Last minute knife gift ideas

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Last minute knife gift ideas

Post by ChefKnivesToGo » Tue Dec 12, 2017 7:37 am

Hi,

I’m dreadfully late in getting to this part of my Christmas shopping, but my wife is wanting new knives and I want to get her the best equipment I can. Currently we have a 25-year-old set of Chicago cutlery knives (in the block) which have served well, but don’t stay sharp. Over the past 10 years or so we’ve acquired a couple cheaper plastic-handled Wusthof paring knives that are also not great, but still are the go-to knives we own. In the last 5 years or so we bought a fancy double-serrated Shun knife which blew us away in cutting bread, etc. and made us realize how much better equipment was out there. Pretty much everything besides the serrated knife is sharpened with a Chef’s Choice electric sharpener that is also about 25 years old. Only thing I know about that is that knives today are typically sharpened at a sharper angle than what that machine can do.

I don’t know anything about types of steel, types of handles, what sizes I should really want based on the cooking we do, etc. I’m pretty clueless, and could use a quick primer or a discussion with a knowledgeable person who can help me identify what to get. We cut lots of vegetables (wife is a vegetarian), but I barbecue a lot and do ribs, brisket, pork loin, flank steak, turkey, etc., so still need a good meat knife that can cut through an occasional bone. Other than that I don’t know what we should get, and what accessories to get along with it.

Can you help me? Should I call and talk to you and figure out some options?

Thanks!

/mike
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jbart65
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Re: Last minute knife gift ideas

Post by jbart65 » Tue Dec 12, 2017 10:24 am

Lot of stuff to unpack here. It would help a lot if you filled out the form.

viewtopic.php?f=2&t=643

Given how close Xmas is, I wouldn’t buy a bunch of knives right off the bat. Get one knife. A main knife you both will use. A really good knife will do 90%, if not 100%, of what you need to do. Fill in any gaps later once you learn more.

A few more things to consider.

STEELS

Stainless steel. SS is exactly that: stainless. All knives can rust or get damaged if left wet for a long time, but stainless provides a cushion. Still best to dry by hand soon after using.

Carbon steel knives. These can rust or stain (reactivity) if left wet, particularly from acidic ingredients such as onions or citrus. These typically have iron cladding that can be especially reactive.

You need to wipe these down every few minutes during the prep process and wash and dry immediately after finishing. Not hard to do once you get used to it, but it does take some getting used to. Eventually a protective patina will form that helps prevent rust and other problems. In the process the blade becomes discolored.

Stainless-clad carbon: Some say best of both worlds. The edge is reactive carbon, but the rest of the knife is protected by a stainless coating.

Why carbon knives at all? They generally take a sharper edge at a more acute angle and they hold an edge longer than stainless knives. They also sharpen very easily. But ...

Some top-end stainless knives such as ginsan and R2 can offer a similar performance, and in the case of R2, even better edge retention. They are not much harder to sharpen, either. Ginsan is almost as easy as carbon.

HANDLES

A good handle is a good handle, but I prefer Japanese handles. They are usually much lighter, make a knife more nimble and give a smith more options on how to design a blade.

You can’t leave these handles wet and lying around, though. Most are made of wood with a light finish. Still, it just requires very basic care.

BONES

Most J knives can be used to work around bone, but you should not contact bone directly. Japanese knives are made of harder steel that can chip against hard objects such as bone or frozen foods. Most of us keep German “beater” knives around to cut thru bone or between ribs. Those knives are made of softer steel that rarely chip unless quite abused.

SHARPENING

Chef’s Choice is perfectly fine for Wusthofs, Henckels, Global, etc. But Japanese knives really should be hand sharpened. Not super easy but not hard to learn. Once you get the hang of it, it’s easy to resharpen a knife in just a few minutes.

Ask in a post on the sharpening forum for advice and recommendations.
Jeffry B

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Re: Last minute knife gift ideas

Post by ChefKnivesToGo » Tue Dec 12, 2017 10:49 am

Hi Mike,

Start with this knife. It's stainless, easy to use and care for and has a nice handle that's durable: https://www.chefknivestogo.com/kapsgy21.html

I agree with Jeffry. Just get her 1 knife, see how it goes and add to your collection over time. The gyuto is the go-to knife and will be used most frequently for most home users.

