The most important equipment in your kitchen is a good knife. Many, if not all, tasks will simply not be completed without one. And if you only have one knife, make it a chef’s knife. That isn’t to imply that other knives aren’t valuable, but the chef’s knife is by far the most crucial in your arsenal.
While we’ve put up a list of the greatest knife sets, we encourage putting together your own collection piece by piece. From renowned butcher Pat LaFrieda to late gourmand and chef Anthony Bourdain, everyone we’ve spoken with on the subject has said that the chef’s knife is the best. I’ve also knocked around enough business bars and restaurants with just one blade to agree completely.
Balance, size, and handle shape should all be taken into account while feeling out a knife. Steel quality, on the other hand, is unquestionable. You’ll receive a doubtful material below $50, and a good rule of thumb is to avoid any knife that doesn’t openly state the type of alloy it’s made of.
Overall, the best chef’s knife
If you’re looking for a typical western knife that’s weighty and balanced, Wüsthof’s Classic Ikon 8 is the knife for you “It fits most hands and can handle almost any culinary duty.
- 6″, 8″, 10″ in length “Stainless steel blade with a high carbon content
- HRC is 58.
- Polyoxymethylene is used as a handle (POM)
Pros: Excellent for chopping and dicing, with a comfortable grip for most people, and rust and chip resistance.
Cons: Sharpening is required on a regular basis.
Classic Icon by Wüsthof All of the fantastic attributes of a classic western knife are included in the Chef’s Knife: It’s huge, weighty, and made of stainless steel that’s quite soft, rust-resistant, and chip-resistant.
Simply said, your chef’s knife is the one you’ll use the most. It has the biggest surface area for chopping and slicing, as well as the most weight for cutting and slicing tougher root vegetables, meat, and poultry. Different designs promote chopping and dicing over slicing (or vice versa), but the Wüsthof Classic Ikon’s slightly rounded belly hits a perfect balance.
We also appreciate the Ikon series knives’ redesigned handles, which aren’t quite German but also not quite Japanese. It appears to be a cross between the two, and it easily fits most hands (we placed our top pick in several different-sized palms).
This is the chef’s knife for the average family where blades aren’t generally looked after, and no matter who gets their hands on it or what they do with or to it, you’ll almost certainly be able to bring it back up to snuff. That, combined with the fact that it’s a very thin and agile blade in comparison to other German knives, makes it an excellent choice for the one and only knife you’ll ever need in your kitchen.
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The best all-around kitchen knife
If you only have room in your kitchen for one knife, Benchmade’s station knife is the ideal compromise between a paring knife and a chef’s knife.
Pros: Excellent for anything from slicing and carving to chopping and dicing, plus it comes with a lifetime guarantee.
Cons: Some people may dislike the handle (subjective)
We would have laughed at the thought of anything other than a chef’s knife being considered all-purpose until examining Benchmade’s Station knife. Apart from slicing bread, the Station knife’s tip has the dexterity of a paring knife, while its incredibly wide heel chops and slices like a cleaver, and we haven’t found anything we can’t do with it. We had no trouble breaking down whole chickens, chopping stacks of potatoes, slicing a dozen tomatoes, minced garlic and shallots, and hulling strawberries.
These knives are made in the United States and can be customized. The standard, high-quality 440C stainless steel or the improved CPM-154 (Benchmade’s version of 154CM, which is 440C stainless steel with additional Molybendum to avoid chipping) stainless steel are both available. You can also choose from a variety of handles, including epoxy G10 (seven colors), Richlite (three colors), and black carbon fiber. Plus, if you want something truly unique, you can have the blade carved with laser-marking.
Finally, Benchmade’s Lifesharp service will clean, lubricate, adjust, and resharpen your knife for free for the rest of your life – all you have to pay is mail.
The best chef’s knife on a budget
Victorinox’s Fibrox has a very ergonomic handle and holds up to rough use like few others, making it popular in busy commercial kitchens and families alike.
- 7.9″ “Stainless steel blade with a high carbon content
- HRC is 55.
- Thermoplastic elastomers are used for the handle (TPE)
Pros: Easy to maneuver, easy to hold, and good edge retention
Cons: Not razor-sharp right out of the box, need some sharpening, and isn’t completely balanced.
