What brand/line knives would you recommend?

sue36October 13, 2006

I have two knife blocks of cheaper knives (block and knives less than $200). The quality just isn't there. I want to start buying some "professional quality" knives, but don't know what to get.

I was looking through Williams Sonoma, and saw Henkels and Wusthof. The Wusthof Classic has the full tang, high carbon steel and polypropylene handles. The Henkels Professional has the same thing, plus they are "ice hardened", whatever that means. These are very traditional knives. Then there are the Wusthof Grand Prix II, that do not have a full tang and have a more ergonomic, but contemporary, look. Henkels has the Twin Cuisine knives, with a full tang, and an ergonomic and contemporary handle.

And that is only the beginning. I go to Sur la Table, and there are even more. I would love your recommendations and comments. If it matters, I have a pretty good size hand for a woman (size large, if they fit). I would be considered and excellent home cook, but am not a professional by any means. I do a lot of chopping and dicing, so a chef's knife (or Santoku) would probably be my first purchase, with a paring knife second and a carving knife third. I would like to buy all from one brand and line, in case I ever put them in a block (they will be going in a drawer for now). I am not interested in knives with wood handles. Thanks for the help and comments.

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Frankly, I think you're approaching this bass akwards. The use of a block should _not_ be the determining factor. In fact, if you think you'll need a block downstream, look at the Kapoosh---which can accomodate any knife you wish to use.

I would not lock myself into any brand of line. The way to choose a knife is to make sure it fits your hand, and balances properly the way you use it. One brand of Santoku might be perfect for you. But that same company's boning knife might not be the best choice.

So, what I'm saying, is to handle as many knives as possible, in the type you want, and then choose the one that is most comfortable for you to use.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2006 at 2:33PM
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Ditto gardenlad opinions about knives. Pricing on whole sets can be attractive but can also be negated by inferior designs of individual knives in the set. Also ditto about kapoosh.

Focus on the knives....and take your time. Many people buy one at a time starting with the ones they use most. For me, that would be a good Santoku followed by a good medium chef. Good knives will please you every day and last a lifetime. Block is secondary.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2006 at 3:47PM
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Comparison shopping is not really an option for me. Between work and commute I am gone from the house over 13 hours a day. I prefer to shop online, but for this I realize I really need to check them out in person. But I would like to go in there with my choices narrowed down to a few so I can be in and out in a few minutes.

I also was hoping that people might have comments on brands they have used, if they held up well, drawbacks or things they didn't like, what to look for in terms of identifying quality, etc. Thanks.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2006 at 5:47PM
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Sue, call around and find a shop that carries a few of the knives you mentioned and make a stop there to handle them. That is really important. That said when I did I found the Wusthof Classic the most comfortable for me. I also find I use the chef and parer for almost everything.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2006 at 11:41AM
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I'd say that's pretty typical, Eandhl. The most commonly used knife in anyone's kitchen is either a chef or a Santoku, followed by a parer. Next would be a boning knife, which most people use as a general utility knife.

If you're in to serrated edges, a bread knife would be the next most common blade.

Neck and neck with the bread knife (or next in line if, like me, you're not into serrated blades) would be a slicer.

Probably the least used in most kitchens is a filet knife. A real shame, too, because once you start using one you wonder how you ever did without it.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2006 at 12:25PM
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Sue, if you invest in high end knives then keep them in a block. Put your less expensive knives in the drawer and your new knives in the block if you don't want to buy a set with a block. I have a rather large collection of high end knives and the ones I use the most are Messermeister. I think they are the best German knives, at least among those I've used which include Wusthof and Henkel. They come shaving sharp out of the box. Most knives come sharp but not like this. Messermeisters have half-bolsters instead of full bolsters which makes it much easier to sharpen the entire blade. All of the high end German knives are well balanced. If sharpening seems daunting to you, Messermeister will sharpen them for free (you pay the S&H).

