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Starter Knives

I looking for a starter set of knives. Nothing to fancy. I'll get the fancy ones once I'm out of college. That being said, I love to cook!
In particular, I was eyeing the Kai Komachi 2 vs. Kuhn Rikon COLORI lines...

Any thoughts, recommendations, or ideas?

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  1. Forschner. /thread

    In all seriousness, Forschner knives are the best cheap knives I've ever used. They are easy to maintain, easy to sharpen, and easy to use.

    There are much better knives out there, but I don't think there are any knives as good for such a reasonable price.

    10 Replies
    1. re: cacio e pepe

      Yes, if you're looking for bang for the buck, these are difficult to beat. What you get depends on your budget, and if you are restrained right now, Forschner is an excellent choice.

      1. re: cacio e pepe

        < I don't think there are any knives as good for such a reasonable price.>

        Kiwi knives (as mentioned celesul) are much cheaper ($5-10), and are very good, but they have limited styles.

        http://www.amazon.com/Kiwi-21-8-Chef-...

        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          I haven't used them before. Forschner I can vouch for, but I would trust your word on the Kiwis!

          1. re: cacio e pepe

            Kiwi is very rustic looking, but inexpensive. Victorinox/Forschner stamped knives are nice. Dexter-Russell are also good too. They are quiet different in price than Kiwi knives: $5-10 vs $25-35.

            I personally have not used Mercer knives, but I heard a lot of good thing about them from people who have good knowledge of knives, like knifesaver and others. Mercer knives are actually on equal price footing as the Victorinox and Dexter -- around $35.

            http://www.amazon.com/Mercer-Cutlery-...

            Particularly, good reviews are for the Mercer Renaissane and Mercer Gensis, but not Mercer Millennia.

            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              How does Mercer compare to the Mundial 5100 Series?

              The knife blanks aren't German but, I hear they are good ... just haven't seen one for myself.

              1. re: Sid Post

                Me neither. Therefore, I don't know how they compare. If you find out more, please let me know. I am interested. Thanks.

                1. re: Sid Post

                  I've seen some forged Mundials in the restaurant supply store and through the package I could see the edge wasn't ground to the bolster.

                  In that regard of proper finish Mercer beat them hands down.
                  Once the fit and edge issues are addressed they are fine. The high end Brazilians are pretty good bang for buck.

                  Some Mundials and the Mercer Genesis can have big ass bolsters.

                  I have done a few Mundials and Tramontina restaurant knives and they are OK, sort of along the line of Dexter.

                  Jim

            2. re: Chemicalkinetics

              Chem, if you were to pick just one Santoku, no matter the price or obscurity, which one would it be?

              1. re: mcgoose

                On top of my head, I would probably lean toward something rustic looking like Takeda Funayuki. Takeda does not make "santoku", but his "funayuki" is pretty much a santoku:

                http://www.chuboknives.com/products/t...

                http://www.chuboknives.com/products/t...

                or a custom thinner Watanabe Santoku:

                http://www.kitchen-knife.jp/pro/santo...

                Or a Mizuno Tanrenjo Honyaki Wa Santoku:

                http://www.japanesechefsknife.com/Miz...

              2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                Big fan of Kiwi knives, at least for vegetables.

                We have three different sizes, all purchased in California from the Seafood City market chain, after I watched one of the employees there topping celery. I asked what he was using and he kindly showed me the knife aisle display.

                No, not made in New Zealand as the name might sound, but Thailand. They last, clean well by hand, make good cuts, and cost about $ 2.50 - 3. USD each there.

            3. Perhaps a set of knives isn't the best way to start. Pool your money for one good chef's knife and use it for everything. Learn how to sharpen it yourself, and you're set for life.

              2 Replies
              1. re: cls

                So buy something like a Classic Shun Chef's Knife or Santoku and acquire other quality pieces slowly?

                1. re: mcgoose

                  What is your budget? How and what do you cook?

