Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Cookware >
Dec 5, 2013 11:47 AM

~$100 to spend on chefs knife

So for the past few years, I've been using a really awful $20 chefs knife from target, and its definitely time to upgrade. I'm looking for a fairly decent all purpose chefs knife that will last me a while. Any suggestions?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. If you can go a little bit over $100, at around $115 I think the Messermeister Elite 8" chef's knife is a really good value. Amazon sells it as a set with the paring knife for $139.

    At a lower price point, maybe Global. They're cool because they're one piece of stainless steel, they're cheaper than comparable knives, and they hold their edge pretty well. The downside is that the handles are so specific, that if they don't suit your hand, they start to hurt when you do serious chopping. You can usually find the 8" chef's and the excellent pairing knife as a package deal for around $99.

    At an even lower price point, I like Forschner Victorinox and they fit my hand better than the Globals. They always get a best buy rating from America's Test Kitchen, and right now, lots of people are having a sale on the 8" chef's for $40.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ninrn

      I second the motion on the Forschner Victorinox. America's Test Kitchen is like the Consumer Reports of kitchen gadgets, and if it pasts their test, it's good quality at a good price.

      It also happens that we are living in the Golden Age of Chef's Knives, and so the prices are coming down while quality is going up. You can still spend a fortune on a good knife, but you can do very, very well in the $50 - $80 category.

      1. re: ninrn

        I love my Global because it fits my hand! I took a knife class where I got to try 10 different ones and the Global was awesome. But, I have small hands so that's why I like the smaller handle of the Global.

        To the OP, all I can say is, definitely try out the knife before you buy it. At least hold it, pretend to cut things, etc. I know if I hadn't had the opportunity to do that, I would have never even known what a Global was, and would have bought a big heavy Wusthof (and would have been unhappy!).

      2. For Western German knife, then go for Messermeister or Wusthof.

        For Japanese influenced knife, then go for a Tojiro DP. Excellent performance and reasonable price:

        <I'm looking for a fairly decent all purpose chefs knife that will last me a while.>

        Any of these knives will last you a long while.

        8 Replies
        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          Those are all good reccomendations, but there are so many others of similar quality. The Wusthof classic (not the ikon) is always about $20 less expensive than the one Chem has listed. Other brands of German blades are F. Dick, Zwilling J.A. Henckles (Pro S or Four Star), LamsonSharp (uses German steel but made in the USA), Victronox has forged blade Chefs kinves for under $100. These are all good choices in your price range and all are available via the link Chem provided for cutleryandmore, click on cutlery then chefs knives then 8" chefs knives and there is a huge selection.

          Wasserstrom is running a 10% off today on all cutlery:
          This will pull that $130 dollar knife a little closer to your $100 budget.

          1. re: mikie

            I've had good luck with F Dick in the past as a good value in a German made forged knife. You can pick up an 8" chefs for around $75.00


            1. re: mike0989

              I love my F. Dick chef's knife as well - I use it much more frequently than my Wusthoff Santoku. Picked it up years ago at a restaurant supply company for about $70. As noted above, I think it really comes down to how it feels for different routine tasks, and I just like the "German" style knives better. It also allows me to accurately state that I have a 9" Dick (couldn't resist).

              1. re: nsenada

                I was once told that F.Dick was the knife many culinary schools recommend for their students.

              2. re: mike0989

                One thing to note re: the F Dick knife (and most, if not all forged blades) is that the bolster prevents the back edge from being useful for cutting (since it's forged from one piece of metal, the blade gradually becomes a blunt piece of metal as it becomes part of the bolster).

                I mention this because I find it faster and more efficient to do tasks like slicing garlic with the very back edge of my stamped Chef's knife (I do have a forged one as well) and I cannot do that nearly as easily with a forged blade-- I have to pay attention to not accidentally using the part of the blade that would just crush the garlic rather than slice it, which means I have to slow down and become less efficient.

                Mr Taster

                1. re: Mr Taster

                  They do sell half-bolster forged knives as well.

                  1. re: Mr Taster

                    Or, as an alternative to Scrofula's suggestion, you could do something like this to your existing knife:


                    1. re: Eiron

                      How interesting. Thanks for that link, Eiron. I'm going to ask Ross Cutlery in downtown Los Angeles to remove the bolster on my 8" Calphalon chef's knife.

