A good set of knives might be even more important in a boat galley than ashore. With fewer prepared foods, I find I do far more chopping, slicing, boning and filleting. And good knives sure make the job easier. But I’ve also found that I’ve added a few criteria for what’s a “good knife” when I think about using it onboard.
I just discovered the Victorinox Fibrox knives and blade covers and love them for use anywhere, but particularly on a boat. What makes them so much better than other knife sets you ask? In two words, features and price. NOTE: I don’t own these, but I’ve used them and they’re what I’d buy if I had it to do all over again.
- Made by the same company that makes Swiss Army knives.
- Sharp cutting edge that can be easily sharpened.
- High quality stainless so the blade won’t be rusting in a saltwater environment (just the salt in the air will quickly dull the edge of a steel knife).
- A non-slip handle so that you’re not likely to drop the knife if your hand’s wet and the boat moves a bit (this was a HUGE problem with the knives I had — if you’re not already living aboard, don’t underestimate this!).
- Well-balanced knives that are well-designed for their intended tasks.
- Priced less than half the price of other “quality” knives (don’t compare the price to the ones in the discount store in a plastic package — those aren’t nearly the quality of these).
- AND a perfect system for storing them in a drawer on a boat — the BladeSafe, shown at right. These can also be used with other knives — more details below.
My choices for a basic set of knives (there are far more sizes available if you’re looking for something else — this is what I’d think of as a good combination to start with):
- Victorinox Cutlery 8-Inch Wavy Edge Bread Knife, Black Fibrox Handle (they also make a 10-1/4″ bread knife, but I find the 8″ blade is long enough and it’s easier to find a place to store it — this is also good for slicing tomatoes)
- My favorite fillet knife (you are going to catch some fish, aren’t you?) is the Rapala Fish’n Fillet — it is wickedly sharp and thin enough to do the job right. It also works well for boning other meat, such as chicken breasts, pork chops and beef. We were given one as a “bon voyage” present, and like it so much that we bought a second one so that we could each be using one at the same time!
My thinking is that it’s not nearly as important to have a huge selection of knives in a variety of sizes as it is to have good knives in a few basic sizes. And with the limited storage space on most cruising boats, it’s even more important. These knives, along with a good sharpener (below) are an excellent core collection.
The only truly safe storage for knives on a boat is in a drawer — and preferably one that locks, with the knives in a sheath that isn’t going to come off accidentally. Knife blocks and magnetic strips simply don’t work to fully secure knives against the motion of the boat, and it is extremely dangerous to have an unsheathed knife flying around the boat in rolly seas or a squall.
That’s why I like the BladeSafe. It has a locking mechanism so it won’t fall off the knife — a problem with using most sheaths (the cardboard sheaths that came with my knives quickly disintegrated in the humidity on board). These were designed for traveling chefs, who need to transport numerous sharp knives. The knives don’t get nicked, the sheaths don’t take up a ton of room, and you don’t get stabbed trying to get one out — or if the drawer opens at a bad time and one flies out. And the BladeSafe is more budget-friendly than a lot of other storage options, at $2 to $6 per knife. It’s made by Victorinox and designed for their knives, but it will work with others as well.
I’m a fanatic about keeping my knives sharp — the BladeSafe definitely helps protect the edges, but you’re still going to have to give your blades a quick sharpening/honing periodically. There are two sharpeners that I like — I’ll tell you the differences and you can make your own choice.
This is a diamond sharpener, and can sharpen serrated blades as well as straight. Most people prefer the “fine” sharpener to the coarse or very fine. Read more about this sharpener and even see a video of how to use it to sharpen a serrated knife.
Diamond sharpeners are “extremely effective” and the problem with them — if you want to call it that — is that you really only need to make one pass or you’ll just be taking off metal without further improving the blade. If you’re used to a traditional steel or whetstone, you have to re-train yourself!
This sharpener is also quite compact (5″ closed), and the folding handles protect the sharpening surface when stored. Instructions are included. It costs about twice as much as the ceramic sharpener below (about $20 vs. $10) — in my opinion, it’s worth it for the smaller size and to be able to sharpen serrated knives but if your budget is more limited, the ceramic is a very good choice.
This ceramic sharpener looks very similar to a traditional sharpening steel and works the same way. It works very well — most people think that it puts a better edge on a blade than a steel. Further, this one is cheaper than most steels and reviewers give it high praise. In case you’ve never sharpened a knife, the Sharp Stick also comes with instructions.
Note that the sharpening rod alone is 8″ long, for a total of about 13″, so make sure you have sufficient room to stow it.
Whichever sharpener you choose be sure to get one to keep your knives in top condition. On board, you’ll be cooking with fewer prepared foods and good knives make the cutting and chopping a breeze.
David lymn says
Chroma knives are incredible. We use the Haiku range on board. They have a budget range and a classy range. The budget has a plastic handle and less carbon in the steel. They are very sharp and easy to keep that way
Behan Fravel Gifford says
my immediate reaction is that I just want those tomatoes. oh my goodness, how long since I’ve seen a gorgeous heirloom tomato?
S/V Kelly Nicole says
Can you just wrap a handle with rescue tape to keep it from sliding?
Rod Shehan says
I think the Victorinox are ok (from years of amatuer and professional fish filleting and cooking at home), but for the price there is better quality steel to be had. The best INOX type steels come from Sweden, Switzerland or Germany generally. Personally I dont like INOX (aka Stainless) steels in a knife to get a true edge. Steel somewhere in between true old school carbon steel and ones such as “Swibo” are best. I love Green River blades to keep an edge.
Helen Bell says
I like my costco ones with a sheath for every knife 😉
Marta Crichlow says
I have followed your site for years and am always learning something new. Thank you!
Ken Roach says
Both of my large knives are always in BladeSafes. I’ve had the galley go all rumpus in a storm, and the knives scattered harmlessly just like the spatulas and spoons.
Lysa Stulberg Evans says
I have the set from Costco, they each have their own sleeve and are different colors. Very sharp. I think I paid $29 for a set of 6.
Paul Wyand says
My knife kit from culinary school was from Forschner and they were OK, but did not keep an edge very long. Of European knives, I seem to prefer French steel, though I have a German for my daily use Chef’s knife, but more due to the design of the thing and it was an impulse buy. Really stupid idea, sell knives at a beer festival, you know have a table where drunk people can cut up carrots and potatoes. A wonder anyone left with fingers! Kind of an insurance nightmare, but I did leave with a knife. I currently have been getting into Japanese steel knives. I have an inexpensive Global that has a great edge, but I don’t like the handle as it is too thin for my hand. May try a few others, just have to find them on sale.
There is a big market in custom made knives now as well.
Great article! Yeah, a chefs knife and paring knife do most of the kitchen duty. A serrated bread knife also good for tomatoes. A filleting knife if you do a lot of fish.
Lucas Ferguson says
Yeah, a serrated knife is a must unless you have an extremely nice chefs knife. Even a cheap serrated knife can cut a tomato pretty nicely, but you can’t say the same about a cheap chefs knife 🙂
Dave Skolnick (S/V Auspicious) says
If a serrated knife cuts a tomato better than a chef’s knife your chef’s knife needs to be sharpened.
parsons clark says
Spend about $20 and buy a set of Cuisinart knives with guards. Can find them on Amazon and have seen them at BJs (set including a good cutting board). Been using a set for over 8 years, and no worries about reaching into a drawer or kids/husband reaching into a drawer for a knife and cutting themselves. The knives are good variety of sizes, stay sharp, can be sharpened, and the guards are terrific.