Product Type: Victorinox Cutlery
Newest Review: ... that they aren't very sharp but neither do they get any worse with age. High quality Japanese style knives, such as Global, on the othe... more
Cutting up a Swiss made storm
Member Name: JohnJoeSmith
Advantages: Very sharp, very cheap, very well made
Disadvantages: Not as pretty as the alternatives
For anyone who wants to take their cooking seriously a good sharp kitchen knife is a must have. A sharp knife is an indispensible weapon in your culinary arsenal, without one you're sentencing yourself to a frustrating, difficult and ultimately unsatisfying gastronomic experience. With only a sharp ten inch chef's knife you can chop and dice any array of vegetables, butterfly meats, finely chop herbs, skin a fish and even carve a turkey. Buying a good knife and learning to use it is probably the most important time you'll ever spend during your culinary career. Buy a strong knife, keep it sharp and you'll open up new avenues in your cooking that you never knew existed. As an aside, it's an excuse to buy a shiny kitchen appliance, an opportunity that shouldn't be sniffed at.
********************** Background **********************
Primarily known for their production of "Swiss Army Knives", Victorinox also produce a brand of kitchen knives under their in-house brand; Forschner. Originally founded in 1884 in Ibach, Switzerland by Karl Elsener, Victorinox has been delivering knives to the Swiss army for over 100 years. The company's iconic name is an amalgamation of Victoria, the mother of founder Karl Elsener, and -inox, an abbreviation of the French term "acier inoxydable"; meaning stainless steel. The flagship model of the Victorinox Corporation is of course, the multi-purpose Swiss army knife which has become an icon of 20th Century design.
********************** Costing **********************
In addition to being the sole supplier of knives to the Swiss Armed Services, Victorinox have made a name for themselves as producers of low price high quality kitchen-ware. Using a separate brand name, Forschner, Victorinox have gone for the entry level culinary market, aiming for those who wish to upgrade their basic knives but aren't willing to purchase a Global or a Wusthof. Victorinox knives retail for around £17 pounds compared with £70+ for Global and the insane £100+ charged by Wusthof. So as you can see, they are a bargain in the realm of quality kitchenware. Some people will say that "you get what you pay for" when it comes to your culinary equipment but this is one instance where that is simply not true. As you'll see, the quality of Victorinox blades is as close to the premium brands as you'll ever need in the home kitchen.
********************** Edging towards geometry **********************
The secret of a sharp blade is of course its edge. With a badly machined edge it won't matter how much you paid for your knife, it will only serve to frustrate and endanger you in the kitchen. Victorinox knives are made using a stamping process, meaning that a larger sheet of steel is placed under a high pressure pressing machine and the rough shape of the blade is simply "stamped" out. Knife purists will argue that this is an inferior method when compared with the high temperature forging employed by higher cost brands. Their argument is that you can't form a solid edge on a piece of steel that has been cut by machine. I'm not a blacksmith but from my research into the area it seems that the overwhelming response from kitchens around the globe is that you can. While they may employ cheaper gross manufacturing practices, Victorinox don't skimp on the sharpening stage and their knives perform only slightly below those at the top level.
A cutting edge on a knife is formed when two edges intersect at a point of supposed infinite thinness, essentially the point of a triangle. The angle at which these edges intersect is what determines both how well the knife cuts and how durable the blade is. Blades can be roughly categorised into either German or Japanese types. This categorisation doesn't actually imply the country of origin but rather the method used to sharpen the blade. Your typical kitchen knife weighs in somewhere between 25 to 30 degrees, meaning up to 60 degrees between the two sides. This may not sound like much but have a look at a protractor and you'll see that it's a pretty wide edge, explaining why that bargain knife isn't cutting as well as you want it to. The reason for this wide angle is twofold, it's easy to perform in the factory and it is very durable in the kitchen. You'll find with basic knives that they aren't very sharp but neither do they get any worse with age. High quality Japanese style knives, such as Global, on the other hand can be sharpened down to around 10-15 degrees on each side, leaving you with a 20 degree cutting edge. If you haven't used one of these knives before you're in for a treat when you do. Knives such as these make cutting an enjoyable experience as they scream through even the toughest of ingredients. With great power comes great responsibility however, as these edges are notoriously delicate and require near constant care to avoid becoming blunt. Somewhere in the middle of this lies German knives like Victorinox, which have a cutting edge somewhere around 40 degrees. These edges are still ridiculously sharp and will cut pretty much anything you put in their way. Widening the cutting angle adds a great deal of stability to these knives, meaning that they can stay keen for much longer without having to be re-sharpened, sometimes up to two years of casual use. For the average home user the reduced sharpness won't be noticeable, and the knife should remain sharper for longer.
