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The Absolute Best Chef’s Knives You Can Buy Right Now

updated Aug 17, 2023
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A graphic featuring chef's knives from different brands.
Credit: Kitchn

A good chef’s knife can make prep a million times more enjoyable. When a knife feels like an extension of your own hand, or when the blade is balanced, or the cutting edge precisely sharpened and honed — *chef’s kiss*. With a good knife, breaking down a raw potato can feel like slicing through butter!

Of course, the reverse is true: When you have a less-than-stellar knife, it can quickly spoil the good vibes. A dull blade makes slicing through tomatoes feel like a sweat-inducing —and potentially dangerous — chore. An uncomfortable knife handle can also cause blisters and general grumpiness (trust me, I know).   

To find the best chef’s knife, I tested some of the most popular options from budget-friendly to investment-worthy. All of the knives were plenty sharp right out of the box, but they performed markedly differently when it came to ease, comfort, and durability. Here’s a look at my findings, with a quick rundown of my favorites to start things off. 

Quick Overview

The Best Chef’s Knives

For an in-depth look at our testing methodology and tips on how to shop and care for a chef’s knife, hit the links below. Ready? Let’s go!

Credit: Katie Leaird
A sample of the lineup.

Best Overall Chef’s Knife: Shun Classic 8-Inch Chef’s Knife

This Shun knife blew the competition away. It cut remarkably quickly, cleanly, and easily through everything without much effort. While other knives required a little force and got stuck while breaking down onions for mirepoix, the Shun knife cut through like butter. The straight, wooden handle is incredibly comfortable to hold, too, and feels wonderful in hand. It’s also a gorgeous knife that will stand the test of time if you take proper care of it — just don’t use the dishwasher!

Specifications

  • Materials: VG-MAX “super steel” blade; Pakkawood handle
  • Weight: 6.6 ounces
  • Style: Double Bevel Japanese 

Rating Criteria

  • Performance: 5
  • Ease of use: 5
  • Cleanup: 5

Who it’s best for: Home cooks who want to invest in a superstar knife.
Good to know: This knife also comes in 6- and 10-inch sizes.


Best Budget Chef’s Knife: Victorinox Fibrox Pro 8-Inch Chef’s Knife

Don’t be fooled by the low price tag — this Victorinox knife is great! It’s super comfortable to hold thanks to the curved, grippy synthetic handle. And while it’s not going to win many awards in the looks department, the blade is sharp (and stays that way) and cuts cleanly. I noticed a little scratching on the blade after hacking through sweet potatoes, but this didn’t have a negative affect on its performance. The knife is stamped rather than forged, so it’s very light at 5.8 ounces and makes it approachable for novice home cooks, as well as great for professional line cooks who want to stave off hand fatigue through hours of continuous knife work.

Specifications

  • Materials: Stainless steel blade; handle made of thermoplastic elastomers (TPE)
  • Weight: 6.1 ounces
  • Style: Western

Rating Criteria

  • Performance: 4
  • Ease of use: 5
  • Cleanup: 5

Who it’s best for: Anyone looking for an affordable, comfortable knife for everyday use. It’s great for beginner cooks and advanced cooks who spend a lot of time chopping.
Good to know: It also comes 6-inch and 10-inch lengths. The Kitchn editors are big fans of Victorinox’s straight-edge paring knife, too. 


Best Mid-Priced Chef’s Knife: Misen 8-Inch Chef’s Knife 

This hybrid-style knife is super sharp and incredibly versatile, easily tackling sweet potatoes and slicing through juicy ripe tomatoes. The Misen faltered a little bit in the tender herb test, creating a few strings of uncut chives and basil. While it wasn’t quite as effortless as the Shun, overall it made agile, clean cuts. It was also comfortable to hold, and was among the few brands that had a colorful handle. The price point also makes it a great gift for home cooks, commerce contributor Erin Cavoto points out in her review.

Specifications

  • Materials: AUS-10 stainless steel blade; plastic composite handle
  • Weight: 8 ounces
  • Style: Hybrid Western-Japanese

Rating Criteria

  • Performance: 4.75
  • Ease of use: 4.75
  • Cleanup: 5

Who it’s best for: Anyone who wants a beautiful knife that performs well and is under $100. 
Good to know: This knife also comes in red, blue, black, and gray.


