A well-equipped kitchen is incomplete without a trusty set of knives, and the cornerstone of any cutlery collection is the versatile chef’s knife. Whether you’re an experienced home chef or just starting your culinary journey, finding the best kitchen knife is essential for prepping your meals efficiently and safely.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the world of kitchen knives, highlighting the top contenders in various categories, and providing expert insights on what to consider when shopping for a new kitchen knife.
Table of Contents
The Two Main Types of Chef’s Knives
When it comes to chef’s knives, there are two main categories to consider: German knives and Japanese knives. Each has its own unique characteristics and advantages.
- Sturdy and thick, especially at the bolster (where the blade meets the handle).
- Ideal for heavy-duty tasks like chopping and breaking down poultry.
- Crafted from softer steel, making them less prone to chipping or cracking.
- Typically require more frequent sharpening but are durable and sturdy.
- Lightweight and razor-sharp with thinner blades.
- Suited for delicate and precise tasks, such as slicing vegetables with precision.
- Made from harder steel, allowing them to hold an edge for longer periods.
- May be more prone to chipping or cracking due to the hardness of the steel.
Now, let’s delve into the top contenders in various categories, as tested and reviewed by experts.
11 Best Kitchen Knives
1. Wüsthof Classic 8-Inch Kitchen Knife
The Wüsthof Classic 8-Inch Kitchen Knife earned the title of the best overall chef’s knife, impressing experts with its razor-sharp blade and versatile performance. It excels in various cutting tasks, from slicing tomatoes to boning a chicken. This German classic features a full tang design, offering perfect balance and ergonomic handling. While it can be on the heavier side for some, it is dishwasher safe (though handwashing is recommended for longevity). Despite the higher price point, its exceptional sharpness and durability make it worth the investment.
2. Misen 8-Inch Professional Kitchen Knife
Misen’s 8-Inch Professional Kitchen Knife is a versatile and cost-effective option that offers great value. Made from Japanese AUS-8 high-carbon stainless steel, this knife is tough, durable, and exceptionally sharp. Its 15-degree blade angle encourages a proper pinch grip during use, ensuring precise slicing. While it may be heavier than some other chef’s knives, its price and quality combination make it a fantastic choice for various kitchen tasks.
3. J.A. Henckels Classic 8-Inch Chef’s Knife
For those looking for a budget-friendly option without compromising on quality, the J.A. Henckels Classic 8-Inch Chef’s Knife is an excellent choice. This German stainless steel knife offers the heft and performance of a high-end chef’s knife at an attractive price point. It excels in various tasks, from dicing onions to deboning poultry. While some users may find the hard plastic handle less comfortable, the full bolster design provides added safety for less experienced cooks.
4. Global Knives 7-Inch Santoku Knife
If durability is your top priority, the Global Knives 7-Inch Santoku Knife is a powerhouse in the kitchen. Known for its sharpness, it’s crafted from a single piece of stainless steel with notched indentations on the blade to prevent food from sticking. This Japanese knife excels in all cutting tasks and can handle small chicken bones with ease. While some may find the blade a bit brittle, its incredible sharpness ensures efficient slicing.
5. Shun Classic 8-Inch Chef’s Knife
The Shun Classic 8-Inch Chef’s Knife stands out as the best overall Japanese knife, offering exceptional performance without breaking the bank. Despite being delicate compared to some Western knives, it effortlessly cuts through a wide range of foods with its light yet sturdy blade. With minimal sharpening required, it’s a long-lasting choice. The 6-inch version is perfect for smaller hands, and the Premier model features a wider handle for added comfort.
6. Miyabi 8-Inch Chef’s Knife
Professionals seeking precision in their cuts will appreciate the Miyabi 8-Inch Chef’s Knife. Its G2 micro carbide powder steel blade is honed to a fine angle, ensuring thin slices and precise cuts. The handle’s ergonomic design and balance enhance handling during long stints in the kitchen. While it comes at a higher price point, its performance justifies the investment.