                  As crazy as it sounds, the Paula Deen 3 piece set sold at Wal-Mart for $35 before her epic fail was a good value and performed well. I have heard good things about the Brazilian forged knives too.

                  A good chef's knife (forged) will serve you well. If you watch, a new 8" Henckels/Wusthof will run ~$80. Avoid the cheaper stamped alternatives.

              2. Forschner is used in many restaurant kitchens. They are available in most restaurant supply stores (Surfas, Star) The chefs knife and the paring knives are great for very little money.

                1. I use Kiwi knives. They are very cheap and can be kept very sharp. It's good to have something else around for hacking through bones or squash though.

                  1. My first recommendation is to buy just 1-2 knives instead of a set. This way, you can buy better quality knives and save money. Most people can easily get by with 1-2 knives.

                    Usually, we are talking about a main knife (Chef's knife or Santoku or Gyuto...etc) and a small knife (a standard Western paring knife or utility knife or a Japanese petty knife). It is the main knife which you should focus on because 90-99% of your kitchen works depend on it.

                    In term of "inexpensive knives which have good functional properties", then I recommend Victorinox/Forschner or Dexter-Russell. Both lines are for restaurant professionals. They definitely work.

                    I have Kai Komachi 2, and read quiet a bit on Kuhn Rikon. I rate them about the same. They are thin knives (which is not a bad thing), so they are light and good at cutting through objects. They are not for heavy works.

                    1. Kai Komachi 2 vs. Kuhn Rikon COLORI are very similar knives and will work if you have a descent sharpener.

                      Victorinox / Forschner are well regarded for good reason too. In particular, I like their 9" WIDE chef's knife which is a versatile flexible workhorse knife.

                      1. I also like the Kai Komachi 2 but they do get dull. The draw through sharpener I have linked below has done a good job keeping them sharp using the "Asain" angle slot.

                        I researched budget knives for a friend a few years ago:

                        Under $100.00 total from Amazon for chef’s knife, paring knife, bread knife, sharpener & sharpening steel. NO NEED TO SPEND MORE! I know many people who have a big block of expensive German or Japanese knives & they only use 2 or 3 & they are dull.

                        Here’s is a link to Cook’s Illustrated’s top recommended chef’s knife. It’s $26.00 from Amazon (he link below it)

                        http://www.cooksillustrated.com/equip...

                        http://www.amazon.com/Victorinox-4052...
                        The best knife is a sharp knife & this one is thin enough to keep sharp easily.

                        This knife & a paring knife

                        http://www.amazon.com/Victorinox-4750...

                        add a serrated bread knife (I own this one
                        )
                        http://www.amazon.com/OXO-Grips-Profe...

                        a sharpening steel, like this one:
                        http://www.amazon.com/Chicago-Cutlery...

                        and a knife sharpener
                        Review: http://www.cooksillustrated.com/equip...
                        Amazon
                        http://www.amazon.com/M4623-Diamond-S...

                        If you want to impress your guests but not really gain any improved function you can get a Japanese chef knife like these:
                        http://www.amazon.com/Global-G-2-inch...

                        http://www.amazon.com/Shun-Premier-Ch...

                        23 Replies
                        1. re: zackly

                          "If you want to impress your guests but not really gain any improved function you can get a Japanese chef knife like these:"

                          That is a very short sighted statement. Yes, I have Victorinox knives with the 9" chef's model being a preference with its "deeper" throat however, any decent sub-$100 Gyuto will out perform it. Granted, the cheaper ones will typically have two packa wood slabs vs. the fibrox handle which I'll give the nod as being better.

                          However, that doesn't make up for a softer Victorinox blade. The actual blade on a Japanese Gyuto is better for most (not all) tasks in the kitchen. Superior edge geometry and harder steel are the easiest to identify aspects but, not the only ones.

                          1. re: Sid Post

                            These knives will get the job done.As long as you can maintain sharpness a 15 or 20 degree angle means little. This is a college kid looking for budget knives. Good knives (or pans) don't make you a better cook. As one of my French mentors used to say to us apprentices when we complained about crummy equipment 'there are no bad tools only bad tool operators". There's more than a grain of truth in that statement.

