- A chef’s knife is an established kitchen essential with models differing mostly in weight, length, and material.
- A good chef’s knife should be 8 inches, made of steel, and weigh whatever is ideal for the user.
- Japanese-designed kitchen knives have lighter, sharper blades, while German styles tend to be heavier and more durable.
Do you have a kitchen? Do you slice food? Then you definitely need a good chef’s knife. Described as the most important knife in the kitchen, a chef’s knife slices, dices, chops, and cuts. It can be used in so many ways and on practicality any ingredient.
Since chef’s knives are so important, a home cook that’s shopping around will find that they’re spoiled for choice.
Different sizes, varying weights, ranging budgets — there’s a dizzying array of chef’s knives available. The following is a selection of some of the best on the market today, and how to choose the one that’s right for you.
What Makes a Good Chef’s Knife?
You know you want to cook, and you know you need a chef’s knife. What’s next? After sifting through the best-selling models and user reviews, a few common features stand out as essential in a quality knife. These can be whittled down mainly to size, weight, and material.
The Perfect Size
While knives can go as long as 12 or 13 inches (mostly used by professional chefs), a home cook would do best to stick to a manageable 8-inch chef’s knife. Unless you’re cutting really large food, you won’t need any bigger and most residential kitchen counters and cutting boards don’t allow for much bigger than that. A knife that’s 8 inches gives you enough leeway to cut most ingredients — from small ginger knobs to large pork loins — and work in the space that’s available in your average home kitchen.
A Weighty Choice
Preparing a complete meal can have you holding your chef’s knife for quite a while. Therefore, it makes sense to choose what you’d rather have in your hand — a more solid piece of cutlery that can chop through even the densest ingredients or a lighter blade that slices with ease.
Heavier knives tend to feature Western or German designs, such as the Wüsthof Classic IKON that weighs in at 255 grams, while lighter options are based on Japanese styles, like the MAC Professional Series Chef’s Knife, at 184 grams. A knife that stands a good middle ground, with a substantial but not overly burdensome weight, is our own Misen Chef's Knife, which is 235 grams.
A Cutting Edge
Steel is the all-around best kitchen material. Most of the knives on our list come in either stainless steel or high-carbon stainless steel. Both are great options — highly durable and safe to use with all food with no additional coating required — so the decision between them is a personal preference.
Stainless steel has at least 12% chromium, which makes it resistant to rust and corrosion, and softer than high-carbon steel. This makes it very easy to sharpen on your own.
High-carbon steel knives, on the other hand, are some of the sharpest knives you can get. They are much harder than stainless steel, and therefore retain their sharp edge for longer. However, high-carbon steel is also more brittle and can chip if accidentally dropped on a hard surface. It also doesn’t have the rust and corrosion resistance that stainless steel has and will require more care and maintenance.
The Chef’s Choice
The perfect chef’s knife is personal. As a kitchen tool you’ll be using almost daily, it’s important to find one that fits and functions exactly the way you want it to. The following is a round-up of the top chef’s knives available today.
Most Popular: MAC Professional Series Chef’s Knife With Dimples (8 inches, 184 grams)
This chef’s knife is beloved by cooks and highly-rated on many top cutlery lists as the perfect general purpose knife.
True enough, MAC describes their chef’s knife as “our most popular knife for everyday use,” with a thin 2.5mm blade, a half-bolster, and comfortable wooden handle that feels light yet balanced in the hand.
This knife stands out for its clean cutting and razor-sharp blade, which is proudly produced in Seki City, Japan, a city renowned for superior sword manufacturing. All of the brand’s knives are hand-ground and hand-sharpened from rust-resistant molybdenum and vanadium high-carbon steel.
MAC also adds dimples (also known as a Granton edge) along each side of the blade — a trademark of the popular Japanese santoku knife — to help the knife glide through food that may otherwise stick to its surface (potatoes, cucumbers, butternut squash).
While a bit high-end and pricey for most home cooks, this chef’s knife is comfortable, easy-to-use, and makes chopping chores a breeze.
Best Heavyweight German Knife: Wüsthof Classic Ikon Cook’s Knife, (8 inches, 255 grams)
If you prefer a little extra heft in the kitchen, it’s best to go with a German-style chef’s knife. Wüsthof is a seventh generation family-owned, family-run brand, and offers an excellent German knife that is super sharp, sturdy, and does everything a good chef’s knife should do.
The Ikon’s blade is forged from high-carbon stainless steel and has a full tang that’s triple riveted to its durable, contoured handle. The blade also features santoku-style dimples, which are intended to prevent food from sticking to the blade with every slice.
While it’s heavier than other 8-inch knives of the same size, its blade is noticeably thinner and lighter compared to other German brands. This allows for a smoother slice when working with dense ingredients, like root crops or meat.
Best Lightweight Japanese Knife: Global G-2 Classic Chef’s Knife (8 inches, 221 grams)
Like most Japanese knives, this one is lightweight, easy to care for, and stunningly designed. The entire knife is made from one piece of stainless steel — a molybdenum, vanadium, and chromium blend — from tip to handle. The hollow handle has a pebbled texture for a solid grip and is actually filled with a precise amount of sand, which flows as the blade is maneuvered and balances the blade.
Global’s signature, however, is the knife’s straight edge, which features a steeply-angled tip around 1/4 inch up the blade. This results in a dramatically sharper knife that holds an edge for a long time.
Although lighter than most chef’s knives and not well suited for cutting into dense food, it’s perfect for most other tasks, like chopping onions, slicing produce, and mincing herbs.
Best of Both Worlds: Misen Chef's Knife (8.2 inches, 235 grams)
Our chef’s knife brings together the best of both worlds. And we’re not the only ones who think so. Like American- or Western-style cutlery, it has a full tang and more substantial weight, which allows it to slice cleanly through every ingredient. It’s also more durable and ergonomically designed.
But like Japanese-style knives, the Misen blade is sharpened at a more acute 15-degree cutting edge and made from premium Japanese steel, which retains its sharpness for a longer period of time.
Plus, at under $100, this chef’s knife offers high-quality and great value for an honest price.
Best Knife for Starters: Victorinox Fibrox Pro Chef’s Knife (8 inches, 227 grams)
This is a good chef’s knife for those starting out in the kitchen. It has the bare basics of what you need in a chef’s knife, which is a stainless steel blade and utilitarian design. As a brand, Victorinox also performs well and is widely available (online or in most home kitchen departments).
The main issue with this knife is the plastic handle. It’s textured for an easy, no-slip grip, but does tend to feel a bit flimsy during use.
At such an affordable price point, however — equivalent to a dinner for two — Victorinox is a good deal. It’s a great knife that you’ll feel comfortable learning on and can always keep as a spare when you decide to upgrade to a higher quality chef’s knife.
No Matter How You Slice It
If you’re cooking in the kitchen, you're going to be using a chef’s knife. This multi-purpose knife handles the majority of cutting tasks — from dicing onions to chopping meat to slicing fruit. It’s a kitchen essential, and one that will help you create a variety of different dishes.