Cheap Kitchen Knives
September 15, 2006 10:32 AM   Subscribe

I just started work at a small family owned restaurant. My previous kitchen jobs used a service like Cozzini to keep their knives wicked sharp. Unfortunately, this place only has a few very dull and cheap supermarket bought knives. I wanted to bring in a few decent knives, but nothing fancy. Any recomendations?

The job is great. The people that run the place are very friendly and generous. Unfortunately the knives there are crap. There wouldn't be a problem with me bringing in a few knives, I just don't want to subject my own knives to the abuse of restaurant work.

I need a chef's knife and a bread knife.

The bread knife should be easy. Who makes a good, cheap long, serrated bread knife?

We bake our own cuban bread which we sometimes have to cut while it is still soft out of the oven. The serrated knife we have right now is really more of a serrated fillet knife. I've almost cut myself a few times because it's so dull.

The chef 's knife will be trickier. I'm not set on buying a nice carbon steel forged knife. I don't care about brands. I'm not going to throw down on a MAC, Shun, Henckels, or Wurstof. I just want a decent cheap 8ish inch chef's knife.

I've seen a lot of people pushing the Forschners, but looking at their shape, I'm not sure if they'll work. The heel of the 8 inch Chef's knife looks really shallow. I'm not sure if it's deep enough to allow my protect my knuckles when I'm chopping with a pinch grip. It doesn't look like it will alow for a real rocking motion. At the same time the $21 dollar price at Amazon is hard to beat.

I really wouldn't want to go above $30, which I know is tough. But I don't need anything spectacular, just decent.

I've read over the other posts here, but none of them really address this specific need.
posted by Telf to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I know you said you weren't big into brand names, but the lower end Henckels and Wusthofs (available at places like target or TJ Maxx) are actually really good. I got my 8" Henckels chef knife for about $19 and it has stayed pretty sharp over 2 years (granted, it doesn't get as much use as it will in a restaurant kitchen, but I like it).
posted by echo0720 at 10:41 AM on September 15, 2006

Note that I am only an amateur chef. I use mostly Henckel but if you want inexpensive and sharp, while the design isn't terrific, Cutco are decent enough and they come with lifetime on-your-site sharpening. Worth it, as far as I'm concerned. I've had a nice flexible boning knife from them for 15 years and it's in great shape.

And Henckel and Wusthof both have consumer-level stuff that's a LOT cheaper than their two or three tiers of professional-grade knives and are still relatively decent IMHO.
posted by luriete at 10:41 AM on September 15, 2006

These guys make what I think of as the standard inexpensive professional chef's knife.

Prices for an 8" chef's knife start at (just) under $20.

Don't know where you live, but you can find these at any (literally, every one I've ever been in) restaurant supply store. They're durable as hell, too.
posted by dersins at 10:45 AM on September 15, 2006

I have the Forschners knife (also from Amazon) and I love it. It's light, I have no trouble with rocking it, and I've not hurt my knuckles (my hands are fairly large). But hey, it's $20...if you don't like it can you sell it to the restaurant to replace one of their crappy knives?
posted by cabingirl at 10:49 AM on September 15, 2006

Best answer:

Victorinox Forschner will give you most bang for your buck. Go to a restaurant supply store and try one for size. They also give substantial discounts if you work in a restaurant.
I don't know if you have a "Smart and Final" by you, but they'll have what you're looking for. I have a serrated carving knife I bought from them over 10 years ago, and it's as sharp as the day I bought it, and I use on bread as well as roasts. Otherwise check yard sales, Craigslist and Ebay. Sam's Club carries restaurant supplies as well.
posted by JABof72 at 10:49 AM on September 15, 2006

I like sani-safe knives.
Here's their bread knife.
posted by culberjo at 10:52 AM on September 15, 2006

Most of the professionals I know have for years been retiring their Wusthofs and replacing them with the lightweight, easy-to-sharpen and relatively inexpensive vanadium steel Global knives, a very good Japanese product which has—in addition to its many other fine qualities—the added attraction of looking really cool.
Not me, but Anthony Bourdain, author of Kitchen Confidential. He also says:
A genuinely useful blade, however, and one that is increasingly popular with my cronies in the field, is what's called an offset serrated knife. It's basically a serrated knife set into an ergonomic handle; it looks like a 'Z' that's been pulled out and elongated. This is a truly cool item which, once used, becomes indispensable. As the handle is not flush with the blade, but raised away from the cutting surface, you can use it not only for your traditional serrated blade needs—like slicing bread, thick-skinned tomatoes and so on—but on your full line of vegetables, spuds, meat and even fish. My sous-chef uses his for just about everything. F. Dick makes a good one for about twenty-five bucks. It's stainless steel, but since it's serrated it doesn't really matter; after a couple of years of use, if the teeth start to wear down, you just buy yourself another one.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:52 AM on September 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

