I find myself needing some good “starter” kitchen knives. I joined Choice, I checked reviews, and… I’m a bit underwhelmed. Is it possible to get Choice to add lower-end knives like from Ikea/etc to their testing? If not, or, in addition, is anyone here in the community willing to chip in?
How about these.
All you need is to learn how to sharpen them and the fact that they are used and somewhat worn will not matter. This kind of thing would sell for $50-$100 each new so a set of 5 for $50 is a bargain.
I came back to mention I had had some Baccarat and wondered if they were dodgy.
Did you like them? Did they feel right in your hand? Did they hold an edge reasonably? If the answers are yes who cares what anybody else thinks.
I’ve bought knives from KMart, various cheapo shops which no longer exist, and have found that careful choice and buying blades that don’t flex/bend will be just fine. Sharpened regularly, mine have lasted now for over 25 years. I don’t much care about brand names. They might be “better” but really, who cares, if what you have suits your budget and cooking style.
Which reminds me… Can a knowledgable person tell me what a Santoku knife is for?
Hopefully the wisdom of someone who knows.
My preference is for a knife with a double bevel edge for most tasks in the kitchen. I prefer a knife with a fatter/chunky handle to offset the afflictions of age on the hand and a deep blade. A high set handle avoids bruised knuckles. We’ve two Santoku style knives, and a couple of chefs knives. All have a double bevel edge. I’ve several older single bevel knives. Almost impossible to use to slice evenly raw veg and most fruits.
Thank, Mark. Perfect explanation. I probably need a Santoku knife. All my current most used blades are double bevel, not chosen because of that, but rather, thats just how they came.
Depends on what you are using the knife for.
I find little difference between a correctly proportioned Chefs style knife and Santoku style knife except for weight. Assume both have a good quality steel blade and double bevel.
The quality of any knife depends on the steel used and shaping of the blade. It would be wisdom to avoid confusing the name of the style of knife with the quality of the blade. Santoku is not an assurance of a quality product.
A PS. Japanese knives tend to have 15 degree edges while ‘western’ knives have 30. While not an issue for those using whetstones to sharpen, automatic (whether motorised or manual) sharpeners are designed for either 15 or 30 degrees, rarely both, and one can ruin either style knife using the wrong ‘grind’.
Whetstones require skill and care to hone the edge not ruin it and a misused sharpening rod can turn a $100s 15 degree knife into junk fairly quickly.
You don’t see many single bevel knives in Oz.
To me weight and balance and the right size for the job are more important than whether the blade curves up or down at the point. I like the edge to be sharpened on both sides but without a noticeable line where the profile changes, the image of the santoku shows that line.
I don’t like thin handles which are more common on oriental patterns and on a larger knife that will be used for heavy cutting I prefer a rectangular cross section on the handle to stop it twisting.
People pay huge sums for named knives that are only marginally better than medium price ones - if at all. It’s like having a name brand patch on the arse of your jeans, triples the price.
If you plan to use the knives regularly, it is important to hold them in your hand. Different knives feel differently in the hand due to their shape, handle design and materials, weight, balance and blade angle/length. While Choice can review, it is unlikely they will he able to find the knife which perfectly suits all consumers.
When we first started out buying things for our kitchen, have purchased knives that we didn’t hold in-store (as they were in sealed packaging). After a short time we found after they were terrible to use and caused issues with our hands. Since learning our lesson, we now always handle the knife before purchasing to make sure it feels okay.
We have purchased a cheap knife from Kmart but found the steel is softer making it harder to get a sharp edge, and when we do, it dulls quickly. It isn’t used any more as a result.
We also generally only use 3 knifes, a chef knife (Anolon brand), a serrated bread knife (Toledo) and a paring knife (Toledo). Family member worked for Toledo in the 1990s, and I believe they no longer make kitchen knives.
A good, comfortable sharp knife is worth its ‘weight in gold’ whether one is a home cook or a chef.
A good quality knife should also last many decades, so, don’t only shop by price. Our chef knife which is the main knife used in our kitchen cost around $100 20 years ago. After replacement under warranty after a few years, the current one is about 15 years old still looks like new. I expect it will last 50+ years.
Hi Anna and Matt
I know it’s easy to say (for some) but more expensive things are worth the cost - I have a set of knives I got for my wedding in 1992. They’ve been sharpened once and are still going strong.
Given the time, I’ve forgotten the cost.
Maybe buy one of the best knives you can afford - as others have suggested, holding them to see if they are comfy in your hand - and then buy others as you go.