I know that a lot of people will advise against buying a set but I think that if you're starting from scratch, sets can be a great deal. Just google "messermeister meridian elite set", "wusthof classic set", or whatever, and compare those prices against the open stock prices. It's not unusual to save 40-50% over the open stock price. Who cares if there's a knife or two that you don't use frequently? If you can afford it I recommend a set.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2006 at 8:34PM
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The best knives in the world are made in Japan. Of the Japanese knife makers Hattori is probably the best value. I have 3 Hattori's and they are the real deal as they are scary sharp and beautiful to boot. Check out the HD series.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2006 at 12:15PM
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I may be something of a rebel, but I dont own any "High End" Knives!

I am very partial the the Dexter Russel Line with the Sani safe, or SofGrip handles as they are called now.

My favorites, the ones I reach for first are the sg145-8 and the sg145-10. These have a Stainless/High carbon steel blade.

It is actually stain resistant, not truly stainless.

They will hold an edge beautifully, and they are very happy going into the Dishwasher! Try that with the fancy wooden handled jobs...

These are usually avaialble at any restaurant supply store for under $40.00.

I am sure that others opinions will very greatly, but this is my .02!


Here is a link that might be useful: This is where I get mine!

    Bookmark   October 17, 2006 at 8:30AM
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You're right about so-called "high end" Butch. I have some Chicago Cutlery knives that I've owned for more than 30 years, and they're still going strong.

There are only two requirements for a knife: 1. That it does the job it's supposed to do, and 2. that it's comfortable in your hand.

BTW, I can't imagine putting a knife in the dishwasher, no matter what the handle material.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2006 at 10:32AM
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I think Forschner is a brand to consider. I don't have them but when I was doing some research these seemed to get a lot of good reviews and they are economically priced. Personally I think you pay alot for marketing and brand name recognition (and perhaps snob appeal) for brands like Wusthof and there may be other brands equally good in terms of function. I have some Wusthof that are new and some Chicago cutlery that are 28 years old. When properly sharpened they both perform well enough for me and I do alot of cutting and chopping - no food processor for me. Other people may have more sophisticated knife needs than I do as many people do seem to find Chicago completely unacceptable

    Bookmark   October 17, 2006 at 2:42PM
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Love the rounded shape of both the blade & the handle of this Shun chef's knife. Great balance, great rock. Perfect in my hand, don't know about yours!

I have a smallish hand but I thought it was interesting another cook with biggish hands on this forum also finds this knife a perfect fit. May be something about the curves.

In any event, I'm linking Sur La Table since you mention cruising there, knife sold all over the internet.

Would be great if you could sneak into a well-stocked kitchen store on the weekend & try knives on.

I've had some Henckels for years that perform well but this knife is the one I reach for in my kitchen. I don't pay much for my paring knives as they mysteriously disappear from time to time, usually picnic season. Price is never the whole story but this Shun knife more than earns its keep in my kitchen. Thumbs way up.

Here is a link that might be useful: Shun Ken Onion Classic

    Bookmark   October 18, 2006 at 12:15PM
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I second Gibby's recommendation on the Forschner. I have an 8" Forschner chef's knife that was around $40 (??) and it's excellent. It cuts like a dream.

I also have a Wusthof paring knife, which is lovely too.

I like the Forschner because the handle is a bit lighter than some, which makes it easier for me to maneuver.

I wash mine in the DW, which you're probably not supposed to do, but I'm lazy :)

    Bookmark   October 19, 2006 at 3:42PM
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I had never heard of Cutco until recently, when a neighbor's daughter was selling them. They seemed to be fabulous as knives, but of course, they hadn't actually been used! Anybody know anything about them?

    Bookmark   October 20, 2006 at 4:27PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

Think about how you will sharpen them. Even great knives need sharpening and how/how often they sharpen is important.
And how will you wash them?
For me, if I have to hand wash it, forget it. I only want knives that go in the dishwasher.

Cutco will probably get dissed here, but they will sharpen your knives for the life of the knife. You have to send them to the factory for that but that might be easy for you.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2006 at 6:55PM
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I personally like the Wustof Clasics as they fit my hand perfectly, however I love to buy "Made in the USA" and have a couple of Cutco knives which i really like also (They are made in NY)and as bumblebeez stated they have a great customer service department. They have a lifetime warranty and you can return them for a new one with nearly no questions asked.(unless you try to use the knife as a prybar or screwdriver).

