10 Knife-Buying Tips

10 Knife-Buying Tips

No tools define a cook more than his or her knives. Why do you think we carry them around in rolls instead of hauling backpacks full of pots and pans? Exactly. 

Here are some random tips when shopping for kitchen knives:

1. You don’t need many. Honest. If you’re just starting out look for a chef’s knife in the 8-10″ range, a large serrated bread knife and a utility blade blade in the 4-6″ range. What? No paring knife? Actually, I hate paring knives. I don’t even own one any more. When you’re ready to move on, contemplate a semi-flexible boning knife for butchery duties and a long slicer for thinly dispatching roasts and the like. Also, I’d get a decent pair of kitchen shears, the kind that come apart into two pieces. I never cut with a knife what I can cut with scissors. After all, I’ve been using those things since kindergarten. 

2. By and large I think the Japanese manufacture the best cutlery in the world, much better than the big European brands that came to dominate the American market in the 90s. Superior steel aside, many find that Japanese shapes such as those of the santoku, with it’s dropped point, and the cleaver-like nakiri, are handier in the modern kitchen.   

3. That said, when you’re ready to invest in R.G.S. (really good s***) I’d look to America. For my money, Cut Brooklyn and Murray Carter Cutlery (made in New York and Oregon respectively) are as good as any knives in the world. Both can be sought out on the interwebs. Cheap … no. Worth it? Totally.

4. Steer clear of sets … period. No exceptions. Ever.

5. When it comes to storage, I have two words: magnetic strips.  

6. Cutting is a system involving your hand, a knife, some food and a cutting board. I cannot over-empasize the importance of the omega component. I’ve seen people buy $300 blades and then run them on a cheap board and curse the knife. Your board needs to be heavy and it needs to be rock maple. Plastic boards are fine for butchery, but when it comes to serious slicing and dicing (not to mention chopping and mincing) you want wood. Bamboo? I’m not a fan. Give me a maple board from the John Boos company every time. And no, they don’t pay me to say that.

7. Want to know how to turn a quality knife into a box cutter? Cut a box. It’s just that simple.

8. Want to know another way to turn a quality knife into a box cutter? Put it in the dishwasher. Once is all it takes. 

9. If you like your knives sharp, have those edges maintained regularly by a professional knife sharpener once or twice a year. Do not use a honing steel. You’ll put your eye out!

10. Never, ever, ever run with knives.  

Pictured above: A few of my favorite things including two Carter knives, two Cut Brooklyn knives and one very old Sabatier knife. All are made of carbon steel which can be sharpened to near light saber sharpness. They tend to discolor, however, and require more sharpening. The bottom is a good example of a nakiri, and the second from the top is a utility knife with a santoku-style tip.


Add yours
  1. 3
    Bobby Boucher

    I LOVE my Boos Block! I would like to know how Alton feels about ceramic blades. I have a couple that have worked amazingly for years! Never been a fan of the Santuko style with or without the granton edge.

  2. 4
    Michael Arnold

    I have an affinity with extremely sharp objects. Not only do I sharpen my own knives, I also sharpen my own chisels, saws, axes, lawn mower blades, and all likes of bladed objects. You can shave with my machete.

  3. 5
    G Symons

    I have a Damascus steel custom kitchen knife from Hull Customs in Tennessee that I really really enjoy using. It is a very heavy yet well balanced piece of cutlery. I also cherry picked a Swiss chefs knife that was on closeout at a kitchen supply store that is light yet balanced. I know people rave about Cutco knifes. However, if you can find a local pro to help maintain the edge on you knifes that is the best route to go. They are few and far between these days and most kitchenpros, butcher’s, and foodies know the contacts

  4. 6
    Brian Lasch

    I like many of your comments here AB, Carter Knives are exceptional. I got to visit his shop in Hillsboro Or last time I was there it was a neat experience. I really like that Sabatier, I have 4 Carbon Steel blanks that were unearthed in an old storage facility of Sabatier that are about 110 years old now, that just need bevels and hardening, they will be my project for next year. I have a soft spot for them because the first knife I bought professionally was a Sabatier.

    I will say my daily goto knife when cooking is my 10 Wusthof that I used for 10 years professionally and 22 more at home. I maintain it with a syderco sharpmaker, a good honing steel and a leather strop and skip the professional sharpeners.

  5. 7
    J wecht

    I attended the CIA when it was in New Haven CT 1966..I have all my original Sabitier Knives. The 10 “ french knife is about 7” now. Carbon steel needs a lot of maintenance but can be sharpened to shave with.

  6. 9
    Scott G

    My daughter gave me a hand-made Japanese knife 3 years ago. ………….. I have since bought others, and will never use others knives. The best. Period.

  7. 10

    I have a couple knives from R Murphy cutlery in Massachusetts. Carbon steel, and pretty reasonably priced. They hold an edge like anything.

  8. 12

    Why would you suggest America for Japanese knives? The Japanese are famous for their knife making history and they have a ton of respected brands. If you look at any of the top Japanese chefs they won’t be using an American knife. Sushi chefs and Japanese are very particular in what they use as well. A lot of the American knives are junk like the Rachel Ray Santoku.

  9. 13

    Thanks for the 10 tips of knife buying that you mention above in the article. I find it really interesting and helpful if you ask. Thanks for the post

  10. 14

    Just wondering about the magnetic strip for storing knives, although popular right now I am not sold on this as the best storage method. My husband is a knifemaker (blacksmithing & stock removal) and a very smart man. We are designing our kitchen and recently had some discussions on this very topic. He doesnt think its safe to store blades for cooking that way as it does slightly magnetize the steel and the knife can then pick up and deposit bits of steel into your food. I like the idea of the magnetic strip but as a chemist, I do see his point. Just wondering if anyone has thoughts on this?

    • 15

      I have always had a thought about this as well. would the magnetic pull on the curf of the cutting edge also pull towards the magnetic strip mis-align the cutting edge? But as a butcher I know it is best to always use the honing steel before use. Also I have a good magnetic strip for my home knives and i agree it is not always safe. they do fall off occasionally.

