The 10 Best Chef's Knives
This wiki has been updated 24 times since it was first published in July of 2015. Looking for a gift for a working cook you know, or perhaps for someone who loves to spend time in their own kitchen? We sorted through a plethora of blades to create a selection that includes options suitable for homes as well as high-end restaurants. These have been rated by durability, sharpness, and overall value to help you choose the most appropriate for your needs. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
August 20, 2020:
Chef's knives are one of the categories with many different factors whose importance is relative to the user. Hardness, edge-retention, flexibility, profile, thickness, grind, bolster style, and handle profile and material are all important properties to consider, but you should choose your knife depending on your cutting style and how it feels in your hand. The general line of demarcation is between Japanese and Western knife styles. Japanese chef's knives like the Misono UX10 and the Tojiro DP are generally very thin and use carbon steel which is very hard and holds a very sharp edge. This comes with some trade-offs in toughness and a susceptibility to corrosion. You need to take extra care to dry off a Japanese knife after use and be mindful of twisting and levering motions that could break or chip the edge.
Western-style chef's knives like the Zwilling Henckels Professional S are much thicker and therefore tougher and take a lot more abuse. They don't hold an edge as long but they are easy to sharpen. The Messermeister Oliva Elite Stealth has every attribute that I'm partial to. The blade profile allows for rocking and the semi-bolster facilitates the pinch grip. The tip is nicely supported, the grind is pristine, it's drop forged, Messermeister uses an excellent heat treatment process, and the handle is girthy which is comfortable for me since I have somewhat large hands. The olive wood handle is beautiful and unfinished, which I like because I got to apply my preferred finish - linseed oil.
March 26, 2019:
A good chef's knife is absolutely the most important piece of any cook or chef's tool kit, as it's capable of tackling a massive range of tasks. However, there are literally hundreds to choose from these days, and it can be a daunting task to settle on just one. But make no mistake, a good blade should realistically last for years with proper care. There are countless different manufacturers and importers, as well, and many of them hold their products to very different standards. It's most important to keep in mind that not every person prefers knives the same way. Nonetheless, we've spoken with a large number of chefs, as well as used many different models ourselves, and we're confident that our selection here contains many of the very best available. Mac knives are found in high-end culinary institutions quite frequently, and it's hard to go wrong with anything they make. Their professional and standard chef lines are both fantastic; they're made with slightly different alloys, and the pro line is about twice as expensive, but you'll almost certainly be happy with either, depending on your budget. Speaking of budgets, the Tojiro DP is a much-talked-about model that beginner to intermediate line cooks have found much success with as they hone their skills. If you're looking for a knife that gets basically as shard as surgical equipment, consider Misono's offerings. Their UX10 is an all-around excellent choice, and we've never heard of any skilled users being unhappy with it. If you can handle the added attention that carbon steel requires, their Swedish steel blade is nearly unparalleled in performance as well as looks. Though it's also somewhat pricey, it makes a great gift that even a seasoned (and/or jaded) chef will absolutely appreciate. Wustof makes a number of excellent knives that don't resemble the Japanese styles as much; they're heavier and use softer steel, which (while it's somewhat counter-intuitive) is actually slightly more durable and easier to use than high-hardness alloys. If you need something cheap, it's almost impossible to top the Fibrox, though it may need frequent sharpening for best results. Suisin's Inox is located somewhat between the ultralight Japanese style and hefty Western design, and is a beautiful blade in its own right. No matter which you choose, be sure to pick up a good stone or two, as well as a smooth honing tool made of steel or ceramic. And always remember to work carefull and safely, and keep your knives sharp, because a sharp knife is far less dangerous than a dull one. Always hand-wash knives with warm, soapy water, NEVER in the dishwasher, and remember that it takes practice to perfectly sharpen a blade, especially one made of extremely hard steel, like those at the top of our list.
Making The Cut
Those physics also mandate that a good chef's knife not be serrated.
If you've ever cut yourself while working in the kitchen, there's a good chance that the knife you were using was too dull. Sure, it did a number on your fingers, but that's only because it wasn't sharp enough to cut your food more easily, so it slipped and got you instead.
