The chef’s knife is a chef’s most crucial tool. Consider how much time this tool spends in your hand. A proper knife can mean the difference between an enjoyable cooking experience and an unpleasant struggle.
Many chefs recommend purchasing the best knife you can afford, however, this is vague and often confusing. What makes a great quality knife?
You could look for the most expensive knife you can afford, but price alone is not the greatest indicator of quality. You could look at the best reviewed knife you can find, but each individual chef has different criteria for what makes a great knife. Truthfully, the best way to determine the best knife for your purposes is to determine your personal needs and preferences and find a knife that meets those needs.
Qualities to look for in high quality knives
The best knives are made of a single piece of metal, running from the tip of the blade the end of the handle. The best blades are made of high-carbon stainless steel.
This is an extremely durable metal that is rust-resistant, holds its edge, and resists discoloration. Look for a knife between eight and twelve inches long. This length is versatile for a variety of uses.
In addition to length, there are a variety of styles of blades. The German style blade is the most conducive to general chopping and slicing, allowing you to slice a variety of ingredients in a gentle rocking motion.
The Japanese style blade is ground to a steeper angle than the typical American or European style blade.
This allows for easy slice and chopping of tough, fibrous material. The only drawback is that knives sharpened to this angle require more sharpening than their western counterparts. To learn more about knife angles and which one might best serve you in your kitchen check out this article about knife sharpening angles.
It’s also important to consider the handle or your knife. The handle is the part which you will have the most contact with. The handle should be comfortable in your hand and easy to clean. Traditionally, chef’s knives have wooden handles. While these can be beautiful when you first purchase these knives, they tend to wear down more quickly than plastic, rubber, or composite materials. Wooden handles can also develop small cracks which becomes a breeding ground for mold and bacterial. For these reasons, we discourage knives with wooden handles.
Now, let’s take a look at our top picks for chef’s knives.
Henckels Professional S 8-Inch Chef Knife
Henckels has been one of the top knife manufacturers since the 18th century. This model is made in Germany where Henckels’ main manufacturing facilities are located. The blade and handle are forged from a single piece of stainless steel with a riveted handle. The handle has the classic feel of wood without any of the sanitation concerns that come along with it. This knife has a great feel, good weight, and is perfect for general kitchen use.
Wusthof Classic Ikon 7-Inch Santoku
Wusthof is another German knife manufacturer that has been in the game for more than 200 years. Similar to the Henckels Professional S, this knife contains a triple riveted composite handle and solid stainless steel construction. This knife has an ergonomically correct curved handle which is very comfortable in the hand. As a santoku, this knife has a scalloped edge which prevent the knife from sticking while slicing through thick materials. See the best sharpener for Wusthof knives!
Messermeister Meridian Elite 9-Inch Chef Knife
Messermeister may not be as large a manufacturer as the previous two and it may not have been in operation as long, but certainly ranks beside them in quality. These knives come with a very sharp triple beveled factory edge which is surgically sharp right out of the box and holds its edge for a long time. The nine inch size is comfortable and useful in a plethora of applications.
Global 7-Inch Santoku (G-48)
Since they were introduced in the 1980s, Global knives have attained a loyal following. These Japanese made knives are sharpened to the traditional 15 degree angle. This allows you to easily slice and chop fibrous materials with minimal effort. The main thing you’ll notice when you pick up a Global 7-inch Santoku is how lightweight it is. The blade and hollow handle are forged from a single piece of tempered steel. This is a very unique knife that is a pleasure to use. See the best electric sharpener for Global knives.
MAC MTH-80 – Professional Series 8-Inch Chef Knife with Dimples
This lesser known brand of Japanese chef knives combine a thin, hardened steel construction with the shape of a western knife. These knives are a great addition to any chef’s arsenal. They have a comfortable amount of heft and hold an edge masterfully.
Shun Classic 8-Inch Chef Knife (DM0706)
Shun is one of the best loved Japanese knife manufacturers. Beautifully constructed and deadly sharp, these knives are made of 32 layers of steel. They will hold their 15 degree angled edge for many uses. They are lighter in weight than their German counterparts, but lose no quality for their diminished heft. It all boils down to a matter of personal preference. You can’t go wrong with this gorgeous, useful knife.
All of these blades need to be sharpened regularly to keep a safe, sharp edge. An electric knife sharpener is beneficial for all knives in the kitchen. If you have your eye on a Japanese blade, but already own a set of Western style blades check out this versatile 15 degree sharpener. Learn all about how to hone and sharpen Japanese knives here!