chaospearl wrote:Since all the knife people are here today...
Can anyone recommend a good SMALL chef's knife in the $200 to $300 range?
Throw out everything you know from personal experience - it isn't going to apply to me. I'm a five foot tall woman with very small hands, and those hands are severely clawed with arthritis.
I've never felt comfortable handling a 8" knife of any style or brand. You'd imagine the lighter Japanese knives would be better for me, but I've found that a decent heft and full tang make it easier for me to use the knife because the weight sends the blade slicing down through the food with very little effort from my hands. Even a razor-sharp Japanese knife still needs me to push down on it significantly harder than a heavier blade would, and after a few hundred repetitive slicing motions, it makes a difference. I'm not ruling out Japanese knives, just saying that in my situation it makes more sense to look at German first since I can't research every knife on the planet. My hands can't do agility\precision anyway and the weight makes it easier for me. If there's something I'm overlooking here, I'd love to hear it.
My go-to workhorse knife right now is a 6" Wustof Grand Prix II cook's knife with a hollow edged blade (which isn't important to me, that was simply the only one I could afford at the time that wasn't too big for my hands). I've had it for many years and I'm looking to upgrade, but most knives this small aren't really designed for what I need it to do. A thin paring knife or utility blade isn't good enough; I need something designed like a curved chef's knife, just smaller than standard. 7" maximum, preferably 6" or even 5".
Any suggestions appreciated!
When I first started cooking I used a wustof classic 6" chef.It was easy to handle and create comfort with a sharp knife. I found it a bit handle heavy, and blade light, but I know what you're looking for if thats your comfort zone. If you are anywhere near a Williams Sonoma, they carry Global and Shun knives. A 6 or 7 in Global might be a very good fit for you. They are very light, I would say maybe even lighter than a wustof. The handles are slim compared to wustof but they are slightly better than wustof steel, but may be easier to manipulate.
Shun are much heavier with a slightly larger rounded handed than wustof. Much harder steel will hold an edge much longer, however, be careful, everyone I know has had problems with Shuns chipping. Bear in mind the people I know are all cooks and chefs who use knives 10 hours a day.
MACs are also probably a good option for you. Comparable to wustof or possible slightly lighter their handles are very similar to wustof classic handles, but their steel is much much better in every aspect.
If you are willing to spend that much on a new knife, I would maybe look at hattori here.
I just recently bought a hattori. Rounded version of the wustof handle and feels slightly smaller in diameter. Very Light, most have a nice medium between the hardness of wustof and shun. Very much worth the money. I would much rather have a hattori over a shun with the price difference being 50-100 less per knife. The hattori FH series is very good a series and they are on sale here!
Japanese Knife Warning - Japanese style knives have many more contributing factors to consider. The type of steel can change the hardness but also know that Carbon steel knives stain easily and rust. Many of the cheapest japanese knives are this, so make sure to check.
Many Japanese knives also are right or left handed. To explain: Traditional knives are double beveled 50/50 meaning it tapers on both sides of the blade forming an arch --> /\ however many japanese knives are created on a bias meaning they are more like 60/40 70/30 etc towards a side favoring a handedness. There are also Single bevel knives which are only tapered on one side like a razor --> /| These allow the blade to be much much sharper, but they must be compensated for when using because they do not cut the same way. Be aware of this when you are looking at japanese knives.
Also, when you see the rockwell rating it is the scale of hardness. wustof comes in around 58-59, shun is usually around 62, Personally I prefer around 60-61. Many people think harder the better, for the home use this may be true, I like 60-61 because it allows me to hold an edge through much use, but when it dulls it is much easier for me to sharper. Shun's take almost twice as long to put an edge onto than a wustof maybe more.
That being said, sharpening knives is hugely important if you truly want a worthwhile knife. I recommend ceramic whetstones. They are very expensive but a set of these waterstones can bring any knife back to life. I currently have a system of sharpeners from 300 grit to 12000 grit. This allows me to sharpen a blade much sharper than factory edge and then finish it with a mirror finish. Literally the edge reflects as a mirror.
Naturally when sharpening knives over time you will create your own bevel to a knife as you will naturally favor your knife hand. Creating an even better knife for yourself.
Hope this helps!?