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Let’s talk about what a chef’s knife actually is. It's one of the most versatile tools you can have in your kitchen. If you had room for only one knife in a tiny kitchen, this would be it. The most common length of the blade is 8 inches, with a sloping curve that ends in a sharp point. Most of them are made with steel blades (which is usually a combination of stainless and carbon steels), but there are also ceramic options.
They can be used for a multitude of cooking tasks, from chopping herbs to mincing garlic (bonus: The broad side of the knife is good for whacking garlic cloves loose from their skins, too). You can use it to slice delicate summer tomatoes, halve hard autumn squashes, and carve your Christmas ham.
Using a knife is a highly personal experience. It all has to do with the weight and feel of a knife in your hands. If you have smaller hands, you may want a smaller knife with a lighter feel, especially if you’re going to be using it in the kitchen for hours on end. On the other hand, you might like the substantial feeling of a heavy knife: The weight may be comfortable and balanced in your hands as you cut.
Whatever your preferences are, there is the perfect knife for you out there—just not one universal pick for everyone. Still, I did the research to test a bunch of chef's knives to make recommendations based on my experience. I recommend testing your knives in person, if you can, before you invest in one.
Here, my picks for the best chef's knives.
Best Overall: Zwilling Twin Four Star II 8-Inch Chef's Knife
What We Love: Carbon steel doesn’t rust, blade extends through handle (full tang), comfortable handle, lifetime warranty
What We Don't Love: Does not come with a sheath
Manufactured in Germany, this 8-inch is the mother of chef’s knives. Made by the well-respected manufacturer Zwilling J.A. Henckels, it’s made completely of high carbon and no-stain steel. It’s heat-forged from one solid piece and ice-hardened so that the blade stays sharper longer. Each knife is hand-honed before it's sent out.
Although the handle is polypropylene, it is seamlessly bonded to the metal, making sure there are no gaps in the design. The handle has a super bolster, giving it a substantial, weighted feel and balance, which made it comfortable in my hand. As an added bonus, it is dishwasher-safe, although the manufacturer (and I) recommend always hand washing your knives. Luckily, I found this one easy to clean by hand.
I highly recommend this knife for its durability, balance, and quality. True, it's a bit expensive, but I think it's worth it as a lifetime investment. Of course, the knife has the usual J.A. Henckels lifetime warranty in case anything should happen. My only complaint? It's a little heavy for my taste, and I would've liked a sheath for drawer storage.
Blade Length: 7.9 inches | Handle Length: 5 inches | Blade Material: Carbon steel | Handle Material: Polypropylene | Weight: 11.2 ounces | Angle: 15 degrees per side
Best Heavy-Duty: Wüsthof 8-Inch Classic Chef's Knife
What We Love: Full tang, well balanced, heavy-duty construction
What We Don't Love: Heavy for smaller hands, hand wash only
This is the original, classic 8-inch chef’s knife that Wüsthof has been making for decades. It has a full tang (which means the one piece of metal runs all the way from the tip of the blade to the base of the handle). There’s a reason the Wüsthof’s name carries on through seven generations of a family that takes pride in making knives. They are hand-honed and tempered to 58 degrees. The extra 14-degree sharpness helps keep the knife a little sharper longer than other knives.
The ergonomically designed handle has a full bolster and a finger guard. The three rivets in the synthetic polymer handle make for added sturdiness.
Although it’s made from a high-carbon stainless steel that is supposed to be stain and rust-free, it’s best to hand wash and dry the knife. This is one of those "buy it once and have it for the rest of your life" purchases. Backed by Wüsthof’s limited lifetime warranty, it’s no wonder people swear by this knife for life.
If I had to change one thing, I would make it lighter and smaller handle for smaller hands like mine.
Blade Length: 8 inches | Handle Length: 5 inches | Blade Material: High carbon stainless steel | Handle Material: Polymer | Weight: 11.1 ounces | Angle: 14 degrees
Best Ceramic: Kyocera Revolution Ceramic 7-Inch Chef's Knife
What We Love: Lightweight, requires less frequent sharpening, doesn’t rust
What We Don't Love: Doesn’t do well against bone or hard surfaces, may chip if dropped
Why choose this knife, with its ceramic blade, over one made of steel? For starters, there’s no metal to rust. The ceramic also makes it lightweight. Additionally, the Kyocera ceramic knife stays sharper for longer than those with metal blades, but it has to be handled with care, since dropping it can cause chipping.
