Kitchen basics : in search of perfect knife set

Today’s post is not about recipes or travel but it is something more important than that and often we overlooked it. It is all about knives, and more importantly the perfect one if there is any !

If you are of the opinion that a good recipe makes the food tasty and good, then think again ! Cutting, chopping, slicing does matter to a large extent in making the food looks presentable and taste good too, consumes less time and will make the cooking more enjoyable. There is no doubt that knives are integral part of kitchen, every cook’s dream to own the best and perfect set but there are lots to be discussed before owing a one.

A week of online research, hunting down the stores for the perfect set, fitting them in my budget, did some knife math and all that consumes much time and energy and in the end what I found, what I finally chose and why, summing it  up all here.

As soon as you start looking for a good knife, you will come across many terms like stamped, forged, tang, German blade or Japanese blade etc.  Before moving further, lets understand these term as these are crucial in understanding the kind of knife and what to expect from your knife too.

henckel twin four star knife block

Zwilling – Henckel twin four star 7 piece knife block

a) High Carbon Steel knives:  Kitchen knives are essentially made of stainless steel, some are made of superior quality German and Japanese steel, others low quality are made of different ratios of Mo and V alloy making them less expensive and less durable than the others. In short, a good steel makes a good blade for the knives. High carbon steel knives are the most preferred one for their strength and durability, do not easily discolor or stain and are able to hold their edge sharp for longer time.

b) Stamped vs Forged knives : Next comes, stamping and forging, these are two types of technology to make the knifes, stamped ones are usually made of cold rolls / sheets of steel,  high temperature treatment to make it strong, polished and sharpened and will be able to hold the edge for shorter time. In contrast are the forged knifes (like Sigma forge technology by the Zwilling Henckel) which are heated above the critical temperature, quenched, tempered, hammered the steel to ensure its strength, and it comes with bolster (a small metal block) that identifies a stamped knife from the forged ones.

c) Tang: Full tang means knife is one solid piece and riveted to the handle makes it the most strongest tang types, than the push tangs and rat-tail tangs.

So the debate was always between the stamped vs forged, full tang vs half tangs , carbon steel vs stainless steel alloys, latter is usually related to price factor.

Henckel chef knife

Zwilling – Henckel twin four star 8″ chef knife – forged with bolster

I was looking for a good set of knive which will last me at least two -three decades and that should fit in my budget of 150 $ with + / – 20 $ without tax. If you are not on a budget and are willing to spend some 700$ or more for full knive set, then go for Shun Premiere or Classic series, arguably the best Japanese steel knives available in the market. For the 150 $ budget knives, here are some of the options :

1) One regular knife set :

For regular / daily use 18 piece Chicago cutlery Insignia series is a good bet for 102 $ or 7 piece Ginsu Chikara series for less than 50$. Supplement the Ginsu series with  Victorinox Forged Chef’s Knife for 90$.

2) Make your own set in 150 $ :

Swiss made Victorinox 3 piece set for 54 -70 $ is perhaps the best stamped knife set available in the market. If you just need three piece knives, go for it. Swiss made, high carbon steel, superior sharpness and comes with lifetime warranty. It includes a chef knife (highly recommended by the experts ), a paring knife and a slicer. Supplement it with Victorinox santoku knife (stamped) for 30 $ (for all your Asian recipes), a bread knife, a shear, honing rod and wooden block / wooden tray will make it liitle over 150 $. If you do not need the bread knife, shear, honing rod and wooden block, this will be the real deal then.

3) For flexi 150 $ budget :

a 7 piece knife set from Zwilling Henckel. Two sereis are there – Twin Signature series (stamped)  and Twin Four Star series (forged). Both the series has been discontinued (that doesnt makes the knives bad) from the Zwilling Henckel, hence they are available in Macy’s and Bed, Bath and Beyond at a discounted price of 169.99 $ .

What I finally bought : Zwilling Henckel Twin Four Star 7 piece set at 180 $ inclusive of taxes. And what I got – 8″ chef knife, 5″ santoku knife, 4″ paring knife, 5″ serrated utility knife, a shear, a honing rod and wooden block that can hold some extra knives too.

Specifiactons : German high carbon steel, manufactured in Solingen ,Germany ; Sigma -Forged with bolster for better weight, full rat-tail tang with polypropylene handle provides superior balance, Fridour ice-hardened for super sharpness and strenght.

When I hold the chef knife in my hand, it feels light (in comparison to other forged knives) and fits in my hand well, loved its style too. The only negative factor / drawback of this set is that the santoku knife is only 5″, looks very small, if the set comes with 7″ Santoku, it would have been the best and perfect set at this price. Well, then nothing is perfect !!!

Henckel chef knife and santoku

Zwilling-Henckel twin four star 8″ chef knife and 5″ santoku with hollow edge

Few noteworthy things :

a) Why I have not mentioned Wustof in my review : If you are willing to spend some 300 + $, then go for 8 piece Wushtof Classic series, but their stamped version Gourmet series under 100 $, lacks the qulaity, and selection of knife doesnt suits me too, there are better sets at that price.

b) Zwilling Henckle is German made but J.A. Henckle International is China / Spain made, so I doubt you will get true German steel and this is advertised as their value pack. I have checked both the series in the shop, quality is different and that matters.

c) I like to hold the knives in my hand before purcahsing them , so did not go for online shopping, and also sometimes pictures are deceptive.

d) If you care for your cutlery, it will last longer, so do not throw them in dishwasher, even though if it is mentioned as dishwasher safe. The caustic detergent and the high heat is not good for the tempering of the blade. Wipe it clean, after every use and do not let the acidic juices stick to the blade for long.

e) A hardwood / bamboo chopping board are best suited for such knives, do not use them on any hard surafce, it may damage the blades.

henckel knife set

Zwilling-Henckel twin four star knife set : a paring knife, a serrated utility knife, a santoku and a chef knife

I have not used the knives yet, so once I finsihed the onion, tomato and squash test, will post a sequel to this series..

Some of the sites that helped in the research, in writing this post and guided me in selecting the best set in my budget are :

Bladesmith

Metro kitchen blog

Consumer Search for best kitchen knives

Cook’s Illustrated

Have a Happy week ahead

Sukanya