife should be an extension of you, so if it doesn't feel good you won't be happy with it. Note that you can probably find better deals on knives then you will at places like Williams Sonoma, but it is a good place to handle a few knives.

          1. As far as where to begin, if you really want a carbon knife, you are looking at Japanese knives mostly. Is there any reason you want carbon?

            If you want good value knives, and are leaning towards Japanese style, then Tojiro is a brand often recommended, but also Mac knives are pretty decent for the money. Neither would be carbon, but unless you really want carbon for some reason they might work.

            You have mentioned chef knife and santoku, gyuto would be the third style to consider, it is basically a Japanese chef knife.

            Tojiro
            http://www.chefknivestogo.com/todpsak...
            http://www.chefknivestogo.com/todpchk...
            http://www.chefknivestogo.com/tojiro-...
            http://www.chefknivestogo.com/todp21w...

            Mac
            http://www.chefknivestogo.com/macpr8h...
            http://www.chefknivestogo.com/macprmi...
            http://www.chefknivestogo.com/macsu65...

            There are so many other knives, but big names like Shun, Global, Henckel in my opinion cost more then they are worth. They will all be fine knives, but there are better knives for you money, and I say this as an owner of probably 7 or 8 Professional S knives and a Miyabi.

            Other names to consider which most likely will come up are F Dick, and Messermeister which would be German style knives.

            If you really do want a carbon knife, a good introductory one would again be Tojiro

            http://www.chefknivestogo.com/toshsa1...

            or maybe

            http://www.chefknivestogo.com/tanakas...

            3 Replies
            1. re: TeRReT

              <If you really do want a carbon knife, a good introductory one would again be Tojiro

              http://www.chefknivestogo.com/toshsa1...

              or maybe

              http://www.chefknivestogo.com/tanakas... >

              I agree. Tojiro Shirogami carbon steel knives have gained a lot of good praises for the quality and for the price. I bought a Tanaka Aogami Nakiri awhile back, and it really revolutionized the way I see these Japanese carbon steels. Unfortunately, the price jumped up after I bought, but they are still reasonably good deal.

              http://www.chefknivestogo.com/taku21w...

              Tanaka Kurouchi knives have excellent steel, but are a bit thick (for Japanese knives anyway).

              1. re: TeRReT

                I read that carbon takes a sharper edge and holds it better. So, in order to consider another stainless knife (or hybrid) I would want to see a compelling explanation for why it's better. My previous knife was a much pricier Henckels (also stainless) and I was equally unimpressed.

                1. re: jvanderh

                  <I read that carbon takes a sharper edge and holds it better>

                  For the same price range, your statement is somewhat true. This is to say a $150 carbon steel knife is likely to take on a better edge than a $150 stainless steel knife -- generally speaking. However, you will find Japanese stainless steels in general can take on a lower angle (sharper) edge than German stainless steels. Go to Williams Sonoma or Sur La Table, and try to play with the Shun Classic knives which are made of VG-10. See if you like it. Shun Classic, Tojiro DP, Shiki and many others use VG-10. If Shun Classic knives are still not sharp enough for you, then you are correct, then you can give Japanese white steel and Japanese blue steel knives a try. They hold a sharper edge much better than even VG-10. On the other hand, some find carbon steel knives take too much to take care of in professional kitchens.

              2. So you don't like the Victorinox knife, huh? I am surprised that you said that it does not cut well. My question to you is that: (1) Have you used a knife which cut much better? If so, what is the brand/name? (2) Are you comfortable sharpening knives? If not, do you know if the knife does not sharpened up due to your skill level or do you think the knife steel just isn't very good? As for food sticking to knife, that is a combination of knife skill and knife geometry.

                JapaneseChefsknife.com (the one you listed) is a great website. Another good one is Chefknivestogo.com. Actually, there are many, but I think these two really offers good prices, fast shipping and great quality knives. Yes, I have bought from both sites.

                I absolutely agree with TeRReT. You have some great questions, but you also opened up these questions very wide. I will limit my suggestion within the Japanese steel knives just for now.

