Small Chefs

Discussion in 'The Kitchen Knife' started by CTKC, Feb 13, 2019.

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  1. Feb 13, 2019 #1

    CTKC

    CTKC

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    Hi. I have noticed a strong preference for large chef knives here on the forums, and more and more makers seem to gravitate that way, yet the most used knives in our kitchen are these two small chefs:
    http://www.bladegallery.com/shopexd.asp?id=94102
    and
    http://www.bladegallery.com/shopexd.asp?id=95667

    To me, the small but wide blade on those knives provide a great balance between cutting power and control.

    I’m wondering what other folks find themselves grabbing most in their kitchens- smaller blades or long 240+ gyutos?

    Thanks.
     
  2. Feb 13, 2019 #2

    Dhoff

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    I have tried 240mm for the first time some Weeks ago. I love it for many taks such as chopping carrots. However if o had a 210 that was the same quality I would likely use it just as much
     
  3. Feb 13, 2019 #3

    parbaked

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    My sweet spot is 180mm - 195mm by 40mm - 50mm tall.
    My longest knives are only 210mm gyuto, petty/suji and yanagiba.
    Sold off everything longer.

    When I'm in Japan I use a 150mm x 37mm petty for everything...
     
  4. Feb 13, 2019 #4

    WildBoar

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    My first j-knife was a 210 gyuto. It was much longer then the Wusthoff I had used for years. But the gyuto was so much more nimble I found myself going to 225-240 gyutos. My go-to is a DT 225 ITK, but I find it a little to small for some tasks. It is small enough to use for peeling apples, etc. though, so I use it for most things. We use a lot of onions, carrots, potatoes, and have decent-sized cutting boards, so smaller knives result in increased prep time. I usually only reach for pettys and paring knives when working with shallots, garlic, etc., coring strawberries, etc. -- and even then the 225 handles the work most times.
     
  5. Feb 13, 2019 #5

    milkbaby

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    I think the people who are active on the internet kitchen knife forums are generally a small subset of all kitchen knife users that for some reason tend to gravitate towards similar trends. I'm American, so I can't say about other countries, but in my experience it seems the majority of people at home prefer a smaller knife when cooking.

    Those two OP posted about 5 inch blade length would probably be popular in many kitchens here. Looking online at commercial offerings, it seems like there are a lot of 5 and 6 inch chef's knives and santokus being sold by big kitchenware brands.
     
  6. Feb 13, 2019 #6

    HRC_64

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    People use 240 for prep, 210 for line knife, 180 for utility/random cutting, etc

    it all depends...if you don't do serious amounts of work...a couple cuts can be done with cheap knife
    of the wrong profile and nobody's gonna care
     
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  7. Feb 13, 2019 #7

    minibatataman

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    I think HRC_64 said it best. It depends on the use of the knife. A large knife is always nice for bulk work or prepping or cutting a lot of things. For me I thought a 240mm would be too big but as soon as I handled one it just felt right, right now I'm considering buying a 270 even, and I'm just a home cook. But other than that one "full sized" main knife I have a bunch of 3 - 6 inches knives that I use for everything else and quick small jobs.
    It's all about the size of the task and size of the board.
     
  8. Feb 13, 2019 #8
    At home, I have 2 basic knives...both gyuto; a 210 Konosuke HD which is kinda like an overgrown petty and a 225 Tesshu for more serious business. Work is a different story. Anything less than a 240 in a gyuto is not enough to power through prep. For slicing, a Suji of not less than 300mm.
     
  9. Feb 13, 2019 #9
    90-95% of the time I use something in the 230-260 range. Prefer something closer to 250 most of the time
     
  10. Feb 13, 2019 #10

    WildBoar

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    60% of the time I use a 225 gyuto 100% of the time :D
     
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  11. Feb 13, 2019 #11

    egolan

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    As someone who is definitely on the part collector spectrum, I tend to use gyuto between 210 and all the way to 270.
    I do have an Ikeda Aogami 1 suminagashi 180mm Santoku that I will often grab as what I call my "morning knife." Cut one green onion and perhaps a couple of other very small things.

    All that being said, I feel like my "sweet spot" is probably somewhere around 230mm.
     
  12. Feb 13, 2019 #12

    GorillaGrunt

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    Yep, it depends. At my last job we did a lot of volume - make this pile of big food into small food quickly - and I used a 240 or 270 (and once a 360 ) for prep and on the line and only pulled out a smaller knife when necessary for a specific task. At my new job it’s more presentation focused and we tend to use smaller knives, do one or two of something rather than a case; I’ve unloaded a bunch of 240s and picked up more 210s, and frequently spend most of the day using a petty. At home I have more board space, but find myself using a santoku start to finish sometimes! Or alternatively a big gyuto. Or a small one.
     