                      Mr Taster

            2. This might be worth the look for a few more dollars:


              1. vonshu,

                In mentioning the cost of your terrible Target knife, you're conflating cost with effectiveness, and one is not necessarily directly correlated with the other.

                Stamped blades are cheaper to produce than forged knives, but again-- there is not necessarily a direct correlation between the style of the blade manufacture and its practical effectiveness in carrying out your daily tasks.

                Ultimately, the things that matter most in a chef's knife are versatility (it should be the most useful knife in your kitchen) and results in actual use-- not how beautiful the knife is. The blade should be comfortably curved so that you can easily rock it back and forth to mince herbs, for example, with both hands on the knife. It should be long enough (8") to slice most things comfortably, as well as doing other tasks like smashing, mincing and scraping up cloves of garlic. The blade should also be wide and long enough to use for scraping up diced ingredients (like diced onions) from the cutting board, like a makeshift spatula, so you can easily transfer to the pan. The handle should be textured and have a comfortable grip-- imagine the handle covered with slippery chicken juice. A pretty, forged knife with a smooth handle very well might slip out of your hand. Also, the handle should be comfortable enough to adapt to multiple holding styles-- thumb and forefinger on the heel of the blade, two-handed rocking-chop, etc. You also want a knife that will hold its edge, which means you want to look at blades made from harder steel alloys like x50CrMoV15.

                As with most kitchen gear testing, I defer to the scientifically-minded folks at Cooks Illustrated to analyze the data. Their top result has been, for the last 20 years, the incredibly well designed (and relatively inexpensive) Victorinox 8" Swiss Army Fibrox Chef’s Knife. Great balance, textured & comfortable grip in many positions, hard edge, proper blade length and width, and most importantly the knife's features don't make your kitchen tasks more complicated, which even many expensive knives end up doing.


                Mr Taster

                28 Replies
                1. re: Mr Taster

                  I think knife-buying is one of the hardest things to do for the home cook. I have a rag-tag bunch of guys in my block that include two Cutco's that I inherited somehow but love both (one 5" serrated utility, one 5" spreader that is weirdly one of my favs), a couple Wusthof Classic and Classic Ikon parings and a Classic Ikon Santoku. I LOVE the feel of the Classic Ikons but I have held back on taking the plunge for the chef's specifically on the basis of ATK's rating of the Victorinox. I'll be buying that soon (maybe tonight...LOL).

                  Just this week I ordered this set for my son-in-law for Christmas:

                  At Macy's, it was on sale for $199 and I had a 25% coupon so this seemed like an okay somewhat maybe fantastic buy for $150. The problem is I could not figure out, whether through the Victorinox site or through Macy's, whether they are forged or stamped or whether they are the same quality as the Victorinox rated by ATK. I'll be contacting Victorinox just to satisfy my own curiosity. I know my son-in-law will be thrilled just to have some knives that have an edge, and he's not one to take care of things so I know they'll be abused and tossed in the dishwasher so we'll see how they hold up.

                  1. re: Harts52

                    <At Macy's, it was on sale for $199 and I had a 25% coupon>

                    Thank gods. When I saw the price in your link, I was like "Oh crap. I hope he didn't buy it at this price point"

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      Really? I hate it when I'm reminded that I'm not a very savvy shopper. I would have gone ahead with the $199 if I hadn't been trying to keep to a $150 budget. The set retails at $400+ on the Vic site, so I thought $199 was a nice deal and the $150 sealed it. I'm not keen on a block set for myself and frankly, would rather have someone by me underwear than buy me a knife, but, like I said, I know how these will be treated and in the short term, he's looking for something with a sharper edge that what he's been using. I think plasticware has a sharper edge to tell you the truth. It's very frustrating to work in his kitchen.

                      1. re: Harts52

                        :) $199 or $150 is good reasonable. I was just saying that the retailed price is too high.

                        I didn't criticize you for the knife block set. A typical VIctorinox knife is about $30-35, so as long as there are 4-5 useful knives in that set, then it is a good bargain.