                If you really hate food sticking to blade, then the Glestain knives are known to reduce stickiness due to the large dimples (most dimple knives are not effective):

                http://japanesechefsknife.com/GLESTAI...

                If you want a hard Japanese steel knife much like Shun, but cheaper, then Tojiro DP series is very good. Tojiro DP knives are made with a very similar design as Shun Classic. Both have VG-10 steel core hardened to ~61 HRC.

                http://www.chefknivestogo.com/todp21w...

                http://www.chefknivestogo.com/tojiro-...

                http://www.cutleryandmore.com/tojiro?...

                If you want a semi-carbon steel, then CarboNext from Japanesechefsknife is a good inexpensive series. Konosuke HD is excellent, but more expensive. I have a CarboNext knife and just purchased a Konosuke HD last week:

                http://japanesechefsknife.com/KAGAYAK...

                http://www.chefknivestogo.com/konosuk...

                http://www.chefknivestogo.com/kohd21w...

                If you want a real high quality carbon steel, jacketed in stainless steel, then you really cannot go wrong with Hiromoto AS:

                http://www.chefknivestogo.com/higy21....

                If you want a Damascus pattern VG-10 knife, but not expensive, then go for Shiki knives:

                http://japanesechefsknife.com/SHIKI.html

                P.S.: I don't like the look of the peasant Chef's knife on Lee Valley website. The handle looks very thick, the transition between the handle to the blade is too abrupt, the knuckle space is questionably small...etc.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  I haven't used a knife that cut much better. as far as I know. I'm not sure. I had my previous knife professionally sharpened at two different places, and that didn't seem to do anything either. This time around, I've tried a few sharpeners. The most recent one came with guide rods to keep the angle right, and I watched their video to make sure I was using the right amount of pressure. So, I've reasonably tried to sharpen properly, but it could still be me. I think if I go carbon steel, I don't want the kind that's jacketed in stainless. From what I hear, you have the worst of both worlds- the edge still rusts, and you have to grind SS to sharpen. I believe you that there's skill involved with chopping, but things stick as if they are superglued. It takes significant force to dislodge them.

                  1. re: jvanderh

                    <I haven't used a knife that cut much better>

                    I was trying to see if you have experienced a much better knife and therefore unimpressed by the Victorinox. It sounds like you haven't. Victorinox stamped knives are probably some of the best knives at their price range, but you can definitely upgrade from them.

                    <I think if I go carbon steel, I don't want the kind that's jacketed in stainless. From what I hear, you have the worst of both worlds- the edge still rusts, and you have to grind SS to sharpen>

                    Not necessary. With a stainless steel jacket, all you have to wipe down is the narrow carbon steel edge. It certainly is easier to carefully wipe down only the edge instead of the whole blade. Just in case of rusting, all you have to do is to only fix/grind the edge. I have a carbon steel core stainless steel jacket knife. I do not think it is more difficult to sharpen. Regardless, you know what you need the best, and pure carbon steel knives are definitely great too. Now, if you are into edge retention, then powder steel knives are good. A Ryusen SG-2 powder steel gyuto is about $230.

                    In this video, Salty played with two high end Mizuno Honyaki gyuto. As Salty said, these are very good knives with excellent grind. Unfortunately, these knives are out of your price range, but they do demonstrate good knives can reduce food sticking. If you are concern sticking, then consider Glestain.

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      Thanks Eiron for the reminder. Here is the video where Saltydog played with the white steel and blue steel Mizuno Honayki gyuto knives:

                      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FFBQ6...

                      Salty has a video which dozen of knives for edge retention, and I found it now: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOzF8...

                    2. re: jvanderh

                      "From what I hear, you have the worst of both worlds- the edge still rusts, and you have to grind SS to sharpen."

                      Not completely correct:

                      Yes, you still have to make sure the unclad edge is wiped (reasonably) dry & not left in standing water, just like an unclad knife.

