For almost any type of cooking or grilling activity, a home cook requires kitchen knives to cut, dice, slice, mince, or chop a wide variety of foods. From small paring knives and versatile chef’s knives to hulking meat cleavers and other specialty knives—each knife has a unique role to play in the kitchen.
When shopping for the best kitchen knives, no one-size-fits-all best answer exists. Home cooks usually prefer a specific type and size of knife, based on the feel and balance of the knife in the hand and the materials used to make the knife’s blade and handle. Keep reading to find a round-up of the best kitchen knife in each category. From large cleavers to petite paring knives, this list covers the top knives for the most common culinary needs.
- BEST OVERALL: Chef’s Knife – PAUDIN Pro Kitchen Knife
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Home Hero Stainless Steel Knife Set with Block
- BEST SANTOKU KNIFE: Zelite Infinity Santoku Knife 7 Inch – Alpha-Royal Series
- BEST UTILITY KNIFE: Cutluxe Utility Knife – 5.5 Inch Kitchen Petty Knife
- BEST PARING KNIFE: TUO Paring Knife – Peeling Knife Ultra Sharp
- BEST BONING KNIFE: WALLOP Boning knife 6 inch
- BEST CLEAVER: DALSTRONG Gladiator Series R – Obliterator Meat Cleaver
- BEST BREAD KNIFE: WALLOP Serrated Bread Knife 8 inch
Common Types of Kitchen Knives
Many different types of kitchen knives are available, but these are the knives that home chefs use most frequently: the chef’s knife, santoku knife, utility knife, paring knife, boning knife, cleaver, and bread knife.
The blades of a chef’s knife range in length from 6 inches to 10 inches. Designed for a variety of purposes—slicing, cutting, and chopping—this type of kitchen knife is very versatile.
The “belly” of the blade on a chef’s knife is curved to allow the cook to chop foods quickly by rocking the blade back and forth. On this style of kitchen knife, the blade ends in a sharp point, and it’s beveled on both sides to create a V-shape cutting edge. Chef’s knives work well to chop fibrous foods like onions.
Santoku knives have a sleek, Japanese-style design. With a blade that’s typically 6 to 7 inches long, these knives are made for slicing, dicing, and mincing. This type of kitchen knife has a flat cutting edge, with a blade that ends in a rounded curve known as a “sheep’s foot.” This curve sets santoku knives apart from Western-style blades, which have sharp points, depending on the type.
The difference in the curvature of the blade between the santoku and the chef’s knife means that you cannot effectively use a rocking or chopping motion with a santoku knife. However, its shorter blade provides better maneuverability and control, allowing for precise, clean cuts.
The utility knife, or petty knife, is a small, general-purpose knife. It’s used for a variety of cooking and meal-preparation tasks, including carving, mincing, peeling, and slicing. Most utility knives’ blades are between 4 and 6 inches long, which makes them similar in size to paring knives. In fact, some home chefs prefer to use a utility knife to peel fruit or devein shrimp, tasks usually relegated to a paring knife.
A paring knife is a small kitchen knife with a blade that’s usually 3 to 5 inches in length. These knives are perfect for making small, precise cuts and paring fruits and vegetables, which is how they got their name. “Paring” is cutting off the outer skin or cutting away the outer edges of a food item, such as an apple or a clove of garlic. When paring a vegetable or fruit, you typically hold the food item in your hand, which you definitely don’t want to do with a long-bladed knife!
For party prep, paring knives are useful for a variety of tasks: cutting fruit into wedges, paring citrus peels, and deveining shrimp. Moreover, their small size means they’re easily portable, so they pack easily into a lunch bag to cut up fruits or vegetables on the go.
Boning knives get their name from their intended purpose: cutting the meat away from the bones of different kinds of meat, including pork, fish, chicken, or other type. However, the name doesn’t mean it cuts through bone. Instead, its slim, flexible blade can trim along the edges of the bone without cutting into it or turning back into the meat.
With a blade between 5 and 6 inches long, a boning knife is a necessity in the kitchens for those who like to fish or hunt.
Like the boning knife, the cleaver also is used to cut meat, but the cleaver’s size and chopping force means it comes in handy when cutting melons and many vegetables. Cleavers’ blades are usually 6 to 8 inches long, but they can weigh more than 2 pounds because their blades are so thick.
A cleaver’s purpose is most evident when this large knife comes down on a piece of meat. Though a cleaver’s blade is usually not as sharp as those of other knives, the weight of the knife and the force of the downward stroke can easily separate thick meats and even small- to medium-size bones.
A bread knife always has a serrated blade. The serrated edge typically has large, widely spaced serrations that allow the user to cut through, rather than tear, soft-grain products like breads and bagels. The blade is usually completely straight, with no curve at all along its length.
These knives measure between 7 and 10 inches in length, and they can be used to slice more than just bread. Their wide serrations make quick work of softer fruits like tomatoes and tough-skinned food like pineapples and butternut squash.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Kitchen Knives
Before choosing the best kitchen knives for your home, take a few minutes to learn about the materials and features that affect knife construction. The best kitchen knives for you depends on how you plan to use the knives and the types of foods you prepare frequently.
Kitchen knife blades are constructed from a range of materials: stainless steel, high-carbon steel, ceramic, and titanium.
- Stainless steel is not truly stain-proof, but it resists staining and rusting. To carry the name “stainless,” a stainless steel knife must contain at least 10.5 percent chromium. Chromium helps the knife resist corrosion, decay, and wear. A disadvantage of stainless-steel blades: Their edges dull more quickly than those of any other metal, so users must sharpen them more frequently.
- High-carbon steel is essentially a higher grade of stainless steel alloy with a high carbon content. Blades made of high-carbon steel have increased strength, edge retention, and cutting ability. Many serious cooks add kitchen knives made with this type of steel to their shopping radar. No industry-standard definition exists to denote the meaning of “high carbon.” Knives marketed as high-carbon steel may actually be regular stainless steel. Purchasing a product from a reputable manufacturer helps avoid doubt.
- Ceramic blades, which are thin and sharp, are useful when cutting fruits and vegetables. However, they lack the heft and durability necessary to cut meat and frozen foods. A ceramic blade will not rust and should retain a sharp edge longer than a metal blade. But when it does get dull, it may need to be sharpened professionally. A ceramic blade’s brittle construction can cause it to break during sharpening.
- Titanium isn’t used often to make a kitchen knife blade because it’s softer than both stainless steel and high-carbon steel. Moreover, a titanium blade is often more expensive than a blade made of those other materials. When shopping for a boning knife, though, a titanium blade is worth considering. Titanium blades are more flexible than steel blades, and flexibility is necessary in a boning knife or even in a small utility knife.
A kitchen knife blade has several important attributes that can affect how the knife functions and whether it can be used to prepare certain foods, including the blade’s curvature, hollow, tip, and point.
- The curvature of a kitchen knife refers to the shape or curve of the blade. Some blades, such as those of a bread knife, are completely flat. A chef’s knife, on the other hand, has a sharply sloping curve. The curvature of the blade differs among brands.
- Hollows are small, evenly spaced indents in the blade of a kitchen knife. These indents are meant to help prevent food from sticking to the knife edge as you chop. Hollows reduce friction, so it’s easier to cut through foods.
- The terms tip and point are used interchangeably. The tip, or point, is the front quarter of the blade where the majority of cutting and separating occurs. A knife’s tip can be either pointed or rounded. Pointed tips are good for piercing and dicing, while rounded tips are better for cutting thin slices.
The edge of a kitchen knife’s blade is either straight or serrated. A knife also can have a single- or double-edge blade and varying degrees of sharpness.
- Straight-edge blades are the most common type of kitchen knife blade. This is the blade that you see on chef’s knives, santoku knives, utility knives, paring knives, boning knives, and cleavers. A straight-edge blade allows cooks to use downward force to push through food items, such as when chopping and peeling.
- Serrated blades are typically found on smaller steak knives, bread knives, and tomato knives. Some chef’s knives even have very small serrations to help cut through meat. A serrated edge on a blade is ideal for cutting through breads, soft fruits, rigid shells, and sinewy meat, because the saw-like cutting motion doesn’t force apart the food. Instead, it cuts through multiple thin layers at a slower pace to keep softer foods from tearing.
- Kitchen knife blades usually have a single edge. These knives have just one sharpened edge with a consistent sharpness and grind throughout the length of the blade.
- Double-edge blades have two sharpened edges. With a double-edge blade knife, you can use one knife for multiple purposes. One sharpened edge, for example, may have a fine grind that easily slices through fruit and vegetables, and the other sharpened edge may have a coarse grind for chopping.
- The sharpness of a knife is not only an indicator of how effective a knife is at cutting through food, but it also helps determine its safety. Using a dull blade can lead to serious injury. The duller a knife’s blade, the more force must be used to cut through food. Ceramic knives remain sharp for the longest period of time, but they’re not effective for cutting meat or frozen foods. The next best option is high-carbon steel, which rarely needs to be sharpened. Titanium can hold a sharp edge longer than stainless steel, but it’s a softer material that may prove ineffective at cutting through harder food.
Weight, Balance, and Control
The weight, balance, and overall control of the knife is determined by three main factors: distal tapering, the tang, and the bolster.
- Distal tapering is the thinning of the blade from the base to the tip of the knife. The more tapered a knife blade is distally, the lighter and better balanced the knife will be. Distal tapering changes the shape of the blade, so it’s more effective at a specific task; for example, boning knives are thin at the tip.
- The tang of a knife is the metal part that extends from the blade into the handle. A full-tang knife is slightly heavier than a partial-tang knife because the tang extends through the entire handle. Full-tang knives are typically more balanced, which helps provide stability and control. Partial tangs may extend only to the top of the handle or may have a tail that pierces through to the middle of the handle. While these knives are lighter than full tang, they’re less balanced and typically blade heavy.
- The bolster of a knife is a thick junction between the handle of the knife and the blade. The bolster can be designed in a variety of shapes, sizes, and weights to help balance an otherwise unbalanced knife. Bolsters also add strength and stability along the length of the blade, so you can put more force into your cuts. Some bolsters, called rear bolsters, appear at the rear of a knife handle and cap a full-tang kitchen knife. The size and weight of a rear bolster can be altered to balance a kitchen knife.
Forged vs. Stamped
Kitchen knife blades are manufactured by forging or stamping.
- Forged blades are constructed from a single piece of metal, which is heated and pounded into form before it’s heated again, quenched, and tempered. Next, the blade is polished and sharpened, ultimately resulting in a thicker blade with a heavier construction. These blades are usually of a higher quality than stamped blades, but they also cost more.
- Stamped blades are manufactured by machine. The blade is cut from a piece of metal using a hydraulic press and heat-treated. Then, they are ground, polished, and sharpened. Stamped blades are thinner, lighter, and lower in price. Stamped blades work well for multipurpose utility knives or paring knives because these knives don’t need a lot of weight to be effective.
The handle of a knife is almost as important as its blade. An uncomfortable handle can make a finely-wrought blade almost worthless. Serious cooks probably should avoid knives with handles made of low-quality, cheap material like plastic, which can become brittle over time.
Instead, look for a handle made of stainless steel, a laminated wood composite, or an engineered wood and resin composite. With natural temperature and moisture resistance, these handles are easy to maintain. The shape of the handle is another consideration. If possible, try to hold the knife in your hand before purchasing it. Look for an ergonomic product that sits comfortably in the hand, so you don’t have to do hand gymnastics to grip it.
Some types of kitchen knives are more versatile than others. If beginning a knife set for the kitchen, invest in multipurpose rather than more specialized knives. The following kitchen knives range from most versatile to least versatile.
- Chef’s knives are the most versatile knife in the kitchen. Use them for almost any type of meal preparation task. Some models even include serrated blades for cutting through meat and soft fruits.
