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Best 8" Chef's Knife $100 or Less

I'm a home cook looking get a quality but affordable chef's knife. I'll use the knife more for slicing than chopping or cleaving, and will be cutting veggies, meats, nuts, smashing garlic, etc. I'll use this almost everyday and want it to last as well as keep an edge, be comfortable to hold, and not have a full, extended bolster (want to use the whole blade). Since this will my only quality knife, I wouldn't mind it looking nice either. From looking around at product reviews, I have my eye on either a Messermeister Meridian Elite Stealth Chef's Knife ($99, cutleryandmore) or a Tojiro DP Chef's Knife ($59, cutleryandmore). Can anyone vouch for these? Also open to other suggestions. Thanks!

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  1. Both are good choices, but they're fairly different from each other.

    Compared to the Messermeister, the Tojiro DP has:
    - Longer edge retention (doesn't get dull as quickly)
    - Less resistance in cutting. Feels 'sharper' due to edge geometry/thinness
    - Lower edge angle (and can be lowered further if you like)
    - Straighter edge is slightly harder to chop with a rocking motion (though by no means impossible) and somewhat easier to chop with a pushing cut or pulling cut or straight up and down motion
    - Lighter, feels more agile at the same length
    - More prone to chipping or microchipping depending on usage
    - Doesn't take abuse quite as well as German style knives (e.g. the messermeister)

    There is no 'best' knife. The tojiro and the messermeister are excellent examples of two very different schools of knifemaking - Japanese chef knives (gyutos) and German chef knives, respectively. You just have to pick what's best suited to you. I've tried both knives, and I personally prefer the Tojiro - but that's me. Other options might include something like the Fujiwara FKM, which is similar to the Tojiro but with less edge retention, less ability to hold a very low angle edge and a little less tendency to chip.

    Just as important as which knife you get is making sure you have some sort of plan to sharpen it. The Tojiro rewards a skilled sharpener with high performance more than the Messermeister does, but the Messermeister might be more forgiving of some lower end kinds of sharpening systems (Accusharp type sharpeners, Chef's Choice electric sharpeners, etc)

    19 Replies
    1. re: cowboyardee

      "Just as important as which knife you get is making sure you have some sort of plan to sharpen it."

      This!

      It doesn't matter what your budget is or what style knife you prefer. No matter what, your knife will eventually get dull. No. Matter. What. Figuring out how you will sharpen it might help you in deciding what knife to purchase in the first place. Dull knives are no fun. In my opinion, if you don't care about your knives enough to figure out how you will keep them sharp, then you may as well buy one from a dollar store (or, better yet, pick up a super cheap Kiwi brand knife that's made in Thailand.) Many knife knerds will get super picky about the method of sharpening (including myself). Honestly, though, just choose a method that will best suite you and go from there. It's more important to keep your knives sharp than to be a purist about it. And choosing the method now will help choose the knife.

      1. re: sherrib

        < if you don't care about your knives enough to figure out how you will keep them sharp, then you may as well buy one from a dollar store>

        So true.

      2. re: cowboyardee

        Sharpening is a good point; I hadn't really thought about that. I don't have much sharpening skill and only own a rod sharpener. Messermeister has a "Knife for Life" sharpening program for a small fee, there are also local sharpeners I could use. I use a rocking motion a lot and do not need something with a very light feel, and like the durability of the Messermeister. However, the price of the Tojiro is hard to beat. I have a feeling that both will feel crazy sharp in comparison to my current crap chef's knife.

        1. re: athensoliver

          <Messermeister has a "Knife for Life" sharpening program for a small fee,>

          Sometime these programs still cost you more than finding a local knife sharpener because of the shipping fee.

          1. re: athensoliver

            Nothing wrong with taking your knives to a pro sharpener if he or she does good work.

            Here is an older thread comparing various sharpening methods to give you an idea:
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7971...

            Another option for you might be to consider a much cheaper (but still good) knife and put your money towards some kind of sharpening system. I realize this isn't as exciting an option as buying a new high-end knife, but from a functional standpoint, a perpetually sharp Victorinox ( http://www.amazon.com/Victorinox-Swis... ) or Kiwi brand ( http://www.amazon.com/Kiwi-21-8-Chef-... ) knife is going to perform a heck of a lot better than a Tojiro that seldom gets sharpened.

