Kitchenware: New Knives

I recently decided to invest in a couple of decent knives to replace the nasty ones (a Chinese Henckel and a bolsterless Tramontina) that I’ve been using for the past couple of years. I’d been toying with the idea of acquiring some fine steel for a while, but a Christmas present from my mother precipitated my toying into action. I had a budget of $500, which I thought was more than generous enough to get myself started. In the end, after spending many hours studying on eGullet, Chowhound and KnifeForums (a scary yet wonderful place) I opted for:

A 270 mm Tojiro DP gyuto. This is a Japanese equivalent of the standard chef’s knife and is very versatile, although a little more fragile than a German knife due to the harder (and hence more brittle) steel and thinner blade (I actually made the cutting angle even narrower, taking it down from about 30 degrees (typical for such a Japanese knife, expect about a 40 degree angle with a Western knife) to 20 for extra sharpness and because I’m a wee bit insane). It makes up for increased fragility with superior sharpness and badass Japanese writing on the blade. It shouldn’t be whacked around as the blade is easily chipped but so far I’ve done my best to treat him (it…) well and the service I’ve received in return has been excellent. I originally ordered the shorter 240 mm version but changed my mind and opted to spend the extra $30 on the bigger knife. Definitely a good decision. The finish on the knife handle leaves a little to be desired which is worth noting if aesthetics area a primary concern. The handle is also quite bulky which may be an issue for people with smaller hands but for me it works great. The sharpness out of the box was very good, but not exceptional.

A 3 1/2” Shun Classic paring knife. Those in the know generally seem to speak ill of Shun, aside from the paring knife which is near-universally praised. The finish is much nicer than the Tojiro: it’s a damn sexy looking knife (although I actually generally prefer the look of a nice riveted handle). It’s also a great little knife to use, the handle is thin (as it is for the entire Shun Classic line) and whilst I don’t think I could get along with such a dainty grip on a bigger knife it’s perfect for a parer. The sharpness is good, although I think that the Tojiro is slightly better out of the box.

An Edge Pro Apex sharpening system with stones up to 1000 grit. Good knives are sharp knives. It might seem ridiculous to spend $200 on a way to keep your knives sharp especially if you’re not a professional chef, but if you consider the options:

1.buy something that enables you to keep your knives sharp forever for $200 (plus replacement stones every few months)
2.spend $10 per knife on sharpening everything time you need a blade touching up
3.use blunt knives

it quickly becomes apparent (to me at least) that 1. is the way forward. And if you’ve never experienced the difference between a sharp knife and a blunt one: try it. You’ll see. It’s worth it.

With the 1000 grit stone I can get a really nice edge that will shave arm hair and push cut computer paper (that’s when you hold a sheet of paper and cut it vertically using just a downwards motion (no slicing) but will not whittle hair or push cut newspaper (two standard tests of incredible sharpness that take a serious case of OCD and some fine blade polishing to achieve).

Overall, I’m more than happy with my purchases.

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