Good kitchen knives Vs. GREAT kitchen knives.

About three years ago, I shelled out $30 for this set of kitchen knives at one of those card-carrier discount stores, and I’ve never regretted the purchase. Good balance. Nice, substantial bolster. Stainless enough for my sloppiness while still soft and malleable enough for a quickie honing.

Anyway, my birthday is coming up, and my SO the Creepy Girl seems really psyched about getting me a proper chef’s knife set. Secretly, I suspect she’s just digging the idea of the all the research time spent at Williams-Sonoma and Bed, Bath and Beyond, but who am I to complain?

So, anybody got an opinion on the difference between a $30 set of Hoffritz chef’s knives vs. a $300 set of Henkel’s?

Really cheap knives tend to be of the serrated ‘never needs sharpening’ type and are fine for slicing bread or tomatoes, but not very controllable with harder stuff like carrots. Plus the cheaper they are, the more likely they are to fall apart.

Much of this is subjective, so I’ll offer this as opinion only; I only really use two knives in the kitchen; a tiny little one with a very thin, flexible three-inch blade which takes and holds a fantastic edge - great for thinly slicing onions etc, plus a large one with a broad, stiff blade that you can lean on when necessary to cut though difficult items (like when you’re cutting parsnips or carrots lengthways).

I don’t think there can be any absolute truths here though.

I’m with you MT, I myself rely almost exclusivly on two knives: my large Chef’s knife for paring starchy bulbs, roots, tubors and herbs-to-be-finely-minced, and a paring knife for everything else. My longish utility knife I only use for slicing roasts thin for, say, beef stroganoff or de-boning fish. I have a serrated utility I pretty much only use for biting into tomatoes.

The only comments I have is that the standard Henkels type knives require care and feeding that cheap knives generally don’t. You have to use the steel all the time, and sharpen them manually to keep the edge nice. I don’t think mine are quite as sharp as they could be and often use some small cheap knives for cutting little things.

<checking the link> Those ones you have actually look like very nice knives, If you like the way they work, tell your GF to get something else, or maybe just a knife or two to round out your set. I wouldn’t bother upgrading unless they started to show wear or perform poorly.

Do you really need a set of knives? I’m a fairly serious home cook, and 99% of the time I either use my 8" chef’s knife or my 3" paring knife. I also have a cheapo serrated bread knife I use when I have homemade bread around, and a boning knife I use when I have large pieces of meat. The boning knife I could live without, and there’s no reason to spend big bucks on a serrated bread knife - the cheap ones work just as well.

I have Henkels, and I love 'em. But you do need to sharpen them once every 6 months or so, so make sure to budget in a sharpener if you buy them. Unless you want to sharpen 'em waaaay more than that, you also need a steel, and like Cheesesteak says, you need to get in the habit of using it every time you use the knives. It keeps 'em sharper MUCH longer.

Interestingly enough, Cook’s Illustrated just rated this knife right up there with the $70-$80 Henkels and Wusthof chef’s knives.

I think the only real factor for a knife is the edge. Good knife, cheap knife, doesn’t matter as long as you can put a good edge on it, and it will hold that edge long enough not to irritate you.

I don’t think ripe tomatoes get impressed by the cachet of a Henckels knife :slight_smile:

Since I, like many of my fellow posters only use a couple knives you might want to try pointing her at a nice single knife and a new steel.

I have one of these

That I use the hell out of. With the extra $230 she could buy you several other fun kitchen toys.

Bordain’s Kitchen Confidential has a chapter in which he discusses knives. I recall he said the high end blades required considerable regular maintenance.
He highly recommended a reasonably priced alternative (the name of which I forget.)
But I’m kind of a slob in the kitchen, so I have no idea whether he was full of it or not.

Second what drachillix said; get her to spend some oney on toys you do want; if it was me, I’d be asking for a large granite mortar & pestle.

I agree with most posters here. I tend to use one knife, flexible, for fish en thin slicing. I got a new knife a couple of years ago, shaped like this one from global, but only about $50. I’ll never go back. Things are so much easiser with the blade shaped like that. So that’s two knifes for preparing food. I also have a knife for carving bread, which was about $3. It’s abnout 15 years old, and still works fine.

So basically, getting a whole set of Sabatier, Victorinox or Global, which are the top three in the world, is just a waste of money.

The hamster ate the link.
Try this one instead:

I must respectfully disagree. The edge of the knife is very important, but it’s not the only important quality of a good knife. Off the top of my head:

Balance: a good knife is balanced in your hand, and feels good to use.

Weight: Many people prefer a heavier blade over a light blade. IMO, a heavier blade is more stable and also lends its heft to the cutting process.