The entire Fibrox series from Victorinox is a favorite in commercial kitchens because its blades are one of the few that can survive multiple line cooks’ hands and an unintentional trip through the dishwasher. The Fibrox Chef’s Knife is not only affordable, but it’s also ideal for short-term rentals, first flats, and people who don’t want to spend time caring for their kitchen utensils in general.
Because my kitchen sees a lot of “chefs,” I keep my knives separate from the shared kitchen knives, which are all Victorinox. This way, I won’t have to worry about someone slicing a lemon and leaving a costly knife on the counter, wet and covered in citric acid, or someone attempting to pry off a lid with a Japanese blade, which is terrifying to consider.
Despite the fact that the Fibrox Chef’s Knife has been subjected to the abuse described above (and more), there isn’t a single stain or chip on it. Sure, it’s scratched (coarse sponges are bad for stainless steel, but more on that below), but all I do is sharpen it every couple of months, which gets it sharper than it was from the factory with dedication, and it operates admirably.
We also think the ultra-grippy Fibrox handle, which is simple to hold even when wet or greasy, makes it a little safer.
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Paring knife of the highest quality
A paring knife is a simple tool for small jobs, and Victorinox’s 3.25″ paring knife is no exception “Straight Paring Knife has all the features you need and none that you don’t.
- 3.25″”440 stainless steel blade
- 58-60 HRC
- Thermoplastic elastomers are used for the handle (TPE)
Pros: Durable, rust-resistant, and dishwasher-safe
Cons: It’s quite light, and it needs to be sharpened on a regular basis.
You don’t need to spend a lot of money on a paring knife. We believe Victorinox’s 3.25 is reasonable “Because it’s not the blade you’ll use for heavy-duty activities, the Straight Paring Knife handles the job approximately as well as anything else.
Hulling strawberries, slicing a tiny amount of garlic, and peeling and seeding fruit are about the only things you’ll use it for, and while these aren’t the most difficult chores, this knife performs them admirably. You could spend a lot more money and acquire a heavier paring knife, but it’s not essential.
While it’s about as inexpensive as a kitchen knife gets, it’s also a lot more durable than more expensive options. One of our testers admitted to running it through the dishwasher on a daily basis years ago, and she has only found one small speck of rust since then.
The only other concern with this knife is that it requires as much sharpening as our budget selection for a chef’s knife. This might be once a month or once every few months, depending on how often you use it.
Otherwise, clean and dry this knife like you would any other, and it will work and last as long as any other.
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Bread knife of the highest quality
The Victorinox Fibrox 10 has a long, thin blade with shallow serrations and is surprisingly economical “Bread Knife is a finely honed tool for slicing bread and other foods.
- 10.25′ “440 stainless steel blade
- HRC is 55.
- Thermoplastic elastomers are used for the handle (TPE)
Pros: Well-balanced (for a cheap knife), excellent grip
Cons: They’re not as weighty as top-of-the-line bread knives, and they’re not as sharp right out of the box.
Depending on how often you use a bread knife, it’s debatable whether you want to spend a lot of money on one, but Victorinox’s Fibrox Bread Knife is a good value. It can tolerate the same level of abuse as the rest of our choices from that brand, but it weighs a little more than the more budget-friendly models we investigated because of the larger handle and longer blade.
It performed as well as anything we attempted in our tests, which included slicing less-than-forgiving handmade no-knead bread, until we reached the $200 area, which is an unreasonable price for a bread knife for most people. That was pretty much the end of it.
We can’t say enough good things about the Fibrox handles in general, which everyone seems to like and, aside from its ergonomic advantages, provide a sense of security because to their non-slip grips.
Because this blade is both thin and shallowly serrated, you won’t have nearly as much problem sharpening it on your own as you would with, instance, a deep-scalloped blade that doesn’t respond as well to a simple pull-through sharpener. This knife also works well for slicing softer fruits as well as carving meat and poultry.
Our prior recommendation (which we retested against this one) is the Mercer Culinary Millennia Wavy Edge 10-inch Wide Bread Knife if you’re searching for something a little cheaper. It has a little thicker blade and a deeper serration, so it won’t be as exact, but it’s half the price and has a similar handle.