            As non-pro sharpening options go, whetstones are arguably the best performers, but take some practice. The Edgepro Tom34 mentioned below works great but is expensive (and requires a little practice, though less than whetstones). Something like the spyderco sharpmaker is less expensive and less versatile but might also be all you ever need to keep a pretty sharp edge.

            1. re: cowboyardee

              Since I have a honing steel, I may look to the Messermeister Stealth Chef. I like the shape a lot (very good for a rocking motion), the slightly wider blade, and since I'll use it for 30min-1hr total per week, perhaps I can hone regularly and send off for sharpening once a year (thoughts on this? I use wood and plastic cutting boards, hand wash, and am pretty "gentle" with my knives (slicing, not-chopping)). I would love to get a sharpener for myself but this will probably not happen for a while!

              And yes, I could get a cheaper knife, but you hit the nail on the head..it's not nearly as exciting! I would rather spend the money on a nice knife than a mediocre one...I'm a sucker for cool things. Thoughts? I appreciate your input!

              1. re: athensoliver

                A honing steel (like a ribbed one made of actual steel, rather than, say, a ceramic abrasive honing rod) isn't especially useful for a knife like the Tojiro, but it can help with a Messermeister as long as you're using it correctly.

                As far as how often to sharpen... that depends. I don't like the common advice to sharpen once a year (or twice a year, or every two years or whatever) because I think it's misleading. Really, you should sharpen when the knife gets too dull to do what you want it to do. Unfortunately, that's pretty unhelpful for someone who isn't used to having sharp knives, so I'll add this rule of thumb: if a knife is sharp enough to cut a ripe tomato as easily (no squishing or sawing) as any other vegetable, then it's sharp enough to either learn or use good cutting technique. And that's what's most important. Some of us like keeping knives a good deal sharper than that for a few reasons but mainly because it's plain fun to use super sharp knives. Meanwhile some people rarely if ever use a knife sharp enough to easily cut a tomato, which is of course their choice, but it raises the question of why they don't just buy and use serrated knives instead?

                Will it take a year before your knife is too dull to pass the tomato test? It might. Just don't be surprised if it takes shorter or longer, and don't be shy about getting it sharpened if the knife needs it, whether it's been a year or not.

                "you hit the nail on the head..it's not nearly as exciting!... I'm a sucker for cool things."
                ________
                I understand. If I didn't share the same outlook, I wouldn't be a knife nerd.

                1. re: cowboyardee

                  Good points. I've been using a small serrated knife for the last year for smaller veggies because it works way better than my chef's knife. I cooked at a friend's house this past year and used his knives, and it wasn't until then that I realized just how dull mine were. I was cutting bell peppers, which usually take considerable force on my knives, and his just glided through. A tomato would squash with mine, no question. Thanks for the pointers--I'll probably go with the Messermeister and sharpen as needed until I can afford a home sharpener, because I'd like to start building a quality knife collection. I love cooking and use knives more than anything else, so it just makes sense.

                  1. re: athensoliver

                    cowboyradee is correct. A knife should be sharpened whenever you feel it is getting duller than you want. For people who sharpen their knives on their own, they can sharpen their knives as frequent as they like. Frequent light sharpening sessions can be called as "touch up" to distinguish them from the length intense sharpening.

                    For people who prefer to send their knives for professional sharpeners, it is important to not to over-do it. Yes, knives should be sharpened when they are dull. However, professional sharpeners often take off more metal than needed. Having frequent professional sharpening can take off too much metal in the long run and causing problems down the road. I would say no more than once every 6 months (for a home cook). If your knife need greater sharpening frequency, then you should seriously consider taking the job back home to (1) save money on professional sharpening and (2) to preserve the knife.

