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First Japanese Chef's Knife

Fri Jul 19, 2013 11:49 am

I have what I assume is a fairly common recommendation request. I am an enthusiastic right-handed home cook with no formal training and modest knife skills looking for a chef's knife to displace the Wusthoff Classic 8-inch Chef that has been my all-around, go-to knife for the past 20 years. I'd like something that can handle light to medium work (cutting veggies, trimming and cutting meat, chopping herbs) and that is lighter, holds a sharper edge, and is more adroit than the Wusthoff. I think I want a 210mm or 240mm Gyuto, but I'm open to alternatives. I prefer stainless and probably a Japanese handle (but the latter isn't mandatory). I'm hoping to get by for less than $200 for the knife, but could be persuaded to stretch a bit if doing so would result in a big jump in value/performance.

Sharpening is the big conundrum for me. I've maintained my current knives with a Chef's Choice 110 and steel. At first I thought that I might be willing to learn to sharpen free hand with stones, but as I've read more I'm starting to doubt that I have the time and interest necessary to work my way up the learning curve. I haven't even been especially diligent about maintenance with the Chef's Choice, so I'm trying to be realistic here. I'm wondering, for example, whether an acceptable option might be to get one of the Chef's Choice "Asian" (ie., 15 degree edge) models or some other reasonably-priced, idiot-proof, time-saving alternative (I don't know what that would be). Unfortunately, if maintaining a Japanese Gyuto means learning to sharpen freehand or buying an expensive sharpening rig such as the Edge Pro, the whole thing may not be worth the effort to me.

So, recommendations on a knife and maintenance strategy would be most appreciated.


Re: First Japanese Chef's Knife

Fri Jul 19, 2013 12:08 pm

First, welcome!!

Second, I had to look up "adroit"....nice word, learned a new one.

Out of stock at the moment, but a close match:


Another good choice:


There are some other good choices as well.


You don't NEED to learn to free hand to enjoy the benefits of a thinner, lighter knife.

You DO NEED to learn to free hand (or EdgePro or WE or....) to enjoy how sharp they can get, how long they maintain that edge, how thin you can take the edge, etc.

A thinner, lighter chef's knife (i.e. typically what a gyuto style knife provides over a Wusthof) will still cut better than said Wusthof even if sharpened with the same Chef's Choice simply because it's overall thinner. Should you get the Asian one.....sure, probably will be a bit better.

Now, some knives should never meet a Chef's Choice. Those really hard, super hard.....Hitachi white's, blue's, powdered steels, etc.

But something like the two I linked to would at least be okay with a Chef's Choice.

Not the ideal world, but the knife will still cut better me thinks. :)

That said, if you want a dissertation on how easy it really is to sharpen:

Buy a combo stone:


And unless you have the most unsteady hands on the planet, you can learn to get the edge back the knife came with within an hour. Then, maintain it with a ceramic honing rod between sharpenings and you'll probably spend another hour every couple of months with the stone.

Basic sharpening is a skill that's not at all hard to learn, nor does it take a long time to learn. Advanced, knife nut kind of sharpening is a life long obsession.

Re: First Japanese Chef's Knife

Fri Jul 19, 2013 12:43 pm


Many thanks for the lightening-quick and helpful response. I appreciate the combo-stone suggestion. I suppose that might be an inexpensive way of testing the waters.

One follow-up question: I note that both of the knives you recommend are designated "semi-stainless." I think I have a very basic sense (from reading, not experience) of the relative merits of "carbon" and "stainless." Can you describe the pros and cons of "semi-stainless?"



Re: First Japanese Chef's Knife

Fri Jul 19, 2013 1:57 pm

Typically we define a stainless steel as having at least 13% chromium.

A semi-stainless steel skirts that line....barely over, or under that 13% mark.

Many semi-stainless steels can develop slight patina's, some more than others, some not really at all.

My TKC has a few small dots that have developed over the years.....nothing like carbon, but not as stain free as many other stainless steels.

The same can be expected from the 19C27 in the Ultimatum. 19C27 has 13.5% chromium, for instance. Technically a stainless, but just barely. :)

Re: First Japanese Chef's Knife

Fri Jul 19, 2013 3:34 pm

Great reccomendation on the Kikuichi Adam. This is the same brand Adam recommended to me and I absolutely love it. The geometry is great, really thin behind the edge and great shape, I have the 270mm version. I am a cook by trade and I use this knife hours a day and it performs every time. If and when you learn to sharpen this knife it will take and hold a wicked edge. Trust me this knife will change your mind about a good knife really is and you will more than likely turn your nose up at your friends henckels and wushtofs.
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