Chef Knife Buying Tips?

Looking in the market for a chef knife that will not drag me down in basic food preparation for a culinary course, any tips or specific knives to look for?

Tips I got so far:

German knives = sturdier = better for basic food prep

Japanese knives = sharper = better for delicate cleaner cuts, but aren't as strong as German

Non-stainless carbon knives = can be sharper

Stainless steel = dulls easier

Cutco = Crap

Slick non-serrated blade is better for chef knives

So, what is best for me to buy???

Any good chef knives/tips?

8 Answers

  • Visor
    Lv 5
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    I think you got some bunch of things right, here's few more tips.

    Don't take anything really expensive to the culinary school. I've never gone there, but I know several cooks who went through that and sadly, good knives tend to "get lost" in those schools. Unlikely that you can keep an eye on them all the time...

    Minimal set would be Chef's knife, 3-4in paring knife and serrated bread knife, longer better. Plus boning knife if you expect to work on bony meat. That covers 99% of cutting for you and you can stay under 200.

    As for the German vs. Japanese knives, it's more complicated. For starters, it's a lot more like Western vs. Japanese knife making style.

    Western chefs knives tend to be thick(4-5m spine), heavy and also have thicker edges, average angle is 40deg.

    Japanese gyuto knives are thinner(1.5mm-3mm spine), lighter, with more acute edges, 20-30 deg.

    if the knife is properly used for the right job then there is absolutely no reason to go with the western knife. The only thing you get is extra weight which contrary to the popular knife myth- "let the heavy knife do the cutting for you" doesn't help with cutting that much, thin, sharp edge is far more important.

    So, the strength and toughness western knives have are good when you use chef's knife, which is designed for soft food cutting to do something much harsher, like splitting lobsters open or coconuts, chopping bones which is clearly meat cleaver job...

    If that's the possibility, then go with western. If not, then Japanese knives a) cut better due to thin edges, b) hold edge a lot longer due to harder and better steel c) cause less fatigue in prolonged use due to less weight.

    Not all Japanese knives are delicate, Debas for example are designed for heavy duty work and have no problems cutting hard stuff.

    It's just about using the right tool for the right job.

    But if you want to use your chef's knife for everything, then Japanese chefs knife a.k.. gyuto isn't the one for sure.

    On the other hand, western knives that owe their toughness to softer steel will dull much faster even on soft food, let alone coconut workouts. So, you choose.

    Stainless Steel vs. Carbon - To begin with, there is no Stainless steel, the term is incorrect. These days, if you search, you'll find that manufacturers started using more correct stain resistant. All steels rust if neglected.

    So called stainless steels contain chromium that fights staining. Other steels have no chromium in them, theyr'e called carbon steels. It is also not quite correct, as all steels are carbon steels, stainless or not.

    Anyway, carbon steels get sharper edge, but to get that edge you need to sharpen those knives way beyond what commercial sharpeners do. Factory knives you get are as usual 1200 grit finished. And the difference between carbon and stainless steel sharpening levels needs sometimes all the way up to 100 000 grit. Which is 5-8 level sharpening process. That is I'd have to change that many sharpening stones, gradually increasing the grit.

    Cutco is crap, outrageously priced and with very misleading marketing.

    Stay away from Furi too, same thing, just cheaper, but metal is even worse than cutco.

    Few more tips when buying knives:

    As knife marketing tells us good kitchen knives have to be forged, and have full bolster and tang. NONE of that is true. E.g. Stamped Globals are much better performers than most of the forged mainstream kitchen knives. Stamped Forschners are made from the same steel as forged Wusthoffs and Henckels, and even if I specifically test knives for edge holding ability and cutting performance, there is no difference.

    BTW, Forschners would be my recommendation for the culinary school.

    More on kitchen knfie steels here -

    I bought Forged and stamped versions of the same chef's knife from Global, and I didn't get anything but extra weight and spent more money on forged knife.

    Full tang - Another BS, Katana swords and bowie knives are not full tang, yet they can cut through armor and leather, so I really doubt you need more strength than that in the kitchen.

    Bolsters make sense only on narrow boning knives to protect your hand from slippage, but on other wider knives blade choil area does the job, bolster just makes sharpening a nightmare.

    There's a lot more about choosing kitchen knives here -

    including western vs. Japanese, stainless vs. carbon and many other topics.

    P.S. Stay away from ceramics. For most of the people they're impossible to sharpen and even for those good at sharpening they're major pain. Besides time spent on their sharpening doesn't justify extra edge holding you get. What's worse, they're very brittle. I've had ceramic blades chipping on end grain wood cutting boards while cutting fresh veggies, all because of small particles of dirt that didn't wash out...

    Source(s): 12+ years of knife collecting, sharpening and research
  • 1 decade ago

    You will need more than one knife if you go to Culinary School..... get a 8" French knife,,,,, a Boning Knife,,,,,,, a Paring Knife and a Bread Knife for a minimum,,,,,, the knives should have a FULL TANG,,,,,, GOOD BALANCE,,,,,,, AND EASY TO CLEAN,,,,,,,, SOLID IMPERVIOUS HANDLES,,,, I find that a combination of Carbon and Stainless Steel work the best and hold a good EDGE...... OK Brands are Chicago Cutlery,,,,, Dexter,,,,, Wusthoff,,,,, depending on how much you want to spend,,,,,,,, the good ones last the longest,,,,,,,,,,

  • 1 decade ago

    Mundial knives are a good choice, and a good buy. Made in Brazil with German craftmanship. Cutco are over priced crap, the blade shapes are ineffecient and they have terrible balance. You may notice that when they do the demonstations they cut ropes, leather, pennies, any thing except food. When you want precise cuts they suck.

    French made Sabatier knives are available in carbon steel and sharpen beautifully.

    Always look for full tang, forged not stamped.

  • 1 decade ago

    Cutco = crap - is probably one of the biggest jokes I've heard yet. Yes it's expensive, but I don't know of any serrated knife that is still sharp after 15 years of abuse. But hey, that's just me.

    I actually do recommend Cutco if you're willing to spend some money (they're cheaper than Henckel and Trident). They come with a lifetime warranty (ship them in for resharpening or if they somehow chipped, and you get a new one free of charge).

    I've heard great things about ceramic knives by kyocera (japanese). They're extremely sharp and durable.

    Pretty much it doesn't matter if it's Japanese or German or stainless steel or not, just make sure that you can sharpen it easily and quickly before use and it'll do its job. Of with most things in life, if you're seeking quality you're going to be paying more for it.

    Happy cooking!

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  • EmBee
    Lv 6
    1 decade ago

    Some of the things to look for -

    Fully forged, where the blade and tang are made from a single block of steel.

    Full tang secured with rivets.

    Handle, just as important as the blade. Is it the right size for your hand and does it feel comfortable to hold and use.

    Weight and balance.

  • 1 decade ago

    is there a cutlery store anywhere near you? It's worth the trip to go and talk to people who know and to be able to handle eac and every knife to see if it fits your hand and needs.

    A pretty knife you cant use is a waste of money. An ugly knife you can use is a thing of beauty.

  • 1 decade ago

    I personally like Wusthoff, but many factors go into what will work for you.

    Perhaps this will help:

  • 1 decade ago


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