                    1. re: athensoliver

                      FYI - I used a honing rod for years and hated every minute of it! Switched to one of those Wusthof two stage sharpeners for something like $25 and have been happy with that since. The $59 Tojiro plus the sharpener would be less overall and might make you very happy. Then you can put another knife on your Christmas list! The technical info on the Tojiro is much more detailed than the Messermeister on CutleryAnMore, and I find any more technical info on an the Messermeister site.

                      They both sound like thin knives. I have two 8-inch wusthofs, one thinner and cheaper than the other. I always used the thicker one because it was more expensive (i.e. better). But I find myself reaching for the thinner one (or the santuko) lately.

                      1. re: rudeboy

                        The angle on the pull through sharpeners for German knives may be different than for the Japanese Knives. For the latter I would look at Global pull through sharpeners. As Cowboy said, the Spyderco is hard to beat for the price.

                        1. re: rudeboy

                          Thought this info on Messermeister could be good for all interested. I found this technical description on KnifeMerchant.com:

                          "A Forged knife is only as good as the steel and the workmanship that goes into its creation. Fine steel requires the proper combination of carbon, silicon, sulfur, chromium, and carbon tool steel. The alloys are properly proportioned to achieve the long-lasting, easy-to-restore edge Messermeister has become famous for. The finishing work, such as the double tapering and fitting of handles, is done entirely by hand. Their finished products are among the world's finest quality professional knives.

                          Messermeister knives are guaranteed to be the sharpest forged knife available. They offer the following qualities: A 15 degree re-sharpening angle, instead of the traditional German 20 degree, a mirror-polished edge gently tapered up the blade, and Krupp 41/16 High Carbon/Molybdenum/Vanadium steel alloy."

                          This thread from several years ago gives reviews:

                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/449447

                          Finally, I emailed Messermeister to ask about their Knife for Life sharpening program, as well as difference in the Oliva and Meridian line. This is what they said:

                          "Thank you for your email!

                          The sharpening program applies to any Messermeister knife with the exception of serrated/scalloped edge, no matter where it was purchased. You ship the knife to us along with $10 to cover return postage (add $1 for each additional knife).

                          Oliva require a bit more care due to the olive wood handle. There is a bit more weight to the Meridian line because it is a full tang where the Oliva is a ¾ tang. Meridian is secured to the handle with rivets and the Olive is secured to the tang/rod with a very strong epoxy.

                          Let us know if you would like more information.

                          Thank you for your interest in our Products.

                          Best Regards,

                          Samantha Lawhon
                          Messermeister, Inc."

                          For someone who does not have a sharpener at home or is worried about taking their knives to someone who make take too much metal off in the sharpening process, the sharpening program is an attractive alternative--$10 for one knife, $11 for two, $12 for three...not bad if you can spare the knives for a couple weeks when they need sharpening. I would hope that if anyone can properly sharpen a Messermeister knife, it would be the company itself...

                          Thanks again to everyone for the conversation.

                          1. re: athensoliver

                            Hi athensoliver,

                            I don't think you mentioned the make of your current chef's knife. If I were you, I would find a way to sharpen that one to use when the messermeister is away being sharpened. It's always nice to have a backup knife anyway.

                            1. re: sherrib

                              Yes good thought--I have a cheap Farberware chef's knife and a couple small Opinel knives. I'll keep them around for backup, plus the Opinels work well as paring knives.

                            2. re: athensoliver

                              The messermeister meridian elite line are good knives. They're well made, well designed, and I think you'll be happy with one. With that said, there is an awful lot of misleading information in the materials you just quoted. If you're interested, here's a break-down:

                              "Fine steel requires the proper combination of carbon, silicon, sulfur, chromium, and carbon tool steel."
                              _____
                              Misleading and incorrect. For one, carbon tool steel isn't really an ingredient in knife steel - it's more of a classification (and not a very specific one at that). For another, there are good knife steels that don't use silicon, sulfur, or chromium. You can make a good steel with those additives, but none are strictly necessary (aside from carbon, which is a defining element in steel).

                              "The alloys are properly proportioned to achieve the long-lasting, easy-to-restore edge"
                              _____
                              There's nothing wrong with Messermeister's edge retention, but most Japanese knives win in this respect hands down. Also generally speaking, ease of restoring an edge is inversely related to edge retention, though there are other factors and some knives can be both easier to sharpen and hold an edge longer than others.