                        <I think plasticware has a sharper edge to tell you the truth.>

                        This get me thinking. Do you know why his knives are dull? I wonder if a ceramic knife will help/hurt him. A ceramic knife can hold an edge much longer than a steel knife, but it is more fragile. So if your son-in-law is the kind of person who tosses knives across the kitchen, then a ceramic knife will be worse.

                    2. re: Harts52

                      As you may know, Cooks has a very specific viewpoint on kitchen gear-- basically, spend the least amount of money for the highest possible quality.

                      So if, for example, their testing finds two saucepans equally as effective, but one is $30 and the other is $150, they will rank the $30 higher. If the $150 is a better performer (or at least better enough to justify the 500% increase in price), they will rank the $150 pan higher and rank the $30 pan as a "Best Buy".

                      With regard to knives, they really do not recommend knife block sets because even high quality block sets come with "filler" knives that are of limited usefulness (a 6" chef's knife, for example, an 8" bread knife has trouble cutting through larger loaves versus a 10". Same with the 8" vs. 6" chef's knife).

                      And if your goal is to only have the most versatile, most effective, knives in your kitchen for the lowest possible price that you can obtain this level of quality, then the only way to do it is to buy these knives ala carte.

                      The knives they recommend in their ala carte set are:

                      - Victorinox Fibrox 8-inch Chef's Knife
                      - Wüsthof Classic 10-inch Bread Knife
                      (or the "Best Buy" Victorinox 10 1/4-Inch Curved Blade - Bread Knife, Black Fibrox Handle)
                      - Wüsthof Classic 3 1/2-inch Paring Knife
                      (or the "Best Buy" Victorinox Fibrox Paring Knife, 3 1/4-inch)
                      - Victorinox Fibrox Granton Edge Slicing/Carving Knife
                      - Victorinox Fibrox 6-inch Straight Boning Knife: Flexible
                      - Shun Classic Kitchen Shears

                      And to wrap them all up in a mesh-filled knife "block" that won't dull the edges of your knives (like wood blocks do):

                      - Bodum Bistro Universal Knife Block

                      My work here is done :)

                      Mr Taster

                    3. re: Mr Taster

                      Hi Mr. Taster,

                      While your comments are for the most part reasonable, there are a few things that should be noted.

                      Stamped blades may be cheaper or more expensive than forged knives. Powdered steels (e.g. CPM-S30V, Böhler M390, CTS-XHP, etc.) are stamped into blades from billets--forging would remove the advantages that the powder metallurgy process provides. The enormous increase in wear resistance that these steels have over forged steels makes them much more expensive to manufacture than forged knives. There are exceptions in both cases: there are very cheap stamped knives, and there are very expensive forged knives (i.e. honyaki).

                      The hardness of steel is dependent on the heat treatment that the steel undergoes during the manufacturing process. A particular steel (e.g. VG-10) could be taken to a variety of hardness values which are are typically measured in HRC (Rockwell "C" scale). HRC values are logarithmic, therefore even small increases in values correlate to a large increase in hardness. A type of steel doesn't have inherent "hardness" but rather it has a range of values that it, theoretically, can have optimal performance. To provide perspective, in today's world HRC values of 55-56 (which are what Victornox Fibrox knives are hardened to) are not actually very hard at all. I have pocket knives that are at 60+ HRC. Shun typically takes their VG-10 to 60-61 HRC, and more boutique knife manufacturers use different steels (e.g. Aogami Super Blue, ZDP-189) that can hit 64-65+ HRC which would be almost twice as hard as an HRC value of 55-56.

                      One more point is that X50CrMoV15 is more of a budget steel. Here is a comparison of some commonly used budget steels, and you can see that the alloy and carbon content puts it theoretically towards the lower end of edge retention, toughness, and hardness:


                      1. re: Cynic2701


                        Thanks for your contribution clarifying the details of my post. Clearly there's a lot more to knife design than the relatively simple paradigm I've been working with, and I appreciate your depth of knowledge.

                        This thread is really making me question how much better in actual performance an expensive, high quality, multi-use chef's knife could be. I've been happily using the 8" Victorinox for so long, I've never really considered another. If I were to trade up, I certainly wouldn't want to lose the versatile, textured grip or the perfect blade curve.

                        In what specific ways would a higher end knife improve upon the beautiful and efficient design and performance of the Victorinox?

