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Does anyone have a really strong recommendation for a good chef's knife?

By Ezra Klein  |  August 6, 2009; 6:02 PM ET
 
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Comments

Most top-end cutlery is made in Germany. Henckels and Wusthof's professional end lines are good. Sabatier is a French alternative. 8" are usually the most handy but that is entirely a personal and/or task-based preference.

Posted by: michaelterra | August 6, 2009 6:19 PM | Report abuse

But hey, this guy is an expert:
http://www.cookingforengineers.com/article/129/Chefs-Knives-Rated

Looks like there are better knives out there...

Posted by: michaelterra | August 6, 2009 6:29 PM | Report abuse

The Forschner Victorinox 8in and 10in recommended by Cook's Illustrated (and mentioned in that big CfE review) have good steel and good balance at a very good price, but the soft-touch rubberized ("Fibrox") handles might not be your preference.

Posted by: pseudonymousinnc | August 6, 2009 6:39 PM | Report abuse

+++ on the Victorinox. You can get it for a song on Amazon.

Posted by: andgarden | August 6, 2009 6:47 PM | Report abuse

I'm a fan of the Misono UX10 line. Very light, but if you're used to the full belly sweep of the German-style blades, it isn't what you're looking for.

Posted by: rmusci | August 6, 2009 7:19 PM | Report abuse

I like my Wusthof classic. You can't go wrong. When it comes to Sabatier, keep in mind that it's not really a brand per se -- lots of french mfgs use the name. Quality and price can vary.

Posted by: nolo93 | August 6, 2009 7:26 PM | Report abuse

. . . just read the cooking for engineers comparo. Hm. I've used a MAC and I didn't like it. I like the weight and shape of the Wusthof better, and I find that if you keep it honed it's a good tool. But, as they say on the intertooobs, YMMV.

Posted by: nolo93 | August 6, 2009 7:30 PM | Report abuse

You need to hold the knife to know-its very personal. Balance and how the knife fits in your hand relative to how you like to grip are the most important things to think about. Also depends on what you like to cook. I have a 10" Wustoff, an 8" Forschner and an 8" Shun. All are good quality-though the sponginess and grippiness of the Forschner's handle make it my least favorite of the three. The Shun is the sharpest and best for fine chopping or razor thin slicing-it'll do paper thin slices of onions, tomatoes, whatever. I have the 'hollow edge' model, which has little indents to prevent the slices from suctioning to the blade. It really works. The Wustoff is the best all-around work knife, and if I could have only one, that would be that one. Keeps its edge really well and will last forever. I've had mine for about 20 years. Not as good for fine slicing as the Shun, but better for a big dicing job (Gazpacho, for example).

One feature of the Wustoff that I really like is the edge opposite the sharp edge. It's flat, with perfectly squared corners, which makes it really nice for crushing garlic.

Posted by: jmccormi | August 6, 2009 7:40 PM | Report abuse

are you looking for a knife so sharp,
it cuts down to the last molecule,
and has the added benefit of spiritual protection,
and the beauty of shed elk antler?

i thought so!

http://cgi.ebay.com/Monster-Obsidian-Cody-Knife-Walnut-End-Cap-Replica-NR_W0QQitemZ110421824026QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item19b5a7521a&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14#ht_1126wt_962

Posted by: jkaren | August 6, 2009 8:41 PM | Report abuse

It's best to compare knives yourself at a store that will let you handle them. See which one of the ones that score well in cutting ability "feels" the best. I tend to think that the Japanese do the best with knives as far as pure cutting ability goes, but the performance of any knife is going to suffer if you can't get a steady, comfortable grip on it. I'm personally a huge fan of Globals, but the steel handle turns a lot of people off.

Posted by: tbuttry | August 6, 2009 8:48 PM | Report abuse

unfortunately, the link i provided doesnt work.
sorry that i cant share the natural beauty
and skill that went into creating this knife.
a most interesting work of art.
since obsidian is glass, you can imagine
how surgically sharp it is!

ebay - monster obsidian cody knife

Posted by: jkaren | August 6, 2009 8:59 PM | Report abuse

Get a shun. For the quality of the edge and steel, there is nothing like them. They come out of the box wicked sharp due to their more acute blade angle (16 degrees vs. 20 for the typical German) and they keep their edge longer due to the higher quality of the edge steel. I've got an 8" Shun Classic and it's hands down the best chef's knife I've used.

Regardless of what you choose, go to a kitchen store and try out a few different brands, lengths, handles, etc. See how they feel in your hand.

Posted by: hpben | August 6, 2009 9:05 PM | Report abuse

Wüsthof Classic 8"

Posted by: Athena_news | August 6, 2009 10:09 PM | Report abuse

Ezra!
You really want to go with a 9" or 10" chef knife. At first it'll seem huge but for cutting through larger and/or thicker items you'll appreciate the extra length. Getting a knife that's wide enough that you can comfortably hold the blade correctly with your finger on the side is nice. Also, a wider knife is great for scooping up whatever you've chopped and dumping it in the pot. Of the german brands, I prefer Messermeister. I have the nine inch messermeister meridian elite (the higher level that they offer). It comes with a nicer edge than wusthof or henkel. However, really, go to a knife store and pretend to chop with each of the knives. That'll tell you more than any of our recommendations. Also, don't get henkels. They are subpar. Crappy edge and clunky balance. Enjoy!

