Question of the Day: Do you use “High-End” Kitchen Knives?

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My Wustof Classic Knives are nothing fancy, but they have been workhorses in my kitchen throughout 11 years of marriage.

I am by no stretch of the imagination a professional chef.  I would put myself more in the “Advanced Home Cook” category. I am very comfortable in the kitchen, I bake my own bread and cookies (my great grandmother’s ginger-molasses recipe) for my fly-fishing guide trips, and as Mr. Mom, I do the lions-share of the food prep for my family. It is something I enjoy.

My knife block has stood on my counter for as long as I have been married. My wife and I used a Williams Sonoma wedding gift card to buy our first  “good” set of knives. The Wustof Classic set came with Chef’s, Carving, Bread, and 3 Paring knives, along with a sharpening steel and kitchen shears (really, really good- deserving of their own review.) The Boning/Filet knife is a Henkel’s I found in my Christmas stocking one year, the longer Oneida Bread knife came into my possession along the way, and the little mystery stainless serrated knife is from Usinger’s Sausage in Wisconsin. It came as part of a gift basket from my Great-Aunt and is sentimental as well as handy when everything else is in the dishwasher (The Horror!)

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The 8″ Chef’s knife alone has processed a staggering amount of produce and meat.

But these knives are nothing fancy. They are mostly X50CrMoV15, an unspectacular German stainless steel that favors corrosion resistance over edge holding ability. My knives are “nice enough”, I have used plenty of crappy knives along the way and mine are wonderfully functional. However, they are not so nice that I don’t mind throwing them in the dishwasher and the handle decals are for the most part long lost.

Part of me would love to own a truly fine instrument of kitchen destruction or two. But I would feel obligated to take care of it and I have never felt the need to spend the money when my existing set is doing yeoman’s work. Maybe after I attend Murray Carter’s Bladesmithing School this winter and begin to use a custom Chef’s knife of my own creation I will feel differently, but then again I will be hopelessly biased so long as my blade is merely serviceable.

For now I will continue to create such dishes as this evening’s Chicken Curry with tomatoes and squash from my garden, and a side of homemade garlic-naan courtesy of  my “nice enough” knives.

What are your weapons of choice for kitchen duty? Are they “Nice Enough”, Objects of Envy, or Sadly Sub-optimal tools of food preparation?

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mmm…Food Porn.

 

comments

  1. John says:

    I use one and only one restaurant quality knife I actually bought from a restarant , it’s large 12″ plus with heft to it great for trimming meat and cutting steak fajitas and watermelon , I really u it as a catch all knife , one good one is all I need

  2. Matt in FL says:

    I go with “nice enough.” I have a set of Wustof knives in a block (chef, bread, 2 sizes of kitchen/sandwich, and paring) as well as a long slicer and 9″ santoku that don’t fit in the block. I’ve had them since I got my first apartment about 12 years ago, and they’ve served me well ever since.

  3. peterK says:

    Ours are nice enough. Or lower even, haha.

    The more important question is can I get your naan recipe? 🙂

  4. Neil says:

    Unless you area throwing them, what matters with knives is technique and sharpness. My knife technique, such as it is, does not change at all based on the knife. Like my shooting it is consistent. Consistently bad. A fancy blade is not going to change that.

    We have a moderately-priced Henkel and a generic chef’s knife. The Henkel is in a block on the counter and over the past year was used to hack apart chickens, winter squash, and watermelons. It has not been sharpened in quite some time. Thus I typically reach for the generic knife hidden in the back of the drawer. When it gets dull I will take them both to be sharpened.

    The best chef’s knife is the really cheap one that is in with the camping gear. It is still extremely sharp and has never been used to hack through a chicken carcass.

    But lately I am preferring a mandoline anyways. Why take 20 cuts with the knife to julienne when you can do so with a few passes on the mandoline?

  5. sagebrushracer says:

    Been using a regular mora in carbon steel for small daily cutting, a cheap bread knive. I have a really low end serrated for cutting long stuff like water melon.

  6. Nathan says:

    I honestly use whatever folder is in my pocket for a lot of stuff a paring knife would be used for. When I need something bigger I grab my roommate’s crappy 6″ Bobby Flay branded chef’s knife. A good kitchen knife will probably be my next purchase (I’m thinking Shun)

    1. knightofbob says:

      From my admittedly limited experience, my non-professional opinion is that Shun is about the best you can get without spending used car money and getting on a waiting list.

  7. billdeserthills says:

    Years ago I was a vegetable cook and eventually worked broiler at a 5 star resort. I use Henckels & Trident knives mostly and I have quite a few different models. I just picked up a nice Henkels bread knife at a local thrift store for $5, the other day, they had no idea.

  8. Dogman says:

    We use Wustof classic knives and a few mutt-quality knives as beaters. I recently bought a No. 8 Opinel for the home kitchen as a general utility knife. We’ve had a No.6 Opinel for about 30 years that we started using as a camp/backpacking knife and now carry in the RV for general kitchen duty. The Opinel is the sharpest knife in the kitchen simply because it’s the easiest and quickest knife to sharpen. My wife is notorious for banging the edges of kitchen knives and never telling me they need sharpening. That means it takes a while to get the edges back on the Wustofs but the Opinel sharpens with just a few swipes on a fine ceramic stone.

  9. CM says:

    Like so many others we started out with a big block of Henkels knives that were rarely used. The bread knife was one that we did use regularly, but it seems that anywhere we buy fresh bread these days they always slice it for you on request. Now we have a single quality ceramic chefs knife that covers most chores. Maybe one day – I always thought a couple of Al Mar knives in the kitchen would be cool!

