The best small kitchen knives (paring and utility)

Due to the fact that we think children will be poisoned unless they are fed organic home-cooked meals (not to mention sliced fruit and vegetable snacks offered every hour by their grandma), there is a crazy amount of cutting going on in the kitchen.

This has led to some practical research on knives. Here’s what I have figured out so far…

The Shun DM0700 Classic 3.5-inch paring knife seems to be popular for small fruit cut by small hands, but the Wusthof’s extra length is better for most things and the Wusthof is more idiot-proof with a rounded edge at the back of the blade near your hand. (I do love the big Santouka knives.)

[That there do not seem to be any good American-made knives, at least not at a competitive price, makes me wonder how the political debate about America’s biggest problems still contains statements of the form “We should do X the way that Country Y does X.” (example: New York Times story suggesting that the U.S. health care funding bureaucracy be torn up and rebuilt like Singapore’s so that we can cut spending from our 17 percent of GDP to their 5 percent) If we can’t compete in a straightforward market such as paring/utility knives, why do we think that we can do stuff that other countries do?]

18 Comments

  1. SuperMike

    April 7, 2017 @ 1:47 pm

    1

    FWIW: at least for chef’s knives, America’s Test Kitchen recommends cheap ($35-40) victorinox stainless. They don’t hold their edge as long, but it’s really easy to get them scary sharp with a stone (or sharpener). I have a wustoff set (almost too hard to sharpen, once dull) and I switched over to the victorinox and have been quite happy. (I don’t have to freak out when someone uses it to chop the head off of a champagne bottle!)
    I don’t really use paring knives, haven gotten used to the chef’s knife.
    https://www.americastestkitchen.com/equipment_reviews/browse/knives

  2. lvl

    April 7, 2017 @ 1:59 pm

    2

    Shun’s are pretty but rather high priced for the quality: F. Dick is reasonably priced and good quality for western style ($40) Victorinox classic/pro with plastic “fibrox” handles are a steal at ~$10 (they have straight or serrated paring knives) Tojiro DP are a very good value for a japanese knife ($40).

    If you’d like American made, then this one’s made in USA (In Massachusetts by Lamson). It’s the house brand/design of the website owner. I have a chef’s knife of the same and it’s a great value: simple handle and style and good steel. http://www.chefknivestogo.com/riar80pakn.html

  3. SuperMike

    April 7, 2017 @ 1:59 pm

    3

    Also: my experience with the “two buck chuck of knives” (Mind you, I have a $200 Japanese knife that I never use!) has taught me that the knife market is rather like the wine market, there really isn’t any direct competition on quality. Most of the value that would make profits is based on name and or subjective aesthetic appeal, so unless you already are a premium knife maker, why try to slug it out with Victorinox, who have been efficiently stamping these things out for years in a Swiss factory?
    If you don’t believe me, look at what the pros use (and pay!) http://www.webstaurantstore.com/2859/paring-knives.html
    It’s like if professional photographers all used point-and-shoots and all the amateurs ran around with medium format equipment.

  4. Fazal Majid

    April 7, 2017 @ 2:48 pm

    4

    Use the Victorinox stamped paring knives. They are very sharp, yet cheap enough to be essentially disposable: throw them away rather than resharpening them:
    https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B008M5U1UE/

    For a chef’s knife, the Tojiro DP 8″ Gyuto can’t be beat for value for money, delivering the performance of $200 Japanese chef’s knives (but not the finish) at a quarter the price:
    https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B000UAPQGS/

  5. Colin

    April 7, 2017 @ 4:00 pm

    5

    Cutco knives are made in the US. We have a few, they are OK for the price.

    https://www.cutco.com/products/american-made.jsp

  6. George

    April 7, 2017 @ 4:31 pm

    6

    Dexter makes at least some of their knives in the US. They market more towards the pro user. I am not a knife geek, but was given a set as a gift and have been pleased. They are certainly better in terms of balance and comfort than my old Henckels. I rarely use a parking knife, though.

    https://www.dexter1818.com

  7. Vince

    April 7, 2017 @ 4:43 pm

    7

    To answer your question, a noteworthy portion of the cost of manufacturing knives in America comes from providing health insurance to the workers on the production line.

  8. Alex

    April 7, 2017 @ 5:03 pm

    8

    nbsp;TheSweetHome.com has recommended Victorinox paring knives, and I can vouch for them. Wicked sharp, and very reasonably priced. You can afford to replace them if needed, but they take and hold an edge well. Generally speaking, I start all my research into household effects at TheSweetHome.com or The Wirecutter.com.

