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If you could have only 1 knife...?

I'm out of college, and it's time I build up my cookware beyond the wal-mart sale rack. Bought my first All-Clad piece (and some bamboo spoons to protect it). Now I'm moving onto a knife. So if you could only use one knife what would it be? I assume a 6"-8" chef knife, but please correct me if I'm wrong.
I know my way around a blade having grown up hunting and butchering game, so I do sharpen my own. What are some brands I should look into in that $100-$150 range? (I plan on looking for sales, so that why I'm curious about reputable brands).

Top priority would be durability, versatility, and a blade that will hold an edge.


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  1. Culinary arts vary from hunting and butchering. You need three essentials for the kitchen: a large serrated slicer, an 8" to 10" chef's knife and a 4" parer. Those are your mainstays. Invest in good stuff - Henckels or Trident. I have had both for over 30 years and they're worth it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Chefpaulo

      Agree with 8" chef's/santoku knife and a 4" parer. I could *probably* get by without a serrated knife.

      Henckel's Professional "S" or Shun Classic are what I'd recommend to the OP. But go "try" the knives out in your own hand. What fits right in one person's hand may not in another.

    2. An 8" chef's knife will handle almost anything you throw at it. In your price range, a Wusthof is a good choice and can usually be found at the low end of you range when on sale.

      I've had one for over 20 years and it still takes an edge beautifully.

      You'll hear many other brand recommendations; in the end, it's what feels good in your hand, which is a combination of heft and balance. So try and shop where you can pick up the knife, not just look at it.

      1 Reply
      1. re: mcsheridan

        Yes, the feel is critical. It will be a companion so choose carefully.
        You can probably wait for a good Groupon or Amazon deal and get all three for your price point.

      2. Hi, Winney:

        I'll let the knife mafia weigh in on specific models, but an 8-10" chef is the way to go, at least to start. I like the Euro geometries, but a reasonable mind could also favor Japonaise. MAC and Forschner get high marks with less than premium prices.


        1. Wusthof santoku knife for me.

          I have the 6.5" and it is perfect for me. http://www.wuesthof.com/canada/produc...

          1. <I assume a 6"-8" chef knife, but please correct me if I'm wrong.>

            I would say between a 8" - 10" is more popular. If you favor a shorter knife, then I strongly recommend you go for a santoku. It is shorter, yet it has a good flatter profile to allow more board contact surface.

            <What are some brands I should look into in that $100-$150 range? >

            That is a nice range. If you are into German style knife, then Wusthof Ikon is nice. There are other choice of course.


            I personally prefer the Japanese style or rather really Westernized Japanese style. A Tojiro DP knife is excellent, and relatively inexpensive:


            Especially, the Tojiro DP Santoku is on sale for only $50:


            2 Replies
            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              +1 on a Tojiro DP. I have their 240mm (9.4") gyutou and their nakiri. They both take a screaming sharp edge, stay sharp for a long time, and feel good in my hand.

              On the Euro side, I think Wusthof and Henckels that others have mentioned are safe bets. I used to like them a lot before I started buying Westernized-Japanese knives. I really like the harder, thinner steel alloys.

              Another Euro option might be Fante's. They are a kitchen supply store in Philly, definitely worth stopping into if you're local, but they also sell online. They carry most of the major Euro knife brands, plus Sabatier, plus their own Fante's brand that are made in Solingen, Germany of high-carbon stainless steel. 8" chef knive runs about $60.

              1. re: carnicero

                Nice suggestion for Fante's and any kitchen supply store.

                There are indeed many nice German brands. I only threw out Wusthof just to be simplistic, but Henckels, Messerimeister and F. Dick are all worth mentioning.