  11. 17
    Sarah Snell

    I have huge sets of knifes in my collection. While in kitchen, i hardly use 3 or 4 of them. In my experience high quality knife is far more better than sets of low cheap pricey knife.

  12. 19

    Thanks for all of he info. Regarding storage, if I am renting and there is not where to put a magnetic strip, and I have a toddler and would like to keep knives out of eyesight and reach, what kind of in drawer knife block would you recommend? Or is here something cool I haven’t even heard of yet? Thanks again.

    • 20

      To the question about storage with kids, if you have a cabinet door that you could mount a magnetic strip on and then put a child “prtection” device on the door. We have inquisitive cats who like shiny objects. 🙂

  13. 25

    I have two Carbon Steel From my Grand Mother, 1920’s. I call the 12″ Billy and the 16″ Bob… Blades do not define the Chief, only the passion does……

  14. 26

    Awesome post!!! Mr. Brown, to add (or reiterate)… you really don’t have to buy the most expensive knives in the world (though it pays to get a really really good one! It’s lasts a lifetime!)… an entry level knife that you are accustomed to will live a longer life so long as you take care of it! It “needs” to be paired with a really good cutting board otherwise, just buy a cheap one because you don’t deserve a good knife! Again… awesome articles always! Cheers!

  15. 27

    Anzen Hardware in LA’s little Tokyo has the best Japanese steel options I’ve ever seen. Lots of high carbon steel as well as Damascus (for those willing to drop some extra coin.)

    As a line cook this is the only place I shop, very industry as well as home cook friendly.

  16. 28

    I was thinking of building my own cutting board and I understand there are some woods I shouldn’t use but over all the wood types why would Maple be the best for this over any of the other types and is there a specific maple type that I should consider before I start to make one.

    • 29

      It all has to do with the grain of wood too soft and you will just cut into it,too hard and you’ll dull your knives. You also want the grain to seal up after each cut to help with sanitary reasons, also a wood that takes block oil well to keep the wood healthy. I recommend when making the cutting block use the end grain as cut surface ,it will last longer than the side grain. That is how butcher blocks are made and if you are good at cleaning the board with coarse salt and lemons then rinsing in warm water, drying well and oiling it you will have it forever. Once a year if heavily used you can sand and re-season it with block oil. Ps: each meat species should have its own block [chicken/poultry and fish especially] and all vegetables can be done on one separate block. hope this is helpful info.

  17. 32

    Are you really alton brown? You used to be all about the knifes dam you even made a episode on good eat about proper care for your knifes. You even had the set o.o what happen to you man o.o

  18. 33
    Colleen Marble

    I agree with other reviewers re: Cutco knives. I own several and love them. I’m an above-average, higher-volume home chef and they suit just fine. They keep their edge well enough for the amount of cooking I do, and I can send them in for free sharpening and/or replacement (if needed) at any time. Their forever guarantee is exactly that. My mother in law has been married more than 50 years and got her complete set as a newlywed. She had forgotten about the guarantee, and when I started buying Cutco it reminded her. She sent her knives in and they replaced more than half of them, and reconditioned the other half to look like new — all at zero charge to her. Later, she broke the tip off of a paring knife while using it to pry something up. Cutco even replaced that, free of charge. Pay and say what you want about those other knives; for home chefs, nothing beats Cutco for durability, ease of maintenance and product guarantee. And for the record, I run my dishwasher almost daily, and it always has knives in it. They are none the worse for wear.

    • 37

      I’m with you. No steel? I have an 8″ Chef’s that I received as a gift in the 1980s. I religiously steel it every time I use it. I have never had to have it sharpened, and I can still practically shave with it.

  19. 38

    This article states that Alton hates paring knives. However, in his book “Gear For Your Kitchen,” he states that a paring knife’s importance is second only to the chef’s knife.

  20. 39

    Chanel, the deal with the dishwasher is your knives will bang around in there, probably hit something else in the dishwasher, and it can cause damage to the knife. Plus, it’s bad for the knive’s finish, which hurts aesthetics, and can make the handle of the knife feel weird because of the abrasive soap and higher water temperatures.

    • 40

      I will occasionally run my knives through the dishwasher, however mostly i don’t feel too bad because it avoids the problems you mentioned. My dishwasher has a ‘top shelf’ its a tray at the very top of the washer wish ONLY holds my knives, and they are held flat and stable in the wrack, its nice.

      • 41
        J F

        It’s not just the banging around… it’s also the super corrosive properties of the detergent which is probably worse for your knives than the banging around (you’re basically changing the chemistry of the steel and you’re changing it most at the sharp and super vulnerable to corrosion, pointy bits).

        Knives are super easy to hand wash, so just hand wash them… or at least buy a crap stainless knife at Walmart and use that whenever you don’t want to hand wash.

  21. 42

    In general, this is a pretty good rundown of knives. I take issue with a couple points that could lead a consumer astray, however. First, Japanese and German knives are simply on par with one another, because they each bring a different thing to the table. German blades tend to be more substantial, heavier, meant for more abuse. Japanese blades tend to be much thinner, much lighter, with a more delicate feel to them. I use both in my kitchen on every style of knife, and tend to reach for the German blade when I’m butchering up large cuts or working with something denser, and my Japanese blades when I either want speed or a more precise, delicate touch. As a matter of fact, one of my Japanese santokus from Shun explicitly states to not cut anything that had a bone with it. Another thing I’d take exception with is the claim that those American blades you referenced are “as good” as the Japanese/German counterparts. The best knife is one that fits comfortably in your hand. For me, neither one of those vendors you referenced makes a blade that feels good in my grip. If you look at the image provided, both of the American vendors have very similar handles. Not only that, but the carbon steel blade is finnicky to take care of, has no aesthetic appeal if that matters to you, isn’t as versatile as my TITANIUM blades (from Kasumi), and isn’t as sharp as any of my ceramic blades. The quality just isn’t on par with that of the greats for the typical, non-hipster home cook who doesn’t care about having a blade from “someone you’ve probably never heard of”

  22. 44
    MaryAnn Jackman

    I totally agree. Carbon steel knives are the best, even though they look skuzzy after a while — they cut like razors and are worth their weight in gold. Your selection of what’s really needed is exactly the same as mine. I’ve been cooking (at home) for about 60 years, and this is what I’ve figured out for myself. Very excellent advice, as usual. Thank you.

