Not a chef. 100% not a chef. Can't make toast and cereal might also be beyond the limits of my culinary skills. But my wife is a damn good cook, knows her way around the kitchen, and around her nice but not insane collection of kitchen knives. We have a few Henckles and one Sanelli and a positively massive cleaver that is built like a bulldozer blade. They are serviceable, but nothing fancy. So this is something of a joint review, my wife and I both used the knife a lot and I feel like between her cooking skill and my years of complaining about knives, we might have something useful to say. Before we get there, I need to lay out some of the basic thoughts people have about culinary cutlery.
In doing research I discovered that most chefs really think you need only three kitchen knives--a chef knife, a paring knife, and a bread knife. The idea is that the chef knife is a 7"-9" blade with a very simple shape and a very thin grind. This is supposed to be the "do everything" knife with the paring knife pitching in like 10% of the time and the bread knife rarely being used to do anything other than slicing bread.
The chef knife is the key blade according to the culinary cutlery purists. And as a result that is where the vast majority of time and money are spent--forwarding the performance of the chef knife. There is a divide among the culinary folks about the best design. Some folks prefer the Teutonic masterpiece, the long pointy chef knife we are all familar with. It is supposed to be a bit on the thick side when it comes to steel, but, thanks to its blade height, it is suppose to be thin at the cutting edge. You have seen these blades everywhere--Williams and Sonoma, online, and custom makers. The other school of thought likes the Japanese version of the chef's knife--the santuko. There the point is not quite as stabby, resembling a modified sheep's foot blade, and the blade is even taller, but the entire thing is a much thinner slab of steel. Spyderco was the first company to make a santuko to sell in the US, way back in the early 90s, so we know where they put their money.
As is tradition, as the first review of a new product category, this will be an unscored review.
Twitter Review Summary: Slicey Slicerson's even slicier brother.
The knife that is the subject of this review, the Cook's Knife, something of a scaled down Chef Knife, is essentially a less tall, elongated santuko. The handles are very neutral, with no scallops or notches, just gentle curves. It is something of a tear drop shape. And, of course, there is a tiny (though non-functional) hole in the blade.
The steel is classic Spyderco-with-a-Japanese-OEM: VG-10. Here it is flat ground and exceptionally thin behind the edge.
No knife I have reviewed in the history of this site has been as thin behind the edge as this blade. And no knife, not even the Perceval, was as good a cutter out of the box. The combination of the steel, the grind, and the blade thickness, all work together to make this a super keen knife. Here is a sample of its slicing ability. When I first got the knife, it was so sharp that I cut an apple in half and then laid the flat face down on the cutting board. The wet, flat apple was held in place on the cutting board with just a bit of tension. The Cook's Knife, with only that tiny bit of suction holding the apple in place, sliced the apple into quarters and then eighths. I did not even brace the apple to prevent it from sliding. It was effortless.
One concern I had was that I was comparing different kinds of knives. Our knives, folders and fixed blades, generally are thicker and more stout their their kitchen brothers, so comparing the slicing ability of a kitchen knife to something like a Spyderco Techno is a bit silly. But compared to newly sharpened kitchen knives we had on hand, the Cook's Knife was still dominating the competition. Our closest competitor, a $250 Henckels, fully sharpened and stropped, still could not keep up with the thoughtless slicing ability of the Cook's Knife. In grapes, carrots, apples, sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, in chicken, and beef, the Cook's Knife just crushed the competition (but never the food I was cutting).
A lot of this performance can be explained by the usual suspects--grind and stock thickness, but I think it warrants mentioning that this application might be the ideal application for VG-10. I am not a huge fan of VG-10 in folders as I have found it easy to dull and hard to sharpen (relatively speaking). Designed by the Japanese company Takefu, VG-10 was made to work as a steel for tree and plant pruning. Our diet at my house is very close to that application, lots and lots of fruits and veggies. And so the idea that this knife would chop celery et. al. with aplomb, given the provenance of the steel, is not at all surprising. I have noticed that the steel does need touching up a lot, but given the thickness of the stock, it doesn't take that long. I am sure there are better steels out there for culinary use, but VG-10, in this one application, is actually exceptional. I really, really like it.
I also really like the handle. It has enough finger clearance for rocking cuts (and enough belly, too).
Its slightly pointy end and the good swell just ahead of the point, makes the handle nice to use and never something that tires you out. I probably slice thirty people's daily allotment of grapes, as my two year old is a Grape Ape, but even during all that slice, slice, slicing, the handle never made my hands or fingers bark. The shape is only part of it though, the handle material is also, like the steel, well chosen for the application.
The handle material is entirely unique, to my knowledge, in the cutlery industry (or at least our corner of it)--Corian.
A few culinary blades run Corian, like those sold by AG Russell, but in the folder and outdoor world, its basically non-existent for reasons I am not sure I understand. Corian is a proprietary synthetic material developed in the 1960s by DuPont scientist Donald Slocum and is used primarily as a granite countertop replacement. It is uniform, polishes well, does not warp or crack, and is impervious to moisture. It is also seamless, in the countertop application large slabs are heat welded together to provide a perfect and uniform surface. Scratches show up on darker colors, but can be buffed out or reduced with a Scotch Brite pad. My understanding is that Corian is probably a little too brittle for an outdoor knife, but in this application its quite good. Corian was also also warm to the touch. In all, a very good choice by the folks in Golden.
My wife's experience with the Cook's Knife has matched my own. She uses it daily and she tells me that it is now her go to knife. The large Chef Knife is something that we have (two actually) but they are generally too big for her. This knife, in contrast, has almost the same reach, but much less weight. She uses it to do everything--chopping veggies, slicing grapes (more grapes), even boning chicken. She has no complaints. She did, however, ask me about the price. On that account I told her how much it cost and in one of the rare instances of website purchases, she thought it was a good value. Compared to something like the Steelcraft Bodega, which caused her to lose her mind when I told her how expensive it was, the Cook's Knife, in her opinion, is worth its asking price.
Overall, as a kitchen knife, I was very impressed with the Cook's Knife. It doesn't fit well into the classic trio culinary folks insist on, and I am strongly opposed to the Batman tool approach that many companies in the culinary market have to knife design. But that said, as a knife, standing alone, the Cook's Knife was very useful, an exceedingly high performance cutter, and great in the hand. It was not exceptionally expensive, probably about what you would pay for a Williams and Sonoma mid-priced knife. But, in my experience, is easily outperforms those kinds of knives we have in our knife block.
If you are looking for a knife that can do a lot, but don't want to drop $300, try this blade. It probably isn't as robust as a German-designed Chef Knife, but it can handle a lot of tasks exceptionally well. And, according to my wife, its a good value "unlike a lot of those trinkets you review."