                      No, you probably won't ever (in your lifetime) have to "grind SS". If you EVER get far enough into the blade where you're meeting the stainless cladding, you'll have bigger issues to deal with. Mostly, you'll need the entire blade thinned (or at least the lower half of it), as you'll be into the thicker portion of it at that point & cutting quality will be greatly diminished.

                  2. Thanks everyone for the replies so far. They are very helpful.

                    12 Replies
                    1. re: jvanderh

                      Koki is great to work with @ JCK and you can't beat his freight price. There are some suggestions here I'd disagree with a bit. A lot of users complain about the handle on the Tojiro DP. One of the few knives I'd say you really should try to use before you buy.
                      I would never suggest a Glestain unless there is some specific use for it or unless stiction is the #1 priority.

                      Add Tanaka to the no go list as well as. No longer worth the $$$ IMO.
                      Macs are only marginally better than what you already have with a much higher price tag and there are many far better choices at the same price point as some of the Macs.

                      $200 is an ample budge but you have to decide if you want carbon or SS. Don't get sucked too far down the rabbit hole in steel type hype. VG10 will hold a perfectly fine edge. If you can't get it sharp don't blame the knife. If that's where your sharpening skills are carbon is unlikely to produce a sharper edge for you. Carbon is also more trouble than it's worth for many home cooks.
                      Ideally you would have both in the end.

                      The carboNext that Chem suggested is a solid choice as is the Kagayaki WA gyuto that Koki has. Both are well within your price range.
                      A Lot of people like the Hiromoto but I think it's best to commit to either SS or carbon Vs a clad knife.
                      The Kono is a very nice knife and very popular but a bit out of your price range.

                      The Sakai Yusuke WA Gyuto from BlueWayJapan on eBay is an excellent choice and they offer that knife in both SS and white #2.
                      There's lots of great choices in your price range but I can understand the trepidation as there are a lot of pigs in the poke as well.
                      My Top picks would be;
                      Kagayaki WA VG10
                      CarboNext
                      Sakai Yusuke (either SS or Carbon)
                      Hiromoto if you want a clad knife.

                      1. re: TraderJoe

                        <Add Tanaka to the no go list as well as. No longer worth the $$$ IMO.>

                        Assuming we are talking about the lower end Tanaka (and not the more expensive Damascus ones), I somewhat agree to that. They were such a great deal back then especially for the Kurouchi blue steel knives. Now the price doubled. On the other hand, are there better competitors?

                        <Carbon is also more trouble than it's worth for many home cooks.>

                        The situation probably is worse for professional chefs in busy kitchens.

                        <The Sakai Yusuke WA Gyuto from BlueWayJapan on eBay is an excellent choice and they offer that knife in both SS and white #2>

                        Oh yeah, I heard great thing about it, but I have never used one. My understanding is that it is a laser (thin blade).

                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                          The Sakai Yusuke comes in both standard and thin (laser) versions in both White #2 and Sweedish SS. They also offer handle upgrades which is nice.
                          The Standard version is where I'd go in this case.
                          I could swing either way on the carbon maintenance. If the buyer doesn't fully understand carbon and the maintenance required the result is the same at home or in a Professional kitchen.

                        2. re: TraderJoe

                          Can you teach me how to get it sharp, then? That way I'll know whether it's the knife.

                          1. re: jvanderh

                            <Can you teach me how to get it sharp, then? That way I'll know whether it's the knife.>

                            It is tough to teach on an internet forum, right? Your best bet is to look at some nice youtube videos for knife sharpening. As for finding out if it is the knife steel vs sharpening skill, your Victorinox should able to push cut paper. Not just slice paper by pulling or pushing the knife, but you should able to sharpen it to the point which you can push the knife straight down and slice through a printer paper. Alternatively, your knife should able to shave your arm hair.

