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 Post subject: Total Noob to Japanese knives!
PostPosted: Fri Feb 14, 2014 5:02 am 

Joined: Fri Feb 14, 2014 4:53 am
Posts: 16
Hello! I'm looking for a knife or two, but mainly have so many questions I need answering, and was hoping there is a sticky of frequently asked questions, as I'm sure my questions are among them. Before I ask for knife recommendations, I'm hoping I can have some more basic questions answered:

• what is the difference in metal of the knives beside metal and mineral content, and what is the best type?
• when would you use a honing rod, and when do you fully sharpen the blade?
• Is it preferable to have a single-edged knife, or a dual-edge knife? Why?


1. I'm left handed
2. I am interested in a chef's knife, a nakiri knife, and a santoku knife
3. I prefer 10" (240mm I believe?) knives, but am fine with the santoku being shorter.
4. I have no idea the performance difference between carbon steel and stainless, and would love to be educated. I currently have a wusthof classic 10" and a shun premier 4" paring knife
5. I wish I knew the difference between western and japanese handles.
6. I'm open to price, but would like an introductory knife in these categories at under $100 each before I consider a larger investment.
7. I know how to sharpen

In general, I'm looking for quality starter blades that will perform well and be extremely sharp, and for a sharpening kit. Also desperately looking for clarity.

Thank you!


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 Post subject: Re: Total Noob to Japanese knives!
PostPosted: Fri Feb 14, 2014 5:16 am 

Joined: Thu Jan 02, 2014 6:00 am
Posts: 616
First off there is no "best knife, best steel, best anything" The tool is designated for the task and should excel at that given task.

A honing rod is used when the edge isn't eroded, but simply bent over and needs to be re-aligned, when a hone no longer brings back an edge, you know it's time to hit the stones.

For most cooks, having a double bevel or as you mentioned double edge is preferable.

it seems you just stumbled upon japanese cutlery and were a little bit overwhelmed.

In a nut shell, now I'm being very generic here carbon steels have little to no stainless properties, however this improves grain structure of the steel allowing the knife to take a steeper more refined edge. It is also faster to sharpen and can be hardened well... harder.

I would recommend anything from the Richmond artifex line or the Fujiwara line.

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

http://www.chefknivestogo.com/fujiwara-knives.html

Both brands are well known and have great dollar value. These won't be the Ferrari of the knife world but they will be a step up from your wusthof and get your feet wet with some true japanese style blades.

I'm sure I've missed a couple things but just take a look around the forum. We are currently working on a "noob guide" but it's in the works.


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 Post subject: Re: Total Noob to Japanese knives!
PostPosted: Fri Feb 14, 2014 5:29 am 

Joined: Fri Feb 14, 2014 4:53 am
Posts: 16
Thank you!

To be honest I was looking at Shun and thought that to be the best of what I could find, before I dug deeper and got more information. Then, the number of possibilities increased exponentially, lol.

I am just a home cook, but I enjoy cooking quite a lot, and having nice tools always makes life more fun. Thank you for your recommendations.


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 Post subject: Re: Total Noob to Japanese knives!
PostPosted: Fri Feb 14, 2014 5:52 am 

Joined: Thu Jan 02, 2014 6:00 am
Posts: 616
bryce126 wrote:Thank you!

To be honest I was looking at Shun and thought that to be the best of what I could find, before I dug deeper and got more information. Then, the number of possibilities increased exponentially, lol.

I am just a home cook, but I enjoy cooking quite a lot, and having nice tools always makes life more fun. Thank you for your recommendations.



I've said this time and time again. You can't go wrong with any knife on the CKTG website. Everything is good, you just need to narrow it down to what is great for you.

As a home cook I would recommend you start off with a gyuto otherwise known as a chef's knife. I'm sure you already know that this is the most versatile knife to have in your repertoire.

Shun makes a good product with excellent Fit and finish, however you pay a premium for these. You can almost always find a better knife for the price when compared to Shun's however that doesn't mean you should go ahead and replace your paring knife as it's still a great piece of cutlery.

Purchase your first knife and then go from there. Decide whether you want to increase or decrease in length, change up the profile or steel to something that's easier to sharpen but with less edge retention, etc, etc.


