There are thousands of innovative kitchen tools and cooking contraptions on the market—but the one that really makes an impact is the chef knife.
Having a professional-grade blade handy makes slicing veggies a breeze, and this versatile tool can also help you with more complex tasks like turkey carving and chopping walnuts. Choosing the best chef knife comes down to specifications like good material and blade edge, all of which can be found in the selections below.
- BEST OVERALL: Wusthof Classic Ikon 8-Inch Cook’s Knife
- RUNNER-UP: Global Model X Chef’s Knife, 8”
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: J.A. Henckels International CLASSIC Chef’s Knife
- BEST FOR BEGINNERS: Mercer Culinary M22608 Millennia 8-Inch Chef’s Knife
- BEST FOR PROFESSIONALS: Shun Classic 8” Chef’s Knife
- BEST JAPANESE: Zelite Infinity Chef Knife 8 Inch
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Chef Knife
Choosing a new kitchen knife requires some knowledge of the various specifications and features that make one a professional. Weight, type of handle, and how well you can control the knife all can affect the type of knife that will give you the best cut. Read on to learn what else you need to consider before investing in a new chef knife.
No surprise here—the blade has a major impact on how effective the knife is and its best uses in the kitchen. The most common blade materials are carbon steel, high-carbon stainless steel, ceramic, and titanium.
Carbon steel is the opposite of stainless and will rust easily if not properly cared for. Because it’s an extremely sharp blade that requires a lot of maintenance, it’s usually reserved for professional, experienced chefs. The carbon gives steel an added strength and hardness, which is why high-carbon stainless steel is a better option than regular stainless steel, which can be a weaker metal to use.
Ceramic blades are becoming increasingly popular because they never need sharpening and are both rust-proof and stain-proof. Titanium also does not rust, and knives made from this metal hold an edge better than stainless steel blades. They’re also lighter to hold, which can make them a good option for beginners.
In addition to the blade material, its features matter. Chef knives come with various finishes and coatings, such as mirror, polish, satin, stonewash, and bead blast, to prevent corrosion. A good rule of thumb to remember is that the smoother the blade, the greater it can resist corrosion.
If you’re using a knife for slicing and dicing vegetables, choose a blade with grooves. The air in the grooves prevents food from sticking to the blade. Most chef knives have the same shape and tip, but the size varies from about 6 to 14 inches. The longer the knife, the harder it is to control, which is why 8-inch chef knives are the most common size.
Curved blades allow for more precise cutting, like you can get from a paring knife, which can be good for using a check knife mincing or cutting in julienne.
The edge of a chef knife is another important factor to consider. Chef knives usually come grounded in a few common ways: hollow-grind, single-grind (also known as chisel edge), convex edge, or double grind (also known as V-shape). The edge affects the sharpness of your knife and how that sharpness lasts over time.
Hollow-edge knives are some of the sharpest around, but they’re also the most susceptible to damage. Convex edges have a curved design that makes the blades stronger than typical blades but more complex to use. They’re also hard to sharpen with at-home sharpeners.
Single edges are ground on one side while the other side remains straight and flat. They’re typically seen in Japanese sushi knives because they’re great for cutting delicate foods like fish. On the other hand, the double edge is a popular choice because its double layer makes it strong and durable.
Weight, Balance, and Control
When it comes to chef knives, weight refers to how evenly the weight is distributed throughout the knife, which knife makers also refer to as its balance. The kind of balance a knife has affects how precisely you can control it.
In knives that are 10 inches long, the weight between the blade and the handle should be even. The shorter the blade, the heavier the handle. The heavier the handle, the more control you have over intricate movements.
Blades with bolsters—a thick junction between the blade and handle—often give the user more control and balance. You also can look for a knife with a distal taper when the blade reduces in thickness from guard to tip. This is a popular style because it’s lightweight and easier to handle.
And don’t forget the tang, or the part of the blade that extends into the handle. As a preference, many people believe that knives with a full tang blade are stronger than those with a partial tang.
Forged vs. Stamped
Chef knives are either forged or stamped, which refers to how the manufacturer crafts the blade. A forged knife comes as a single bar of steel that’s heated and pounded into shape. A stamped knife is cut out of a sheet of steel and then treated with heat to increase its durability.
Forged knives are heavier and usually come with a larger bolster as well as a full tang. Even though they are higher-quality blades, they’re often more expensive than stamped knives. Stamped knives are lighter by design and easier for beginners to use. However, they often don’t retain their edge as long as a forged knife can.
A chef knife’s handle (also known as a hilt) is usually made of wood, metal, or Micarta, a type of resin. Though they are comfortable to hold and look attractive, wood handles require more maintenance and are easier to damage. Micarta handles are lighter and more durable, but they can be expensive. Metal handles, like titanium and aluminum, are durable and inexpensive, but can get too hot for chefs who use them around ovens and flames. Carbon fiber handles are heat resistant and nonmetallic, which makes them rust-proof. However, they cost more than other types. Other handle types include Garolite, stainless steel, and fiberglass.
Our Top Picks
With a better understanding of the factors to consider when choosing the best chef knife, it’s time to start shopping. Browse these recommendations to find the right one for your kitchen.
The Wüsthof Classic Ikon 8 Inch Chef’s Knife is a classic for good reason. This all-purpose chef knife is designed with an 8-inch double-edged blade forged from a single block of high-carbon stainless steel. The blade was built to be 20 percent sharper using precision edge technology.
Its sleek double-bolster handle is designed to provide balance and comfort. Effortless slicing and dicing is made possible by its slim and lightweight profile. This knife is sharp and durable, so it is a versatile choice. The Wüsthof knife costs more than some chef knives, but will cut plenty of foods and last a long time.
If you’re looking for a knife with a sharp edge, look to the Global 8-Inch Chef’s Knife. With a tip that’s designed in an acute angle instead of a standard beveled edge, this blade cuts sharper—and keeps its sharpness for a longer period of time. The handle also is made from stainless steel and has dimpling for a secure grip.
The blade is stamped from a special, lightweight stainless steel mixture of molybdenum, vanadium, and chromium that allows it to retain its edge while being soft enough to sharpen with a whetstone. The material also resists stains and rust. Since it is stamped, this knife does the job better for home chefs who need sharpness and dependability, but is not the most heavy-duty blade.
You don’t have to break the bank to get a high-quality blade like the one on J.A. Henckels International 31161-201 CLASSIC Chef’s Knife. The knife is as affordable as it is sharp. Constructed with a fine-edge blade from German stainless steel, this satin-finished blade can handle chopping, slicing, and mincing with ease. Plus, its ergonomically designed polymer handle makes it comfortable to hold and easy for beginners to use.
This chef knife comes in three different lengths—6 inches, 8 inches, and 10 inches—and its triple-rivet, black handle is dishwasher safe. The knife is not as stain- or rust-resistant as some, but carries an affordable price.
Designed with a combination of Santoprene and polypropylene, the Mercer Culinary M22608 Millennia 8-Inch Chef’s Knife boasts both comfort and durability—two necessary attributes for a beginner’s knife. Plus, the handle features textured finger points that aid in slip resistance, offer a better grip, and protect fingers from the blade.
The blade is forged from high-quality Japanese steel that doesn’t stain or rust and resists discoloration and corrosion. It also has a razor-sharp blade edge that’s easy to maintain. This Mercer knife might not hold up as long as higher-priced chef knives, but offers many features beginner chefs need.
The VG-MAX steel forged into the Shun Classic 8” Chef’s Knife’s blade is formulated with extra tungsten to give it the sharper edge professional chefs often need. In addition, it is made with chromium to help with corrosion resistance and cobalt and carbon for more strength and durability.
The handle is made of hardwood infused with resin to give it a water-resistant finish that’s easy to clean and maintain. This Japanese-style knife—which is handcrafted in Japan—is designed to be lighter and offers graceful control of the razor-sharp blade. This blade comes in three sizes: 6-inch, 8-inch, and 10-inch lengths. You can also purchase it with a sharpener.
Designed with high-carbon stainless steel, the Zelite Infinity Chef Knife is forged with a full-tang, double-edge blade that can help seasoned chefs and home cooks alike. The high-carbon stainless steel blade is 2.4 mm thick, resists stains, discoloration, and corrosion, and comes in a unique Damascus pattern. It also has a tapered bolster to help aid in its comfortability and control.
The military-grade G10 handle is ergonomically designed to fit both large and small hands and minimize wrist tension for the user. The handle is also rounded to help you chop, mince, slice, and dice with minimal effort.
FAQs About Your New Chef Knife
Now that you’ve seen what it takes to make a high-quality chef knife, it’s time to answer any remaining questions you might have about how to choose the best one for your kitchen. Below is more valuable information about chef knives and what you need to know before you purchase your own.
Q. What is a chef knife good for?
You can use a chef knife for mincing, slicing, and chopping veggies, as well as slicing meat.
Q. What’s the difference between a chef’s knife and a Santoku knife?
A Santoku knife is designed for precision and thin cutting, while a chef knife is multipurpose in use.
Q. How big should a chef’s knife be?
Chef knives are between 6 and 10 inches long.
Q. How do you properly clean a knife?
You can clean a knife with soap and water, and most are also dishwasher safe. Check the label before washing.