Monday, May 19, 2008

Blades of Glory- Addendum

Ok, I thought I'd share my recent experiences with a couple chef knives that I've tried out recently. The first one was the Mac Mighty 8.5". Mac lists it for $155 on their website, others sell it for about $120, and I paid $95 for mine through someplace or other. Northwestern Cutlery, I think was the name. Anyway, here's what I think, in a nutshell- I'd say it's over-rated. Not that it's not worth buying- maybe it is, for some people. But Mac knives have gotten a lot of hype that I just don't think they live up to (at least not this model). The main thing for me was that it went dull after about a month of normal usage, which seemed rather quick. I don't mean that it just lost its edge and needed a good honing; honing did nothing for it at this point and it needed to be actually sharpened. Which my brother was kind enough to do for me on his 3-sided oilstone even though I have a Chef's Choice sharpener for asian knives that I've been wanting to test out. (Oh well, I think he just wanted to give his stone a workout.) On the plus side, the knife was apparently easy enough to sharpen. Also, I wish the handle was a little bigger- I thought it was pretty small, overall. Smaller, even, than the handle on my cheapo Farberware blade. Overall, I'd probably give this knife a B-. Maybe a C+. Somewhere in that vicinity. Wouldn't say it's a bad knife overall, but probably not something I'd recommend to someone.

Next up we have the RH Forschner Victorinox 40521 Fibrox 10-in. Chef's Knife. The good folks over at Cook's Illustrated (the Consumer Reports mag of the food world) did a knife review back in 2002 and gave the Victorinox 8-in. knife an Editor's Choice. And on their website you can find the following quote,

Update: January, 2007 During the last two years, we have published or updated four reviews of chef's knives. During this time, our recommended knife has been and continues to be the Forschner Victorinox Fibrox 8-inch chef's knife."

Which leads me to believe that the good folks over at Cook's Illustrated are a bunch of baloney-eating chumps.

I read the original article when it first came out, but being that it was about 6 years ago, I don't really remember much about it, so I don't know exactly what their testing methods were, but I'm pretty sure that they were not very much inline with "real world" usage.
I've been working in commercial kitchens for about 8 or 9 years now, and most kitchens use knives that are very, very similar looking to the Victorinox. Same type of handle, same style, same feel; pretty much the same knife, except with a different name. And typical restaurant knives tend to be pretty crappy in quality- they go dull in a couple days or so, are hard to sharpen, etc. They're like that because most restaurants are not in the business of offering a dining experience to their customers, as they would have you believe- the fact is, most restaurants are in the business of being penny-pinching tightwads, and they'll often do whatever it takes to maintain their death-grip on those copper Lincolns. And one of the most common ways to save some scratch is to get the cheapest knives they can. They don't say Victorinox on the handle, but they look and feel almost exactly the same. And I knew that before I bought mine. I knew I was taking a chance. But I figured, "Hey, it's only 30 bucks; if it works, great. If not, chalk it up to experience." And now I'm more knowledgeable and experienced than before, and it only cost me $30! (I'm going to try and return it, by the way, but I'm not sure if Amazon will let me- it has scuff marks on the blade from the constant honing I had to do.) Now, I can see why the guy over at Cooking for Engineers rated it pretty well because he described exactly what he did to test the knives. His tests were pretty good at guaging out-of-the-box sharpness, but don't really address real-world constant use conditions. Fair enough, he never set out to do that. But the good folks over at CI have been recommending the Victorinox for years (and still do!). Surely they have enough experience by now to know that that knife is a piece of crap. I'm serious- I knew in about an hour of light-duty use that this knife was not going to cut the mustard (and I almost mean that literally; it does not hold an edge. At all.). And I thought the knives we use at work were bad- at least they stay sharp for about a day and a half. Maybe two. (One hour with the Victorinox was all it took for me to know!) I still really hate those work knives. But my choices are limited, as I explained in the previous post- I want a 10-in. blade, at least 2-in. wide, no bolster, large handle. Basicially, I want a knife like the ones we use at work, but one that will stay sharp for a little while. Not that easy to find. I did come across this custom knife maker in Canada, but being custom-made, you know they're going to be pricey. I'm just not ready to spend $400+ on a knife. (I don't know that they actually cost that much, but I'm guessing it's at least that much.) I don't know, I'm seriously considering buying a bench grinder and just bringing a knife home from work each night or two to sharpen it myself (which I do not recommend anyone doing, ever). They may only stay sharp for a day or two, but seeing as how we only send them out for sharpening every two weeks, it'd be a big improvement. The search continues...

Hey, stay tuned for some good stuff coming up- it's been a busy, busy week for me with work and stuff, so I'm behind even more than usual (I normally try and post about every two weeks) but I do have some tasty stuff in store, including a chicken taco recipe that will
Knock. Your. Socks. Off.
Don't like tacos? I don't care- you'll love these. (I don't care if you're allergic to tacos- these will cure that allergy with just one bite.)

I can't say for sure when that post will be going up, but hopefully pretty soon.

P.S. Thank you so much for taking time out to read this.


Tim Noble said...

You could try making your own knives. They aren't too difficult!

I could give you some tips and you can buy the blades on Ebay.

How's it Taste? said...

Sounds like a satisfying endeavor, but besides a lack of time (took me two days just to get to this response!) I really lack motivation as well. But, I will keep the idea floating around the back of my mind for the future!

Tim Noble said...

Fair enough!

Thistlemoon said...

To be honest, this is why I still use "crappy" knives in my kitchen. I haven't really found one that I loved enough to spend the money for. I worked at a cooking school, so I was able to try lots of different brands, and I never really found "The One". You know?

Anyway, welcome to The Foodie Blogroll!