Epicurious has just published a new list of top chef knives in a shootout comparing 14 different blades. Although I detest titles like “We Found The Best Chef Knife” (news flash: there is no such thing) it is at least good to see quality cutlery being featured to a mainstream audience.
It is a good read (here), but the money shot is their choice of MAC MTH-80 as winner. Incidentally, this is also the knife recommended by The Wirecutter, a resource I’ve used quite a bit when researching all manner of subjects.
This has got me wanting to purchase the MAC and give it a try, because right now I don’t have a recommendation I am completely happy with when people ask me what kitchen knives they should get, which happens more than you might think… the perils of being known as the knife guy within family and friend groups.
I used to recommend the Victorinox 8” Fibrox Chef Knife, and I still think it is a reasonable point of entry for those who want to spend as little as possible on their main kitchen blade.
After learning to appreciate the “soft landing” exhibited by my Ethan Becker series kitchen knives however, I’ve been trying to find something with that character to fill the slot of my “Go-To Kitchen Knife Recommendation” without breaking the bank. The Victorinox is fine, but not exactly “nice” (such things being subjective) and it doesn’t have the landing I like.
It can be very hard to tell from photos whether or not a knife will have the soft landing. It does require a bit of a curve to the edge, so many knives can be ruled out for having too straight an edge, but curve it too far and the knife will not stop when it should, rocking too far back.
A small distinction perhaps, but this can be what separates a decent knife from a great one. This is also a must have for anyone who does a lot of cooking, especially professionals. Wrist strain from repetitive knife work is a big concern, and the right kind of curve on a properly balanced knife can help mitigate that.
For a while, I thought I had the perfect candidate. Affordable, balanced, good steel, and a nice landing with only a hint of over-travel: the Richmond Artifex Santoku.
Richmond is the house brand of Chef Knives To Go and the lineup was created to provide professional cooks a quality tool at a decent price. When I bought the Santoku, $70 had it shipped to my door.
The steel is AEB-L, one of my favorites for actual working blades, and the handles are linen micarta. You aren’t getting custom levels of fit and finish, but the knife has everything it needs to be a true workhorse and a tool to be proud of.
Perhaps my favorite detail is the conspicuous lack of scallops behind the edge, a feature common to santoku-style blades in this country; they are supposed to help food release from the blade easier.
I’ve never been entirely convinced by them, but in today’s market, santokus probably need to be scalloped to appeal to the buyers who don’t know any better. Of course, this only raises the price to compensate for the extra machining needed.
So even though it fit all the criteria I was looking for, I can’t offer this knife up as ChefKnivesToGo phased out their AEB-L Richmond Knives last year in favor of a new lineup using Carpenter BD1N steel – which is perfectly fine – but they have yet to release a new version of the Santoku. Their new 210mm Gyoto looks promising, but it can be so hard to tell from photos how the knife will actually behave.
Maybe I’ll save up some cash and put the MAC and the new Artifex head to head… not like I need another chef knife or anything!