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Celebrity-endorsed kitchen knives don’t always cut the mustard

Chef chopping herbs

Have you invested in a good chef’s knife? There’s a huge range available, from humble £10 offerings to expensive celebrity-endorsed knives. Yet, a high price or celebrity name doesn’t always guarantee quality.

I’ll cherish the memory of my birthday this year due to the extra special treat I enjoyed – a visit to the two-Michelin star restaurant L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Covent Garden. My seat at the bar overlooked the thronging kitchen, where skilled chefs created our meals as we watched in amazement.

I was struck not just by their skill in preparing gorgeous food, but by the way they used their tools. It was hypnotic to watch them carve wafer thin slices of ham off massive legs hung on hooks, and use special kitchen tweezers to transfer them to the plate.

It didn’t take me long to realise that all the knives they used in the kitchen were made by the manufacturer Global, which we’d just included in our latest test of kitchen knives. It was reassuring to see that a top chef thought as much of those knives as Which? does – especially as we’d just given them a high score for the second time.

Celebrity endorsed isn’t always best

But being associated with a top chef doesn’t always guarantee that a knife will be the best you can buy. We also tested knives with the names of Jamie Oliver and Raymond Blanc emblazoned on the handle – sadly they didn’t match the Global standard.

I always think it’s a shame when an inspiring TV chef has their name associated with a less than inspiring product – I’ve seen it several other times in our testing, with barbecues, steamers and health grills.

One thing that being involved in the Which? test of kitchen knives has taught me is that price is a really bad guide to how good a knife is. Our test awarded Best Buy status to one knife costing £100 and one costing less than £20, so you don’t necessarily need to spend a fortune on a knife to guarantee that it will be great.

Should you splash out?

Although they can be a cut above the rest, it’s hard to know whether it’s worth me splashing out on the really good Global knives when I don’t have the same skills as demonstrated by the hard-working young chefs in the kitchen of L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon.

Is owning the best knife money can buy going to bring more confidence to my cooking? Or am I just going to feel guilty when I use them to chop cucumber and cherry tomatoes, rather than create astounding gastronomic delights?

I’m tempted to think it is worth the investment just to have a reliable, sharp and comfortable knife, whatever I’m cutting. But perhaps you’re happier with a more humble knife?

Comments
Damn Young says:
26 July 2011

I don’t like sharp knives. It is so easy to get a nasty cut. Even the great Jamie Oliver cut his finger with one on one of his USA trips. I once cut my finger with a serated knife, when I worked in Safeway’s fruit & veg years ago, and it took ages to heal. I think I am more likely to ban knives from my house, than to pay through the nose for them.

take a course on knife handling . what your saying is only based on fear of sharp knives . you are
among the minority .

Jordan says:
10 January 2016

That makes absolutely no sense. If a knife can cut a vegetable (or whatever else you’re cutting), it can cut your finger.
A dull knife is significantly more likely to slip off the vegetable than a sharp knife. If a knife slips off the vegetable, it’s significantly more likely to cut you than if it just sliced through the vegetable.
A sharp knife is much more likely to simply slice through the vegetable and hit the cutting board underneath, instead of slipping off and cutting you.
Having un-sharpened knives makes your kitchen more dangerous, and it’s simply irresponsible not to sharpen them regularly.

That is, unless you’re placing your fingers directly underneath the blade. If so, in either case, you shouldn’t be in the kitchen until you learn where to put your fingers.

Louise C says:
26 July 2011

I’ve three Sabatier stainless steel knives in different sizes.
Love the design and weight of these.
But after many years, I still can’t master using the sharpening rod!
I feel they should be professionally sharpened now.
Or do I just buy another type of sharpener?
Any advice would be welcome please.

Chris, Earby. says:
29 July 2011

Kitchen Devils by Fiskars, Finland, make a sharpener with two small wheels. It is about six inches long and I use it all the time and I have very sharp knives. Not suitable for serated knives. Chris.

Tony B says:
29 July 2011

I have owned a set of Sabatier knives for fifty four years and these are carbon steel knives.and appart ftom the occasional grind to straighten the cutting edges, they are perfect. The tool used for sharpening the knives is called a steel, not sharpening rod as Louise C stated, and is the best way to sharpen knives, as if it is used correctly does not tear strips of metal off the knife as cheap sharpeners do.