  10. knightofbob says:

    I currently use the assortment of whatever has been inherited, found, or purchased at yard sales typical of someone who has better things to spend the money on (like the food the knives are being used with). Honestly, the Wusthofs we have are some of the most overrated blades I’ve ever used. They’re not bad by any means, but I’ve got a couple GFS chef’s knives that take just as sharp an edge just as easily, and hold it longer. They don’t have the balance or smooth finishes of the Wusthofs, but I wouldn’t call being more pleasant to use worth the price difference.

    I do plan on putting together a high-end set eventually, but it’ll be a gradual endeavor. So far, most of the individual knives I’m looking at are right around a month’s rent, and I’d rather my next major purchase be a Super Redhawk.

  11. Roger says:

    Get a victorinox block set.

  12. Jeff O. says:

    I started with a decent Chicago Cutlery knife, then got a set at an estate sale that had “stainless” proudly stamped on the side. After years of frustration, and getting really, really good at sharpening knives because they had the edge retention of a wet noodle, we finally started buying Wustoff Classic Icons – 1 knife every Christmas to spread out the cost.

    When my wife opened the first one, a chef’s knife, she just rolled her eyes. Then on Christmas day, she used it… “Wow, this knife is sharp!” It was her favorite knife for several years until I gave her the 9″ serrated knife last year. We love them, and I love carbon steel. And, I don’t buy knives at estate sales anymore.

  13. AmbulanceMonkee says:

    I have set of Cold Steel kitchen knives. While inexpensive, they work well for me. I went through a number of other sets of cheap knives over the years, including some stuff from Oneida, and didn’t like any of them.

  14. I_Like_Pie says:

    I have a set of heckles International classic that I have been using for the past 15 years or so.

    They get use 2 or 3 times each day and have held up with only 2 profile sharpenings in that time. The rest I use the steel. They are scary sharp. Read that again…I have only hit a sharpening stone 2 times in a 15 year period with daily used on a cutting board and they will still easily shave the hair off my arm.

    The trick is that they have never been within 5 feet of a dishwasher.

  15. ChuckN says:

    I’ve never had luck with “high-end” knives. Instead I stick
    with a set of Old Hickory and a few homemade ones.

  16. Sam L. says:

    I have a 6″ and 7″ Henckels chef knives, an 8″er for slicing, a boning knife, 5 paring knives (one pretty well sharpened away), a meat slicer, and a couple others, (some of these I bought for my mom; got them back when cleaning out her house) ; a 10″ Gerber chef knife (rummage sale), their Miming parer (same); a Forschner bread knife, a Craftsman carving knife and fork, a Chicago butcher knife (bought for first wife); a 6-piece set of PUR Komachi knives (they seem a bit soft, but sharpen up nicely).

  17. Tom in Oregon says:

    To be honest, the set of “showtime six-star” from ronco or some other TV sales guy has lasted the best.
    The steak knives get used several times a week and go right in the dishwasher.
    My Henkels I use twice a year to carve turkey. It always needs to be sharpened.
    Maybe it’s the dishwasher. I’m going to start throwing it in there too.

  18. Sam L. says:

    America’s Test Kitchen puts out two cooking magazines, and recommends the 8″ Victorinox Fibrox chef knife.

  19. Jim Bullock says:

    To answer the question, I use some “high-ish” end kitchen knives, mostly Wushtuf Trident, as part of a eclectic collection assembled ad-hoc. I’m a near restaurant-level cook, with the twin habits of occasionally experimenting with exotic high-complexity dishes, and occasionally cooking a Grande Dinner for gaggles of over a dozen friends. For fun. People schedule around these, so they can be there.

    A bit over half the time, throwing a Grande Dinner is a joint project with several friends who also cook. Thus, gear both practical, identifiable, and not embarrassing among peers.

    In keeping with the habit of over-thinking and excessive specificity, it’s like this…

    – I picked up a 8″ trident chef’s when the “knife” supplied in the company apartment bent scarily when I tried to dismember some broccoli. It was late season, so mature, tough broccoli, so the casual flexing of the “knife” stamped from what would otherwise have become the outside of a fridge is maybe justified. I was unwilling to live with this.

    – Trident model because the molded handle both works for me and is easier to clean.

    – Picked up other tridents on sale or remaindered as I needed something. Consistent handle design helps, and they’re easy to recognize when working with other folks.

    – Opportunistically, I grab “interesting” cooking knives. For example:

    — The MAC santoko is way to hard to sharpen easily. However, for mass-prep of chopped veggies it is wonderful. Also, the blade thin-ness helps with slicing hard boiled eggs, or sometimes over-ripe tomatoes.

    — If you cook a lot, consider a larger – 10″ – chef’s knife for preparing mass quantities, and a smaller – 6″ – chef’s for friends with small hands. The size differences make a difference.

    — Carbon steel knives in tolerable or better condition turn up in flea markets from time to time. I just grab them, regardless of knife type or manufacturer.

    — I have a couple kitchen “utility” knives, which is a knife type. I’ve used a morakniv for this enough that I’m considering claiming that one of these is really part of the kitchen gear.

    – I’ll pick up a restaurant-supply version of any useful standard kitchen knife design, from time to time.

    The “home-chef’s stainless” knives don’t hold an edge terribly well, and can be a pita to sharpen. Figure out what they want, and they do quite well enough. Other of the kitchen knives do just as well, once you figure out what they need. If you want to adjust the MAC, get out the diamond embedded “steel”, and plan on spending some time. BUT whatever edge you get, you’ll keep for a long time.

    Etc.

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Question of the Day: Do you use “High-End” Kitchen Knives?

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