Whether you're just starting out in the kitchen or are a seasoned professional, all good cooks need knives to create delicious meals. And arguably the most important knife in any block is a chef's knife. A chef's knife can do it all, including, but certainly not limited to, slicing, dicing, julienning and more. While selecting a chef's knife can be a subjective process, we've pulled together this list of the best chef's knives to help you find the right fit. Plus, learn about the different types of material for chef's knives and what to look for when buying one.
Chef's knives are primarily made from steel, and the two most common types are Japanese-style and German-style. While both are high-quality options, there are slight differences between the two that can impact functionality and maintenance. On the Rockwell Hardness Scale, which measures the durability of steel, Japanese steel is considered harder than German steel. As a result, a Japanese knife is typically more brittle than a German one, which makes it more susceptible to being damaged if dropped. In addition, a Japanese knife has a sharper angle, which allows for precise cuts. Meanwhile, a German knife has a wider angle and is often curved to allow for rocking cuts. And when it comes to maintenance, a Japanese knife needs to be sharpened more frequently than a German knife (we love this knife sharpener from Zwilling, $20). These differences are important to understand so you can care for your knives properly.
Parts of a Knife
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In addition to choosing between types of steel, there are a few other factors to look for when selecting a knife. The most basic parts of a chef's knife consist of the blade, bolster (although not all knives have a bolster), handle and tang. The blade is made up of a few areas: the cutting edge, heel, spine, point and tip. When you're cutting something that requires more strength (like a butternut squash), use the heel of the knife. The bolster of a knife is "the balancing point between the blade and the handle, protecting fingers from the blade while adding comfort," according to Knife Aid, a knife-sharpening company. Not all knives have bolsters, but if they do, it is either a full bolster or semi-bolster. A full bolster extends from the handle to the blade and can help prevent accidentally cutting yourself, but can make sharpening the knife difficult. Meanwhile, a semi-bolster extends through the handle only, making the knife easier to sharpen.
While the handle of a knife can be molded or riveted, there is no difference in usage (if the handle is riveted, there will be fasteners reflecting that). Some handles may also include a swell at the bottom, which is a slight curve that can make holding the knife more comfortable. Finally, the tang is the section of the steel that is within the handle. Not all knives will have a full tang—full-tang knives typically have an advantage when it comes to balance and strength, and are therefore usually considered of higher quality than partial-tang knives.
The Tests and What to Consider When Buying
This guide exclusively focuses on 8-inch chef's knives, but other sizes are available. Each knife went through five tests: chopping a medium-size sweet potato, slicing a pineapple into rings, quartering strawberries, deboning and cubing a chicken thigh, and chopping a butternut squash.
Buying a chef's knife is a subjective process, and there are many things to consider. How does the knife feel in your hand? Do you want a knife that's heavier or lighter? A good chef's knife will feel balanced in your hand, so you have control over the knife, which is key for safety. In addition, you should also think about what you plan to use the knife for. If you want something for everyday use, you might want to opt for a knife that won't need to be sharpened as often.
These questions are important to keep in mind when selecting a knife, so this guide will include the weight of each knife so you can get a sense of how it might feel in your hand. The knives we tested ranged from 5.84 ounces to 9.72 ounces. While we preferred a knife that was lighter and featured a swell on the handle, each knife is of high quality and would be a great choice for any home cook.
Read on for details on what makes these chef's knives the best, as well as the knives that deserve an honorable mention.
Best Overall Chef's Knife
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Shun Classic Chef's Knife
This Japanese-style knife produced the cleanest cuts out of the models tested and weighs in at the middle of the range at 7.41 ounces. The knife easily made its way through the butternut squash and sweet potatoes and was easy to maneuver and make fine cuts when working around the bone of the chicken thigh. The sleek handle on the knife hides the full tang, but provides the balance and comfort one wants in a knife. For care, this knife should be hand-washed and dried immediately to avoid staining the blade.
As the lightest knife on the list, at 5.84 ounces, the Victorinox Fibrox knife had no issue cutting and slicing. The blade of the knife sliced through a sweet potato like butter and deftly cut chicken. The molded handle is comfortable to grip and is designed to be non-slip when wet (so you won't accidentally drop it and injure yourself while washing the knife). Or, if you don't feel like hand-washing the knife, it is dishwasher-safe. This affordable knife is crafted from high-carbon stainless steel and is perfect for beginner and experienced cooks alike.
