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Knives - yes, again!

I know this topic is somewhat beaten to death on the boards and people always seem to get very passionate about their knives! A couple of grey areas have arisen for me, that perhaps some of you more experienced CHer's can clear up.

First let me point out my reasoning behind this post.

I'm an enthusiastic (though not yet, fantastic) home cook and my wife has offered that for my birthday we can finally get/start to get a good set of knives. Previously we've only had knives you could pick up at your local supermarket so this is quite the big upgrade. We're looking to get a 'set for life' or at least that's before we get the knife buying bug many of you seem to have!

Having handled a few knives months back when in London (and not asking nearly enough questions) I was particularly fond of some of the Wusthof knives. I'm getting to the point here honest...

So at the moment we're looking at the Wusthof Classic/Wusthof Classic Ikon knives...though I'm not entirely sure what the major difference is between the two besides the latter being a slightly different shape (in the chef's knife I'm looking at) and a little more expensive. Any clue?

Also, I read a lot on here not to buy knife sets. I can understand this from poor manufacturer's etc but it could save us a decent amount buying a 3 or 5 knife set in this range, is this a big deal?

Lastly, knife block's? Are these bad for keeping knives, do they cause more damage/dull them quicker than alternative storage solutions.

Would love to get your feedback on these points, hopefully you managed to not fall asleep read my post!

Thanks.

P.s. Planning to order online and we live in England if this makes any difference at all to recommendations...

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  1. The difference in the wusthof classics and ikons is prety much just the handle. Since you dont really hold a knife by the handle if you are using it correctly, the difference is almost purely cosmetic,

    Knife blocks are fine assuming you use a little care in putting the knives in it, and dont put anything wet in your block.

    As for sets, it just comes down to getting what you really need. Instead of buying a bunch of knives you dont really need, its usually best to just get the 4 knives that will actually see some use. A chefs knife, a paring knife, a bread knife and MAYBE a boning knife.

    1. We have a old thread on this. Typically speaking, there is a major difference in philosophy between the German and Japanese knife companies. For German companies, the biggest difference between different lines of knives are the handle. For Japanese companies, the blade and steel get changed.

      To answer your specific question, currently (not talking about the past). Currently, the Ikon and Classic use exactly the same steel. The handles are different, and another major difference is the bolster. Classic has full bolster. Ikon has reduced bolster. I own a Blackwood Ikon paring knife and I like it, but you will have to determine yourself.

      <Also, I read a lot on here not to buy knife sets.>

      There are two reasons behind this -- for me anyway. First, I think twyst has answered very well. Many of the knives in a knife block are not very useful. So you will be paying a lot of knives which you may only use during the first month for fun. Second, even for the knives you use, you won't rely on each of them the same weight. For example, most people rely on their Chef's knife (or Santoku) the most, and follow up with a paring knife, and then bread knife or a boning knife, and then maybe a filet knife...utility knife...etc. So let say you have $500 you want to spend on knives. Why buy the same level of quality knife for your Chef's knife as your utility knife. Why not spend $300-400 on your Chef's knife which you will use the most and spend $20-30 on your bread knife which you will rarely use. You may even get more out of your money by getting two Chef's knives instead of a Chef's knife and a utility knife.

      1. Somehow I knew it would turn into a discussion of Japanese knives, even though the OP asked only about Wüsthof, but I thought it would take a little longer than two replies!

        I agree about avoiding sets, but it's a matter of taste. A matched set looks nice on the counter, but then where do you put another knife, which you are sure to want at some point?

        Blocks are good. Without one, chances are knives will be tossed in a drawer now and then, which is bad for the edge and somewhat unsafe when rummaging around ror something. A block keeps the sharpest knife in safety.

        I have the Wüsthof "Create-a-Set" block. This has several slots, but no knives — only shears and a honing steel. The shears work very well, and the rod has finer grooves than the common Shun honing steel. The slots are horizontal, which is better for the edges, except for four steak knife slots. This is a small block, but a good value, in my opinion.

        I advise that you first decide what knives you want to keep at hand in a block. If there is a set which satisfies this list, and which you like, then go for it. But expect to want another knife eventually. It is unlikely you will decide today what you need for life. If you don't get a set, then just get a block of the right size with a little room for expansion, and shop for knives individually.

        1. I believe the blade steel and shape are same. The classic has a thick, full length finger bolster...which eventually causes sharpening headaches. The icon has a partial length finger bolster and a weighted end cap.

          Sets are ok if it contains the exact knives you want (and is cheaper), but most have ones you don't need...and even if you did need them, you don't need them all of the same quality. IMO, you're better off spending more on your everyday knives and less on your ancillary ones.

          1 Reply
          1. re: JavaBean

            <I believe the blade steel and shape are same>

            Yeah, I think this is accurate. There was a short period of time which the two lines of knives (Classic vs Ikon) were hardened to different levels and have different edge angles, but they have become the same since then.

            <full length finger bolster...which eventually causes sharpening headaches>

            Yep. It does not matter if you free sharpening or use a tool like Edge Pro.

          2. I'll share with you the recommendations of America's Test Kitchen, as of November 2011, for what they're worth.

            They say, "We performed an exhaustive test of 8 different knife sets and in the end, our testing confirmed that you are much better off shopping for knives à la carte; that way, you get only what you really need."

            Their top recommendations are split between Wüsthof and Victorinox Fibrox. Victorinox Fibrox 8-inch Chef's Knife, Wüsthof Classic 3 1/2-inch Paring Knife, Victorinox Fibrox 6-inch Straight Boning Knife: Flexible, Wüsthof Classic 10-inch Bread Knife, Victorinox Fibrox Granton Edge Slicing/Carving Knife, Shun Classic Kitchen Shears, and the Bodum Bistro Universal Knife Block. Total: $335, or if you leave out the carving knife as the Wüsthof Classic Deluxe set does, $285.

            They also have a best-buy à la carte set that's almost all Victorinox Fibrox: 8-inch Chef's Knife, Paring Knife 3 1/4-inch, 6-inch Straight Boning Knife: Flexible, 12-Inch Granton Edge Slicing Knife, 10 1/4-Inch Curved Blade Bread Knife, plus J. A. Henckels International Kitchen Shears—Take Apart and the Bodum Bistro Universal Knife Block. Total: $190, or if you leave out the slicing knife, $140.

            ATK includes a boning knife in place of Wüsthof's utility knife. Personally, I believe the utility knife may be more useful, though others here may differ. If you substitute the Wüsthof 6" utility knife for the Victorinox Fibrox boning knife, that adds $60 to the price of each set; the Victorinox equivalent is $15 cheaper.

            2 Replies
            1. re: John Francis

              I am surprise that they pick a bunch of Wusthof and no Henckels.

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                These are just ATK's first picks for each type of knife. For all I know, they may also recommend Henckel knives, but because of the testing they do, they've put the other makes first, and only their first choices make the cut for this summary list.