The blade comes in white and black, and the black blade looks high-tech and modern. I like that you can choose your blade based on your kitchen’s décor. The handle is comfortable for small hands, but it may be a little too small for those looking for a larger grip. Regardless, I do think it could use a thicker, more substantial-feeling handle. It’s also not great for cutting bone or anything hard, since that can also chip the blade.
Like all ceramic blades, the Kyocera is dishwasher-safe. It will need less frequent sharpening and will never rust. I prefer a 7-inch blade for ceramic knives, and this doesn't come much bigger anyway. I'd recommend this knife for those looking for a ceramic knife that's versatile and affordable.
Blade Length: 7 inches | Handle Length: 5 inches | Blade Material: Zyrconia ceramic | Handle Material: Plastic | Weight: 3.25 ounces
Related: The Best Ceramic Knives
Most Ergonomic: Mac Knife Professional Series 8-Inch Chef's Knife with Dimples (MTH-80)
What We Love: Elegant design, well-balanced, comfortable handle, great for precise cutting
What We Don't Love: Does not come with a sheath, blade not made from premium alloy
Online reviewers rave about how lightweight and sharp this knife is–and after testing it, I can see why. I also like the elegant design of the knife: It has a thin blade and dimples toward the edge to help glide through foods, like potatoes, that may otherwise stick to your knife. The MTH-80 chef's knife is the company’s most popular knife, and it’s no wonder. Its comfortable grip and ergonomic handle make cutting vegetables easy and enjoyable.
Unlike the other chef’s knives I'm recommending, the MAC MTH-80 is more of a Japanese-style knife, in that the blade doesn’t curve upward much. So, it’s great for precision cutting, but not as great for quick chopping of herbs, mincing garlic, or when you want to use a rocking motion. Otherwise, I find this knife comfortable in my hands, and the relatively light weight of its hollow edge kept my hand from getting fatigued from sustained use.
Hand washing and drying immediately are recommended (as it is for almost all knives) to help prevent rusting of the high-carbon, aluminum alloy blade.
Blade Length: 7.9 inches | Handle Length: 4.75 inches | Blade Material: High-carbon aluminum alloy | Handle Material: Polymer | Weight: 6.5 ounces | Angle: 15 degrees
Most Versatile: Misen 8-Inch Chef’s Knife
What We Love: Comes in four colors, very affordable for the quality, lifetime warranty and sharpening
What We Don't Love: Knife could be sharper out of the box
The Misen chef’s knife started as a Kickstarter darling before making its way into our kitchens. It comes in four fun colors and is a high-quality knife, especially given the price. The blade design is a hybrid between European and Japanese blades, in that it’s a long knife, with a small curve at the end. Yet, it’s broad, and it has a 15-degree angle, somewhere between the usual 20-something degrees of Western-style blades and the 10-degree fineness of a Japanese blade.
Its lifetime guarantee includes sharpening (you’ll have to mail the knife in though). The only thing I would change is that the knife could have been sharper out of the box.
At a price well under $100, it’s a nice-looking, affordable knife, especially for those just starting their knife collection.
Blade Length: 8 inches | Handle Length: 5.5 inches | Blade Material: Premium AUS-10 high-carbon stainless steel | Handle Material: Polyoxymethylene | Weight: 8 ounces | Angle: 15 inches
Related: The Best Santoku Knives
Best Budget: Victorinox Fibrox Pro 8-Inch Chef’s Knife
What We Love: Affordable, sharp stainless steel blade, lightweight
What We Don't Love: Plastic handle feels cheap, not as ergonomic, not full tang
Made by the people who bring us the Swiss army knife, the Victorinox chef’s knife is a bargain for those looking for a solid knife on a budget. The knife is lightweight, which I liked, and the plastic handle feels comfortable enough when you grip it, though it did feel a little cheap in my hands. Still, this knife was sharper out of the box than some more expensive knives, it performed nicely, and I think it would work great for those with smaller hands.
The extra broad blade gives plenty of room for smashing garlic or other tasks. In my home testing, the blade stayed sharp with repeated usage, as long as I honed it properly. You can’t go wrong with the price.
The Fibrox Pro 8-inch is dishwasher-safe, but I recommend hand washing to protect the blade.
