I've been Paleo for over 3 months and there's no way I'm going back to my SAD, old ways.
Therefore, I think I'll enjoy the process of cooking and eating more if I upgrade my knives.
I've been using this for 15 years:
I've never sharped them (not sure if I was supposed to).
Without going crazy, how much should I budget for this next investment?
Should I get the kind that require sharpening (seems like a hassle)?
What would you do different if you had to purchase knives all over again?
A link to something appropriate on amazon would be particularly helpful.
I guess I should mention that I'm not coordinated enough to chop open a coconut without chopping off my hand, so a hatchet won't be high on my shopping list.
My one and only attempt to cut up a raw whole chicken was a disgusting mess (perhaps because I didn't have a good set of knives).
I recognize that a good set of quality knives will cost some money, and I'm ok with that.
Woo! Knife thread!
Until you get to the point of needing specialty knives, I recommend buying good quality cutlery and purchasing an 8" chef's knife, an 8-10" serrated bread knife (more on that later) and a pairing knife in the 3-4.5" range. If you plan on breaking down chickens or fish, or deboning any kinds of roasts, add a cheap boning knife from the grocery store.
The bread knife (mine has an offset handle) can take the place of a carving knife for things like pork roast or boneless turkey breast, and they're great for tomatoes.
80-90% of your work will probably be done with the chef's knife, with the rest split between the pairing and serrated knife. Don't skimp on quality! The "Seen On TV" knives are more like saws than knives; they work with an abrasive edge to grind between the food you're cutting, and they are impossible to sharpen. If you want to go cheap, buy the TV junk and throw them out every 3 months or so and get a new set.
I'd also plan on spending between $50 and $150 per knife. It sounds expensive, but a properly cared for knife should last a good 50 years with average home use, or 10-20 if you're a home chef type. If you don't cook multiple times a day (or just about every night for dinner)m plan on getting the knives professionally sharpened every 8-12 months. NEVER put fine cutlery in the dishwasher, or cut with a granite, cement, or glass cutting board; the steel used in the blades is intentionally soft to hold an edge better and those materials will destroy the edge, making it necessary to grind off more material when sharpening and reduce the lifespan of the knife.
All that said, I've got to go with KM: the Shunk knives are the best and most comfortable I've ever used. I can't stand their angled handle designs, though; the Damascus patterned blades are a dream to use and they look beautiful.
One more word on sharpening: don't do it yourself, especially with the Shun knives; they have a Japanese style blade, so the angles on home sharpeners are totally wrong and they'll ruin the knife. Add to that the horrible quality of home sharpeners, and they're just not worth it. If you really want to sharpen your own, take a look at the Edge Pro Apex system. It's pricey, but it's the most reliable sharpening system I've found outside of a professional sharpening shop. If you go that route, plan on buying a few cheapo store brand knives to ruin while you practice with it.
You should always sharpen your knives occasionally, even if they aren't professional quality. Like Hanley said, Globals are great, and fairly reasonably priced. I've been using Chicago Cutlery for ages, and they work great for what I need.
Just keep in mind, if you go for really nice knives (like Wusthofs or Sabatiers), you should sharpen them by hand every couple of days. They're gorgeous knives, but there is a time investment involved. If you don't need to hand-sharpen, get a drag-through sharpener—quick, easy, and puts a good edge on.
While you're doing research into new knives and figuring out exactly what you need, learn to sharpen them by practicing on your old ones. New knives won't be much help if you can't keep a good edge on them, and good knives will need to be sharpened. It's not rocket science; it's just a matter of getting into the habit of doing it. And slicing things cleanly and effortlessly with a freshly-sharpened knife can be downright pleasurable.
I'm a pretty simple, straightforward cook, and only use three knives on a regular basis: an 8" chef's knife, a 6" sandwich knife, and a paring knife, all made by Wusthof. I bought them as a set for about $170, and it was money well spent, as they handle virtually all of the knifework that needs doing around here.
If I was buying larger hunks of meat or breaking down whole birds on a regular basis I'd get a cleaver, but right now I'm fine without it. I've also considered buying a Japanese vegetable knife, because I really like the one a friend has, but again it's not a burning need.
I still own a huge serrated bread knife, but it now serves to cut up cardboard boxes so they fit in the recycling bin. It goes through cardboard like it was made to do just that. Irrelevant, but awesome.
Good steak knives are another thing to consider. Mine are crap and need replacing, and I have no idea why I haven't done so yet. Don't be me--get yourself some nice steak knives.
