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Six inch vs 8 inch cook's knives?

I say "cook's knives" advisedly, not chef's knives. All my American friends use 8 inch knives, often awkwardly (which is no shame, for home cooks): almost everyone I know over here (in the UK and France) uses, roughly, a 6 inch knife, though often one so worn down by repeated sharpening that it is impossible to know where it started. I ask because all the good-value knife blocks seem to have only 8 inch knives nowadays and I need a new one: is this just aspirational, or could I learn to love it (for more than chopping parsley, which is all I do with my current 8 inch knife, essential as that is).

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  1. When people post about buying assembled sets of cookware VS buying individual pots, often not from the same brand, the common wisdom is to buy individual pots. I don't see why that advice doesn't apply to knife sets and that includes knife blocks filled with company-selected collections of knives. Recently, at Chef's Resource online, I bought an unfilled 22-slot knife block for my already-purchased Shun knives. (The block is listed as a KAI brand, but if you look closely, the Shun logo is visible on the front.)

    I just did a search at the Chef's Resource web site using the key words "knife block." I got 592 hits. Scanning only as far as hits 61-70, I have spotted an empty knife block for Global knives, another for Zwilling JA Henkels, and two KAI/Shun blocks of different sizes. That's three major we've got covered already. If you continue to scan those 592 hits, I'm sure you'll find a knife block that will work with your brand of knives. Then, finish your shopping by buying any 6" chef's knife that makes you happy.

    1. I use an 8 pretty much all the time but, a 6 for smaller things.

      1. i would only ever buy individual knives, not sets. some people think they need one of everything...some of us prefer to do go by our own path.

        i have a 6" which i use constantly. my hands are smaller than my husband's, and i feel like there is more control. my husband chooses the 8" more commonly than i do. when i need an 8" it's usually for a larger item i'm cutting. not often needed, but when i DO need it, a smaller won't suffice. there is room for both in my kitchen.

        1. In my experience the way the knife is designed and built has a major impact on how quickly I fall in love with it or decide I never need to try it again. For example I'd find an 8" Nogent easier to use than a heavy 6" Wusthof for most chores. I'd suggest you find your brand and style preferences for different tasks before committing to one size or the other. Also an aspect of Japanese knives I find intriguing is the range of shapes. A small Nakiri might be just the ticket for you.

          1. A knife that size is very versatile, though not as efficient as a "standard" size knife. When it comes to chef knives, most will recommend something larger than 8" but a 5" or 6" petty has a home right alongside it. If you like the profile of a french or japanese chef knife, I would look for either a Japanese petty knife or fruit knife. There are other options in the 6" range like nakiris and Chinese cleavers, also.

            1. <almost everyone I know over here (in the UK and France) uses, roughly, a 6 inch knife>

              Really? Maybe it is just among your friends.

              By the way, do people in UK and France describe the knives in inches as opposed to centimeters and millimeters?

              <is this just aspirational, or could I learn to love it >

              You will learn to use an 8-inch knife better and better. However, it does not mean you will ever like the 8-inch knife better than a 6-inch knife.

              Can you tell us why you prefer the 6" over the 8"? Any particular reasons? Thanks.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                UK will have both measurement; France will have metric-only.

                I recently dropped my beloved 7-1/2" Wusthof (it started life at 8", but a drop onto a ceramic floor took it down to 7-1/2 with the aid of a talented grinder) and took the tip off for the second time, and I haven't found anyone I'd trust to even think about putting a new tip on it.

                I found a 6" Wusthof Silverpoint (yes I know it's their cheaper line, but I find it lightweight and agile) at Marshall's for $19.99.

                I love the longer knife (also a Silverpoint) because it feels like an extension of my hand, but I'm quite happy so far with the 6" (only had it a few weeks)

                It feels even more like an extension of my hand, with even more control than the 8".

                I'm not a particularly big girl, so perhaps it's more of a Goldilocks just-my-size thing.

              2. For a knife to be safe and effective, it must be
                Comfortable, have Good Weight and Balance...

                My preference will always be for a longer and heavier blade.

                1. For some people, an 8" knife throws better.

                  1. When I'm doing a bunch of veggie chopping/prep, I like my 8 inch knives. I feel that now with practice I get a good rhythm and they work better for me.

                    I have a pair of 5-6 inch knives I use when I'm preparing small amounts of produce, usually chopping something quick for my toddler. I just can't slice a blueberry in half on my 8 inch knife.