Best Heavy-Duty Chef’s Knife: Zwilling Pro Le Blanc 8-Inch Chef’s Knife

Holding a Zwilling Pro makes me feel like a culinary Poseidon wielding a single pronged trident, and it’s truly is an all-around fantastic knife. The 8-ounce knife combined with the ergonomic handle yields powerful-yet-controlled cutting. It has a satisfying “lop” when chopping off the ends of celery and carrots, and the incredibly sharp blade made easy work of mincing herbs quickly and precisely. There was a bit of friction when cutting through onions and sweet potatoes, and when cutting through a whole bunch of carrots and yellow tomatoes. Since the tomatoes were jam-packed with pigment-producing carotenoids, the white handle on the Zwilling Pro started to yellow. However, after a few hand-washes with dish soap, the bright handle restored itself to its original luster.

Specifications

  • Materials: High-carbon stainless steel blade; polymer, triple-rivet handle
  • Weight: 8 ounces
  • Style: Western

Rating Criteria

  • Performance: 4.75
  • Ease of use: 4.75
  • Cleanup: 4.75

Who it’s best for: Anyone who wants a super-sturdy, heavy-duty chef’s knife.
Good to know: It also comes in a 7-inch length.

Credit: Katie Leaird

How We Tested the Best Chef’s Knives

  • Slice through a sheet of printer paper twice (immediately after unboxing and again after the following tests). 
  • Thinly slice a ripe tomato.
  • Chiffonade one bunch of basil.
  • Mince one bunch of chives.
  • Cut one pound of sweet potatoes into wedges.
  • Chop potfuls of mirepoix (onions, carrots, and celery). 

For testing, I focused on 8-inch knives because they have the most common length and are versatile enough for most home cooks. I needed to determine how each one handled something delicate (like tender herbs), something soft and squishy (like a ripe tomato), and something hard and dense (like a sweet potato).

I also wanted to gauge how each one felt through extended use, so I chopped up a whole bunch of mirepoix (carrots, onions, and celery) with each knife, paying attention to comfort and hand fatigue. To see if the blades stayed sharp, I performed the “paper test”— which is when you pull the blade’s heel to tip through a taut piece of printer paper to see if it cleanly slices through — on each knife twice, once upon unboxing and again after completing all those other tests.

How We Evaluated the Best Chef’s Knives

With each test, I judged all of the knives based on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the worst and 5 being the best. 

  • Performance: How well did the knife cut through food and herbs? How clean were the cuts?
  • Ease of use: How comfortable was the knife to hold for different tasks? Did I have to use extra force? Was there friction, slipping, catching, or snagging in the blades?
  • Cleanup: Did the blade scratch easily? Did the handle retain any pigment or odor after hand-washing?

What to Consider When Buying a Chef’s Knife

Forged vs. Stamped Knives

Finding the best knife that’ll work for you is subjective. Ultimately, it comes down to what feels good in your hand and which knife gives you a sense of comfort, confidence, and control while cutting. But there are definitely some big differences that contribute to those factors. Let’s start with how the knives are made — namely, whether they’re forged or stamped.

  • Forged: A forged knife is made from a single piece of steel that has been heated and pounded into the shape of a knife. Forged knives are usually heavier than stamped ones, and the blades are usually harder. The bolster (metal area where the blade meets the handle) adds weight near the center of the tool, which helps it feel balanced and adds comfort.
  • Stamped: A stamped knife is cut out of a large sheet of metal. Stamped knives are often lighter than forged knives, which some home cooks prefer during repetitive prep tasks to reduce hand fatigue (think: pre-holiday dinner prep). Stamped knives are generally — but not always — less expensive than forged knives.

Western vs. Japanese vs. Hybrid-Style Knives

When you talk about the style of the knife, there are three main categories: Western, Japanese, and hybrid. The main difference between Western-style and Japanese-style knives lies in the angle of the blade edge. Generally, Western knives have double-bevel edges that are sharpened to a 20-degree angle evenly on each side. They’re also made from slightly softer steel which makes them less brittle than Japanese-style blades, and they have a curved blade that allows for that “rocking” motion associated with chef’s knives.

Traditionally, Japanese knives have thinner, single-bevel edges, meaning the blade is only angled on one side (however, double-bevel ones do exist). Japanese knives are sharpened at around 15 degrees and are made from harder, super-sharp steel. This means the knives are right- or left-handed specific and must be sharpened on a whetstone or by a professional. With their straighter blades, Japanese knives are best for precision work, like making thin, exact slices.

Hybrid-style knives are made from traditional hard Japanese steel, but have the more user-friendly double-bevel edge of Western style knives, which can be easily honed and sharpened at home.

