My niece is getting married and I want to buy her a set of kitchen knives. What's your favorite manufacturer?
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Better that she gets three great knives -- a chef's knife, a paring knife, and a bread knife -- than a large knife set in my opinion. Knife sets packaged as such often come with a bunch of stuff you'll rarely use.
Since knives are so personal, have you thought about a gift certificate to a really excellent cookware store where she can try them out? The chef's knife that I think is too heavy might be just right for her, and so forth. My own chef's knife is this kind of oddball one that I love:
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I would get her 4 knives: 2 chef's knives (in two different sizes), 1 paring knife, and a bread knife. We have a Meissermeister set and a couple of Global knives. Both are fantastic and have lasted us almost 10 years now and still going strong. If your niece has small hands, like me, the Global knives are the best because they have smaller handles.
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Never buy sets of anything because half of them never get used. My preference these days is for Japanese knives such as Shun. German carbon steel (like Wushtoff) used to be the standard but Japan surpasses it. The key thing though is that a knife has to feel right in your hand. For me the Japanese knives do that. Correct balance etc...
Get a gift certificate to a good kitchen shop that has a big selection. Wrap the certificate with an old knife from a garage sale - an old dull rusty one.Write on the card that the certificate is specifically for kitchen knives.Let her go and hold different brands and weights and sizes so she will pick the best for her.
I love Cutco they also have other things such as flatware, pizza cutters, ice cream scoops, etc. lots of things for the kitchen, and I also think that they come with a lifetime guarantee never to go dull and if they do you ship to them to have them sharpened and if they cant be sharpened they will replace them free.
I second the Cutco knives. They are made in the USA and come with a lifetime guarantee. I have a carving set, kitchen shears, and a chef's knife from my grandmother. When I sent the kitchen shears in to have them sharpened, I wrote a note that they had belonged to my grandmother. They sent me a brand new pair, AND included the old ones because they knew I wouldn't want to lose them out of sentimental value. Free.
Good to know! I always thought, because of their marketing methods, that there was no "there" there. We always have a teenager in the neighborhood selling these.
I second the Shun. I have the Ken Onion handles on mine. Even one fantastic knife can change your life in the kitchen. A gift certificate to an upscale kitchen store (ie not BB&B) where she can test drive the options is a great suggestion.
I still love and adore my standard German steel cook's knife. But Shun is a great brand I have heard many people praise. Best advice has already been given - get her a gift certificate and encourage her to pick her own! Nice gift, by the way!
Thank you everyone for your great suggestions. I'm awfully tempted to go out and buy myself some new knives now. My hands are small but my niece's are even smaller, I think, so a gift certificate to a great kitchen store is the way to go. We can go together and then see what happens!