Knife talk

In my experience… learning how and actually doing are two different things. It takes a lot of skill and practice. I gave up years ago and bought a jig that keeps the stones at the proper angle.

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Hi Vecchiouomo,

I’ve never seriously considered, let alone held in my hand, any kitchen knife at a commercial source except a Chinese cleaver. My “hands-on” with a CCK cleaver led me to broaden my search.

I’ve posted favorably on a Mercer Deba and presented a video here on Hungry Onion, but a restaurant supply place just isn’t where I’d go shopping for a home kitchen knife.

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Can you please take a pic and post it?

Here you go…

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Nice pdf.

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(post deleted by author)

Yep. It’s paralysis by analysis again. I’ve never “tested” a knife in a store, because it wouldn’t give me any useful information about day to day use, even if testing were possible. I’m informed before I buy - I didn’t know about Kiwi knives before Chowhound my little ones have been a fun, useful, and cheap purchase. Otherwise, as Tim said, I know what to expect from a particular brand.

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Hi Vecchiouomo,

Everything depends on where one is on one’s journey, but it should start with direct experience–followed by research. There should be key features to look for that are qualifying or disqualifying for each of us. After awhile, one discerns certain profiles that are preferred, features that are required, and develops one’s own subjective valuation. At that point, one may be able to choose without a face to face–but maybe not.

Once one has one’s own batterie, one has knives to compare against–and it gets easier to choose. The other factor that helps is “time to think.” It always works best to buy slow–change your mind a few times.

Once one has a batterie, one looks for gaps–considers upgrades. That makes it easier and easier.

The other consideration is growth–deliberately trying something new and different. That’s the hardest–and it leads back to the need for direct experience. The most recent examples for me were the purchase of a Chinese slicing cleaver, and the purchase of a deba.

You didn’t answer Vecchiohuomo’s question: how do you test the knives you buy over the Internet?

Not sure about “should.” I used the knives available in cooking school and restaurant kitchens. They all worked fine. For ages my so-called home batterie was a big chef and a small parer. As long as I kept them sharp, there were no noticeable gaps. The other knives I bought were for fun and a sense of completeness. The others, except the bread knife, get very little use. Like most knife users, I just want tools that get the job done and are not irksome. For example I would find a heavy high end Wusthof or Henckels irksome. I find them way too heavy and kind of hard to sharpen. You have clearly charted a different course. I am glad it absorbs your interest. That is where I plan to leave this topic.

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Hi Meekah,

It’s impossible to test knives in advance–even at a store face to face. Even after a purchase it takes awhile. However, one can refine one’s search.

It’s step by step.

The first step is always a personal interaction with some possibilities–which reduces what one will consider.

The next step is to identify critical features to search for based on your direct experience–and reports from Youtube reviews (like Chef Panko).

Then narrow down the possibilities further–using these features as a guide. If one is looking for an upgrade, one already has one’s own version of these features to compare–so that makes things easier.

When one has a specific target item to consider, one looks for reviewers and considers user reports.

Since one can’t do a direct face to face, and can’t do any serious comparisons until one makes a purchase–even at a retailer buying face to face–the reviews and the user reports are all that we have to rely on.

That means, for me, to be very conservative and demanding of strong support from the literature.

I have tested a knife a few times. In my experience, it is not useless, but not greatly useful. It works as a way for catching major issues – in other words, raising red flags.

Testing knife is a store is not a good way to test the following. 1) how sharp the knife steel can support – because that depends on how sharp the store keep the knife edge sharp. 2) how long the edge retention can be – clearly this cannot be done in a store. 3) how stain resistance the knife is – obvious… Many things cannot be verified in the store. Case in point, even when I bought a new knife, it usually takes at least 1 week before I have a full assessment of the knife, sometime even 2-3 months. No way a 2-3 minutes test in a store can help.

However, there are at least a few things can be done A) How does the knife actually look? So many product photos present a look that is done under specific lighting. B) What does the overall knife shape look like? Is the knife belly as curve as it looks? How thick is the blade? How heavy is the knife? Does the knife have a good finish or rough in the finish?

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But it is very possible to handle the knife to feel if it is a good fit. For instance I like a full, heavy bolster, and a pronounced drop down heel. That means the length of the handle has to fit my hand between the thumb/forefinger pinch across the bolster and my pinky resting on the heel, and the shape needs to fit the length of my fingers so my hand can “just” close around it.

These are things I think most cooks would notice almost instantly, as well as the weight, balance, and stability of it in your hand.

I won’t go into my feelings about most online reviews, but even if they were all from like minded people as myself, their hands are all different.

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Hi SP,

We mostly agree, and I said pretty much the same thing in my answer to Meekah: it helps in the narrowing down process–especially “feel.”

One can also validate for oneself the profile and “family” one likes the best.

That first visit for me to Williams Sonoma about seven years ago is when I got introduced to the “damascus” family.

Hi emglow 101,

The misen successful partnering with a Chinese supplier is an encouraging story that has set a standard for others to consider. It’s not like most big box Chinese offerings one sees. I’m pleased that it has worked so well for you.

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You are correct, of course. And I don’t know of a store who will give you a knife for a two week test drive, so there’s that.

I bought my first knives from local kitchenware stores (remember them?)with knowledgeable staff, long before Williams Sonoma appeared as a chain, and long, long before the Internet. It was a pleasure, not a tortured analysis.

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Chef Panko?
No thank-o.
You mean the anonymous aspiring Internet “influencer” with a completely unverifiable background? What restaurants did he work at? He actually states that the photographer who took the photo of him assured him that his face would be blurred. Even his website registration is anonymous. Why won’t he identify himself or any of his former or present employment? Expertise requires verifiable credentials. Enthusiasm isn’t enough. His output is quite ambitious, but I prefer other, more authoritative sources.

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Hi Meekah,

Where I live in SOCAL, there was an expert sharpening service, located in a local mall, that would loan out an interesting knife to a regular customer for home testing until very recently. When they closed down at the mall, they stopped everything but sharpening that they do on local produce days at my town.

And they don’t do it anymore.