  23. 45

    “4. Steer clear of sets … period. No exceptions. Ever.” Someone please explain this to me. I have a set of Sakai Takayuki 45-Layer Damascus patterned knives.. Love them. Beautiful. Use them daily. They hold an edge very nicely. Sharpened monthly ( OCD! Just a little ). Knife #1, a 150mm petty knife. #2, 160mm nakiri. And, knife #3, a 210mm chef’s knife.
    In the near future, I’m looking to add the 240mm sujihiki knife. Or, maybe my first high carbon steel. Any thoughts?

  24. 47

    Have the 8″ and 6″ versions of that Sabatier, and believe it or not, with the old carbon steel (softer) knives, using a razor strop is the way to go. Alton was, I’m sure, kidding about never using a steel, but with carbon steel, you often only need to strop and not straighten. My workhorse knives are modern Japanese (3 Shun and 3 Miyabi) that require few straightenings and sharpening only every nine months or so, but the pleasure of using the Sabatier knives with their absolutely silken feel and despite their (by today’s standards) ridiculously narrow width, is a treat when I’m cooking for just myself.

  25. 48
    Vivian Warshaw

    I have used magnetic strips for years. We just moved and there is no place to install the magnetic strips so I taped them to the bottom of a drawer, and the knives are held firmly in place till i need them.

  26. 50
    Nora C

    I have the Sabatier knife pictured above and I’ve owned it for nearly 45 years. No stainless knife can get and hold an edge as well as carbon steel in my experience.

  27. 53

    Most of my cutlery stock have been thrift store finds. I use multiple small rectangular ceramic magnets on the side of my fridge as knife storage. Being a raw meaty bone pet feeder I use scissors for cutting through chicken, turkey and rabbit raw carcasses and am very interested in locating a more durable and higher leverage pair. Currently using Farberware red handled that separate. But the pivot points wear out. I admit to liking the plastic mat cutting sheets, as well as being OCD about sharpening my knives after each use. I just wipe clean, re-edge and stick to fridge.

  28. 55

    Can you make a list of suggested brands for japanese and other knives?

    also can you make a list, if any, of affordable average joe knives? nothing costing over 50?

    • 56

      For amazing performance and value I suggest Kai Knives… Its a company owned by Kershaw who also owns Shun. $25/knife and performance that matches my high end Chef Knives.

  29. 57

    I saw somewhere someone was asking for recommendations “on a college budget”. I’d put my two cents in on the Bakers & Chefs Santoku set. They are hands down the best knives I’ve held under $100 and if you learn how to put and edge on them they take a really good edge. They just don’t hold it like a Shun or a Kanetsuni and need to be touched up every 2-3 months depending on use.

    Which brings me to my second thought. Namely my longtime disagreement with Mr. Brown as to sharpening your own knives. The act of sharpening one’s own knives isn’t brain surgery.
    Lansky makes a no brainpower sharpening system. Don’t go for the desktop or v-block things. Just stick with their clamp on sharpening system, follow the instructions, go for the shallowest angle.

    Or if you’re feeling math-y and want to really get to know your knives pick up a Norton Fine/Course India combo stone. It is a great all around kitchen stone, not exactly sushi chef grade but it’s still my favorite. Plus it will keep one of those Bakers & Chefs knives sharp enough to be my go to knife for most mundane cutting and chopping.

    For the above knives I sharpen to about 20 degrees OVERALL angle which is about 10 degrees a side. Since the Santoku knives are just shy of 3″ wide one figures
    3″ x sin (10degrees) =.52…
    or just a hair over half an inch, which is the distance the spine needs to be off the stone. This puts it about half way up my massive thumb (3/4 way for my wife). Thus one hand securely holds the handle while the thumb on my other hand is resting on the stone with the spine or back of the blade on the middle. Then I act like I’m slicing a very thin slice of melon or root plant while keeping the angle of the blade with my thumb. Switch hands for the other side make the “slice” swap back. Start with knives that are the same width most of the way along the blade, when you get a better feel for angle work on the more tapered ones as you would have to change the position of the blade on your thumb as it gets narrower. Keep doing this on the course side until a “wire” forms on the edge. It is easily seen under a magnifying lens and can often be seen with the naked eye (as a slight glint along the edge when in good light). If you run your thumb from the spine (back) to the edge of the knife you can feel it (Don’t run ALONG the edge or you WILL cut yourself but from the back to the front and then off the knife). One side will “feel” sharper than the other and that side will change with whatever side you last ran against the stone. Once you have this wire along the entire length of the blade flip the stone over to the fine side and continue until the wire pretty much vanishes from sight but is still felt. For me this takes 20-30 passes each side but it all depends on how much pressure you use. At this point make a pass or three over a honing steel (or the back of another knife). Use almost no pressure and use the thumb rule until you get a feel for the right angle. This will realign the micro edge that is left with the blade. Both sides will feel equally sharp/dull to the thumb. Then make a few test cuts on newspaper using almost no pressure but dragging the blade across the paper and see how you did. With this you can see if you messed up or if the edge isn’t straight. Over time you will get a feel for your knives and what angle / method works best.
    Like my fillet knife that has 12degree overall (the same as my straight razors) and at about an inch wide I’m just shy of laying the blade on the stone (1/8 inch). If you have one of the old Smith triple stone kits just throw away the yellow plastic wedge. It’s 23 degrees which gives you a 46 degree overall angle. Great for hatchets and axes not so much for kitchen knives. Natural stones are great but the synthetic stones work a lot faster.

