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Kitchen Knives

Discussion in 'Social Life, Food & Drink, Travel' started by Manton, Sep 15, 2007.

  1. Teacher

    Teacher Well-Known Member

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    "Surgical stainless" is a meaningless marketing term.

    While I agree this is a marketing term, it is far from meaningless. It denotes a steel with an extremely high chromium content. Such steels are virtually rust proof (unlike the "high-carbon stainless" knives, like the ones we're discussing) and extremely tough, but they are also very, very difficult to sharpen.

    I don't think you understood my point. While you are correct in theory, the practical effect is so slight that it's virtually nonexistent. And yes, I've used several Japanese knives many, many times, in both professional and home settings. Therefore, I wouldn't use this as a reason someone should choose Japanese knive. On the other hand, the different feel of Japanese knives would be a reason to use them.
     
  2. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    Okay, I've been reading this and a thread on another board, and I'm hankering after a Japanese knife - well, I have been for a while now. My Forschners do a fine job and I am very fond of them, but I'm also looking at a Tojiro that's not a whole lot more expensive. Would I be making a mistake in going to a Japanese knife or two? Worth the hassle? Stick with the Forschners?

    What say you?
     
  3. Huntsman

    Huntsman Well-Known Member

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    Okay, I've been reading this and a thread on another board, and I'm hankering after a Japanese knife - well, I have been for a while now. My Forschners do a fine job and I am very fond of them, but I'm also looking at a Tojiro that's not a whole lot more expensive. Would I be making a mistake in going to a Japanese knife or two? Worth the hassle? Stick with the Forschners? What say you?
    The question you have to ask is "Why do you want one?" As you doubtless know, a Japanese knife is not going to revolutionize your cooking experience if stepping up from decent German knives that are well-maintained. If you like knives and appreciate the effort and craft embedded in a handmade knife and place value on those aspects, then you have a good reason to purchase one. Like Doc, I use Henckles Pro S near exclusively, except for my one Hiroo Itou slicer (which I typically use just for fish, and is stunning in that capacity, noticeably better than the Henckles). But the Itou is far more beautiful and I enjoy using it and simply holding it in my hand -- that's where the real value is (and philosophically, from contributing to humanity by purchasing something that the creation of is a part of someone's life and a component of his self-worth). I want another one. [​IMG]
     
  4. Teacher

    Teacher Well-Known Member

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    Okay, I've been reading this and a thread on another board, and I'm hankering after a Japanese knife - well, I have been for a while now. My Forschners do a fine job and I am very fond of them, but I'm also looking at a Tojiro that's not a whole lot more expensive. Would I be making a mistake in going to a Japanese knife or two? Worth the hassle? Stick with the Forschners?

    What say you?


    Why would it be a mistake? If you have any friends who have some Japanese knives, see if you can borrow one or two, or maybe just go to their places and use them a bit. See if you like the feel of them. If you do, then get some.
     
  5. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    The question you have to ask is "Why do you want one?" As you doubtless know, a Japanese knife is not going to revolutionize your cooking experience if stepping up from decent German knives that are well-maintained. If you like knives and appreciate the effort and craft embedded in a handmade knife and place value on those aspects, then you have a good reason to purchase one.

    Like Doc, I use Henckles Pro S near exclusively, except for my one Hiroo Itou slicer (which I typically use just for fish, and is stunning in that capacity, noticeably better than the Henckles). But the Itou is far more beautiful and I enjoy using it and simply holding it in my hand -- that's where the real value is (and philosophically, from contributing to humanity by purchasing something that the creation of is a part of someone's life and a component of his self-worth).

    I want another one.

    [​IMG]


    Christ almighty that is gorgeous.

    Why would it be a mistake? If you have any friends who have some Japanese knives, see if you can borrow one or two, or maybe just go to their places and use them a bit. See if you like the feel of them. If you do, then get some.