  13. Feb 13, 2019 #13

    CTKC

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    A lot of interesting insights; I should have clarified that I was definitely talking about home use. I can see, for a pro, that bigger means less prep time means better.

    For me at home it isn’t really about the board size. I’ll grab a longer chef to process something very large or a beefier blade or cleaver for something like a pineapple, but for carrots, cucumbers, peppers, potatoes, etc., those small chefs are just perfect, even on a large board.

    That said, they’re not so good for slicing meat or handling fish, though there I still reach for a deba on the smaller end of the spectrum.
     
  14. Feb 14, 2019 at 1:39 AM #14

    Cashn

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    At home it usually doesn’t matter to me as long as it’s sharp and stainless. I generally don’t feel like worrying about a carbon knife for a couple of vegetables and one chicken or whatever I’m making for 1-4 ppl. A 150mm Tanaka Ginsan at my house and whatever I last sharpened from a block of Henckles at my girlfriends. If I’m cooking several things for the week or what entails a whole day of home cooking I’ll break into the work kit that has four-five 270mm+ gyutos and butcher knives.
     
  15. Feb 14, 2019 at 3:00 AM #15

    Paraffin

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    As a home chef, my useful knife length is dictated mainly by the small prep sink embedded in our big kitchen island. If I was doing it over again, I might choose a larger sink. But as it is, the sink only works for rinsing-while-working a knife of around 210mm maximum. So that's our longest knife in use.

    I've also gravitated more towards specialized knives anyway, so my most used ones are 165mm nakiri, 150mm honesuki, 190mm petty, and one 210mm gyuto that doesn't get as much use as the previous knives. I just don't work with anything at home like huge cuts of meat or fish that would benefit from a longer blade, even if the sink wasn't a limitation.
     
  16. Feb 14, 2019 at 4:05 AM #16

    Barashka

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    A home ... I've been looking for a reasonable ~160mm chef for a while to compliment my longer knives. There just aren't that many around. I had high hopes for wusthof 6" chef, but alas, that wasn't enough after all the jknives. The one exception is my trusty funayuki 165mm in w2, it's been good to me, though it's not quite thin enough for most of my uses, also I have a preference for stainless in that size. I ended up going into bunkas more so than short chefs, just so many more choices there.
     
  17. Feb 14, 2019 at 9:55 AM #17

    rickbern

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    See comment that follows
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2019 at 10:02 AM
  18. Feb 14, 2019 at 10:00 AM #18

    rickbern

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  19. Feb 14, 2019 at 11:39 AM #19

    nonoyes

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    Some advantages I've observed or read about in these forums that apply to home use are that longer knives tend to:
    • be taller
    • be less snub-nosed
    • be more suitable doing cuts where you leave the nose on the board (e.g., rocking)
    • have a larger flat spot for folks who like to chop
    • have a more gentle taper with thinner tips (and I imagine they are thinner near the edge on average)
    • hold edges longer (because more of the edge contacts the board at once)
    For people who prefer longer knives at home I think they find it just as easy to use as a shorter knife (I'm undecided thanks to garlic), plus it comes with some advantages, so why not?

    This is what I want to try. I have a Takamura petty but it is just not tall enough for me for most tasks.
     
  20. Feb 14, 2019 at 11:49 AM #20

    nonoyes

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    How exactly does the extra length contribute to speed? As a home cook, I have no idea how much you guys cut when prepping but I've wondered about this. Do you line up a bunch of veggies and cut all at once? (Carrots I guess I can see but not other types of veggies.) Or is it that you can go to town on a mountain of roughly chopped veggies and make them dices?
     
  21. Feb 14, 2019 at 2:46 PM #21

    NBrewster

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    You usually cut one item at a time but much faster than what a home cook can. You just get faster and more efficient by doing something over and over and over again. Keep in mind that a professional cook will probably dice more onions in 1 shift than you will in a year. And depending on the day they might do a multiple of that.
     
  22. Feb 14, 2019 at 3:26 PM #22

    Ruso

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    Home cook, 240mm is the standard I prefer. 21omm feels small but still very workable.
    Anything smaller is either for quick cuts or one off prep to keep the rotation.
     
