Caught the bug, need help with first major chef's knife!

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tim huang

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Hi all,

I caught the culinary bug during the pandemic. Being all cooped up, I decided to do a lot more cooking. Started taking some online courses, and it appears it's time to buy my first high end chef's knife. I'm only a home cook but typically whip up something at least once per day. I'm not strictly a vegetarian, but that's probably 75% of what I make. I'm allergic to poultry, so I would only be trimming beef or slicing fish occasionally otherwise. I'd prefer to have a combination of the sharpest and lowest maintenance blade possible. I've never used a whetstone before although I'd be open to learning. I started researching all the options, and the rabbithole appears to go pretty deep. I realize I'm in way over my head and could really use the collective wisdom of the board. Please lend me your expertise! Thank you



LOCATION
What country are you in?
USA near Chicago


KNIFE TYPE
What type of knife are you interested in (e.g., chefs knife, slicer, boning knife, utility knife, bread knife, paring knife, cleaver)? Chef's Knife: Gyuto

Are you right or left handed?
Left

Are you interested in a Western handle (e.g., classic Wusthof handle) or Japanese handle?
Japanese preferred but can be persuaded

What length of knife (blade) are you interested in (in inches or millimeters)?
8 in or 210 mm

Do you require a stainless knife? (Yes or no) No, but lowest maintenance possible preferred

What is your absolute maximum budget for your knife? No max, but would like to keep it to around $500. Am open to being convinced otherwise.



KNIFE USE
Do you primarily intend to use this knife at home or a professional environment?
Home

What are the main tasks you primarily intend to use the knife for (e.g., slicing vegetables, chopping vegetables, mincing vegetables, slicing meats, cutting down poultry, breaking poultry bones, filleting fish, trimming meats, etc.)? (Please identify as many tasks as you would like.)
All the above for vegetables. Very little meat trimming.

What knife, if any, are you replacing?
Adding to not replacing. Have a basic Wüsthof set and some ceramics.

Do you have a particular grip that you primarily use? (Please click on this LINK for the common types of grips.)
Hammer

What cutting motions do you primarily use? (Please click on this LINK for types of cutting motions and identify the two or three most common cutting motions, in order of most used to least used.)
Forward/backward slice, chop

What improvements do you want from your current knife? If you are not replacing a knife, please identify as many characteristics identified below in parentheses that you would like this knife to have.)
Best combo of sharpness and low maintenance

Better aesthetics (e.g., a certain type of finish; layered/Damascus or other pattern of steel; different handle color/pattern/shape/wood; better scratch resistance; better stain resistance)?
No specific aesthetic, but I can appreciate an artistic touch. Stain resistance a plus.

Comfort (e.g., lighter/heavier knife; better handle material; better handle shape; rounded spine/choil of the knife; improved balance)?
Prefer lighter, do not like very short handles

Ease of Use (e.g., ability to use the knife right out of the box; smoother rock chopping, push cutting, or slicing motion; less wedging; better food release; less reactivity with food; easier to sharpen)?
The easier, the better.

Edge Retention (i.e., length of time you want the edge to last without sharpening)?
As long as possible.


KNIFE MAINTENANCE
Do you use a bamboo, wood, rubber, or synthetic cutting board? (Yes or no.)
Wood. Boos.

Do you sharpen your own knives? (Yes or no.)
No

If not, are you interested in learning how to sharpen your knives? (Yes or no.)
Sure

Are you interested in purchasing sharpening products for your knives?
Would prefer not to but am open to doing so.
do you have any preference on you knife (laser type or workhorse) ?
also, $500 for a new user is a big budget. maybe you can get a guyto and 3 pics of whetstone (400;1000;5000) within that budget.
Kobayashi 210mm SG2 Guyto $340USD + whetstone (Naniwa pro series ? i suppose)
 

MSicardCutlery

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Any recommendation the 52100 vs AEB-L options?

AEB-L has been referred to as a stainless 52100, both are great. The edge retention should be very similar, and while somewhat hrc dependent, AEB-L should hold an edge for marginally longer than 52100. That said, 52100 has more bite and feels sharper than AEB-L does.
 

sansho

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i'd go aeb-l. for your first gyuto, i wouldn't go carbon unless you're sure that's what you want.
besides, you said you want low maintenance.

almost all my knives are semi-stainless. i'm not missing carbon.
 
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My recommendation would be to order this knife but it comes with a major caveat. I haven't used this knife but it ticks all your boxes (stainless, excellent edge retention) and I haven't heard anything bad about them (I believe @Barmoley owns one in a longer length).
The caveat is that you really do need to learn to sharpen and this knife IMO probably isn't the best place to start. I suggest you also buy a cheaper knife, perhaps from one of the Tosa workshops, in either Ginsan/G3/S3 or a low alloy steel like Aogami and use that for sharpening practice. You need a knife in decent steel that you can practice on frequently as you develop the skill and muscle memory.
 

Delat

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These look pretty symmetrical from the choil shots, but those can be deceiving so you’d still want to ask the vendor to hand-pick one for you.