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The most effective utility knife
Shun’s Classic 6 features VG Max steel coated in layered Damascus steel “Utility Knife is sharper and holds an edge longer than most German-style knives, making it ideal for trimming and precision cuts.
- 6 inches in length “HRC: 62 Blade: VG-Max Damascus steel
- Pakka is the name of the handle (plastic and wood composite)
Pros: Extremely sharp, excellent edge retention, rust resistance, and excellent balance
Cons: Small, D-shaped handle favors right-handers; slightly brittle and easier to chip than German steel.
Shun’s Classic 6 utility knife is especially sharp for more precise cuts and trimming without tearing foods “Utility Knife is made of VG-Max Damascus steel, which effectively combines the best of both Japanese and German blade styles.
Damascus steel is created by forging and pounding carbon-rich steel (in this example, VG-Max) at a low temperature, then rapidly increasing the heat and cooling it. The material is noted for its flexibility and corrosion resistance, as well as its unique swirly “damask” pattern, which attracts people from all walks of life. While its aesthetic appeal is appealing, the main benefit is that you get a knife that keeps an edge better than carbon steel but flexes better than stainless steel.
While we didn’t recommend a Damascus or VG Max steel option for our chef’s knife top selection due to the expense, a smaller utility knife from Shun makes that type of more expensive steel more affordable.
Apart from being noticeably more rust-resistant than other Japanese and Japanese-style knives we tested, this knife isn’t as brittle as other Japanese and Japanese-style blades we examined, and it hasn’t chipped or dinged. You should still keep it away from tougher foods and surfaces, particularly bones. This knife excels at minor, in-between tasks when a chef’s knife would be overkill and a paring knife would be excruciatingly tiresome. Consider tomato slicing or shallot dicing. It’s not a must-have for everyone, but it’s the second most vital knife in most kitchens after those two and a bread knife. On that note, it gave me ample leeway to not only fillet, but also peel and trim boneless meat.
Shun’s knives are constructed from Pakka wood, which is a wood-and-plastic hybrid that resembles walnut. Purists may scoff, yet it achieves the desired effect without the risk of the handle separating.
If you’re afraid of owning a Japanese knife for one reason or another (the handle, for example, or the extra care necessary), consider the utility knife version of our top-recommended chef’s knife, the 6″ Utility Knife “Icon of Wüsthof.
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What else did we try?
Each of the knives listed below performed admirably, and any of them would be a good fit for your kitchen; nonetheless, they weren’t our top picks for most individuals or budgets.
A word about X50CrMoV15, a popular steel: This alloy is superb for the price, and we suggest it across the board based on expert consultations and our own years of testing. Most of the new DTC companies use it for their blades, and while we haven’t confirmed it, we wouldn’t be surprised if, like many appliance brands, they have all or nearly all of their knives made in the same area. The rest of your decision should be based on your preferred handle shape and size.
Global: One of my favorite knives is made by Global, and while the handle form may not be for everyone, I find it extremely comfortable. The entire knife is built out of a single piece of CROMOVA 18, Global’s proprietary alloy that is similar to X50CrMoV15. It’s sharper when it arrives, but it doesn’t last as long.
Kilne: Kilne has a similar shape as our top pick (right down to the handle, which is a lower-profile, more form-fitting German type), but it’s made of more common (and less expensive) X50CrMoV15 steel.
Korin: Another mid-range Japanese knife, Korin is a favorite of Pat LaFrieda and Andrew Zimmern, and it competes with Mac.
J.A. Henckels: One of the true classics of German knives, J.A. Henckels’ knives were slightly thicker in the blade than our other favorites, but you can’t go wrong with them.
Dexter-Russell: Similar to Victorinox’s Fibrox series, Dexter-Russell makes a range of distinctive white-handled knives that can be seen in commercial kitchens all over the world. We just discovered that the Fibrox knives’ handles are significantly more comfortable to hold.
Mac: For the price, this company produces an excellent chef’s knife. We couldn’t suggest this as an overall pick because of its delicate nature. This knife isn’t going to last long in the hands of the majority of people. On the other hand, if you value your knives, we can’t suggest it highly enough.
Made in: These knives, like many others from the DTC brand, are made of X50CrMoV15 steel and are a terrific value for the money. They didn’t wow us as much as the others, but there was nothing seriously wrong with them either. The contoured handle appears to fit a wide range of hands.