            2. Since you sharpen:
              Japanese knives generally reward those who can sharpen more than American and German knives do - they take a finer edge (lower edge angle), hold their edge longer between sharpenings, and have enough edge retention that sharpening to a relatively fine grit is worth the effort (i.e. a highly polished edge doesn't lose its extreme sharpness as quickly as the same edge would on a softer Western knife). Japanese chef knives are called 'gyutos,' and are very versatile while generally outperforming Western knives in terms of ease of cutting and precision. Their biggest downside is that they are generally more likely to chip when they hit something hard (bone, plates, your floor) - for some people this is a deal-breaker and for others this is a non-issue. I could list a lot of great Japanese knives in your price range if you're interested.

              Chinese cleavers can be highly versatile and are also generally quite affordable. The technique and grip to use them is a bit different than with chef knives, but they're just as versatile.

              German style knives like Wusthof are durable in that it's tough to seriously damage them. You might also prefer them if you just like a fairly heavy knife or if you like a lot of curve in your blade. Of the German style knives, I tend to prefer ones that don't have a full-length bolster, as the bolster is a minor hindrance in sharpening and also eventually winds up sticking down below the edge, making part of the knife useless until the bolster is ground down. Wusthof Ikon and Messermeister Meridian Elite are good examples, though both are on the pricey side for German knives. If, for whatever reason, a full-length bolster is something you don't mind, you also might want to take a look at the offerings of Mundial and Mercer - they make some traditional German-style knives that are of roughly the same quality as old standbys like the Wusthof Classic and Henckels 4 Star, but at much lower prices.

              7 Replies
              1. re: cowboyardee

                <Their biggest downside is that they are more likely to chip when they hit something hard (bone, plates, your floor) >

                I used to believe that, but I am slowly backing away from that assumption, or at least I don't think it is as predictable.

                Yes, a Tojiro sharpened at a 13 degree (per side) may chip more likely than a Wusthof sharpened at a 20 degree (per side), but then we are comparing not only the steel but the edge angle too. Afterall, a Tojiro with a 20 degree edge angle will chip less than a Tojiro with a 13 degree edge angle.

                The knives which chipped the most in my kitchen are the American Dexter-Russell steel knives sharpened at 15 degree edge angle.

                I bet a German knife like Henckels sharpened at 12-14 degree per side will chip more so than a Tojiro DP knife sharpened at the same angle.

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  You're more or less right in my experience. Minor caveat:

                  I think it's true as a generalization - harder knives tend to be less tough even at the same edge angles. But as a universal statement it starts falling apart. For one, the relationship between hardness and toughness isn't strictly linear. And the hardness of either Western or Japanese knives can vary anyway. There are some Japanese knives that are relatively tough, and a some Westerns knives that aren't especially.

                  And of course you're correct that lower edge angles tend to cause more chipping, which is probably the more important factor as function goes.

                  More to the point, IME softer knives sharpened at low angles often don't chip when they hit something hard - instead the edge dents and sometimes even rips a bit. These dents and tears can be fairly big, too. Thing is, this is just as much of a pain in the ass to fix as a chip is. But since most people just stay with the factory angles on their knives, Western knives are considered more durable and Japanese ones are considered fragile, even though neither has to be the case.

                  1. re: cowboyardee

                    <instead the edge dents and sometimes even rips a bit>

                    Ah, you may be right. Maybe those were like serious dents or rips for my Dexter Russell knives.

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      From a practical standpoint, there's very little difference between a big nasty dent/crumble and a big nasty chip. Either way, you've got a hole in your edge, and you have to grind away for a while to fix it.

                2. re: cowboyardee

                  An excellent summation. I'll also echo Chemicalkinetics and suggest something along the lines of a Tojiro DP in the 210 or 240 mm range.

                  You can get find a deal with a 210 mm Tojiro DP gyuto paired with a Tojiro DP paring knife for about $100.

                  Keep in mind that Japanese knives generally are at lower edge angles than Western knives, so you will need to get used to sharpening at lower angles.

                  1. re: cowboyardee

                    I love my Dexter Chinese cleaver. i gave one to my older brother 25+ years ago and it is still his go-to blade.

                    I also use and like Dexter's chef's knives. The one witht eh big white sani-safe handle has always done right by me.