                        Mr Taster

                        1. re: Mr Taster

                          The single most objective difference some (not all) more expensive knives can offer is that they cut more easily and with less resistance. You would think this is strictly a function of sharpness, but it has just as much to do with how quickly a knife thickens from its edge moving up the blade. In fact, the biggest advantage of lowering the edge angles on a knife isn't that you make the edge sharper - a German knife or a forschner can be sharpened at its factory edge angles to shave quite well. Rather, lowering the edge angles makes the edge thinner, which makes the knife cut with less resistance. Many of the more expensive knives are made of steel that holds its form better through use at low edge angles, on top of being ground thinner above the edge in the first place.

                          Some of the other advantages depend heavily on how you sharpen. If you know a good pro sharpener, or you sharpen by hand or use an edge pro system, you'll find that a lot of the more expensive knives are capable of holding onto a more refined edge longer - that is, they reward extra effort in sharpening if you're inclined to put in or pay for that effort. If you use a chefs choice style electric sharpener, you might find fewer benefits. If you use a carbide style sharpener like the accusharp, you're actually better off avoiding a lot of expensive knives because they're made too hard for a carbide sharpener to work properly. Similarly, many expensive knives dull more slowly than a forschner. But if you use a chefs choice or accusharp, then sharpening is typically so quick and easy that you're probably not so worried about edge retention anyway. (As a side note, cooks illustrated never got it right when testing for edge retention and evaluating it accurately, but that's another matter.)

                          Beyond that... Some but not all expensive knives are designed to keep food from sticking to it, and do so in a way that puts all those silly divot-faced santokus you see to shame. Many are very aesthetically pleasing. Some have fully rounded spines or choils that feel much more comfortable during extended prep sessions. Some are shaped with as much curve or belly as your forschner, but you might find that some straighter blades are still capable of rock chopping well, while being much better at very fast straight up and down chopping.

                          Don't get me wrong - a forschner is a good knife, especially for the price. And there are disadvantages to some of the more expensive blades, besides just the price tag. But a lot of the time, if you come to use a finely crafted and well sharpened knife for a while, some of the qualities of your old favorite that you thought were indispensable turn out to be only what you were used to.

                          1. re: cowboyardee

                            Just as Cynic said, cowboyardee's post is right on the spot. How much a good knife worth has a lot to do with the user in question. What is the knife sharpening skill of the user? What is the overall knife skill of the user?

                            Good can be a subjective word here.

                            I can easily tell the difference between a typical Aogami knife to a typical VG-10 (Shun/Tojiro DP) knife to a typical Dexter Russell knife. However, I won't able to appreciate their differences if I were using a Chef's Choice electric knife sharpener. I also won't able to notice their differences had I not I had some basic-to-advance knife skill.

                            Here is two extreme cases.

                            If I have minimal knife skill (say I like twist my knife on the cutting board or use my knife on a glass cutting board), I use an electric knife sharpener and I like to toss my knife in the sink, then a Dexter-Russell/Victornix knife is a better knife than a Konosuke HD2 knife. Nothing to do with the price tag, but a Victorinox can handle physical abuse and rust/stain better than the Konosuke HD2.

                            If I have good knife skill, I use waterstone for knife sharpening, and I wipe my knife dry using a towel during cooking, then a Konosuke HD2 knife is a better knife than a Victorinox. The Konosuke HD2 can hold an edge longer against a typical cutting board, and can hold a sharper edge, and has a nice knife profile, so that I can better control.

                          2. re: Mr Taster

                            cowboyardee pretty much hit all the points that there are to talk about. Great post!

                        2. re: Mr Taster

                          "Ultimately, the things that matter most in a chef's knife are versatility (it should be the most useful knife in your kitchen) and results in actual use-- not how beautiful the knife is."

                          Humans are funny animals...

                          "Ultimately," perhaps, but the appearance of any tool can both directly & indirectly influence the user. I know this from a couple of decades of designing hand tools for both manufacturing & lab testing environments. I can definitely say that "beauty" has a very real affect on the user of the tool.

                          Now, that doesn't mean that function should take a back seat to appearance - quite the opposite! Form should definitely follow after function. But, once the function is there, non-functional embellishments (like Damascus cladding on a chef's knife) can certainly influence whether or not the user even WANTS to use the tool.

