A high quality kitchen knife is a wonderful thing! Ideally, every kitchen should contain at least a couple of capable, general purpose knives that are properly sharp, balanced and easy to use. For those seeking to move beyond the dull (and sometimes dangerous) world of the supermarket specials, this can be daunting. For example, a search of a popular Australian retailer returns over 400 different results! As its name suggests, the Cangshan J Series 61932 Japan VG-10 Forged 3-Piece Starter Knife Set provides three multi-purpose knives that are suitable for anyone looking to get started on their knife collection. But how do they stack up?
Disclosure: Cangshan provided Blog of Dad with the Cangshan J Series 61932 Japan VG-10 Forged 3-Piece Starter Knife Set for the purpose of review and ongoing use. Any thoughts expressed about Cangshan products in this article are based on my own experiences. For more information, visit my disclosure statement.
The Cangshan J Series 61932 Japan VG-10 Forged 3-Piece Starter Knife Set comes with a 20 cm chef’s knife, a 12 cm serrated utility knife and a 9 cm paring knife. Each of these knives are highly versatile in their own right, and between the three they have a large chunk of the kitchen cutting duties covered. This makes the set a great starting point for anyone looking to move into the world of quality kitchen knives, or for anyone looking to quickly expand their collection.
Cangshan J Series 61932 Japan VG-10 Forged 3-Piece Starter Knife Set With Walnut Wood Sheath
The Cangshan J Series 61932 Japan VG-10 Forged 3-Piece Starter Knife Set is an impressive collection of versatile blades that can easily take care of the vast majority of blade-based tasks in the kitchen. They look spectacular, but far more importantly they feel great, are easy to use (and maintain) and come with impressively sharp blades. The use of VG10 Japan steel and African Blackwood handles should ensure that the initially impressive quality is a long-lasting experience, while the thoughtful extra inclusions should help to protect the precious blades.
VG10 Japan Steel
Versatile set covers most needs
Feel great to use
Hand wash only
Cangshan J Series 61932 Japan VG-10 Forged 3-Piece Starter Knife Set – Knife Inclusions and Purpose
20 cm Chef’s Knife
The 20 cm chef’s knife is a kitchen workhorse and will often be the go-to knife for substantial meal preparation. Chef’s knives are made for cutting meat, dicing vegetables, slicing herbs and general chopping. They are also capable of disjointing some cuts of meats (not all). Chef’s knives are invaluable to have in the kitchen and a good one will make you wonder how you ever lived without it!
Chef’s knives can vary in length from around 15 to 30 cm. The 20 cm of the Cangshan J-Series chef’s knife is the most common size and it provides a great balance between cutting edge and usability.
12 cm Serrated Utility Knife
Delicate fruits and vegetables are some of the most challenging foods to cut cleanly – even with a perfectly sharp knife. Anyone who has ever tried to tackle a ripe tomato with anything less than an ideal knife will know the frustration, mess and even danger that can follow. A quality serrated utility knife takes the drama out of delicate preparation, with fruits and vegetables able to be cut cleanly – without tearing.
Beyond fruit and vegetables, serrated utility knives deal well with sandwiches, bread rolls and bagels. Again, these are food items that regular knife edges just cannot deal with confidently, so the inclusion of the serrated utility knife in the Cangshan J-Series set is fantastic to see!
9 cm Paring Knife
Paring Knives are the small-but-mighty kitchen champions. A sharp paring knife punches well above its weight as it makes slicing and chopping tasks easy. A quality paring knife has no trouble with harder foods such as potatoes, but is also the go-to blade for precision work such as peeling, trimming and removing seeds.
Cangshan J-Series – Japanese Steel and Style
All three knives in the Cangshan J Series 3-Piece Starter Knife Set are forged from VG10 high-alloy steel. VG10 is a high-end Japanese steel that is extremely popular for premium-grade knives. The chemical composition of this steel gives it great properties when it comes to edge retention, hardness and corrosion resistance.
The J-Series knives are forged from 67 layers of this VG10 steel. This process creates a unique pattern on the blade, known as a Damascus pattern. Cangshan state that the blades are hand-sharpened. While there are no specifications listed on the website, Japanese steel is usually sharpened to between 10-15 degrees per side. When examining the cutting edge (with my amateur eye), each knife certainly does seem to be sharpened to a very fine angle!
This observation was backed up by the experience of actually cutting with the blades. I used the 20 cm chef’s knife to make Adam Liaw’s Thai Oyster Sauce Chicken and Rice recipe, which called for thinly sliced carrot and thinly sliced chicken thigh.
The Cangshan J Series chef’s knife cut through carrots like a hot knife though butter! I was seriously impressed by the lack of effort required to cut through a reasonably hard vegetable. It didn’t take long to get used to the balance of the knife, and the beautifully thin blade contributes to a lightweight design that is comfortable use for extended slicing. The Japanese style is slightly blade-heavy, which I like in this knife.
I found the chef’s knife precise, with consistent and thin (ridiculously thin if really wanted) slices of carrot quickly produced.
My chicken thighs had spent a day defrosting in the refrigerator, so they were thawed enough to cut, but still semi-frozen in the middle. I wouldn’t risk a fine blade like the Cangshan J Series on completely frozen meat, but in this state the chicken thigh was extremely easy to slice into beautifully thin pieces. Throughout the preparation I felt like I had great control, with no slipping and each cut consistently clean and accurate. With over a kilogram of chicken to prepare, I was able to work quickly and without fatigue.