                            1. re: zackly

                              <Good knives (or pans) don't make you a better cook.>

                              I agree, but that is a different point. You did suggest that Japanese knives like Shun do not gain any improved function over Victorinox. In my experience, I find a Shun classic knife has real improved functions over a stamped Victorinox or Dexter Russell knife. Will the original poster able to take advantage of this improvement? That is a different question.

                              The Verizon FiOS would be an improvement over my current standard Comcast cable. "Will I need or appreciate the difference" is one question. "Is there a real speed difference" is another question.

                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                Exactly, I own some nice Japanese knives including a slicing knife (for raw fish) I bought last weekend with the helpful advice of fellow Chowhounds. I don't know if I'll use it much but it looks cool! I could easily get along fine with the knives I recommended. The #1 problem with knives I see is people don't how to keep them sharp. They have a $700.00 block of Henckels that are all dull. The draw through knife sharpener i recommended works well on both Asian and European knives .but every cook should have nd know how to use a stone.

                                1. re: zackly

                                  Oh yea, hope you have get to use the sujihiki knife soon. If not, you can always sell it. :) It is a brand new knife afterall.

                                  <The #1 problem with knives I see is people don't how to keep them sharp. >

                                  So true. Cowboyardee has often bring this up. A sharpened $30 knife is better than dull $2000 knife. Kind of like the importance of filling up gas to a car.

                                  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FA621...

                                  1. re: zackly

                                    " They have a $700.00 block of Henckels that are all dull."

                                    That is a different argument, sort of like not knowing how to clean your cookware.

                                    A novice will learn faster with mid-range products that perform well and are responsive. Things like sharpening come after making the initial purchase. A soft stamped knife that is dull is harder to learn to sharpen properly than a reasonably hard forged knife.

                                    Salt pitting cookware, chipping or edge bending in knives, etc. are all things a novice is apt to discover at some point. With that they learn and become better chef's / home cooks.

                                    1. re: zackly

                                      "But every cook should know how to use a stone."

                                      OR

                                      Just bite the bullet "ONE" time and buy an Edge Pro Apex and have razor sharp knives for the rest of your life.

                                  2. re: zackly

                                    A good chef can make a great meal out of anything with anything.

                                    A novice will benefit from starting with good tools. You don't need to guild the lily but, in my case had I started with a descent multi-ply saucepan or one with a thermal base I would have eaten much better and healthier much sooner instead of scorching everything in sight.

                                    1. re: Sid Post

                                      True , but there is a line of diminishing returns when it comes to spending on cookware including knives. The absolute crap that you see hanging in supermarkets is to be avoided but for less than $100.00 I've given an example of budget friendly knives that are all that you'll ever need.(want is a different story). Here's a set of knock off All Clad pans that I frequently recommend:
                                      http://www.walmart.com/ip/Tramontina-...

                                      1. re: zackly

                                        Sure seems like you're moving the goal posts with every statement.

                                        Yes. You've linked to some excellent, budget knives. However, your statement that more expensive, higher quality blades don't perform better is erroneous.

                                        You're right that the law of diminishing returns starts to come into play, but $100 is not really the line where return on investment becomes low.

                                        For the OP, the knives you link to are great. For a lot of seasoned home cooks and chefs, higher priced blades are worth the increase in investment because they do in fact perform better.

                                        1. re: zackly

                                          There are many good ways to solve the same cooking dilemmas and, choosing one different from someone else doesn't make either better or worse .... just different.

                                          " Here's a set of knock off All Clad pans that I frequently recommend:
                                          http://www.walmart.com/ip/Tramontina-..."

                                          I have recommended them as well before their prices went up and some of the pans changed their shapes. In fact, had the pan I was shopping for not gone up 50%, I would have added it to my daily rotation. Cook's Illustrated/America's Test Kitchen came to the same conclusion when they took the Tramontina skillet off their recommended list.

