Aug 10
2010

The Cutting Edge: How to Choose a Knife

in Culinary Adventurism, Product Reviews, Tips & Tricks

*News: The past week has been a busy one for this little blog!  Last week I was interviewed on Tasty Kitchen.  If you’d like to hear about some of the strange things I’ve eaten, or read the story about one of my kitchen disasters, go read the interview.  Yesterday CNN’s Eatocracy featured La Fuji Mama.  To learn more about me and my taste buds, go check out my spotlight.  Thank you Tasty Kitchen and Eatocracy!

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“There was never a good Knife made of bad Steel.” — Benjamin Franklin, ‘Poor Richard’s Almanac’

I recently told you that I would occasionally be including a post on the topic of knives and knife skills.  This is the next post in that series!  Over the past few months I’ve been looking at a variety of knives online and in stores, and I began to wonder how various knives in a similar price range would compare to one another.  If you are going to shell out between $100 and $150 of your hard earned cash for a good knife, how are you going to decide which one to get out of the many options out there?  I decided to conduct a practical experiment to see how a variety of knives compared to each other and what my opinions about them were and why.

Trying out 5 different knives from Sur La Table

Sur La Table was kind enough to loan me 5 different knives for my experiment, and my dear friend Josie (Daydreamer Desserts) came over to help out.  We were working with the workhorses of the kitchen knife world: 3 chef’s knives and 2 santoku knives.

The Knife Lineup:

The Knife Lineup

The bad thing about having a fellow food blogger around with a camera, is the fact that they can catch your excitement over getting to play with cool knives on camera . . . which in my case means me acting like a total dork.  Just in case Josie was tempted to post these herself, I’ll just own up to being goofy right now.

Fuji Mama playing with knives

Once I was able to settle down a bit, we got down to business.  We used each knife to chop up part of an onion, testing and retesting them against one another.

Slicing an onion

The results?  Here are our thoughts on the different knives, starting with the cheapest knife and ending with the most expensive (based on the price tag on each box):

1. Victorinox 8-inch Chef’s Knife

Victorinox 8-inch Chef's Knife

  • Price: $109.95
  • Weight: approximately 271 grams

This knife had the smallest price tag out of the five, and was the heaviest out of the five.  We definitely felt the weight difference, though the balance of the knife was nice, and the weight seemed to help guide the cut as opposed to hindering it.  The knife was pretty comfortable to hold, though it would get tiring to continually hold it if you had to do a lot of chopping.  The price is a great selling point, although the weight could be a drawback.  This was our third favorite knife.

2. Miyabi Fusion 8-inch Chef’s Knife

Miyabi Fusion 8-inch Chef's Knife

  • Price: $129.95
  • Weight: approximately 212 grams

This knife was in the middle range for price and was the 2nd lightest out of the five.  This knife wasn’t as comfortable to hold and we found that it took more focus to make the cuts we wanted to make.  We felt it could do some damage if you weren’t paying close attention, or didn’t have very good knife skills.  Although it is a beautiful knife, it was the most awkward out of the five to use and our least favorite.

3. Shun 8-inch Chef’s Knife

Shun 8-inch Chef's Knife

  • Price: $129.95
  • Weight: approximately 207 grams

This was also in the middle range for price and was the lightest out of the five.  This knife was easy to use and cut easily through everything that we tried it on.  This was Josie’s first pick out of the five and my second pick.

4. Miyabi Fusion 7-inch Hollow-Edge Santoku

Miyabi Fusion 7-inch Hollow-Edge Santoku

  • Price: $129.95
  • Weight: approximately 215 grams

This knife also fell into the middle range for price, and was the second heaviest out of the five, though still considerably lighter (56 grams) than the Victorinox Chef’s Knife.  This knife was also awkward to use, like the Miyabi Fusion Chef’s Knife, though slightly less so.  It was our second least favorite.

5. Shun Premier 7-inch Santoku

Shun Premier 7-inch Santoku

  • Price: $149.95
  • Weight: approximately 213 grams

This knife was the most expensive and was the third heaviest out of the five.  Josie and I both agreed that this was the most beautiful out of the five and has an extremely comfortable handle.  It cut easily, making some of the other knives seem almost dull in comparison.  This was my first pick and Josie’s second pick.

Concluding thoughts: The issues that seemed to matter when comparing these knives were the feel of the knife in our hands, the balance of the knife, the ease of cutting through things, and the ease of getting precision in cutting.  Josie and I both loved the Shun knives the most, but she liked the Chef’s knife slightly more than the santoku, and I liked the santoku slightly more than the Chef’s knife.  For me this means that I always need to make an effort to try out a few knives in a side-by-side comparison when I am purchasing a new one (you can do this at Sur La Table stores).

