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Whether you’re an advanced home cook or a novice, having a sharp, durable, and sturdy chef’s knife is essential when preparing a meal. It’s one of the only kitchen tools you use almost every time you prepare food, so selecting high-quality kitchen knives can have major benefits for both safety and efficiency. In search of the best chef’s knife, we put some of the leading models to the test by chopping, slicing, and dicing ingredients.
Chef’s knives aren’t one-size-fits-all — there is no such thing as a truly universal chef’s knife. Finding the knife that works best for you depends on the size of your hands, the style of your cooking, and what feels most natural while you chop and slice. However, a solid chef’s knife should always be sharp, balanced, and comfortable to hold, no matter the size. Before shopping for one, it’s important to assess what you’ll use it most for and how often, as well as how you plan to clean and care for it. We’ve found our favorite professional-quality kitchen knives to use, thanks to years of testing in our test kitchens and at home.
Mac Knife 8-Inch Hollow Edge Chef’s Knife
Overall, we’ve been thoroughly impressed by how easily the Mac knife performs in our tests year after year. It’s lightweight and sharp, which any serious home cook knows are the two most important factors in finding a reliable chef’s knife.
This Japanese-style knife features a thin blade and dimples that help prevent food from sticking. Throughout our tests we found this knife surprisingly sharp, lightweight, and durable. We could slice through dense vegetables as easily as soft vegetables, and the blade had no trouble gliding through a sheet of paper or slippery tomato skin. The Pakkawood handle was easy to grip and felt sturdy in our hands, no matter the material we were working with. The Mac’s super-sharp blade is expertly balanced with the handle, so pressure and strain on our hands and wrists was barely noticeable. Whether you need a workhorse chef’s knife or a great gift that an aspiring cook will use for years, this kitchen knife is the best combination of a dimpled blade and full tang construction, built for steady rocking across your cutting boards.
Price at time of publish: $95
- Weight: 6.75 ounces
- Metal: Alloy steel
Material The 8-Inch Knife
Adding a simply designed, low-maintenance knife to your toolkit without making a major investment is easier than you think, and this option from Material is a great choice. We found it ultra sharp when cutting through paper and vegetables and had no trouble breaking down tough ingredients like butternut squash. For occasional cooks that want a reliable knife that can slice meat, chop vegetables, or mince herbs, this knife is balanced and efficient.
Though the design is attractive to look at, though note that classically trained cooks might find some tasks feel awkward with the smooth, long handle. We also noted some stains and water marks when cleaning it, so make sure to hand wash thoroughly after each use.
Price at time of publish: $75
- Weight: 7.5 ounces
- Metal: High-carbon and Japanese stainless steel
Shun Classic Chef’s 8-Inch
As far as Japanese chef’s knives go, Shun is an industry favorite that consistently offers sharp, lightweight knives that are durable and sturdy. The Classic Blonde does not disappoint, as it comes equipped with a birch wood handle treated with resin for extra durability and designed for comfort in both left and right hands. The knife is handcrafted with 34 layers of forged stainless steel on each side, forging a flexible blade that is rust-proof, stain-proof, and stick-resistant. As a high-end option, we love how easily it achieves paper-thin slices, and the slightly curved blade allows for moderate rocking.
After using this knife for many years, our editors can attest to its quality, so long as you care for it properly. Make sure to hand wash and fully dry in between each use, and store it in a way that will safely preserve the razor-sharp edge.
Price at time of publish: $170
- Weight: 6.75 ounces
- Metal: Damascus steel
Wüsthof 8-Inch Classic Chef’s Knife
This is a sturdy knife with a weight, grip, and stability to make cutting into tough ingredients easier and safer.