These knives are made of “high-carbon” steel, but it isn’t really high-quality. They have a hybrid handle that should fit most people’s hands, and they’re sharpenable and serviceable knives.
Misen: There’s more X50CrMoV15 steel here, and it’s a wonderful offer. These are really popular for a reason, and we enjoy them as well.
Our Place: Our Place is another DTC brand that produces X50CrMoV15 steel blades, and their knives are excellent. The hybrid handle was okay, but not as good as some of the others. If the handle appeals to you, these knives are well-designed and balanced.
Shun: Probably the most popular Japanese knife in the United States, Shun delivers VG- and Damascus-steel knives at a reasonable price. Apart from endorsing the brand’s utility knife, the 8″ Chef’s knife is one of my personal favorites.
Steelport Knife Co.: This is a far more upscale carbon-steel choice for those want to invest in a stunning and razor-sharp blade. We adore it, but we also understand that it necessitates some attention.
Methodology for evaluating kitchen knives
We used chef’s knives to thinly slice tomatoes and onions, utility and paring knives to mince garlic and shallots, paring knives to shell strawberries, and serrated slicing knives to slice hard-crusted no-knead bread. We next dulled each blade by repeatedly slamming it on a glass cutting board (a word of caution: never use one of these) before returning to each knife’s task to note any dulling or chipping.
We also made sure that each knife was in the hands of as many diverse people as possible, from professional chefs to home cooks.
Finally, we spoke with a number of chefs, butchers, and metallurgists, including Studio Kitchen’s Chef Shola Olunloyo, Pat LaFrieda, and MIT’s Professor of Metallurgy Michael J Tarkanian.
A word about Japanese kitchen knives
We eliminated Japanese knives from consideration for our best chef’s knife pick. While they’re a particular favorite, they’re famously difficult to keep clean, making them unsuitable for most kitchens. Simply expressed, we don’t want to propose a nice knife that will be easily mishandled if you’re just getting started with your kitchen cutlery.
In response to the popularity of Japanese-style knives, which can achieve notoriously sharper edges than their German-style counterparts, “high-carbon stainless steel” has become a bit of a catchphrase. The hardness of normal high-carbon stainless steel, which allows for a finer and sharper but proportionally brittler edge, contributes to the delicacy of Japanese knives.
You could prefer a Japanese knife if you’re the type of person who takes special care of their instruments (and aren’t sharing a kitchen with someone who won’t). However, they must be meticulously cleaned and dried, as well as carefully stored, otherwise the blades will become rusty and/or chipped.
Other things to think about:
Retention of the edge Slicing fresh tomatoes and noting how well each chef’s knife handled the task were part of our knife-testing methodology. We brought each chef’s knife to a glass cutting board and ran it over the surface 200 times once we got enough data. Some blades kept their edge well, while others did not. After running the knives, we examined the edges to see whether there were any noticeable modifications.
We went back to the tomatoes and cut a few more to measure how much resistance we felt compared to how well the knives performed right out of the package. Knives that kept their edges were sent on to the next phase of scrutiny.
HRC (hardness rating) and alloy: We spoke with a number of experts in the topic, but Michael J Tarkanian, an MIT professor of metallurgy, was the most helpful. We were able to break through the marketing and technical jargon around different alloys and what permits a knife to keep its edge with his guidance.
We were looking for a hardness level of roughly 60 HRC, which provides excellent edge retention while still allowing for a 15-degree edge (though up to 20 degrees, which is duller than 15, was still considered sufficient).
Ergonomics: A knife must be comfortable to grip in your hand in order to perform well. We had several people pick up knives and determine which ones were the most comfortable to hold; they all chose the ones with heavier, rounded, almost bulbous handles.
The weight of the handle and the blade is also important for balance. The greater cost of using denser and frequently more desirable materials, such as layered Damascus steel, nearly invariably results in improved balance in more expensive knives.
A well-balanced knife with a good blade, such as our top selection from Wusthof, will cut through veggies with minimal pressure. It will require a little force to start a knife that isn’t well balanced.
Kitchen Knife Frequently Asked Questions
Is it necessary for me to get a knife set?
