How reliable is America's test kitchen recommendation?

Discussion in 'The Kitchen Knife' started by Dxtreme, Apr 10, 2019.

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  1. Apr 12, 2019 #31

    Dxtreme

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    ATK went completely in reverse of what was most conventional knowledge of how end grain board is the best choice as it's the most gentle to knives, selfs healing .....etc, the stuff that we been taught ever since I could remember. ATK came and completely turned that wisdom over with their claim of edge grain board being more superior in the kitchen. So, either everybody was willing for so many years or ATK just discovered something revolutionary.

    To me though, as other have said, I think ATK is just trying to cater it's product recommendations to the average homecook that sole purpose is to put plates on the table with as less resistance as possible. Unlike some of us here that loves to make our own board wax, aclamaticing our board....etc.
     
  2. Apr 12, 2019 #32

    AT5760

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    From watching the video this morning, I think maintenance played a significant role in their ultimate recommendation. That led to the edge grain recommendation and may have made teak score higher than other woods. "Best" in nearly any context involves subjectivity, not only in evaluation but also in selection criteria for the evaluation. Change the evaluation criteria, i.e. remove maintenance from scoring, and ATK would likely have recommended an end-grain board.

    Watching the video led me to a Google rabbit hole on teak, silica, and affect on edge retention. I'm sure much more knowledgeable people than me can weigh in, but I question the relevance of woodworking anecdotes to a kitchen application. In woodworking, your stated intention is destruction of your working surface - however minor. In a kitchen application, this is a necessary side effect that good technique minimizes.

    Finally, their edge retention testing likely involved their standard recommended Victorinox 8" chef knife. I would be curious to know how much steel type, hardness, sharpening angle, interplay with edge vs. end grain. Is it possible edge grain is gentler on the softer steels?
     
  3. Apr 12, 2019 #33

    inferno

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    I base all my knife buying decisions on ATK results.
     
  4. Apr 12, 2019 #34

    inferno

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    Talking bread knives. I think i have the ultimate one. fiskars x10. its much much faster than anything they tried to be honest. dont leave home without it.
     
  5. Apr 12, 2019 #35

    Michi

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    I think what they said is quite uncontroversial.

    An end grain board absorbs more oil and needs re-oiling more often than an edge grain one. No surprise there.

    End grain boards absorb more moisture and have a higher probability of splitting than edge grain, especially in a climate with varying humidity. No surprise there either.

    Teak has a reputation of not being a good choice for cutting boards because of its silica content. I haven’t seen actual data to show that this actually does affect the edge of knives (as opposed to router bits and saws). So, teak being bad for knives could be one of those myths that just won’t die.

    They did come up with a reproducible protocol for testing how much the boards dulled a blade. That's actual data, not hearsay. If they say that they didn't see any difference in the rate of dulling, I don't think I can just dismiss that out of hand because they used a knife I don't like or some such. (I would expect the relative rate of dulling to be much the same, regardless of steel.)

    What they said about weight and size is just common sense. Bigger is better, provided you can still lift it and get it clean. Reversible is useful, too. And very thick is a problem for shorter people. Nothing to see here, move along…

    The teak board they recommend, at $100, seems like a decent choice, considering that end grain boards that size cost typically at least twice as much. So, in terms of practicality and value for money, that's spot on. (It's like recommending a VW Golf as a sensible car for many people, as opposed to a BMW M5 or some such.)

    They didn't trash the end grain boards, and they clearly said that much of this is personal preference. And I didn't hear them say anything that's outright wrong, either. So, I don't see a credibility problem.

    It would be interesting to read the entire test report, but I don't feel like paying for a subscription just to read that.
     
  6. Apr 13, 2019 #36

    Dxtreme

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  7. Apr 13, 2019 #37

    ian

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    One should maybe keep in mind the chipping vs rolling of the edge distinction, too. I could imagine that high hardness J knives might be more prone to chip on the teak edge-grain than end grain when used in the way we typically use them, i.e. less rocking and more up/down. I do appreciate that they’re doing a controlled experiment, which is more than I’ve done, but it doesn’t accurately model the way I use my knives, so I’ll take it with a grain of salt.
     
  8. Apr 13, 2019 #38

    Michi

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    Yes, there are obviously lots of variables that are hard to capture and quantify.

    One thing I've noticed with some cutting boards is that they can "grab" the edge: the blade sinks into the wood or plastic just the tiniest bit. If a cut isn't completely along the axis of the knife, that causes a little sideways wedging. Especially with knives that are really thin behind the edge, I can hear a little "ping" when that happens, as the edge skips out of its groove and the metal snaps back.

    In theory, I would expect that effect to be more pronounced with an end grain board because it's a little easier for the blade edge to go between the fibres and, therefore, a touch more below the surface of the board. (I don't have an end grain board; with the edge grain ones I have, I haven't noticed any pings.)