This Western-style knife is one of the most durable, heavy-duty chef’s knives we’ve tested. The Wüsthof brand is known for making high-quality knives that are admittedly heavier than others, but that makes them ideal for tough tasks like breaking down whole chickens or cutting up dense root vegetables. It has a half bolster that helps protect your finger from touching the blade’s edge. The blade had no trouble gliding through the paper in our out-of-the-box sharpness test and expertly achieved thin, consistent cuts in our vegetable tests. The handle is sturdy and slip-free, which makes applying extra pressure easy and safe.
Our editors who have used this knife over the course of many years have noted that the heavy handle can feel bulky and cumbersome when doing repetitive tasks like prepping large quantities of vegetables. So users should keep that in mind depending on their regular kitchen tasks.
Price at time of publish: $226
- Weight: 9 ounces
- Metal: High-carbon stain-free steel
Global 8-Inch Chef’s Knife
If you’re most comfortable with a very lightweight knife and want one that’s easy to care for, this is a solid option. It’s made of just one piece of metal, including the handle, which is hollow and filled with sand. The specific construction makes the knife feel perfectly balanced from heel to tip. Because the handle isn’t weighted down with any extra material—like rivets—the knife feels sleek and ergonomic in our hands. The metal handle has dimples to provide a safe grip, and while some cooks think it gets slippery when used to cut chicken, meat, or anything juicy, we didn’t find that to be the case. Global’s knives are made in Japan and come in various sizes including 6-inch, 8-inch, and 10-inch.
This knife easily achieved paper-thin cuts in our tomato test and made easy work of chopping and mincing garlic. Though the super-sharp blade could slice through the squash, we should note that having a heavier knife might be better for tough, dense ingredients. This knife should be hand-washed using warm water and mild detergent. We found cleaning easy, though some ingredients left spots on the metal.
Price at time of publish: $105 for 6″
- Weight: 5.75 ounces
- Metal: High carbon stainless steel
New West Knifeworks 7-Inch Teton Edge Santoku
New West KnifeWorks has been making premium knives for 25 years, and this santoku reflects the brand’s signature style of craftsmanship, which prizes aesthetics as highly as performance. While the blades of traditional santokus are dimpled, the edge of this knife features an etching of the Teton Mountain Range. That’s a nod to Jackson Hole (New West’s place of origin) and a functional detail: like with the dimples, the etching prevents food from sticking to the blade as the knife slices through. The generous width of this knife makes for easy gripping, and its moderate length translates to an extremely agile experience while chopping, no matter a cook’s experience or comfort level. It’s well worth the high price for serious cooks leveling up their knife repertoire.
Price at time of publish: $389
- Weight: 6.2 ounces
- Metal: S35VN “Powder Metal” high carbon, high alloyed steel
The Mac Professional Mighty Hollow Edge Knife lets anyone prep food as quickly and efficiently as a professional line cook in your very own home. We love how sharp the blade is and how consistently it can cut through any ingredient that comes your way. If you want to invest in a high-quality chef’s knife that can handle meat, vegetables, and fish, this is a fantastic choice.
Factors to Consider
When shopping for a chef’s knife, there are traditionally two styles to choose between. Heavy-duty, German-style models are usually made with a curved belly that allows for a rocking, chopping motion, in which the tip of the knife doesn’t leave the cutting board. German knives typically have a heartier blade that lends itself to tough tasks like breaking down a whole chicken or slicing through dense squash. As a result, the knives are typically heavier and more durable.
Alternatively, Japanese knives are lightweight with a sharp, straight blade, which makes repetitive motions like rocking and chopping difficult. However, this style of blade is ideal for making precise slices and cuts on a number of different types of foods. Some Japanese knives—like a Santoku knife—also feature dimples on the blade, which aim to prevent food from sticking.
In addition to the shape of the cutting edge, it’s important to consider whether or not the blade has a bolster. Bolsters sit between the blade and the handle and act as a guard that protects your fingers from touching the sharp edge. They’re common in German-style models and are particularly helpful for cooks who like to choke up on the knife. Though bolsters provide protection, they add weight and can sometimes cause the knife to feel heavy or unbalanced.