7. Victorinox Fibrox 8-Inch Pro Chef’s Knife
For budget-conscious shoppers, the Victorinox Fibrox 8-Inch Pro Chef’s Knife offers a lightweight and safe option. Despite its bulkier appearance, it feels comfortable and protects fingers with its plastic handle. The high-carbon stainless steel blade rarely requires sharpening, making it a durable choice. Consumer testers appreciated its sharpness and overall quality.
8. Made In 8-inch Chef’s Knife
The Made In 8-inch Chef’s Knife combines fashion and functionality, allowing for customization with engravings on the handle. This knife performs exceptionally well in all cutting tasks and features a full tang design for balance. It can be purchased individually or as part of a set, with attractive packaging providing instructions on knife usage. However, it leans on the heavier side compared to some other options.
9. Material Kitchen The 8″ Knife
Novice cooks will find the Material Kitchen The 8″ Knife to be a great choice. It offers a balance of heft and lightweight design, making it suitable for those new to the kitchen. While the blade may feel slightly thicker than traditional Japanese knives, it excels in slicing various ingredients. The knife is reasonably priced, requires minimal sharpening, and encourages a secure grip.
10. Hedley and Bennett Chef’s Knife
The Hedley and Bennett Chef’s Knife combines excellent balance, sturdiness, and a sharp tip ideal for delicate tasks. Its well-rounded handle provides a secure grip, making it a favorite among experts. The knife’s sharpness and aesthetic handle colors add a personalized touch to your kitchen. However, it’s important to dry the knife thoroughly after use to prevent rust spots.
11. Mercer Culinary Renaissance 8-Inch Forged Chef’s Knife
The Mercer Culinary Renaissance 8-Inch Forged Chef’s Knife offers a sturdy yet balanced design that impresses from the moment you pick it up. Crafted from high-carbon, stain-resistant German steel, it effortlessly slices through various foods. The blade’s wider section near the handle enhances durability, but it may not be ideal for delicate tasks like trimming around bones.
What to Consider When Shopping for a Chef’s Knife
When shopping for the best chef’s knife, several factors come into play. Consider the following aspects to find the knife that suits your needs:
- Type: Choose between German and Japanese knives based on your preferred cutting tasks. German knives excel in heavy-duty tasks, while Japanese knives are ideal for delicate and precise slicing.
- Handle: Knife handles come in various materials, including wood, plastic, and metal. The handle material affects the knife’s weight and feel in your hand.
- Tang: Opt for knives with a full tang, where the blade extends through the handle. This design ensures better balance and longevity.
- Bolster: Pay attention to the type of bolster, whether full or semi, and its shape. The bolster can impact your grip and control while using the knife.
How to Examine a Knife
Examining a knife before purchasing or as part of your regular knife maintenance routine is essential to ensure it’s in good condition and meets your needs. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to examine a knife effectively:
1. Inspect the Spine:
- Hold the knife with the edge facing downward.
- Look along the spine (the top edge of the blade) to ensure it is perfectly straight without any bends or irregularities. A straight spine is a sign of a well-manufactured knife.
2. Examine the Edge:
- Turn the knife over so that the edge is facing upward.
- Carefully inspect the edge for any imperfections or abnormalities.
- If you see any light reflecting back at you, it may indicate a roll spot in the factory edge. A roll spot can occur during manufacturing and may need to be corrected through sharpening. A brand-new knife should not have such imperfections in its edge.
3. Check the Handle and Tang:
Examine the handle for any cracks, splinters, or loose parts. Handles are typically made of materials like wood, plastic, or metal, so ensure they are in good condition and securely attached to the tang.
- Look for any signs of wear or damage around the area where the blade meets the handle, known as the bolster. If it’s a full tang knife, ensure that the tang runs through the handle securely.
4. Assess the Blade Material:
- Depending on the type of knife, whether it’s German or Japanese, check the blade material for any signs of corrosion, rust, or staining. Stainless steel blades should resist rust and stains, but it’s essential to keep them clean and dry to maintain their quality.