                    I would buy an empty block and fill it with knives you want. I have 2 blocks, one with my "good" knives that nobody else can touch, and my older, less fancy, more utilitarian but just fine knives. One was a Wustof as a wedding gift, the other a Shun on WS clearance.

                    1. I use my 6" chef's knife more than any other knife I own, and I own a lot of knives.

                      I feel I have more control and more detailed cutting with that size. The 10" ones feel like a machete to me, but I do use the 8" occasionally, but the 5" and 6" are my workhorse knives.

                      1. I agree about factory selected knife sets- you don't need a bunch of knives that somebody else has chosen. I have quite a few on my knife strip (and more in the drawer) but most are used only rarely. I could get along just fine with only a paring knife, petit knife and chef's knife. I do find myself reaching for a santoku or nakiri sometimes for variety, and the sandwich knife for (you guessed it) making sandwiches. Personally I like having a Chinese cleaver handy too. Still, none of these is necessary and though some of the others may be handy once in a while, in truth they seldom get used. Even the paring knife could be dispensed with.

                        As for 6 inch vs 8 inch, If all you use your 8-inch knife for is chopping parsley, I don't see any good reason for replacing the one you have. Find a 6-inch knife that you like and go with that.

                        1. I''d agree that since you have an apparently functional 8" knife, there's no reason for another. That aside, I really don't consider them interchangeable. The smaller utility knife when you want a pointier knife with a straighter edge, or for cleaning vegs, or simply preparing relatively small amounts of food. The larger knife gets used for slicing large items of food - raw fowl, meat, chopping or slicing larger vegs or larger amounts of them, etc.

                          If I were going to replace a knife with a 6", it would be most straight shapes of paring knife. I'd want to keep one for occasional use, but most of the time, the 6" knife works as well without having to reach for another implement.

                          1. Blocks:
                            A waste of money in most cases. Figure out which knife you need most, and buy that instead.

                            Longer knives:
                            More efficient for many tasks. In some cases, they also allow you to better develop your cutting technique. Less practical in very confined spaces though.

                            Knives you feel comfortable using:
                            Better than knives you don't feel comfortable using, whether or not said knife is less efficient for the job at hand. A knife is only any good to you if you'll use it.

                            On the flip side of that...
                            Constantly searching out a more comfortable, less intimidating knife rather than consciously working on and developing your knife skills:
                            Kind of a trap, if you ask me. There may be no shame in being awkward with knives as a home cook, but there's no reason to stay that way either if you enjoy cooking. Watch videos, practice, cut up things just for the hell of it, etc.

                            Badly underrated.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: cowboyardee


                              I am sure that you remember that Wusthof launched the PETec a few years ago.


                              But I missed the PETec sharpener with Chef's Choice. It must have launched a year ago or earlier. :)


                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                Where are the lasers?! PETec = lasers, or I want my money back.

                                Hmm, maybe the laser is an add-on attachment you can buy to melt down the part of the bolster that sits below the edge after a few sharpenings. That would be nice.

                            2. Having spent some time in Europe (and England in particular), I do recall that counter space is at much more of a premium than here in the U.S.. With that in mind, I can see where you'd be forced to use smaller cutting boards & shorter knives. In this situation, I'd agree that 6" knives are potentially more useful than 8" knives.

                              I agree with the other comments about avoiding a block set. For limited space counter work, I'd highly suggest considering a santoku. The straighter blade profile provides you with more "cutting length" than a typical curved cook's knife or chef's knife. It also has a good "working point" to the tip of the knife.

                              Have you looked at this style of knife yet?

                              1. Perhaps I'm parroting what others have said, but I would earnestly suggest buying a single 8+ inch chef's knife/gyuto/santoku. Spend the money to buy a single very good knife and you will not only have a knife for many many years - perhaps even your lifetime - you will also have wisely invested in the most used tool in your kitchen.

                                My current kitchen is very small (less than 6 square feet of counter space) and I still use a 240 mm (9.5 inch) gyuto regularly. It is useful for everything from cutting cabbages and lettuce, to squash, herbs, and even peeling apples and potatoes.

                                Even with my tiny kitchen, I have a hard time imagining what use I would have for anything smaller than 8 inches for a chef/gyuto/santoku knife. Sure, paring and petty knives are useful in the 3 - 6 inch range, but I don't end up using them very often unless I'm doing something extremely intricate.

                                1. I always used a small knife because I thought it was easier for my small hands... but I got a santuko knife that was larger than I thought it was (I'm not very good with inches) and I love it! It cuts through stuff way easier than the little knife because it has more mass behind the blade, so it takes less effort on my part to use it.