Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Meet Kuro and Shiro, my new Wüsthof knives!

So I decided that German steel is just too good a deal to pass up these days. eBay vendors are hard up these days, especially if they are bucking the fashion trend by selling traditional German steel. I just acquired two ultra-premium grade pieces of cutlery for a fraction of retail price.

I got two members of the Wüsthof Classic Ikon family:
  1. The 7 inch Santoku, hollow ground, with Kullens (Black)
  2. The 8 inch Chef's Knife, hollow ground with Kullens (Cream)
The interesting thing is that they do not match. The Santoku is black and the Chef's knife is off-white (cream). Why didn't I get a match pair?
  1. The deal was far better this way.
  2. These were the two auctions for the precise functional items I wanted
  3. The two vendors I dealt with were the most honest, preferred and trusted eBay vendors on the board.
  4. I have never been a guy interested in fashion design and color coordination.
  5. Ebony and ivory work together in perfect harmony, side-by-side on kitchen cutting board, oh Lord...
  6. Black and white go together just fine.
  7. These are both the same family of Wüsthof blade, right down to the grind and kullens.
So I have decided to name them Kuro and Shiro as an inside joke. What does it mean?
  1. Kuro mean black in Japanese. You may have heard of the Kuro TV line from Pioneer.
  2. Shiro means white in Japanese.
  3. These are German blades
  4. Giving a pair of German blades a pair of Japanese names at a time when the Japanese are running the Germans out of the market is ironic.
  5. There were a pair of kids name Kuro and Shiro in a famous Japanese Magna called Tekkon Kinkreet. They didn't look like much, but they were a couple of asswhuppers.
  6. I guess I could have named them Herr Schwartzman and Herr Weismann. It just doesn't roll off the tongue.
  7. I think it's cool.
Kuro and Shiro cost me a total of $160.00, all in. Either one of them would have cost that much individually if I had been stupid enough to purchase at a retail outlet like William Sonoma. This is a virtual buy one and get one free deal.

So why these German blades? Well I'll tell you... lately I have been practicing my classical knife skills. A couple of people, including a Cutco rep in my building, have given me a few tutorials. After an entire head of celery, 2 large onions and some carrots, I got the fundamentals down. Since then, I have been surprised at my rising speed... but it has not been without snags.

Regrettably, my beloved Kyocera's have become a problem. When I wasn't fast, the light-weight of these blades didn't bother me. Now that I know how to cut fast, I need the weight to maximize the speed-impact of the cutting stroke. Mass through distance = power. I need more mass. Wüsthof is nothing if not massive. They are thought to be too massive, even by great lovers of mass.

Moreover, no soon did I boast of the eternal sharpness of my Kyocera's than did my blades begin to show signs of dullness. My big Paella on Sunday contained lean, boneless chicken breast. No biggie right. I was surprised at the difficulty I had using my Kyocera kitchen knife. I switched to the Kyocera Santuko. It wasn't much better. For the hell of it, I reached for the Shun Gokujo, which is still rather new. Those breasts were cut to ribbons shortly after.

Lesson learned: The Gokujo likes lean mean, not panchetta, and my Kyoceras need to return home to Japan for a tune-up. It is going to take some time to get those two blades back from Japan. I need something in the meanwhile to cook with. My Gokujo is not enough. I could use my Kyocera Nakiri, but I think that one should probably travel to Japan for sharpening also.

Enter Kuro and Shiro. I suppose I could have purchased another pair of Kyocera's an an equal or even lesser price. I could have tried another brand of Cubic Zirconia knives like Zayka. However, have decided I want to see how the pros do it. I want to experience what they have always done. Judging from the speed Jamie Oliver shows with Wüsthof, I should be able to move pretty fast with these blades.

There is another reason. Discovering that my Kyoceras are dulling down, and realizing that I must send them away to Japan, has been a sobering and chilling experience. I have also questioned how long the blades have been tapering off before I noted there was a problem? How much extra and unnecessary effort have I expended lately?

Again, Wüsthof has an answer. Just about all Japanese blades are built with the 15 degree angle on the edge. This means few, if any, consumer sharpening solutions will sharpen them. Worse still, my lovely Cubic Zirconia will slice the bevels right off a typical steel sharpener. Tungsten Carbide is not harder than Cubic Zirconia. At that moment there is no consumer sharpening solution for Kyocera blades. Kyocera is developing one, but it is not out on the market yet.

Owning Wüsthof means having full access to a plethora of sharpening solutions out there. Just about all of them work with the 20-22 degree angle blades the Wüsthof produces. There is a benefit to conforming to standards. Owning Wüsthof and a great sharpener means being absolutely certain that your blades are always as sharp as the day you took them out of the box.

The sharpening solutions have been designed with Wüsthof in mind. Wüsthof has been designed with many sharpening solutions in mind. The two have been co-constructed, almost like C# and the CLR. If you are willing to embrace the discipline of a few honing strokes before you cut, you will always be sharp.

After very serious consideration, reading, and video watching, I have decided to go with the Furi TechEdge Pro system. This just happens to be endorsed by Rachel Ray, but this is not why I chose it. I read some fairly substantial and scholarly stuff which more than suggested that this was the top solution for less than a king's random. I'll take it.

There are even some suggestions that this unit should handle my Shun blades as well. We shall see! I look forward to this. This aught to be a good experience!

One word of advice: If you are interested in becoming a foody, and really getting into the amateur leagues, the only two blades you really need are a Santoku and a French Chef's Knife (also called a cook's knife). These are your two most valuable draft picks on the board. Just exactly like a QB and a Left Tackle in the NFL Draft, these are the two most coveted pieces that always come off the board first.

The Santoku is the QB and the Chef's knife is the Left Tackle. The Santoku is now the most valuable and the most flexible blade in the shop. You can do almost everything you need to do with a good Santoku. The Chef's knife takes over in any situation where the Santoku would be overwhelmed, which is not often.

After a lot of consideration, I think I got the best pair on the market.