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 Post subject: Re: Total Noob to Japanese knives!
PostPosted: Fri Feb 14, 2014 5:56 am 
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Joined: Thu Nov 22, 2012 4:17 am
Posts: 3924
The Tojiro DP series is a better value than Shun: http://www.chefknivestogo.com/tojirodpseries.html
Another excellent first step for a 240mm Gyuto: http://www.chefknivestogo.com/kast24wa.html



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 Post subject: Re: Total Noob to Japanese knives!
PostPosted: Fri Feb 14, 2014 6:23 am 

Joined: Thu May 24, 2012 6:20 am
Posts: 1604
Lunatic covered a lot of this, so I apologize for being redundant....

*What is the difference in metal of the knives beside metal and mineral content, and what is the best type?

Steel is mostly iron, with carbon added to make it strong, and, in the case of stainless steels, chromium to make it stain resistant, other elements are also present in different amounts to accomplish different tasks. Google zknives kitchen knife FAQ for good info on common steels.

*When would you use a honing rod, and when do you fully sharpen the blade?

Rod to maintain an already decent edge, stones to rebuild a damaged edge.

*Is it preferable to have a single-edged knife, or a dual-edge knife? Why?

Unless you know you need a single bevel, you don't ;)

*I am interested in a chef's knife, a nakiri knife, and a santoku knife

Japanese cutlery can become an obsession. I might recommend shopping for a great gyuto (chef's knife), playing with it, then coming back to fill out the collection. You will be much better armed to shop the second time around.

*I have no idea the performance difference between carbon steel and stainless, and would love to be educated.

Carbon steel will discolor with normal use and rust with abuse. Carbon steels will tend to take a keener edge with less effort when sharpening, but there are a number of stainless steels that can keep up. Stainless is easier to maintain and remains nice and shiny.

*I wish I knew the difference between western and Japanese handles.

Japanese handles are more simplistic in construction. They lighten the overall weight of the knife, vs a Western handle, and they move the balance point of the knife forward. Most people find Japanese handles to be an easy transition. Neither is better, just different.

*I'm open to price, but would like an introductory knife in these categories at under $100 each before I consider a larger investment.

Like I said above, start with a gyuto. This will help spread out the hurt a bit, but more importantly, it'll make you happier with the tools you end up with.



Once you know what you want in terms of carbon vs stainless and western vs Japanese handled, let us know.


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 Post subject: Re: Total Noob to Japanese knives!
PostPosted: Fri Feb 14, 2014 7:32 am 
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Joined: Thu Apr 26, 2012 5:13 pm
Posts: 2750
Location: CT
Stainless steel requires less immediate cleanup, but can still rust if left wet. Carbon steels react to the foods being cut and turn all sorts of cool colors; blue, purple, golds, greys, etc. The steel will react until it settles in and forms a "patina", which helps reduce the reactivity of the steel. Carbon steels may discolor some foods, like onions, until the patina sets in fully. People often "force" a patina by acid etching the blade or covering it with mustard to make it react and settle down a bit before use. Both need to be dried fully by paper towel (no tiny water droplets left!!!!) when you are done using them. Carbon steel is a bit easier for a person to learn how to sharpen with, but some stainless steels like Ginsan/G3 and AEB-L are easy to sharpen. Same goes for the Fujiwara FKM stainless steel series; this steel is a little softer than many other Japanese blades, but it still sharpens easily and takes a very good edge.

Single edged knives are very task specific to traditional Japanese cuisine and are not the best for all around use in unskilled hands. Deba, Usuba, Yanagiba are the 2 popular single bevel knives. Stick to double bevels for now: gyuto, petty, sujihiki, nakiri, santoku! They are also not lefty friendly and often cost 30-40% more to make in a lefty version.

A honing rod for a European knife is not what you want to use on a Japanese knife. A typical Henckels/Wustoff type knife is much softer steel and the edge needs to be re aligned by the steel to keep it sharp. Japanese knives have much harder steel and the edge doesn't roll over and need to be aligned. A very fine ceramic rod, like an Idahone rod, or a leather strop, are all that's needed for touchups in between sharpenings. Some also strop on their finest stone as a touch up and by touching up the knife when it needs it, prevents the full sharpening for an extended period of time. I went almost a year on some of my knives at home between full sharpenings by touching up with stones.

