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Question on the "Big Three"

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DanB

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Maybe some of you old hands can address this issue better than I. Whenever I read knife advice in a cookbook or magazine, I always hear even quite good people say: "you only need three knives: a chef's knife, a paring knife, and a serrated bread knife." I have all those of course, but my question is, why?
Sure, if you cut big loaves of crusty bread often you want a bread knife (they're inexpensive enough and there's no good reason to spend big on them). But I don't even get the value of small parer. I mean, doesn't everyone have a vegetable peeler? Do you really switch from a chef's knife to a paring knife to cut a shallot? I take apple cores out much more cleanly with an apple corer, etc., etc.
So I guess I'm back to what Anthony Bourdain says in Kitchen Confidential: get one good chef's knife and learn how to do everything with it.

Comments? (like I had to ask)
 

James

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I actually use my parer to peel fruits and veggies, take out nasty bits of silver skin, zest lemons, core apples, de-eye potatoes, etc etc. Why have a bunch of unitaskers (Alton Brown's influence here) like an apple corer when you can just use a paring knife?

On the big 3, I agree for the most part, but we as knife nuts need to take it a step further. We've gone far past the point where a mere collection of 3 knives is insufficient. On another note, let me ask you this...how would you feel if you saw your local sushi chef using a chef's knife to slice your fish for you? personally, I'd think he's off his rocker
 

stevenStefano

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So I guess I'm back to what Anthony Bourdain says in Kitchen Confidential: get one good chef's knife and learn how to do everything with it.
I used to think like that but I think it's a little close-minded. You don't need a ton of knives, but a little variation in your kit goes a long way. If I am trimming meat for example, my suji is infinitely more suited to the task that a gyuto, even if it would do the job. Same with slicing cooked meat, some knives are just better than others, even if they would do it. If you do these things every single day, then the improvements you get become very important.

Another thing, is that what is the problem with having a lot of knives to do different things? Pretty much the point of this place is that everyone has a lot of knives, and most people have a variety of styles of knives, I don't see a problem with that.
 

WildBoar

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Little things like coring strawberries are much easier to do wth a paring knife then with a gyuto/ chef's knife. To me, must-haves are a paring, a petty/ utility and a gyuto. A bread knife is handy if you make/ buy loaves of crusty bread. And a suji is handy if you slice roasts every now and then.
 

mpukas

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IMHO, use whatever knives you like, just don't get sucked into the stygma that big name knife makers push with mulitple knife designs and knife sets (which it seems you already haven't). Personally, I use a chef's knife for 85-90% of knife tasks; I use a small knife - 150 - 210 petty for in-hand work, some peeling and some board work. Soemtimes a peeler doesn't work as well as a knife; I use a 300 slicer for, well, slicing; I have a bread knife for hard crusty bread so I don't beat up my gytuo/suji, but often just use either the gyuto or suji. I have a couple of parer's that also get used frequently when I need a knife for tip work.

Speaking of Alton Brown, have you had the stomach to watch his "Shun Training Video"? Tak abot eating his own words about uni-taksers... he is or was just pushing these peices of crap 'cuz he had a big fat contract with them. Not sure he's still associated with them.
 

Deckhand

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Different tools for different tasks. In regards to parer knives you mentioned. They come in handy. Tournes,fluted mushrooms, I even do radish mushrooms and flowers for my daughters lunch. I am sure it could be done with a different knife like a chefs, but I wouldn't be very happy doing it.
 

mpukas

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Little things like coring strawberries are much easier to do wth a paring knife then with a gyuto/ chef's knife. To me, must-haves are a paring, a petty/ utility and a gyuto. A bread knife is handy if you make/ buy loaves of crusty bread. And a suji is handy if you slice roasts every now and then.
+1
 

heirkb

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I actually use my parer to peel fruits and veggies, take out nasty bits of silver skin, zest lemons, core apples, de-eye potatoes, etc etc. Why have a bunch of unitaskers (Alton Brown's influence here) like an apple corer when you can just use a paring knife?
Same. That's basically why I've been practicing a lot with my paring knife. For example, have you seen Pepin use one? He peels, cores, cuts, etc. all with that little knife.

I have an 80mm paring knife, a 210mm suji, and a 270mm gyuto. Oh, and a cheap 135mm ajikiri/deba from the line that 330mate sells (I think Dave used to sell mini yanagis from this line). I can't really think of any other knives I actually need unless I start cutting a lot more meat, crusty bread, and whole fish.
 

JohnnyChance

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I would have trouble whittling down to "The Big 30" let alone "The Big 3".
 

DeepCSweede

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I agree with Steven on the closed mindedness of doing everything with a gyuto and yet I do fall into that category sometimes. I find that I use a petty and parer for random tasks and at times where I am just cutting up a couple of items. If I am doing major food prep, the chef knife sees most of the action with the parer seeing use (if needed), the petty / funy may not be pulled out at all. I am sure if I had a deba, I would use that for breaking down fish and pheasants/game birds but right now I swear by a 5" petty or funy.
 

DeepCSweede

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I don't think that I would be happy cutting down to only three knives though and every knife I add gets into the rotation and has a purpose.
 

