Selection of Chef Knives

The Best Chef Knives

There’s a reason we call the best kitchen knives “chef knives.” A good chef is a multitasker, so a good chef knife is designed to handle multiple jobs. Think of all the slicing and chopping involved in a beef stir-fry or a chicken noodle soup. You want a single tool that can handle it all. But the best chef knife can’t be defined by a single set of features.

It’s all about hand-feel: The right knife should feel almost like an extension of your forearm. We talked to two chefs, a cooking instructor, and a knife expert, then chopped, diced, and peeled with 11 bestselling chef knives to see which stood out.

The 3 Best Chef Knives

 

Chef Gyutou Knife 8.5 Inch – 67 Layers High Carbon Damascus Steel – Japanese Kitchen Knives.

Most Popular

Damascus Japanese Chef Knife

Intuitive design for most hand sizes and skill levels

Pros
Comfortable and maneuverable
Balanced weight
Dimpled blade

Cons
More Expensive

Why we chose it

Comfortable and maneuverable

This professional Japanese 8.5″ Damascus Chef Knife with a distinctive Arrow Pattern is the our most popular knife for everyday use — and it was the most popular knife in our testing room. It’s maneuverable enough to chop mint leaves, slice carrots, and peel butternut squash, offering clean cuts without requiring perfect form.  “The weight/balance is perfect. It’s wide enough to keep your food together and it keeps a great edge.” . It’s a Japanese-style knife, which means it’s going to be smaller in general than a European-style knife.

Balanced weight

Right in the middle of our contenders in terms of weight— which means you never feel like you’re wielding a cleaver. In fact, it’s satisfying heft was a running theme, with one tester describing the knife as “thin and light, but balanced.”

Points to consider

Expensive

This is one of the best kitchen knives around, but it comes at a higher than average price yet not the most expensive knife out there, not by a long shot. It’s not more expensive than the average knife but is very affordable compared to many similar performing knives, but if you’re a beginner cook, spending over $60 for a kitchen knife might seem like too much. That said, if its price isn’t a deal breaker, it is a great knife for beginners and pros alike. When we asked our testers which knife they’d like to take home, they chose this.

Findking – 6 PCS set – Sapele Wood Handle Arrow Pattern Damascus Chef kitchen Knife Set.

Best for
Experienced Chefs

Chef Knife Set

Gorgeous, but with a tougher learning curve

Pros
Functional, beautiful design
Unique Sapele Wood handle
Matching Knife Sets
Affordable

Cons
Not for beginners

Why we chose it

Functional, beautiful design

Thknife set a vivid impression when we started chopping. With the array of blades in this set, and with the set being one you can pick and choose from means this really is the only knife set you ever really need to look at.  And it’s beautiful feather or arrow Damascus patterning and stunning Sapele wood handles will make an excellent addition to your kitchen.

Each knife for it’s size is lightweight, yet extremely well balanced.

Unique Sapele Wood handles

These had an overwhelmingly favorable response from experienced chefs for the grip and balanced weight — and even novices liked it better than the Japanese-style Miyabi knives we tested, which had blades and handles that felt stiff and clunky. In fact, these handles were a standout feature. Rather than being totally round (like some traditional Japanese knives), it’s D-shaped: The curve of the D fits into the curve of your fingers as you grip the knife.

Sapele Wood Handle

Points to consider

Not for beginners

These are clearly designed for people who already know their way around a kitchen. Several novice cooks in our group struggled to maintain a comfortable grip, with one lamenting, “It just doesn’t feel right.” The knife’s spine was also less forgiving, rubbing against index fingers that slid out of a proper pinch grip.

Because the handle is designed with a professional pinch grip in mind, if you’re not maintaining proper form, your mileage may vary. But if you master the right technique, they can stay sharp for a long time.

Requires minimal maintenance

The knife is not Damascus-clad: the blade is entirely Damascus steel. Damascus on its own is very strong, when it’s only an outer layer, the knife edge is more likely to chip. In fact, many big knife manufacturers state on their website a warning in their FAQ: “Chips can happen due to improper cutting technique.”  With a Damascus blade this is much less likely to happen and your blade will not require as much maintanence to keep a fine and sharp chef standard cutting edge.

