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First Chef's Knife - Looking for Advice

Thu May 30, 2013 4:04 pm

I'm moving into a new place this weekend and am in the process of stocking my kitchen. For the past year or so I've been using my roommates knives, either a cheap 6" Santoku or even cheaper 5" utility knife for just about everything. I was originally planning on buying the 8" Fibrox Forschner simply because it's inexpensive and has great reviews. However, after talking to a co-worker who is a former chef, I'm reconsidering.

My knife skills are garbage, but it is something I would actually like to improve upon. I'm wondering if it might be better to learn using a slightly larger (~10") knife. I don't know that it matters, but I'm a taller guy, although my hands are quite small. I do most of my cooking for the week on Sunday, which means that I make a lot of large batches that will last for the entire week. My new kitchen is definetely on the smaller side (22" deep counters), although it isn't too cramped. Here is what I'm considering now:

10" Fibrox Forschner (again, inexpensive and good reviews - good starter knife?)
10" Rosewood Forschner (wood handle looks nicer; not sure about comfort)
210mm or 240mm Tojiro DP Gyuto (great reviews, only marginally more expensive than the rosewood Forschner)
210mm or 240mm Fujiwara FKM Gyuto (great reviews, only marginally more expensive than the rosewood Forschner)

I should also mention than I don't want to spend a whole lot of time or money on maintaining a knife. It sounds like the Japanese knives will require more expensive sharpening implements to properly maintain. For the time being, I might just take the knife to a professional to have it sharpened, unless it's something I can do easily at home.

Anyway, would you recommend one of the above knives, or something else? Should I maybe start with an 8"? Basically, I want someone to make a decision for me.

Also:

1. Are you right handed? Yes
2. What type of knife are you interested in (gyuto, nakiri etc..) Chef's/Gyuto
3. What size knife are you looking for? 8 - 10"
4. Do you prefer carbon or stainless steel? No idea
5. Do you prefer a western handle or a Japanese handle? Have never used a Japanese handle
6. How much did you want to spend? No more than $100, but preferably less
7. Do you know how to sharpen? No

Re: First Chef's Knife - Looking for Advice

Thu May 30, 2013 4:20 pm

You can sharpen a Fujiwara FKM with a $45 combo stone very effectively:

http://www.chefknivestogo.com/kingcombostone.html

It will take some practice, but in the long run will be less money than using a professional sharpener.

Round trip gas + service = At least $10 each time you do so.....best guess.

My recommendation:

King Combo Stone + Fujiwara FKM 240mm or Artifex 240mm gyuto = $135(ish)

210mm verus 240mm is rather noticeable....but I definitely prefer the 240mm length.

Re: First Chef's Knife - Looking for Advice

Thu May 30, 2013 6:42 pm

In my home experience, there is a huge difference in performance between a Forshner and an entry-level Japanese knife. I can say that the Tojiro DP that I tried years ago was far ahead of the Forshner in terms of both the quality of the edge, as well as the "feel" of the knife in general. I haven't had a Fujiwara in my hands, but i do trust Adam's opinion between the two.

While a 10" (240 mm) knife can look intimidating to a home cook, once you pick it up and start using it, most quickly become used to the length and an 8" (210 mm) starts to feel very limiting. If you figure that something around 2" of the tip and 1" of the heel of the knife aren't used, then the 8" is around 5" of cutting length, but a 10" gives you 7" -- you've got nearly half-again the knife to work with. A 240 mm (10") knife fits well on a typical 12"x18" cutting board.

I used the King stone mentioned for many years and found it able to produce excellent edges on everything from an $2 paring knife on up through various mid-range stainless knives to relatively high-end Japanese carbon knives, both single- and double-bevel. It will serve you well for many years.

While the combination is a little above your desired budget, if you divide the additional cost over 52 weeks in the year, I think you'll get a huge amount of satisfaction for less than a dollar a week, and the combination will last you many, many years.
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