The Best Kitchen Knives (2020 Reviews)

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A good knife is one of the most important tools in the kitchen, even in an age of high-tech gadgets. A knife is fundamental to safe and efficient cooking, and buying a quality chef’s knife is one small change that can upgrade your whole kitchen experience.

A chef’s knife is a versatile, all-purpose kitchen knife. A high-quality chef’s knife can even act as an alternative to a full knife set, handling everything from chopping, slicing, and dicing to more delicate tasks like paring.

In this guide, we take a closer look at how to choose a good chef’s knife, both in general and for your specific needs. We’ll also give you our top picks for the best chef’s knife available today.

Our Top Picks: Summary

The Best Kitchen Knives: Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Wusthof CLASSIC IKON 8

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Wusthof CLASSIC IKON 8

A perfect all-rounder to suit any kitchen.

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Why We Picked It

A quality chef’s knife is the definition of an all-rounder, and that’s the appeal of the Wusthof CLASSIC IKON.

The Wusthof is an 8-inch chef’s knife forged from high carbon stainless steel. This model boasts an edge 20% sharper than previous models thanks to Wusthof’s Precision Edge Technology. The blade is full tang and features a triple-riveted handle.

The handle features an ergonomic, curved-profile and a double bolster for excellent grip, control, and heft. At 8 inches, this knife is the perfect length to offer full versatility in the kitchen, so this knife will suit most chefs.

Wusthof is an established, family-owned brand with over 200 years’ experience, so it’s fair to say it knows what it’s doing.

Keep in Mind

As a prestige brand, Wusthof knives can be more expensive than average.

In a Nutshell

  • 8-inch, full tang blade
  • Ergonomic handle
  • Established, high-quality brand

Budget Pick: Mercer Culinary M23510 Renaissance 8

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Mercer Culinary M23510 Renaissance 8

An affordable knife for any shopper

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Why We Picked It

If you’re looking for the utility of a knife without breaking the bank, a budget option like the Mercer Renaissance knife will be a good fit.

This knife is an 8-inch chef’s knife made with high-carbon stainless steel that will resist rust and corrosion, extending the blade’s life. The full tang, triple-riveted construction makes this knife stable, comfortable, and easy to use.

A shortened bolster keeps the knife-edge exposed for easy sharpening, which allows you to get more for your money through regular maintenance. The handle is made from Delrin (polyoxymethylene), which can withstand hot and cold temperatures and won’t be broken down by oil exposure.

Keep in Mind

While the blade is German steel, the rest of the knife isn’t German-made.

In a Nutshell

  • 8-inch chef’s knife with full tang
  • Shortened bolster
  • Delrin handle

Best Ergonomic: Mac Knife TH-80 8

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Mac Knife TH-80 8

Precision and comfort with excellent utility.

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Why We Picked It

An ergonomic knife allows for greater control over a knife and can make things easier for people with medical conditions like arthritis, too. For this category, we’ve chosen the Mac Knife.

The Mac Knife is an 8-inch Granton chef’s knife, made with molybdenum, high-carbon steel. The blade is Japanese-made and is full-tang with triple-riveted design.

The Pakkawood handle is classy and comfortable, allowing excellent precision control over the knife. The handle is triple-riveted and features slight contouring to suit the hand, which provides improved ergonomics in terms of both comfort and control.

Keep in Mind

The Pakkawood handle is sturdy, but the material may wear faster than other knife handles.

In a Nutshell

  • 8-inch chef’s knife
  • Pakkawood handle

Best Lightweight: Global G48 7

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Global G48 7

Lightweight and razor sharp for complete control.

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Why We Picked It

With a lightweight knife, you can exert fine control, whether it’s for rapid chopping or precision tasks. For this category, we’ve chosen the Global G48.

The Global Santoku knife is a hollow-ground, 7-inch design with a blade made of molybdenum, vanadium, and chromium stainless steel blend.

The knife features a stainless steel molded handle, so there’s no extra handle weight and the knife forms a single, robust unit. The handle is dimpled for grip and comfort, allowing you to make full use of the knife’s lightweight construction.

The edge on this knife is razor-sharp and can be maintained through careful washing by hand.

Keep in Mind

The steel handle is uninsulated, so it may become hot or cold to the touch.

In a Nutshell

  • 7-inch Santoku knife
  • Stainless steel molded handle
  • Dimpled grip

How We Chose the Best Kitchen Knives

To choose the best kitchen knives available, we looked at a few key areas. Details are below.