  30. 58

    I have a couple of Ginsu’s that I Have used for years. They have lasted me forever and I couldn’t be happier. They are my goto blades and I stone sharpen them every now and then but I couldn’t be happier.

  31. 59

    I partially agree with all of this.

    I agree entirely that you don’t need a lot of different types of knives to get along just fine. I also would say that I agree that there are a lot of good knives, great knives, and crap knives out there, and I’m sure the brands he names are absolutely fine; as such, a good recommendation of course.

    Disagree somewhat on the cutting board. I have three boards. One for slicing bread, a plastic one for slicing stuff I’m not going to cook that can be truly cleaned and disinfected, and a wooden one (yes, wood) for cutting meats and the like. I don’t worry about bacteria mumbo jumbo. That’s what cooking is for.

    Where I disagree is on sharpening. Now, don’t get me wrong, a lot of people don’t know HOW to sharpen a knife and end up just damaging it. And like knives, there are good knife sharpening tools, great ones, and really crappy ones available. However, investing in a good honing tool to use once every year or two and a good sharpening steel or fine grain whetstone and learning HOW to use them (some goodwill knives will work for practice) is a skill every CHEF should have and should recommend to his followers.

  32. 60
    Naomi Yoshida

    2. I also think the Japanese manufactures make the best cutlery in the world.
    Mind you most of their knives are made for right-handed users.

    5. I would like to share how my mother store her carbon steel “Gyuto” to avoid discoloration.
    5.1 Dry completely.
    5.2 Apply very thin coating of vegetable oil with paper towel to the blade.
    5.3 Wrap the blade very tightly with dry newspaper to shut out moisture.
    5.4 Wrap 5.3 with plastic wrap very tightly to shut out air. //

    • 61
      Naomi Yoshida

      Additional note on 5.2: For longer storage, camellia oil is preferred. Olive oil can be substituted, as they are both non-drying oil.

  33. 62
    Erin Zahara

    A point to know if you are gifting any blads to anyone give a loony ($1) with it to not sever the friendship. It is an old superstition but it is nice to have the gester.

  34. 63

    The knives that handle all of Mr. Brown’s objections and satisfy his specifications are Cutco knives, made in Olean, N.Y. They are made from 440A high carbon stainless steel. They are guaranteed forever against any defect or failure of normal use, and the company will sharpen them for free forever. I have sharpened 50 plus year old Cutco knives that are just as good as the day they were purchased. The polypropylene cutting boards that Cutco sells are also superior to any wooden boards, which hold bacteria and cannot be cleaned. Several knives come in a Santoku style as well as the pointed blade, and there are over 25 different knives to choose from. Twenty million customers love these knives more than any other knives at any price. I’ve had mine for 11 years and wouldn’t trade them for anything.

    • 64
      Eric Lucas

      I disagree about cutting boards, and so do the data. As long as you wash away any surface grease and let the board dry thoroughly, it does not harbor bacteria. It’s porous and wicks water away, effectively dessicating and killing any bacteria. Plastic, on the other hand, get micro cuts from the knife blade, and those grooves harbor bacteria. Tests have proven this, as AB and America’s Test Kitchen (am I allowed to mention that show here? 🙂 ) have both discussed.

    • 65

      Miriam, you clearly don’t understand metallurgy or you would know better. Educate yourself on blade steels. 440A while fairly corrosion resistant doesn’t not hold an edge nearly as well as D2, El Max, CPM 440C, etc. While 440A can be manipulated with heat treat pretty well, it has it’s limits.

      • 66
        Bit Cloud

        Cameron, there isn’t a need to be a steel snob. Most people reading this article aren’t ever going to be interested or need to know the differences between 440A, AUS8, S30V, ELMAX, or S110V. Carbon steels are fine for cutlery if maintained well, and there are plenty of fancy steels out there for those who really need the performance. No need to belittle those who aren’t super into steel metallurgy.

        With all that said, I personally use a 180mm VG-10 “damascus pattern” Tojiro Gyuto, which has served me well now for 5+ years. Easily sharpened, beautiful to look at, and incredibly comfortable to use, I would recommend them to anyone looking to try a Japanese style knife.

    • 67
      John Gordon

      Cutting some slippery meat on slippery polypropylene is asking for a trip to the emergency room. Wood is far better for cutting meat. It can be easily cleaned. Rock maple is very hard, very resistant to getting scored where you need to worry about bacteria being a problem. If you do get deep cuts in your wood board you just sand it a little and problem solved. Yes, it’s nice you can put your polopro board in the dishwasher but there are other things to consider. A good rock maple board will last you a lifetime.

  35. 68

    Thanks for this post! I’ve been pondering getting new knives. I have a set that was a wedding gift 10 years ago. Yikes! Dull as all get out.

    • 70

      One of two ways.
      If you’re using a carbon blade or a nice Japanese “white steel” one it’s going to stain (rust) the hell out of that blade and probably end up corroding off the edge.

      For stainless blades corrosion isn’t the problem but the violence of the cycle is. If you blade has a real good edge just bouncing around under the force of the spray is enough to roll the edge, and if it’s in a bin with other utensils banging around can put dents in the edge. Most of the time you can’t just hone or straighten out that kind of damage.

      Most people don’t know what a really sharp knife is. It took me going to a knife forging class before I came to terms with it. That class also taught you the basics of attaining surgical sharpness in everything that was hard enough to take that kind of edge.

      Experience has taught me that my heavy carbon knife can also do damage to the dishwasher.

    • 71

      As a former professional knife sharpener I can tell you that dishwashers use excessively high heat cycles which can ruin the temper of a knife. Also if the knife is carbon steel it will corrode and rust after dish washing. Carbon steel is wonderful for blades but requires some tender loving care.

      • 72

        Trisha.. Not sure what steel you’ve been playing with but most non-cryo-quenched crazy alloy wackiness starts effectively being (re)tempered at ~400 F. This is 188 F above the maximum possible temp of a dishwasher. 440C &440A stainless shows no change in hardness through 212F (boiling water). Ovens can mess up temper but unless you have one HELL of a dishwasher mine always fell short of actually doing something to the temper.