    Bookmark   October 21, 2006 at 5:23AM
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The knife brands that I am most familiar with are Wusthof, Henckels, Chicago Cutlery, and Lamson. I sold these for many years in a high-end gourmet cooking store and would still recommend them. The Cutco knives seem very sharp, but I think they are way overpriced.

You do need to hold any knife in your hand (even if you plan to order online) and see how the weight and size of the handle feels to you. The Wusthof Classic style may be better for smaller hands and the molded acrylic handles of other Wusthof styles and some Henckels may suit a larger hand better.

Wash any good knife by hand - never in the dishwasher - and drain point down or hand dry immediately. Store in a block, tray or magnetic rack so that the blades do not clank against each other or other utensils. This care will maintain your investment for a long time to come.

Please do not expect members on a forum to do all your research for you. We can only relate what our opinions and experiences have been for us alone. Good quality knives are a real investment, in my opinion, and deserve a bit of study and "hands on" exploration by the person who is going to be using them.


    Bookmark   October 21, 2006 at 10:11AM
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Teresa's advice is excellent. I bought my knives between 25 and 35 years ago and so much more is available now that I do not consider my advice necessarily current. I have medium-sized women's hands and find that the Henckels Four-Stars remain very comfortable for me. Many people say they are better for people with larger hands, however. On one forum, someone said that these knives are made with a poorer quality steel than they used to be, but I do not know whether that is true. I own some ugly high carbon Sabatiers I bought in France in the 1970's and use them all the time. They sharpen up razor sharp, but need to be sharpened all the time. These must be washed and dried immediately after use to avoid rust, but I do this automatically with all my knives, so that does not bother me. I understand Sabatiers have changed and diversified, so you would need to do a great deal of research on these before buying them. Many differing levels of quality are found under the Sabatier label. I have a very large Global G-16 Chef's knife that I love, but it is not the one I reach for all the time. Metal handles are not my favorite--they just don't have the grippiness I like. My husband uses a 10" Friedrich Herder chef's knife, which he loves, but it is too heavy for me. So, really, you need to try them out before you decide. Also, if you do not attend to the proper steeling and sharpening of the knives, they will not perform as they should. Incidentally, I would rather own only a 7" or 8" chef's knife and a 3" parer that are of great quality than a whole set of lesser quality knives.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2006 at 3:35PM
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I have all Cutco. Love them. Comfortable grip and I get them sharpened before every Thanksgiving! I do NOT have to send them to a factory. A cutco rep will come out and sharpen with pleasure as he has an opportunity to sell you something new! I sometimes buy, but not always.

Get this!!!!..... I took them camping in an RV. A girlfriend lit a small candle underneath the handles (in the block) and the flame 'disfigured' two handles. I told cutco and asked to purchase 2 more... They wouldn't hear of it and sent me 2 new replacements free of charge.

Can't beat that kind of service!

    Bookmark   October 22, 2006 at 4:39AM
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Thanks for all the great advice. Time to go shopping.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2006 at 10:50PM
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Good luck Sue36, I always loved my Chicago cuttlery until I splurged on the Wusthof Classic. The weight and balance really makes a difference.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2006 at 6:00PM
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Don't know if you've gone shopping, yet, but I want to repeat the hold-it-in-your-hand test. Any knife you'll be able to use confidently must rest comfortably in your palm and be the right balance for YOU. When you're in the store, be sure to test the knife's rocking and slicing action (if the employee doesn't offer you a cutting board, he's not doing his job). My hands are medium sized but thin; the best fit for me is Kai, a Japanese blade imported by Kershaw and readily avilable. If you have a chance, try holding the Kai santoku designed by Ken Onion; it's expensive, but it's the only large knife that makes me feel like I have total control. These knives are thinner, stronger, and hold their edge longer than the German ones, with air pockets all over due to the layers of stainless steel on either side of the cutting layer. Like slicing with a razor! As for sharpening, Kershaw makes their own electric (nice and a good price); Chef's Choice also makes a sharpener for Asian style knives. Happy shopping!

