Customer Review

71 of 83 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Useful, but uneven and a bit dated, October 1, 2008
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This review is from: Mastering Knife Skills: The Essential Guide to the Most Important Tools in Your Kitchen (with DVD) (Hardcover)
This may be the best knife skills book on the market right now, but it's nowhere near as complete or as good as it might be.

What it gets right is basic, European knife cuts. Mr. Weinstein is a good teacher, and his descriptions and pictures are clear and well presented.

The section on buying knives, however, is outdated. A book written twenty years ago would have practically the same information, even though the world of knives available to Western cooks has expanded and evolved enormously since then. Mr. Weinstein mentions Japanese knives in passing, but doesn't give any sense that he's actually used them. This is unfortunate, since so many Western cooks have started using Japanese knives for much or all of their work. Much of the old information that Weinstein gives doesn't apply to these knives, and what little little he does say about them is questionable.

His section on sharpening isn't bad. He knows more about sharpening than most cooks, but unfortunately this isn't saying much. And sharpening is an area where a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing. I belive that any serious cook should know how to sharpen their knives, but they need to be given a solid background in the subject in order to avoid wrecking them. I'm not sure Weinstein's book gives quite enough.

The book does a good job teaching the most basic cutting techniques, but even here it seems a little dated. Since Weinstein's experience is with fairly old fashioned (not very sharp) knives, the techniqes he shows are built on the assumption that you'll be using similar knives as well. So even though he talks up the idea of using a relaxed grip, he demonstrates cutting with a much firmer grip than what you'd use with a sharp knife. And he demonstrates making certain cuts in multiple sawing strokes, where a sharp knife would cut in a single pass. This is all fairly primitive compared with what the best cooks are doing when they have a good knife in their hands. In the end, he's teaching you to be less efficient and to produce lower quality results than what's possible. Which is a shame.

Mr. Weinstein is an excellent how-to book author. I'd like to see a new edition of this book written after he gets some eductation in updated techniques. And I'd like to see him sharing the load with some other experts. For example, he could write on the basic Euro techniques, and have guests write on Japanese cutting and butchering techniques, on knife selection, and on sharpening. This would result in a truly great book.

The enclosed DVD is pretty good, especially on the more complex tasks like fabricating and carving poultry. These skills are pretty hard to learn just from pictures. Unfortunately, Weinstein's cutting skills seem surprisingly sloppy, especially considering he's been teaching for so long. I'm not as big a stickler as some people for perfectly consistent cuts, but I'd think a knife skills teacher would be!
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 18, 2009 6:51:13 AM PST
Having both taken Mr. Weinstein's class at ICE in Manhattan, and owning a copy of the book, I'd like to respond to one point in your review. It seems that one of your main criticisms is in your 3rd paragraph, on Japanese knives. I can't remember how much time he devoted to the topic in the book, but in person, Mr. Weinstein made clear that he finds European knives to be far superior to Japanese knives. Two reasons he gave come to mind: (1) he prefers a heavier blade, so that the knife does more of the work, and Japanese blades are relatively lighter; and, (2) Japanese knives are made of a harder steel, which may hold an edge longer, but are also harder to hone and sharpen. Japanese knives also have different cutting angles on one side versus the other, further complicating honing/sharpening. I can't comment much on your other points, but since you live in New York, perhaps you'd consider checking out the knife skills class at ICE with Mr. Weinstein. You seem quite knowledgeable already, but would probably still get a lot out of it.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 20, 2009 11:50:37 PM PDT
Richard Wong says:
This is a debate which will not end even when the world cease to exit. Yes, German knives are heavier and has greater momentum, but Japanese knives are sharper so a greater translation from force to pressure. So it is not clear to me or anyone that a Japanese knife will require more work. My guess is that it is untrue. For one, you don't see Japanese chefs struggle with their knives. Yes, many *traditional* Japanese knives are chisel ground (ground one side), though most Japanese knives sold in US are ground on both sides, think Shun knives. A chisel ground knife allows a much sharper edge. I don't think a chisel knife is more difficult to ground due to some laws of physic. It may seem a bit unusual for someone who is new, but there is no physical reason why sharpening a chisel knife is more difficult. Look, traditional woodwork tools are chisel ground. For one and most obvious, a chisel is chisel ground. Woodworkers sharp their chisels all the time.

Posted on Feb 9, 2010 2:29:51 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 14, 2010 5:26:37 PM PST
Alex Y says:
Mr. Weinstein hates Japanese knives for sure. In his DVD he promoted Wusthof, which make me thinking what he would get from Wusthof. His tone towards Santoku knife is rediculous. He says Santoku knives are useless and originally they were made for old women. That remark alone makes me seriuosly doubt his expertise. And yes, his skills are very basic and nothing creative. The book is big and fancy and well printed, but not handy for a reference book. In my opinion (wish Mr. Weinstain know such phrase exists), it is very limited and basic.

Posted on Jul 23, 2010 11:24:53 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 23, 2010 11:26:53 AM PDT
Blue says:
Is there a knife skills book you would recommend? I have a Santoku knife which I love and want to become better at using it, along with my other knives--not told that it is inferior.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 8, 2011 9:28:08 AM PDT
I am sorry for disagreeing, however any knife can be honed to any sharpness. The point is, Mr. Weinstein prefers a knife that will sharpen quicker than a knife that will need to be sharpened less frequently when that knife that is sharpened less frequently takes an unusually long period of time to sharpen. A good knife is one that a blade can be kept sharp with the use of steele on a regular basis, stroking three to four times on each side of the blade. this thirty seconds of knife care before each use makes the style of knives Mr. Weinstein uses superior in his mind.

I believe the current use of Japanese knives gaining in popularity is from Cooks that do not perform (or do not correctly perform) the use of a steele prior to every use to remove any curves or imperfections on the blade. A Japanesse knife is more forgiving about this than other knives (and thus gives them a sense of this knife being superior instead of realizing that they are not correctly caring for their knives0, however to a chef or a cook whom uses knives very frequently who does not properly perfrom maintenance on their blades (even Japanese knives) is asking for trouble.

I use Victorinox knives. They are light like japanese knives, however shaped like European or american cooking knives. They keep a perfect edge, are less expensive, and as long as I steele them with a regular steele prior to use and every once and a while do so with a diamond-dust coated steele, they never need professional sharpening and I would put their sharpness to the test against a japanese knife any day of the week.
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P. Raphaelson

Location: New York, NY

Top Reviewer Ranking: 33,335