a close-up of a knife

With most products, there is a cost-quality tradeoff. Put differently, high quality products tend to be expensive, and crappy products tend be cheap. This is especially true when you’re talking about a market where quality is easy to evaluate (cars for example). It’s less clear in markets like fashion where quality is difficult to measure or you’re paying for intangibles like a brand.

If you ever find something that is both inexpensive and high quality, that’s the kind of discovery that makes Priceonomics tingle with happiness. The Victorinox Fibrox chef’s knife is that kind of product.

Cookware is a market where it’s hard to assess quality unless you’re an expert. Should you pay $300 for a pan? Is it actually better than the $10 pan, or is the manufacture charging you $290 for a tiny increase in quality? Who knows!

At Priceonomics, we don’t know. So, we asked cooking enthusiast Matt Maroon to put together a list of the essential equipment for a gourmet kitchen. Matt outlined the problem:

Many types of cookware are what Scott Adams would call a confusopoly. Customers know so little about what they’re purchasing that their decisions are based more on branding or a salesman’s tactics than quality or price. Nowhere is that more the case than knives, where people routinely spend hundreds or even thousands for mediocre products.

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Matt put together a great list of what you should buy if you want to get serious about cooking. You should read it here.

If you have ever walked into a kitchen supply store like Williams Sonoma, there are an overwhelming number of knives for sale and they can be extremely expensive. For a novice, it might seem like an impossible task to figure out which knife to purchase.

But Matt’s expert analysis showed us the way:

These don’t have to be expensive either, in fact most of the brands people can name aren’t very good. If you want to shell out the big bucks (~$250) for a Shun Ken Onion I can’t say I blame you. They’re beautiful and feel great in your hand, and nobody makes a better blade. But this $26 Fibrox by Victorinox is just as sharp and holds a good edge.

The Fibrox knife by Victorinox is a fantastic recommendation by Matt. It used to be called the Victorinox Forschner, and it was considered to be awesome back then too. At least that’s the conclusion of our exhaustive look at knife reviews. It’s quality is comparable to a much more expensive knife, but it only costs $26. It’s the high quality / low cost item that bucks the cost-quality tradeoff. It’s the kind of product we love at Priceonomics.

The comments on this Hacker News article highlighted the awesomeness of this knife:

“Strong recommend on the Fibrox knife. If you don’t already have a serious knife, don’t buy one; get the Fibrox and use it for awhile. You may never want another knife, and if you ever do, you’ll have a very good idea what you’re looking for. Beware of knives: they’re Veblen goods.”

“Victorinox Fibrox knives are by far the best value you will get. They are inexpensive and are quite the workhorse.”

We found only one real objection buried amongst all the praise:

One caveat that people rarely discuss about Victorinox Fibrox knives is that the don’t hold an edge very long. They’re a great starter knife and a great long-term knife if you don’t mind sharpening it fairly frequently.

So, if you need to buy a kitchen knife, Priceonomics recommends the Victorinox Fibrox chef’s knife for $26 on Amazon. We don’t know anything about kitchen knives, but we trust the people who recommend it. Even better, its high value to cost ratio fits nicely with our worldview of consumer products.

This post was written by Rohin Dhar. Follow him on Twitter here or Google.