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              It can't even remotely shave my arm hair. I've watched this one http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUbkPd... but I'm not sure it's for SS knives, and it doesn't mention specific stones (and I really don't want to pay for a name with sharpening stones, unless they're actually better). That's how I ended up with the Lansky oilstone system with the 5 different grades. One thing that also confused me was that the angle Lanksy recommended was 20 degrees, which seemed to be a lot bigger than what I usually hear. When doing it according to their directions didn't seem to do anything, I also took off the angle guide and tried a sharper angle and a lot more pressure. That scratched the hell out of the sides of my knife, but didn't seem to leave it any sharper. I ended up returning it. So, for anyone who's willing to say "I use x knife, x stone, and x sharpening method and get very sharp knives," it's really helpful to me.

                              1. re: jvanderh

                                I have the 1000 grit water stone from here:
                                http://www.mikestools.com/Sharpening-...

                                It easily sharpens my Victorinox to shaving-sharp. However, the stone itself takes some prep: soaking before use, drying before storage, & occassional resurfacing ('flattening'). Water stones wear, so you'll (eventually, maybe?) need to replace them. I'd recommend either the 1000 or 1200 grit. Both are Splex brand, even though the website says differently.

                                I also use this Spyderco ceramic stone:
                                http://www.amazon.com/Spyderco-Medium...

                                It's not quite as fast, but there's no soaking/drying required & it'll never need resurfacing (i.e., it'll never wear out). I do splash mine with water while I use it, but it's not necessary. This stone also sharpens my Victorinox to shaving-sharp.

                                If you end up with a harder steel knife, I'd recommend the water stone(s) over the ceramic stone(s). But for your Victorinox, I've used both with excellent success.

                                1. re: Eiron

                                  Do you use one stone then the other afterward, or are they two alternatives to do the same thing? Do you use a technique similar to the video I posted? (matchbook angle, back and forth with moderate pressure?)

                                  1. re: jvanderh

                                    They're alternatives to do the same thing.

                                    The water stone is cheaper & will sharpen faster, but requires more 'upkeep'.

                                    The ceramic does a great job on all softer steels (IMO) & will last forever.

                                    If you don't want to ever think about stone prep & maintenance, get the ceramic. If you think you might be interested in 'getting into' sharpening, then get the water stone. :-)

                                2. re: jvanderh

                                  Bob Kramer is a great knife maker, especially kitchen knives. However, if you want to learn knife sharpening. Dave Martel, Murray Carter, Jon Broida have better and more detail knife sharpening videos. Mark Richmond and Thomas Stuckey have better introductory video, so I will start with Mark or Thomas.

                                  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TwfW_P...

                                  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7l418...

                                  <I really don't want to pay for a name with sharpening stones, unless they're actually better). That's how I ended up with the Lansky oilstone system with the 5 different grades>

                                  May I ask what make you believe that the Lansky oilstone system is a good choice?

                                  <Lanksy recommended was 20 degrees>

                                  Your Victorinox should able to take 15 degree each side.

                                  <So, for anyone who's willing to say "I use x knife, x stone, and x sharpening method and get very sharp knives,">

                                  I use so many knives and so many stones. I don't know where to start. Ok, I will start with what I did most recently. I took a CCK stainless steel Chinese slicer and sharpened it through three stones: Bester 1000, Naniwa Super 2000 and Naniwa Super 5000. I used a technique which has some similarity to Dave Martel. In truth, my sharpening technique is a combination of many others.

                                  I am able to get the knife sharp enough and durable enough:

                                  http://www.chow.com/photos/867454

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    I bought the Lansky because it had good reviews

                              2. re: jvanderh

                                "Can you teach me how to get it sharp, then? That way I'll know whether it's the knife."

                                My advice would be to take a class. Watching utube is a good way to develop bad habbits unless you only watch good vids. Bad habbits are hard to un-learn. Look for the Murray Carter vids or buy/loan a copy of Dave Martels DVD.
                                Learn how to sharpen or at least have some plan for sharpening. There's nothing wrong with sending your knives out a few times a year for sharpening and you may want to have yours sharpened before you move on.
                                That Victorinox is every bit as good as the vast majority of house knives in professional kitchens.
                                If you are starting out free hand get a single combination stone. 1k/3k is a good place to start.