Handle Design

This is also a subjective one. Some knives have straight handles, while others have curves or indents. I felt some extra stability when holding the ergonomic handles of the Victorinox and Zwilling Pro knives. While I didn’t find the straight handles very stable, I still found them comfortable to hold and use.

Handles with smooth surfaces are usually made of wood, while textured handles are made of a hard plastic. Whether or not you prefer a smooth or textured handle is personal.

The lengths of the handles I tested also varied by about an inch. The majority of the handles measured 4.5 inches long, while the longest measured 5.5 inches long. While they were all comfortable in my average-sized hand, large hands might appreciate the longer handle.

The diameters of the handles, too, varied from 0.6 inch up to 1.25 inches. I found the narrow knives harder to control than the thicker ones, but again, that’s a matter of personal preference and hand size.

Weight and Balance

There’s no clear formula for the perfect weight of a knife. In testing, the lightest knife was the Victorinox at 5.8 ounces and the heaviest knife, the Zwilling Pro, came in at 9.3 ounces. Some home cooks might appreciate a lot of heft in their knives, while others might feel more in control with a lighter tool, so I invited a chef friend to see how his hands, which are significantly bigger, liked each of the knives I tested.

I was somewhat surprised when he preferred the lighter knives over the heavier ones. Because he holds a knife for eight hours each day at his job, he doesn’t want something heavy that will cause fatigue with constant use. Like I said, the right knife is personal! 

Credit: Katie Leaird
You can clearly see the variety of handle designs here.

What Material Is Best for a Chef’s Knife?

A chef’s knife is usually made of at least two different materials when you consider the blade and handle. Sometimes a third or fourth material might be introduced in the knife’s bolster, butt, or rivets. But let’s focus on the blade and handle.

  • Blade material: Most chef’s knife blades are made from high-carbon steel (sharper, but requires more care), stainless steel (less sharp, but requires less care), or a composite (theoretically, the best of both worlds in terms of durability and ease). I tested all types for this story.
  • Handle material: The two major categories of handle materials are natural and synthetic, both of which were also represented in testing. The most important attribute of a handle is that it’s easy to clean and durable, but doesn’t have permeable nooks and crannies where corrosion can occur or bacteria can grow. And obviously, it has to feel good in your hand. I don’t prefer one material over another, and in my testing I found that the differences in the handles came down to how they were designed.

How Do You Care for a Chef’s Knife?

The longevity of any knife will come down to how well you take care of it. Even if you spend a fortune on a fancy knife, it won’t perform well if it becomes rusted, bent, or dull.

  • Cleaning: Dishwashers are a nonstarter. Even if the manufacturer claims that a knife is technically dishwasher-safe, chemicals and prolonged exposure to pressurized hot water will corrode and compromise the blade over time. The best practice is to wash your knife promptly after use, by hand, and dry well before storing. 
  • Storage: Because blades are and always will be dangerous, it’s best not to shove them in drawers. You also don’t want to store them in a way that causes pressure on the tip that could bend the knife. We love this particular knife block set for its compact design.
  • Honing: The edge of a knife is made of microscopic steel teeth that get rolled over after extended use and cause the blade to become dull. By honing a knife, you can realign the edge. Depending on how often you use your knife, you may need to hone it every day or maybe every couple of weeks. A honing steel or rod is easy to use; just make sure you hold the blade at the right angle (generally about 15 degrees) and use smooth, gently-pressured motions equally on each side. 
  • Sharpening: Sharpening a knife actually removes a layer of steel to make a new edge on the blade. You can purchase tools for knife sharpening at home like whetstones, electric sharpeners, and handheld pull-through sharpeners. Or you can bring or send out your knives to get professionally sharpened.
  • Cutting surfaces: Most manufacturers recommend cutting on wooden boards, but plastic cutting boards are pretty safe for your blade, too. Stay away from glass cutting boards and other hard surfaces such as concrete or marble counters, as these can harm knife blades. 

Why You Should Trust Us

Throughout my 15 years working in professional kitchens, I’ve used all sorts of knives: the cheap ones bought in bulk from restaurant supply stores; the gorgeous, hand-forged knives; and whatever’s laying around. I’m also a professional recipe developer and food writer. My work can be seen in Cook’s Country (magazine and television show), “America’s Test Kitchen Kids” cookbooks, Serious Eats, Hannaford’s Fresh magazine, and of course, The Kitchn. 

The Kitchn’s Best List Promise

We will do our homework, going wildly in depth with our testing. But we condense the info into easy, breezy summaries so that you can see what we picked and why, then move on with your life. Because we know you’re busy!

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