“Having a good chef’s knife is crucial,” says Michael Binder, culinary director at Palmaz Vineyards in Napa Valley, California. Though a good set can be handy, there are few tasks a good chef’s knife can’t accomplish.
“You can adapt to cut just about anything with a good sharp chef’s knife,” says Sheana Davis, owner of The Epicurean Connection in Sonoma and author of Buttermonger. Though the average chef’s knife is generally eight inches long, the best option for you depends on your needs and preferences.
If you’re struggling with how to choose a good chef’s knife, you’re likely not alone–and there’s a reason for that. What makes a good chef’s knife may differ according to need and preference.
“It is very hard to recommend knives on a broad basis,” says Binder. He prefers an eight-inch knife with a thicker blade, whereas his wife, also a chef, prefers a thinner blade that’s around 12 inches. Davis recommends trying a few different lengths to see which feels the most balanced in your hand. “When you find the balance, you will have found the perfect chef’s knife.”
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These kitchen tools can get pricey. But it’s worth remembering that a good chef’s knife can last a lifetime with proper care. “My one chef’s knife is over 30 years old,” says Davis, who purchased her beloved Wüsthof knife in a Macy’s Culinary Center in 1986.
However, make sure you’re picking a sturdy option. “Some knives have a very short tang”—referring to the solid piece of metal that constitutes the blade—“inside the handle of the knife and they can break quite easily,” says Binder. Instead, look for a knife with a “full tang,” which features a blade that extends all the way through the length and width of the handle.
Below, here are some of the best chef’s knives and brands according to experts and buyer reviews—plus tips to help you parse important questions. What is a chef’s knife good for? How do you store a chef’s knife? How do you care for a chef’s knife? This essential guide is here to answer those questions and more.
The Best Overall Chef’s Knife
Shun Cutlery Classic Chef’s Knife 8 Inches
Japanese knives are a hot commodity right now, thanks to their slightly lighter build that allows for more finesse. “Shun is a very nice Japanese brand,” says Binder. If you want a long-lasting knife that also gets you nods of appreciation from kitchen nerds, he says, Shun is the way to go.$169.95 Amazon
The Best German Chef’s Knife
Wüsthof Classic 8-Inch Chef’s Knife
Some chefs prefer the heavier German knives. “The blade will withstand more sharpening and honing,” explains Binder, whose preferred knife is an eight-inch Wüsthof. A sturdy knife—it weighs 8.5 ounces—this German classic is beloved by those who appreciate a heavier piece that can tackle bigger tasks and bigger hands.$170 Amazon
The Best Japanese Chef’s Knife
Global 8″ Chef’s Knife
A lightweight and durable Japanese knife–the blade is angled differently on these types of knives than on German-constructed knives, which will matter as you hand-sharpen them–the Global is a balanced, sleek tool. Made from carbon with a molded stainless-steel handle that is easy-to-grip, this is a superlative knife for paper-thin slicing.$124.95 Amazon
The Best 6-Inch German Chef’s Knife
The Best German-Meets-Japanese Chef’s Knife
WÜSTHOF Classic 5-Inch Santoku Knife
Santoku is the Japanese word for “three virtues,” and it refers to a knife’s ability to expertly cut meat, fish and vegetables. (The general-purpose Santoku sheepsfoot blade is curved at the top and flat on the bottom, with a 60-degree angle at the point, making it useful for fine tasks like julienne and brunoise.) Both Brand and Binder recommend the Wüsthof brand; this five-inch Santoku is the smallest of our recommendations, so it’s easier to control.$150 Amazon
The Best Vegetable-Friendly Chef’s Knife
Mac Knife 8-Inch Hollow Edge Chef’s Knife
Dimpled throughout the blade to prevent food from sticking, this Japanese-constructed lightweight knife performs particularly well with vegetables, which tend to adhere more easily to metal. A Pakkawood handle, fastened with rivets, is ergonomically shaped, sturdy and balanced. Meanwhile, a full tang construction translates to a strong blade that will stand the test of time.$129.99 Amazon