5. Test the Blade Sharpness (Optional):
- If you have the opportunity, you can perform a simple sharpness test by carefully running your finger across the edge of the blade. Be extremely cautious while doing this to avoid injury.
- A sharp knife should have a finely honed edge that feels smooth and keen. If it feels dull or rough, it may require sharpening.
6. Verify the Handle Comfort (If Possible):
- If you have the chance, hold the knife and assess how comfortable it feels in your hand. Ensure that the handle design and material provide a secure grip and minimize discomfort during extended use.
7. Inspect the Blade for Rust or Stains:
- If the knife is used or has been exposed to moisture, check the blade surface for any signs of rust or staining. Stainless steel should resist corrosion, but it’s essential to dry the knife thoroughly after use, especially if it has been in contact with acidic ingredients.
8. Consider the Knife’s Overall Condition:
- Take a moment to assess the overall condition of the knife, including the sharpness, edge alignment, and any signs of wear and tear.
- If you’re buying a new knife, ensure that it meets your expectations in terms of sharpness and quality.
By following these steps, you can effectively examine a knife to ensure it’s in good condition, sharp, and suitable for your needs. Regular inspections and maintenance will help prolong the life of your knife and maintain its performance.
How to Use a Chef’s knife
Using a chef’s knife properly is essential for efficient and safe food preparation in the kitchen. Here are some fundamental techniques and tips on how to use a chef’s knife effectively:
1. Hold the Knife with a Pinch Grip:
- Hold the chef’s knife with a pinch grip, which is a secure and controlled way of gripping the knife.
- Place your thumb and index finger on either side of the blade, just above the bolster (the area where the blade meets the handle).
- Wrap your remaining three fingers around the handle for support and stability.
2. Proper Hand Placement:
- Position your guiding hand (the hand not holding the knife) by forming a claw shape with your fingers.
- Curl your fingertips inward, keeping them away from the path of the blade.
- Place the food you are cutting underneath your guiding hand’s fingertips.
3. Rocking Motion (German Knives):
- If you are using a German-style chef’s knife with a curved blade, employ a rocking motion for chopping and mincing.
- Keep the tip of the knife on the cutting board while you lift and lower the heel of the blade with a gentle rocking motion.
- This motion is suitable for tasks like chopping vegetables and herbs.
4. Push-Pull Motion (Japanese Knives):
- If you are using a Japanese-style chef’s knife with a flatter blade profile, use a push-pull motion for precision slicing.
- Lift the entire knife off the cutting board as you make each cut, alternating between pushing and pulling the blade through the food.
- This motion is ideal for thinly slicing ingredients like sashimi or sushi rolls.
5. Use the Back of the Knife for Smashing (Optional):
- You can use the spine (the top edge) of the chef’s knife for tasks like smashing garlic cloves or crushing ingredients. Simply press down with the spine instead of the blade.
6. Practice Safe Cutting Techniques:
- Keep your guiding hand’s fingers curled and away from the blade to prevent accidents.
- Use a stable cutting board to provide a secure surface for cutting.
- Ensure the cutting board doesn’t slip by placing a damp cloth or a non-slip mat underneath it.
- Make slow and deliberate cuts, especially when working with small or delicate items.
7. Maintain Sharpness:
- A sharp chef’s knife is safer and more efficient. Regularly hone the blade with a honing rod before each use to maintain its edge.
- When the knife becomes dull over time, sharpen it using a sharpening stone or an appropriate knife sharpener.
8. Keep the Knife Clean and Dry:
- Clean the knife promptly after use with mild soap and warm water, avoiding abrasive scouring pads.
- Dry the knife thoroughly to prevent rust or staining, especially if it’s a carbon steel blade.
- Store the knife in a knife block, magnetic strip, or blade guard to protect the edge and ensure safety.
9. Practice and Patience:
- Knife skills improve with practice. Start with basic chopping and slicing tasks, and gradually work your way up to more advanced techniques.
- Be patient with yourself, and always prioritize safety.
