- May 7, 2023
- Reaction score
+1 for this!My few cents...
First the harsh unpleasant truths:
-Length preferences are highly personal. While some of the benefits and downsides of going up or down in length are somewhat objective, only you can decide what you actually prefer.
-There is no easy shortcut here... the only way to figure this out for yourself is to actually try stuff... usually for a longer time.
To complicate matters further.
-There are a lot of factors that influence your perception of how a knife feels and that will make it feel longer, shorter, or easier / harder to wield. For example total weight, weight distribution / balance, height, taper, all have a significant impact. I have 270s that feel easier to wield than my 230 Wüsthof simply because they're lighter and balanced differently. Knives can 'feel' significantly longer or shorter than they really are.
-Then there's personal factors coming into play; your grip and cutting style. As others have mentioned, pinchgripping somewhat 'shortens' the knife. For rockchopping, more length generally improves the ergonomics, etc.
-Knife makers are not consistent in how they measure length. So to compare 2 extreme examples; my Masamoto KS 240 (which runs significantly long at 255) is almost exactly the same length as my Ashi Ginga 270 (which runs significantly short at around 260).
-Over time your skills and preferences are likely to change. This could go either way... but for me things started feeling 'smaller' over time. A knife that feels large now might feel wimpy a year from now. You might also change cutting techniques. So your own preferences are unlikely to remain completely static.
The more objective upsides/downsides:
-Shorter knives will generally be 'easier' to use from the start since everything is just extending less far from your hand.
-For the same reason it's a bit easier to use the tip accurately on a shorter knife; a longer knife exaggerates the movement a bit. But this can be mitigated; you get used to more length over time, and there's always the option of crimping up on the blade a bit and/or putting your index finger on top of the spine. Or just relying on your guide hand.
-Shorter knives are lighter for a given grind / geometry / height. Though whether or not this is a good or a bad thing is a personal preference thing.
-Shorter knives are a bit more nimble. For this reason you usually see even the most hardcore 270 gyuto enthusiasts breaking out honesukis and petties when they're doing boning work or trimming meats.
-Board / kitchen size. If for whatever reason you're really restricted in available space / board size (they usually go hand in hand; people get small boards because they just don't have the space in the kitchen) then larger knives can become problematic. Although one shouldn't overstate this. I don't really have a problem using a 270 on a board that's just 35 cm deep. Or a 240 on a 25 cm deep board. But you do want to make sure you're not poking into any bowls on the other side of it...
-Longer knives are outright more efficient because you can put more product under the knife. It also makes it easier to cut piles of anything, for example when you're doing a brunoise.
-Longer knives make it easier to cut larger and taller products.
-Longer knives are more ergonomical if you don't cut straight down (so rockchopping or guillotine & glide), because the angle the knife makes in relation to the board becomes lower.
-Longer knives make better slicers (less back & forth sawing).
-Longer knives give the maker more room to work with, so it's easier to make a useful profile.
I probably forgot some things. Personally I started off with some 200 stuff...after long deliberation went up to 240 with the same doubts as you have... then after a while bought some 210...and at this point I'm exploring 270s. In the end it's worth having stuff in different lengths. The 270s are great when I'm making a salad with big bulbs of fennel, but when you're just cutting a shallot and a few cloves of garlic it doesn't give any added benefit.
I think this is one of the most interesting points. Our tastes change and what we cook changes with the seasons, at least for me. In my head I tell myself that 270mm is way too much. But I'm leaving myself open to try and see how I like this length. Maybe I'm wrong and I'll enjoy working with it! So in short, you must always be open to new things and not be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.Over time your skills and preferences are likely to change.