    I also tried using those thin cutting mats that you can put on top of a board, but stopped using them in short order. For one, they slip a lot more than I expected. But they are really bad when used with sharp knives. It's "ping city" the entire time with those: very easy for the blade to cut a little into the mat, even when cutting with light pressure.

    I'm tempted now to pick up a teak board when I see one somewhere just to try it out. Been looking for something smallish and not too thick anyway…
     
  9. Apr 13, 2019 #39

    Interapid101

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    Where did the “like” button go?
     
  10. Apr 13, 2019 #40

    Dxtreme

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    I totally did their other more utilitarian kitchen recommendations though, like the All Clad cookware and Le Creuset Dutch ovens.
     
  11. Apr 13, 2019 #41

    HRC_64

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    Why not just pick up a edge grain maple for half the cost?
     
  12. Apr 13, 2019 #42

    SeattleBen

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    ATK is designed with the idea that anyone can easily find the items they're reviewing. To beat a bit of a dead horse here for what they're doing they're great. I don't like Mercer knives and really think that for my knife dollar I've been incredibly well served for close to ten years with a wavy pastry knife that's for pastry but served me well in both home and pro environments. When I bought it it was $30USD I think. It's still functioning well enough and I like the wave to keep my knuckles easily off the boards.

    https://www.amazon.com/Victorinox-Swiss-Serrated-Fibrox-Handle/dp/B00093090Y
     
  13. Apr 13, 2019 #43

    Keith Sinclair

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    Ben that's the bread, pastry, sandwich knife I keep pushing rosewood handle. Have seen with fibrox quite a bit. Our bakeshop used them too. Because you can sharpen them they last for years in a busy kitchen.

    Yeh where are the like buttons, good posts on this thread. Michi you are right about observations of endgrain boards. A sharp blade esp. a cleaver can stick to the board it is because of the fibers. I love my boardsmith it will last longer than me. In woodworking the edges of a table top will soak up finish far more than the cross grain top. Like little straws. That is why the edges may be darker on the endgrain sides. After final sanding you can put a sealing shellac just on the endgrain for a more even finish.
     
  14. Apr 14, 2019 #44

    Michi

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    I could do that (although I'm not sure about whether it would be as cheap as that over here). But then, I won't get to find out whether teak really is as bad as people say :)

    It's not a high-priority thing for me. I'll keep an eye out and, sooner or later, I'll probably stumble across something at a store sale or at a market somewhere.
     
  15. Apr 14, 2019 #45

    Michi

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    I'm surprised at the Masamoto. Too light and not enough heft? Also, with a hard crust, wouldn't it struggle?

    I guess I should try it…
     
  16. Apr 14, 2019 #46

    HRC_64

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    Forgot you were down under, I guess the point I was thinking about, however, is that once your outside of "must be end grain" you don't need anything exotic (eg, teak) to make up for this...edge grain is fine for cutting no problems...it just needs a little bit of care (keeping a breadkinfe off it is is probably the biggest one, as cross-grain saw-scars are no good;))
     
  17. Apr 14, 2019 #47

    Stonetherapy

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    Michi, if end grain is not a priority have a look at Bunnings benchtops! I have been considering them for some time.
    They are foodsafe and come in a range of timbers and sizes. I was looking at getting an Acacia one and cutting a few boards out of it, putting rubber stoppers on the bottom. Prices are low on smaller ones, size is huge for our purposes. They now have Ash, oak, maple etc.
    I am an edge grain fan, but am thinking this is the affordable way to get a larger cutting surface.
    Regards
    Wes
     
  18. Apr 14, 2019 #48

    Michi

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    @Stonetherapy Thanks for the heads-up, will have a look! There is a Bunnings less than five minutes from my place, and it has a large trade timber section.

    @HRC_64 Yes, end grain is out for me because of height restrictions for the board size I want. I have a custom Tasmanian Celery Top edge grain board on order. Will look at making something smaller out of maple (or teak ;)) if I can find it.
     
  19. Apr 14, 2019 #49

    Stonetherapy

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    My number one son works at Bunnings and just told me that the ones that keep catching my eye are usually sale items, meaning that we will have to keep our eyes open as they offload them for next to nothing.
     
  20. Apr 14, 2019 #50

    bahamaroot

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    How reliable is America's test kitchen recommendation? Very reliable if you're a housewife...
     
  21. Apr 14, 2019 #51

    Michi

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    I'm just wondering… If I were to start out with no idea of cooking, and were to go through all the archived ATK videos and follow their recommendations, what sort of kitchen would I end up with? I suspect that it would be a pretty good one, actually.
     
