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Q-talk *ON TOPIC ONLY* QUALITY ON TOPIC discussion of Backyard BBQ, grilling, Equipment and just outdoor cookin' in general, hints, tips, tricks & techniques, success, failures... but stay on topic. And watch for that hijacking.


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Old 07-26-2011, 10:46 AM   #1
monty3777
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Default Help me define "good knife"

I wonder if I can get some help from you folks. When you consider what makes a knife "good" or even "great" what comes to your mind? Is a knife great because it can be used aggressively and requires little to no maintenance while keeping a good edge? Or do you consider a knife great only if it can scream, regardless of how often it needs to be sharpened or if it needs special care?

I realize that some of you would probably add other options - feel free to do that. But I wanted to start with the issue of utility vs. performance and see where that leads us.

I'll be honest, I have an agenda. I have come to realize that it is impossible, or nearly impossible at a reasonable price point, to produce a knife that can be scary sharp, while also being low maintenence. In reality, people have to choose maitenance over possible super sharpness, or vice versa. In addition, super sharpness isn't always a good thing for knives used on certain types of food. I'd love to know whether people have these issues in mind when choosing a knife - and when choosing how to sharpen them. I think your opinions will help me choose the right edge for folks. I'd rather give people what they want then what I think they need. :) All this is part of my desire to find the perfect BBQ knives and the perfect BBQ edge

I know we have gone down roads like this before, but I thought it would be interesting to get right to the point and get some specific feedback on these specific questions.
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Old 07-26-2011, 11:01 AM   #2
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Okay, I'll bite.

First and foremost, the knife needs to feel good in your hand. If it don't feel good, forget it, it will never be a go-to knife and you'll never perform your best with it.

While I somewhat agree with your opinion that it's not easy to produce a knife with razor sharpness and exceptional edge retention (which I assume you mean by 'low maintenance'); however, I believe edge retention is overrated. Sharpen faster or buy more knives. Problem solved.
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Old 07-26-2011, 11:09 AM   #3
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I probably should have been more specific. I guess I'm wondering about your opinions concerning what makes a good edge. You are right about the importance of how a knife feels!
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Old 07-26-2011, 11:29 AM   #4
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I just went through this learning process the last couple of weeks, really needed better knives than the grocery store throw-aways I had been using. To answer your question the best I can (& I'm no expert plus there are a lot of differing opinions out there) ---the metal you select will have a lot to say about sharpness and maintenance. Some high end Japanese knives will maintain sharpness longer b/c they use a very hard steel, but these knives are also more prone to chipping if they get dropped or used for the wrong purpose (chef's knife used to chop through a bone, etc). The German and other western knife makers will use softer steel that is less prone to chipping but will require more maintenance. After reviewing a bunch of options, I went with a Wusthof Classic 8-piece block set I found online for a little under $300. It hasn't arrived yet so I can't provide a review. Also, most nice knife companies have multiple product levels ranging from high-end chef grade to entry-level stuff.

There is some good info out there regarding higher end knives, but a common thread in all that info was how important it is to properly maintain a good knife if you want it to last. The other option is to just buy cheap knives and pitch em when you need new ones.

Hope that helps
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Old 07-26-2011, 11:57 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Saucit View Post
The German and other western knife makers will use softer steel that is less prone to chipping but will require more maintenance. After reviewing a bunch of options, I went with a Wusthof Classic 8-piece block set I found online for a little under $300. It hasn't arrived yet so I can't provide a review. Also, most nice knife companies have multiple product levels ranging from high-end chef grade to entry-level stuff.
I tend to see German steel as very low maintenance - so long as you don't put too sharp an edge on it.
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Old 07-26-2011, 12:26 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by monty3777 View Post
I tend to see German steel as very low maintenance - so long as you don't put too sharp an edge on it.
I feel German SST knives (Good Wusthof/Henckels) are "Good" Knives. They maintain a sharp enough edge to work very well for extended periods (even when used on acrylic boards). They don't need to be sharpened/honed for each use and will last for years. The downside is they aren't cheap and you can't get them razor sharp.

I don't think there are any "Great" Knives out there because they all have limitations - Japanese Knives require maintenance and are crazy expensive, German Knives can't perform like Japanese Knives, Cheap Knives don't hold an edge and are dangerous as a result.

I feel the best bang for the buck are Victorinox Forschner Knives. They are durable, hold a good edge, and are VERY reasonably priced.
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Old 07-26-2011, 12:26 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by monty3777 View Post

When you consider what makes a knife "good" or even "great" what comes to your mind?

All this is part of my desire to find the perfect BBQ knives and the perfect BBQ edge
First, in my bizarre mind, when I think of a good or great knife, I'm not thinking of cutting or slicing barbecue. For me, most barbecue is pulled; even ribs are pulled apart. Brisket is the only slicing, and for normal home use I'm not going to get all "it has to be perfectly the thickness of a pencil" or "every slice must be perfect and have no flakes".

To me, the optimal knife obtains and holds a very sharp edge for a long time, and lasts a lifetime. They should be well balanced and feel good in your hand so that when you use them they're used correctly. I will pay big bucks (and have) to have a set of knives until I pass away and know that whomever inherits them will enjoy them for another 30 years. The only knives that I'm aware of in this league are German steel.