  36. 73

    I have been very happy with my dozen Wusthof Classics for several years now, including a paring knife (favorite multitasker) and honing steel. I agree with the advice on the Boos heavy maple cutting board (end grain).

    • 74
      Sue L

      I too have several Wusthof Classic knives that I love. I get them sharpened once in a while and treat them with hand-washing care. I’ve had most of them for 29 years (5 knives, a meat fork and honing steel were a wedding gift from my mother-in-law). A couple others we acquired at random times. They’re great.

  37. 75
    Lloyd Sirkin

    I am confused. AB sang to the Gods about Shun Knives. Now he says Cut Brooklyn and Murray Carter Cutlery . I rely on AB for sound advice, but when he changes his advice I hesitate and begin to question if his advice is reliable. Any advice about what to do with this???

    • 76
      Brian L

      Honestly, AB was payed to be a spokesmen of Shun He still liked the brand though and there is nothing wrong with them except they are very hard and can chip during cutting bones ( so use shears or a heavy knife for those activities). He has had that Carter blade for quite some time I remember it from Good Eats Chiles Angels and a few more. He favors Carbon of stainless for edge retention and durability but they are certainly higher maintenance . I don’t agree on his honing and sharpening stance though. A spyderco sharpmaker is very easy to use to sharpen your blades and would pay for itself after sharpening 5 knives at today’s average prices for sharpening. You should also use a burnishing steel every time you pick up a knife and multiple times during ling prep sessions.

  38. 80

    Dishwasher soap is a corrosive. the sharp edge of a knife is very thin. The corrosive in the soap is strong enough to dissolve this thin edge. So you are left with a knife edge that is rounded off and not even rounded evenly. Welcome a dull knife.

    • 81

      Dishwasher soap is not “a corrosive” — that’s not even a definable category of things. Dishwasher soap is a soap. If you’re that curious, you can look on the back of your bottle and Google the ingredients; direct chemical data is everywhere online.

      Most dishwasher soap won’t hurt a knife, let alone “dissolve the thin layer” of unreactive stainless steel your knife if probably made of. If you’re careful, your local grocery or supermarket will carry a simple dishwasher soap, usually marketed as such, so that even if you have a strange aluminum, iron, or copper knife that could be corroded from specifically an acid, it won’t.

      As an aside, it’s a bit strange Alton mentions superior Japanese steel then 180s to obscure American brands; I’m hoping they use Japanese steel, he forgot to mention it, and it all makes sense.

      Regardless, if you’re a college student or a chef with a non-TV-star budget, buy a knife set. You can go cheap *and* be picky. The market has changed. I’ve researched some quite decent ones around $100; it’s not feasible for us to drop $300 on a single knife. Maybe much later you can invest in a couple Japanese steel knives. Maybe. If you cook *a lot.*

      The takeaway? Think for yourselves, research the chemical properties of your knives and soaps, be aware of your cooking habits, and buy Shun knives according to Alton.

      • 82

        I agree with your statement about the corrosive properties of dishwasher soap. Now a dishwasher will rust a carbon steel blade but that is for the same reason it will rust cast iron or a carbon steel wok. Stainless is stainless is stainless, unless it’s cheap stainless (in which case it’s crap) and dishwashers will no more corrode a stainless knife than it will a stainless pot.

        The real reason they aren’t recommended for knives is that dishwashers are incredibly violent. Once you have a real good edge on a blade this kind of abuse will be the death of it. Notably if it goes into the same dishwasher bin with other utensils (metal smacking against sharp metal bad). One of my ex’s put one of my carbon steel chef’s knives in the dishwasher not thinking. One cycle later not only was the knife rusted but in the process it had cut it’s way out of the utensil holder and cut the plastic coating on the rack in several places before becoming embedding itself in some Tupperware. She was only vaguely aware of the dishwasher making “odd noises”.

  39. 84

    I have done very well buying carbon steel knives from eBay. For around $100-$150 you can score a razor sharp Sabatier knife. I have bought many knives including some vintage butcher knives and nothing comes close!!

  40. 85

    “By and large I think the Japanese manufacture the best cutlery in the world…”

    “That said, when you’re ready to invest in R.G.S. (really good s***) I’d look to America. For my money, Cut Brooklyn and Murray Carter Cutlery…are as good as any knives in the world.”

    Not to be a pest or a troll but these comments confused me. Can you explain why I should buy American cutlery if Japanese cutlery is superior? And if American cutlery are every bit as good as Japanese blades, why even bother mentioning them?

    • 86

      Dave, a Lamborghini is a superior car, but if you only drive a few miles each day, in a city, you are better off buying a Honda or lexus.
      If you are not a sushi cheffects cutting paper thin slices of fish, you do not need a $200 Japanese sushi knife.

      • 87

        I can understand that but the American knives Alton Brown suggested are very expensive. Moreso than any single Japanese knife I’ve seen so far so I was just wondering why he preferred the American over the Japanese of he said the Japanese steel was the best.

    • 88

      Murray Carter offers the best of both worlds, so to speak. He trained under Japanese masters in Seki for 20-some years and is also a Master Bladesmith in the US, one of only 120 or so. He has all the blade styles dialed in for their uses, and is up to date on metallurgies and treatments. The “downside”, if there is such a thing, is that it’s easy to spend a lot of money and get a beautiful knife that’s not what you really needed. Maybe it’s the perfect knife for someone with larger hands or smaller, who prefers more or less heft, a different handle feel. It’ll sharpen like mad and cut like a laser, but unless you kind of know what you like and don’t like, you can end up with something that’s not quite what you need. That said, he can surely help you narrow it down.

  41. 89
    Patty Hedrick

    I have JB hinkle, what is your thought. I like the way the fit my hand and the durability. What is your thought on that. My husband has Case. It is OK for him but not me. We are at a difference and yes, they both are on my counter?

