I get asked for knife recommendations pretty regularly, both from cooks starting their career in kitchens and home cooks looking to upgrade their cutlery selection. I usually ask a few questions for background, “What hand is your dominant one?”, “How often do you cook?”, “Do you feel comfortable learning to sharpen your own knives?. Regardless of their answers, I pretty regularly find myself recommending the same set-up to almost everyone. In fact, if I had it to do over again, to go back to my first knife purchases and start from scratch, this is the kit I would start with.
My recommendation is both a tstamp of approval for a specific knife, but also for a piece of equipment that will allow you to care for that knife for years to come. There is no point in buying a knife if you cannot keep it sharp. No matter how good the construction, the heat treat, or material, every single knife you buy will eventually dull on you. When that happens, knowing how to sharpen will extend the life of your tool, and save you a ton of money.
Theoretically, you could just purchase a water stone for sharpening your current knives and not purchase a new blade, however, I recommend against this course of action. Unless you have really decent knives at home (most folks don’t) it’s going to be easier to begin again with a new, high-quality knife and start maintaining it, instead of trying to maintain a knife that is most likely made of subpar materials. In real terms this set-up will set you back ~$125, this may seem like a lot for 1 knife and 1 sharpening stone, but I assure you, if you maintain them you will need little more than these two items for any cooking task you might have for the next decade.
Tojiro knives are an incredible value. They are functional, incredibly sharp, and made from great materials while also being pound for pound some of the least expensive options for chefs and home cooks. Produced in the Tsubame region of Japan, these knives are made at a very high level for their low price tag. Though they lack some of the finer features you’d find in more expensive Japanese knives, they are incredibly functional for all skill levels from beginner to expert.
This Tojiro Gyuto or Chef’s Knife is 8.2 inches in length which is in my opinion the perfect length for a chef’s knife. If you are a large person consider moving to a 10-inch blade later on, but there are few tasks you can find that won’t be suited to the 8.2-inch knife. It is long enough to butcher, filet, and slice, while also large enough to chop hardier vegetables with ease. Finally, it has a fine enough point and small enough profile to do smaller more delicate tasks, like fine vegetable cutting, herb and garnish work.
I spent a ton of money and time buying knives as a young cook. Moreover, in learning to sharpen my knives I definitely shortened their life-span by making and fixing the inevitable mistakes along the way. Looking backward, rather than wasting money on Globals and Wusthofs, spending my money more wisely on a good but inexpensive knife like this Tojiro Chefs Knife would have been a much more worthwhile investment.
Of all the sharpening stones I’ve used, the Shapton Pro stones are by far the easiest to use and maintain. They are a “splash & go” stone, which means you only need to splash some water on them to begin sharpening. In contrast to other water stones that need to be soaked in water ahead of time, these are much more convenient. I wholly prefer water stones to oil stones, water stones are easier to use, make much less of a mess and require no special oils to use. Oil stones, on the other hand, are oily, smelly, and generally make a mess out of the surface you use them on and whatever they are stored in.
This 1000 grit Shapton Pro will sharpen almost any knife you will put on it, and do it easily with little mess. I personally recommend starting with a 1000 grit stone as opposed to something rougher because though it may take a little longer to form a bur and finish your edge, you run less of a risk of pulling to much steel off of your knife and shortening its life span. At its core, the act of sharpening a knife on a whet stone is removing the steel at the edge and forming a new one. This removal of steel over time will shorten the width of your knife, moreover, it will make the knife’s edge thicker as you move up the taper of the blade. This is why learning to sharpen with as little steel removal is key to longevity in your cutlery.
As you begin to learn to sharpen I highly recommend a simple YouTube search for sharpening tutorials. There is no better place to learn for free than YouTube and with videos from folks like Murray Carter, Japanese Knife Imports, and Chef’s Knives To Go, you can find a ton of easy to understand resources to help you out.
As you progress and become a more competent knife sharpener, it is important to think about investing in a higher grit stone like a 5000 grit Shapton Pro, this will put a more refined edge on your knife that will help it last longer, however, as higher grit stones are expensive I don’t recommend making that purchase immediately unless you can afford it. Moreover, a lower grit stone like a 400 grit Shapton Pro will help you in the long term to fix chips, and missing tips on damaged knives. I definitely recommend holding off on that purchase as well. It’s far too easy to pull a ton of steel off the blade with a low grit stone and it is much better to get some experience under your belt before trying to use something as rough as a 400 grit stone.
I hope this knife and sharpening stone recommendation helps you on your cooking journey, where ever it may take you!