I’d been hunting around for a practical chef’s knife to take camping (for those camps where I’m not rehydrating a food pouch) or perhaps just on holiday in self catering accommodation. Ideally, it would have a sheather so that I can just lobby it into my luggage without wrapping it up to protect the edge or the luggage.
The Böker Field Butcher, designed by Jesper Voxnæs, is a splendid looking beast – top end steel, premium leather sheath, the blade is 4mm thick so probably up to feathering kindling and the like – but it’s £200 and I just can’t justify that for holiday cutlery. As it happens, Böker has a value brand (if you will), Böker Plus, which has some interesting and more reasonably priced offerings…
The ChefYouGo and SanYouGo are also designed by Jesper Voxnæs. They both come with sheaths, in rather nice presentation boxes. I had to go through a lot of YouTube footage to find actual reviews before deciding on them. (For. the. love. of. God, YouTubers, an unboxing video is not a review. Caption your content properly, you savages.) I picked the pair of them up for £106.86 and I’ve just come back from a week’s self catering holiday; can you guess what happens next? Yes, an unboxing video.
They’re both made from 440C stainless steel, tempered to a Rockwell hardness of HRC 57-58. I’m not a metallurgist, but that’s not too shabby. The Rockwell scale tests hardness by pressing a diamond into the steel and measuring resistance to that pressure (it’s a bit more complicated, I think, but as we’ve just observed, I’m not a metallurgist). For comparison, Wüsthof knives clock in at 56-58, the Field Butcher at 58-60, my Haslinger New Generation at 61.
The scales (the grippy bits on the hilt) are black G10, with red liners, and the sheaths are black leather. There are lanyard holes in the hilts, though I’d be dubious about lanyards trailing through, for instance, raw meat. The sheaths are nothing to get excited about, to be honest, but they do what they’re supposed to. The sheaths’ clasps catch on the knives’ choils unless you hold them clear whilst drawing. There’s also no means of attaching either sheath to a belt. I’ve no issue with that; I don’t want to carry a chef’s knife on my hip (see legal note at the end). You can find the dimensions for the blades and hilts in the links above. I’ve put my Benchmade Presidio folder in a couple of the pictures for scale.
They were pretty sharp out of the box, but I’m a fussy bugger, so I put new edges on them. I ground a 20° bevel on each side, for a robust edge, and then back bevelled to 15° (basically, I took the shoulders off the edge so that it can slip into the cut more easily). Once done, I could dry-shave the hairs from my arms.
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know I have quite a few kitchen knives; these were my only two for my week’s holiday. The ChefYouGo is shaped like a very compact chef’s knife and the SanYouGo like a santoku. Across the week I made: a sort of cassoulet, but with plenty of chopped veg; bavette with creamed leaks and sautéed potatoes; pork steaks with cider-braised fennel and Hasselback potatoes; spatchcocked chicken with pastis-braised fennel and (I think) sautéed potatoes (again).
The ChefYouGo is deep in the belly for such a small knife and the blade’s geometry helped me make short work of dicing mirepoix, slicing leeks, a chiffonade of celery leaf, even spatchcocking a chicken. It’s well balanced and the hilt sits comfortably in my hand. The only point where it felt like it wasn’t a big enough knife was carving the chicken breast.
The SanYouGo is a mad little thing – it looks like the hilt is too small to control the knife. In fact, it works really well, though I used it less than its bigger stablemate – preparing garnish for drinks, peeling and mincing garlic, slicing Hasselback potatoes and shallots.
They both performed really well. The ChefYouGo isn’t quite sharp enough to shave my arms anymore, but did the heavy lifting so I think that’s fair. They’re great little knives and great value. My only criticism is that I think I’d struggle to use either of them for peeling. There was a speed-peeler in our accommodation, but I’d have used my Presidio had there not been. Also, if I’d been camping, I’d not have wanted to try them for any heavy tasks like feathering kindling – again, I’d use the Presidio for that as the blade is much more robust. If you can only afford one, I’d have for the ChefYouGo.
On a related issue, I got myself a little bamboo cutting board from Totally Bamboo to take on my travels. It’s 27.5cm by 27.5cm, has a groove around the edge to keep liquid on the board and it’s dishwasher safe. I tried using it in my lap to simulate camping, but indoors and near a fridge. It worked well enough like that, but I wouldn’t have fancied spatchcocking the chicken like that. Anyhow, it’s light and it’s stood up to the week pretty well. There are some scars on it, but I can sand it down if they don’t lift out. In any case, bamboo is naturally anti-bacterial so I’m not fretting about the scars harbouring germs. I can stick it in the dishwasher and then treat it with oil to make it all shiny again. It cost £25 and is performing well after one week.
Note: I paid for all of these products myself and have received no remuneration.
Another (more important) note: Legally carrying knives in the UK is quite context-dependent. Broadly, if you’re using these knives for their intended purpose on a campsite then that should be alright. If you’re waving them around at other people on a campsite then that won’t be alright. There’s no reason at all for you to have them at the pub, unless you’re working in the kitchen. In addition to not being a metallurgist, I’m also not a legal professional, so maybe you should read up on the law about knives.