  23. Feb 14, 2019 at 4:16 PM #23

    stringer

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    I learned to cook and currently work in high volume kitchens. Like pallets of produce processed per day kind of volume. Anything less than a 240 feels like a toy. I generally prefer 270+for everything. I keep a 240 around if I have to jump on the line. I have a 210 petty that I use exclusively to clean silverskin. There is a 150 petty in my kit that I loan to the stewards and bartenders for slicing citrus. At home I use a 250mm Ontario Old Hickory chef knife that's been thinned and rehandled. This is in an extremely small Boston apartment with small cutting boards and smaller knives available. I just don't enjoy using them.
    I learned how to cook with big chunky grinding service chef knives. So anything Japanese in any size for any task feels like a Maserati. I started with 210 gyutos when I first went to Japanese knives. But haven't bought any in 10 years preferring longer formats.
     
  24. Feb 14, 2019 at 5:04 PM #24

    Thrive

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    I use a 240 gyuto for everything, home and work. I was using a 7" santoku but sometimes the heads of lettuce we would get at work are too big and I'd have to back out of cuts and start over. Making thin slices of tuna steak is equally annoying with too short of a knife.

    I don't think I'd want to go bigger (unless I get a slicer) and smaller doesn't cut it.
     
  25. Feb 14, 2019 at 5:25 PM #25

    HRC_64

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    santoku or 145 or 150 chef knife vs head of cabbage for coleslaw = :(
     
  26. Feb 15, 2019 at 5:53 AM #26

    GorillaGrunt

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    Even something like a big stack of roasted peppers or planks of squash or whatever, with a slicing motion, the longer blade lets you work with a taller stack so even for precise vs rough cuts you can process more with a longer blade.
     
  27. Feb 15, 2019 at 4:55 PM #27

    nonoyes

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    Nice explanation, thanks!
     
  28. Feb 15, 2019 at 5:22 PM #28

    DitmasPork

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    Think it's personal preferences. I'm a home cook, go-to knives for me are 220 or 240 gyutos—all depends on mood, what I'm prepping, which knives is sharp. When confronted by a mountain of kale, onions or spuds, I'll sometimes grab the 22o 'cause I feel like it, other times it's a 270. Gotta 210 that doesn't see a lot of work, just feels too small.

    My knife tandem 90% of the time is a petty (150 or 135) and a gyuto. Rarely to I switch up gyutos on the same day.

    Regarding blade height—for me, it also depends more on mood than ingredients. Whether I'm using a KS, Watanabe, Kochi or Tsoukan, they're perfectly functional all arounders to me.
     
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2019 at 8:31 PM
  29. Feb 15, 2019 at 8:08 PM #29

    jaybett

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    The small versus large knife discussion can be rephrased as precision versus production. A small knife is more precise, a large knife is suited for bigger amounts of prep, especially what is found in a pro kitchen. Larger knifes are not as agile as smaller ones. Generally the ideal size that balances precision and production is 240mm.

    Weight is another factor, that is often overlooked. A larger knife is obviously heavier than a smaller one. The size and weight of a larger knife makes it easier to feel in hand. Dicing up veggies you can feel how far the knife has to move to maintain a similar size. The feel isn't there with a small light knife, so it takes more concentration to make cuts. On a small amount of food who cares? Cutting up a box of tomatoes, it does make a difference.

    Inadvertently I improved my knife skills by learning to use a large and heavy knife, a vegetable cleaver. Cleavers weigh between 400 - 800 grams. To use a cleaver over an extended amount of time is about technique. After learning to use a 700 gram cleaver, every other knife feels small.

    It doesn't have to be a cleaver, but learning to use a knife that is larger and heavier then normal is a good way to improve knife skills.

    Jay
     
  30. Feb 15, 2019 at 8:21 PM #30

    tgfencer

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    I’m generally a 260-300mm user. All the above applies to one degree of another.

    It’s just what suits you best and what you’re used to and skilled with. I’m 6’3 with large hands so I like the extra heel height (if somethings 270+ but only 50-51mm I’m generally not interested) and the length allows for prep to be done a variety of ways.

    Personally I like heavier blades and a longer taller blade allows for that possibility, as well as a thicker spine, while still remaining thin behind the edge, thus giving the knife itself more cutting power without requiring as much user force.

    Anything you can do with a petty or short gyuto you can do with a well ground, well dimensioned 270. Tips for garlic and peeling, the flat spots for chopping, the length for slicing or push cutting, etc.
    It's all mostly down to technique, no matter what the size of knife. People often think about the overall length and the heel height, but not about how the individual sections of the blade can function.

    Take cheflivengood's videos here as an example of what you can do with a tall 270.

    https://www.instagram.com/p/BtDr9TbBEGk/
    https://www.instagram.com/p/Bsxu4_ih_W9/
     
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2019 at 8:28 PM
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