                          There are also the tactile cues we get from our tools. For example, I wouldn't buy a Victorinox Fibrox knife simply because I prefer holding a wood handle. For me, the Forschner/Victorinox Rosewood knives are far preferrable to the Fibrox versions of the same knives!

                          As long as appearances aren't the primary purchasing criteria, there's nothing wrong with wanting a beautiful knife.

                          But that's just my opinion. :-)

                          1. re: Mr Taster

                            Cooks just did an analysis of carbon steel knives, using an electron microscope at MIT it compare the edge and composition of the metal. They also do a comparison of their winning $300 carbon steel blade (the Bob Kramer 8" Carbon Steel Chef’s Knife by Zwilling J.A. Henckels) with their long-time stainless, stamped blade winner, the Victorinox Forschner 8" chef's knife.

                            Really fascinating stuff.


                            Mr Taster

                            1. re: Mr Taster

                              I watched the video.

                              Interesting tests but their methods are still pretty flawed, leading to oversimplified results. Cooks Illustrated still doesn't understand edge dulling, how hardness affects a knife, how aspects of a knife's geometry beyond its edge angle affects a knife, or why comparing sharpness using the factory edge might be misleading.

                              At this point I honestly don't know whether they are under-informed as testers or whether they're just trying to sound technical while confirming what their readers want/expect to hear.

                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                Ultimately they are writing for the science-curious home cook, not the knife enthusiast, or the scientist who likes to cook. There's a "need to know" factor at play here... these are bite-sized chunks of science, not a science journal publication or a knife enthusiast magazine.

                                In any case, I'm curious to know why you feel that "Cooks Illustrated still doesn't understand edge dulling, how hardness affects a knife, how aspects of a knife's geometry beyond its edge angle affects a knife, or why comparing sharpness using the factory edge might be misleading."

                                Specifics, please. I want to know why you feel their methodology is flawed, and how it could have been improved.

                                Mr Taster

                                1. re: Mr Taster

                                  Overall, it is a much better knife review than Cooks Illustrated previous article. However, Victorinox knife, while inexpensive, is known not to hold its edge remotely as long as higher end knives, so I don't know what to make out of their conclusion that: Victorinox knife has an edge retention almost like Bob Kramer Zwilling carbon steel knife". Either they overrated Victorinox, or Kramer Zwilling is kind of bad.

                                  They made one mistake at time 5:05 min. The presenter said the second sharpest knife is Togiharu Virgin Carbon Steel is their best buy, but they showed a Masamoto knife, not Togiharu. Masamoto is the knife they showed in the video:


                                  So I don't know if the speech is wrong or the image is wrong.

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    It's reviews like this that make people run out and buy a Victorinox, especially when they see the price. I did. It is a sharp knife! I purchased one but could never warm up to the lightness of it or the feel of the handle, it always felt like it was flailing and when cutting veg the slices were not uniform and the cooking was not uniform either. I finally bought a Wusthof Classic 8". The feel of it was so much better, even though I have some joint issues the heavier weight of the Wusthof is easier to drive where I want it to go. I can employ gravity to help out. I have to agree with Sunshine842's quote below, "Knives are kind of like shoes -- go with what fits in your hand and feels like it belongs there -- not whatever whizbang brand someone else loves). Right on Sunshine!

                                    1. re: Cam14

                                      Love the Wusthof Classic Ikon. Visited my son recently and he has the Classics and I was liking them okay too. The Ikon feels a bit better in my hand. Have to say, though, I got passed some Cutco knives from an older relative and I love the serrated utility. The Cutco chef's is a little unwieldy for me so I don't use it enough to know how well it holds an edge.

                                      Bought Victorinox for son-in-law last Christmas. He was thrilled but after a few months, they were spotting with rust. I returned to Macy's and got replacements. This time they aren't spotting but they I'm not impressed with them at all and they feel awful in my hand.

                                      1. re: Harts52

                                        We've never had a problem with rust on the Victorinox Chef's, we've had it about 3 years, but I always washed it immediately and put it away. It bothers me to have a knife that size just lying around on the counter or sink. I wonder if they've changed the steel. Have some Victorinox paring knives too, they've never shown rust either.