Blade shape: there are variations even among such standards as 8" chef’s knives. Also, different sizes and shapes are used for different applications.

Blade thickness: a boning knife can have a flexible blade; a cleaver has a heavy blade.

Handle: Handles are shaped differently. A knife that fits nicely into your hand may not feel comfortable to someone else.

I’m no master chef (but I did use a knife professionally as a prep cook-lots of slicing and dicing), But actually enjoy the ritual of taking the knife to the steel.

My brother (who is a professional chef) uses the sttel so fast it looks like a bad martial arts movie…

“oops, though this was MPSIMS”

My best kitchen knives are handmade of L6 carbon steel, and hold an edge well. They require constant care and are not for people who are going to throw them in a drawer and use them once a week. In order of importance: Cleaver, boning knife, paring knife. I’m gonna make a chef’s knife too, as soon as I can find the right piece of steel.


I’m another 8" chef and 3" paring knife owner. Those two are Wusthoff Tridents, the rest of my knives are serated cheapies from Ross. I learned the value of a good chef’s knife while working as a cook over the years and I actually had to bring my own at some places, as did all the other chefs.

If its sharp enough and you know how to handle it, you can use a chef’s knife it for nearly everything but bread. I can dice tiny garlic cloves into specks with it, or shave them into paper thin slices. In fact, I could probably use it for everything I use the paring knife for, but it’s just easier to use the little knife sometimes. Use the steel, just a few stokes to bring out the edge, and use a stone very carefully and seldomly.

Plus, I think there’s something neat about having a few well made kitchen tools whose usefullness will outlive you and can be passed on.

I used to sell Cutco Knives which are high-end knives that are rated second-to-none generally, only really competing with Henkels which are priced about twice as much. I hate the company, personally, but the knives are really good and less expensive than those German knives you get. You can’t buy them in stores, basically you order them on-line or get a some slick-willy college student to come to your house for a “demonstration”.

Generally, knives are up to personal preference. After selling Cutco, I bought myself a cheap set of $30 knives to use in my kitchen. They don’t hold an edge, they rust, they make the Cutco salesfolk scream. I don’t care. They’re good enough for me. But then, I’m not a fan of the finer things. Give it to me cheap and I’ll make it last is my motto.

The knives Tony Bourdain recommended are Global IIRC. Nice knives, great balance, coooool looking, but all you have for grip are little dimples ala a golf ball. I prefer my Henckels 3 Star knives with their full tang, full around pebbled nylon grip, and superb balance.
I also am in the two knives bandwagon. Actually I have many many knives but I only use two in any real amount.

My must have knife list:

8" Chefs ( I used to have a 10" but it was stolen :()
small paring knife with a sharp point
bread knife

I also have a 12" meat slicing knife (schinken messer) that I absolutely love. I consider it top be my mini Chefs Knife and I find myself reacing for it in places where I might also use a paring knife such as batons or tournades.

I believe the most important thing is how the knife feels in your hand. We have an old set of Cutcos; some are very nice. I never liked the butcher knife in the set, and the chef’s knife was lost to a tragic event. My brother bought me a 12" Chicago chef, but it was too long to be comfortable. I bought a 10" Chicago chef knife, and I like it a lot. I have a nice 8" Case chef knife, but I have to use it at the edge of the board. There’s no room underneath for my fingers.

The near perfect one is a Farberware 6" chef. The handle seems to be custom made for my hand, with a perfect curve on the spot where the handle meets the blade. The underside of the handle meets my fingers just right, and the handle has enough weight to counterbalance the blade. It’s not an expensive knife, it just feels that way. :cool:


AskNott, you should know that Cutco has a no questions asked return for refurbishment policy with a nominal charge of a few bucks per knife. Even tragically “lost” knives have been replaced by the home-plant for a song. I no longer sell the things, but I’m sure the policy is still there. You can send in any Cutco, even those that are 40 years old and missing handles, and get new ones or your old ones refurbished and given factory edges and needed repairs (whichever you request). It’s their “Forever” Gaurantee.

Just so’s you folks don’t get the wrong idea about me, I’ve tried fruitlessly to persuede the Creepy Girl that I’d much rather have the much less expensive Harry Potter Hogwarts castle toy to bookend my hardcover Harry Potter collection on my bookshelf, but nothing doing. I think she rather enjoys the fact that she’s making money hand-over-fist at the moment while I’m unemployed. Kind of a payback for the fact that I’m a pretty good cook while the CG can’t properly microwave a burrito (this isn’t sour grapes, she’d confirm this)

S’true! I can’t cook 4 shite. Besides why bother when I’ve got a defacto house husband eh? …

  • CG

Anyway, I was just looking for opinions as to what the difference way. Thanks all.