Tag Archives: knives

Buying a chef’s knife

Since I started with my lifetime Rouxbe membership, I’ve watched quite a number of “tips and technique” videos, and also the video lessons on buying and using a chef’s knife. Now, I own quite a number of knives — a few paring knives, a Cutco utility knife, a bread knife, a long-but-thin slicing knife, etc. — but no chef’s knife. I did get a few knives for Christmas, and one of them looked like it might suit (it’s a 5″ Santoku-style knife with a non-stick coating on most of the blade), and indeed was the one I practiced my knife skills lessons with — first with the guard on, then with it off, as I don’t own a large enough bench scraper — I discovered that the handle isn’t raised enough for my knuckles to be off the cutting surface, and also that a 5″ blade is really tiny.

But I really wanted a chef’s knife. Sometimes you just need a honkin’ huge knife, and I don’t have one. And I’ve determined that if I’m really going to do this whole “learning to cook” thing, I’m going to do it properly.

So I went to go knife shopping. A friend of mine had tipped me off to a sale going on at The Bay, and I was in the area anyway, so I decided to check it out. Here’s what I learned: The Bay has very expensive knives and very cheap knives but pretty much nothing in the middle. The salesman let me hold most of the knives in my hand and move them around on one of the counters, and I found a Henckels Zwilling 8″ chef’s knife that was pretty awesome… but also very expensive. While the website says it’s $210, with a 50% off sale, this is not entirely true. In fact, the in-store sale is that if you buy any two knives from that brand, you only pay for the more expensive one. And while getting a second knife for free would have been very nice, I don’t really need any other knives, and $210 is a lot of money. Certainly, it’s above the range I was planning on spending. There were other knives — most of them 6″ — that I could have bought, but even with sales, they were all still over $150.

I looked around for more reasonably-priced knives. There was a 6″ Gordon Ramsay knife (no price on the in-store display, and I wanted an 8″ anyway). And there was a Cuisinart 8″ chef’s knife, but it was only $25, and I was skeptical about the quality of any $25 knife, especially after reading some online reviews.

So I determined that I wouldn’t be buying any knives at The Bay. Friends recommended other places I might go, both online (Lee Valley, Paul’s Finest) and physical (ARES, Tzanet). I admit, though, that I was disappointed: I really wanted a knife today, damnit, and having to wait made me sad.

So it was highly serendipitous that I was over at a friend’s place later that afternoon, demonstrating my newfound knife skills using his chef’s knife and bemoaning my lack of shopping success, when he suggested that I just take his, along with the block and the other four knives that came with it.

I blinked. I asked if he was sure. He assured me that, yes, he was. He never really uses any of them himself and he’d be happy for me to have them.

Friends, free is the best price of all.

My new chef's knife

My new chef’s knife

The knives are stamped “La Cucina,” which I have utterly failed to find on the internet anywhere. A few friends are assuming it’s a store brand for a store that may or may not still be in business. In any case, I have no idea.

It was now time to find somewhere to sharpen them. I have no idea whether they’re carbon steel, stainless steel, etc., but for my first set of knives, I figure I’ll get them sharpened, hone them regularly, and see how long they hold their edge. I put out the call among my friends to see whether any of them know where I can get knives sharpened, and one friend actually suggested that I just take them over to him, and he’d both sharpen them and show me how at the same time. The price: cookies for his wife.

Friends, paying with cookies is still better than paying with money.

So that’s my plan: get the knives sharpened by my friend and then start using them. Very much looking forward to it.

Oh, and I discovered one more thing: apparently you’re not supposed to receive knives as a gift; it’s unlucky. You’re always supposed to “pay” a penny for them. So I paid my friend a dime (the first coin I found in my wallet) and promised him I’d bring some baked goods the next time I saw him. So all’s well on that front as well. Yay, knives!