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The Sharpest, Absolute Best Chef’s Knives You Can Buy Right Now, Starting at Just $30

updated Mar 15, 2024
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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

The single most important tool in any kitchen (home or professional) is a chef’s knife. Arm yourself with a good chef’s knife and you can make nearly anything.

But what’s so darn great about a chef’s knife? With its large wide blade, pointed tip, and heavy rear, it’s truly all-purpose. You can use it for the obvious things like slicing, chopping, and mincing. You can use the tip for smaller jobs (like dicing a shallot) and the back of the knife like a cleaver for hacking through bones. And with the wide side of the blade, you can smash garlic, scoop up diced veggies to transfer them to a pot, or whack chicken breasts to flatten them into cutlets. You get the point, right? (Pun intended.)

Whether you are a new cook or an experienced one, a smart, sharp, effective chef’s knife is an absolute must-have. Ideally, a good chef’s knife. . . or even the best chef’s knife. And that doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money, either. In fact, some of the best chef’s knives out there are still very affordable. Let’s take a look.

Quick Overview

The Best Chef’s Knives

What Size Chef’s Knife Should You Get?

The most important thing about a chef’s knife (aka cook’s knife or French knife) is that it feels comfortable when you hold it. Blade sizes range from six to 14 inches — although most people find an eight-inch blade is both versatile and manageable. Any shorter and you can’t cover as much ground; any longer and you may find it unwieldy. For most home cooks, an eight-inch blade is just right.

What We Look for in a Chef’s Knife

When it comes to chef’s knives, there are five areas we consider when deciding what makes a great pick:

  1. Knife type: There are two main types of knives: German and Japanese. The latter type has a thinner, sharper blade. German knives are heavier, thicker, and more durable. For a more detailed explanation, check out this post.
  2. Handle quality: Whether made of wood, resin, or plastic, the handle should be solidly attached and not wobble at all when you pick up the knife. Any gaps between the handle and the steel will only worsen over time.
  3. Blade quality: Most knives you’ll be looking at are probably either stamped (machine-made using a cookie-cutter model) or forged (which are more labor-intensive to make and usually cost more).
  4. Balance: How does it feel when it’s your hand? Do you feel like you have control over it when you hold it?
  5. Sharpness: Obviously, you want your knife to be sharp. And it should be sharp right out of the box. (Your new knife has what’s called a factory edge.) If the knife isn’t sharp to begin with, that’s not a good sign.

Below, we rounded up some of the best chef’s knives on the market today that hit all of these criteria and then some, including some long-standing favorites of the team here at The Kitchn, as well as reader favorites you all can’t get enough of.

Do you have a chef’s knife you swear by that didn’t make this list? We want to hear all about it. Tell us about your favorite finds in the comments below!

A Closer Look at The Best Chef’s Knives

1 / 5
The Best Chef's Knife for Less Than $30

For less than $30, this Zyliss knife is a total steal. But in spite of its bargain-basement price, it easily handles every cutting chore — including slicing basil into thin ribbons or even quartering a chicken. It's designed to offer a good grip regardless of how you hold a knife. If you're a traditionalist and like to control a knife with just the handle, you'll find the grip won't slip in your hand. However, if you prefer to pinch grip the way the chefs do, by holding the very back of the blade between your thumb and index finger, you'll find the blade is rounded and comfy just at the spot where you place your fingers. And unlike many, the Zyliss Control can go in the dishwasher. Just be sure to place it in the basket or a shelf with the blade pointing down and be careful when you're unloading the machine.

2 / 5
The Best Chef's Knife Under $50
was $56.00

This Victorinox knife gets you closer to the knives professional chefs actually use. It's not fancy, though. The blade is cut from a single piece of steel rather than forged (which requires more time and labor and ups the price of a knife) and the plastic handle is pretty utilitarian. But this knife is easy to sharpen and holds its edge — and that's what's most important if you do a lot of chopping and slicing. Plus, the handle is textured so it won't slip in your hand. Bonus: The blade has no grooves, so it's extra easy to hand-wash.

3 / 5
The Best Chef's Knife Under $100
was $116.00

Honestly, this Henckels knife is almost exactly the same as the Wüsthof (see below). It's just a small step down in terms of materials. While I really think the Wüsthof version really is just the most perfect knife, this is your best bet if you don't want to spend more than $100.

4 / 5
The Best German Chef's Knife

True to its name, this WÜSTHOF knife is a classic that's been around forever and I think it's just perfect. And it won't set you back a bundle (compared to other high-end knives!). In your hand, it's well-balanced and just feels right. The blade is well-rounded on the bottom, which helps it to rock back and forth beautifully when you're using it to blitz parsley into confetti, and it has the heft you want in order to effortlessly dice onions or even debone a chicken. If you can afford it, I strongly believe this is the best chef's knife for any type of home cook.

5 / 5
The Best Japanese Chef's Knife
Williams Sonoma
was $349.95

Designed by Bob Kramer, the foremost knife craftsman in the USA, and manufactured by Japanese artisans, this Zwilling knife's sharpness is seriously impressive. And I can vouch for the fact that it stays that way for a long time between honings. You'll find you can slice tomatoes or onions so thin that you can see through them. And because it has a wider blade than most, you have lots of knuckle clearance above the cutting board when you're chopping. The rounded handle is particularly comfortable and the back of the blade is rounded to make it easy to pinch grip. All of these features make this the ideal knife, if you're a serious cook who does heavy-duty kitchen prep. To protect the edge and the handle, you'll want to hand-wash the Kramer.

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