                    1. re: Westy

                      Dexter is a good value in general. Victorinox tends to get a lot of recommendations as budget knives go, but Dexter is right there with them in terms of bang for your buck among Western makers.

                      As other Chinese cleavers go CCK (Chan Chi Kee) makes reliably excellent cleavers in either stainless or carbon steel. Their basic cleavers are very thin behind their edges and take an excellent edge, which makes cutting extremely effortless (though they're not suited for hacking bones - CCK makes different models for that). They are moderately expensive for Chinese cleavers, but still a great bargain compared to chef knives of similar quality.

                      It's also often possible to just walk into a Chinese grocer and find a great cleaver for just $10 or $15. The problem here is mainly just that you don't know exactly what you're going to get before you start cutting with it. There are a lot of brands of Chinese cleavers, and many of them aren't widely reviewed (at least in English). On the other hand, you have much higher chances of picking out a $15 Chinese cleaver at random and coming up with a great knife than you do of picking a $15 western chefs knife at random and winding up with anything particularly decent at all.

                    1. The All-Clad pan was your first mistake. The old grey mare just ain't what she used to be. A decade ago, that pan might have lasted you forever, but they're not making them the same way. Ever since the company was bought out by a European conglomerate, it's Made In China lids, redesigned and uncomfortable handles, and bottoms that warp.

                      Don't let the knife be a mistake.

                      As for a knife, I'd say an 8" chef from Wusthof. Their Classic line is the standard, of course, but they make lines called Epicure and IKON that take the work to the next level. Epicure feels a little out of balance to me, but the handle is comfortable. IKON, on the other hand, is out of this world.

                      You can get fancier later when you're settled and have room/money for the next "better" knife up the chain, but a well-maintained Wusthof knife kept in a block or at least with a sheath over the blade will last you a good long time.

                      Go to Sur La Table or Williams-Sonoma and actually hold one in your hand. I know SLT usually has a case with all of the 8" chefs they have in every line, so it's easy to work your way through the choices without much stress.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: ProfessorBear

                        Care to offer some opinions on a better pan in the same price range? Mine is still on order and I could switch and only be out the cost of shipping.

                        1. re: Winny94

                          Hi, Winney:

                          All the pricepoints are infernally calculated, so they make it difficult to compare just by price.

                          I think you might like the W-S house line Thermoclad. I was comped one of their skillets for testing, and like it. It's tri-ply, and they're not afraid to tell you it's 2mm of aluminum for the core. They also claim it's up to 30% more conductive than other alloys, which I'm not sure of. It does have a comfortable handle.

                          I don't think you've said what shape your A-C is, but if it's a skillet, I would add the Demeyere 5* Pro-Line skillet. IMO it's one of the best and a great value. All Demeyere is good, but this one's a standout.


                          1. re: Winny94

                            I'll second Demeyere with either Proline or Industry5. I'd also add Mauviel's stainless. Their handles are ergonomic and sized to the pan, not just a standard issue (which can tip over smaller skillets).

                            @Cynic: do you have older or newer All-Clad? The new stuff is the problem. Old stock is usually of more stout character.

                            1. re: ProfessorBear

                              Combination of both, though the newer stuff is D5.

                          2. re: ProfessorBear

                            My All-Clad's work fine without warping, and I actually find that handle to be comfortable. Many people do not find the handles comfortable, which is reasonable but ergonomics are quite subjective.

                            Going to Sur La Table or Williams and Sonoma is a good suggestion. If you have a critical eye, I would suggest looking over the profiles and grinds of the knives that you handle before making a purchase. The last few times I was in a Sur La Table (I don't generally look at knives in Williams and Sonoma) the grind on the edges of the knives were off--the edge was wavy near the heel of the knife, and so would not contact the board across the entire edge. Such an edge would cause much frustration.

                            1. re: ProfessorBear

                              I may be the oddball here but I'd rather look for a knife with the features I want and adapt to it with use. No matter how it feels in my hand the knife will not adapt to me.

