Best Frugal Chef’s Knife – America’s Test Kitchen

Some of you may be familiar with the PBS cooking show America’s Test Kitchen. The same company publishes the magazines Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country, which you can think of as Consumer Reports for cooking in that they do not accept any advertising and are entirely subscriber-supported. I happened to find a bunch of back issues on sale at a community garage sale a few weeks ago for a dollar. Wow, I can only describe the content as heaven for cooking geeks! Lots of good tips inside.

Common frugal wisdom is that you don’t really need a 15-piece knife set with a fancy wooden block that costs hundreds of bucks, it’s mostly marketing. The 8-inch chef’s knife is often recommended as the most versatile and useful knife. (I’m partial to the Santoku-style knife or huge Asian cleaver, myself.)

Cook’s Country tested the 8-inch chef’s knives from all the major brands that cost under $50 – Wusthof, Henckels (various), MAC, Calphalon, OXO, Chicago Cutlery, Victorinox and Farberware.

The bargain chef’s knife winner? The Victorinox Fibrox 8-Inch Chef’s Knife outperformed many more expensive competitors including a $50+ knife from the Wusthof Gourmet line and everyone else. The knife was judged to be sturdy, stayed sharp, and had a well-designed, comfortable handle. Amazon has over 700 reviews of it with a 4.5/5 star average.

Another good tip from the article is that instead of buying multiple cutting boards for food safety reasons, just buy a set of flexible cutting mats to place on top of one cutting board. They are thin yet sturdy, and can be rolled up like a funnel for transferring ingredients easily. The article recommends the Progressive International chopping mats. They are thicker than competitors, and also dishwasher-safe.

Comments

  1. JohnnyPeps says:

    This knife certainly does rock. Much better than the fancy-looking Henckels knives my parents had when I was growing up.

    Victorinox has a 3-piece paring knife set that’s great, too.

  2. I dont know what are you cutting in your kitchen but we cook 3 meals a day and have been using the same $5.99 knife from walmart we bought in 2001.

  3. The Victorinox knife is amazing. It is easily the best deal out there and I like it much better then the expensive ones.

  4. I also have the Victorinox and can attest it is a very nice knife. Well balanced, stays sharp, comfortable to hold. And for $25 is a great deal.

  5. Chopping mat – Set of 3 = $7.50 at amazon.com. From amazon.ca it’s $11.65. So unfair.

  6. Same here – i’ve been using a Henckel chef’s knife and there really is no need to have the multi-set. you do need a paring knife for peeling and other things that you need a smaller knife for but that doesn’t have to be expensive too.

  7. Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager says:

    My mom told me “You only getting a knife block when you get married. You make do with one REALLY good knife until then.” I’m loving the blue swiss one she got me as a house warming gift last year. It’s perfect.

  8. Alexandria says:

    We got a knife set at Target, when I moved in with my spouse. We get so many compliments on our knives. I mean, my dad is way into knives and bought an expensive set, so I thought it was funny when he asked me, “Where did you get these knives?!?”

    This is good info though. In our case, we just got lucky!

  9. We actually got a set of Wusthof knives for our wedding that are now 8 years old, they continue to work well. I just found out that there is a guy at the farmer’s market that sharpens knives for a reasonable prices, so I’m looking forward to trying that out.

    The most frugal knife in reality is probably the one you already have, but using a good hefty knive makes a pretty big difference to me.

  10. Sofaking Nuts says:

    I love America’s Test Kitchen/Cook’s Country/Cook’s Illustrated. I’m upset that my local PBS station just stopped carrying the show.

    Based on their recommendation, I recently purchased a set of Tramontonia ss cookware from WalMart that they considered a best-buy. Comparable to AllClad but obviously costs much less.

  11. I’ve been using a $5 Kiwi cleaver that I got from the Asian grocery. Over 12 years and still going strong. I think the wood handle will rot off before the blade stops taking an edge.

    My wife prefers chef’s knives so I bought one of the Fibrox Victorinox ones last year. The handle is nice and grippy and because it’s plastic you can throw it in the dishwasher. If I were on a tighter budget, I’d probably just stick to the Thai-made Kiwis as they’re so much cheaper and you can get them with plastic handles now.

  12. For Xmas my wife gave me a Wustoff Classic Ikon Santoku. Best damn knife I’ve ever had. My grandfather passed his Wustoff classic collection to me almost two decades ago but this thing… it’s a beast. Really just fantastic.

    Not a dishwasher kind of knife. My wife knows if she uses my knives, they better be washed and dried by hand ASAP. No, don’t even wait until after dinner. Touch my knives, clean my knives.

  13. I’m just learning about knives. I need a paring, bread slicer, steak and a veggie slicer. Do you have a recommendation for a good quality that will last a long time? A college kid just showed me “Cutco” but the price is prohibitive and really outrageous.

  14. Judging knives by whether they come new out of package with sharp edge is silly. Knives all get dull and will need sharpening. Learn how to actually sharpen a knife and you can sharpen any knife to a razor edge. Then you will find bargains galore as most people dont know how to sharpen a knife and just toss or donate them when they get dull. Interestingly most knives new out of package dont have a great edge, even some higher priced ones. Even if they appear sort of sharp, they will have a shallow wide angle edge which is less apt to get out of alignment, meant to hold up bit better for people that bang them regularly against rocks and trees and such. But it wont cut as well and the sharpness goes away quick. These same knives will preform much better with a deeper narrow angle edge. If taken care of this narrow sharp edge will last much better. The narrow angle edge can be realigned with a steel as needed.

    Gadgets and electric sharpeners will give you mediocre edge at best. You really need something like belt sander with coarse grit aluminum oxide belt to seriously reshape the edge. Then work your way from coarse to very fine grit to polish it and get rid of the “wire” that forms where bevels meet. It takes practice to develop some skill doing this free hand. You can actually do it with quality set hand hones or even aluminum oxide sand paper taped to a computer mouse pad. But to actually reshape edge, and not just hone existing edge, would take lot lot time manually.

    Really cheapo knives wont hold that edge for long. But seriously if you dont need to impress your neighbors with the latest greatest yuppie brand name knives, you can get a perfectly fine and servicable kitchen knife at thrift store. This assumes you know how to sharpen a knife!!!! Look for one with comfortable handle and a very stiff blade. Best bargains usually older made in USA or Japan knives. Euro knives are great but lot rarer in thrift store or flea market. There are ok Chinese knives but again look for ones with very stiff blade. Flex is only ok in paring or fillet knife and then only a bit of flex. Also usually quality knives will have words like vanadium or chromium on them. Run from any that try to say they are surgical steel. Thats BS ad-man language, no real meaning. High Carbon Stainless Steel usually means it is at least servicable.

    Oh and as one cookbook author said, every kitchen need one big knife and one small knife. Rest are mostly decoration. Your choice what knives best fit your needs.

    If you buy a set of knives you will end up mostly using one or two of them. Or like some people I have known, they just use whatever knife in the set is still kinda sharp. Gets a little hairy when they are down to that last half sharp steak knife to do everything. When they all are totally blunt, they buy a new set….

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