Ask the Grumpies: Knife recommendations

monsterzero  asks:

I need to get a nice sharp knife, mostly for chopping vegetables; any suggestions?

We like our Shun knives, but they are way more expensive than you need. The “best” knives on the market are much cheaper.  So, as beautiful as the Shun knives are, you can spend a fraction of their cost to get a great set of knives.

Generally if you only have one kitchen knife, you want it to be a utility knife.  I’ve noticed that a lot of “knives you must have” lists on the internet disagree with me on this, instead saying that you should have a chef’s knife and a paring knife, but we use the utility knife all the time both to slice and to pare, and we pretty much never use our paring knife.  We actually have two utility knives, our beautiful Shun knife and a more moderately priced Kitchen Aid version.  Henckels and Victronix both get good ratings online.  Note that these are sometimes listed as small chef’s knives instead of utility knives.  Generally you want 6 inches.

If you have two knives, then you should get a chef’s knife if your hands are big or a santoku if your hands are small (I love my santoku, DH usually uses the chef’s knife instead).  Victronix again wins accolades for the chef’s knife.  Seriously, Cook’s Illustrated raves about their 8 inch chef’s knife which is now ~$40 rather than the $27 it was when their ratings came out.  For santokus, it may be worth paying the extra money to get Shun or Wusthof.  Note that you chop differently with these two types of knives (the Santoku doesn’t rock)– you may want to watch a video or two if you’re not used to the kind of knife you end up with.

If you get a third knife, it should be a bread knife if you like to eat a lot of bakery-style bread.  We decided on this one from Tojiro for my little sister after discovering her hacking through artisan bread with her chef’s knife at Christmas.  At $18 it is a bargain.

Then maybe a paring knife (we never use ours though).

And that’s really all you need unless you want one for carving turkey.

One item that we really appreciate having is an electric knife sharpener.  If your local farmers market has a knife sharpening station where they sharpen by hand using a stone, that’s probably going to be better for your knives, but there’s a lot to be said for getting a quick sharpen at home and just replacing the knife a few years earlier than you would had you gotten them professionally sharpened each time, since you will still get decades of use out of the knives.  There are a lot more options now than when we got ours, but Chef’s Choice is still the sharpener people recommend.  I bet you can get away with the $40 version, but there are also $180 versions which I hope will carve at angles for you (something you would need for hunting knives, but not so much kitchen knives).

Grumpy nation, what knives do you love?  Which ones do you regularly use?  How do you keep your knives sharp?

12 Responses to “Ask the Grumpies: Knife recommendations”

  1. chacha1 Says:

    The knives I use most are:
    a 7″ Sabatier chef’s knife;
    its sibling bread knife;
    a 6″ Shun santoku;
    a 4″ utility Shun;
    a 4″ utility knife predating my little Shun but still serviceable. There’s a lot to be said for having two small sharp knives.

    And an electric knife sharpener that we got as a wedding present and still works great. Also a sharpening steel that I use regularly.

    There are some other, less versatile or crappier knives in my cutlery drawer. Should really get rid of them. … I am always tempted by knives, but pretty good at stomping on my acquisitiveness. Do not need a boning knife, for example, as I almost never buy meat/fish/chicken on the bone, and when I do it’s going in the slow cooker so the whole idea is that it will *fall off* the bone without further mechanical intervention. Of course, if I get rid of my “spare” crappy knives, I will be more temptable.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Some day we may by actual steak knives! (I’m waiting for the cheap serrated ones we got in grad school to have more of their blades snap off first.)

      • chacha1 Says:

        We have a dozen La Guiole steak knives, the ones with the wood handle. They get a lot of use chez carnivore. I treat the handles with mineral oil once in a while. :-)

  2. Taylor Lee @ Yuppie Millennial Says:

    We have a Calphalon “self-sharpening” knife block +set. There’s a knife sharpener that comes to the local farmer’s market once a month that does same day turnaround, so if we needed to sharpen the knives for real we could go to them. I barely use anything other than the santoku and paring knives.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      how does self-sharpening work?

      ETA: Ohhh, I see, it’s the block. That’s interesting… I wonder if it works…

      • Taylor Lee @ Yuppie Millennial Says:

        We have had the set for two years now without taking it to a sharpener. The knives could definitely be sharper but I can still cut through tomatoes cleanly and slice a hanging piece of paper. So, maybe?

  3. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    I use the santoku for 95% of my cooking needs, and the paring knife for the other 5% of fruit related cutting. I think I’ve used the bread knife about twice in the last 6 years so that barely makes the count! PiC uses the chef’s knife for most things, his hands are bigger than mine so that’s comfortable for him.

  4. Solitary Diner Says:

    I have a collection of Henkel’s paring knives (about $5 each when bought in a set) that I use for almost everything…peeling, slicing, dicing, etc. I occasionally will use my chef’s knife for finely chopping something or a small bread knife (called a “bagel knife”) for slicing bread, but I could live without these as long as I had my paring knives.

    To keep everything sharp, I have a Henkel’s sharpener. It was a bit expensive (maybe $50?), but worth it for keeping my multiple paring knives sharp.

  5. Jenny F. Scientist Says:

    I mostly use the 7″ chef’s knife from Wusthof and the 2.5″ paring knife from a local market. I also have a crappy regular 4″ paring knife and a Wusthof 4.5″ one, neither of which holds an edge very well. We have a serrated knife for bread which is adequate. (The very nice one got lost last time we moved and I can’t eat bread so don’t care.) nd the chicken scissors, which I use for everything. Three-sided whetstone and the occasional run through my dad’s sharpening wheel if I want to risk cutting off my fingers afterwards. Maybe he could fix the parking knives for me….

    I would also recommend this peelw

  6. Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

    We use a Takamura 8in gyuto chef’s knife and 6in paring knife. We hone them before every use, and take them to MTC once a year or so for sharpening.

  7. Sandy L Says:

    I have a bunch of expensive knives but I also have a handful of $6 pairing knives from the kitchen supply store. I use those as much as the $100 knives. Both the expensive and cheap knives are crap if they are not sharp so I second the comment around getting a good knife sharpener.

    When I asked the local butcher what kind of knife he uses, he said. ‘A sharp one’. That is the secret, he said.

  8. What are we getting for people this year? | Grumpy Rumblings (of the formerly untenured) Says:

    […] some conversation, we got her a santoku (Shun), a paring knife, and an electric knife sharpener.  This post of ours really helped me!  I don’t know what DC1 is going to give her this year, but DC2 has been […]

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