                              All my knives were purchased without ever touching them first yet they now feel like a part of me

                              1. re: scubadoo97

                                I don't think you are an odd ball. Most of my knives were also purchased without I ever touching them. Or maybe I should say: the knives which I love best are the one I purchased without touching them.

                                I think it really comes down to how adaptive the person is. Some of us, like you and me, usually get a decent idea how a knife will feel (to us) as long as we know its features like length, weight, heel depth, blade thickness at different points, steel hardness, steel materials .....etc. We read a few of these numbers, and in our mind, we are able to translate how that knife will more or less behave.

                            2. The All-Clad pan was your first mistake. The old grey mare just ain't what she used to be. A decade ago, that pan might have lasted you forever, but they're not making them the same way. Ever since the company was bought out by a European conglomerate, it's Made In China lids, redesigned and uncomfortable handles, and bottoms that warp.

                              Don't let the knife be a mistake.

                              As for a knife, I'd say an 8" chef from Wusthof. Their Classic line is the standard, of course, but they make lines called Epicure and IKON that take the work to the next level. Epicure feels a little out of balance to me, but the handle is comfortable. IKON, on the other hand, is out of this world.

                              You can get fancier later when you're settled and have room/money for the next "better" knife up the chain, but a well-maintained Wusthof knife kept in a block or at least with a sheath over the blade will last you a good long time.

                              Go to Sur La Table or Williams-Sonoma and actually hold one in your hand. I know SLT usually has a case with all of the 8" chefs they have in every line, so it's easy to work your way through the choices without much stress.

                              1. I could live with just an 8" santuko (mine happens to be Henkel) and a good paring knife.

                                1. I know this is the opposite of what you have in mind, but I think I would save my dollars and go for a bunch of Zyliss and Kuhn Rikon knives at World Market or Marshall's...they are very sharp, colorful, come in a variety of sizes and styles, and have matching blade covers. Just my opinion, but I think you will be frustrated by having just "one" really nice knife. Besides, the high-end knife manufacturers aren't exactly going away any time soon...they can wait.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: MikeB3542

                                    Hi, Mike:

                                    I think this is a great idea, either on it's own, or to buy one decent chef within budget, and then get a "disposable" parer (I was going to suggest Victorinox, but yours are good) and a very cheap serrated bread knife.


                                    1. re: MikeB3542

                                      I agree 100% with MikeB3542 and kaleokahu. It's absurd to spend $100-$150 on one knife to start out, Eventually, you do want a high quality 8-10" carbon steel Chef's knife -- eventually. But you can start better with more versatility for less money, unless you're simply into the snob value of a German-brand carbon steel knife. I do have a 10" Henckels, but cooking for one or two, I generally use a 7" Santoku knife (Forschner/Sollingen brand from Cutlery and More). A parer is essential for things the larger knife just can't do, and then a serrated bread knife, which can be as cheap as you like to start out. To be honest, you could start out with something like the Hampton Forge Tomodachi 10pc Knife Blockset from Target for $54 and then add specific high-end knives as you find them useful.MikeB3542 and kaleokahu have the right idea!

                                    2. 8" chef's knife. I've taken to using a $15 supermarket-grade el Cheap that my wife bought at Schnuck's. It has a rubber handle inset into a full metal bolster/handle. It has decent feel in the hand. It's stainless steel and I've been able to get a decent edge on it. All stainless steel is a compromise in a knife. It just does not get as sharp as high-carbon steel.

                                      I have a drawer full of Wusthoff knives but let me tell you that if your hands are a little wet or oily the handles are really, really slick. I think the stainless is better on the Wusthoffs. They'll hold an edge a little longer but I'm constantly refreshing edges anyway. Moral of the story-- find something COMFORTABLE and that DOES NOT GET SLICK when your hands are wet and or a little oily. You should be touching up frequently so edge longevity is a little bit oversold IMO.

                                      1. How do you sharpen? If loaded with India and Arkansas stones you are covered for German knives.

                                        If you go Japanese you will need to get waterstones which get pretty $$$$ compared to oilstones.