                                          I'll still take a ~$40 laminated Santoku/Gyuto over a stamped Forschner. My Zhen Santoku for <$20 delivered was a steal as was the Korean cleaver I got off Ebay ~$15. Not all knives have to be expensive but, knowing what you want and why you want it is a different issue.

                                          1. re: Sid Post

                                            <My Zhen Santoku for <$20 delivered was a steal >

                                            Oh my. You have it? Great. A long time ago, I was scouting these Zhen knives. Originally, I only found them on eBay, and the written specs were great, and the prices were cheap. At the end, I went with the more established brand. Now, they have sort of made it big, and we can buy them on several other websites like Amazon. So how does your perform? Did you get the VG-10 one?

                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                              I ended up with 3 of the 440C Santokus/Santoki (?) which have served me, my mother and, her friend very well. 440C is a great knife blade material for non-knife knutts and/or people who don't necessarily take good care of their knives. The VG-10 knives are very good too but, I don't really have any complaints with the 440C versions.

                                              I got my first on Ebay and the second two on Amazon very early before they became popular. Today, I will stick to their VG-10 blades which are good value for money in my limited experience.

                                              1. re: Sid Post

                                                So is this a good first buy, Sid Post and Chem?

                                                http://www.amazon.com/Zhen-Japanese-S...

                                                I'm fine with the price and I like the look of the design.

                                                1. re: mcgoose

                                                  I have been "following" this Taiwan brand Zhen for awhile. These knives have really nice specs and very nice prices. Based on what I read, the steel is indeed very well made. However, the initial edge (factory edge) is good, but not great.

                                                  "...
                                                  They seem to be holding up great even with my mother in law abusing the heck out of them. A great value for sure. "

                                                  http://www.bladeforums.com/forums/sho...

                                                  "I also got to do some tomato's after the potato's for some pico. I had to do these real fast because someone was being impatient, so no fun tomato cuts. The blade was holding up really good until the last tomato. I did 10 of them. The balance is right between the e and S on Japanese Steel. "

                                                  http://www.kitchenknifeforums.com/sho...

                                                  Usually speaking, Zhen knives are good value knives.

                                                  However, the Tojiro DP Santoku is currently on sale. So while a Zhen Santoku normally costs less than a Tojiro DP Santoku, a Tojiro DP santoku is now cheaper -- due to price reduction.

                                                  You should think about Tojiro DP Santoku:

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

                                                  http://www.amazon.com/Tojiro-DP-Santo...

                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                    hollow edge vs. normal?

                                                    1. re: mcgoose

                                                      <hollow edge vs. normal?>

                                                      Personally preference really. I like normal. I know that these so called hollow edge or scallops edge is supposed to help release food. In reality, most do not make any difference. Therefore, it is really a personal preference here.

                                                      Glestain knives are the only ones known to do a great job of food release.

                                                      This is a nice video, I think:

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

                                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                        This is a stupid question but are hollow edges harder to sharper than normal ones?

                                                        1. re: mcgoose

                                                          <are hollow edges harder to sharper than normal ones?>

                                                          These so called hallow ground knives are equally easy (or equally hard) to sharpen as the regular blade knives. You will use the same technique.

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

                                                      2. re: mcgoose

                                                        "hollow edge vs. normal?"

                                                        Assuming your talking about the kullens or the scallops that are so trendy today .... worst choice I ever made in a Santoku. They didn't really work and what do you do when you sharpen into them?

                                                        I can say the Glestain "dimples" really work well if you can live with the sharpening issue.

                                                      3. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                        "You should think about Tojiro DP Santoku:"

                                                        Chem is steering you in a great direction. The only issues people generally comment on are minor handle slab fitting issues. The Tojiro knives perform exceptionally well for their price point.

                                                        While I don't have personal experience with the Zhen knives you posted about, I'm sure they are very good but I have reservations in general about the paring knife and all Japanese paring/petty knives.

