Carbon steel core. Made by hand from 33 layers of Damascus steel.
Some complaints that blade is thin and chips easily. Others say the handle is a poor fit.
German steel with a full tang. Slightly flexible blade. Good shape for "rocking" while chopping.
Some complaints that grip feels awkward.
High carbon steel. Conical ground for max sharpness. Ergonomically designed and slip resistant.
Some say the blade needs frequent sharpening. It's best if a professional does this job.
High carbon German steel. Drop-forged with triple-rivet, full-tang handle. Great balance in the hand.
Some say it loses sharpness quickly. Others say the spine can break the skin.
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It doesn't matter if you rarely cook or you chop and dice daily, a quality chef's knife is essential in any kitchen. Contrary to what you might be thinking, a sharper knife is safer because it requires less pressure and will slice rather than tear and slide. But with all the options available, how do you know that what you are considering is truly a quality knife?
A forged high-carbon stainless steel blade performs the best. It also holds a sharp edge extremely well, but it is also the most expensive option. If budget is your primary concern, you might need to consider a stamped carbon steel or stainless steel knife. Either way, look for a durable laminate handle as wood can hold bacteria and plastic may crack.
You can feel confident purchasing any of our handpicked chef's knives. If you would like more in-depth knowledge on materials, care, and tips on using, continue reading.
While there are many different types of knives, the average home chef needs a minimum of these three: a chef’s knife, a paring knife, and a bread knife.
This large, all-purpose knife has a straight edge – not a serrated edge – and is typically eight inches long. You can use a chef’s knife for mincing, dicing, chopping, and slicing.
A paring knife is similar to a chef’s knife, but it is smaller. Most paring knives have a three- or four-inch blade without serrations. You can use a paring knife to mince, chop, peel, and fillet.
These serrated knives generally have a nine- or ten-inch blade, and despite the name, they aren’t just for slicing bread – although they do that beautifully. You can use a bread knife to slice tomatoes and other soft fruits and vegetables, cut cake, and slice meat.
A utility knife isn’t mandatory, but it is a useful addition to your collection if you are an avid cook. In terms of length, utility knives fall somewhere between chef’s knives and paring knives – typically around seven inches. A utility knife is great for those times when your chef’s knife is a bit too big and your paring knife a bit too small.
Quality knives don’t belong in the dishwasher. Wash and dry your knife by hand after every use.
There are two basic methods of knife construction: forging and stamping. Here’s a look at the specifics of each type.
Forged knives are made from a solid piece of metal that has been heated to an extreme temperature and pounded into shape. The production process is quite elaborate, and as a result, forged knives are more expensive than stamped knives. They are usually a little heavier and thicker than stamped knives, and they tend to hold their edge very well.
Stamped knives are machine-punched out of steel and then sharpened. Although there are some excellent stamped chef’s knives – and they are less expensive than forged knives – most serious cooks prefer a forged chef’s knife. However, we urge potential buyers to not automatically discount this type of blade. If you don’t have need for a chef’s knife that often, a stamped chef’s knife could be all you need.
Storing your chef’s knife properly not only helps keep it in good condition, it also reduces the risk of sliced fingers. Keep your knife in a knife block, on a magnetic strip, or in a designated knife holder in your utensil drawer.
There are three common metals used to make kitchen knives: stainless steel, carbon steel, and high-carbon stainless steel. Each has its pros and cons.
Stainless steel is the most common metal you’ll find in the average kitchen. It’s also the least expensive.
Pros: Doesn’t rust, durable, easy to sharpen, doesn’t stain
Cons: Doesn’t hold a sharp edge as well as other metals
Carbon steel is the preferred blade material of many chefs, but you’ll pay more for this premium metal.
Pros: Holds a sharp edge, easy to sharpen
Cons: Tends to discolor or develop a patina, pricier than stainless steel, rusts
High-carbon stainless steel has more carbon in the steel mixture than regular stainless steel, giving it superior strength without the problematic tendency to rust or discolor found in carbon steel. You’ll pay a lot more for this metal, however.
Pros: Excellent performance without a tendency to rust or stain, holds a sharp edge very well
A dull blade is a dangerous blade. You’re more likely to use excessive pressure or sawing motions when your knife needs sharpening. Sharpen or hone your chef’s knife as needed to maintain its good condition.
A quality chef’s knife feels good in your hand and has a well-balanced, comfortable handle. Many chef’s knives have ergonomic handles that are specifically designed for ease of use.
There are three common handle materials used for kitchen knives: wood, laminate, and plastic.
Wood is a classic knife handle material that feels good in the hand. However, wood can hold on to bacteria and is not as durable as other materials.
While the pros on Top Chef seem to chop at the speed of light, you’ll probably find that slow, careful movements give you better results.
Never cut or chop on a hard countertop. That’s a surefire way to dull or damage your knife’s edge. Instead, perform food prep on a wooden or plastic cutting board.
When shopping for a chef’s knife, you may come across some unfamiliar terms. Here’s a brief glossary of important terms to know.
Tang: The tang of a knife is the part of the blade that extends into the handle and holds it in place. If you look at a good chef’s knife, you’ll generally see a strip of metal running through the middle of the handle; that’s the tang. A full tang, which is the most desirable, is thick enough to show on both the top and the bottom of the handle. Full-tang knives are very stable and feel balanced in the hand. A partial tang extends only down the top or bottom of the handle.
Edge: The edge of a chef’s knife is the sharp side.
Spine: The spine of a chef’s knife is the slightly flattened side of the blade that isn’t sharp.
Point: The point of a knife blade is its very tip.
Blade: This term refers to the entire knife, save the handle.
Butt: The butt is the end of the knife’s handle.
Rivets: A knife’s rivets are those metal “dots” you see along the knife’s handle. There are usually three, and they secure the tang inside the handle.
Heel: The heel is the wide “bumper” at the bottom of the blade right before it attaches to the handle. This adds balance to the knife and also serves as a handy edge for chopping harder items like nuts or carrots.
Bolster: The bolster is the thick part of the blade right in front of the handle. It helps keep your fingers from slipping while you use the knife. Not every chef’s knife has a bolster.
Q. How much does a chef’s knife cost?
A. There are inexpensive chef’s knives that cost less than $25, and there are chef’s knives that cost well over $100. For the average home cook, the sweet spot is somewhere between the $30 and $60 mark. For this kind of price tag, you should expect a product with quality construction, good balance, and a comfortable handle.
Q. Is it best to buy a complete knife set or purchase my knives separately?
A. While buying a complete knife set is undeniably easy, you could end up with knives you don’t need and will never use. And the more knives you have, the more storage space you need; for those low on space, this is a definite consideration.
Ultimately, the choice between a knife set and a single chef’s knife is up to you.
Q. What’s the best way to store my chef’s knife?
A. Good knives deserve respect. Don’t toss your chef’s knife into a jumbled drawer or leave it blade-down in a knife block; both of these actions could dull the blade or damage the knife. Keep your knife blade-up in a knife block, attach it to a magnetic knife holder, or keep it in a drawer with a utensil holder that safely separates sharp blades from other kitchen utensils.
Q. I hear a lot about Japanese chef’s knives. Are they better than western knives?
A. While Japanese knives are indeed fine utensils, they are not necessarily better than western knives. Japanese blades are generally very hard and sharp with thin, lightweight blades. That makes them easy for some people to wield, but it also means they are more likely to break during heavy use. Western chef’s knives, by contrast, tend to be heavier, thicker, and sturdier.
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