Kitchen Knives on Any Budget
by Ken A.
Buying Pots and Pans
Kitchen Organization 101
In the market for new kitchen knives? Salivating over some high-end knives but have a limited budget? Confused over the vast array of options available? This article will help set you straight.
I'm going to reveal three tips you can use to guide you in your search for great knives. Those tips will save you a bundle but, more importantly, will help you find great knives. If you've never used a razor-sharp and feather-light Japanese Chef's knife, you're in for a real treat.
Of course, choosing knives is a personal decision. You'll want to consider your style of cooking, how often you cook and the tasks you frequently perform.
The Great Kitchen Knife Revolution
Before we get started, it's worth reviewing some kitchen knife history. Many people are unaware of the great upheaval that the kitchen knife industry has undergone in the last decade.
Needless to say, it has completely changed the landscape for buying cutlery. The short version of this great story is that the best knives available today were unheard of even ten years ago. Ten years ago, there were only two names in kitchen knives Henckels and Wusthof. And it had been that way for many years.
Today, those German knifemakers are scrambling to keep up with new, superior knives introduced by Japanese knife making companies.
German knives still have their place in the kitchen, don't get me wrong, but if you've been stuck using those knives for the last decade, you'll be pleasantly surprised when you try out a knife from Global, MAC or Shun.
3 Tips for Saving Money on Kitchen Knives
Some serious knife buffs will tell you that you can't buy kitchen knives on a budget. "You get what you pay for," they'll say. Or "you can't get decent quality for under $150."
I don't buy it. Granted, you're not going to get a full set of the best quality knives without shelling out some serious dough, but there are some great values out there. And if you're smart about how you spend your money, those values can be found.
1. Don't Buy Too Many Knives
One of the first mistakes people make when buying a set of knives is to go out and get the largest set they can. They reason, "Why buy the 14 piece set when you can get the 21 piece set for just $75 more?" The answer is simple… You're never going to need all those knives!
Are you a professional chef who needs the perfect knife for every single kitchen task? Okay, then maybe you do need a lot of knives. But for the rest of us, we can get by with a small set of high-quality knives. Buying a seven-piece knife set instead of a ten-piece set typically saves about 50%!
So if you don't need that many knives, should you even be considering a knife set at all? Or maybe you've already got a decent set and are just looking to upgrade a knife or two.
Most experts will tell you not to buy a knife set, but rather to buy knives one-at-a-time. That way, you get exactly the knives you want.
2. Sharpness Matters More Than Price
Wondering why your old kitchen knives can't cut it anymore? Maybe you don't need a new set. Maybe you just need them sharpened. The knives in most kitchens are too dull. If you don't know how to maintain knives properly, you might be tempted to discard old knives before their time.
Or, worse yet, you might buy expensive knives in the hope that they will be sharper than an inexpensive set. Sadly, this is not always the case. Buying a new set of sharp knives and then keeping them sharp will put you way ahead of the game regardless of how much your knives cost.
3. Know Your Steel
What is the single most important factor in buying kitchen knives? The name brand? The price? How they look? All good guesses, but not right. It's the steel used in the blade. Better quality steel will last longer, stay sharper longer, and be easier to re-sharpen.
Many first-time kitchen knife buyers do not even consider the steel. This can lead to the costly mistake of purchasing a knife set with inferior steel. It might look good when you take it out of the box, but I guarantee that you'll be regretting that purchase within a few months.
Since we're focused on value, I'm going to recommend knives in different budget ranges. If you've read the three money-saving tips above, it should come as no surprise that I've limited the recommendations to a small set of essential knives, that each knife is made of high-quality steel, is razor-sharp and can be kept that way.
If you're buying a la carte, feel free to mix and match knives from each price level. You're likely to save even more money doing that, as you may choose to get a high-end Chef's knife but other knives from the lower-priced categories.
The Best $50 Knives
Cooks Illustrated's recommendation, the R.H. Forschner 3-Piece Fibrox Chef's Set set is a screaming bargain at current prices. It's not beautiful and the steel is merely good, but at these prices, you'll be amazed at how well it performs.
The Best $150 Knives
Messermeister is not as well-known as Wusthof and Henckels, but their knives are a much better value. Their San Moritz Elite Knives are made of high-quality steel and are reasonably-priced.
The Best $350 Knives
At this level, you're no longer making sacrifices. You'll find great knives intended for serious amateurs as well as professional chefs. Global was the first knife maker to introduce the world to the joys of razor-sharp Japanese steel. The feel takes a little getting used to, but the Global 5-Piece Kitchen Starter Knife Set is priced right.
If you're willing to piece a knife set together one knife at a time, MAC Knives make a great choice as well.
Ken A. is a knife buff, an avid hobbyist chef, and an award-wining author. He's a frequent contributor to OnlyKnives.com, the web's premier site for knife reviews, discussion and feature articles. This article originally appeared as “The best kitchen knives on any budget” on OnlyKnives.com
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