  22. Apr 14, 2019 #52

    Dxtreme

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    Everytime I see on Instsgram folks with nice Japanese knives, like Kato and Shigefusa and they are all cutting away on some bamboo board just makes me wanna scream at my phone.
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2019
  23. Apr 14, 2019 #53

    AT5760

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    The current issue of Cook’s Illustrated has more information on the cutting board testing. They note that the teak board they recommended left the test knife the dullest of any board after testing. It does make you question what they are willing to sacrifice for easier maintenance. Though, they said the knife used on the teak board would still cut paper at the end of testing. You know, for all of that paper we cut for crudités.
     
  24. Apr 15, 2019 #54

    Michi

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    Thanks for that! OK, so the story about teak boards dulling knives more quickly may not be an urban myth, after all.
    Well, for an "average" household, this actually might make sense. If the dulling isn't too much worse, but the board is more durable and easier to maintain, it's not an unreasonable trade-off. Especially when considering that the knives in most kitchens are permanently dull as a matter of course…
     
  25. Apr 15, 2019 #55

    John Loftis

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    I thought their recent cutting board review was fascinating, and I really appreciated the efforts they went to try to be objective. I agree completely that minimum maintenance played heavily into their evaluation. And they were definitely willing to trade-off low maintenance/scratch resistance with knife edge retention.

    The way they set up their video/written review, you can watch the video for free, but the detailed written report is behind a paywall that requires either trial or paid membership. That kills me, because 98% of people are just going to watch the video and then check out the Proteak... because that's literally the only board mentioned in the video. But if you get past the paywall and read the detailed review, you see the BoardSMITH's stuff listed as their #2 brand and given a glowing recommendation. In the comments on the Youtube video, there are quite a few people commenting that the Proteak reviews on Amazon reveal numerous complaints about splitting/warping/cracking... and if those folks want another option, it sure would have been nice for our brand to be visible somewhere in the video or for us to have a hyperlink to our website. But I'm extremely grateful to have been included in the review. A small business like ours needs all the publicity it can get. And every other board reviewed came from a huge factory, so it was an honor and a minor miracle that they included us at all.

    There are so many things from the detailed review worth discussing... but that might hijack this thread more than we should. But their review of hinoki was interesting, and their comments about scratch marks in a cutting board contributing to knife dullness, and the merits of their knife test (5,000 cuts, type of cut done, type of knife/steel used, etc). I also have thoughts on why an oil-laden wood like teak might be prone to delaminate/split, particularly one made in a factory in Vietnam.

    So, while I disagree with teak as being the best wood for cutting boards (if I thought it was the best I'd use it!), I agree completely with @AT5760, at least as it relates to the cutting board review:

    "I think ATK and Cook's Illustrated are going to get you to a 90% solution 95% of the time. I'm biased because the magazine was my introduction to more serious cooking than simply following my grandma's recipes. As a home cook, I find nearly every recipe or recommendation a terrific starting point. And for the most part, they explain their methodologies, so you can make your own judgments to some extent. They aren't going to give you the ideal solution for a knife nerd, but it's a heck of a lot better than the recommendations from free websites."
     
  26. Apr 15, 2019 #56

    Dxtreme

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    John, that was excellent that you got featured ! Definitely a great marketing meantion that is well deserved. I will go check out the publication at my local Barnes and Noble but if you have access to the article, you might be able to post a copy of it ?
     
  27. Apr 15, 2019 #57

    John Loftis

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    Thanks! They gave me special permission to copy an excerpt on my portion of the review so long as I provide the link to the full article. But they typically don't do that, and they would not allow me to copy the whole article. So they've been very cool to us.
    Capture.PNG

    That's the excerpt from the full article, and here's the link to the article:
    https://www.cookscountry.com/equipm...s2+sxzBQcmpQ0Ea/SjNJMRjYPMqZURJ9BDyT2iJnXtw=
     
  28. Apr 15, 2019 #58
    Good on ya John! I would have said the same thing about mine.
     
  29. Apr 15, 2019 #59

    Michi

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    Great to see that! You should add this to the list of recommendations on your website!
    Could you elaborate? I'm sure that quite a few people would be interested!
     
  30. Apr 15, 2019 #60

    John Loftis

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    Sure. There are a number of dense, tropical hardwoods that are inherently 'oily.' I'm not sure if or why this is correlated, but many of those same woods also happen to be loaded with silica. Teak is one of those woods. As ATK points out, this oiliness gives the board a certain amount of water-resistance (and is certainly one of the reasons teak was used in boat building for centuries). But here's the rub... when gluing up strips of said wood, the oiliness can interfere with the glue adhesion. So the right way to glue up teak is to give all glue surfaces a quick wipe with denatured alcohol 60 seconds before applying the glue. The surface oil is removed, the alcohol flashes off, and you have a strip of wood ready to receive glue. But if you are a large factory in a third world nation, it's at least possible that those best practices aren't being followed. So the glue joints appear to be solid when they leave the factory, but the oil has weakened them and they fail after a number of washes/rinses. I'm not saying that is THE explanation for the splitting complaints; user abuse could be a part, etc. But it's definitely a potential 'gotcha' when working with teak.
     

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