Types of Steel
The type of metal your knife is made from can have major implications on blade sharpness and how easy it is to clean. The much-simplified big picture is that if you need an all-purpose 8-inch chef’s knife—one that’s in a reasonable price range and carried by most retailers—you have a choice between heavy-duty, German-style models that are usually made with slightly softer steel alloys (like high-carbon stainless steel), or lighter Japanese-style models, that are usually made with harder steel alloys (like Damascus steel). Neither is necessarily better than the other. They are just different, especially in terms of the way they feel and move in your hand.
Harder steel holds a sharper edge for a longer period of time but can be more difficult to sharpen once it does get dull. And a very hard, very sharp edge can also be more delicate and brittle than a softer one, making cutting up a heavy squash, say, a little risky to the blade. A softer steel alloy, like those used in the German tradition, might be less sharp to begin with and get dull a little faster. However, it can be easier to re-sharpen, and therefore better for heavy-duty jobs—like splitting bone-in chicken breasts—without worry that you’re going to damage the blade. In general, harder steel is sharper and more delicate, while softer steel is tougher. If you’re shopping for a knife, ask where it falls on the Rockwell Hardness Scale. Low to mid-50s is on the softer end, mid-50s to low 60s is harder.
One of the most important aspects of a chef’s knife is a balance between blade and handle. A knife with a heavy handle can put a strain on your wrist, making long-term use painful and inefficient. Repetitive motions like chopping and slicing can be tiresome, so having a knife that is easy to control and maneuver is essential. The handle should not feel significantly heavier than the blade, and the knife itself should feel balanced from heel to tip. If you plan to use your knife frequently for prep work like slicing vegetables, chopping herbs, or mincing garlic, balance is a key factor to consider.
Our Chef’s Knife Tests
Throughout our tests, we assessed everything from how sharp the blades were to how balanced they felt from tip to heel. We also took note of the weight and grip of each handle and assessed whether they felt heavy or light and slippery or sturdy. We noted how easy each blade was to clean and if the blades stained easily. We performed three different tasks to gather as many insights as possible.
To test sharpness out of the box, we conducted a paper cutting test. Holding the paper tightly with one hand, we dragged the blade of each knife through the paper along the entire length of the blade. We assessed whether or not we could achieve a clean slice, and evaluated how easily each blade could move through the paper, taking note of any snagging or tearing. This test helped us establish a baseline by determining how sharp each knife was directly out of the box, without any prior use.
After completing the paper test, we ran each knife through a series of vegetable tests to see how they performed using different textures of food. To test basic prep functionality, we diced an onion both coarsely and finely, which helped us assess the sharpness of the blade as well as how easy they were to use. We made sure to use both the tip of the blade and the belly of the blade to determine if the edge was consistent.
Next, we evaluated each knife by cutting through a tomato, whose skins are taut and slippery. Tomatoes are notoriously hard to cut through without mashing them, and chefs often use a serrated knife to help manage the uncooperative skins. Therefore, they serve as an appropriate test of blade sharpness and handle grip. We took note of which knives were able to achieve thin, even slices and which knives caused the skins to wrinkle and tear.
Lastly, we used each knife to cube one of the densest vegetables we could find: a butternut squash. Cutting a thick, heavy vegetable allowed us to assess handle grip, balance, weight, and blade sharpness. Though lightweight knives are typically preferable, having a heavy-duty knife can make tough tasks easier and safer.
