Kitchn Love Letters

I’m a Professional Chef and This $6 Knife Is My Absolute Favorite

published Nov 5, 2021
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someone chopping potatoes
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Amelia Rampe

I remember when I got my first real chef’s knife. It was 2005, and I was getting ready to start culinary school at Johnson & Wales in Charlotte, North Carolina. My dad, ever a lover of tools and gadgets, bought me a Shun Classic 7-inch Santoku — and I loved that knife. I stowed it in my unwieldy blue plastic school-issued knife kit to take to class each day. That knife got me through a lot of chopping, and I still have a place for it in my heart and my knife roll.

But once I had secured a job as a prep cook for a national steakhouse chain, I found the knife that would follow me through the rest of my career. Around that time (2007), I was mesmerized by the spectacular knife skills of Top Chef season 3 winner Hung Huynh, who, in addition to his beloved Misono UX10, swore by a simple Chinatown cleaver for chopping onions, which he did with alarming speed. When I headed to my nearest Asian grocery store to find one for myself, I stumbled on my forever knife: a 6.5-inch Kiwi Chef’s Knife.

Yes, you get TWO in a pack for $13.50!

For the price, I was skeptical that this knife could cut through butter, let alone the mountain of onions waiting for me at work. But, with its 2-millimeter stainless steel blade and wooden handle, I figured this knife could fly, and that’s exactly what it did — through a whole shift’s worth of mise en place. It hasn’t failed me since then. By “it,” I actually mean “they” — because I got two.

Credit: Stephanie Ganz

Usually such a thin, sharp blade tends to go dull quickly. While these blades do dull, they also perk right back up after a few swipes on a honing steel. And, at around $6 each, you can afford to change these knives up about as often as you buy a new toothbrush. Of course, you won’t have to because, surprisingly, they’ll last for a pretty long time if treated properly. Months! Years, even! I wouldn’t recommend Kiwis for breaking down animal proteins. (You’ll still need a proper boning knife for that.) But for almost every other task in the kitchen, a Kiwi gets the job done.

What began as starter knives — lightweight, flexible, and cheap — eventually became my knives of choice for daily use, and I’ve since added a Kiwi Brand paring knife and the Kiwi vegetable peeler (which come in cute colors!) to my arsenal of sharp things. The Thailand-based brand also makes a line of slightly higher-quality (and slightly more expensive. at about $10 each) Kom Kom knives, which have a heavier grade of steel and more durable handles; but I’ve never had cause to upgrade. The Kiwis are just fine for me.

Do you have a go-to knife? Tell us about it in the comments!