                                                        Americans like myself use a paring knife differently than the Japanese use a petty. A standard Wusthof Classic or Henckels forged paring knife will serve the vast majority of people in North America better. The way we use them, the stiffer blade and handle shape work better for most everyday things in my experience. Yes, you can use a Petty knife but a paring knife works better.

                                              2. re: zackly

                                                The point at which diminishing returns really starts plateauing, in my opinion, is around the $200 - $250 price point. Knives - and I'm specifically talking about general purpose chefs knives/gyutos - at this price point should have excellent grinds, top shelf steels (cost of steel is typically insignificant even for high end steels), and come with enough brand cachet that you don't have to worry about your purchase.

                                                Sure, there are some $150+ knives that are not worth their price tag (e.g. Ken Onion Shuns) but this price range opens up some of the middle-level boutique Japanese manufacturers to you.

                                                Start talking about traditional single-bevel Japanese knives, though, and the $200 - $250 is going to be getting you bottom shelf/bottom of the barrel knives.

                                                Although a good knife the $200 - $250 range will out perform a Tojiro DP, the price to performance ration that you are getting from a Tojiro is to be respected.

                                                1. re: Cynic2701

                                                  Yes, the law of diminishing returns applies to most things. I tend to buy quality and performance until I hit "the knee of the curve" where small improvements cost disproportionate amounts.

                                      2. For cheap cheap, I've actually had good times with newer China-made Chicago Cutlery stuff. I'm still using it until I get some Victorinox carbon steel with rosewood handles. I paid $12 for my Chicago Cutlery one-piece 10" chef's knife. 'Tis still a dandy for the price, and the point is still intact.

                                        Be sure to know how to sharpen and hone, and at what angle to do it at (each knife has a different angle depending on its intended purpose). You can make a fine knife out of almost any scrap metal or lawn mower blade as long as you can sharpen and hone it respectably.

                                        If you find knives in a thrift store marked "Japan," they're probably decent stuff. Same goes for vintage non-China-made Chicago Cutlery stuff.

                                        1. I have some very nice, fine quality knives that I spent decent money on.

                                          And I use my 5" and 7" Forschner chef knives 95% of the time. They're fairly cheap, hold an edge extremely well, the fibrox handle is comfortable and doesn't slip, and best of all they love the dishwasher.

                                          1. By the way, I noticed that some other 'hounds have suggested not buying a "set."

                                            I strongly agree.

                                            A chef's knife will be your top priority. I think a paring knife is actually quite important. Last, a serrated bread knife is a lovely thing. Those three are all you need.

                                            Personally, I keep a bunch of Forschner paring knives on hand and they serve double duty as steak knives.

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: cacio e pepe

                                              I tried the Forschner paring/steak knives myself but, found them to be too flimsy. Perhaps I needed to buy better cuts of meat ...... :-D

                                              I ended up with some heavy French steak knives for ~$20 a set that work much better.

                                              1. re: Sid Post

                                                Well, admittedly, I tend toward meats like flank, skirt, pork collar steaks. Nothing super thick. I think a big fat Porterhouse might not be such an easy task for the paring knives.

                                                If I could find a nice set of
                                                "real" steak knives that are not serrated for a reasonable price I would. For me, the flimsy, but sharp, paring knives work.

                                                Got a link for those French numbers?

                                                1. re: cacio e pepe

                                                  The ones I have were made by MIU in Frances and apparently are no longer available.

                                                  1. re: Sid Post

                                                    I'll see if I can hunt them down. Thanks!

                                            2. Forschner (aka Victorinox) or Chicago Cutlery are the best budget knives I know of. I have quite a few expensive Japanese wonder knives and vintage carbon steel Sabatiers, and I sharpen all my knives regularly, but I don't feel the least bit inconvenienced or deprived when I use my high-grade cheap ones.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: emu48

                                                Add Kiwi knives from Thailand to my great cheapie list. Just got one and love it. Is dirt cheap, looks it, cuts like a dream. I understand I may have to sharpen it more often, but so what.