DanB

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Well I thought there might be some opinions on this! I'm a home cook and can appreciate how pros would need more tools. Sure, if you're doing delicate surgery on a radish you're gonna want a parer, but that's pretty damn rare for a home cook (and probably most prep cooks). My OXO peeler does just fine on every vegetable, including butternut squash. Same with every fruit I'd ever want to peel. I could see a good slicer/sujihiki coming in handy for big roasts (or as someone mentioned, fish), but most home cooks can manage with a 240 mm chef's I'd bet. And then there's the problem of keeping a bunch of knives sharp. Not a problem on this board for sure, but how many of us have been to a friend's kitchen and have seen drawerfuls of useless knives, each one replacing the previous one that went dull?
 

oivind_dahle

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I like to think the big four:

parer, petty, guyto and suji
Then you are set for life.
If you have a lot of crusty bread, have a bread knife of low value as well :)
 

DanB

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Oh, and for the record, I DO like a 5-6" petty too, the very "utility" knife so often criticized by the very same authors. Very handy for breakfast (slicing a hard boiled egg, sectioning an orange, etc.) and other small tasks. Would take that over a parer any day.
 

Deckhand

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Well I thought there might be some opinions on this! I'm a home cook and can appreciate how pros would need more tools. Sure, if you're doing delicate surgery on a radish you're gonna want a parer, but that's pretty damn rare for a home cook (and probably most prep cooks). My OXO peeler does just fine on every vegetable, including butternut squash. Same with every fruit I'd ever want to peel. I could see a good slicer/sujihiki coming in handy for big roasts (or as someone mentioned, fish), but most home cooks can manage with a 240 mm chef's I'd bet. And then there's the problem of keeping a bunch of knives sharp. Not a problem on this board for sure, but how many of us have been to a friend's kitchen and have seen drawerfuls of useless knives, each one replacing the previous one that went dull?
If your goal was one knife it would be a 240mm gyuto like you said. If sharpening was an issue you can send it to a good sharpener once a year.
 

heirkb

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Those shorter lengths are fine. For anything more than a single item, I like my 270. The weight and length somehow make cutting a lot easier. I'm sure someone else could explain the mechanics of it. I think Salty posted a video about it once.
 

Peco

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I'm fine with a 210 - better of than using my 270 .... shorter knifes gives more control, at least for me!
 

SpikeC

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I use the long knife here for bread, no serrations butt it works well, and is good for any slicing task as well.

IMG_2610.JPG
 

heirkb

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I'm fine with a 210 - better of than using my 270 .... shorter knifes gives more control, at least for me!
I think it has a lot to do with what you get used to. My 270 felt cramped in at first because of my small space. It also felt out of control. Now it feels fine and smaller knives feel a little weird.
 

Peco

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I think it has a lot to do with what you get used to. My 270 felt cramped in at first because of my small space. It also felt out of control. Now it feels fine and smaller knives feel a little weird.
I could pratice approx. 11 hours a day on average. Still I have no interest in using a 270 unless I had to slice something. And to be honest, I haven't really seen anybody who looks comfy using a 270 (unless they slice). Maybe they feel they do - but I'm sure they handle smaller knifes a whole lot better ... yes smaller balls ... but better control ;)
 

stevenStefano

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I could pratice approx. 11 hours a day on average. Still I have no interest in using a 270 unless I had to slice something. And to be honest, I haven't really seen anybody who looks comfy using a 270 (unless they slice). Maybe they feel they do - but I'm sure they handle smaller knifes a whole lot better ... yes smaller balls ... but better control ;)
Pretty much why I use a 270 is because it is way quicker and basically just more efficient I think
 

heirkb

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I could pratice approx. 11 hours a day on average. Still I have no interest in using a 270 unless I had to slice something. And to be honest, I haven't really seen anybody who looks comfy using a 270 (unless they slice). Maybe they feel they do - but I'm sure they handle smaller knifes a whole lot better ... yes smaller balls ... but better control ;)
Who cares if you look comfy or look in control if you are comfy and in control? :)

Still, I'll give it to you on some things. I'd be more comfortable with a 210 doing a super fine dice on shallots than with a 270. But if I had to cut thin slices of shallot, I'd rather use the bigger knife.
 

Peco

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Pretty much why I use a 270 is because it is way quicker and basically just more efficient I think
You are on to something there S. Still I see many mess around with bigger knifes - why I don't know. Funny thing is that all Carter lovers have the shorter versions - still they praise them. If it was another brand it would be considered as babyknifes??? Double standard?
 

WildBoar

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eh -- I'm a home cook, and I get regular use out of paring, petty/ utility, gyuto, suji and bread knife. My wife regularly uses all but the suji (it's a 300 mm, and she's kinda scared of it). I guess it just comes down to what you make, and how often you cook. We could make do with less knife styles, but most have several tasks where they are more efficient then the others, and at the end of the day we are trying to shorten prep time as much as we can.

And the knife knut in me has led me to accumulate multiple examples of gyutos and pettys. But that's not a necessity :O
 

Eamon Burke

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My :2cents::

You need a knife that will kick some food's ass. For some that is a cleaver, gyuto, chef's, santoku, nakiri(if you don't eat meat), even a petty or short suji. Then you need a knife that is small enough to access the tip with one hand, for doing tiny nimble tasks.

Then you need one that speaks to your needs. Eat a lot of bread/sandwiches/etc? Serrated slicer. Lots of BBQ, Roast, and sushi? Big Slicer. Lots of complex/messy meals and/or snacks? Petty. Lots of whole chicken? Honesuki. Lots of live and grilled eels? Unagi-kiri.

The Chinese idea of having a cleaver and a fruit knife really taught me a lot, but I think the third knife really is where your personality and style gets to shine.
 

Peco

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I guess it's a personal preference and can be discussed forever ...
 

WildBoar

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I like 240-250 gyutos; a 210 doesn't feel right to me anymore. I'm sure part of it is the size of the cutting board; the longer the knife the more you really need a bigger cutting board. Slicing/ dicing onions is a PITA with a 210 for me. But I use 150 pettys for things like mincing garlic and shallots.

As far as Carters go, I think most have short ones because he mainly produces short ones. And they are such good cutters (no personal experience here) people would rather have a short one versus none at all.
 
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