More Knives We’d Consider
Takamura Santoku 170mm
One of the most popular gift knives sold by Coutelier, a knife shop in New Orleans, this high-performance santoku offers tremendous value for its high-end craftsmanship. “These are incredibly well made by the Takamura brothers out of Echizen in Northwestern Japan,” said Jacqueline Blanchard, owner of Coutelier. “They’re third generation and known for their amazing quality stainless steel production.” Due to this santoku’s slightly shorter blade, it has the added bonus of being comfortable for cooks with any size hands–whether you’re gifting or receiving. (couteliernola.com, $170)
Masamoto VG Santoku Knife
The affordability of this knife makes it a great gateway into the world of santokus. Plus, the Western-style handle offers a balanced feel that will be familiar to cooks who are accustomed to Western chef’s knives. The clean, no-frills design and hyper-sharp edge make this knife a workhorse–use it for everything from pushing through thick cuts of meat to carefully slicing vegetables. (chefknivestogo.com, $180)
We’ve been impressed with the quality of this knife as well as the sharpness of the blade. It easily slid through the paper test and achieved precise, thin, consistent cuts in the vegetable tests. The Western-style knife from Shun is slightly heavier than the Classic Blonde, which is one of the only reasons we didn’t select it as a top choice. Otherwise, this is a fantastic knife for any home cook willing to invest in a high-end knife. ($170, williams-sonoma.com)
For any home cook trying to practice their professional knife skills, this Japanese-style knife is still a good choice. Throughout our tests, this knife stood out for its ability to glide easily through any cutting surface. We loved how the blade tip was just as sharp as the belly, which let them use it like a paring knife for tasks like mincing garlic and carving out seeds in butternut squash. We did find it is on the heavier side compared to some other knives on this list, and there are knives similarly priced that performed equally well without the extra weight. ($90, amazon.com)
We found this to be an excellent choice for the price. It’s sharp and strong—it easily cuts through onions and butternut squash—but we didn’t find it particularly nimble when working with delicate vegetables like tomatoes. Despite its sharpness out of the box, our long-term testing revealed that the blade dulls easily and needs to be sharpened more frequently than others. It’s still an affordable knife that is lightweight and durable at the same time — essential characteristics in any good chef’s knife. ($30, amazon.com)
This knife excelled in our tests and had no trouble slicing through paper, tomato, onions, or garlic. The maple wood handle is sturdy, slip-free, and attractive, but the knife itself is on the heavy side. We noticed that streaks and spots were left on the blade after cleaning. We feel it’s a little too expensive for what it is, and better knives are available at the same price point. ($125, amazon.com)
What Didn’t Make the List
Imarku Chef Knife: We found this lightweight knife attractive and comfortable to hold. Though easily sliced through delicate foods, it struggled with heftier ingredients like butternut squash. It’s an affordable option, but we’d recommend spending a little more for a higher-quality knife.
Kramer Zwilling Euroline Essential Collection 8-Inch Chef’s Knife: Designed by Master Bladesmith Bob Kramer, this special collection has a rounded spine and wide blade for increased knuckle clearance. Though it proved to be durable for cutting dense vegetables, it’s also heavy and slightly awkward for people with smaller hands.
Misen 8-Inch Chef’s Knife: A hybrid of Western and Japanese styles, this knife is affordable and great for common tasks like smashing and mincing garlic. We had trouble when tackling tougher tasks like chopping butternut squash and noticed that food stuck to the blade. The handle also didn’t feel sturdy enough to cut through large vegetables.
Mercer Culinary Renaissance 8-Inch Forged Chef’s Knife: This knife failed our first test. When attempting to test sharpness out of the box, it could not slice through paper and crumpled it. We had no trouble mincing garlic or cubing butternut squash but found it difficult to achieve uniform cuts in the tomato test but
Mercer Culinary Millennia Black Handle Chef’s Knife: We found this knife a bit uncomfortable and unbalanced. The shape of the handle made chopping difficult, and the strain on our wrists was evident. It did not cleanly slice through paper and struggled when chopping an onion.
J.A. Henckels International Classic 8-Inch Chef’s Knife: This chef’s knife has a particularly long handle, making it awkward and uncomfortable in our hands. The blade isn’t as sharp as others, and it did not pass our tests.
Kyocera Revolution Ceramic 7-Inch Chef’s Knife: This knife is lightweight and can cleanly cut typical ingredients. However, the blade has no flexibility, which we found to be a hindrance when cutting dense squash. We also noticed streaks and spots left behind on the blade after cleaning.