Spiro says:
6 December 2017

if you have a really high quality blade, you do not have to use those two-wheel sharpener, best way to keep the blade sharp is to sharpen it manualy on a steel rod or a fine whetstone. Afterwards you can shave your face with that knife. I find those wheel sharpeners to be knife destroyers

Rob O says:
29 July 2011

Great study, thanks Which?
I have used Wüsthof knives for many years and have been very happy with them. As an avid amateur chef I would take issue with the original poster’s claim that sharp knives are dangerous. It is widely recognised in the trade that blunt knives are more dangerous as they require a higher application of pressure to perform their task. This leads to fatigue, slippage and inevitable injury. Sharp knives and good technique reduce risks of cutting dramatically.

I attended the Rick Stein cookery school in Padstow last year. It was a hugely enjoyable and educational day. They have standardised on Global knives and I was pleased at the handling balance and quality of the blades. I think they just pip Wüsthof to the line. Global also supply a fantastic range of sharpening steels. The best one I tried is coated with diamond and hones a super-sharp blade in seconds. Every now and then knives should be professionally sharpened as well using an oilstone or similar. I use my local cobblers.

Rob

Damn Young says:
29 July 2011

It does seem that I am completely outnumbered by cooking nuts. I’d just add that I don’t like sharp razors, or power tools either. You might gather I’m not keen on self harming.

It seems you just need some practice. Keep your fingers tucked in away from the blade Damn Young! 😉

Interesting that despite the Made in Britain survey only one British knife was reviewed, nearly all of the others are made in China, and the review does not mention this. The Taylors Eye is Sheffield made and is first class, despite the test here it is one of the best knives to sharpen yourself and is far more useful in the kitchen than some of the so called “Chefs knives”. No mention of other first class knives like Samuel Staniforth Smithfield Range, or A.Wright & Son – Forged Range. You will find you butchers use these. I have a large collection of carving knives and the Sabatier style is awkward to use because of the way the blade shapes into the handle. Also there is no mention that Sabatier is an area of France not a manufacture, you need a full name like Véritable SABATIER France. If its just Sabatier its Chinese!I have a large collection of carving knives and the Sabatier style is awkward to use because of the way the blade shapes into the handle. Also there is no mention that Sabatier is an area of France not a manufacture, you need a full name like Véritable SABATIER France. If its just Sabatier its Chinese!
In the first post, a blunt knife is the best way to get cut, sharpen them before use, a couple of runs down the steel keeps them in top form. If you put your fingers in front of the blade they will get cut, and a blunt edge will slide off the food and probably its your fingers that it will find instead!

Sorry John Lewis are also British made.

Chantry Knife Sharpeners. British made, well made and great reviews.

IanC says:
29 July 2011

Disappointed at the limited range of quality knives you tested. Eg no Kai Shun, Kasumi or Tojiro Senkou (Heston Blumenthal’s endorsement). Any of those should have been a match for the Global.

Victoria Pearson “If the majority of knives on the market are Made in China, why should Which? go out of its way to find knives that are made in the UK?”
Who is saying that?

Hello philthunder, I’ve spoken to Victoria and she didn’t mean to cause offence and we have edited that sentence out of her original comment. Thanks.

Non taken.
One point, seems strange though that you can test 230 odd washing machines but a few knives are too dear, where does the cost cut in?—– ” It was an everyday item test – compared to the average price of the every day items such as washing up liquid and washing detergents the knives themselves were VERY expensive, which limited how many we could test”,
Would it not be better to test the knives after they have been sharpened to industry standards. A knife will never keep the factory edge for long, good or bad sharpening practice at the factory will not account for the quality of the steel its been made from. Also carbon steel has poor corrosion properties but takes an edge very well. Carbon steel will discolour but that does not detract from its quality
.