  42. 90

    I’m sorry. A decent Global or a Henkel will last you just fine if you take care of them. Do no EVER put knives you care about into a dishwasher. Honing steel, well if Jacques Pepin uses one, I bet it’s not that bad. Also Jaques uses back of another knife to hone his good knives… Invest in a sharpening block and learn how to use it if you have a little mechanical know-how… Once a year, do visit a professional sharpener if you are extremely anal about things… Other than that, your knife will take care of you if you keep it dry and clean.

    • 92
      Naomi Yoshida

      Personally, ceramic knives are great for fruits and vegetables, as they do not transfer “metallic” flavor to food. They need no sharpening as long as blades are not chipped. (Kyocera Knives come with the service to restore chipped blades.)

  43. 93

    I regularly hone my blades. Per AB’s own Good Eats recommendation and instruction. With careful and attentive love, my German (Henkels) knives are 6 years old and still razor sharp and they’ve never been sharpened once.

    I had a friend who was selling Cutco, I agreed to let her demo for me (she gets paid just for doing the demo). When my 6-year-old never-been-sharpened knives outperformed hers in her demo, she took that feedback to her director and quit.

    • 94

      My nephew sells Cutco and he did a demo for me, too. His knife did outperform my cheap, but well-cared for “Walmart” knives (I can’t remember the brand)…but only when cutting a rope–not something I normally do while cooking. I gave my cheap knife a run over the sharpener and then challenged him to cut a tomato. I won. I know people SWEAR by Cutco, but I bought one (he is my nephew) and I barely ever use it except to chop nuts. And I think it already needs sharpening, but I’m too busy to send it away to be done.

  44. 98

    I don’t like magnetic strip knife racks. I had one which was so strong that it grabbed the knife as it approached and slammed it onto the metal bar . This caused scratches and more important dinged and chipped the blade edge.

  45. 99

    Thanks for the post!! I have your “Alton’s Angles” Shun Knives from 10 years ago and I have kept them in gorgeous condition by following your advice all these years. Time to take your advice on a new cutting board.

  46. 100
    Trevor Raynard

    What do you think of Bob Kramer’s knives ? I would be very interested to know your option on the Kramer by Zwilling knives ? It would be nice if you did a review on one of these sets. Thanks

    • 101

      While I prefer the design of the Profection line by Henckels, the Kramer line is probably hard to beat, except by an actual Kramer. I seriously doubt you’d go wrong.

  47. 103

    I’m curious about how you picked the knives shown. Did you buy them as part of your battery for your show or were they given to you by potential vendors? Thanks. I still love the show and find reruns that I’d missed. JAH

  48. 105

    I see a lot of people waxing wistful about Shun knives. Everyone I know who owned one broke the tip off within the first year. They may be fine, but they are not robust. At least, not in the real world where knives get dropped once in a while, banged in the sink occasionally, and dinged off the faucet from time to time. Hey, life happens.

  49. 106

    The best knives in the world are useless unless you know how to use them. Also evaluate your needs. If you are a professional chef get the best tools you can afford. If you are a home cook you don’t need a $100 10 inch chef knife.
    Sorry AB, the only thing I use a serrated blade on is rope or bread.

    • 107

      Totally on the serrated knife. I’ll bet a sawbuck that AB doesn’t use one of these stupid saws on his $200 Boos cutting board (Iagree with him about the boards), because ti will destroy the board. A carbon steel (or SS) 10 or 12 inch slicing knife will do just fine for bread (I am a foodie and a professional sharpener).

  50. 108
    Joell Sanders

    Great advice! I’m looking for some good knives. My Sabatier was stolen years ago. It was my favorite knife. By the way, i live in New York, so i’m close to Brooklyn & Murray Carter. Thanks, Chef!

  51. 109

    If you say no honing steel, then why in an episode of Good Eats was use of one taught and encouraged? I don’t use a steel regularly, but every now and then for ‘touch ups’.

    • 110

      I had the same thought. I always thought Alton supported the use of Honing Steels to maintain a knife until it needed to be sent in to be re-sharpened. But Goods Eats was also a long time ago so maybe he’s changed his perspective on the use of Honing Steels.

      • 111

        He should have been clearer. Never use a steel to SHARPEN your knife. Use a steel to HONE your knife, it maintain the edge.
        Prior to ever use, one or two strokes on each side will keep an edge. Once the edge is gone though, the knife edge should be ground, ie sharpened, ie a new edge put on the blade,

  52. 112
    Alan Ashworth

    Cutco, made in Olean, new york. I have had a set since 1974 and I love them. I have sent them back to the factory a few times for resharping which is free. I do pay a fee for shipping however. Best knives I have ever used.

  53. 113

    Can you suggest any knives for “starters”, in the sense of those like myself who have used cheap cuisinart knife sets forever. I don’t want to go crazy on $500 knifes just yet, but want to spend enough to convince myself it’s worth it.


    • 114

      Starter knives are tricky. In my food truck we use Fibrox knives because they take abuse, stay reasonably sharp and are very affordable. I believe retail is around $40 from a brick and mortar store. I do not like Dexter or the cheaper Victorianox knives, they feel off in my hands.ymmv

    • 115

      To respond to Brandon (#67), Fibrox is the name of the material that the handles are made of, not the name of a brand of knife. The Victorinox Fibrox line are very good as starter knives. You can get an 8-inch or 10-inch chef’s knife for 30-40 dollars.

      If you are interested in exploring Japanese knives, the Tojiro DP series is a great value for starters. Their 8-inch gyuto (chef knife) is 60-70 dollars. Just know that you generally have to be gentler with J-knives because they tend to use harder and thinner steel to produce sharper edges, but tend to chip more easily.

  54. 116

    For quite a while, Alton was a proponent of Shun knives. Is that still the case? Also, Question about length of chef’s knife. Have anyone else found that with certain brands a 8″ works, but the 10″ is too long, and in other brands the 10″ is perfect, and the 8″ is too short? Any reasons or explanations?