The Best Lightweight and Budget Chef’s Knife
Victorinox 6-Inch Fibrox Pro Chef’s Knife
How much should a good chef’s knife cost? That all depends on how rigorously you intend to use it. If you think a smaller knife might suit you, or if you’re just on a tight budget, try this Victorinox six-inch option. It’s lightweight (1/4 pound), under $25 and trusted by professionals to be sharp and sturdy for the price.$22.05 Amazon
The Best Heavier Budget Chef’s Knife
Henckels Classics 8-Inch Chef’s Knife
Binder calls Henckels “a nice, affordable, strong German knife.” This tool is perfect for those on a budget who plan on using their knife often and clocks in at just over 1/2 pound. With a satin-finished blade and fully forged construction—and a price point that falls squarely in the middle in terms—this is an affordable and reliable knife for those who don’t mind a heavier tool.$43.69 Amazon
The Best Personalized Chef’s Knife
Made In 8-Inch Chef’s Knife
Whether your preferences lie in harbour blue, pomme red, truffle black or classic olive wood, the Made-In knife, with its choice of four different handles, is for you. (Custom engraving is also available for $30 extra.) Full tang, fully forged knives are hardened with nitrogen and curved at the blade to a 12.5-degree angle. It’s a sturdy, well-made knife that reflects the personal taste of its owner.$119 Made In Cookware
The Best Splurge Chef’s Knife
Shun Fuji Chef’s Knife
Seemingly every detail of this Shun knife was fine-tuned for strength and finesse. The blade, recommended by Binder, features 161 layers of different kinds of nickel and steel. The handle, complete with finger ridges on both sides for an ambidextrous grip, is made of dark tagayasan, or iron sword wood, which is known for its extreme density and for its use in traditional samurai sword handles. Shun produces some of the top knives on the market, and the price, nothing to scoff at, reflects this.$459.95+ Williams Sonoma
How Do I Sharpen My Chef’s Knife
Usually, professional kitchens bring in a sharpening service once a week. If you use your chef’s knife a lot, Binder recommends enlisting a professional knife service at home. Learning to sharpen your own knives, however, is instrumental in learning how to take care of a good chef’s knife. Here’s how to do it.
You can buy sharpening steels, though not everyone loves them. “I personally have never been very good at sharpening,” admits Binder. Davis, on the other hand, prefers steels because of the extra control they offer. At the end of the day, it’s best to try different options to figure out what you like best.
What Are the Best Ways to Clean Chef’s Knives?
Always hand wash your knife, then immediately dry it with a clean towel. Dishwashers are too hot for knives. Also, washing them this way can cause water to get into the handle, which can cause the knife to break down over time.
How Do You Hold a Chef’s Knife?
“Holding knives is really about comfort,” says Binder. One option is to pinch the base of the blade in between your thumb and pointer finger and wrap your remaining three fingers around the handle. Or, you can simply wrap all five fingers around the handle.
If your hands are on the smaller side, it can be helpful to grip the knife high on the handle, with the front of your fingers touching the back of the blade.
How Do You Use a Chef’s Knife?
Find a comfortable, but firm hold of the knife. Let the sharpness of the knife do the cutting work, as opposed to trying to push the blade down—this is why frequent sharpening is so important! It can be helpful to keep your thumb on top of the blade as a guide. Use your non-dominant hand to guide the food, but keep your fingers curled atop it (as if you’re typing or playing the piano) so that if the knife comes close to them, the blade won’t slice into them.
How Do You Store a Chef’s Knife?
If you already have a butcher block or magnetic knife strip that you like, keep using those! Binder recommends storing your knife with nothing on top of it, whether it’s on a magnetic strip or in a butcher block. He likes butcher blocks, aside from their tendency to get a bit dirty. Davis uses a magnetic strip above her sink, but when traveling, stores her knives in a leather case.
Last Updated: October 24, 2023
Last Updated: October 30, 2023