A western handle is what you would typically see on a Henckels/Wustoff/Victorinox, etc; full metal tang and the little birds beak at the end, often with a metal bolster. A Wa handle is a stick like handle that can be Oval, Octagon or D shaped. The Wa is typically much lighter weight wise than a Western handle. As a lefty, look for a Western, Oval or Octagon Wa. Many lefties use a D shape handle and it doesn't bother them, some sand down the pointed D projection from the right side of the handle to make it more of an oval and others knock the handle off and flip it around so the D projection is on the right side. Myself, I prefer Wa handles, very few of my knives have western handles on them anymore!

For the Nakiri, I would look at a carbon one. Tanaka Kurouchi, Tojiro Shirogami, Murata, Zakuri, Yamashin are all very good Nakiri's for under $100. The more rustic looking knives may need the spine/choil rounded, but that's easy to go at home and takes a few minutes. I have the Tanaka KU at home, awesome blade! Very good performance, great edge holding, too. The Murata and Zakuri have oval or octagon handles, the Tanaka IIRC has a D, can't remember what the Tojiro and Yamashin had. I have a few Nakiri's at home and found that many of the lower cost Nakiri's perform almost as well as the much more expensive ones.

A santoku may be a bit redundant with a Nakiri. A Nakiri is made for veggie prep and push cutting veggies. It is not a bone cleaver, but a lightweight veggie knife that tends to slip thru veggies with ease. A santoku does well with veggie prep and you can rock cut with it more, but the tip is pretty blunt for fine work on many santoku's. I am going to suggest a Funayuki instead of a Santoku; they are generally pointier than a santoku and I like using them for a variety of tasks! Murata Buho or the Yamashin Funayuki are 2 great examples at a very reasonable cost! You could probably even skip the Nakiri and go with a Funayuki since they often have a good flat spot for veggie chopping and a pointier tip than the santoku. I often use my Yamashin in place of my Nakiri and petty for lesser food quantity prep, like if I need to cut up an onion, a couple of potatoes, and trim a steak or roast, I use the funayuki for everything instead of using 2 or 3 different knives.

http://www.chefknivestogo.com/mufu16.html
http://www.chefknivestogo.com/yawh1fu16.html

If you budget $100 per knife, the carbon nakiri/funayuki's will save some money, especially if you just go with the Funayuki instead of the nakiri and santoku. I would put more $$$ towards the gyuto since this is the knife people will generally use the most! The Yamashin Funayuki is $60 only, so I would open up the gyuto to the $150 range, maybe a bit more. Really opens up your possibilities!

Tojiro DP, Fujiwara FKM, Artifex, Kaneshige 240mm Stainless are the main choices for under $100 (Kaneshige is $110, close enough :) ). Going up a bit brings the Suisin Inox into play, the Goko Damascus (when they aren't on sale for $100) and a few more in the $150 range. Going up to $200 for the gyuto really opens the playing field!


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 Post subject: Re: Total Noob to Japanese knives!
PostPosted: Fri Feb 14, 2014 8:07 am 

Joined: Tue Oct 29, 2013 9:21 pm
Posts: 427
Since you already have a Shun pairing knife I wouldn't buy another one. It sounds like you need a nice Gyuto to replace the Wustoff.

What do you use to sharpen right now? It's important to have the most basic tools for maintaining the higher quality steel of a japanese knife. Wustoff are garbage for the most part.


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 Post subject: Re: Total Noob to Japanese knives!
PostPosted: Fri Feb 14, 2014 3:13 pm 
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Joined: Tue Feb 05, 2013 6:00 pm
Posts: 2236
Bryce - take a look at the first two videos on this CKTG page. I created them for Mark to help educate newcomers. I hope they will give some good information and explanations. http://www.chefknivestogo.com/kiknedvi.html


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 Post subject: Re: Total Noob to Japanese knives!
PostPosted: Fri Feb 14, 2014 5:17 pm 

Joined: Thu Jan 02, 2014 6:00 am
Posts: 616
SteveG wrote:Bryce - take a look at the first two videos on this CKTG page. I created them for Mark to help educate newcomers. I hope they will give some good information and explanations. http://www.chefknivestogo.com/kiknedvi.html



Damn, I completely forgot about those... Steve I think we need these stickied at the top of the forum :P


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