                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: knifesavers

                                          <waterstones which get pretty $$$$ compared to oilstones>

                                          No need to get those $100+ waterstone. I think a $15-25 waterstone will probably work fine. I mean most Japanese in Japan do not like buy expensive waterstones anyway.

                                        2. My ten inch carbon Sabatier. Big enough to cube a brisket, sharp enough to slice tomato the thickness of construction paper, nimble enough to flute a mushroom, long enough to slice a boule.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: tim irvine

                                            Sabatier may wish to purchase your poetic accolade for an ad.

                                            1. re: Chefpaulo

                                              You should hear me on the subject of my favorite saucepan! "There once as a pan like a bucket..."


                                          2. I'll take a risk with my answer. I do own and use both German and Japanese knives. But if you're on a budget, check out Ikea's knives. I have some, and although they are merely Ikea, they are better then my Zwillig professional...

                                            You can get a nice set (chef, pairer and others) for your budget for a single knife.

                                            Oh, and they are molybdenum steel


                                            1. If you can only start with one, get a decent 6" chef knife.

                                              Small enough for finer jobs (eg. peeling), but still big enough to do lots of slicing and chopping. Will be a great start to build on later.

                                              I started with Henkels and have been very satisfied, but they aren't as good as they were. I recently replaced the bread knife and it is 20% lighter that my original.

                                              Look at the amazon reviews and find one that you like, then be sure to try it in a store before buying. Everyone's hands are different and it has to feel comfortable and balanced for you.

                                              BTW, you MUST invest in a steel and decent sharpener too.

                                              PS Next on your kitchen purchases should be a decent pair of shears. ATK Best Kitchen Shears - #1 Shun Classic Kitchen Shears $50, #2 Henkel International Kitchen shears take apart $15

                                              1. Only one, huh? I guess I'd have to go with the KaBar.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: grampart

                                                  That's a beaut! :D Best suggestion so far...

                                                2. I agree that an 8 or 10" chef's knife will do almost anything. Mine is a Henckels Twin, and I use it daily for many, many things. I keep a manual knife sharpener around and touch up the hone frequently, and sharpen from time to time. However a professional sharpening would be optimal. (I don't know where to get my knife professionally sharpened.)

                                                  11 Replies
                                                  1. re: sueatmo

                                                    I think for the price of professional sharpening you get some nice sharpening stones and let Cowboyardee, Chem, and the others talk you through DIY

                                                    1. re: tim irvine

                                                      What I take away from discussions about rank amateurs sharpening their knives, is that we (rank amateurs) should just use the manual knife sharpeners that are readily available.

                                                      I have a feeling that this is a job I really can't do well enough to risk messing up a good knife.

                                                      1. re: sueatmo

                                                        I agree that manual knife sharpeners are easier to use, but it is not that difficult to sharpen your knives with a sharpening stone.

                                                        You may have heard a lot of people go into deep discussion about knife sharpening, but that is only because knife sharpening is "easy to learn, difficult to master". It will take some time to get really good at it, but anyone can adequately use a stone to produce a functional knife.

                                                        It is kind of like cooking an egg. If you want to get really good at cooking an egg, then it will take some time and efforts. However, anyone can cook an edible egg within one day of learning.

                                                        <I really can't do well enough to risk messing up a good knife.>

                                                        You usually can reverse whatever damage you make during knife sharpening.

                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                          My mother has a sharpening stone from my late stepfather. I cooked dinner at her apt. yesterday, and brought along my favorite Shun santoku knife. I had done a quick sharpen on a steel before I left my house, but decided to try out the stone. I definitely noticed a slightly sharper edge to it.

                                                          In checking out whetstones on Amazon, I came across this, which is *very* similar to one I bought through Chowhound many, many years ago - recommended by CH founder, Jim Leff (not the one below, but it's similar to what I bought). I think it was made by an old guy in Brooklyn or something like that.


                                                          IIRC, the one I bought has round rods vs. flat stones. Now I just have to find it. OR find a simple dual-grit whetstone at a knife shop or Bed Bath & Beyond.