With that said, I've had my set now for 25 years. When I sharpen them correctly (which is easier said than done) any knife in the set could be used for shaving (literally). They feel great in the hand and have a wonderful balance to them. In my case the handles are wood (MISTAKE on my part) and are still in good shape, but I will eventually either replace the handles or I'll just replace the entire set, but that's still another 10 years down the road...

1. Edge
2. Lasts a LONG TIME
3. Balance
4. with balance goes proper Weight

For brisket I use a granton slicer that's cheap. When I'm tired of it and it gets dull, I'll probably just purchase an electric carving knife. My backup knife is in the set above; the bread slicer is WONDERFUL as a 2nd choice, even in competitions (and this is a 25 year old slicer).
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Old 07-26-2011, 12:32 PM   #8
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For BBQ the Dexter Russell Sani-Safe line is all you will ever need. They are affordable, durable and take a great edge. Sharpened too 17* you will have a sharp lasting edge. Add to this a quality electric and you're all set.
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Old 07-26-2011, 12:33 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by monty3777 View Post
I tend to see German steel as very low maintenance - so long as you don't put too sharp an edge on it.
Agreed, BUT... Much of what I've seen is knife/edge abuse, like using glass for a cutting board, etc.

I use wood and only wood for cutting boards. The knives stay from fairly sharp to razor sharp... My 8" chefs knife still can slice a very ripe tomato as thin as a sheet of paper... My 25 yr old bread slicer does an even better job of it...

I guess the "ability to be abused and still work great" is probably in there way up on most peoples list, whether they know it or not.
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Old 07-26-2011, 12:37 PM   #10
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^^^ what Zilla said. Anything more, for barbecue (backyard, home, competition, whatever) is overkill and possibly not even fitting for the purpose.
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Old 07-26-2011, 12:41 PM   #11
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Quote:
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Agreed, BUT... Much of what I've seen is knife/edge abuse, like using glass for a cutting board, etc.
Yep, and we tend to use our cutting boards as part of the cutting process more than others, like the Japanese, might. I don't mean that as a critique. When I chop or slice I know that I rely on the feel of the knife hitting the board to determine when my cut is finished. And I also like the feel of a good clean "chop" or "slice" sound when I'm working. Others don't and can use a scary sharp knife because they don't tend to slice or chop into the board itself.

As much as I love my Japanese knives, I tend to use my western knives when I'm getting down to business :)
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Old 07-26-2011, 12:43 PM   #12
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5 for utility and maintenance with a good edge, 0 for super sharp requiring attention to maintenance. Good stuff so far. Keep 'em coming.
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Old 07-26-2011, 12:45 PM   #13
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Well, I am probably not the person to answer this, since I believe each purpose has a proper blade design, material and shape to function correctly. I can't even settle on one knife for preparation work. I do like stainless steel for it's low maintenance in terms of cleaning and general toughness. I tend to use carbon steel for it's ability to easily be tuned up and how it cuts.

I think stainless steel, in particular, Solingen steel, has served me well for decades. It has been an excellent material and takes an edge fine. I use a multiple grade carbide whetstone to sharpen it and I can move the edge from razor sharp to utility profiles very easily. Someday, I want to get a set of diamond hones to replace my old, un-level carbide stone. The stainless blades are tough, reliable and very simple to maintain, or not maintain.

I like carbon steel blades because they sharpen easily and can take an edge from polish to toothed very easily. They balance nicely to me and have always been my choice for detailed work. They do need a little more maintenance.

I would mention that I do not steel my knives, and do not hone or strop at each use. I do hand wash and dry my knives after each session and always store them in blocks or boxes when not used. Once a month, I hit all of my knives with a quick few swipes on a hard fine natural stone to clean up the edge.

I know of no great knife, in terms of steel that is below $75, maybe the Globals. I use Dexter-Russels for camping and public use, mostly because I do like cutting with them and don't care it they get abused. But, Victorinox and D-R knives are a far cry from 'great'.
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Old 07-26-2011, 02:28 PM   #14
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When I first got married, I used cheaper carbon steel knives. They were easy to sharpen, but didn't hold an edge long. They did respond to a steel better than hard Solingen knives. That was OK, I was young and had time to sharpen. I still have those knives to this day.

About 3 years into marriage, my income went up and I purchased a set of Solingen steel German knives. They hold an edge for a very long time. I only had the sharpening steel that came with the set and the knives kept cutting the ribs off the steel. They were real hard to sharpen and I went through 3 steels and never could get them sharp as new and that was disappointing.

About 30 years later, I purchased a diamond steel and diamond hone system and now I can get ANYTHING sharp...scary sharp.

Amazon.com: Smith's® Diamond Field Sharpening Kit: Home Improvement@@AMEPARAM@@http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51RAyztKTAL.@@AMEPARAM@@51RAyztKTAL

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Old 07-26-2011, 03:10 PM   #15
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When I needed a set of working knives I found a nice set of Saber knives on Amazon for a pretty reasonable price. I have used them quite heavily. Use the sharpening steel regularly to maintain the edges and they stay very sharp a long time.
Amazon.com: Saber F-11 Working Chef Knives with Chefs Knife Bag: Kitchen & Dining@@AMEPARAM@@http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51MfvcisaaL.@@AMEPARAM@@51MfvcisaaL
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