    • 117

      Stefan, I suspect that the answer is in the curve of the blade. Wiki: “German-style knives are more deeply and continuously curved along the whole cutting edge; the French style has an edge that is straighter until the end and then curves up to the tip.” Japanese may be straighter. I think the German knife will feel shorter. I personally prefer a 12″ Sabatier or American made Russel with similar curve.

  55. 120

    I currently agree with Alton. With the exception of a few cuts, a nakiri makes the perfect blade for all of your cutlery needs.

  56. 121

    I really don’t understand why Mr. Brown is so obsessed with Cut Brooklyn. The steel is not great. It’s more suited towards hunting and fields knives rather than kitchen knives. They are not ground as well as they should be for the price, and the handles leave much to be desired. Joel, who I am sure is a nice guy and all, doesn’t even do his own heat treatment. His popularity is simply a result of social media hype.
    If you want to support american makers, perfectionsist such as Marko Tsourkan (who makes the best cutting knives outside maybe Kato or Shigefusa), Bill Burke, Devin Thomas, Rader, Delbert Ealy, and Bloodroot Blades are all much better. Didn’t think Alton Brown would go for hype over quality in such a way. But I guess CutBrooklyn is “hip” and “cool”, so it’s all okay to overpay.

    • 123

      Agreed. Even though I’ve used Cut Brooklyn knives and think they’re quite good, you can get better knives for the amount they charge.

    • 124

      Couple thoughts…
      1) Although wood butcher blocks are beautiful and feel lovely to cut on, there’s nothing wrong with good plastic cutting boards. Most professional kitchens, including super high-end places like Per Se and French Laundry use all plastic cutting boards, and they do just fine with them for very demanding work.

      2) For folks asking about Shun, AB is no longer a spokesperson for them so not surprising he doesn’t name them. However, they are fine knives, and he sort of indirectly gives their endorsement when he says that Japanese knifemakers (which would include Shun) are the current industry leaders, which I would agree with. Also, the two brands that he does name are at significantly higher price points.

      3) People are trying to decipher what AB meant when he advised not using a honing steel. Well, not being a mind reader, I’ll just note that historically Japanese chefs did not use honing steels. You CAN use a honing rod on them, but you’ll be better served with a ceramic rod than an actual steel. Traditional Sabatier knives, however, have long been used with honing steels, so I’m not sure about his advice on that front. I would certainly use a honing steel on my Sabatier carbon blade.

  57. 126

    Can someone explain what Mr. Brown means by not using honing steel and you’ll put your eye out? I agree that knives should be professionally sharpened but keeping an edge with honing steel between professional sharpening seems like basic knife handling 101. I’m obviously missing something?

  58. 130
    Jason McDowell

    Alton – Great article. Just one tiny thing… “Maury” is Murray Carter and he does his great work out of Hillsboro Oregon, just west of Portland. Brilliant artisan and a local guy… so I had to say something

  59. 132
    Dave Scondras

    My Dad always had Chicago knives. He has had the same set for atlas 30 years now, thou like you said, he only used a couple of them ever. He has a three sided oil bath honing stone and those things were razor sharp ever since I learned from dear old Dad how to use them as a boy. I’m an experimental chef even thou I do have my favorite dishes to cook, always using fresh ingredients. I’m also a huge fan of yours, Alton, and whenever I want to try anything new, its your recipes where I go to get a firm base. I often do my own tweaking on them but I do that to everything. Don’t take it personally. Thanks for all your help over the years.

  60. 133

    Now that I’m here, I might as well ask. Can you explain how dishwasher soap and hot water dulls a knife? I know that if a knife rattles around in a dishwasher it will dull because the edge is hitting on things. That is obvious. The problem is that no-one has ever been able to explain to me how hot water and dish soap dulls the edge of carbon steel. Thanks Jim

    • 134

      I suppose it’s because dishwasher detergent contains tiny bits of abrasive material. It makes it easier for the dishwasher to remove bits of stuck-on food but that bit of abrasion also dulls the knives by randomly removing metal from the blade – essentially doing a really, really awful job of sharpening. It’s the same reason why you should never put in anything stainless steel or with a painted-on design that you care about. It marrs the finish the same way.

    • 135

      Here’s the two cents from a disabled knife maker.

      The thing a dishwasher does besides banging your knives around is that it allows rust to deposit on the edge of high carbon steel knives (it can also happen to stainless just not as quickly). Disposable razor blades have the same problem, they get water that doesn’t completely dry and causes rust to develop on the edges – making them seem like they are worn out when they haven’t even started to dull. High carbon steel will also hold an edge longer than stainless steel, because the chromium in stainless steel makes it so the blade can’t hold an edge as long, but it allows some stain & rust resistance – it’s all a give and take game. So it might appear that your high carbon knives are becoming duller, because they have slightly more rust on the edge affecting their cutting ability, but in actuality the stainless blades are losing their edge just as quickly unless you really aren’t taking the extra effort to dry your knives completely off – in which case you can start to see rust. The real problem you are going to run into with knives edge retention is the heat treatment the blade underwent. Manufactured knives save themselves money and put a generic heat treat on blades to expedite the process – some sacrifice money they could have used towards heat treatment for a more expensive or trendy steel. More expensive manufactured knives will give more attention to the subject. Heat treatment is ultimately the real price of manufactured knives. Handcrafters, whether they do it by forging or by stock removal, spend a lot more time and effort on quality on all aspects and actually understand the metallurgy (usually moreso on the forger’s side) and don’t make compromises for the manufacturing process, but are the most expensive knives. Contact your local knifemakers/bladesmith society/guild for more information, handcrafters will usually let you come observe and some will even make some time to help you make your own.

      The term ‘handcrafted’ can also be misleading because some of these big manufacturers will put that label on something that they spent more time on, or may have some hands-on portions of construction. There’s also other words that are thrown around by mass producers, like ‘forged’ – if they are using this term it means drop forging which is a method done in mass production where a metal object is heat and then smashed into a die for it’s near-to-final shape – think of stamping the blades out.