Learning to sharpen on stones is a key to having sharp knives. If you want to try it I recommend this set. We just improved it and added a better practice knife: https://www.chefknivestogo.com/coshstset.html
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Kit Craft
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Re: Last minute knife gift ideas

Post by Kit Craft » Tue Dec 12, 2017 10:52 am

I agree with filling out the form, for sure! As for bones, some budget lines with softer steel can handle a palm baton through chicken joints and cartridge but that is as far as I would go. If this is something you are considering then I would go only as far as lines such as Fujiwara Kanefusa (FKM stainless and FKH carbon, depending on what you want but probably stainless.). Misono is a good company to consider here. They have a very comprehensive list of knives from western to eastern boning knives etc. In this case I like the Moly line but Mark does not carry it. Maybe the Kanehide line should be up for consideration as well but it is a bit harder.

Point is, whenever I hear bones I think Moly steel at 57-59 and no further.

These are all lines I consider fairly bulletproof while still being a step up from most Euro knives.

I see that Mark beat me to the Kanehide consideration.

https://www.chefknivestogo.com/fufkmse.html

https://www.chefknivestogo.com/misonoknives.html

https://www.chefknivestogo.com/mavgsekn.html

https://www.chefknivestogo.com/macknives.html

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Re: Last minute knife gift ideas

Post by ChefKnivesToGo » Tue Dec 12, 2017 11:09 am

Hi Mike,

Here is our standard recommendation request form. Even though you answered some of these please fill it out and I'll match a couple knives to your criteria.

1)Pro or home cook?

Home

2)What kind of knife do you want? (gyuto, santoku, etc)

Honestly, I don’t really know. We need all new knives, so I expect we’ll need multiple ones of varying types. We have a decent Wusthof santoku, and a couple paring knives, but they need monthly sharpening to be usable. I think we’ll definitely want at least one gyotu (I had to look up what that was)? Not sure.

I understand it’s best to buy knives individually and not as a set—I’m happy to do this if it makes sense.

3) What size knife do you want?

Multiple sizes—smaller paring knives, and chef knives for both vegetables and meat. I have a good Shun bread knife already—which was expensive and probably overkill, but it does work great and after ~5 years hasn’t need sharpened once.

4)How much do you want to spend?

I’m willing to spend anywhere from $300-$700 depending on what I can get for this. I was thinking it may be better to get fewer knives and learn what we like before buying more, but if it’s a no brainer I would be happy to get several and spend more within this range.

5) Do you prefer stainless or reactive carbon?

I don’t know—how would I decide?

6)Do you prefer Western or Japanese handle?

I don’t know this, either. I assume that I’ve only ever had a Western handle, but I’m not at all opposed to trying something new if there are advantages. Assume that it doesn’t matter.

7)What are your main knife/knives now?

Chicago Cutlery, circa 1990. A whole set. We use the utility/carving knives really often, but probably inappropriately. Also have a couple Wusthof paring knives and a Wusthof santoku, and a really nice Shun bread knife—at least I think that’s what it is, because it’s serrated and wavy, but it’s a much wider blade and shorter than most I see, so maybe I’m wrong? Still works great for bread, though, as long as it’s not too wide a loaf.

If you need to know specifically what we have, I can send pictures, but assume everything but the Shun are your typical department store variety, or maybe a little bit better.

8)Are your knife skills excellent, good, fair?

Probably fair to good for me, but my wife is probably between good and excellent. I’d love to improve.

9)Are you a rocker, chopper or push cutter?

Only guessing at the definition of these, but probably some of all three. Not sure about my wife—she’s much better than me.

10)Do you know how to sharpen?

We’ve been using a Chef’s Choice electric sharpener for a long time, but I typically have to sharpen the Chicago Cutlery blades monthly for them to stay sharp, and I think the angle on the sharpener is wider than what good knives should be sharpened to. I’m willing to learn how to sharpen correctly and obtain the right tools to do this, especially if it can be done less frequently with nice knives.

Thanks for your help!
Mark Richmond
Co-Owner www.chefknivestogo.com
Founded in 2002
Madison Wisconsin

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Re: Last minute knife gift ideas

Post by mitchellzone » Tue Dec 12, 2017 12:21 pm

Thanks for the recommendations so far! If I had a bigger budget or wanted to try a Japanese handle, have you got additional recommendations for specific gyotus I should consider?