By following these techniques and practicing regularly, you’ll become more proficient in using a chef’s knife and make your food preparation tasks more efficient and enjoyable. Remember that safety and proper knife maintenance are crucial for a successful kitchen experience.
How to Keep Your Knife Like a Pro
Keeping your knife in top condition is essential to ensure its longevity and maintain its sharpness. Here are some tips on how to care for your knife like a pro:
1. Hand-Washing and Drying
- Always hand-wash your knife with mild dish soap and warm water immediately after use.
- Avoid using abrasive scouring pads or abrasive cleansers, as they can damage the blade and handle.
- Use a soft sponge or cloth to gently clean the knife.
- Dry the knife thoroughly with a clean towel to prevent water spots, staining, or corrosion.
2. Avoid the Dishwasher
- Never put your knife in the dishwasher, as the harsh detergent, high water pressure, and contact with other dishes can damage the blade, handle, and edge.
- Dishwashers can also cause knives to become dull more quickly.
3. Use the Right Cutting Surface
- Always use a cutting board made of wood, plastic, or rubber when using your knife.
- Avoid cutting on hard surfaces like glass, granite, marble, or ceramic plates, as they can damage the blade.
4. Regular Honing
- Use a honing rod before each use to maintain the knife’s edge alignment and keep it sharp.
- Hold the rod vertically and slide the blade along the rod at a 15 to 20-degree angle, alternating sides for several passes.
5. Proper Storage
- Store your knife in a knife block, magnetic strip, knife drawer organizer, or blade guard to protect the edge and prevent accidents.
- Avoid storing knives loose in a drawer, as they can become damaged or dull when they come into contact with other objects.
6. Safe Handling
- Always handle your knife with care, and avoid using it for tasks it’s not designed for, such as prying or twisting.
- Use a separate tool for such tasks to prevent damage to the blade and handle.
7. Regular Sharpening
- Depending on usage, your knife will eventually require sharpening, even with regular honing.
- Sharpen your knife using a sharpening stone or a knife sharpener specifically designed for your knife type (e.g., for German or Japanese knives).
- If you’re unsure about sharpening, consult a professional knife sharpening service or an experienced chef for guidance.
8. Avoid Hard Foods
- Try to avoid cutting hard or frozen foods with your knife, as this can lead to chipping or damage to the blade.
- Use a specialized knife, such as a cleaver, for these tasks.
9. Protect the Blade During Storage
- If your knife came with a blade guard or sheath, use it when storing the knife to prevent accidental contact with the blade.
10. Regular Maintenance
- Periodically check the knife’s handle for any signs of damage or loosening.
- Inspect the blade for any rust, staining, or discoloration, and address any issues promptly.
11. Sharpening Skills
- Consider learning how to sharpen your knife at home using a whetstone or honing rod. Sharpening at home allows you to maintain your knife’s edge more effectively.
By following these professional tips, you can ensure that your knife remains in excellent condition, stays sharp, and serves you well for years to come. Proper care and maintenance are essential for both the performance and safety of your kitchen knives.
Are Expensive Knives Worth It?
Whether expensive knives are worth it depends on your specific needs, preferences, and how often you use them. Here are some factors to consider when deciding if investing in expensive knives is the right choice for you:
Advantages of Expensive Knives:
Quality Materials: Expensive knives are often made from high-quality materials, including premium steel alloys. These materials can result in a blade that holds its sharpness for longer periods, providing better performance.
Precision and Craftsmanship: Expensive knives are typically handcrafted or made with meticulous attention to detail, resulting in precise edge geometry and overall craftsmanship.
Longevity: High-end knives are built to last, and with proper care, they can serve you well for many years. This longevity can make them a cost-effective choice in the long run.
Performance: Expensive knives tend to perform exceptionally well in terms of cutting, slicing, and chopping. They can make food preparation more efficient and enjoyable.
Balanced and Comfortable: Many expensive knives are designed with ergonomic handles and balanced blades, which make them comfortable to use even during extended periods of cutting.