Cooks Illustrated (aka Cooks Country) did a review of inexpensive chef's knifes last year, but I don't have the article here at work. If it's worth a few bucks to you, you can do a one-month online subscription to see the review. Here.
posted by soundslikeobiwan at 10:52 AM on September 15, 2006

If you want inexpensive knives, check out garage sales. People are always getting rid of knives, often because they don't know how to sharpen them, or they don't match their new kitchen. I recently got this one, made in Switzerland, in perfect condition, for 25 cents. Go figure.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:53 AM on September 15, 2006

Your profile doesn't say where you live, but most medium to larger cities have a restaurant supply store. That's where I found our serrated bread knife, and I think it was right around $10. As for a chef's knife, in my opinion you get what you pay for, since the real cheapie knives are hard to work with and don't tend to hold their sharpness as well.
posted by SteveInMaine at 10:55 AM on September 15, 2006

Cooks Illustrated recommends the Forschner Victorinox Fibrox Chef's knife ($25.00) as their favorite inexpensive knife. Check out the article for knives to avoid, and their reasons.
posted by Joleta at 10:57 AM on September 15, 2006

easy-to-sharpen and relatively inexpensive vanadium steel Global knives

First of all, Globals are NOT inexpensive. They're at roughly the same price point as Wusthof and Henckels.

Second of all, and I say this as the owner of a global santoku which is my primary chef's knife for home use (and which I absolutely love), I wouldn't want to use one in a professional kitchen, as the metal handle can get a little slippery when wet. At home, that's no problem, as the volume of use isn't that high. In a professional kitchen, on the other hand....
posted by dersins at 11:01 AM on September 15, 2006

Best answer: I agree with infinitewindow. For bread, you absolutely need an offset knife. Otherwise you have to bend your wrist at an uncomfortable angle and constantly bang your knuckles on the cutting board. Cook's Illustrated picked the Forschner.

Also, serrated knives wear out fast. My expensive W├╝sthoff was amazing for a few months, but less and less over time. With a reverse scallop design, it's impossible to sharpen.

Better to spend the $20 on a Forschner and replace it once a year.

For the chef's knife, I constantly reach for my 10" Forschner over some expensive stuff. It's well designed, light as a feather, holds a nice edge and is easy to sharpen and steel.
posted by KRS at 11:31 AM on September 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the help guys. I don't know why I didn't think about a restaurant supply store. I've been blundering through Amazon reviews and totally forgot about checking anywhere local.

People seem pretty loyal to their Forschners, I guess I'll have to check one out. It'll be nice to hold one in the store.
posted by Telf at 12:24 PM on September 15, 2006

Cooking for Engineers' great kitchen knife test says buy a
Tojiro DP F-808 21cm Gyoto Chef's Knife for 50$.

I did, and it was great, and I bought another one for gifts.
posted by gmarceau at 12:53 PM on September 15, 2006 [2 favorites]

If you do get a Forschner, they have a line that comes with NSF certified Fibrox handles. You will definitely want these for a professional kitchen -- they are a lot safer to use than the wooden-handled knives, and the handles stand up to much more abuse as well.
posted by vorfeed at 1:10 PM on September 15, 2006

A fibrox Victorinox got me through my culinary program at Le Cordon Bleu. Great knife and one I wasn't worried about if someone else 'accidentally' picked it up and wandered off with it.

posted by legotech at 3:05 PM on September 15, 2006

Response by poster: I spoke with someone from my local restaurant supply shop over the phone today. They carry the Forschners and the Dexter-Russell Sani-Safes. I'm going to go check them out on Saturday. Restaurant workers get a 10% dicsount, which isn't bad.
posted by Telf at 4:28 PM on September 15, 2006

Cutlery and More is a great website for all your knives. My chef hubby uses them. I also bought some on sale Furi Chef knives for wedding gifts. We have this bread knife at home and it's selling for $15.00 here. I'd browse through their chef knives and see what's on sale that so you can get the most for your money.
posted by saffry at 2:20 PM on September 17, 2006

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