Blade Length: 7.9 inches | Handle Length: 5.25 inches | Blade Material: Stainless steel | Handle Material: Thermoplastic elastomers | Weight: 6.1 ounces
Related: The Best Knife Sharpeners
Heat-forged, ice-hardened, and hand-honed, there's a reason our writer calls the Zwilling Twin Four Star II 8-Inch Chef's Knife "the mother of all chef's knives" (view at Amazon). It even comes with a lifetime warranty. If you're a chef's knife newbie or are just starting to build your knife collection, we suggest the Misen Chef's Knife (view at Amazon). It's not as expensive as some of the other high-end knives while still being made of quality materials.
How We Tested
Cecilia relied on her own expertise as a chef and recipe developer, as well as looked through dozens of online customer reviews and available information from knife manufacturers, to come up with her final list of the best chef's knives. We then purchased the knives and shipped them to Cecilia so she could put them to the test in her own kitchen. She spent several weeks testing each knife in her day to day cooking, examining their sharpness on paper and thin-skinned produce, their weight and balance, the feeling of the grip, how well each was able to mince garlic and cut through dense produce, and how easy each was to clean.
After her tests, Cecilia sent us feedback about what she liked and didn’t like about each chef's knife and rated each one on the following qualities: Design, Size, Performance, Cleaning, and Overall Value. Learn more about how we test products.
What to Look for When Buying a Chef’s Knife
The sturdiest knives are fully forged and full tang, which means the knife is made from one solid piece of metal that goes through the entire knife, from the sharp tip through the entire handle. These kinds of knives are more durable and longer-lasting (the handle won’t break from the blade, for instance). However, they are more expensive.
Knives with steel blades are stronger, better-balanced, and great for all kinds of kitchen tasks, including cutting through hard squashes.
Ceramic knives are rust-free, lightweight, dishwasher-safe, and won’t require as much sharpening as blades made from metal. However, they are more fragile and can chip if dropped or if the blade hits a hard surface (bone, for instance). They also come in smaller sizes, since ceramic blades can’t be made too long.
If going for a steel knife, look for one made from high-carbon stainless steel. Most chef’s knives will be made from a metal alloy of carbon and stainless steel, but the higher the carbon, the sturdier the blade.
Although it may sound counterintuitive, the sharper the knife, the less likely you are to cut yourself. That’s because duller knives can cause more slippage and kitchen accidents. All of the manufacturers we tested sent their knives pre-sharpened. And the design and angle of the blade, and the type of materials, will determine how long your knife will stay sharp. That said, the more acute the angle, the sharper the blade will feel. So, a 15-degree angle will feel sharper than a 20-degree angle of the bevel.
Of course, all knives will get duller with age and repeated use. To test the sharpness of your knife, slice a piece of copy paper with it. If it cuts through, it doesn’t need sharpening. If it rips or catches the paper, it needs honing or sharpening.
Next to the blade, this is the second most important part to consider when choosing a chef’s knife. This is why you want to be able to test your knives in person. You want a handle that is sturdy, ergonomic, and feels comfortable in your hand. The handle’s feel, more than anything, is a matter of personal preference.
However, you want to look for a knife with a full tang (meaning the metal goes all the way through the handle). The joint where the handle meets the blade should be seamless so that no food or debris gets caught in between.
Weight and Balance
In addition to the material, the design of the knife determines its weight and balance. A full tang knife will have a more substantial weight since the metal runs all the way through the handle. On the other hand, a hollow-core knife will feel lighter and easier to use. You may prefer a lightweight knife that’s easier to use for hours on end. On the other hand, you may like a heavy, weighted grip that feels balanced and substantial. Again, it's a matter of personal preference. But you want a knife that feels well balanced to you and fits your hand comfortably.
If you’re going to invest in a chef’s knife, I recommend getting one that has a lifetime warranty. Why not? You’re going to be cutting things in your kitchen for the rest of your life. Why would you want to have to keep buying new knives?
That said, you will want to hone your knives regularly. This means running it through a few times with a honing steel (sometimes called a “sharpening” steel—a misnomer, since it doesn’t actually sharpen knives).
Some manufacturers will sharpen your knife for you, but you have to go through the trouble of mailing it back. I think it's best to sharpen at home or take it to a local sharpener about once or twice a year, depending on how often you use your knives. You’ll want to hone your knives at home every couple of times you use it.
I recommend always hand washing and drying all of your knives. The vibrations of the dishwasher makes all knives go duller faster.
How do I hold and use a chef's knife?
I never went to culinary school, but I have cooked in enough restaurant kitchens to know how to handle a knife. A knife expert also showed me how to hold a chef’s knife. Grip the handle and grip the back top of the blade with your thumb and forefinger. It helps you have the most control of your cutting, and it gives you more leverage and keeps your hand from getting tired from repeated cutting.
What’s the difference in German and Japanese-style chef’s knives?
The biggest difference in the design of chef’s knives is that the European (or German) knives are designed to have a curve. This allows you to make a rocking motion, great for mincing garlic or chopping herbs. Japanese-style chef's knives (sometimes called “santoku” knives) are missing that curve and have a straight, flat edge all the way through. That flat edge allows for more detailed work, like filleting fish or slicing meat evenly.
Japanese knives are usually broader, made with harder steel, and cut at a thinner angle than German knives. European knives are usually heavier and will need sharpening more often. However, Japanese knives are more prone to chipping and not as good at cutting hard vegetables (like butternut squash) due to the blade being thinner.
Neither is better than the other, but each is used for different cutting tasks. Since I wanted to keep it simple, I tested mostly European-style chef’s knives.
How do I sharpen a chef's knife and how often?
The easiest way to get your knives sharpened is to send it or drop it off to a sharpening service. Certain kitchen supply stores (like Williams Sonoma and Sur La Table) also offer in-store sharpening). You can also invest in an electric knife sharpener and do it manually yourself.
Lots of professionals who like to do it themselves prefer the control of whetstone, especially since that method removes less metal from your blade. Using a whetstone does take some practice to master, but there are a bunch of videos on how to do it on YouTube. And it does help to invest in an angle clip so that you can keep the angle of your knife consistent while you sharpen.
Some knife manufacturers will provide lifetime sharpening for you, like Misen. However, you will have to pay for shipping to send your knives in for the service.
If you regularly hone your knives, you should only have to sharpen them once every year or so, depending on how often you use them.
Note that ceramic knives will stay sharper longer, which is a good thing, since they are also more expensive to sharpen professionally.
What’s the difference between honing and sharpening a knife?
Sharpening a knife removes the material from the blade, making for a sharper edge. Honing a knife with a honing steel maintains a sharp edge by pushing the metal to the center of the blade, keeping it sharper for longer. Calling it a "sharpening steel" is a misnomer: It hones, not sharpens, the blade.
You want to start with a sharp knife, which you then hone to keep it sharp. Regular honing allows you to not have to sharpen your knives as often since frequent sharpening wears down the material of your blade.
Honing "steels" can be made of steel, ceramic, or coated with diamond dust. The last one is the hardest material and will be almost like sharpening your knife—this means that a diamond-coated honing steel isn’t the best for regular use. A ceramic one will be the least wear and tear on your knife and can sharpen as well or even better than one made of metal if used properly. Regardless of the kind of honing rod you use, be sure to clean them, just like you clean your knives.
Are expensive chef's knives worth it?
The short answer is “yes,” but I’ll also give you the long answer: It all depends. Sure, everyone should steer clear of cheap, mass-produced knives that you’ll have to replace after a year or two anyway. If you're a serious home cook who chops things a lot, you’ll want at least a mid-range knife that feels comfortable and balanced in your hand. The better-made knives make kitchen tasks easier and safer. And if you get a high-quality knife, you don’t have to buy another one again for the rest of your life, which will save you money in the long run.
Higher-end knives are made with higher-quality material, such as strong metals that don’t dull as quickly and maintain the blade’s sharpness longer. Also, they are better balanced to feel more comfortable in your hand, preventing fewer kitchen accidents and less fatigue from repeated usage.
Regardless of the price of your chef’s knife, the real key to the usefulness of your knife is its sharpness. If you keep your knife in good condition and maintain it with regular honing and sharpening, that’s the knife that you’ll reach for each time.
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee is a writer, photographer, former restaurant owner, recipe developer, and chef. She travels around the globe, photographing, eating, and cooking as she does so. When not traveling, she spends a lot of time gardening and cooking at home. Cecilia is passionate about finding the best-quality tools that make cooking as quick and easy as possible. Her specialty is seeking little-known items that offers the best bang for your buck. If she comes into your kitchen, get ready for her to sharpen or hone your knives before cutting anything. Sharp wits and sharp knives are your best friends in the kitchen.
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