Oh, and heavy-duty kitchen shears are relatively cheap and always come in handy. I'm always finding a new use for them, and honestly don't know what I'd do without them.
Hi Mike, thanks for the question.
I am a crazy shopper because it takes me months (sometimes years) to do my research because I buy nothing but the best (or what I consider the best in my situation).
I bought knives that I am very happy with but you won't be able to get them because they are from Europe. Actually, they are made in Finland.
But I can tell you the features that I really really like so you can see if you would like the same in knives.
First of all, I hate those wooden holders where most people keep their knives. I don't think they are hygienic.
Second of all, I hate those plastic handles because food gets stuck between the handles and the blade. You really cannot wash them properly.
The knives I have now are seamless and are made of one piece of metal - handles and all. No metal stubs (or whatever you call those knobs). All metal, one piece. No place for food particles to get stuck. Extremely hygienic.
I personally do not like larger knives and prefer small ones. So I did not buy a set - I bought about six small paring knifes. I also own two larger knives, but I never use them - just don't like them I guess.
I cut chicken bones with special kitchen scissors.
I have heard a lot of good things about Kyocera knives... but I am happy with my knives and I would never change them for anything else.
See what works for you and buy accordingly.
My knives look a little like these http://www.kaboodle.com/reviews/chicago-cutlery-insignia-steel-18-piece-cutlery-block-set
My favorite knives are Shun: paring knife and 7" knife. I have 2 other bigger knives, but these two are what I always reach for first. They have a nice weight and the way they are shaped allows for your hand to fit comfortably below the handle. I also have a magnetic knife hanging strip that is mounted above my counter.
I cook daily and 90% of it is done with a 7" carbon steel vintage ( garage sale) chef knife. It sharpens like a dream. I highly reccomend getting a small easy to use sharpener. You will wonder why you didn't years ago. I did. I have a large very nice Henckel chef knife too, but I seldom reach for it. My knife advice is find one good knife that fits your hand, is nicely balanced and learn to sharpen it. A sharp knife makes cooking faster and easier. You really only need one decent knife. Ok, some like a paring knife too, but my good serrated bread has not seen the light of day since the bread when away. For on the go, I love French made Opinel knives. These are carbon steel too, so unlike stainless you have to dry them throughly or they will discolor. One lives in my car, one in my purse. Its surprising handy to travel w a knife. Beyond cutting up fruit, cheese and sausage snacks for the kids, I've harvested wild plants, filleted fish. And it's a game changer to BYOK when cooking at someone's house and they only have a big block of crappy knives. Opinel knives come in a variety of sizes to fit ones hand and are available inexpensively on amazon and elsewhere. Go to a resturant supply or fancy cooking store to hold different knives rather than buying online. You want one that feels right at home in your hand. Either place should be able to offer sharpening, or sell a drag through sharpener. Have fun shopping around!
I am in love with Shun knives. The drawback is that you'll have to get them professionally sharpened a few times a year.
I have a larger santoku/chef's knife, a serrated knife (read: bread knife) for slicing tomatoes and carving some meats, a paring knife, and a cleaver. The cleaver isn't something I'd recommend for a person only just getting into good knives, but I find it useful for a lot of situations (butchering birds, etc.). You could easily get by with a good chef's knife and a paring knife only.
My biggest word of advice would be to go to a specialty store (or even a Williams-Sonoma) and see how the knives feel in your hand. I've tried a number of different knives over the years and I didn't like how they felt. If it's not comfortable for your hand, it's not worth the money.
Oh- I'm going to second (or third?) other advice: Get some good kitchen shears as well. I use mine at least daily.
Last bit of advice: Once you find the knife you want, WAIT until it goes on sale. If you do Amazon, look there. Look on the Williams-Sonoma website. (Etcetera.) I got all of my knives with at least a 30-40% discount. (That makes them a bit more affordable.)
Everyone will have a different preference. You need to go try some on at a store as some others have mentioned. Until you do that and figure out what you like, future research is pointless imo.
Personally, I like the Japanese knives (Shun) because they make me feel like a samurai.
If you want knives that are good tools, but don't need them to be works of art, just buy a Victorinox/Forschner 8 inch Chef's knife and paring knife. You can get the chef's knife for about $25-30, paring knife for $5 or $6 if you search Amazon. They are always rated best buys by Cook's Illustrated magazine, and they're my go to knives at home.
To keep the knives sharp, use a honing steel to align the edge every few times you use your knives. If you don't abuse your knives (washing in the dishwasher, or cutting on a glass cutting board), you probably only need to have them sharpened or sharpen them on a sharpening stone once a year.
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