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August 14, 2007

READER ROBERT RUDDIGER EMAILS: "I'm curious what others had to say in response to your knife query."

In fact, the response was so large I was swamped -- I still haven't read all the emails. Forget politics and Iraq -- when you post about kitchenware, the mail pours in. But here are some high points:

Reader Scott Canty emails: "Forget the Wusthof or Henckels. The best you can get are Global. A nice three piece set is really all you need. 8” Chefs, 5.5” veggie, and 3” paring. Make sure to get the ceramic water sharpener."

Cookware expert Brian Erst emails:

Some years back I was your "cookware guy" when the discussion turned to pans (Emerilware vs. All-Clad), so, being the kitchen geek that I am, I thought I'd weigh in on the subject.

I have the Wusthof Classics, and they are very good knives. They hold an edge reasonably well and fit my hands nicely (I'm 6'0", but have small-for-my-height hands). Balance is perfect, and the heft is good - the chef's knife will go thru a butternut squash pretty easily without a hint of bending. You have to like what I call the "mold your hand to the handle, not the other way around" handles (they are flat and hardish) - they look very nice, but some people prefer a more contoured handle. Wusthof makes a line of knives with a cushier/more ergonomic handle (the Grand Prix/Grand Prix 2) that are otherwise identical to the Classics.

The Gourmets are a bit of a different beast. They straddle the line between a stamped and a forged knife - instead of hand cut and forged, they are laser cut and machine-forged/sharpened. Generally, stamped or laser-cut knives are made with thinner metal (as are the Gourmet's). This can be a good thing in some cases (they bend more, which is preferable in a filetting knife, not so much in a chef's knife). As the Classics are on the thick end (some people think they're too thick), this may not be an issue.

I have also used a couple of other brands. The Shun knives are very nice (I have a Shun Santoku that I love). They have a unique handle which you either love or hate - it's VERY nice looking and quite comfortable for me. Instead of being flat or perfectly round, it is a sort of flattened D shape (slightly bulgy on one side, flatter on the other). I find it keeps the knife from slipping. The Shun Classics (and especially the Pros) are beautiful - if aesthetics as well as performance is you thing, you won't find a prettier knife. The Shun "Ken Onion" knives are so pretty they make you want to cry (especially once you see the price). Ken Onion is a famous knife maker (as famous as a knife maker can be) and designed special, super-ergonomic handles for one of their lines.

Shun's are actually another stamped-like knife, but they use a special annealing process to fabricate a knife that looks and feels exactly like a forged knife. Part of the reason it's stamped is that they use a Damascus-style steel that really can't be forged without screwing up the aesthetics of the knife blade. It has these opalescent waves on the side that are very cool - and REALLY hard...

Finally, if you're just looking for high-function knives at a low price, skip all of the above and head out to by some Forschner Fibrox or Forscher Victorinox knives. They are stamped, but they are laser sharp, super tough and dirt cheap. The folks at Cook's Illustrated repeatedly choose them over the others (Wusthof and Shun generally come in second and third). You can get pretty much every knife Forschner makes for the cost of a single Wusthof Chef's knife. Non-slip plastic handles too. Aesthetics... ah, not so much, but if they're sitting in a drawer...

Even if you pick up the Wusthofs or Shuns, you might want to pick up a Forschner filetting knife (if you ever filet things). It's about the perfect filetting knife - strong, supple and bendy in all the right ways.

Thanks, Brian. Quite a few other readers recommend the Forschner knives: Reader Kristian Holvoet emails: "They are nice, good steel, fit my hand well, easy to clean and are cheap. (They are common commercial knives for that reason). They are stamped, not forged, but really, if you aren't a master of the knife, the extra money may not be worth it.

Reader Karl Davis writes: "I highly recommend Shun knives, especially the "Alton's Angle" series. I thought the angle was a gimmick, but they are far more comfortable to use over extended periods. The construction is second to none in all of the Shun knives I have, and the handles are amazingly comfortable and never slip (combination of D-shape and pakkawood material). This is my favorite knife."

Jason Swartz emails: "I love my Henckels Twin Cuisine set: The grip feels fantastic, and the knife is one piece of steel from end to end, through the handle." They look cool, too.

Literally hundreds of other emails -- I'll try to post more when I get a chance. I didn't expect such a flood!

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