/mike

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Re: Last minute knife gift ideas

Post by mitchellzone » Tue Dec 12, 2017 1:40 pm

I really appreciate the recommendations so far--very helpful. Some more questions:

- Any reason not to try a Japanese handle? What would you recommend, or would it be a risk to try this?
- I have a larger budget--are there other more expensive knives that would give me a noticeable performance increase?
- This is a gift, after all, and intended to inaugurate a new kitchen, so if I could also get something fancier looking (Damascus or hammered steel) as well as better performing, that would be a bonus. I'd spend a little for just better looking, but not a ton unless the performance was better. Any thoughts on this, especially if they also address the other points above?

Thanks,
/mike

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Re: Last minute knife gift ideas

Post by ChefKnivesToGo » Tue Dec 12, 2017 3:35 pm

This would be a nice gift with a wa handle, damascus cladding and very nice fit and finish: https://www.chefknivestogo.com/kovgdagy211.html

Here is another looker that has a wa handle, damascus cladding and would be a good gift: https://www.chefknivestogo.com/maku21gy.html
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Re: Last minute knife gift ideas

Post by mitchellzone » Tue Dec 12, 2017 3:38 pm

That one's interesting, Mark--do you find the sharper angles on the handle help the grip, or does that introduce any fatigue?

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Re: Last minute knife gift ideas

Post by mitchellzone » Tue Dec 12, 2017 3:52 pm

Those are actually a LOT more expensive--what's the main driver of the price point, and would I notice a difference beyond handle type? Comparing the wa handle to the Western, what modes of use is it going to make the most difference in? Is there a good compromise between the two price points you would suggest?

Sorry for all the questions--I'm trying to balance getting something really nice with something I'm actually going to notice what I'm getting for the price as a neophyte, and learn something at the same time.

/mike

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Re: Last minute knife gift ideas

Post by ChefKnivesToGo » Tue Dec 12, 2017 5:01 pm

hahahahah. This is a typical email exchange so I'm glad we're doing it here on the forum.

This is a nice knife. Less expensive than the above, stainless clad, damascus, wa handle and fun to use. Handmade by my friend Kato San who is a good beer drinker. https://www.chefknivestogo.com/kiri2.html
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Re: Last minute knife gift ideas

Post by mitchellzone » Tue Dec 12, 2017 8:38 pm

I like that one. I'm still interested in the feel of octagonal vs. oval--any way to determine the right grip without trying it? A couple more questions:

- I didn't realize how much the sharpening kit was, so I appreciate the less expensive knife option. I think $265 is going to be about my limit given that. If you've got any others that just have a different look I think that's the right range.
- We have bamboo cutting boards currently (and plastic for meat). Is that something I should be looking at, also, and if so what should I be looking for there?
- Also, how do you typically store nicer knives like these? Our Shun bread knife came with a bamboo rack that we keep it on because it looks really cool, but it's not really that practical otherwise. Should we make room for it in the old Chicago Cutlery rack or do something else?

/mike

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Re: Last minute knife gift ideas

Post by mitchellzone » Tue Dec 12, 2017 9:09 pm

Just for my edification, can you compare that last recommendation to this other knife that also seems to have been made by Kato San? I like the look of the handle a bit better (not a huge deal, but I like the darker wood) and it's a bit more affordable. I watched the videos and understand some of what the differences are between this and the Kiri (spine thickness seems to be the biggest), but I don't know why they might matter to me.

https://www.chefknivestogo.com/kavgsuwa21.html

Thanks,
/mike

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Re: Last minute knife gift ideas

Post by Kit Craft » Tue Dec 12, 2017 9:33 pm

Going from a CC to a knife from Kato san will blow your mind no matter which knife you choose, period. I prefer his knives with higher bevels like the AS KU line but all of them are nice. Some lines are very thin, like the western handle Damascus, and others are meaty at the spine and thin at the edge. Different but still great regardless of which line.

Oval, vs Octagonal vs D is a very personal thing. I like a D handle because I feel that it sits in my hand better than the other two. It fills it in the right sense yet does not feel overly large. Octagonal feel odd to me, most of the time, because of the ridges being in multiple places. Oval are neutral to me and I like them just fine. However, I will note that shape has less to do with girth, length, wide vs narrow tang, gap from neck to choil etc. I think this is just something you are going to have to try for yourself but most people that I know like Octagonal first, oval second and D third. I am just a weirdo.

