Great Chef's Knife
March 13, 2004 9:37 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a great chef's knife. I'm getting married soon so we're registering for gifts. My fiancee and I already have a decent set of knives, but I want a really fantastic chef's knife. While poking around on Alton Brown's site, I noticed his glowing shill endorsement for Kershaw Shun knives. Does anyone have any other opinions or recommendations?
posted by zsazsa to Home & Garden (29 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Cook's Illustrated (very valuable magazine-- sort of the Consumer's Digest for the kitchen) recommends Forschner Knives which are available at CutleryAndMore.Com. The 8 Inch Chef's knife is only $21.50.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 10:54 PM on March 13, 2004

My mom got something called a ginsu knife for Christmas. It cost around $80 and it's one of the sharpest things I've ever seen.
posted by tomorama at 12:02 AM on March 14, 2004

5-star Henckels knives rock my vegetables up and down the countertop all week long. Good German steel, well-forged, well-balanced, with excellent handles. I like the long, smooth, ergonomically curved handles best.

Here's a link to a selection of various sizes, etc, from various vendors.
posted by scarabic at 12:44 AM on March 14, 2004

That is, I really like these handles better than this kind.
posted by scarabic at 12:47 AM on March 14, 2004

Well, it depends on whether you're used to the French or German shape. The French shape has a cutting edge that is more straight:

and Henckel's is the popular professional version at $99 for 10". The German shape has a more-curved edge:

and Wüsthof is the canonical vendor - $109 for 10". I know the difference looks subtle but they feel very different in your hand when you're chopping; I'm used to the German style. There's a company called Global making knives that are very hot right now, but they have a very flat edge:

The Kershaw Shun knives have a nice curve and I'd be tempted to try one if I wasn't so happy with my Wüstof.

Anyway, pick a style first: if you slice with more of a rocking motion, you may prefer the curved German-style knives; if with more a slicing motion, the French. (I find the handles don't really matter all that much since my thumb and first finger are holding the base of the blade anyway.) Then since you want something special, if you like the German go for the Kershaw Shun; if you like the French go for the Global.

Oh, and mazel tov!
posted by nicwolff at 12:59 AM on March 14, 2004 [1 favorite]

I've heard some issues with the handles of the Global knives trapping stuff.
posted by hobbes at 1:16 AM on March 14, 2004

Egullet has a nice knife story. My brother is a chef, and we went shopping around New York last summer for some knives. One shop owner lamented that it is getting harder to get good carbon-steel knives any more due to the fact that manufacturers are flooding the market with mass produced stainless steel knives.

For a good cheap carbon steel knife, the french Opinel is about as good a blade as there is, but it is a clasp knife, not a chef's knife, although I do use the large sized one as my travel chef's knife.

At home I use a Japanese kitchen knife. A lot of pro chefs like these because they take an edge so well. I got mine at a Mitsuwa Japanese supermarket for $23.
posted by zaelic at 4:49 AM on March 14, 2004

i don't understand the interest, but this was covered in a previous askmefi question, i believe, if you feel like searching back for it.
posted by andrew cooke at 5:29 AM on March 14, 2004

I recommend Cutco knives.

Yes, it's a bit of a hassle to buy them through a salesperson, but they have been the best performing knives I've ever used.

The chef knife, boning knife, and bread knife are essentials to a modern kitchen.
posted by Argyle at 7:58 AM on March 14, 2004

Response by poster: I did a Google search (since there's no AskMe search) and the only mention of knives I could find was in the chopping onions thread. In any case, it looks like I'm a bit unprepared for the variety of knives out there. I had no idea about the difference between German and French styles, for example. Henckel and Wüsthof seem pretty safe and easy to register for, but the more esoteric brands sure are tempting. I may hold out and buy one with the money we get from returning unwanted gifts. Thanks for all the suggestions, and keep them coming if anyone else wants to pipe up!
posted by zsazsa at 8:44 AM on March 14, 2004

Professional Cook's Knife Book.

And then look around the site. They have some superlative knives.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:55 AM on March 14, 2004

Earlier AskMe thread here.

I have Globals, and I've never had a problem with the handles trapping stuff. (But for my chef's knife, I find myself reaching for my Forschner more, anyway.)
posted by Vidiot at 9:09 AM on March 14, 2004

I second the Cutco. I sold them briefly the summer after my first year of college (and kinda sucked at it, but that's another story), which was in '91. I still use my set daily, and they're just as sharp as ever. They're the best thing out there, if you can find a rep.
posted by mkultra at 9:21 AM on March 14, 2004

I've heard some issues with the handles of the Global knives trapping stuff.

