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 Post subject: Wedding gift set for novices
PostPosted: Sat Jan 25, 2014 7:53 pm 

Joined: Sat Jan 25, 2014 7:43 pm
Posts: 5
I've committed to buying a young couple a knife set for their wedding gift. They are young and still in grad school so haven't really gotten into cooking. I don't think they prepare anything that doesn't come out of a can or bag. Both are right handed. But they do know how to enjoy the quality things so I can't skimp.

The complete set as I've defined it could be a petite/paring, 6"-8" bread, 8" Santoku and a >=10" Wa-Guyto. And, of course, a honing steel and perhaps some shears too all that fit nicely in a wooden block. Easy, huh?

I've got a Henckels Pro S set of that approximate makeup and it serves me well. So I was going to get them that generic Henkel's set with a block. But I want it to be special. So I'd like to get at least one centerpiece Japanese Chef's knife to really accentuate the set. Being novices at cooking (at best), simplicity and easy care are important but function and performance are critical also. Form, fit and style come in a close requirement. I do want them to think of me whenever they use the gift. Just not negatively like "this rusty knife is always going dull and it's so hard to sharpen".

I personally like the Sankotu because of it's cleaver like blade and dimples that easily slice through thick and wet material.
The Richmond Artifex 210mm AEB-L Gyuto could easily serve as the medium knife. It get's rave reviews and can't beat the price.
Or the Richmond Ultimatum 245mm Gyuto-Stainless since I really like the spartan handles of most of the Japanese brands. Simple and primitive and really makes you focus on the blade. Though I've never personally held one so I don't know how they feel.

Then as a 'franchise player' something like the Kaneshige Stainless 270 Wa-Gyuto seems like a good deal.

Round out the set with some pedestrian Henckel Pro S 3" Paring Knife, Henckels Pro S 5" Serrated Utility Knife (as the bread knife). A honing steel and maybe even the Wusthof 2 Stage Knife Sharpener as 'training wheels' to get started.

There are so many good choices here on CKTG. I keep seeing something nice(-er) at every click that it's hard to get a solid team together. It would be nice to have consistency across the set. (Does Richmond make a set?) then just get a block and a steel.
What do y'all think? Guidance please.

Paul Bartholomew

 Post subject: Re: Wedding gift set for novices
PostPosted: Sat Jan 25, 2014 11:23 pm 

Joined: Mon Nov 18, 2013 11:44 am
Posts: 630
For a bread knife go with the Artifex that is on sale right now. Shaun Fernandez (Knife Fanatic) did a review on it and said it was VERY close in performance if not the same as the Tojiro ITK which I think is the most popular bread knife on the site.

For a gyuto the Artifex woudn't be a bad choice, but I would select "Finish Sharpening" in the drop down box if you go that route. For the money it should be an excellent knife, just from what I have read here it is a bit thick behind the edge so it isn't the best performer out of the box. Shouldn't affect anyone that sharpens a knife they just bought out of the box regardless, but it might be a turnoff for others.

A gyuto I have seen recommended lately that looks nice to me is the Tanaka ginsan:

There is also a 210mm version as well. I have not used it but it is a very nice looking knife with a nice Japanese stainless blade, and I have no reason to think it would not be a very nice performer for the money.

As far as santokus go, don't worry about the dimples... I have yet to use one where the dimples make any real difference in how much food sticks. I have a smooth sided damascus finish 240mm gyuto that is way less non-stick than my previous santoku with dimples. I would say with the gyuto you can forgo the santoku altogether. I still reach for mine occasionally, but I like santokus and already have one I love... with a good gyuto or chef's knife they aren't really needed and honestly a bit redundant. A santoku is meant to be an all around knife... and so is the gyuto. Maybe something like a nakiri would be a better choice? Since you would be getting them a good all around knife in the gyuto, a nakiri would be a good specialized knife (for veggies) to compliment it like the bread knife. Or maybe something like a sujihiki for a more specialized slicer?

For paring, a Tojiro DP paring knife would be a good option:

I don't usually like really flat profiles on my big blades (7" santokus being the exception) but I love this kind of profile on a paring knife. The cutting edge is almost flat and the spine curves down to meet the edge for the point. It's like a wharncliffe blade design. I find it to be a pretty useful shape for a paring knife blade.

 Post subject: Re: Wedding gift set for novices
PostPosted: Sat Jan 25, 2014 11:50 pm 

Joined: Sat Jan 04, 2014 2:57 pm
Posts: 597
I have a couple thoughts, but not a complete answer yet:

First off, I am a big fan of Japanese-style wa-handled knives. However, that comes with the caveat that I use a pinch grip, so I do not really grip the handle. My personal opinion is that if you don't know what knife technique this couple would use, western-style handles might be a safer bet. However I could see providing one Japanese-handled centerpiece to the set, both as a functional and aesthetic choice.

Another thing to keep in mind: fit and finish on a lot of the Japanese knives will be a bit below what you might expect from your Pro S set. A little TLC when the knives arrive and before you wrap them up as gifts might be warranted. You can also try to stick to manufacturers who have better fit and finish in general (Suisin, from all accounts, is good on that front, as is Richmond from what I have read). And of course you can ask Mark to look through a couple and pick the best looking one if there are any doubts. But it is something to be aware of when buying a gift that may be appreciated for its aesthetic value.

On the subject of sets, you could for example fill most of the roles you listed with the Artifex line (for example paring, 10" bread, 190mm santoku or 210 gyuto) and then get the 270mm Kaneshige as you suggest. You might have trouble fitting the 10" bread in a block, however. I'll try to think if there is a better line to do this with (Tojiro DP has everything including the shorter bread knife, but fit and finish can be a little spotty; Shun has everything but they are a bit pricier). If you aren't wedded to the set idea I bet you could piece together a fine grouping such that all of them have black three-rivet handles, and that might be close enough. In my opinion it depends very much on how OCD this couple is about things matching. (I know moving away from matching handles was hard for me, but I was sold when I learned about the variety of makers and the importance of having the right tool for the right job.)

As far as sharpening, getting a ceramic or diamond honing/sharpening rod might be a good choice here. Stay away from the Wusthof 2 Stage if you are getting a pull-through sharpener, as the carbide side will be bad news on many of the knives we are talking about. Waterstones are always suggested for sharpening, but as a gift for the knife-unaware I could see getting something like the Tojiro roll sharpener instead.

I'm sure other people will chime in with more ideas too, and probably some different/conflicting ones. (I see DefMunky already has, and I second his comments on dimples and the possibility of foregoing two gyutos or a gyuto + santoku for something else entirely . . . maybe a 240mm gyuto and a slicer?.)

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