looking at kitchen knives and want to know what brands you have had success with - currently looking at wusthof but open to other suggestions. Thanks for your help.
Also check the Cooking Forum. We've been discussing knives there recently.
sushipup - thanks!
Here are my opinions. I'm sure other people have their preferences. I'm no expert, but I've done a lot of chopping and peeling and slicing over the years, so here goes:
1. Best value for the dollar goes to Forschner Victorinox. Stainless blades which hold a good edge. You can get them stamped instead of forged (less $) and with a plastic ('fibrox') handle instead of wood (even less $). Cooks Illustrated rated their fibrox handle chef knife ($30) better than models costing five times as much. They also make forged knives as well. They're available online from several merchants including Amazon and KnivesPlus.
2. Best way to keep them sharp: use a steel with every use, and every so often either have them sharpened professionally or do it yourself. I use a paper wheel system from sharpeningmadeeasy.com, and I like it; that web site also lists and reviews other methods and tools for sharpening knives.
3. Best knife storage: I like the MIU magnetic knife holder. It's available in a couple of lengths. See the link.
4. Best way to rebel against modernity: use old fashioned carbon steel knives. They are easier to sharpen than stainless. (Or, more accurately, it's easier for you to put a good edge on them at home than it is to sharpen stainless.) Plus, Julia Child preferred them, so there. Only drawback is that you shouldn't use them for acidic foods, and you have to wipe them off after you use them so they don't rust. You may have to scrounge for these at yard sales or online auctions, because you won't find them in most stores.
5. If you're gonna spend big $$$ on a knife (and that's fine if you want to), play with it in the store to make sure its balance is what you like. A $200 Henckels knife is worthless if you don't like the way it feels. This is particularly important with a chef's knife, not so important with paring knives. I have a moderately expensive chef's knife that I have had for 30 years, and I love the action. But for mundane paring tasks I have some cheapo Forschner knives with plastic handles(I think they were about $4 each).
Here is a link that might be useful: miu knife storage
IMHO, Wusthof and Henckels are almost twins. If properly maintained, they'll give you a lifetime of good slicing. (Without maintenance, nothing will.)
However, if you've got the bucks, I'd go to the Japanese. Sharper edges and harder steels. European edges typically ground at about 22 degrees. Japanese more like 16 degrees. Europeans typically gauge around 55-57 Rockwell. Japanese typically start around 60 Rockwell. The hardest are Shun Elites that come in around 66. Less expensive (but excellent) stamped Macs are around 59-60. The Kyocera ceramics are so hard they can't be measured on the Rockwell scale but, superb as they are for many tasks, they are not durable enough to be considered main-line kitchen knives.
For example, I've long had a well-maintained Henckels 8" chef's knife and was just given a Shun Classic 8" chef's. Both will slice paper like a razor-blade. However, in use at the cutting board, the similarities disappear. The superiority of the Japanese knife is instantly apparent.
Also agree with arley about cheap parers. These are the little knives that get used on plates and everything else. I steel them and sharpen them until their contours are gone, then toss them and start with a new one.
For steak knives, get cheap non-serrated knives that you can steel and sharpen like the cheap parers. You and your guests will use them to cut unto plate surfaces that will dull them (or anything else) in no time. Also a really seriously-sharp steak knife will surprise most of your guests. Wounded company is no fun. Don't spend serious money on these. If your meat is so tough you need sharper than that, you have cooking trouble, not knife trouble.
I have 8"Chef knife from Shun, 10"cooks knife from Wusthof, and a 6" Chef and a paring knife, all twin 4 star Henckles. I use them all, but my go to knife seems to be the Shun.
All are correct that knives are a personal thing. You should go to the store and see how they feel in your hand and the one the works the best for you is the one you should go with. Of course you can always do the final purchase on line if it is cheaper. I do not recommend purchasing a set but individual knifes as most of your needs can be met with about 3 knifes: 8" Chef, 4" Paring, and Purhaps a utility or Bread knife, and of course you can always add as you need/want.