Knives ready to be put to work

Additional advice on choosing a knife from the book ‘Knives Cooks Love’, by Sarah Jay:

– Make a list of your priorities.  What are the most important things for you?  Consider the type of knife you need, your price range, how long you are hoping the knife will last, how much care you normally give your knives, storage system, whether or not you sharpen your knives yourself. (p.46)

– Use the Internet to do your preliminary research, but then actually go out and get your hands on the knives.  “Head to a dedicated cutlery store or serious cookware shop, or any place that offers a wide selection of high-quality products and knowledgeable staff.” (p.46)

– If the store allows it, bring along some fresh produce (or bread if you are buying a bread knife) and actually cut with the knives  you are considering purchasing. (p.46)

– “Buying a knife is a little like buying shoes: You have to try it out to know how it fits . . . . Above all, trust yourself: If you don’t like something—how the knife feels in your hand or how it rocks on the board—it doesn’t matter how sleek it looks, or how much someone else is raving about it.  When you pick up a knife and it feels utterly natural, almost like it’s always been there, you know you’ve found the one for you.” (p.47)

– Don’t buy purely based on the reputation that a brand has.  What is most important is how that knife feels in your hand when you are using it. (p.50)

Book---Knives Cooks Love, by Sarah Jay

** A big thank you to Sur La Table for making this experiment possible!

{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }



Paula - bell'alimento August 10, 2010 at 7:02 pm

Great information {as always} Rachael! & hello lurve the pics, you’re a hoot! ; ) Looks like a very fun night for you & Josie! I’m diggin that Shun Premiere myself, very snappy!

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jenjenk August 10, 2010 at 7:16 pm

What a great post! I love knives and am always looking for more [unless my mom, dream killer, is with me to tell me, NOOOO.]

I especially love, love, love, love, LOOOOOVE the photos of you. It really depicts the true you. AHAHAHAHA. MUWAH!

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Melissa August 10, 2010 at 7:54 pm

I just picked up two new knives from the Sur La Table in South Corona this weekend. The Store Manager was extremely helpful and we (my mom was with me) tried out several knives in the store. I choose the Santoku as well.

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Liren August 10, 2010 at 8:14 pm

What a great post! I have had my Wustoff knives for what feels like forever, but I have been curious about the Shun. Great tips, and I love the idea of test-driving them before purchase.

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Fuji Nana August 10, 2010 at 9:47 pm

I need to remember to stay away from you when you’re slicing and dicing. Scary pics.

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Sharlene (Wheels and Lollipops) August 11, 2010 at 1:09 am

Great knives are an essential part of the kitchen. We shelled out the big bucks for ours as part of our wedding list, definitely worth the price and upkeep.

Looks like the two of you had a blast :)

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Belinda @zomppa August 11, 2010 at 5:08 am

I’m in the hunt for knives so this is fantastic! Thanks for the review – I never thought to ask a store to try them, but maybe I will!

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RavieNomNoms August 11, 2010 at 6:57 am

What a great post!! Thanks for sharing!

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Jenny Flake August 11, 2010 at 8:36 am

You are a crack up! Love those knife photos, seriously! Great post :)

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Tracy August 11, 2010 at 8:55 am

Great “tips!” (har, har). I love my santoku knife and now it’s all I use for cutting in the kitchen!

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Chefs Resources August 11, 2010 at 9:17 am

Very helpful work you did here! I have been considering getting one of the Shun knives (either the Santoku or the 10″ Chef) but don’t know anyone who owns one and this article helped me put aside the high price on them. Many thanks and great job.

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Michelle @ Brown Eyed Baker August 11, 2010 at 10:05 am

Great post!! And I love your goofy pictures, very cute!

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Damaris August 11, 2010 at 10:34 am

I have a new victorinox chefs knife that is made from ceramic and it’s by far my favorite knife in the world. It’s light and it chops like no one’s business. I am really happy with it and totally recommend it. http://www.kitchencorners.com/2010/06/product-review-victorinox-swiss-army.html

great post! (yours, not the one I linked to)

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Michelle August 11, 2010 at 11:50 am

Wonderful, very detailed post!

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Maria August 11, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Love this post!! And the photos of you are fun:) Congrats on all of your recent press too!

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Brian August 11, 2010 at 1:42 pm

As a “big guy” (6’3″ and equally large hands), another consideration was if, when the knife was rocked back toward the handle end of the knife, was the blade “tall” enough to keep my knuckles from hitting the cutting board. Here again, Shun prevailed.

Also worth mentioning is that the company, whose American offices are in Oregon, will sharpen them for free forever if you just mail them in, and are certain to do a better job than anyone, being the makers of the knife after all.

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amy chu August 11, 2010 at 7:42 pm

Great post. Thanks for sharing : )

I own the 10″ Shun’s Chef knife. Love it.

