A cook feels about her knives as a priest feels about his religion. It is the right and only one.

These are my opinions, pictures will be added soon. Well the first pictures are here, more will be added in the near future.

Knives are useful tools, dull knives are not tools, they are simply dangerous.

This entry will take several days to make, as I'm not at a place with knives so the pictures will get added later.

I'm not going to tell you get Henckles, Wusthof, Forshner, Global, CIA, or insert brand here. I will tell you what I use for a paticular knife, and what my wife uses.

I am going to tell you, don't buy a block of knives (a block with steak knives only doesn't count).

You can find a decent 8" Chef's Knife, the first of the needed two, for under $40, from Forshner. You can also pay 40 times that. (And you may want a 10" knife not an 8")
This is a 10" Henckel Chef Knife #31021-260, my wife's Chef Knife, on a well used cutting block.

There are only a few main points:

  1. Does it feel good in your hand? Do you think it will tire you?

  2. Is it sharp and will it stay sharp for a reasonable length of work?

  3. Are the workmanship and materials good enough that the knife will last years?

That is it.

Find a decent professional kitchen supply place, they will have a wall of knives (or a cabinet) so you can handle them. We use one just north of Hyde Park, The Kitchen Drawer but this isn't their website, just address and phone.

Go in and ask to handle 8" and 10" Chef Knives. Handle them, what is comfortable. Points 2 and 3 can be done by research. The top line of any of the brands I listed above meet points 2 and 3, the lower lines may not (I've a very nice Henckles made 10" chefs knife which I can't keep sharp, but it is pretty). 

If you spend a few bills on a chef's knife they will happily show you other knives. Find the one(s) you want and order them over the Internet if you want. However knives don't come from the manufacturer with their final sharpening done. If you buy the knife at a good shop they will sharpen it free, and possibly put your initials on it free.

Q. Why would I want my initials on my knife? A. So I know when my wife is using mine not hers.

What other knives do I need?

You need a good steel, a 10" knife needs at least a 10" steel. You need a good paring knife. You need a block (or something) to keep these three items in without touching. That is it, you can do just about anything with those.
Ok, that is the three needed knives and implements. An 8 or 10" Chef's knife, a parring knife and a steel.

However, you can see that the knife is longer than the steel, not recomended.

Steel the knife before each use, steel your food processor blade, steel your meat grinder blade.

Read this book The Professional Knife Kit


Use a professional. A hardware store that sharpens knives may well destroy your $100+ knife in a single try. Use a professional who sharpens knives for cooks, professional cooks. The store you bought the knife from, if it serves professional cooks will do fine.

Can I do it myself? Yes, but you probably shouldn't.

But I want to. Get a whetstone, they come in a variety of grits and in dry, water wet and oil wet varieties. They take patience and time. AND THE FIRST TIMES YOU DO THIS USE AN OLD KNIFE!!! Eventually it will be an old sharp knife, but the edge shape may have changed.

Other knives

Yes they are useful, and I've a lot. I bone meat with a boning knife, 6-7" thin very sharp blade. I've both carving knives, although I mostly use my chef's knife and slicers - long thin serrated blade. I've a long thin very sharp blade I use for slicing smoked salmon. I've a cleaver, with an edge that cuts paper, to joint chicken and split the breast. I've a thin cleaver, also very sharp, for Chinese cooking. I've a Santuko, also Henckle's, for tomatoes and fine prep slicing. My wife has her chef's knive and Santuko. We have stamped steak knives, the 8" chef's knife that came with the block is fine for opening packages. We've the 8" chefs knife my wife arrived with and the 10" that came with her first boot camp knife kit. We've also the 12" high end chef's knife I bought on the Internet and don't like (see rule 1) and the 10" that came as a gift. It is a good sharp knife, I just don't like the balance althouh I use it when my 8" chefs knife, LL Bean if you must know and 35 years old, won't do.

I also have a regular hacksaw, which works just fine as a meat/bone saw. Yes it could have a better blade, but the pipe blade in it works on bone quite well.


Knives should have a full tang, the part of the blade that goes back into the handle should be the length of the handle.
You can clearly see the tang which matches the handle in shape and runs it's full length.

And here you get a clear shot of the bolster, the part of the knife wider than the blade, that joins the blade to the tang/handle. The blade and bolster should be so that when the bolster it touching a flat surface, the first half the blade is as well. A common sharpening error is to remove to much metal where the blade joins the bolster so that the blade doesn't touch the flat surface at the bolster. Translation? Dead Chef's Knife.

Never put them in the dishwasher, the soap isn't good for them, and the heat isn't good for the handles, especially if they are wood.

A forged knife is generally better than stamped, although there are acceptable stamped ones out there.

The blade should be stainless carbon steel, although I personally perfer carbon steel. Carbon steel is easier to sharpen, but dulls faster. It also stains very quickly and doesn't stay shiny without constant work. I have no knowledge of ceramic knives.

You can equip a kitchen with good knives for under $100 per cook, if you stick to the basic 2, under $50 per cook.


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  • 3/17/2008 3:02 PM Lolly wrote:
    A good knife can make all the difference from enjoying the preparation of a good meal to dreading it. I find the discussion of knives very interesting and look forward to the pics.
    Reply to this
  • 3/18/2008 12:08 PM ErikaK wrote:
    My husband was just the other night lamenting the sharpness of my knives. But, I use them so often I need to take them in a few at a time as the place no longer does same-day.
    Reply to this
  • 3/18/2008 12:14 PM Charcuteire wrote:
    Provided that you steel the knife before every use, or after, you shouldn't have to sharpen more often than 1-2 times a year. I do do my own sharpening, using a dry whetstone. A two grit long stone on a handle, the motion is essentially the same as that of steeling a knife.
    Reply to this

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