 

mans727

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do you have any preference on you knife (laser type or workhorse) ?
also, $500 for a new user is a big budget. maybe you can get a guyto and 3 pics of whetstone (400;1000;5000) within that budget.
Kobayashi 210mm SG2 Guyto $340USD + whetstone (Naniwa pro series ? i suppose)
I'm open to either, but I think I'm leaning towards a laser. Although I have really taken to making huge feasts for friends and family, I'm still a long ways away from line chef prep type volume work. Plus, I already have a Wüsthof if I really need to get rocking. Whetstone recs are appreciated! I have no experience there either.
 

mans727

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These look pretty symmetrical from the choil shots, but those can be deceiving so you’d still want to ask the vendor to hand-pick one for you.

Appreciate the recs! After reviewing all the previous suggestions, I am leaning towards SKD. That last one looks fantastic. Will throw that in with the Yoshikane and Konosuke. Any other SKDs I should be looking at?
 

mans727

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My recommendation would be to order this knife but it comes with a major caveat. I haven't used this knife but it ticks all your boxes (stainless, excellent edge retention) and I haven't heard anything bad about them (I believe @Barmoley owns one in a longer length).
The caveat is that you really do need to learn to sharpen and this knife IMO probably isn't the best place to start. I suggest you also buy a cheaper knife, perhaps from one of the Tosa workshops, in either Ginsan/G3/S3 or a low alloy steel like Aogami and use that for sharpening practice. You need a knife in decent steel that you can practice on frequently as you develop the skill and muscle memory.
A solid point. How long does it take to get the hang of sharpening? I'd be happy to buy a cheap beater to practice on.
 

HumbleHomeCook

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A solid point. How long does it take to get the hang of sharpening? I'd be happy to buy a cheap beater to practice on.

I don't recommend buying a beater. For one, they can be even harder to sharpen if their in softer steels and for two, you won't be happy with it any way. Again, I'd recommend a solid entry-level knife in that $150-200ish range. Don't think that a lower price equals lower performance. A knife in that range will likely blow you away compared to Wusthofs. The steel will be well done and the fit and finish adequate. You might need to do some very light sanding on the spine edges or you might not. No biggy either way.

Case in point: I recently gave my son in law an old Yaxell Dragon Fire chef's knife I had. Not a bad knife in the grand scheme but nothing you'll find getting recommended here (despite that specific line being defunct). I'd cleaned up the edge on it before giving it to him. Mind you, he has always sworn by his Henkels and Forchners and long told me he didn't need anything else. Well, I probably averaged a text every other day for about the first two weeks he had that knife telling me how awesome it is and amazing it cuts. Next thing you know he's wanting to get serious about sharpening and asking me all about different Japanese-style knives.

While your new entry-level knife may fade to the back of the line eventually, it will still be a good knife that will teach you a lot. Combine that with some basic sharpening gear and you'd be in a very good place.

For gear, here's just one example to get started:

1. King Neo 800 (comes on a base so you can delay that purchase)
2. Atoma 140 diamond plate for flattening your other stone/s- yes it's expensive, yes it's worth it

You could stop right there for quite sometime and use some old denim or cardboard for stropping. There's tons of options and directions you can go though.
 

mans727

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I don't recommend buying a beater. For one, they can be even harder to sharpen if their in softer steels and for two, you won't be happy with it any way. Again, I'd recommend a solid entry-level knife in that $150-200ish range. Don't think that a lower price equals lower performance. A knife in that range will likely blow you away compared to Wusthofs. The steel will be well done and the fit and finish adequate. You might need to do some very light sanding on the spine edges or you might not. No biggy either way.

Case in point: I recently gave my son in law an old Yaxell Dragon Fire chef's knife I had. Not a bad knife in the grand scheme but nothing you'll find getting recommended here (despite that specific line being defunct). I'd cleaned up the edge on it before giving it to him. Mind you, he has always sworn by his Henkels and Forchners and long told me he didn't need anything else. Well, I probably averaged a text every other day for about the first two weeks he had that knife telling me how awesome it is and amazing it cuts. Next thing you know he's wanting to get serious about sharpening and asking me all about different Japanese-style knives.

While your new entry-level knife may fade to the back of the line eventually, it will still be a good knife that will teach you a lot. Combine that with some basic sharpening gear and you'd be in a very good place.

For gear, here's just one example to get started:

1. King Neo 800 (comes on a base so you can delay that purchase)
2. Atoma 140 diamond plate for flattening your other stone/s- yes it's expensive, yes it's worth it

You could stop right there for quite sometime and use some old denim or cardboard for stropping. There's tons of options and directions you can go though.
To be honest, the beater would just be for sharpening practice. In my buying experience, I've found it best to generally skip the half measures. Whenever I've settled for an intermediate option, whether it was a car, a house, furniture, etc, eventually I would regret my decision. Going for the plunge and getting the best suited option for me from the get go always results in the outcome that satisfies the most. I've gotten to the point where I thoroughly enjoy cooking for others and myself, so I can justify a high investment point without worrying it's just a passing fancy.

Furthermore, I really want a piece that sings to me when I unsheath it. Have it feel like a special occasion every time I take it out to enhance the experience. I actually have some Japanese blood in my heritage so a J knife feels almost ancestral. Unfortunately, no one has mentioned the small knife manufacturer that carries that lost namesake (Kaishin and the finest custom order Japanese knife - Nakamura Knives), but it's probably best not to give in to a biased purchase for namesake alone.
 
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