                                        1. re: Cam14

                                          I should have said dear son-in-law put the knives in the dishwasher. I think he was raised by wolves.

                                      2. re: Cam14

                                        Victoriox is often recommended by people on this site for its very reasonable price. I have the Wusthof Ikon like Harts, but it is a good knife, but that is about 4X more expensive. For people with hand joint pain, Dexter's DuoGlide may be the answer.


                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                          The Ikon is even more expensive than the Classic. At the time I purchased the Classic was on sale, the Ikon wasn't so I didn't even pick it up. I really liked the feel of the Classic and it works, so far, so good.

                                    2. re: Mr Taster

                                      Edge dulling:

                                      Downthread, I wrote about how C.I.'s previous dulling tests (which used abrasive sandpaper) only got part of the story in terms of edge dulling - wear resistance, but not resistance to deformity (rolling or chipping) at the edge. Basically, in this test they did the opposite - by using a glass plate to dull their knives, they tested edge deformity alone, but not wear resistance. It's the combination of the two (along with sharpening technique and edge geometry) that determines how a knife holds its edge.

                                      You might say, 'Well, they did cut up some chicken and some parsley.' Which is true - these would have been excellent tests of overall edge retention if C.I. had continued them. But they didn't perform either test long enough for a noticeable result, and then they went with a final method (glass) that was pure overkill and had no bearing on wear resistance. It's like claiming to test the cold and heat tolerances of a spacesuit by leaving it in an air-conditioned room, and then dropping a hydrogen bomb on it - you didn't really find out all that much about either end of the spectrum.
                                      How hardness affects a knife:

                                      Testing how hardness affects a knife without including sharpening is just a lost cause. They conflated a low hardness with being dull out of the box - in truth, this was not much more than coincidence. They also seemed to equate harder knives as being sharper at the edge on a microscopic level. This is misleading.

                                      Harder knives typically do resist edge deformity better than softer knives - which can explain why they might be sharper under a microscope after usage. They are also generally more able to retain a very high level of polish and/or a very low angle edge (without succumbing to the aforementioned deformity). But C.I. didn't specify any of this, and left the impression instead that harder knives are just sharper. Which isn't true. Soft steel can be made extremely sharp - it just has a harder time holding that edge in use.

                                      Also of note, by leaving sharpening out of the equation, they left out one of the biggest reasons you might want a softer knife - it generally sharpens very easily with a wide variety of methods.
                                      How aspects of a knife's geometry beyond its edge angle affects a knife:

                                      They mentioned the thinness of a blade, and I was impressed... until they specified that by 'thinness' they only meant the edge angle. Here's a demonstrative test: sharpen both a thin-bladed chef's knife and a thick heavy meat cleaver to 20 degrees per side. Cut through an onion with both. Compare. It won't even be close - the meat cleaver will still cut like a meat cleaver. This is because the it's not only the edge angle that matters but also the thinness immediately above the edge.

                                      Less obviously but for the exact same reasons, an asymmetrical edge will cut with less resistance than a symmetrical one on an otherwise identical knife using the same edge angles. And then there's the whole issue of food release, which C.I. hasn't touched at all.
                                      Why comparing sharpness using the factory edge might be misleading:

                                      I thought this one was obvious. Some makers sharpen really well; some don't bother. The factory edge only affects the first few months of usage. You presumably intend to use a knife much longer than that. So maybe C.I. should quit pretending sharpening doesn't exist.

                                      Also of note though, some of these tests might have been more interesting and useful if multiple edge angles were tested. That would indeed give the reader a better sense of the capabilities of a knife and why you might be interested in spending 10 times the cost of a Victorinox on one (or not).

                                      1. re: cowboyardee

                                        I thought I remember someone suggested that Victorinox has a better factory edge than many of its competitors (not sure if it is true), which is a good thing. However, some customers confuse this with Victorinox steel is inherently supports a sharper edge.

                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                          In my experience, having bought a few victorinox knives, their factory edge is pretty good for the price, at least on their chef knives. Shaves hair right out of the box.

                                          Anyway, I agree. C.I. seems to think that Victorinox steel is something special. Don't get me wrong - their steel is fine - but it's just pretty standard decent stainless knife steel. The big reasons to buy Victorinox are their geometry, profile, comfort, price, etc.