********************** Cutting ingredients and not yourself - Usage **********************
With a knife this sharp you will find that chopping up a bowl full of carrots becomes a simple task, dicing a packet of chicken takes seconds and you can suddenly slice lemon slices thinner than a five pence piece. You will also find that you are now at risk of a severe cut if you mishandle the blade. While not as sharp as a surgeons scalpel, the Victorinox Chef's knife is more than capable of making a very deep cut into your fingers or arms. With that in mind it pays to research some knife handling skills if you are considering purchasing a high quality knife such as this.
The safest grip with a Chefs Knife is probably the pincer grip, where you pinch the top side of the blade between your index finger and thumb, allowing much finer control over the blade. The downside to this grip is that the edge of the knife can press into your finger, making long term use painful. Victorinox knives have a moulded plastic handle with a finely textured surface, allowing for quite a secure grip. The top side of the blade, known as the spine, on these knives isn't unduly sharp and I've used a pincer grip for around an hour at a time with my knife and haven't had much of an issue with pain. Compare this with one of my Global knives and you'll find me calling it a day after about twenty minutes.
Where Victorinox fall slightly is the appearance of their knives, like the Swiss themselves they are strictly functional. There is a polished blade and a textured handle, and that is it. They cut like nobodies business but they look like they belong in a commercial kitchen, not a stylish home. This part doesn't really bother me to any huge extent as I'm more concerned with the performance of the blade than the look of it. That being said, if I had £150 to spare I would definitely purchase one of the Wusthof Ikon range instead, they have both a screamingly sharp edge as well as looking very attractive hanging on your wall.
********************** Keeping them sharp, keeping them safe **********************
For the love of God don't put one of these in the dishwasher. I've read some knife reviews where people have complained about their knives breaking after months of use, reporting that they came out of the dishwasher in several pieces. These are not Tesco's Finest Kitchen Knives; these are high performance tools which require your care and attention. Each knife should be rinsed under hot water and scrubbed with a plastic brush with some anti-bacterial soap. If you clean them straight after use, or even an hour later they'll be just as clean as the dishwasher and will have the added benefit of staying in one piece. It can be hard to move from the traditional mindset of "throw them all in the dishwasher" but in the long run your knives and your wallet will thank you. On a similar note, don't put them in a drawer either, not only will you slice the tips of your fingers as you blindly reach in and grab it, but you will also take the edge off as they bang around with other metal objects. Simply use a wooden knife block or, like me, use a magnetic wall block. These blocks are great as they keep them out of reach of kids, cost only a few pounds in IKEA and let you show them off when people come over!
********************** Conclusion **********************
I realise this review has turned more into a "How to" guide for knives but it's only because of my passion for the product. Victorinox knives are a godsend to those looking to drastically improve both their cooking and their enjoyment of cooking. If you haven't tried a good knife then these are a perfect entry point into the world of cookery. As well as my own hearty endorsement Victorinox have won several awards for this series of knives, most notably from the worldwide magazine "Cook's Illustrated".
"This is exactly what a knife is supposed to be."
"While it's easy to blow your budget on a fancy chef's knife, the inexpensive, lightweight Victorinox Fibrox remains the test kitchen favourite."
Countless reviews online will attest to the quality of these knives and how you'd be a fool not to purchase them. If you are in anyway interested in cooking and want to improve the level of your cooking then look no further than Victorinox, you and whoever you end up cooking for will not be disappointed.
Without a seconds thought, five stars.
Summary: Fantastic knives at a bargain price - perfect for everyone