Chinese-Style Chef Knife/Kitchen Knife Forged Hand-Made Small Kitchen Knife

Best Starter Knife

Chinese Chef Knife

Inexpensive and offers a solid performance

Pros
Budget-friendly
Chinese-style knife

Cons
Round Handle

Why we chose it

Budget-friendly

The Chinese style Chef’s Knife is an excellent option for people who want to start cooking regularly but aren’t yet ready to invest a lot of money in a full set of knives or even one expensive knife, offering a solid performance for only $25. Our testers agreed this is the best knife for people who are on a budget. Commercial kitchens often order this knife for their line cooks. If you’re looking for low cost but respectable quality, and a knife that can perform a variety of tasks in the kitchen then choose this one.

Chinese-style knife

A Chinese-style knife, meaning the blade is both wider and slightly thicker with a gentle curve for ease of chopping. It only weighs 6.6 ounces , but the blade measures over 2 inches across at its widest point. Excellent for vegetables, herbs, even meat and fish.

 

How We Chose the Best Chef Knives

While many aspects of the best chef knife come down to personal preference, blade length and material were rare areas of consensus: All the experts we spoke with recommended 8-inch, stainless steel blades for home cooks.

“Eight inches is great,” chef Ariane Resnick explained. “Twelve or 13 is enormous! I’d only recommend that if you do a lot of cutting really large food.” Bon Appetit also recommends 8 inches, noting, “Residential-kitchen counters, nonindustrial cutting boards, and civilian muscles can’t handle anything much bigger than that.” This size allows for both precision tasks like dicing garlic and larger jobs like chopping root vegetables or cuts of meat.

Damascus steel blades

We placed an emphasis on Damascus steel knives. While there are benefits to plain steel or ceramic — like prevent rust and easier care— the downsides are significant. Ceramic is extremely brittle, and if you chop into a rogue bone or hit your cutting board at the wrong angle, there’s a good chance that your blade will chip and plain steel just cannot hold the same sharp edge that you get with really well made Damascus steel.

How to Care for Your Chef Knife

Know which parts of your knife are which

No single feature makes a knife objectively better. Rather, they’re indicators of how the knife is designed to perform. But it’s good to know the names of each feature to understand your personal preferences.

Chef Knife Anatomy3 for Chef Knife

  • Butt: The back end of your handle.
  • Heel: The back end of the blade, closest to your fingers.
  • Tip: The front half of the blade. Not to be confused with the point.
  • Point: The literal pointy bit at the end of the knife.
  • Edge: The sharp side of the blade. Be careful.
  • Spine: The top of the blade. Some people place their index fingers along the length of the spine as they chop, but this is considered bad technique.
  • Tang: The steel that extends past your knife blade and into the handle. When a knife has a full tang, it means the steel goes all the way to the butt.
  • Bolster: The thick band of steel between the knife handle and the knife heel. A full bolster extends all the way into the heel; a half bolster stops before the heel. Some knives have no bolster at all.
  • Granton Edge: The dimples on the blade. Not all knives have them. In theory, these stop food from sticking as you chop.

Keep your chef knife properly sharpened

Hone your knife

A knife honing rod, or honing steel, is designed to keep your knife functioning well between sharpenings. Honing straightens the edge of a knife, while sharpening literally grinds away part of the steel to produce a sharper edge.

We recommend honing your knife each time you pick it up (the whole process should only take 10 to 20 seconds) or, if prepping a lot, whenever it starts to feel dull. She offers these tips:

  • Hold the steel upright and move the blade swiftly across and down the steel at a 25-degree angle, as if you were cutting slices of cheese.
  • After you hone, check your knife’s sharpness by gently sliding it across a soft tomato. The knife should bite into the fruit right away without pressure.

Not all of our experts recommend honing. “People often hone incorrectly,” Resnick told us, “so unless you know you’re doing it right, it’s not worthwhile.”