Knife Length

Chef’s knives typically range in length from 6 to 10 inches, with 8-inch knives being the most common. This length provides a balance between coverage and control.

Shorter knives offer more control for precision tasks, but they aren’t as effective at cutting long or deep items, like a melon. Longer knives are better at these tasks but can feel cumbersome to use on small items.

Our top picks all fell within the 7- to 8-inch range for the perfect level of versatility. This yields the best return on investment for the average shopper, though advanced chefs might choose a more specialized option.

Ergonomics

Like a piece of clothing, a knife should feel like it suits the individual, with exact preferences varying from person to person. An ergonomic knife is easy to use and comfortable when cutting stubborn items.

The main ergonomic considerations of a knife lie in its style of handle. Some handles are straight with texture for gripping, for instance, while others might be shaped to the fingers.

The knife’s bolster joins the handle to the blade and also plays a role in ergonomics. Angled bolsters can provide better protection, while straight bolsters are useful for more advanced cutting techniques. A popular modern take is a short bolster, which keeps more of the blade exposed for easier cutting and sharpening.

Blade

While it would be nice to think that all new knives have the same sharpness, this ultimately depends on the quality of the product. Blunt knives put owners at risk and make things more difficult in the kitchen.

A high-quality knife should be near razor-sharp, able to cut with only the slightest pressure. We looked at the sharpness of each knife to be sure it measured up, and also took a look at how long it was likely to stay sharp in general use.

What to Consider When Choosing a Chef’s Knife

When choosing a knife to suit your needs, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind. Here are some areas to consider.

Type of Knife

There are two popular styles of kitchen knives: German and Japanese.

The difference between the two plays neatly into some national clichés. German knives are efficient, utilitarian, and all-business, while Japanese knives are more elegant, and suited for delicate kitchen tasks.

This makes for an easy way to remember the difference between the two. Think about the kind of foods you prepare often to decide which suits your kitchen.

Weight

A knife’s weight influences both its ergonomics and its function. A heavy knife can offer better cutting power through a combination of its edge and weight, but it can be unwieldy for more delicate tasks, or for speed tasks such as swift dicing.

A lighter knife can move at lightning speed and is also suited to finer tasks. Most people, however, will want a knife of average weight. This makes it versatile in the kitchen, so you can easily move from one task to the next without swapping knives. This is particularly important if you intend to purchase a single knife instead of a full knife set.

Handle

There’s a surprising amount of variety in knife handles, which you’ll need to factor into your decision. Popular materials for knife handles include wood, plastic, and steel, and some handles are molded to form a single piece with the blade.

Some handles offer a uniform, rounded shape, while others have dimples for the fingers when holding the knife in cutting position. Round handles often include some sort of texturing for extra grip.

Design

A knife’s construction affects both its aesthetic appeal and how easy it is to use. There are slight differences between a chef’s knife and a Santoku knife, for instance. A Granton edge (featuring shallow grooves along the knife-edge) can assist with cutting certain foods.

You may also want to consider the aesthetic angle. If you store your knives somewhere prominent, like on a magnetic strip or in a block, then they’ll form part of your kitchen decor.

How to Care for Your Knife

If you’re investing in a high-quality knife, you’ll want to ensure it lasts for many years. The best way to do that is by taking care of it. Here are some things to keep in mind if you want to get the most out of your knife.

Cleaning and Storage

While you might be tempted to put your new knife in the dishwasher along with the rest of your dishes, doing so can shorten a knife’s lifespan. The knife can move around in the wash, colliding with other objects and blunting its edge. Dishwasher soap is also abrasive and can wear down the blade over time. Instead of the dishwasher, clean your knives in soapy water by hand.

Make sure your knives are dry when you put them away, particularly if you store them in a block or drawer.

To keep your knives sharp and prevent damage, you should use a specialized storage option, like a block or magnetic holder. These will keep the edges from becoming dull through pressure or damage.

Sharpening

Sharpening a knife is an obvious way to increase its lifespan, but did you know there’s a difference between sharpening and honing?

The kitchen tool that many people think of as a sharpener is actually a honing steel. This reforms the edge of the blade, restoring its perceived sharpness. Ideally, a knife should be honed every one or two uses.

Sharpening a blade involves grinding out its imperfections to restore its true edge. A good knife might only need to be sharpened yearly, but the results are more noticeable than honing.

In essence, sharpening a knife is like restoring it to its “factory settings”, while honing is a quick-fix for temporary improved performance.

Related Resources

Looking for more kitchen guides? Be sure to check out our other pages.

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