Is It Time For a Knife Upgrade?

I was just thinking about when I got my first really nice, new kitchen knife. It was about 2 1/2 years ago. I was involved with a gourmet retail store (helping with business strategy and day-to-day operation - and mulling over whether to become a part owner). My very first night there we held an event with Wusthof cutlery. It was a shortly before Thanksgiving and we had a representative (traveling chef) from Wusthof doing a demo on how to carve a turkey in just a few minutes. Quite unexpectedly, when he was done with the demo he asked if I wanted the 8” deli offset knife he had used in the demo. After all it couldn’t be resold and wouldn’t be used again. Of course I accepted...masking my excitement. I had never owned or used a $100+ knife. It was such a beautiful thing and felt so great, so solid in my hand. Right then and there I first understood the difference between a higher-end product and the average (but not bad) Chicago Cutlery knives I had been using which came from my wife’s apartment when we married 20+ years ago.

If you’re like me you may have never thought much about your knives or thought you wouldn’t spend the money on one of those higher-end knives. The weight, balance, and cutting ability of that first really good knife made all the difference in the world. Honestly, I could just feel the difference. This is not only beautifully designed but also is very solidly constructed. It made me think about the other cheap knives I had in my drawer. I could feel what a difference a really top-notch knife could make. Not as any type of status symbol, but as a well-designed, well-built tool. My curiosity was peaked. I wanted to learn more - and also see if I could upgrade the rest of my knives.

                    Wusthof 8" Deli Knife

                    Wusthof 8" Deli Knife

The next step was to look at and feel other knives at the cooking store. It sure was helpful to work at a gourmet cooking store! I could look over the different brands - and the different levels within each brand. I could feel the different knives. I could hold them in my hand. I could even even take them on a little test run by chopping up a few fruits and veggies on the counter. That’s when I learned I was partial to Wusthof. Was it the goodwill I had for the brand because of how I was given that first one? Maybe. But I will say I tried several others too. Nothing felt quite as good in my hand as the Wutshofs. And I bet other people will tell you the same thing about the brands they favor. Different brands (and different product lines within those brands) have different “feels”. My advice is to seek out a kitchen store if at all possible. Pretty much any cooking store will let you feel the knives you are interested in. And many have a counter with fruits and/or vegetables on it so you can give them a test. This is a great way to choose a knife. And, as you probably know, these knives aren’t cheap. They often run $100-300 apiece. For most people that’s nothing to sneeze at. You want to make the right choice when dropping down that kind of money.

And don’t be afraid to talk about the differences and ask questions - about materials construction, about handling, about care, about how they are different. Trust me, the average persons working at a cooking store would love to spend time talking to you about these. Access their knowledge. They will be happy to share it with you. 

As readers of this blog probably know, I now have a number of Wusthof knives. I will say that first Wusthof 8” Offset Deli knife is not used a ton in my kitchen. It has specific uses - like cutting meats. But it’s not the most handy all-around tool. My personal favorite is my Wusthof 8” Chefs Knife that I bought at Sur La Table. It can be see for just about anything! For those occasions when it can be a little too big, I turn to my Wusthof 5” Santoku knife. It’s pretty handy and super-sharp (like other Japanese-style knives). I find it big enough for those everyday things like slicing a sandwich in two and also small enough to tackle smaller jobs like cutting up a few strawberries, apples, or carrots. 

Have you ever thought about upgrading your knife collection? I’m here to say that, yes, there IS a difference between those $5-10 knives you can get just about anywhere and the more expensive (but much more substantial and higher-quality) knives. My advice is to find a store that’s somewhat convenient (hopefully there’s one near you) and just go try some out. Hold them. Feel the weight, the solidness, the weight, the sharpness, and the handling. You’ll instantly feel the difference.  Then pick out one that you think you’ll use most often (like a chef knife) and buy one (maybe on sale?). Make the investment. You’ll be happy you did.

If you liked this post, you may also want to check these out:
- "Getting the Knife Grip Right"
- "The Knives You REALLY Need"
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