A good knife cuts by virtue of its edge, which must be honed to a fine point. Even the sharpest blades are marked marked with microscopic peaks and valleys. Those tiny imperfections catch a piece of food that you want to slice — for example, the tough and smooth skin of a tomato — and tear open that surface as cleanly as possible. After that, the continued friction of the knife's edge and its properties as a wedge finish separating the food.
Conversely, if your knife is too dull, instead of a crisp edge with many peaks and valleys to create friction, you have a rounded surface, smooth like a wire. If you draw that smooth texture across the surface of your food, there's nothing for it to grab on with, so it slips and cuts into the next thing it finds. Unfortunately, that's often your other hand.
It's a simple matter of physics, but it requires that your knives receive a good honing after every couple of uses. That's why a lot of knife block sets come with honing rods to keep your best knives in true. Those physics also mandate that a good chef's knife not be serrated. You'll notice that none of the chef's knives on our list have an overt serration, and if you have one that does, it's a sure sign that you've got something cheap and dangerous in your hands.
A Cut Above The Rest
Any long-time culinary expert will tell you that one of the most important aspects of a knife is how it feels when you’re using it. As such, you might not know for a few months exactly how you feel, deep down in your soul, about your newest tool. If you’re serious about collecting effective knives, then our selections are a great place to start — most chefs will agree that you can never have too many knives. If you want to make sure you get yourself or the cook in your life the right blade on the first try, there are certainly some objective facts to point you towards one option or another.
Carbon steel can get sharper under the right conditions, but it requires very meticulous care to keep it from oxidizing, pitting, or rusting.
For starters, there are two main categories of chef’s knives: Eastern and Western, also called Japanese and European. Knives of German and, to an extent, French heritage are made with heavier, thicker, ultimately softer steel than their Asian counterparts. Somewhat counterintuitively, this lower hardness makes these knives more durable, as they’re more likely to flex or give slightly under extreme force, rather than chip.
Japanese knives, as well as some very fine French knives, are known for their extremely thin blades and harder, inflexible steel. This style can get brutally sharp, albeit often with a lot of elbow grease, and the edge usually stays like that for quite some time. The smooth, resistance-free, razor-like cutting ability of some of these is so notable that pros use the word "laser" to describe such a knife — a knife so sharp and thin that it falls straight through food as though it wasn’t even there.
You’ll also want to take notice of whether the metal is a stain-resistant alloy or old-school carbon steel. Carbon steel can get sharper under the right conditions, but it requires very meticulous care to keep it from oxidizing, pitting, or rusting. A lot of high-quality options utilize a carbon steel core for the actual edge, and encase it in protective, stain-free layers.
No matter what, remember to keep your knife clean — there’s no such thing as truly stainless steel.
Blade Of A Bygone Age
One of the most epic depictions of the dawn of man in any art form comes to us in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, when we see the first moment that primitive man took up tools of any kind. We're shown the immediate consequences of that discovery, as well as mankind's development into a space-traveling species.
Since that date, the knife has seen plenty of transformations, evolving from the flint tools of the stone age into bronze and eventually iron.
It's an amazing feat of cinema, and one that immediately comes to mind when looking back over the history of the knife. Researchers in Spain discovered a flint knife deep within a cave that dates back 1.4 million years. It's humbling, to say the least, to think about mankind functioning such a level so many years ago, and it makes one wonder about the knives we'll leave behind for archaeologists to find millions of years in the future.
Since that date, the knife has seen plenty of transformations, evolving from the flint tools of the stone age into bronze and eventually iron. Steel blades grew in popularity for military purposes before they found their way into the kitchen. Throughout the middle ages, most individuals carried some sort of blade on their persons that served for protection as well as food preparation.
As modernity reared its head after the discovery of America, Europe saw an enormous influx of raw materials and wealth, eventually leading to class revolutions. This offered more diverse culinary experiences to citizens on either side of the Atlantic, necessitating the slow and steady development of culinary tools like these chef's knives.