                                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                                            < I bought through Chowhound many, many years ago>

                                                            Chowhound sold sharpening stone? :) That must have been interesting.

                                                            The tri stone is a very nice and compact setup for most kitchen knives. Since you have a Shun Santoku, I would recommend something nicer than Arkansas stone though. A waterstone like these will probably do a better job for you.



                                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                              Yes, I wish I could remember the details - I think it was a one-time sale when they were trying to raise funds to keep the doors open. Perhaps Jim Leff had struck a deal with the individual maker? I can't recall. And it wasn't a single stone - it was a tri-sharpener similar to what I linked.

                                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                Thanks so much. I see Chowhound has indeed changed quiet a bit.

                                                                I like your icon/avatar. I know I told you this years ago, but I feel like saying it again.

                                                        2. re: sueatmo

                                                          We are all amateurs in the beginning. But you can do much better than a manual pull through sharpener. It's not that hard. Even I can do it

                                                          1. re: scubadoo97

                                                            I don't want to risk messing up my good knife. If I mess it up, I won't know how to fix it. And I will feel stressed.

                                                            If I were to do this, I'd Google it and look at videos and diagrams and such. In other words, I'd do research. And then I'd still mess it up, or at least run the risk.

                                                            1. re: sueatmo

                                                              So don't do it to your 'good knife' until you learn to do it properly.

                                                              1. re: sueatmo

                                                                True. I practiced on my not-so-great knife. In hindsight, it isn't just about messing your knife. It is just so much more fun to practice on a less expensive knife because you won't be afraid to try different methods and approaches. You learn faster this way. If you use an expensive knife, you will be too careful, and may not learn as fast.

                                                                What happened to me is the following: I have a nice Shun knife and it was really sharp. I also had a couple of not-so-great knives like Dexter-Russell and others. After I sharpened my Dexter-Russell knives a few time (learning how), I realized that my Dexter knives were getting sharper than my Shun knife. It was then I realized that how important sharpening can be.

                                                      2. Two knives are a minimum - a chef's knife at least 8" long and a paring knife no more than 4" long. There are plenty of good ones at reasonable prices and unreasonable prices too. In addition, I also make a lot of use of a 6" "utility" knife and a bread knife, but could get along without them if I had to.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: John Francis

                                                          In general I agree and second the petty and the bread, but over the years I have literally gotten to the point where more often than not I just change the way I hold the ten inch chef and it does the paring tasks as well. It isn't for everybody, but if I weren't such a cookware junky I could do fine with only the one. Of course if my chef were a more Germanic knife, it wouldn't be the same. The old Sab is very light and has a thinner profile.

                                                          1. re: John Francis

                                                            Yes, although I'd really want perhaps a few more. I'd spend most on the chef's knife, pretty much for the paring knife, and I'd bargain hunt for any others. I have a good chef's knife, a good paring knife, a bread knife of OK quality, a serrated edge knife, and a meat slicing knife. The latter is merely OK, because I don't do that much slicing of meat.

                                                            I use my chef's knife for almost everything, so the other knives don't have to be that great, IMO.

                                                          2. Only one knife? Top priority?

                                                            The only knife I want is a SHARP one.

                                                            1. If you're only getting one, then I'd look at a chef's knife / gyuto in the 8" / 210mm range.

                                                              If you get one that's nimble enough (light and balanced correctly), you can do fine work with it.

                                                              And a *sharp* knife will certainly do the work that a serrated knife does.

                                                              If you have any doubts, watch a video of Jacques Pepin wielding his chef's knife as one would a parer and with the same, easily slicing through a crusty loaf without crushing it.

                                                              1. Get an 8" or 10" chef's knife that costs no more than $40, a ten or fifteen buck paring knife, and a butcher knife. You won't cook very well without learning how to fabricate meat.

                                                                Here's what you need right here:


                                                                The Fibrox handles on the Victorinox knives don't get nearly as slippery as a lot of knives. They're a good value.

                                                                When you get into fabricating meat you'll appreciate the range of different types of boning knives, and even a skinning knife, offered in the Victorinox line.