  9. Matt K

    April 7, 2017 @ 6:09 pm

    9

    In my experience dirt cheap ceramic knives are as good in small sizes as Kyocera. They are really nice for oranges as well. That said, I would use a Japanese or French style chefs knife (less curved blade belly and lighter than German style knives) for pretty much everything. But it may be that most of the time my fruit cutting is watermelon.
    Separately any tomato , in my experience, will yield to a steel knife. It just needs to be sharp. Having a quick and easy sharpening method makes all your knives awesome unless they are sushi knives and you should learn to love the water stone. I use one of these http://furiglobal.com/au/furi-diamond-fingerstm-compact-knife-sharpener on kitchen knives. Very quick.

  10. Steve

    April 7, 2017 @ 6:36 pm

    10

    Mark Bitman for the New York Times advocates (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/09/dining/09mini.html) buying cheap white-handled knives from the restaurant supply store:

    “I started with an eight-inch, plastic-handle stainless alloy chef’s knife for $10. This is probably the most essential tool in the kitchen. People not only obsess about knives (and write entire articles about them), but you can easily spend over $100 on just one. Yet go into any restaurant kitchen and you will see most of the cooks using this same plastic-handle Dexter-Russell tool.”

    I have followed his advice and have been very pleased with these knives and very unimpressed at the supposed value of the super expensive knives I see elsewhere.

  11. philg

    April 7, 2017 @ 7:19 pm

    11

    We use the Dexter-Russell bread knives (about $10) and love them. For chopping, though, I think more weight is necessary.

  12. Jim

    April 7, 2017 @ 9:22 pm

    12

    I second Cutco knives. We’ve had them for years and they will come to your house…or you can mail them in…and they will sharpen and clean them for free…forever.

    They’ve even outright replaced knives we’ve sent to them for sharpening.

  13. Senorpablo

    April 7, 2017 @ 11:21 pm

    13

    I have a set of Shun knives from Costco. First time I’ve used a Japanese knife. The thinness and brittleness of the cutting edge is quite stark compared to western style knives. Think hardware store single edge razor blades. When pivoted even slightly on a cutting board for example, you can hear and feel the edge spring and vibrate. It sounds like a high pitch version of nails on a chalk board. They are very sharp and cut well, but they feel delicate and don’t inspire confidence in terms of utility and ruggedness like western designs.

  14. Barak Pearlmutter

    April 9, 2017 @ 9:29 am

    14

    We’ve found that small ceramic knives that come with a plastic sheath work well, as the sheath makes them safe in the dishwasher, drawer, easy to chuck in a backpack for use with snacking, etc. Also the sheath makes breaking it much less likely.

  15. mark verber

    April 9, 2017 @ 1:02 pm

    15

    My go-to utility knife is american made but I can’t say where to find one. I picked it up from a knife maker in amish country 30 years ago. We also have a Wusthof Classic 4.5-inch knife purchased 30 years gets pulled out whenever the knife is in use or dirty. Don’t have person experience with https://www.misen.co/products/misen-paring-knife-blue but friends seem to really like their chef knife.

  16. mark verber

    April 9, 2017 @ 1:06 pm

    16

    Scratch misen… I thought I remembered US made, but it’s japanese steam made in china.

  17. Tekumse

    April 11, 2017 @ 12:49 pm

    17

    I have used ceramic knifes almost exclusively for over 7 years, could be a lot more but I am certain for at least 7. Never broken one. I had chipped two eventually and sent them to Kyocera for free sharpening and reshaping. To me this makes more sense than trying to do deal with self sharpening.

  18. Truck

    April 16, 2017 @ 5:43 pm

    18

    We bought a Henkels knife block set including a 4″ paring knife in 2002. The paring knife broke in half across the blade after a few years of light use. (The blade was not bent- one day, it just fell apart while in use). The blade is rigid and does not flex. Henkels has a lifetime warrantee but wanted the knife shipped to it.

    Instead we bought a President’s Choice (Loblaw’s grocery brand) knife for 20$ Canadian. Looks very similar, and has similar quality AFAIK. German steel, made in Portugal. You can see the knife here – it is the small one. http://www.presidentschoice.ca/en_CA/products/productlisting/pc-2-pack-forged-knife-set-.html

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