                              "Messermeister knives are guaranteed to be the sharpest forged knife available"
                              ______
                              Pure BS. Ridiculous.

                              "You ship the knife to us along with $10 to cover return postage (add $1 for each additional knife)."
                              ______
                              This will almost certainly cost you more money (and time) than taking your knives to a local professional. It's not such a bad deal if you have maybe half a dozen knives or more and you have them done all at once. For a single knife or two, a local pro is quicker, cheaper, and there's no risk of the USPS losing your knives.

                              "For someone who... is worried about taking their knives to someone who make take too much metal off in the sharpening process..."
                              ______
                              This is no less of a risk with Messermeister's sharpening than it is with a local pro. Either one will be using powered equipment and either will likely be more concerned with getting the job done quickly and efficiently than with being as gentle on the blade as possible. It's not incompetence that drives pro sharpeners to sharpen aggressively but time and money concerns. In fact, the biggest variable here is the actual person who is sharpening your knife, so if you can find a really great local pro sharpener, you'll be in better shape than you would sending them to Messermeister (where you never really know who's at the wheel).
                              _______________________________
                              I'm really not trying to rain on your parade. This kind of misinformation is actually pretty typical of the marketing for large scale knife manufacturers. They still offer a good product, in this case.

                                1. re: cowboyardee

                                  <"Messermeister knives are guaranteed to be the sharpest forged knife available"
                                  ______
                                  Pure BS. Ridiculous.>

                                  Of all the assertions, this one is the definitely nonsense. On the other hand, I suppose it is the same thing as something saying "Coca Cola is the best tasting soft drink".

                                  I am guessing that the phrase "sharpest" is not a real quantifiable term, but rather some subjective description, like most attractive Hollywood actress.

                            3. re: athensoliver

                              "because I'd like to start building a quality knife collection. I love cooking and use knives more than anything else, so it just makes sense."

                              That's the right attitude!

                          2. re: athensoliver

                            "perhaps I can hone regularly and send off for sharpening once a year (thoughts on this? "

                            When the honing rod stops working to regain cutting performance it is then time for a resharpening. That time may be months or years from now.

                            Jim

                    2. I think those two you mentioned are wonderful choices. I can vouch for Tojiro DP since I have one. Great knife for an inexpensive price. I have heard good things about Messermeister.

                      These two knives are different. Messermeister Meridan Chef's knife is a classic German chef knife, while Tojiro DP Chef knife is a hybrid Japanese-Westernized knife. I personally prefer Tojiro much more.

                      cowboyardee descriptions are spot on.

                      1. I have the Tojiro DP 10 inch chefs & the Wusthof Classic 8 inch which is similar to the Messermeister. Wusthof pleased for over 20 yrs and still does for rocking and more punishing work. Tojiro much better for pushing, straight down mincing & anything precision. Cowboy's post sums up the differences very nicely.

                        When it comes to purchases, it does seem that 2 areas that people make a steady progression in quality over their lifetimes are cutlery & sharpeners, the latter especially. If most people totaled what they spent over the years on these products a reoccurring theme would be likely be: I could have bought extremely high quality knives and a professional sharpener for what I paid over the years for a draw full of lessor quality products.

                        As others have said, all knives get dull. Absent free hand stone skills or regular trips to a professional sharpener, a high quality sharpener is a must. Their are several out there but they are not cheap. I went with an Edge Pro @ about $225. Extremely versatile effective system that leaves a razor edge and will last my lifetime as well as the lifetime of which ever daughter manages to get it.

                        If the budget is tight, I would brown bag it & start a coin jar type cutlery/sharpener account. Within a year, you will probably have enough $$$ to do it right the first time and be extremely happy the rest of your cooking life.

                        1. I've had my global chef's knife for 15 years. I have other chef's knives including shun and wusthof but I always grab the global.

                          It hold and edge very well, is extremely durable and looks cool too.

                          I would recommend going to the knife shop armed with a couple of carrots to see which knife you like best...