                                                                Please consider shopping for gear from restaurant and butcher supply houses.

                                                                1. If you bought All-Clad go get some stainless turners, spoons, ladels etc. Beat on that All-Clad don't baby it, but do clean it well, and use barkeepers friend occasionally and it will serve you well. I made the mistake of babying my pans for my first 2 years of college, they can take a lot of abuse, just don't do anything that would warp them, and you'll be set for a while.

                                                                  1. Sharpening is WAY more important than the knife you buy. Get some decent whetstones, and if you can afford it get an Edge Pro with the 3 Shapton glass stones from chef knives to go, they are the only place that has it with those stones as far as I know.

                                                                  -Since you sharpen, you really owe it to yourself to buy Japanese knives, they will outperform traditional German knives in my opinion. Not to mention they look awesome. I'd consider buying 2 main knives, a small paring knife, and a gyuto. Buy a good cutting board too. I like Sani-tuff rubber boards (check webstaurantstore.com, that's where I got mine). They are great with Japanese knives, and have a lot of other benefits. If you want something epic later, get a Boardsmith board (I want one so bad)

                                                                  Here are the knives I'd buy (assuming you already have good whetstones, and not crappy oil stones)

                                                                  1. 240mm Gyuto for about $100
                                                                  This is your main knife, the workhorse.

                                                                  2. 125-140mm petty knife for about $50
                                                                  Good to have on hand for jobs requiring a smaller blade.

                                                                  3. Victorinox serrated paring/utility knife ($8)
                                                                  This knife can be beat on, you should abuse this, and use it for tasks that you don't want to use better knives for. I always have 2 of these on hand and have used them for all sorts of stuff. I've cut both ice, and drywall (don't ask) with them.

                                                                  4. One or 2 cheap German style knives to learn to sharpen with, and to use as utility knives if necessity dictates. **Definitely do this, don't spend more than $10**

                                                                  Those 2 main knives will provide huge versatility and will last a lifetime if not more. It also establishes a strong foundation if you decide to buy more knives later, which you inevitably will.

                                                                  I'd look for knives at chefknivestogo.com, or japanesechefsknfe.com, or epicureanedge.com I've had great experiences with all 3. Note: I am not affiliated in any way with any of those companies. Also check the CKTG forums, those guys know way more than me or anyone else here.
                                                                  If for some reason you decide to spend less on your knives/have extra funds, pick up a bread knife too, one with scalloped edges preferably.

                                                                  My setup is currently:
                                                                  270mm Misono Swedish steel
                                                                  240mm JCK house branded (Gekko line) VG-10
                                                                  135mm JCK house branded (Gekko line) VG-10
                                                                  Wustof bread knife (Wanted a Mac, got this as a gift)
                                                                  2-3 of those Victorinox beasts
                                                                  2 cheap german style knives I beat on and learned to sharpen with.

                                                                  1. I think the best way to choose a knife is to pick it up and see if you just love the feel of it in your hand. I have three knives that do a great job when they are sharpened(I take mine to get sharpened which costs $$$ but the guy does a fab job and services many a chef in Los Angeles) but in the end of the day I love my Messermeiser the most. Heavier than my Henckels Santouko but lighter than a Wustof. Has the power to slice through the breast plate of a roast chicken, when sharpened it can work a tomato and it just puts a smile on my face when I think that this was my first "real" knife. Don't care for Globals and have yet to try some of these awesome Japanese knives mentioned.

                                                                    On another note - what was the reason for using bamboo spoons to protect your all clads? I use a metal whisk all the time and never thought to do otherwise.

                                                                    1. Not quite what the OP is looking for I suspect, but if one could have only ONE knife, I might suggest the laguiole en aubrac folding pocket knife.

                                                                      Perfect for slicing tomatoes picked off the vine, cutting chucks of salami on a picnic blanket, snipping a ripe bunch of grapes off the vine, and enjoying a steak on the terrace.

                                                                      In short, the one knife to have while walking your estate...

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