The knife is a chef’s most crucial tool. Consider how much time this tool spends in your hand.
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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 to 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.
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 become a breeding ground for mold and bacteria. For these reasons, we discourage knives with wooden handles.
Now, let’s take a look at our top picks for chef’s knives.
Henckels PURE 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.
The Henckels chef knife has some exclusive features. While purchasing it, consider the essential elements such as weight, beauty, handle and sharpness. This knife is elegant and its performance is outstanding. The blade is made of high-quality material that boosts its performance and durability. It comes with a balanced weight that enables you to cut food perfectly. The weight never makes you disgusted-it enhances cutting thin and thick food anytime with less effort. The sharpness of this knife is long lasting as the manufacturers have utilized most effective technology. The fine and perfect shape enables you to cut all sizes of food. The sharp edge of these knives allows you to cut thick and hard food at ease. The following are the highlighted features;
- It requires little force since it has balanced weight with an extraordinary cutting speed.
- It has lightweight but balanced, that enables you to cut any food at ease.
- It comes with an elegant and comfortable handle that prevents aches and fatigue.
- The non-slip handle guarantees your safety when your hands are wet.
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 prevents the knife from sticking while slicing through thick materials.
This knife makes the best choice if you want to make a fast meal preparation. Its performance is excellent, and it feels perfect in your hands. It’s a critical kitchen knife, and it’s one of the multipurpose knives for mincing, slicing, and chopping and dicing vegetables and fruits. It has a balanced weight that enhances its high performance, and it comes with an excellent sharpness that exists even after prolonged use. You require little effort when cutting fruits, meat, and cooked conch. It’s durable and feels comfortable in your hands. With a sturdy steel blade, this knife makes cooking much more comfortable. The following are the highlighted features of this knife.
- It’s the best knife for cutting and chopping with a strong, heavy and superior blade.
- Unique and elegant design, with triple riveted handle.
- Its performance is high with uniformly distributed balanced weight.
- It has a honed sharp blade that cuts through hard and thick food at ease.
You’ll need to go with the 5″ version (Amazon) to keep the price down. I have the 7″ version and it’s my Go-To knife.
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.
It is one of the best knives known by professional chefs. It has the following features;
- It comes with great sharpness and highly polished edge that cuts through different food thicknesses.
- The bolster that comes with this knife makes it easy to sharpen.
- It’s made of stainless carbon alloy blade that is resistant to stain and corrosion, and exhibits toughness, durability holds sharpness for a longer time, and easy to re-sharpen.
- It’s produced by heating the metal and hammering to produce sturdy blade from heel to tip
- The three-step 15 degrees honing produces the sharpest edge possible.
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.
MAC MTH-80 – Professional Series 8-Inch Chef Knife with Dimples
This lesser known brand of Japanese chef knives combines 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.
Some Premium Blades…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.
It has the following characteristics:
- The shun classic is all-purpose blade that has a variety of cutting tasks. It has an 8-inch blade that is ideal for cutting fruits, vegetables and other foods.
- It’s has a balanced weight that is uniformly distributed to enhance its tasks.
- The 8-inch blade is excellent for chopping, slicing, and dicing small to large sized fruits, and vegetables and many cooks prefer it for its perfect nimbleness.
- It comes with a broad blade that rubs off the cutting board and offers comfort when transferring food from the board to the cooking pan.
- It features elegantly clad blades and a D-shaped handle made from ebony Pakkawood.
- The VG-MAX steel material keeps the sharpness of the blade for a longer period.
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.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best knife for cutting medium to hard cheeses? I’ve used inexpensive knives in the past that always seem to rust.
I would advise you to choose knives made of stainless steel material because they are resistant to corrosion and thus doesn’t rust. Blades made from stainless steel alloy can corrode under normal conditions. The oxide layer formed due to the reaction of steel and air makes it less prone to further oxidation. This oxide layer can only be removed by immersing the knife in the dishwasher or using other chemicals that will cause localized corrosion. The stainless steel corrosion that leads to a chemical reaction from austenite to ferrite is not made from the austenitic stainless steel but from martensitic like 420 and 440. These are less prone to corrosion than the austenitic and can be made stronger by heat treatment. For cheeses, I would advise you to use stainless steel knives because they are less reactive.
I’m interested in purchasing a high carbon steel knife because I find it difficult to sharpen stainless steel. Which blade would you recommend?
You can go for the vintage carbon knives if you’re willing to put elbow grease to tune and hone it to an excellent cutter. Also, if the stainless steel is hard to sharpen, you’ll find it difficult to grind the carbon steel. Professional sharpeners can attest that sharpening stainless steel is more laborious than carbon steel. For a novice, German steel is the best, that’s why stainless steel is used in culinary schools, to develop sharpening skills. The carbon steel knife is lively to use, and it requires better skills for use.
Which is the best cutting board to use for cutting vegetables and meat?
I would advise you to use the cutting board that is made of hardwood which is sealed with oil or solution of mineral oil and beeswax. It’s not dishwasher safe and it’s advisable to wipe it with a damp cloth. When items are immersed in a dishwasher, they are subjected to aggressive detergents and hot water that can damage the board. The old cutting on the board can be restored by sanding and sealing it to prevent further damage. Also, you can sanitize it using the vinegar.
Do the premium boards, such as the walnut butcher block, effect edge retention on the blades? