The Very Best Knives and Cutlery Tools for 2020

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J.A. Henckels International Classic 8-Inch Chef’s Knife
Credit: Product: Courtesy of Zwilling J. A. Henckels

The single best tool you can have in the kitchen is a good chef’s knife. That’s what any chef or cooking pro (including the home cooks behind this very site) will tell you. And with more and more people cooking at home these days, we figured now would be as good a time as any to take a look at the best chef’s knife — and the best bread knife, and the best paring knife, and, well, all the best cutlery and cutlery-related tools.

We recently launched our guide to the very best kitchen tools and cookware for 2020; it’s called Kitchn Essentials and you can browse the whole thing here. If you’re stocking up, here are our picks for the very best knives and cutlery tools for today and for the rest of the year to come.

Credit: Product: Courtesy of Zwilling J. A. Henckels

The Best Chef’s Knife: J.A. Henckels International Classic 8-Inch Chef’s Knife

A chef’s knife is, unsurprisingly, our absolute first essential, and cooks should treat this purchase as a personal decision. Look for a knife that is both comfortable and well-balanced. We’ve loved this budget-friendly knife from Henckels for a long time. Then one of our trusted gear experts (she’s tested nearly every knife on the market) told us it was her favorite, too. Now we love it even more. It’s incredibly well-made, perfectly balanced, comfortable to hold, and can usually be found for less than $50.

Buy: J.A. Henckels International Classic 8-Inch Chef’s Knife, $47

Credit: Mercer Culinary

The Best Bread Knife: Mercer Culinary Millennia 9-Inch Offset Bread Knife

If you love bread, we think a bread knife is a must-have. We picked a knife with an offset handle (versus a straight one) because, as our Food Editor-at-Large Christine Gallary explains, “It gives you more leverage when you’re slicing through really crusty bread.” Mercer Culinary may be an unfamiliar brand to you, but it’s a staple for culinary students, so you know it’s good (and a good deal). Use this to slice up tomatoes, eggplant, and other soft-skinned fruits, too.

Buy: Mercer Culinary Millennia 9-Inch Offset Bread Knife, $17

Credit: Product: Courtesy of Sabatier

The Best Paring Knife: Sabatier Edgekeeper 3.5-Inch Parer Knife with Sheath

A good paring knife is essential for so many tasks. Alex Guarnaschelli has gone on the record saying that cooks should never spend more than $10 on a paring knife because they’re so small, they can easily be accidentally tossed in the garbage. We couldn’t agree with her more. Bonus: This one comes with a sheath that has a built-in sharpener so the blade is always ready to go.

Buy: Sabatier Edgekeeper 3.5-Inch Parer Knife with Sheath, $10 at Bed Bath & Beyond

Credit: Product: Courtesy of Epicurean

The Best Wooden Cutting Board: Epicurean All-In-One Cutting Board

Every cook needs a great wood cutting board, and a great wood cutting board needs a whole host of things. It needs a groove for juices, rubber feet for stability, and the ability to go in the dishwasher. Sound like a fantasy? This composite board actually checks all those boxes. (If you want something more showy, go with this durable teak option — just know that it can’t go in the dishwasher.)

Buy: Epicurean All-In-One Cutting Board, $28

Credit: Product: Courtesy of Material

The Best Plastic Cutting Board: Material The reBoard

Aa plastic cutting board is a good kitchen basic, too; most of us use both wood and plastic boards. This cult-favorite option is the one we recommend. Not only is it gorgeous (it comes in four on-trend colors), it’s also made from recycled materials, resists scratches, and holds up incredibly well in the dishwasher. Warning: It’s so popular, it often sells out. Buy one (or a trio!) when you see them in stock.

Buy: Material The reBoard, $30 at Material

Credit: Product: Courtesy of Wüsthof

The Best Shears: Wüsthof 8-Inch Kitchen Shears

Kitchen shears are an all-too-often overlooked essential, neglected for the more glamorous knives. But once you have a great set of shears, you’ll wonder what you ever did without them. These shears are made by a beloved German knife company and can tackle tough and delicate jobs alike. They can spatchcock a chicken, trim pie dough, cut up a homemade pizza, break up canned tomatoes, snip herbs, and so much more. Plus, they come apart for cleaning, but they don’t come apart so easily that they do so while you’re mid-snip.

Buy: Wüsthof 8-Inch Kitchen Shears, $20

Credit: Products: Courtesy of Kuhn Rikon

The Best Peeler: Kuhn Rikon Swiss Peeler

For all of us who aren’t pro-level with our paring knives, a user-friendly peeler is essential. Ask nearly any professional chef to name their favorite peeler and they’ll pick this one. It’s sturdy, lightweight, and affordable. The blade is super sharp yet still delicate enough to peel away only a thin layer. “After using this peeler, I regret spending so much money on more expensive peelers that simply don’t work as well,” says Jesse Szewczyk, our Studio Food Editor.

Buy: Kuhn Rikon Swiss Peeler, $8

Credit: Product: Courtesy of Cuisipro

The Best Grater: Cuisipro Surface Glide 4-Sided Box Grater

A great box grater is an indispensable tool. All four sides of this Cuisipro box grater excel at what they’re designed to do; with others, we usually end up only liking one or two sides. It has coarse, medium, and fine holes, and a slicer, which means it can grate nutmeg, shred a block of cheddar, slice a zucchini, and even zest a lemon in a pinch.

Buy: Cuisipro Surface Glide 4-Sided Box Grater, $25

Credit: Product: Courtesy of Microplane

The Best Zester: Microplane Premium Classic Series Zester Grater

Our editors are universally in love with their Microplane zesters. “If you think they’re a superfluous tool, you haven’t used one to flurry through lemon zest or turn a wedge of cheese into perfect Parmesan snow,” says Grace Elkus, our Deputy Food Editor. A Microplane (synonymous by now with zesters) is not a grater; it’s a flavor-maker. (Pro tip: Hold the zester in place over your bowl and move whatever you’re grating over it, instead of moving the zester).

Buy: Microplane Premium Classic Series Zester Grater, $15

Credit: Product: Courtesy of Benriner

The Best Mandoline: Classic Benriner

Ever tried to slice perfect, paper-thin slices or shave cabbage into delicate threads? Why use a knife when you could use a slim, inexpensive mandoline? This Japanese Benriner mandoline is all you need to slice, julienne, and shred even the hardest vegetables with ease. We prefer it to bulky (and expensive) French mandolines for its ability to fit in any kitchen drawer and still slice big batches of vegetables faster than a food processor. Use the guard (included) or invest in a protective glove, because this baby is sharp.

Buy: Classic Benriner, $30

Credit: Joe Lingeman