Shun does have a lifetime of free sharpening, but you have to send your knives to them.
A good sharp knife will make your prep work a breeze and more enjoyable then you can imagine.
As with any knife, even if it states dishwasher safe, don't do it, Handwash, dry and put away as soon as your are done with it. I found that a magnetic works best for me. Plus I know that they are safe and away from short little guys who may want to make their own PBJ.
In previous post, I agreed with arley about buying/using cheap paring knives. I've changed that opinion.
Just purchased Shun classic paring knife as gift for SO and we used it last night. Specifically, we spent considerable time comparing it with my well-maintained cheapo paring knives, which are Henkels and Wusthof's cheapest throw-away items which they typically sell for $5-10. (Trimmed and sectioned beef and cut mushrooms and onions for stroganoff.) Based on that comparison, I'm switching my opinion 180 degrees.
The difference -- the pleasure in use and ease of all work done -- was so incredible I almost don't know where my earlier opinion could have come from other than just being too cheap to spend serious money on a small knife. I will be spending it on myself very soon -- and disposing of my several cheap parers.
The Shun edge is sharper than the steel on my cheapos can be made. The cheap steel is so inferior that it cannot accept a smooth/sharp edge like that no matter what you do. (And I DO know how to sharpen and maintain my edges.) And even if you get close, it deteriorates in-use very quickly. The course surface of the cheap blades is also a nuisance -- causes everything to drag even after the edge bites. As with my earlier comparison of the Shun chef's knife with the Henkels, both the new Shun parer and old cheapo knives were sharp enough to slide through paper like razors. However, at the cutting board the similarities disappeared. The superiority of the costly Japanese parer was instantly apparent....and very satisfying in-use. After this experience, I'm ready to spend the money.
I continue to stand by my previous opinion about cheap steak knives because of their intended use in careless/inexperienced hands and almost always on hard surfaces.
I have a Shun Santoku, a Shun 6 inch utility, and a Shun paring knife--and I am in love with all of them. They handle beautifully and just breeze through prep. After years of cheap knives, I would never go back. I have some Chicago Cutlery that I got as a wedding present, and when I use one of those I feel like I'm fighting with it to make it work the way I want to. :-) The expense was absolutely worth it. Those three knives do pretty much everything I need to have done in the kitchen.
Basically Shun, Mac, and Global are where the money's going these days....at the expense of the Europeans. Must say I'm converted based on purchases over the last few months.
OP doesn't care....hasn't been back.
Asolo, I found your post very interesting about your positive experiences with the Shun Classic paring knife. I myself use a Messermeister Meridian Elite paring knife - its blade has a 15 degree edge, like the Japanese knives, but it still has the "feel" of a German knife, to me the best of both worlds. I don't think I can like any knife that doesn't have the time-honored German triple-riveted contoured handle--it would mean changing a lifelong habit! Nevertheless, I am intrigued by your Shun paring knife - when I looked it up on Amazon, there were two Shun Classic paring knives, the DM0700 and the DM0716. Did you look at both of them, and if so, why did you choose one over the other? Thanks.
One has 3 1/2 inch blade, the other 4". I chose the 3 1/2".
"Classic" line has 60-61 rockwell steel. That's what I bought.
"Elite" line has 65-66 rockwell steel and is significantly more expensive.
"Kaji" line (exclusive at Williams-Sonoma) has 65-66 rockwell steel, different configuration and only slightly more expensive than classic.
Basically, I'm getting off on the sharper angles and harder steels, enjoying easier slicing and hoping for better edge-retention. Haven't owned any of them long enough at this point to comment on edge-retention but I certainly do enjoy the difference in performance.
Apparent to me that the sharper angle and harder steel will require acquisition of different honing-steel and different technique using it -- which may act as barriers to those considering purchase. Most of us are used to European-style knives and the maintenance-routine for these Japanese knives deserves attention, it seems to me, if one is switching over. The Japanese "big three" are Shun, MAC, and Global. All offer their own honing steels. I bought Shun's but haven't yet used it so no comment.