I have a set with a butcher knife, a bread knife, a small paring and a slightly larger one.
You get what you pay for.
and PS from me again: the knives are not marked with the brand, so I can’t tell you what it is!
Sadly they will not be sharp today unless they have stayed in the box for 30 years. If you got them sharpened now you would be amazed what you have been putting up with and the difference a sharp knife makes.
I would rate keeping what ever knife you have sharp of more value than the selection of it.
And sometimes you pay thrice for something that is only a fraction better. Some will be ‘best’ for someone some ‘best’ for another. There is no such thing as the ‘best’ knife for all purposes, or for all people.
Many products show a diminishing returns curve, that is the improvement in utility you get per dollar spent decreases rapidly as price goes up. Knives suffer from this problem in particular.
For a starter kit I suggest going for middle of the range that feel good in the hand as you say. Even if you have pots of money as a starter there is no point in spending up.
It is often possible to get pretty nice knives for surprisingly reasonable prices by watching for sales at reputable shops. One can go in and see how they fit the hand and sometimes even get advice from a knowledgeable sales person.
Bragging rights excepted.
I’d be too afraid of doing the wrong thing with one of these and turning it into scrap metal.
Our latest is a pair of (13cm & 17cm blade length) Furi branded SS Santoku styled kitchen knives. Chunky hollow SS handles that blend into the blade. Under $100 complete with a profiled sharpening device. Has passed the test of scoring pork and lamb rind effortlessly. The compromise is the need to sharpen more often. I prefer to use a stone, although the simple sharpening tool has proved adequate for the no1 mistress of the kitchen. I get enough practice sharpening the gardening and woodworking tools to leave the kitchen tools to another.
Thank you for the Kimikoto link. I hadn’t appreciated the differences, before reading this.
I have 3 knives, Bread scalloped blade, Chef and paring knife. Very cheap knives tend to be just stainless steel. Better knives have a higher carbon content. The consequence of the latter is, better edge, but the importance of drying the blades; never soak a carbon blade, as over time the carbon will become noticeable along the cutting edge, to its detriment.
As the Kimikoto link points out the Chef’s and Paring knives have a ‘bolster’. I like the feel of the bolster on the index finger, but it definitely gets in the way when sharpening, ie, it is difficult to sharpen close to the hilt.
Years ago I was told to test a knifes sharpness, it should be able to cut through a tomato’s skin under its own weight, fine for a chef’s blade but the slight weight of the paring knife isn’t really a fair comparison.
I’m interested in knife skills, ie, practicing the better techniques.
On TV many seem to rest the blade tip on the chopping board and roll back, ie, not much of a slicing action?
When slicing tomatoes, I start by pre-slicing each slice, as otherwise the last few slices can get quite messy
There are many alloys of stainless steel. Some have quite reasonable hardness. I say reasonable because hardness is always a compromise. Very hard blades do hold an edge well but are not so tough, they tend not to role on the edge like soft metal but can chip and can break.
In the extreme case with ceramic knives they break quite easily and are almost impossible to sharpen at home. Likewise single bevel knives, or those with a small bevel angle, can be sharper but the edge can be fragile. It depends if want to slice sashimi or general use.
If you will be upset if your favourite knife gets rust stains because it was not dried carefully enough then don’t get high carbon nonstainless steel.
To me general kitchen knives, particularly a starter kit, should be a balance of toughness, stain resistance and hardness, and good quality stainless steel fits the bill.
Victorinox the famous Swiss Army knife and other knives manufacturer uses a 0.50% carbon martensitic stainless steel. About as high a carbon as is practical without increased risk of chipping a fine edge. Brand of our original chef’s carving and filleting knives. Unfortunately, long before we knew otherwise, and dishwashers only used powder we regularly placed them in the DW. The two piece handles are held to the blade shaft with solid aluminium rivets which have been progressively dissolved by the DW caustic solution. Repairable, and on the to do list.
The same brands SS scalloped cut single bevel steak knives see regular use for much more than steak. Great for slicing tomatoes, bread rolls and soft veges.
We’ve a couple of very old early 1900’s carving and bread knives with bone handles. They hold an edge better than any modern SS knife, but as you suggest require TLC to keep them free of stains and rust spots.
Surprised none has yet mentioned the modern marvel of the electric carving knife. Regularly used by the servers at the local carvery and catering event smorgasbords. They seem to ease the task of slicing still warm cuts that might otherwise require above average knife skills.