At 7.52 ounces, the Miyabi Evolution Chef's Knife is a well-balanced one thanks to the semi-bolster and full tang, which is visible through the riveted handle. The knife's sharp and patterned edge easily sliced through the butternut squash and sweet potato without needing to apply heavy force. With a slight curve to its design, the handle of the knife rests comfortably in the hand and allows full control when cutting. The blade was designed to ensure durability, sharpness and corrosion resistance to create a knife that is built to last.
This classic German-constructed knife can handle any task in the kitchen. From the delicate knife work of quartering strawberries to the harder slices of cutting butternut squash, the Wüsthof knife performed well. Although it weighs in toward the heavier side at 9.18 ounces, the full tang and full bolster create a balanced knife. Add in the swell at the bottom of the handle, and you have a knife that is comfortable to grip and easy to control. To maintain the knife, hand-wash and dry immediately (read more about why we love this knife).
Similar to the Wüsthof, the Zwilling Pro features a full tang and a swell on the handle for comfort. The main difference lies in the bolster, with the Zwilling knife featuring a semi-bolster instead of a full one. The semi-bolster provides balance, which is important for the heaviest knife on this list at 9.72 ounces. The heavier weight of the knife allowed for seamless cuts that didn't require extreme pressure to apply. The Zwilling knife would be a great choice for slicing delicate fish to tough produce and everything in between.
For those who are looking to try out a chef's knife, but don't want to go all-in, the Henckels Premio knife provides the best value. This knife features a full bolster, full tang and has a slight swell on the handle to create a well-rounded knife. At 8.2 ounces, this knife is on the heavier side, but all of the aforementioned features balance the weight to create a comfortable and effective knife. This knife is one of the best budget chef's knives available, and would make a great choice for beginner cooks.
Sabatier Stainless-Steel Chef's Knife with EdgeKeeper
At 6.69 ounces, the Sabatier knife is on the lighter side, but features a full bolster to even out the weight. The sleek handle is long, includes a swell and would be comfortable for those with larger hands. While the knife expertly sliced through all five tests, the best part about this budget-friendly knife is the protective cover. The cover features a built-in knife sharpener, so you can ensure that your knife is in peak condition before every use.
If you're looking for a unique and functional knife, the Paudin Pro is the perfect choice. From the sleek wooden handle to the German-steel blade with a wavy pattern, this knife would stand out in any block. This 6.93-ounce knife would work for any task, as it sliced cleanly and easily across all five tests. The knife features a molded handle and is designed to be ergonomically shaped to aid in movement. This affordable knife has over 3,000 five-star reviews on Amazon and was a clear favorite in testing.
Farberware Edgekeeper Chef's Knife with Self-Sharpening Sleeve
Similar to the Sabatier, the Farberware knife includes a protective cover with a built-in knife sharpener, which means one less item cluttering up your drawers. The riveted handle features a swell that makes it easy to keep a good grip on the knife. Add in a full tang and full bolster and this 7.94-ounce knife is perfect for any job in the kitchen. It's easy to understand why one reviewer called it "a good, quality knife": we wholeheartedly concur.
If you love to buy kitchen items that are colorful, fun and functional, the knife from Made In is exactly what you need. At 8.85 ounces, this knife is made from premium metal and forged from a single piece to create a knife that is designed to last. While the handle of the knife is comfortable to grip, it's the bright red color that makes the knife pop. This knife can also be personalized, which makes it a great gift for a loved one (or yourself!).
At 8.36 ounces, the Food52 knife is comfortable, functional and colorful. With a full tang and a semi-bolster, the knife is made from Japanese steel. While other knives on this list feature a riveted handle, the Food52 knife stands out with its brass rivets. The vintage-inspired design choice sets the knife apart visually as does the colorful handle. With four gorgeous color options, including smoked salt (grey-blue), nordic sea (blue), maple and rhubarb, you'll have to resist the urge to buy a knife in every color (although we would totally understand if you did!).