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Marc August 11, 2010 at 7:55 pm

A coworker sent me your post today. Love your site! Our most sincere thanks for your kind words, from the entire Shun design team.

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elaine August 12, 2010 at 7:25 am

I am not a knife connoisseur but after watching Simply Ming I so wanted a porcelain knife. My daughter bought me one for Mother’s Day two years ago. I use it constantly but keep it on my kitchen ledge so there is no chance of dropping it or it falling. I have to say I really love the lightness of it and the thin blade. True, it isn’t for everything but I certainly get lots of usage from it. I have had it sharpened once. I would love to acquire more of these knives.

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Bianca @ South Bay Rants n Raves August 12, 2010 at 12:14 pm

Thank you for the tips! Also very comical pix, I love them! I can never chop as quickly as the chefs I see on tv! Is it the knife? Confidence? Both? Hmm… your post got me to thinking.

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Jen @ How To: Simplify August 12, 2010 at 2:47 pm

This is such a great post! It’s filled with so much helpful information. I love the photos!

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Maggy@ThreeManyCooks August 12, 2010 at 9:01 pm

Ha! I love the photos, you’re so funny. And those knives are AMAZING! Fantastic post, great information.

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Angie August 13, 2010 at 7:44 am

I love your photos, and those knives are so gorgeous! I think another issue is the sharpening skills of the cook too. You can buy the best, but if you don’t know how to sharpen, it’s useless. I also wonder about how the steel holds up to repeated sharpening. I’ve got a really old knife in my collection, it looks more like a piece old steel with an electrical tape handle, LOL, from my butcher great grandfather. It’s a great old, old piece of American steel and can get razor sharp easily. I always wonder how any knives will hold up over time.

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EMK August 13, 2010 at 9:31 am

Great post! I’ve been using santoku for a long time. I brought it with me when I moved here from Japan along with a sharpening stone. I tried many sharpening tools but nothing works better than stones.

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Cookin' Canuck August 14, 2010 at 3:47 pm

Great review of these knives, Rachael and Josie. You really do have to try the knife before knowing whether or not it feels comfortable in your hand. Cooking stores should have a knife testing station, complete with veggies to chop.

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Cookin' Canuck August 14, 2010 at 3:48 pm

P.S. Remind me not to mess with you when you have a knife in your hand.

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Diane {createdbydiane.blogspot.com} August 14, 2010 at 10:22 pm

I loved reading your interviews, you are so inspiring! Each time I visit I feel like I have traveled somewhere :)
It was great to see you comparing knives, really loved your ahhhha photos! What a fun personality you have!

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Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction August 15, 2010 at 5:44 pm

Congrats on your CNN and Tasty Kitchen features!! Love all of the photos with you and the knives… You’re too funny!

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Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite August 16, 2010 at 12:28 pm

An EXCELLENT review of these knives Rachael. When I bought our knife set, we agonised over which ones for ages. It’s really personal!!!

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Jen @ Tiny Urban Kitchen August 18, 2010 at 10:22 am

I loved this post, especially the pictures of you holding those knives! Thanks for the interesting review. I have one 7-inch Shun Santoku and it is by far my favorite knife! :)

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sun-young aum April 13, 2012 at 11:26 am

It is ver helpful post to buy shun knives Thanks a lot ^^

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Binkie April 25, 2012 at 8:44 am

Nice, but it would have been great if you had held the knives with a proper pinch grip rather than entirely by the handles like you do with a steak knife. They would have fit your hands differently and your ratings of the comfort and awkwardness would likely be different. If you ever do another knife review please at least include a comparison while using a pinch grip, even if you also do one gripping the handle.

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Antonio February 24, 2013 at 11:31 pm

Its very clear to me after used and sold many knifes including the specific models you have supposed tested that your test reporting is not very accurate for good skilled knife user. The miyabi knifes not only are the best in cutting tests, the particular fusion handles are the most comfortable handles for any western handle with knotched tops also are another plus for any skilled cook or chef. Not for the newly gourmet kitchen connoisseur that now discovered cooking is an art when European and Japanese chefs been using them for generetions. Its way of living and a passion…tata

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Ash May 4, 2013 at 4:00 am

What is the best knive type to use to cut large tuna? Chief knive? Utility? Boning?

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Steve November 19, 2013 at 7:59 am

The Victorinox knife you were working with was the forged version. Victorinox also makes an 8″ Chef knife with a Fibrox handle. The Fibrox Chef knife weighs only 6.25 ounces, versus the 8.5 to 9.0 ounce weights that typify forged German knives, but the lighter weight feels comfortable and nimble, rather than flimsy. Best of all, this knife sells on Amazon for about $25.

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