Learn the right way to chop

If you’re looking to improve your chopping game, Bob Tate offers these tips:

  • Imagine your cutting board is a clock. Most people point their knife toward noon, placing the food horizontally across the cutting board. But if you angle your knife so that it points toward 10 o’clock (and adjust your food to stay parallel), the knife becomes an extension of your forearm and is easier to handle.
  • Keep your knife in contact with your cutting board or work surface. There’s no need to lift it off the cutting board for each cut.

Only use your knife on food. “A chef’s knife is your most important kitchen tool,”. “Buy a pair of kitchen shears for boxes and bags!”

Avoid the dishwasher

Regardless of manufacturer instructions, never put your chef knife in the dishwasher. And while you’re at it, never toss it into the sink. Every time the knife blade bangs against something — like the plastic spines of your dishwasher or the metal sides of your sink — it has the potential to dull, and you want to keep the blade as sharp as possible for as long as possible.

Instead, wash your knife by hand with standard dish soap, then use a clean dish towel or paper towel to rub it completely dry. (If you let it air-dry, it can develop water stains or rust spots.)

Chef Knives FAQ

How many kitchen knives do I need?

After you’ve invested in a quality chef knife, you may want to expand your collection with any of the following:

  • A serrated bread knife for cutting loaves of bread
  • A paring knife — which has a very short blade — for tasks like paring apples or potatoes
  • A boning knife or filleting knife, depending on the cuts of meat and fish you typically cook

As a general rule, if the purpose of the knife is in its name (bread knife, filleting knife, even steak knife or grapefruit knife) it marks a task that will be difficult to accomplish with an all-purpose chef knife.

What’s the best type of steel for a chef knife?

The best steel for chef knives typically lands between 55 and 60 on the Rockwell hardness scale — that’s hard enough to retain a sharp edge, but soft enough to avoid being overly brittle. (You want your knife to be able to take a beating without fracturing.) The harder a steel, the longer it will stay sharp but the more difficult it will be to re-sharpen on your own, often requiring professional service to get it back its factory condition.

What’s the difference between a chef knife and a Santoku knife?

At a glance, Santoku knives and chef knives look nearly identical. But each caters to a different cooking style. Santoku knives are shorter, lighter, and thinner, with a rounded tip and a flat edge. This means that cutting requires an up-and-down slicing motion. A chef knife’s blade is curved and allows you to cut by rocking the knife against the cutting board.

A Santoku excels at tasks that require agility, like mincing delicate herbs or making precise cuts. The trade-off is that it’s not as versatile as a chef knife and is likely to struggle against larger tasks, like cutting up a chicken or slicing through squash.

What are the differences between Japanese-style and European-style knives?

Traditionally, Japanese-style knives are inspired by katana swords, with sharper edges and better edge retention. Japanese-style knives are typically honed and refined by hand and fitted with a straighter edge than those of European-style knives. They’re thinner as well, usually consisting of a single bezel edge, and they are prone to rusting. They also usually contain more carbon steel or soft iron material than their European counterparts, which makes the knives harder, but not necessarily stronger.

European-style knives, by contrast, are thicker, heavier, and stronger. Consisting of a rounder blade and finished by a machine instead of human hands, European-style blades are known for being more durable and made with less carbon in their steel than their Japanese counterparts — this means they aren’t as “hard,” but they also won’t break or chip as easily.

When should I sharpen my chef knife?

The quickest way to determine whether or not your knife needs sharpening is to conduct what is known as the Paper Test. Hold a folded, but not creased, piece of paper in one hand, and lay the edge of the knife at an angle against the top of the paper with your other hand. Slice outwardly. If the knife fails to slice smoothly and cleanly, it needs to be sharpened.

How can I sharpen my chef knife?

Having a dull blade on your knife is potentially dangerous; the dullness of the edge will force you to apply more pressure when you’re cutting, which will result in a higher chance of slipping and/or missing your intended cuts. Here are some of the best ways to sharpen your chef knife:

  • Scrape the edge of your knife against a long steel rod tool called a sharpening steel
  • Send the knife in to the manufacturer for sharpening
  • Use an electric or manual sharpener, which requires you to simply hold your blade over the device and let the device do the work
  • Use a whetstone. Because of its difficulty, this option is only recommended for professional use.

 

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