Posted by: brad21 | August 7, 2009 12:35 AM | Report abuse

In general, I think it makes sense to have two chef's knives. One for sturdy work like cutting bones, and one for fine work like thinly slicing vegetables.

For the sturdy knife, I would go with a German knife along the lines of a Wusthof. The metal is soft enough that it won't chip when cutting through bone. Of course, the softness means that it doesn't retain an edge as well as a Japanese knife.

For the fine knife, there is no beating a Japanese knife. My personal
favorite is the Ryusen Blazen, which is a bit heftier than the Misono UX-10 mentioned by a previous poster. Also, the Ryusen is easier to sharpen (or have sharpened) because the Misono is pre-sharpened with a right hand bias, instead of being sharpened 50/50 like most western knives. Both of these can be readily found mail order.

You could also consider a Japanese vegetable knife instead of a Japanese chef's knife, but these things can start to be pretty scary to cut with. Kind of like chopping your food with a large razor.

If you want to buy locally, Shun and Global are two Japanese brands that are good quality and widely available. Not as good value for the money as the above reccomendations, tho.

If you woul

Posted by: skuwamoto | August 7, 2009 2:09 AM | Report abuse

The Shun Alton's Angles line is fantastic. Not only is the blade top quality, but the handle is offset about 20 degrees. This allows for more pressure with less effort and eliminates the knuckle table-pounding that inevitably happens whilst chopping. This offset was requesting/designed by Alton Brown who is, of course, the smartest T.V. chef around.

Posted by: johnclevenger | August 7, 2009 2:34 AM | Report abuse

What pseudonymousinnc said about Forschner knives. I used them for years when I worked in a commercial kitchen. They are much cheaper than other high-end knives, are well balanced, and they take an edge well.

Posted by: jmackin66 | August 7, 2009 7:52 AM | Report abuse

jmccormic is very right about the importance of the knife's (and knive's handle's) feel to you -- is it cosy, balanced, etc? You can always make a decent blade work, but if it doesn't feel right when you're holding it, a lot of the pleasure is gone. I tend to use a knife with my hand forward, so I have a bit of a callous at the base of my first finger. Feels right to me.

Frankly, I've been very happy with modestly priced knives from restaurant stores, rather than more expensive brand name knives from gourmet cookery stores.

Posted by: bdballard | August 7, 2009 7:57 AM | Report abuse

I have a chefs knife made in Japan. Great quality, good price and holds an edge well.

Posted by: Dermitt | August 7, 2009 9:08 AM | Report abuse

Ezra,
Global knives are amazing! but I prefer their santoku blade to their chefs knife

Posted by: dlee37 | August 7, 2009 9:10 AM | Report abuse

Yet another vote for the Forschner Victorinox knives.

I have the 8" and 10". They're sturdy, well-balanced and they stay razor-sharp forever. And the shape of the blade is perfect for everything.

The plastic-rubber handle is a litle weird, but I find it's light weight actually helps the overall balance of the knife. And for me at least, it's held up with no trouble. My knives have at least 150+ meal-preps and washings each without any sign of wear or damage.

And they're less than 30 bucks apiece! That's practically price dumping!

Posted by: obliterati | August 7, 2009 9:59 AM | Report abuse

My take a reporter's salary: Tramontina makes a nice forged (as opposed to stamped steel) chef knife at 90% of the quality of the top-line blades and 10% of the price.

Posted by: hightonedeli | August 7, 2009 10:27 AM | Report abuse

It depends somewhat on your needs, as well as your budget. Under $30, I don't know of anything that's as good as the Forschner Victorinox, which is what I used for the past few years before getting a higher quality knife.

I'd actually stay away from Wusthofs. They're well-made knives, but if you're willing to spend that much, there are better options. The problem with most of the German knives is that they don't use hard steel, and thus can't hold an edge with a thin angle or hold an edge for as long as a lot of Japanese knives.

My recommendation would be a Tojiro DP, which offers one of the best combinations of quality and price. I just picked one up a month ago and it performs beautifully. I'd poke around on knifeforums.com if you want to do a little more research (you can also get some very good deals in the trading section).

Posted by: Alan-SP | August 7, 2009 11:08 AM | Report abuse

First thing you do, go to the best chef's store in town and get the most expensive knife they have. Regardless of its cutting qualities in the kitchen, the cutting qualities in conversation will be excellent.

After that, you may at your leisure go to Japanese stores, hardware stores, and secondhand stores. You'll come up empty on most of these trips (except to the Japanese stores) but you may get lucky and find something good.

I've used my knives for over 35 years. They're nicely broken in.

Posted by: serialcatowner | August 7, 2009 11:41 AM | Report abuse

The nice thing about the Forschners is that they respond well to a sharpening. I tend to take my knives to a pro for sharpening, and the first batch -- including some dubious Henckels low-end ones I inherited -- came back with mixed results. But the Forschner holds up to repeated sharpenings.

I'm thinking of getting a santoku or granton-edged knife (or perhaps a hollow-edge chef's knife) for the jobs where the Forschner is weakest -- slicing potatoes, for instance, where you don't get that clean separation after the cut.

I'd definitely recommend one of the books on knife skills to go with it --Norman Weinstein's book/DVD combo, or Chad Ward's "An Edge in the Kitchen".

Posted by: pseudonymousinnc | August 7, 2009 4:00 PM | Report abuse

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