Monday, November 06, 2006

Buy This Knife: Forschner Victorinox Fibrox 8 inch Chef's Knife

What's the most important thing you can do to improve your cooking? Buy a better knife.

What's the second most important thing? Buy a better knife.

I learned this lesson the hard way. When I first moved out of the college dorms and into a real apartment I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what cookware would give me the best bang for my buck. I made an awesome decision on the cookware front (more on that later...), but didn't put much thought into the knife purchase. I bought this set by Chicago Cutlery, thinking I was getting a lot of knives for my dollars. But they weren't sharp, they bent when I cut through anything substantial, and I used the main chef's knife 95% of the time, leaving the others in the block.

I should have known better. I'd read Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, where he says: "No con foisted on the general public is so atrocious, so wrong-headed, or so widely believed as the one that tells you you need a full set of specialized cutlery in various sizes." So Tony (if you somehow miraculously ever end up on this site), you were right, I was wrong, and I'm sorry.

Admitting my mistake, I did some research to find the best inexpensive chef's knife, and came upon the Forschner Victorinox Fibrox Chef’s Knife.

This knife comes highly recommended by America's Test Kitchen:

One tester summed it up: “Premium-quality knife at a bargain price.” Knives costing four times as much would be hard pressed to match its performance. The blade is curved and sharp; the handle comfortable. Overall, “sturdy” and “well balanced.”
I bought the Forschner this past summer for about $25 at a restaurant supply store, and couldn't be happier. (You can find it online anywhere from about $20-30, so shop around a little bit.) The knive is strong, sharp, and substantial without being heavy. It feels good in my hand, and my chopping and prep work have improved immensely.

If you have a few bucks to spare, you should also get a paring knive for more delicate work like peeling. Forschner has some good ones for under $5, so just go ahead and get the paring knife as well.

That's pretty much it. You simply don't need more than those two knives (chef's and paring) for 99% of everyday, standard home-cooking. Yes, it would also be great to have a boning knife and serrated slicer, but this is the Frugal Foodie, not the Fancy Foodie. While I do hope to get my hands on a supreme-quality knife set someday, you should save that for when someone else is paying, like when you get married.

Some readers (read twentysomething friends of mine) may not know why knives are so important. Two thoughts for now, which I will likely expand later:

1. Cooking is 90% prep work. This is all the cleaning, chopping, measuring, and organizing you do before the food hits the pan or the oven. Cooks call this mise en place, literally "setting in place" from the French, or "everything in its place" more colloquially. Being frugal is not just about managing your money, it is also about managing your time. A good knife (plus practice) will get dinner from your pantry to the table much more quickly than a crap knife.

2. A sharp knife is a safe knife. Counterintuitive, yes, but a dull knife won't cut your food, it will only cut you. You will try too hard and will slip, while a sharp knife will glide right through. I could write pages on what makes some knives sharp and some not (this guy has, an absolutely awesome read if you have the time), but just trust me for now.


Andy said...

Thanks for the tip John. I'm moving into a new apartment next month so I'll definitely be getting one!

John V said...

Thanks Andy, check back soon and I'll have a good recommendation on cookware you should add to your shopping list.

Anonymous said...

I have dull Forschners in my knifekit, and dull Victorinoxes at work. I find it hard to believe that this knife is any better than either of 'em.

I'll take my Henckels, Globals, Shuns and Wustohfs anyday. Henckels are well worth the moderate price. Shuns are the best, IMO.

John V said...

Key word is "inexpensive". The Forschner is not 3 to 4 times worse than the ones you listed, but it does cost 3 to 4 times less. And it is several times better than the chef's knives you find in the inexpensive sets marketed to most customers.

webdiva said...

This Victorinox Fibrox is the chef's knife recommended by Cook's Illustrated and their sister outfit, America's Test Kitchen. If you have dull Victorinox knives, I have to wonder if you've regularly used a sharpening steel to keep the edge straight. ALL good chefs and butchers do this each time they pick up a knife.

I recommend a steel that is coated with diamond dust: use a regular grit steel first to hone the edge, then a fine grit or ultra-fine grit steel to smooth and maintain the edge. Just a few strokes are needed per steel for any knife.

Use a sharpening steel immediately before using a knife, then again after washing and drying the knife, just before you put it away. Get in the habit of doing this, and your knives will serve you well. Skip this, and even the best knife won't hold an edge well. And you'll have wasted your money because you don't take care of your knives.

Please note: sharpening steels are NOT to be used on blades with serrated edges; steels aren't meant for those. Send out you serrated knives to be sharpened, but you shouldn't have to do that very often.

Finally, if you're too lazy to learn to use and regularly employ a sharpening steel on your everyday kitchen knives, get a Kyocera ceramic chef's or santoku knife and pay what they ask. A ceramic knife won't last forever (not as long as the best carbon steel ones), but it will keep an edge for a very long time. Just don't plunge it from boiling water straight into cold, because that will cause it to crack just as other ceramic would (then again, you wouldn't do that with your other knives either, so how big a deal is that anyway? Just use common sense, however uncommon that may actually be).

-- webdiva in Chicago
foodie, journalist, lindyhopper, lounge lizard, and so much more

JayHoward said...

I bought a Fibrox knife in the early '80's at a flea mkt for about $5. It has a yellow handle and a 5" blade with a kind of rounded end. As the primary cook in the family I highly value quality in the impliments of the trade. This knife has become one of 4 of my regular favorites. The overall balance as well as the contours of the rubberish handle makes it a perfect fit. But feature that I most appreciate is the quality of the steel. The blade readily takes an edge and holds it. I just happened to think of Googling up the brand and see what else these folks might have to enhance my efforts in my kitchen.

Menseffects said...

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Steve said...

The Fibrox Chef knife weighs only 6.25 ounces, versus the 8.5 to 9.0 ounce weights that typify forged German knives, but the lighter weight feels comfortable and nimble, rather than flimsy. It can sometimes be purchased for around $20, and at that price, it is the best knife in the world – hands down.

Kitchen Cutlery Sets said...

What's the most important thing you can do to improve your cooking? Buy a ...

Chicago Cutlery Knives said...


Ceramic Knife Set said...

I bought this set by Chicago Cutlery, thinking I was getting a lot of ...

Jennifer Martin said...

Really informative blog on the kitchen knife set which seems to be most essential for every kitchen needs.

Jennifer Martin said...

The boning knife is the one which is always perfect for kitchen work.

henckels knives said...

thank you

Mohammad Solaiman said...

Thanks for sharing the information about Forschner Victorinox Fibrox 8inches chef knife. Actually chef knife is very useful and multi purse knife. Victorinox is also a quality knife manufacturer. I thing Victorinox 46892 Fibrox 3-Piece Chef’s Knife Set is one the best chef knife set. Because:

- Mirrored polish finishes on high carbon stainless steel blade
- World renowned sharpness, laser tested
- Patented Fibrox handles are hygienic and dishwasher safe
- Special Textured handle is lightweight ad slip resistant
- Fully balanced and comfortable
- Performs like a forged knife set
- Less effort to slice and dice
- NSF approved, means knives are made to the highest sanitary standards
- Manufactured in Switzerland
- Exceptional value
- Great price
- Lifetime warranty
Check this knife blog for kitchen kitchen knives

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