    ...my only friends who cook worth a damn use the cheapest things you have ever seen. Late-night informercial-type stuff, off-brand Ginzu-type knives she finds at garage sales. It's a bit unsettling to watch her use a large paring knife where I would use an 8" chef's knife, but she's the best cook of all our friends, and don't think for a minute that I don't recognize the irony in this situation.
     
  6. Dragon

    Dragon Well-Known Member

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    Another small thing I should add is that Japanese knives should have weight. The blade, shape, along with the weight are used for the cutting. If you get one of those light, thin kind you will not get the full experience of a Japanese knife.
     
  7. tiecollector

    tiecollector Well-Known Member

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    I just got off the phone with MAC and they said there isn't much need for honing because the metal is so much harder than Western knives. He recommended using their roll sharpener ever 2-4 weeks depending on how often you cook. But if you do use a honing steel, use a ceramic one.

    I got my 6.5" santoku in the mail on Friday and love the knife. The guy on the phone recommended getting a santoku paring knife, an 8" chef with Granton edge, and a santoku cleaver. The deba cleavers are nice but are quite a bit more expensive. I will probably just get the MACs although Teacher's insight about Western knives going through bones better is interesting. I was just watching Alton Brown and he was saying that knives are modeled after swords and German ones are made for strength and the Japanese for accuracy. So it makes sense the German ones would go through bones better.
     
  8. Teacher

    Teacher Well-Known Member

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    Actually, I don't use the edge to cut through most bones, very fine poultry bones being the exception. Instead, I use the heel of a German-style knife, which is the part of the bolster that comes to a point at the front. French-style knives have heels that are a little light for this, and Japanese-style knives rarely have bolsters at all.
     
  9. tiecollector

    tiecollector Well-Known Member

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    Actually, I don't use the edge to cut through most bones, very fine poultry bones being the exception. Instead, I use the heel of a German-style knife, which is the part of the bolster that comes to a point at the front. French-style knives have heels that are a little light for this, and Japanese-style knives rarely have bolsters at all.
    I'm looking at the Messermeisters now for an 8" heavy duty cleaver. I think German knives are best for hacking all types of meats from what I'm reading. I'll use Japanese for other types of cutting. Is an 8" overkill or will a 6" work for most applications?
     
  10. Dmax

    Dmax Well-Known Member

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    I just got off the phone with MAC and they said there isn't much need for honing because the metal is so much harder than Western knives. He recommended using their roll sharpener ever 2-4 weeks depending on how often you cook. But if you do use a honing steel, use a ceramic one. I got my 6.5" santoku in the mail on Friday and love the knife. The guy on the phone recommended getting a santoku paring knife, an 8" chef with Granton edge, and a santoku cleaver. The deba cleavers are nice but are quite a bit more expensive. I will probably just get the MACs although Teacher's insight about Western knives going through bones better is interesting. I was just watching Alton Brown and he was saying that knives are modeled after swords and German ones are made for strength and the Japanese for accuracy. So it makes sense the German ones would go through bones better.
    A couple of points: Yes, traditional hones are too coarse for japanese knives. Ceramic or even smooth hones with no grooves at all are much better. You are not trying to sharpen the knife when honing it, you are just trying to straighten the edge back into a something resembling a line. Since you are not a knifegeek, I would not get a Santoku or Deba this soon. MAC has a few lines some of which are more expensive than others so you may find a less expensive deba if you check out a different retailer (or a different brand). A inexpensive Chinese cleaver also makes a good deba substitute, though there are some pricey cleavers as well. Something to keep in mind, is that you don't always have to chop through bones, at least when poultry is concerned. You can just find the joints and slice through them. German knives are heavier, more substantial, have a wider, less acute edge and are generally (Teacher's untraditional RC60 vintage knives non withstanding) made with softer steel alloy. When a typical German knife encounters a kitchen counter, a bone or something else hard it tends to roll it's edge. You may visually be able to see that a part of the edge is bent. You may be able to steel the bend out or more likely sharpen it out. Japanese made western style knives are lighter, have a thinner edge profile, made with better, higher carbon content steel, and are hardened to a higher RC number for superior edge retention. This also means that if you try to use them to open cans of beans, chop through frozen bones, cut on a glass "cutting" board or abuse them in any way you may find a part of your knife's edge missing... Think of these knives as razors. They will out cut anything out there but they are not careless-cook proof. If you do chip them, the remedy is the same as the german or french knives - sharpening. While I sharpening a few of japanese knives of my friends and relatives I also noticed that the tips of the knives tend to go missing a lot. It only takes me 10-15 minutes to give them a new tip, but I can't help but think that some people are used to treating their kitchen knives as some sort of multi-tools: "a screw needs tightening over there, hell I'd just use my chef's knife".
     