                                      2. re: Mr Taster

                                        <how it could have been improved>

                                        Actually, I have an idea. I agree with cowboy that neither sandpaper nor glass cutting boards is a great tool for assessing the edge durable. They mean something, but they are way overkilled

                                        The other problem is that the way Cooks Illustrated slicing printer paper to test for sharpening. Paper slicing (especially printer paper) is somewhat a low hurdle to overcome. The reason C.I. thought they needed to use glass cutting board is because slicing paper test could not distinguish the knife deterioration among the different knives. In other words, the "probe" is wrong. Knives need to be sufficiently dull before they can no longer slice printer paper. C.I. could have used other more sensitive methods such as push cutting into paper or push cutting into tomatoes....etc.

                                        I like electron-microscope. However, it is not readily available, so what C.I. did is to do all their own kitchen tests in their C.I. kitchen lab before shipping/bringing the knives to the university to look at them using the electron microscope. What I would do differently are two possible routines.

                                        First, you may able to get by without a high power electron microscopy. Even a $50-100 microscope from Amazon can be used to look at knife edge:


                                        This will allow more of a real time observation as oppose an "end point" observation.

                                        Second, if you are going to use a high power sensitive electron microscope, then you should center your experiment around it. Bring all your knives to the university and sharpening them to about the same degree and verify this both using the the electron microscope and maybe a soft food. Now, test the knives on typical foods on plastic/wood cutting boards at the university (it should be very easy to set up a couple of cutting boards and some potatoes there). Look at the knives after 50-100 cut using the electron microscope, you will see the small difference developed, which you may not able to pick up from slicing printer paper. It will actually be a quick experiment too. If you are going to use the electron microscope, then use it right. I feel like C.I. used the electron microscope as an "after thought" in this review.

                                        By the way, I don't mean to be overly critical of this Cooks Illustrated review. It is much better than their last one. But if I were to try to improve the testing, then I would try to change these I mentioned above.

                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                          Very good (and accurate) point that their tests for sharpness were about as flawed as their methods of dulling a knife.

                                          In my post above, I forgot to mention one other interesting thing about edge dulling that could be investigated: how corrosion/oxidation affects sharpness. Chad Ward made a big deal about this with respect to carbon steel knives, IIRC. And I've certainly noticed a mild dulling of some carbon steel knives even when they're not being used - e.g. a knife that's wicked sharp off the stones, hung up on the magnet for a couple months, and only pretty sharp when I get around to using it. Would have been another interesting subject to explore, but C.I.'s methods weren't designed to test for this either.

                                          1. re: cowboyardee

                                            Great points and rebuttal to the CI listed above.

                                            To further back up cowboyardee and chemicalkinetics, Global did some CATRA tests that show that a skilled sharpener can frequently double (or even greater) the edge retention of knives.


                                            Although CATRA tests are repeatable and are great tests with clear results, they only test abrasion resistance, which does not test what I suspect to be the primary cause of edge dulling in a kitchen knife--contact with the cutting board or hard materials in food (e.g. bone or ice).

                                2. Head down to any of the following:

                                  Home Goods
                                  TJ Maxx
                                  Tuesday Morning

                                  Dig -- I mean really dig -- through their cookware department. Chances are you'll find something worthy -- they regularly have a few Henckels, Wusthof, Calphalon, Sabatier, or any of several other major brands hanging around (literally -- they're usually on a hook around ladles and spatulas and such)

                                  You may have to haunt these stores for a few weeks, but eventually they'll turn up.

                                  A lot of times it's screwball stuff like bird-beak parers and tomato slicers (both of which I own because I picked them out of the clearance pile) -- but you can also get 6" or 8" chef's knives, carving knives, and a variety of parers for a song.

                                  Mine are mismatched (various quality levels) -- but I now own an entire block full of nuthin' but Wusthof -- my preferred brand because of how they fit my hand.

                                  (Knives are kind of like shoes -- go with what fits in your hand and feels like it belongs there -- not whatever whizbang brand someone else loves)

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                    Good points! (As long as the OP is willing keep looking if there's nothing worthwhile at first!)

                                    It's been a few years, but I found a Henckels Four Star 8" chef's knife for only $30. Hard to beat that kind of a deal!