It was around 15 years ago when I bought my first “serious” knife. It was an 180mm Gyuto, German, good quality, well-known brand, and I was so excited that when I brought it back home I started chopping whatever I could find on my kitchen counter top and fridge. It felt just like I got a new car. The funny thing is that ,at the time, I thought I got myself a Ferrari…If I only knew!
Using and enjoying that knife, got me into going deeper in knives. I started reading, watching videos, trying new techniques in cutting; even got my first double sided whetstone and started my first (failed) attempts into sharpening.
My second one was again a German. An even better reputed brand Santoku 210mm and I thought “This is it!” I was already at the top of the knives world! My Joy didn’t last long as I was continuously reading and I realized that I really was at the foothills of the mountain. Reading and researching more and more I decided to “break the bank” and make my first dive into the Japanese side. A factory manufactured, well reputed “Japanese” Gyuto was my choice and again, like a fool, I felt like I have reached the end of the road.
I clearly remember how much I was impressed the first time I used it and only then I realized why everything I have read about Japanese knives were not overstatements. Effortlessly flying through onions, potatoes, tomatoes and everything else I could feed it, it gave me such a wonderful feeling… I read once in a blog about a guy that was a Japanese knife collector. When his professor found out about his hobby, he teased him by saying “You just eat fruits, why you need all these knives?”. The guy answered “Yes, but every time I use one of my knives to cut my fruits, it puts a smile on my face”. That’s exactly how I was feeling (and I am not eating only fruits!).
It’s been a long way since then. I got obsessed looking for the best knife, got into the handmade ones and started buying “better and better” ones on my quest for the Holy Grail of knives. A never-ending quest.
Many years and dozens of knives after, I realized the simple fact that the Holy Grail does not exist. But the quest, the journey should not stop. You just enjoy the ride. And believe me I still do love that ride.
Many years ago I had the opportunity to meet a guy that was a Master of Wine. He was part of a very closed group of people – only around 250 in the whole planet at that time – that they study for a decade everything related to wine and then they have to pass exams to gain the title of “Master of Wine”, a test where 8 out of 10 fail. They are considered the people at the top of wine knowledge. During our discussion I thought of asking him “So, please tell me, which one is the best wine there is?” He looked at me with a smile and replied “That’s easy. The one YOU like the most”.
Having said that little story and the profound outcome, choosing your knives is not a simple task. It’s good to get feedback and opinions from “experts” but in the end has to do with your personal taste, aesthetics, cooking habits, experience, even your hands size and how you are used to treat your tools.
The first thing to consider is your cooking habits and the types of knives you already have. For most home cooks a set of a Petty (Pairing), a Gyuto and a slicer (sujihiki) is enough (??), If you’re more of a veggie instead of a meat lover, you can replace the slicer with a Nakiri. When we come to professional cooks it’s a whole different ballgame…
The next is aesthetics. Your personal taste. You prefer the rustic finish of a Nashiji or a Kurouchi, the aggressive look of a Tsuchime (hammered) or the smooth, satin or even polished looks of a Migaki (polished)? That’s totally up to you. The same applies on the looks and the type of the handle. Wa (Japanese) or western? Dark wood or the classic Japanese Magnolia? Rings or no? Fancy colors or simple? Of course handle type selection has to do with practicality too and what fits you the best.
The third factor is how you would like to treat, clean, and maintain your knife. Are you the type that usually leaves the knife in the sink until after dinner? or the one that will clean it and wipe it dry after each cutting session or even between cuts? Here comes the choice in steel type: Stainless, stainless clad or carbon steel? If you are the first type of person better forget the last two types of steel and go for stainless. Especially carbon steel needs a lot of TLC(Tender Love and Care) so choose it only if you’re ready to give it proper treatment.
Then you should consider the space you have available. If you have a large space it would be wise a big cutting board where you can start experimenting with bigger knife sizes, starting with a Gyuto 240mm. As soon as you get used to it, you’ll never replace it. If your space is tighter there are many smaller sizes to choose from.
Last, but not least, your sharpening experience. If you are a newbie on that liberating, Zen like experience called sharpening, then go for steels that are easier to sharpen. Maybe a Shirogami or Aogami is right for you. But if you have the experience and the love for sharpening and you’re ready to take the challenge, you can go for the Aogami Super or even the Powder steels.
We are here to help you in choosing the best knife. The best knife FOR YOU!
Let’s talk about it. Contact us and we will be more than happy to help, either you are a newcomer in the world of Japanese knives or an experienced user trying to experiment with new brands or knife types and steels.
Talk to you soon,