One slight disadvantage of the Cangshan J Series 20 cm chef’s knife’s thin blade was that I didn’t feel so confident using it to smash garlic. My 20 cm WÜSTHOF chef’s knife has a far thicker blade that can deliver a satisfying thump to a bunch of garlic cloves. However, this is a minor issue and the fantastically sharp cutting edge more than makes up for this inconvenience. For the record, finely chopping that same garlic was very easy and enjoyable!
The edge of the Cangshan J Series serrated utility knife is (obviously) different from the other two. Like most serrated knives, one side is completely flat, while the serrations have been beautifully sharpened to create an impressive cutting edge. As a left-handed knife user, I’m pleased to say that this single edge design is perfectly comfortable in either hand.
I used the serrated utility knife to prepare a slightly overripe mango and was impressed by how clean and easy each slice was. Both cheeks came away with clean, straight cuts and minimal mango juice spilling onto the board. The sharp, pointed tip of the serrated utility knife was excellent for scoring the surface of each cheek and the result was beautiful cubes of mango that looked very appetising. Not that my kids need any extra encouragement to eat mango.
The serrated blade did an excellent job of rescuing the additional mango flesh from around the seed. Lesser knives can struggle to remove this part of the mango cleanly, but the Cangshan J Series serrated utility knife did an excellent job.
Finally, I used the 9 cm paring knife to peel some carrots. I usually cheat by using a vegetable peeler, so it took me a couple of goes to get the hang of using a paring knife for this task. However, I quickly saw the appeal of using a quality paring knife like the Cangshan J Series 9 cm version for peeling, as the brilliantly sharp blade allowed me to remove ultra-fine slithers of skin easily and precisely.
My biggest problem was occasionally losing concentration, at which point the impressively sharp Cangshan blade did what it does best and effortlessly sliced deep into the phloem layer, removing a large chuck of the carrot. My technique may require a little improvement, but there is no denying that the J Series paring knife is more than capable!
One thing that I really like about the J Series knives is the long, ultra-dense African Blackwood handles. These look beautiful and are consistent with the Japanese styling of the blades. They feel wonderful to hold and use for extended food preparation tasks, helping to balance the knife. I find these handles comfortable no matter what style of grip I adopt, which adds to the versatility and control during a wide variety of tasks.
I’m particularly fond of the handle on the paring knife, which extends well beyond that of the other paring knives in my kitchen. In fact, the handle of the paring knife is only very slightly shorter than that of the chef’s knife! What this does is enable the paring knife to sit very comfortably in my hand and gives me a great sense of control. I found this particularly user-friendly when peeling the carrots and chopping them into small cubes.
Cangshan state that each knife has a full tang blade, which means that the metal of the knife extends right through the handle. As is typical of traditional-style Japanese knives, that tang is fully hidden within the handle, with no rivets or exposed metal showing its existence. Unlike traditional Japanese blades, there is no ‘kakumaki where the handle meets the blade. Instead, a relatively western technique has been used to make the join.
Cangshan J Series 61932 Japan VG-10 Forged 3-Piece Starter Knife Set – Care and Maintenance
I can’t yet comment on the longevity of these knives as I have only been using them for a short period of time. What I can say is that each one arrived superbly sharpened, and the use of high quality VG10 Japan Steel gives me confidence that they should retain that edge quite well.
The choice of steel and African Blackwood handles should result in a reasonably robust knife that doesn’t demand a whole load of maintenance beyond the occasional sharpening and general good knife handling practices. As with any quality knife, these do not belong in the dishwasher. Wiping them clean immediately after use, properly drying them and ensuring they are stored in a manner that protects the blade should ensure enjoyable and extensive use.
Each of the three knives comes with a purpose-made magnetic Walnut Wood Sheath, which provides excellent protection for the blades when not in use. These sheaths mean that the knives can be stored in drawers without fear of dulling due to knocking around with the other cutlery.
In addition, the three knives arrived stored securely in a nice wooden presentation box. This makes them an excellent gift with real ‘wow’ factor, but also provides a great way for keeping the knives together and out of harm’s way.
Full maintenance instructions are included in the package and I highly recommend reading these to ensure that you get the most out of the Cangshan J Series knives for years to come.
Cangshan J Series 61932 Japan VG-10 Forged 3-Piece Starter Knife Set – Final Thoughts
Food preparation is such an important part of family life. It can take a significant amount of time and effort, so having high-quality equipment on hand is a worthwhile investment for this daily (often multiple times a day) task. The Cangshan J Series 61932 Japan VG-10 Forged 3-Piece Starter Knife Set is an impressive collection of versatile blades that can easily take care of the vast majority of blade-based tasks in the kitchen. They look spectacular, but far more importantly they feel great, are easy to use (and maintain) and come with impressively sharp blades.
The use of VG10 Japan steel and African Blackwood handles should ensure that the initially impressive quality is a long-lasting experience, while the thoughtful extra inclusions should help to protect the precious blades. Even as a home cook with a reasonably impressive collection of quality knives, I’m thrilled to have the Cangshan J Series started knife set in my kitchen and I’m quite sure that I will be reaching for them on a daily basis.