  11. Dmax

    Dmax Well-Known Member

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    Another small thing I should add is that Japanese knives should have weight. The blade, shape, along with the weight are used for the cutting. If you get one of those light, thin kind you will not get the full experience of a Japanese knife.
    I think you may have in mind the traditional Japanese knives, known as yanagiba, usuba, deba, nakiri, etc... These are not very well suited for preparing Western meals. I believe we were mostly discussing Japanese made western style knives. For most people it's the Guyto (Cow Sword/chef's knife) and a Petty (parer) with some miscellaneous other blade designs thrown in, all being useful in preparing a typical Continental or an American meal.
     
  12. Dragon

    Dragon Well-Known Member

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    I think you may have in mind the traditional Japanese knives, known as yanagiba, usuba, deba, nakiri, etc... These are not very well suited for preparing Western meals. I believe we were mostly discussing Japanese made western style knives. For most people it's the Guyto (Cow Sword/chef's knife) and a Petty (parer) with some miscellaneous other blade designs thrown in, all being useful in preparing a typical Continental or an American meal.

    I see...

    Guyto is double edged, so there is almost no meaning as a Japanese knife, but I guess it would suit western food much more.
     
  13. Teacher

    Teacher Well-Known Member

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    A couple of points:

    Yes, traditional hones are too coarse for japanese knives.


    No, that's not right. First, it's called a steel; hone is the verb. Second, the coarseness has nothing to do with it. It's how hard the steel is. A steel must be a few degrees Rockwell harder than the edge it is honing or it won't work. The only time a steel need be basically smooth is when it is used for a card scraper.

    This happens to all steel edges, not just German ones. That's what the steel is for.

    Uh...no. It is certainly not better; it is different. Nowadays, it is not always higher in carbon, but often chromium and/or molybdenum. (Japanese chisel edges, on the other hand, are higher in carbon.) Besides, as I've brought up more than once, higher carbon content always has one glaringly negative side effect: brittle edges. That's why modern Western edge steels actually have lower carbon contents than edge steels of old. And yes, it is hardened more, but your use of the word "superior" needs qualification. If you mean that it it will take more soft-use wear and tear, then yes, it is superior. If you are talking about hard abuse, however, it is most definitely inferior to Western steels, which are far less brittle.

    Each alloy has its strengths and weaknesses, and one should know what they are when going into knife buying. Just because something is harder does not make it overall superior. There are pros and cons to each aspect. For example, would you recommend making kitchen knives from S53 steel? Hard and tough as it is, I would never, ever recommend such a thing. It just has too many drawbacks for the home cook.
     
  14. itsstillmatt

    itsstillmatt Well-Known Member

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    This thread continues to crack me up. It reminds me of the shoe posts where you know that none of them are going to get any wear. Teacher is the most correct, although I disagree with some little points he makes.

    The bottom line is that I am not sure that many of the people posting here can actually use a knife to any good effect. I say that not only from the comments, but also from looking at some of the pictures in the what did you eat thread. Personally, I find that French knives have the best shape, that Global knives are great because of their lightness, and that the very high end Japanese knives are toys for people who don't cook, but what the hell do I know?
     
  15. Dragon

    Dragon Well-Known Member

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    This thread continues to crack me up. It reminds me of the shoe posts where you know that none of them are going to get any wear. Teacher is the most correct, although I disagree with some little points he makes.