Hmmm... I thought their handles were designed specifically to not trap stuff. Anyway, no problems with that here.
posted by sad_otter at 9:39 AM on March 14, 2004

I "sold" Cutco for a time, as well, and while the knives with their special edge on them are very nice, the chefs knives are merely ordinary. I find they lack the handle depth necessary for people with fat fingers (or, if the people are men, ordinary sized fingers). I bash my knuckles on the board with every chop.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:16 PM on March 14, 2004

I have 3 different chef knives and find that the global chef knife and the wustof professional grand prix are very nice.

Also, keep the knife as sharp as possible.
posted by Stynxno at 1:45 PM on March 14, 2004

Ah! And, now, how shall we keep our knives sharp? (I'd AskMe this, but let's take it up here...)

I have the V ceramic rods sharper, full-size. Can't be bothered to use it.

But there are hand-held sharpners that you just pull the blade along. Are they any good?
posted by five fresh fish at 2:23 PM on March 14, 2004

Ergonomics are an issue. I read the Consumer Reports article on this very topic and they said the Good Grips knife performed well. I don't drink the Good Grips Kool-Aid-- which holds that every kitchen implement can be made ergonomic using the exact same handle-- buy by Gar it sure works with their chef's knife.

The large-radius rubberized handle is extremely secure-feeling and doesn't cramp the hands. I sharpen the knife with no problem. It works, and it was cheap reasonable.

I think the metal handles on Global knives are a complete non-starter. Also, we have an excellent and very severe German-run kitchenware store here in Toronto, Embros, that does indeed have every kind of knife (and, more interestingly, shears) imaginable. However, a vegetarian doesn't need a boning knife, so I go there mostly as kitchenware porn.
posted by joeclark at 5:46 PM on March 14, 2004

Who here has used a ceramic knife?

We have some carbon steel Erste Klasse knives that were wonderful for about three months, and then lost their edge. Some trials with the sharpening stone brought them back, and they are good knives.

But if we go ceramic, no need to sharpen, yeah? Anyone actually used one? How did it go?
posted by tomharpel at 6:20 PM on March 14, 2004

I second the recommendation for Forschner knives. They are sturdy, very inexpensive, and hold an edge well. They're an excellent workhorse kitchen knife. I love mine, and use it every day.
posted by vorfeed at 7:02 PM on March 14, 2004

Chefs travel with their knives. Risky chefs, apparently, travel with their knives in their carry ons.

That is the only reasoning I can identify.
posted by tomharpel at 8:00 PM on March 14, 2004

You know, if they can't safely make the ceramic knives longer than six inches, I don't feel all that safe using the shorter ones either.

And yeah, what's with selling them as undetectable? That's fucked up.
posted by nicwolff at 8:29 PM on March 14, 2004

It read to me like they were testing them to make sure that they WERE detectable.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:46 PM on March 14, 2004

I thought they had to make them so that they are detectable, otherwise they are classed as weapons rather than tools.
posted by dg at 10:02 PM on March 14, 2004

But I shouldn't think that's a big selling point. Detectable, indetectable, what do I care as long as it's sharp? It's not like I'm ever going through air security with them.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:59 PM on March 14, 2004

I don't think anyone has mentioned them before, but I love my Lamson Sharp 8" chef's knife. It's just over $80.
posted by turbodog at 1:02 PM on March 15, 2004

Haha! I use a Chinese cleaver for all my chopping. Works absolutely fabulously.
posted by madman at 1:09 PM on March 15, 2004

I, as well, use a Chinese style vegetable cleaver for a large portion of kitchen gruntwork and have done so for several years. This one* is dirt cheap, feels quite comfortable in the hand and -- if well-kept -- cuts gloriously. In fact, this is exactly the knife I abuse daily.

Take my enthusiasm for what it's worth, though: my taste in knives has been proven to be distinctly middlebrow with barbarian tendencies: I also swear by Henckels Professional-S, which you can buy damn near anywhere knives are sold, I keep my only MAC knives in the garage packed in the camping kit, and I've paid money to have a proper European-style Wusthof cleaver brutally ground to a flatter, more Chinese-like edge. And sometimes, I rinse knives in hot water because I can't be bothered to turn a knob.

I feel like I've chosen the right tools for my kitchen working style, but if you're more meticulous and demand something else from your knives than I do of mine, something entirely different will be appropriate.

* Full disclosure: I know these people and if you buy from them someone I like will get your money.
posted by majick at 2:47 PM on March 15, 2004

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