Status and Aesthetics: Expensive knives often have beautiful designs and may be seen as a status symbol in the kitchen.
Budget: The most significant consideration when deciding on an expensive knife is your budget. High-quality knives can be costly, and it’s essential to ensure that the investment aligns with your financial priorities.
Frequency of Use: If you use your kitchen knives frequently and engage in various cooking techniques, investing in expensive knives may be more justifiable as they can significantly enhance your culinary experience.
Skill Level: Professional chefs or experienced home cooks may benefit more from expensive knives, as they can fully appreciate the precision and performance advantages. However, novice cooks may not notice a significant difference in everyday tasks.
Maintenance: Expensive knives require proper care and maintenance, including regular honing and occasional sharpening. If you’re not willing to invest time in maintenance, the benefits of an expensive knife may diminish over time.
Type of Cooking: Consider your cooking style and the types of foods you prepare. If you frequently work with delicate ingredients, precision is crucial, and a high-quality knife may be more beneficial.
Alternative Options: There are excellent mid-range and budget-friendly knives available that offer good performance and quality without the high price tag. These knives may meet your needs without breaking the bank.
How Often Should You Sharpen Your Knife?
The frequency at which you should sharpen your knife depends on several factors, including the type of knife, how often you use it, and the specific tasks you perform with it. Here are some general guidelines to help you determine how often to sharpen your knife:
Usage Frequency: The more frequently you use your knife, the more often it will require sharpening. If you cook daily or engage in extensive food preparation, you may need to sharpen your knife more often.
Knife Type: Different knives have different blade materials and hardness levels. Japanese knives, for example, often have harder steel, which can hold an edge longer and require less frequent sharpening compared to softer Western-style knives. High-quality knives made from premium steel alloys may also stay sharp for extended periods.
Tasks Performed: The tasks you perform with your knife can affect how often it needs sharpening. Chopping through hard or frozen foods, bones, or tough vegetables can dull a knife faster than slicing softer ingredients.
Honing vs. Sharpening: Regular honing with a honing rod or ceramic honing steel can help maintain the knife’s edge between sharpenings. Honing should be done before each use to realign the blade and keep it sharp. Sharpening, on the other hand, involves removing material from the blade to create a new, sharp edge and is done less frequently.
Visual and Tactile Clues: Pay attention to how your knife performs. If you notice that it’s struggling to cut through ingredients, crushing rather than slicing, or you feel resistance while using it, it’s a sign that the knife may need sharpening.
Sharpening Tools: The type of sharpening tools you have also plays a role. Some knife sharpeners, like whetstones, can provide a razor-sharp edge but require more skill and time. Other sharpeners, such as electric knife sharpeners or pull-through sharpeners, offer convenience but may remove more material from the blade and require sharpening less often.
As a general guideline, here are some recommendations for how often you should sharpen your knife:
Regular Maintenance: Hone your knife with a honing rod before each use to maintain its edge alignment. This helps prolong the time between sharpenings.
High-Frequency Use: If you use your knife daily or for extensive food preparation, consider sharpening it every 1 to 3 months, depending on the knife type and tasks performed.
Moderate-Frequency Use: For knives used a few times a week, consider sharpening every 4 to 6 months.
Low-Frequency Use: Knives used infrequently may only require sharpening once or twice a year.
Remember that these are general guidelines, and the actual frequency may vary based on your specific circumstances. It’s essential to monitor your knife’s performance and sharpen it when you notice a decline in its cutting ability.
Additionally, proper honing and maintenance can extend the time between sharpenings, keeping your knife in optimal condition for longer.
A high-quality chef’s knife is an essential tool in any kitchen, and the right choice can make your cooking experience more enjoyable and efficient. Whether you opt for a German or Japanese knife, consider factors like handle comfort, blade sharpness, and balance when making your selection.
With the top contenders and expert insights provided in this guide, you can confidently choose the best kitchen knife that suits your culinary needs and preferences.
Remember to care for your knife properly through regular honing and sharpening to ensure its longevity and performance. Happy cooking!