- Santoku knives are not as versatile as a chef’s knife, but they’re a close second. They can be used for most meal prep and may even be more effective for chopping than a chef’s knife.
- Paring knives, which look like small chef’s knives, are commonly used to make small, precise cuts in a wide variety of meal prep techniques.
- Bread knives are somewhat versatile. The serrated edge cuts through bread, soft fruits, rigid vegetables, and tough skins. However, a serrated chef’s knife can be just as effective as a bread knife, so the chef’s knife may serve both purposes.
- Utility knives are similar to paring knives, in that many people use one or the other as their go-to knife after the chef’s knife. The blade is a bit longer than the paring knife, which may be better for individuals with larger hands who struggle with the small size of a paring knife.
- Boning knives are specialized kitchen knives that remove meat from bone, so they’re not as versatile as a chef’s or paring knife. However, they can be used on a variety of meats, including chicken, fish, lamb, beef, and pork.
- Cleavers are used to chop large food products, such as meat or melon, into much smaller pieces, but beyond that, they’re not very versatile.
Our Top Picks
The products below were chosen for quality, price, and customer satisfaction. Stick to this list to find the best kitchen knives for your next feast.
A versatile chef’s knife like the PAUDIN Pro Chef’s Knife means that with one knife, you can chop, slice, mince, and dice. Its 8-inch blade has a slight angle that gently curves upward to meet the top edge of the knife, ending in a pointed tip for making precision cuts or piercing through food items.
This 6.8-ounce knife, which is made of durable high-carbon steel that retains its sharpness over time, has a balanced weight that sits comfortably in your hand. Gripping the knife’s ergonomic wood handle won’t tire your hands, and the polished bolster between the handle and blade protects your hands while you mise en place.
Consumers on a budget (or those who want a matching knife set instead of individual knives), this affordable Home Hero Stainless Steel Knife Set is an excellent option. Each stamped kitchen knife has a black plastic handle and a stainless-steel blade that’s coated with nonstick paint for easier cleaning and moisture resistance.
The 17-piece set includes six steak knives and a chef’s knife, bread knife, carving knife, utility knife, paring knife, cheese knife, pizza knife, plus kitchen scissors, a peeler, knife stand, and a two-stage knife sharpener for fine (ceramic) or coarse (stainless steel) blades. The knife stand is clear acrylic, appropriate for the sleek, cool aesthetic of a modern kitchen.
The elegant design of the Zelite Infinity 10-ounce santoku knife includes visually stunning damascus patterning layered atop a polished, high carbon-steel blade that’s naturally resistant to staining and rusting. Its 7-inch forged blade has a full tang that extends through to the back of the handle and ends in a curved solid rear bolster for a secure grip.
The blade of this santoku has hollows along the sides of the blade that reduce friction and keep food from sticking to the blade. Santoku knives have a flatter curvature along the edge of the blade, and the top of the blade curves abruptly to form a round tip. This slight difference makes a santoku knife better than a chef’s knife for fine cutting with the tip of the blade.
With just a chef’s knife and a utility knife like this option from Cutluxe, home chefs can slice, dice, and peel. This utility knife’s blade, which is 5.5 inches long, has a hand-sharpened edge, allowing for small, precise cuts in a variety of foods. It’s also good for piercing and peeling. This knife’s handle is made of laminated pakkawood, a wood-and-resin composite that’s durable, dense, and water-resistant.
Forged with high-carbon steel, this utility knife has a full tang that extends through the pakkawood handle. The tang is triple riveted to the handle to ensure a stable, secure grip. The Cutluxe’s tapered bolster provides a perfect balance between the blade and the handle, encouraging a natural, comfortable grip.
