I’ve been active in the kitchen since the age of 18 and yet, for all these years, I’ve been chopping, slicing and dicing with inadequate knives.
I knew that my old knives – which I received at a gas station giveaway during the 1990s – weren’t cutting it, but I never felt motivated to spend hundreds of dollars for a really nice set. Until now, that is.
For the last few weeks I’ve shopped around for quality kitchen knives, learned a great deal and can relate a few surprises.
I began my quest by selecting one good chef’s knife, with an 8-inch blade. I was willing to spend up to $150 – possibly more – if I felt the value was there. I visited two different outlets, starting at Big Eric’s on Blackmarsh Road.
Big Eric’s seems to cater mainly to restaurant and institutional clients, though regular folk can purchase there too. It’s a fantastic store and any foodie will swoon upon entering, but be warned: as with most restaurant-grade equipment, it can get pretty expensive. (I could write a full column about Big Eric’s and maybe will, someday soon.)
They did have a wide variety of knives on display, all made by J.A. Henckels, well known for their high quality German steel. And here was my first surprise: You can buy a good Henckels knife for very cheap. I’m talking $23 for a smaller knife and increasing incrementally for larger knives. The steel is not quite as heavy as their premium knives and there is a plastic handle, but if price is your first consideration you can’t go wrong here.
I inquired about Henckels’s premium quality ‘Profection’ chef’s knife, which has a retail price of $150. And here was my second surprise: the good folks at Big Eric’s are always happy to negotiate, especially if you are a regular face there. In this instance, they reduced the price of that knife from $150 to $113. Now that’s pretty good.
You can also buy a boxed set of five Profection knives with block for $560, discounted to $476. I took some notes and went on my way.
My next surprise: you can buy quality knives at the Modern Shoe Hospital on Duckworth Street. (Full disclosure: my brother in law, Kevin Wright, is the chief surgeon there.) This store carries the Grohmann brand, which – and this was perhaps my biggest surprise – is made in Canada, at Pictou, NB.
The Grohmann name was only vaguely familiar, but it sure felt good in my hand: steel that runs the length of the knife, nicely balanced, stainless steel blade, rosewood handle and very obviously sharp. If anything, the steel blade is thicker and heavier than the Henckels (which is not a criticism of the latter brand – Henckels is truly world class).
The Grohmann is also reasonably priced, with a sticker price of $130 for the 8-inch chef’s knife and an in-store special price of $110 – the same range as Henckels. Wright prices lower than suggested retail as an incentive to purchase from him rather than direct from the company’s site (gknives.com).
Grohmann also makes a budget-conscious line with plastic handles but Wright doesn’t carry them, preferring to focus on the high-end knives. (You can, however, order them online.) The store also sells the Grohmann line of outdoor knives, which are praised by hunters and fishers and reasonably priced at $65 (again, well below retail price of $99).
In terms of quality and price, I would call it a draw between the Henckels and Grohmann. However, Grohmann is made in Canada and I do like to support Canadian where I can.
I am now the happy owner of a lovely new Grohmann chef’s knife. So far, it has exceeded expectations, cutting effortlessly through turnip, cabbage, spaghetti squash, whole cooked chickens and frozen pork loin. A quality knife really does improve the cooking experience. My only regret is not doing this sooner.
I’ll have more on Grohmann knives – and Big Eric’s as well – in a future column.
Days after this column was published, I purchased three more Grohmann knives: the 6-inch utility, 6-inch Santuko and 8-inch carving.
The utility is a flexible little knife with a solid heft that feels great in the hand. Its narrower blade – especially near the tip – is ideal for angled or curved cutting, and is recommended for removing the cores of green, red and yellow peppers.
Should one buy a knife for this purpose alone? Well, if you eat as many peppers as we do, then yes. But of course it’s great for other tasks as well – anywhere where the precision of cut is assisted by a narrower blade (such as carving Halloween pumpkins, for example).
The Santuko is short but its wide blade might look like a cleaver to some. It isn’t that at all. The small, evenly-spaced concave “dimples” on the blade reduce drag and suction on whatever you are cutting. That is, sliced carrots are not inclined to stick to the blade and interfere with your smooth chop-chop-chopping process.
The 8-inch carving knife is the only one I haven’t tried yet, probably because I haven’t had a turkey or large roast since purchasing it. Hey, I’m not rich you know! But I will file an update here as soon as I start carving with it. (The real question, of course, is whether it performs as well as or better than the electric knife I purchased back in 1987.)
Happy slicing and dicing folks!