      The breakdown:
      Manufactured knife of a certain build and steel with a generic heat treatment + cost of branding = <$100, with some exceptions for those expensive brandings, 4-6" blade
      Same knife with better heat treatment + branding cost = <$600
      Handcrafted knife = $300-2000 – the higher price range are usually from mastersmiths and can have multi-year waitlists – lower than $300 usually represents an apprentice.

    • 136

      Like JC said it’s corrosion and getting banged around.

      Dishwasher detergent and dish soap are not at all alike. Dish soap is only really there to soften food deposits so you can rub them away with a cloth. Dishwasher detergent softens the dirt but since there’s no rubbing involved it has to be able to dissolve the dirt to remove it from the surface, and to do that means it has to be fairly corrosive. Go compare a bottle of dish soap and a bottle of dishwashing detergent, only one warns you of the dangers of swallowing it.

      The iron atoms that make up your knife like to be surrounded on all sides by other iron atoms. If they aren’t then they become more vulernable to reacting with stuff they touch and the less surrounded they are the more reactive they become. There are things you can do to minimize this issue by treating the outside of the blade but most of these treatments are rendered useless as soon as you do something that exposes the iron underneath; like say grinding the edge into the knife. So at the edge you have a portion of metal that, if it’s sharp, is very thin (IE: the atoms don’t have a lot of other iron atoms surrounding them) and has had any surface preparation you did to it removed. A sharp edge is extremely vulnerable to corrosion, and the sharper it is, the more vulnerable it is.

      Put the two together and you’re putting a piece of metal that is extremely vulnerable to corrosion into a highly corrosive environment, that is also fairly hot (making the corrosive detergent even better at being corrosive) The detergent is literally stripping all those atoms at the tip of your knife edge (the ones that make it sharp) off one by one and since nature like round things that’s what you end up with, a nice round edge.

  61. 137
    Ben S.

    Don’t use a honing steel? I think learning how to hone your knives is a very valuable skill to have, though I do think you should be very, very safe. I love AB, and have always looked up to him, but I have to disagree with him on this. Same goes for sharpening knives, buy a Norton oilstone and learn how to sharpen on a very cheap knife you do not care about. Then move on to your users. Like I stated before, it’s a very valuable skill.

  62. 138

    Thank you, Mr.Brown. My Shun comes with lifetime sharpening and they advised once a year. My husband hones this only quality chef’s knife I own nearly every time he uses it. Is that honing bad for it? I think he needs his own knife so I can care for mine…

    • 139
      Ben S.

      Honing isn’t bad for knives, it’s a very necessary thing to do to your knives (if you know what you are doing). If your husband isn’t damaging you knife, and keeping it sharp, it shouldn’t be a big deal.

  63. 140

    Two questions, first im currious why no dishwasher for knives. Would you reccomend a electric sharpener for your knives instead of stones and sticks??? Or would you stay clear of any at home sharpening… Ok that was three questions i lied.

  64. 142

    So, how do I dispose of my inferior knives after I upgrade? They’re like luggage; once you have them you have them forever. (I don’t know that I’m comfortable pawning them off on someone else or donating them.)

    • 143

      You can donate old or unused knives to soup kitchens, senior kitchen facilities and the like. I also donated some to an artist who makes beautiful sculpture out of them. I downsized last year and got rid of a whole bunch that I just didn’t use. Kept my very good Japanese, French and Swiss knives.

  65. 144
    Jose A Esquivel

    Very informative Mr. Brown! I was planning on starting to cook and buy a box set but your info well set me on the right path. By the way, understand the slang, as in interwebs. Keep spreading great info and making me a fan!

  66. 145

    Rob – I like cleaning cutting boards the same as cleaning an iron skillet: scrub with kosher salt and a clean dry paper towel.

  67. 146
    Caleb Dill

    Mr. Brown,
    Thank you for the advice. I love cooking for my family and one day hope to go to culinary School. Food brings happiness and opens the door for great memories to be made.

  68. 147

    I would love to hear how to best maintain a cutting board, particularly how to keep it clean. I’m always nervous about using my Boos board only because I really worry about not having it clean for the next use. Obviously I know that raw meats never go on it, and the rule of thumb is if I can’t put it my mouth I shouldn’t put it on the board… still… how to clean?

    • 148
      John D

      Hey Rob, when I clean/maintain my Boos board, I wash it with very mild soap and water mixture, sanitize it and after I get a lot of “score” marks, I lightly sand it with a very fine sand paper. Usually 300 to 500 grit.

  69. 149

    Nice selection. I do love the 2 from Murray Carter (from Hillsboro Oregon not Washington). Going up to Seattle to see him and bunch of other custom knife makers for a show.

  70. 150

    Way back in ancient times, i think season 1 of Good Eats, you advocated the use of a honing steel every time a knife was put to use. What made your thinking on this topic change? Is it purely a safety concern?

    • 151

      It’s important to note that AB said not to attempt to sharpen your knives with a honing steel. He never said not to hone them with one. People often confuse the two processes, and since a honing steel is regularly misnamed as a sharpening steel (though less frequently now than in years past) it makes matters worse. Honing is crucial to maintaining a blade’s edge. Do it no less frequently than once per week for home use, and feel free to do it every time if you prefer. Since it reshapes the edge, rather than removing steel, you’re not going to wear out your blade, but you may wear out your arm. I generally hone my knives every other use when I’m feeling picky. Every third (or fourth) if I’m being lazy. Sharpening knives is best left to pros unless you’ve had the privilege of being trained how to do it properly.

      • 152

        While he certainly makes that distinction in the GE episode, the exact quote from this blog post (which is what I’m asking about) is “Do not use a honing steel. You’ll put your eye out!”

  71. 153
    Matt K

    No mention of any equipment that a company actually pays you for? You briefly mention japanese cutlery, but no mention of the ‘alton brown’ branded shun knives… not a fan of them anymore? or were they always sub-par?

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