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Re: Last minute knife gift ideas

Post by mitchellzone » Tue Dec 12, 2017 10:26 pm

I also really like the looks of:

https://www.chefknivestogo.com/anhagy21.html

Love the handle and the hammered look--perhaps my favorite of all the above--but I think this one is carbon steel at the core. Do I need to be more careful not to chip it, or is it just the cleaning that's the main difference?

/mike

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Re: Last minute knife gift ideas

Post by Lepus » Tue Dec 12, 2017 11:11 pm

The Anryu Hammered is a great knife that I think looks better in person. I have the 240mm and just bought the santoku. It is not particularly chip prone, offers steady and for many ingredients excellent performance, and it has a nice oval handle. The more I use and let others use mine the more I think it is one of the best first Japanese knives.

You asked a lot of good questions. It might take a while to answer them all and the thread could end up pretty muddled. You might want to try the forum search tool or to post a few more specific topics. There is a pretty rich live topic on reactive vs stainless steel that could be particularly helpful.

To keep a long story short, if you buy a reactive knife, it will need modest but consistent care. This means as little as washing the knife with a sponge and drying it with a towel immediately after use. If you and your wife would be willing to give that care, the Anryu could be a rewarding knife. But it is a bit dicey buying reactive knives for other people. I hesitate to suggest them for families because, even if the buyer is invested, it only takes one user leaving the knife wet to damage it. If you think your wife is up to it, you're probably right. As reactive knives go the Anryu is not rust prone.

viewtopic.php?f=3&t=4116

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Re: Last minute knife gift ideas

Post by Ourorboros » Wed Dec 13, 2017 12:46 am

mitchellzone wrote:
Tue Dec 12, 2017 1:40 pm
I really appreciate the recommendations so far--very helpful. Some more questions:

- Any reason not to try a Japanese handle? What would you recommend, or would it be a risk to try this?
- I have a larger budget--are there other more expensive knives that would give me a noticeable performance increase?
- This is a gift, after all, and intended to inaugurate a new kitchen, so if I could also get something fancier looking (Damascus or hammered steel) as well as better performing, that would be a bonus. I'd spend a little for just better looking, but not a ton unless the performance was better. Any thoughts on this, especially if they also address the other points above?

Thanks,
/mike
A Japanese (wa) handle is great for pinch grips, but if you have large hands and use a hammer grip you might find them small.
Other than the ZDP-189 steel, I think that around $300-350 is when you really find diminishing returns on performance. But you will find more cosmetic improvements. However, the truth is that you will find most the knives here will do drastically better than the knives you have. Given the size of your budget, it might be better to get a mid-range knife and find out what qualities you like. Then focus on that for the second knife.

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Re: Last minute knife gift ideas

Post by deskjockey » Wed Dec 13, 2017 7:27 am

Once you get past carbon (reactive) versus stainless steel, you generally get more embellishment as the price goes up with some improvements in 'fit and finish' and less dramatic enhancements in materials, in general. Thin, thick, heavy, or light are all available at almost any price point.

Something like the Takamura Migaki R2 Santoku which is often referred to as a laser will fly through veggies. I would not use it on really hard things like butternut squash however. For Cantelope, large squash, etc. a 240mm Gyuto would my preferred choice.

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Re: Last minute knife gift ideas

Post by mitchellzone » Wed Dec 13, 2017 10:22 am

I think I'm down to these two:

https://www.chefknivestogo.com/kavgsuwa21.html
https://www.chefknivestogo.com/anhagy21.html

The price is basically the same, and handles are the same. As far as I can tell, the performance tradeoffs are typical per stainless vs. carbon--I need to decide if ease of maintenance is more important than sharpness. Aesthetics are hammered look versus Suminagashi. Any other considerations I'm overlooking as a noob? I am wondering how the Kato knife differs from the other one Mark suggests above? What am I losing for the price difference from https://www.chefknivestogo.com/kiri2.html?

/mike

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Re: Last minute knife gift ideas

Post by jbart65 » Wed Dec 13, 2017 3:17 pm

The Anryu is very easy to care for since it's stainless clad. The edge is not superreactive nor does it react quickly, but yeah, still have to dry when done.

I started out on my j knife path two years ago. The Takamura R2 and Kanehide PS60 were my first knives. The Anyru followed a few months later. I've had no difficulty handling carbon edges, especially stainless clad. The Anryu is blue steel and I find it tougher than whites. I'd say go for it.
Jeffry B

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