psykx wrote:I've been looking at the cooking for engineers website and I've realised how much I hate the crap blunt knives I have in my house to cook with, so before I go out and splash nearly $100 on a chiefs knife, can people tell me what they use, and is it really worth spending so much on a knife?
You can't go wrong with Forschner (Victorinox). Soft, but good edge-holding, do not chip, take well to steels, and are easy to sharpen (they are like big SAK blades)
, and even retail, you'll have to work to spend $40 on one (Amazon link to the most common one, and slightly cheaper version)
. If getting a chef's knife, don't get smaller than 8", unless you are a small person (like 5ft small). Parts of the blade that aren't cutting are still useful to have.
Find a local restaurant supply place to look at them. Maybe scour discount stores, too. A decent chef's knife, paring knife, and some serrated knife, can take care of practically everything.
My arsenal for home cooking:
Forschner Santoku (now retired to small cutting board duty)
Shibazi and CCK small slicers, AKA Chinese cleavers (8"x3.5", in place of a chef's knife; the CCK is redundant, and not stainless)
No-name bread knife
If you plan to cook large chunks of meat, you might want to get a carving knife.NEVER
put your knives in the dishwasher, and don't do the sink, either. Get into the habit of cleaning them off right away. Not after you eat, but as soon as you can leave your food for 30 seconds, or right away, if cutting up all the food before any other prep. If not cleaning off annoying oils (turmeric, FI), starchy residue (potato, FI), or greasy stuff (meats, avocado, etc.), you won't even need soap. Don't let them stay dirty long enough for food to dry onto them, and let exposure to oxygen over hours do most of the sanitizing.
Get cutting boards that won't kill your knives, and lightly rinse them immediately, too. Hardwood cutting boards
rock. Plastic can be harder to keep clean over time, and most other common materials are pretty hard on knives. Maple and cherry seem to be the best woods to use. Exotic woods, like Acacia, can look good, but can be too hard, or have abrasives in them. Epicurian(sp) are not so good. Not sure about composite types. Oh, and get at least one cutting board than is significantly bigger than your main knife's blade in its shortest dimension. You probably don't need a 18x36, but maybe a 10x16, 12x12, or something like that, would be pretty good. Wooden cutting boards do require some care, though, which is part of why others are popular (periodic oiling, only quickly rinse them, so they can't swell up, etc.)
I will disagree with Bakemaster about full tang. It is a sign that the handle has a cold metal strip all the way through it, and really says nothing about the quality. A low quality full tang knife will keep a handle on it better than a low quality partial tang knife, but neither are very good knives. Any good knife will either not separate, or will be made so the handle is easily replaced (many Asian knives fit the latter category, with handles made of unfinished wood)
. Same with stamped v. forged.
$100 should get you 3 or more knives, and a storage device (consider a mag strip, if you don't get a knife block set)
, and, depending on exactly where you buy from, maybe even a hardwood cutting board of reasonable size.
Spending a bunch on a Wusthof or Henckels gets you a heavier knife with a brand name. Most people that think they stay sharp are just using the extra weight to do the cutting with a dull edge. I think you'd be better off, for that style, to get Kitchenaid, Faberware, Mundial (excellent for the money, carried by a few department stores)
If you get a knife with harder steel, that may be worth $100, you will also have to treat it more gently. Harder steels will chip in situations where softer steels will roll. Edges that roll can be rolled right back (the length of the edge weakens over time, though); edges that chip will need to have a good deal of metal removed in sharpening, and harder steels tend to be more work to sharpen. Such is the price of having the capacity to stay sharp longer. A very good example of this is the close-up in the Good Eats knife episode: Alton's Shun has a pretty massive chipped spot. That would not happen with a well-made softer blade. Some knives are just too soft, IMO, but many, at many price points, are perfectly good, trying to strike a balance between holding an edge as long as possible between sharpenings, yet putting up with potentially tough food, tough cutting boards, and haphazard treatment by human users. So, if you go research and find out about those amazing knives with the Japanese super steels, remember that there's a good counterpoint to their advantages.
If you get a knife that can hold any edge, make sure to have a plan to keep it sharpened. Softer steels take to using the devices called steels, most of which both true (roll bent parts back straight)
, and remove some metal (smooth steels, which aren't abrasive, can be hard to find, and expensive; I've read that brass rods do the job well)
. Even these softer blades, though, will eventually need metal removed. Pull-through sharpeners with several grits can work well, and require no training. Don't use them excessively, though, and never use the coarsest slot
. Avoid carbide sharpeners like the plague. You can also use clamp and rod systems (any outdoors store should carry some)
, but these do take a more work for a good edge on cutlery than you might think (you'll want a 1k+ grit edge on western knives, and this is about the limit of such sharpeners, w/o spending on extra parts)
, so you'd probably wish you'd spent as much on a good pull-through, learned to use stones, or found a pro sharpener, by the time you got a good edge, even on softer steel.Oh, and on this subject, some lulz: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1fUFbij ... re=channel (read the comments on her videos, as well; there are some hilarious gems)
Finally, if you want to spend more later, cheaper knife/knives will give you a good idea of what you really want, so that you'll be less likely to spend a ton on a good knife, only to find out that it's not a good knife for you