                                                1. re: emu48

                                                  Thumb up from me too. It is not the greatest knife, but they are about only $5-10. They are much better than other knives 2-3 times of their price range.

                                              2. By the way guys, I do do a lot of cooking so I very well am willing to make a investment in these knives rather than having to buy a better pair in a couple of years. No processed foods for me. I make everything from scratch - a lot of dicing, slicing and some paring. I also used to work in the food industry and most recently at a high end restaurant in mid city. I guess we were using Forschners there, but I never paid too much attention because we had a knife guy who would swapped out the knives once a month for newly sharpened ones. They were fine and always sharp (mostly because that knife guy) but I felt ehh about them.
                                                Cooking is a relaxing and often a socializing time for me. I want some sexy knifes and have money to spend, but $300 knives are a little silly for me right now. Expensive knives are in my future, but not now.
                                                ...They say being a chef is the new rockstar ;)
                                                That being said, I want something of good quality, feels good to use, and looks good to boot.

                                                5 Replies
                                                1. re: mcgoose

                                                  You probably got Fibrox Forschners, Dexter Russel Sani-Safe, or a Greban if using a knife guy to rotate the blades in the restaurant.

                                                  A Forschner rosewood chef or a Mercer Renaissance will perform well and you can sharpen them fairly easily.

                                                  Do not drop a lot of cake on knives until you have a sharpening plan. Once you can maintain a Forschner or Mercer with a steel and stone you are ready to look at better blades. If you can't maintain them you will toss money at better knives for naught. Everything goes dull and needs resharpening.

                                                  Jim

                                                  1. re: knifesavers

                                                    "Do not drop a lot of cake on knives until you have a sharpening plan. Once you can maintain a Forschner or Mercer with a steel and stone you are ready to look at better blades. If you can't maintain them you will toss money at better knives for naught. Everything goes dull and needs resharpening."

                                                    So true. Here's a couple of "knife sharpening 101" sites I've stumbled upon, and worth a read:

                                                    http://www.thebestknifesharpener.org/

                                                    http://knifesharpenersguide.com/

                                                    Also, I enjoy reading this knife forum:
                                                    http://www.bladeforums.com/forums/for...
                                                    I'm sure there's knife pros on Chowhound but I'm sure any questions can also be asked on BladeForums too.

                                                    There really is an art and skill to properly maintaining knives. And you want to sharpen each knife to its angle of which it will perform best at, so multiple sharpeners are needed. A chefs knife doesn't have the same angle as a paring knife. Just like a 7" survival knife VS an axe VS a fillet knife. Each different angle serves a purpose.

                                                    One more thing... After initial sharpening is done, honing is pretty much all is needed thereafter. Too much sharpening will wear the life away of your new knife.

                                                    1. re: Muddirtt

                                                      There is some good knowledge out there to be found about knife sharpening.

                                                      If you are NOT facile with stones but want to sharpen like a pro may I recommend either the Edge Pro Apex which has been around for years, or the Wicked Edge system which is newer but has some serious enthusiasts.

                                                      I would personally stay away from Bladeforums though there is knowledge to be gleaned there. It's very poorly moderated, with its fair share of misinformation, trolls and flame wars.

                                                      As an alternative, if you are seriously interested in knives, knife makers and sharpening may I suggest the Usual Suspect Network, aka the USN. www.usualsuspect.net .
                                                      It is a private forum, and you must register, but the quality of information there is top notch. There is a sub forum there on knife care and sharpening.

                                                      1. re: wabi

                                                        Love my Apex!

                                                  2. re: mcgoose

                                                    Get the no dimpled/kullen/scalloped Tojiro Santoku from Cutlery and More for $50 at your door and use it for a week or two. Then reconsider your options. Seriously.

                                                    A Santoku is a "do it all" knife in Japan and works very well at almost everything until you get to thick meat, boned meat, or hard rind vegetables.