    The bottom line is that I am not sure that many of the people posting here can actually use a knife to any good effect. I say that not only from the comments, but also from looking at some of the pictures in the what did you eat thread. Personally, I find that French knives have the best shape, that Global knives are great because of their lightness, and that the very high end Japanese knives are toys for people who don't cook, but what the hell do I know?


    Sounds like you know everything [​IMG]
     
  16. itsstillmatt

    itsstillmatt Well-Known Member

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    Sounds like you know everything [​IMG]
    Well, I worked 8 months in the kitchen of a michelin 2-star chef, so I better know something about cutting food and sharpening knives.
     
  17. Dmax

    Dmax Well-Known Member

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    This thread continues to crack me up. It reminds me of the shoe posts where you know that none of them are going to get any wear. Teacher is the most correct, although I disagree with some little points he makes. The bottom line is that I am not sure that many of the people posting here can actually use a knife to any good effect. I say that not only from the comments, but also from looking at some of the pictures in the what did you eat thread. Personally, I find that French knives have the best shape, that Global knives are great because of their lightness, and that the very high end Japanese knives are toys for people who don't cook, but what the hell do I know?
    "It's better to be entertaining than to be correct". Hopefully, you are not the only one entertained. I do ask that instead of disparaging "people posting here" you try to identify the posters you were referring to. Otherwise, your comments have the same effect as KitonBrioni saying: "The outfits of people who posted on these past 5 pages were hideous" in the "What are you wearing right now thread".
     
  18. itsstillmatt

    itsstillmatt Well-Known Member

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    "It's better to be entertaining than to be correct". Hopefully, you are not the only one entertained. I do ask that instead of disparaging "people posting here" you try to identify the posters you were referring to. Otherwise, your comments have the same effect as KitonBrioni saying: "The outfits of people who posted on these past 5 pages were hideous" in the "What are you wearing right now thread".
    OK, my .02, as I said above, is that in the hands of somebody who both knows how to steel and use a knife, the most effective tool is a soft carbon, forged French chef's knife. Steeling just aligns the burrs on the edge of a knife so that they are all pointing in the same direction. This is done both by force and by the magnetic qualities of the steel. Once an edge is truly taken off of the knife, it needs to be resharpened, either on a wheel or on a stone. A harder steel knife will have a longer lasting edge, but it will be harder to keep that edge at the optimal angle with a steel, so there is give and take. As for shape, a French knife is preferable to a German knife because the tip is easier to use for fine cutting. A German shape knife is great for rocking, but is relatively useless for something like brunoise or even julienne. Most Japanese knives I have tried fail as far as being as nimble as a French knife, but the Globals are actually quite good. I have, or have had, several from each country so these are opinions based on use, not facts or second hand opinions. Japanese fish knives are great, but I find them relatively useless in real life. What I laugh at is the need for a damascus steel knife or something similarly beautiful. If you really like them, fine, but knives are tools and like any good tool you mold them to you through use and through sharpening, and something that is great only for the sake of its own beauty is not necessarily practical, as one would be nervous to have the edge and shape ground to fit the user as it might disturb the aesthetics of the knife.
     
  19. Teacher

    Teacher Well-Known Member

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    Well, I worked 8 months in the kitchen of a michelin 2-star chef, so I better know something about cutting food and sharpening knives.

    In all fairness, that means nothing. Just because somebody is/has been in a certain profession doesn't mean they're particularly knowledgable about it. I just got done dealing with a pretty crappy mechanic who's been a mechanic for a long time.
     
  20. itsstillmatt

    itsstillmatt Well-Known Member

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    In all fairness, that means nothing. Just because somebody is/has been in a certain profession doesn't mean they're particularly knowledgable about it. I just got done dealing with a pretty crappy mechanic who's been a mechanic for a long time.
    If you are ever in San Francisco, you are more than welcome to come over for dinner.
     

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