                          1. I am by no means a knife expert, but I have used some very nice (and some crappy) knives in both a professional capacity (formerly worked in a couple of restaurants, including several years as an itamae) and in the home environment. Now, my two go-to knives are a Chinese cleaver of unknown provenance (the markings are so faded that I can't make them out any more) and an 8" Victorinox chef's knife. I love these knives. The key to that love, however, is that I steel them every time I use them, and sharpen them regularly on a water stone (probably about every three or four months).

                            My mom, OTOH, has a real mix of knives that my dad used to sharpen for her on his whetstone, but for the last 15 or 20 years, she's used an electric sharpener that has completely fucked up her blades - many of them are now ground with a concave shape and no longer have a belly, and can hardly slice without an exaggerated draw, and there's no way they'll rock. When I go over there to cook, I bring my own knives.

                            My suggestion, then: Buy knives you like (basically ones that feel good in your hand WRT handle material/shape and balance), and take good care of them.

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: ricepad

                              <The key to that love...>

                              Almost sounded like you are trying to give relationship advices.

                              1. re: ricepad

                                " she's used an electric sharpener that has completely f'd up her blades - many of them are now ground with a concave shape and no longer have a belly, and can hardly slice without an exaggerated draw, and there's no way they'll rock. "

                                Pull through sharpening devices electric or manual induce this. They don't reach the heel and people apply different pressure start to finish on them wearing more near the heel than the tip and jacking the geometry up.

                                I have a hideous example of this on a Harvard Cutlery chef knife.

                                Jim

                                1. re: knifesavers

                                  Yep, that's exactly what happened to her knives. She's got one that looks like it's on it's way to becoming a sickle.

                                  1. re: ricepad

                                    I made a thread a while ago about fixing this kind of problem
                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/808731

                                  2. Another thought is picking up a good lightly used Wusthof 8 inch chefs knife on Ebay for a lot less than a new Messermeister. Similar thick German curved blade for rocking and heavy duty work. Then with the savings, you could look at the Tojiro DP 6 inch utility knife or a DP paring knife which are both very useful.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Tom34

                                      That is a good thought and I enjoy finding great condition second-hand items for much less...might even find a small set for a similar price to one new knife. I'll look into it--a good Wusthof or Henckel knife could make that worth it.

                                      1. re: Tom34

                                        Just checked and you can pick up a new Wusthof classic ikon 8" hollow chef for $99 with free shipping on eBay. That is hard to pass up.

                                      2. I would suggest (as others have) an affordable knife & a single waterstone.

                                        If you want a thin, light blade with great maneuverability & excellent cutting abilities, then I'd recommend a Forschner Rosewood knife. I greatly prefer the rosewood handles (over the more common Fibrox material) for overall usability & balance.

                                        Similarly, you don't have to spend a lot to get a good waterstone. I started with both a 1000 grit & a 6000 grit waterstones, but you don't really need the 6000. You could easily get a 1200 (or 1000) & be happy with that forever.

                                        The knife might be this one:
                                        http://www.amazon.com/Victorinox-8-In...

                                        I'd get the stone from these guys:
                                        http://www.mikestools.com/Power-Tool-...

                                        The attached picture is of my Forschner Rosewood Santoku, sharpened on a 1000 grit Splex waterstone. I also used a leather strop with CrO polishing abrasive, but simple stropping on paper or cardboard works almost as well.

                                         
                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: Eiron

                                          Consider I am seeing your arm here..... were you holding your camera with the other hand? Does it mean you are not holding the knife and just letting it sits there? So dangerous! (just kidding, I do things like that when I took knife balancing shots).

                                          Good advices by the way.

                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                            :-D I actually had something next to my arm (I don't remember what it was now) that I rested the handle on. The difficult part was getting a 'clean' reflection on the blade! I had to tilt the blade until the relection was clear, then pick up the camera & adjust the zoom's focal length, then take the picture. Usually my arm would move slightly while I was making those actions, ruining the tilt angle, so then I'd have to do it all again. It took a LOT longer than I would've thought to get that image!

                                            1. re: Eiron

                                              Yeah, I usually have to take a couple of shot for those knife balancing shots -- so tough. :)