    Bookmark   October 26, 2006 at 5:17PM
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I agree with the "hold-it-in-your-hand" idea. In order for this to be as useful as possible one should know how to properly hold a knife. The rule is very simple; the knuckle closest to the wrist of the index finger should lie directly above the balance point of the knife. To find the balance point simply hold the knife between the index finger and thumb so that the blade is perpendicular to the ground. The place where the knife balances is the balance point. This rule results in using a "pinch grip" on a chef's knife where you essentially pinch the blade between your index finger and your thumb just in front of the bolster (or for a stamped knife in front of the handle). It will be different for every type of knife and it's intended use. If you're not already using this technique you will be amazed at the difference it makes.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2006 at 7:59PM
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Hey Sue...another thought about where to keep your knives. I have mine on some magnetic holders placed horizontally on the wall under my cabinets. This way I can see my knives at a glance and pick just exactly the right one for the task at hand. Can't see the knives in a block, and a block takes up precious (in my kitchen!) counter space, and they would get knocked about in a drawer. I always hand wash my knives, and usually immediately place them back onto the knife holder.

My collection is a bit of a potpourri, different manufacturers for different knives, as other posters have already noted. Basically Henckels, Wustoff, Forschner and Sabatier. Good tools are always worth the investment...well cared for, they will last well into your grandchildren's cooking lives.
Hope you find some that are right for you!

    Bookmark   November 9, 2006 at 2:32PM
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I would second the post by whooooosh regarding Cutco. Quality and customer service! I send my knives and scissors in to be resharpened, they replaced my scissors completely and free of charge.
Reps come to your house (usually in the evening) and you can handle the various knives you may be interested in.
I never regretted purchasing from them.


    Bookmark   November 19, 2006 at 10:21PM
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I have used a bunch of different knives. I personally like serrated knives (I know some people don't). My favorite serrated knife is the cutco petite carver and I also like the cutco trimmer. They are AWESOME! They have sweet lines and American muscle and feel like an old 60's cruiser of a knife. Like a '66 Buick Riviera of a knife. They will supposedly stay sharp forever or the company will sharpen them for free. I won't buy a set though, because I want some Japanese knives too. I am looking at the Shun Classic 7" Santoku for a new Chef knife to replace a Henckel I don't like. It is a good blade I guess, but I don't like the handle or the look or the feel. I like the idea of buying Japanese Santokus and American Steak and Carving knives. The Shun are Samurai swords! Awesome! Not crazy about the German knives. Good metal but no soul. Don't like the Wusthofs either. Get some non-serrated Shuns and some Cutco steak knives (not the table knives). The good thing about CutCo is low maintenance. The Shuns are harder steel, but more fragile and need more maintenance and care. You can demolish a building with a Cutco, and then still slice a overripe tomato razor thin!

    Bookmark   January 22, 2013 at 3:52PM
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cutter, you should use what's comfortable to you, but I don't understand why you'd need or want a serrated knife (as opposed to just a sharp knife) to slice a tomato, and although I think that serrated steak knife is fine for the table, it's not what most people would like to use to trim meat, either before cooking or for presentation. Some folks find a santoku of that size very versatile, but for many of us it's sort of an in-between knife -- smaller than we want for a chef's knife, but a little large as a utility knife or parer or petty. I think there's something to your discussion of your henckels -- you don't like the feel of the knife. There's an element of subjective comfort -- the shape and size of the handle, size, weight, balance, and profile of the blade. Some folks get used to what they have, and for others, there's a great deal to be said for holding and trying before buying.