Sets of any kind are notorious for being of poor quality and often containing “filler” parts that you won’t use. You can nearly always expect to get needless blade shapes, inexpensive shears, and a counter-hogging knife block in most knife sets.
Consumers are becoming more savvy, and they’re realizing that sets are often a swindle. As a result, many two- to five-piece sets are available on the market. If you’re searching for something affordable, we’re all for it, and we’ve tried almost all of them. Because the steel is virtually always of the same quality, choose based on your preferred handle type.
With the exception of two-to-five-piece sets if you feel the need to have different blades on a budget, we’d prefer see you buy one decent chef’s knife or buy your knives piecemeal.
What is the safest method to handle a knife?
A sharp knife is usually preferable to one that is dull. It’ll be less likely to slip, and if it does, you’ll at least have a clean cut to deal with. Always utilize a solid cutting board, place it just away from you, and keep your gaze fixed on the task at hand.
Always know where your free hand is, and keep your fingertips tucked back when slicing or chopping because they’re the most vulnerable to being clipped.
If you’re carrying a knife, make sure the blade is down so you don’t harm yourself if you slip or stumble.
Instead than putting knives into a sink full of dishes, wash and dry them individually after each use.
What factors should I consider while purchasing a kitchen knife?
If you just have one knife, you should probably get a chef’s knife. Decide on a budget and then select a handle shape that is appropriate for you. Apart from the quality of the material (you get what you pay for), the most significant aspect of a knife, particularly a chef’s knife, is how it fits in your palm.
A chef’s knife will be sharp (and sharpenable) enough to get practically any work done if you spend at least $50 on one, and most popular DTC brands sell fantastic entry-level blades for reasonable costs.
The type of steel you chose should be depending on the amount of care you’re going to provide your knife (realistically). If you don’t plan on sharpening, drying, and storing your knife after each use, German stainless steel (e.g., 440, 420) will be considerably more forgiving, but softer and more easily dulled.
Carbon steel is a terrific choice if you’re a tool enthusiast who knows you’ll take good care of your knives and are confident they won’t end up in the wrong hands. Just keep in mind that it’ll corrode and chip more quickly.
VG-10 and VG-Max (unique to Shun, but similar to VG-10) are in the middle, with additional alloys (tungsten, vanadium) that make them a little more stain-resistant and less brittle. They’re ideal for folks who desire a Japanese-style knife but don’t want to spend a lot of time caring for it.
Then there’s Damascus steel, which is created by forging and pounding carbon-rich steel at a low temperature, then rapidly increasing the heat and cooling it. We recommend Damascus steel because of its flexibility and corrosion resistance, but be weary of too-good-to-be-true prices. Many producers will etch the hypnotic swirls onto a blade rather than using the time-consuming and costly hammering method.
The corner of the blade where the edge meets the bolster is known as the heal.
The sharpened, business side of the blade is known as the edge.
The section of the blade that runs to or through the handle is known as the tang. The phrase “full-tang” refers to a blade that is made up of a single piece of steel that runs the length of the handle.
Rivets are the metal pins that hold the handle together (more common in German handles).
Bolster: A spacer above the heel where the blade meets the handle, providing a place to hold or choke on when doing finer chores.
Tip: The knife’s pointed front end, which is opposite the handle.
Steel with a carbon content of at least 0.55 percent is known as high-carbon steel.
Stainless steel is a metal alloy made up of iron, chromium, and occasionally additional elements. This is a broad phrase, but it refers to the basic steel used in German knives.
VG10, VG-Max: A high-carbon steel with tungsten, vanadium, and other metals added for flexibility and rust resistance.
Damascus Steel: Damascus steel is formed by repeatedly forging and pounding carbon-rich steel at a low temperature, increasing the heat, and then cooling it abruptly (generally dozens of times). Damascus steel is recognized for its flexibility and corrosion resistance while yet maintaining a great edge, which is why samurai swords have traditionally (and famously) employed it.
This guide will help you find the best bargains on kitchen knives.
Piecemeal knife purchases are our preferred method of acquiring cutlery for your kitchen; you receive just what you need and want, with no inexpensive “filler” products. Knives (and knife sets) only seem to go on sale occasionally, but like with many things, Amazon Prime Day, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday are usually the best times to look for bargains.
The greatest prices on our favorite kitchen knives are shown below.
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