While some home chefs get by with only a utility knife, a quality paring knife is probably high on the “must-buy” list. A paring knife’s short blade allows precise cuts, and it’s just the right size for peeling fruits and vegetables with a smaller circumference. Chefs searching for a good paring knife can’t go wrong with the TUO’s 3.5-inch stamped carbon-steel blade, which is naturally resistant to staining and rusting. The blade features a raised, hollow pattern that reduces friction in the cut and prevents food from sticking. The knife’s full tang is triple-riveted to the ergonomic, fiberglass-composite handle for added stability and control.
The narrow profile and curve of the WALLOP Boning Knife’s 6-inch-wide carbon-steel blade is optimal for de-boning, descaling, filleting, skinning, and trimming beef, pork, fish, and poultry. Its flexible blade cuts cleanly through meat.
The forged WALLOP Boning Knife has a full tang that extends through the laminated pakkawood handle. The tang is tripled riveted to the handle to ensure that the pakkawood doesn’t loosen over time. The bolster between the blade and handle gives the knife forward weight, which makes it feel balanced in the hand even though the blade is thin. The more balanced the blade, the better control you have of the cut.
Add a cleaver to your knife set if you work with a lot of bulk meat, steaks, and roasts or need a cleaver’s heft to chop through melons or heads of lettuce. The DALSTRONG cleaver, which has a medieval design, comes with an attractive acacia wood stand. This knife has a full tang and a 9-inch blade, and it weighs a hefty 3 pounds. This heavy knife can chop through meat and bones with ease.
This cleaver’s forged high-carbon steel blade is resistant to heat, cold, and moisture. The blade tapers from the top down, which improves the knife’s flexibility and reduces chopping resistance. The DALSTRONG Gladiator has two bolsters: a rear bolster at the end of the handle and a central bolster between the handle and blade.
The serrated edge of this WALLOP bread knife cuts easily through grain products, soft fruits, and rigid skins. It has an 8-inch blade that is designed to move over and through food items using a long forward and backward stroke that mimics a sawing motion. This method of cutting doesn’t require a lot of downward force, which means you won’t end up squishing your food as you cut it.
The WALLOP forged kitchen knife is made of high-carbon stainless steel that naturally resists rust, corrosion, and staining. High-carbon steel also holds a sharpened edge longer than other common kitchen knife materials except ceramic. The bread knife has a full tang for better stability and control while cutting. The tang extends through the ergonomic laminated pakkawood handle.
FAQ About Your New Kitchen Knives
Before investing in new kitchen knives, take a look at these frequently asked questions and their answers below.
Q. How do you test a knife’s sharpness?
Test the sharpness of a kitchen knife by using a regular piece of printer paper. Hold the sheet of paper from heel to tip with one hand and draw the blade down through the paper with the other hand. If the knife passes through the paper with no issue, the knife is sharp. If the blade snags while cutting through the paper, you may need to use a quality sharpener to hone the edge and remove any nicks or burrs.
Q. How do you sharpen kitchen knives?
You can sharpen a kitchen knife using a sharpening block. A sharpening block typically has abrasive material on non-motorized wheels or it’s in a V-shape in the sharpening chamber. Pull the blade of the knife through this abrasive chamber with even pressure to ensure the edge is sharpened equally down the entire length of the blade.
Q. How do you store kitchen knives?
You can store kitchen knives in several different ways. Some home chefs mount magnetic strips on their kitchen wall and hang knives by their blades on the strips. Others store their knives in a knife block on the counter, in a cabinet, or in a utensil drawer.
Q. How do you clean kitchen knives?
Clean a kitchen knife using dishwashing soap and hot water after every use. After you finish, rinse the knife until the water runs clear; then air-dry it or pat the knife dry. Don’t put them in the dishwasher. Machine washing can dull knives’ blades, and sometimes, it can ruin their handles, depending on the handle material.
Q. How do you remove rust from kitchen knives?
You can remove most rust stains and spots from your kitchen knives with white vinegar, a scrubbing sponge, and a tall cup or container.
- Fill the cup or container with vinegar and submerge the entire blade of the knife.
- Let the knife sit for at least 5 minutes.
- Remove the knife from the vinegar and scrub away the rust with the sponge.
- Repeat as necessary.