Made In 8-Inch Chef’s Knife: It’s balanced from heel to tip and excels at simple tasks like chopping onions or mincing garlic. However, though this knife is on the heftier end, it struggled when cutting through dense squash.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you use a chef’s knife?
A chef’s knife is the workhorse of your knife set, according to Sarah Blair, a chef and culinary producer. “It’s easily the most used knife in your block or drawer. It can be used for many tasks, from chopping to slicing to mincing. The blade is typically anywhere from six to 14 inches long and has a broad and tapered blade,” she says. “This knife is more multi-purpose with less precision, so you would not want to use it for slicing fish or carving meat. Similarly, you would not want to dull the blade by doing more arduous and forceful tasks like butchering through bone and joints.”
“This blade is designed to make a perpetual rocking, circular motion,” she says. “You want to angle the knife’s heel upward and keep the tip on the cutting board. You then lower the knife down while pushing through. You repeat this process and then raise the heel back upwards. The tip of the knife never leaves the cutting board.”
How should you sharpen a chef’s knife?
For most people, professional sharpening is recommended to keep your blades in good order. There are home electric sharpeners that can do a good job between visits to the pro. But if you want to sharpen like the pros, use a dampened sharpening stone and a sharpening steel rod to hone the blade, according to Blair.
How do you sharpen a chef’s knife with a stone?
“For a dampened sharpening stone, you want to hold the knife’s blade near the handle with your index finger and thumb and then wrap your other three fingers under the bolster and handle of the knife. Then with a locked wrist, you want to place your index finger on top of the spine of the knife’s blade, pointing towards the tip. Place the knife’s blade about 45 degrees against the sharpening stone and angle the blade about 15 to 18 degrees against the stone (roughly two stacked quarters). Place your other hand’s pointer and index finger lightly on top of the blade’s heel while you glide the knife up and down the stone. The use of your second hand gives you optimal control. Glide the blade up and down in sections until you feel the entire first side of the blade is sharp. Repeat this process with the other side of the blade,” says Blair.
“When sharpening the second side, use your other hand’s thumb (extra control for your nondominant side), pointer, and index finger to hold the knife’s heel gently. Push the knife up and down the stone from heel to tip in fluid movements. Remember to lift the handle slightly as you come towards your body and lower the knife’s handle back down as you push the blade away, gliding the blade up and down the stone using long, fluid strokes,” she says.
How do you sharpen a chef’s knife with sharpening steel?
“For a sharpening steel rod, you want to angle the blade at 15 to 20 degrees (roughly three stacked pennies or one matchbook) against the steel and swipe it in one fluid motion from the heel to the tip. Turn the rod one-quarter turn with each swipe. You want to glide the knife away from your body and then back towards your body in even strokes. This process eliminates the waves or ripples in the knife and creates one sleek and sharp surface. You can point the steel outwards from your body and hold it like a sword. Or, you can place it linearly in front of your body and secure it on a table like you are planting a stake. Either position is correct, as long you’re using the right angle and motion,” says Blair.
How should you hold a chef’s knife?
“For maximum control of your knife, you want to hold the blade loosely between your thumb and index finger,” Blair says. Gripping the blade itself, close to the hilt of the handle, will give you lots of control over the knife. “Then, you want to slide your three fingers under the bolster and handle of the knife. This grip is commonly known as a pinch grip, where you are essentially choking up on the blade with your index finger, giving you ultimate rotation and authority,” she says.
Laura Denby is a former professional chef who has spent years cooking in professional and private kitchens throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Hamptons. A graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education with a degree in Culinary Arts, Laura now uses her experience in the kitchen to guide her expert product reviews for sites like Food & Wine and AllRecipes. Her writing can be found on FoodNetwork.com, Delish, Southern Living, Real Simple, and more.