There's a world of Japanese knives besides Shun, if folks want to get into it.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 11:46AM
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I have Henckels and Wusthoff. They both seem to hold an edge pretty well, and are well balanced, so I never saw a need to go to anything much more expensive.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 1:30PM
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I really like Shun.
Nice feel, stay sharp, thin, very good steel.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 1:43PM
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A cheap knife that has been properly sharpened will beat an expensive knife that has become dull. Knives get dull quickly, no matter how good they are (if you think otherwise, you don't know what a truly sharp knife is like). Sending knives away to be sharpened sufficiently frequently that they stay properly sharp is not practical. Resharpening services are not an alternative to home sharpening; they serve a different purpose (restoring the edge of a knife after repeated home sharpening).

A good knife will take a better edge, and hold that edge longer, than a poor knife, but "good" and "poor" don't correlate precisely to price. How sharp a knife is when you buy it only tells you that it can be given a good edge; it does not tell you how well that edge will last, nor how easy it will be to resharpen the knife.

The cheap "Fibrox" handled knives recommended by America's Test Kitchen work very well if you keep them sharp, and they are easy to sharpen. If you abuse them they are cheap to replace.

We have expensive Japanese and German knives and cheap Fibrox knives; the expensive knives are better than the cheap ones, but the cheap ones are more than adequate. It would be a crime to run a fine Japanese knife through an electric sharpener or run it up a diamond "steel"; for the cheap knives, who cares? That means it's much less work to keep the cheap knives adequately sharp (not as sharp as I can achieve with a good hand sharpening on expensive Japanese water stones, but plenty good enough for the real world).

This post was edited by PeterH2 on Thu, Feb 21, 13 at 18:39

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 6:36PM
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I have a 10x4" diamond stone that is 1200 mesh on one side, 600 mesh on the other.
Usually about 4 times a year I will run my knives over this stone for a few minutes each.
I also have a 11" F. Dick multicut flat steel that I use every single time that I pick up a knife.
About once a year a use a little rouge on a leather strop to polish the edge.

My knives pretty much stay razor sharp.
The better knives like the Shun and the Wusthof stay sharp indefinitely with just this maintenance while the cheaper knives the old carbon steel Old Hickorys and the cheapo's need almost continuous sharpening if I were to use them often.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 12:03PM
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Agree with Peter; I have some fibrox knives that are a great deal for the price, but they're not as 'good' as a French chef's knife I got 30 years ago. I can still do pretty much any task I need to do with them, though. As he said, a sharp cheap knife will outperform a dull expensive knife. --It's like a Honda Accord versus a Mercedes. Is an Accord a good car? Yes, of course. Is Mercedes worth the extra expense? That's for you to decide.

How do you keep your knives sharp? Lotsa ways, but I find in my hands a paper wheel system works great. It consists of a two compressed paper wheels you mount on a bench grinder instead of the grinder wheels. On one there is some grit, on the other some jeweler's rouge. You raise a wire edge on the blade using the grit wheel, and buff it off on the rouge wheel. Advantage: you can put a razor edge on a stubborn stainless blade in just a few minutes. Disadvantage: you need a place in your workshop or garage for a dedicated bench grinder.

You can find out a lot about sharpening knives at Steve Botorff's web site. In it he discusses various ways to sharpen knives along with reviews of knife sharpeners.
He has written a book, 'Sharpening Made Easy', but a lot of the info in the book he has generously posted on his website.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sharpening Made Easy

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 3:29PM
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I prefer knives that are a bit heavier in feel, while my wife prefers a lighter knife. My favorite Japanese brand is Shun and my favorite German steel knife is actually the last American brand of forged knives, Lamson & Goodnow. I like supporting American companies when the quality is there.

One thing to consider would be taking a knife skills class. One of our local cooking stores offers some great classes that includes this type of skills class for cooks of differing abilities. When my wife and I wanted to choose new boning knives, we took a boning knife class. We were able to use about a dozen knives from almost as many manufacturers, boning chickens and fish. We chose the knives that felt best to us based on quite a bit of "real world" use.

And really, a knife is only as good as (1) its edge and; (2) the skills of the person using it. I try to improve my knife skills all of the time. I always keep a sharp knife!

Good luck.

Here is a link that might be useful: Lamson & Goodnow

    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 12:07PM
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