Tai Pan says:
30 July 2011

Well, I’m a bloke so of course knives are important!!
I’m also an enthusiastic cook and know that of all the tools in a kitchen, the right knife for the job is perhaps the most important.
I now own some hand made Japanese knives, signed by the craftsmen who forged the blades. They are professionally sharpened once a year then honed on dry newspaper from time to time to maintain a razor sharpness.
You would not go back to ‘ordinary’ knives if you try a really good one.
BTW, when choosing a knife remember that knives need to be sharpened. For technical reasons, a knife that attracts a magnet is easier to sharpen than a non-magnetic knife (though a non-magnetic knife will stay sharpened for longer). So, take a magnet when you choose a knife.

Victoria, its nice to know the criteria and I agree with you! My skills started with wanting to be able to cut the bread straight as a young lad. That then moved on to getting a thin slice of Sunday roast. Being able to carve anything from a smoked salmon to Christmas turkey, entailed a basic understanding of the tools of the trade. Getting to know a Sheffield cutler and having knives made to my specification got to know where the boundaries lay. Being a keen cook lets you know what works and what to throw away! One knife may work well for some jobs but not others. Favourites do come into it and as you say pointing people to a suitable knife that works and value for money is your task, that you do well.
I think Tai Pan has it the wrong way round, a stainless blade (non magnetic) is softer steel and sharpens easily but gets blunt quicker, carbon steel is harder and so takes more effort to sharpen but holds its edge longer, here frequent use of the steel will keep the sharpness. If it is not used often it will corrode and not look at its best but a quick scrub up with a scouring pad will clean it up but not to shining.
Just to note the Chantry knife sharpener does not remove steel off the blade unlike some cheap sharpeners . The Chantry Classic was designed by Royal Designer for Industry,Robert Welch and unlike his knives is UK made.

SJS says:
1 August 2011

I tend to think how it feels in the cook’s hand is one of the most important things when buying a knife. This will vary from cook to cook, and is a combination of balance, length, weight, shape, ergonomic design (or lack thereof), and likely more. Sharpness can be adjusted after purchase. For our main chef’s knife, we have a Zwilling knife, which we’re both very happy with, though it’s too long for some things and will be accompanied by the shorter version when money permits.

Celebrity branding means little to me, or if anything makes me avoid a product, until and unless I hear a great deal of support for the item in question. Too many times celebrity-branded goods have a bad reputation for performance.

I have a set of Henckel knives that I love. They are used daily as I am an avid home cook. They were purchased as a set in Canada and are the Chinese made ones not the German made ones – there is difference in price. When I had them professionally sharpened I asked if the quality was worse because they were “Made in China” and the guy said “No, these are great knives.” I love the weight and the balance of them, having tried other knives I definitely like a heavier knife. I use a steel to sharpen about once a week and have them professionally sharpened once a year. One item I was disappointed to see was that Which did a dishwasher test – NEVER put good knives in a dishwasher, it dulls and ruins the blades.
Although not in scope of this subject I have to say that the Henckel kitchen scissors are the best I have ever had. They come apart for cleaning and cut through a chicken like a knife through butter – awful pun sorry 🙂

Sorry I am late into this, but thought I would just add my comments.
Having tried lots of knife sharpeners and sharpening devices I have been really dismayed, as I have spent £100’s on them for sharpening all types and prices of knives. Once a knife was blunt I couldn’t manage to sharpen any of them, so brand, price, endorsement aside,I was getting nowhere.
Until I found this product, the CATRAHONE diamond power knife sharpener, its the best thing I have tried and now all my knives are sharp and its made in Britain too, sorry don’t have the link, but just Google CATRAHONE

I haven’t seen any mention of victor Knox kitchen knives . they are one of the cheapest , yet
they rate as took as good or better than a knife costing much much more . a $35 victor rated just
as good as $200 knife in cooks country mag . this month and that is the stand knife they use in there tv show . I have made knives myself , I have two vector Knox a chefs and a butcher knife .
there is no reason to pay more than $60 for any knife . and before you run out and buy a diamond steel for touch up’s you better make sure you have a hard stainless chromium blade .
other wise you can rune the edge on a knife with a low rock well hardnes of 55 58 . and if you know how to sharpen a knife stick with a Rockwell hardness of 58 ot there a bouts . 60-62 and higher you won’t be able to sharpen it . if you don’t have the right stones or grinding wheel . I have a toureg with three stones . a 320 all around sharping , a 3000 jappenese water stone and a black course stone
for rebevelling the edge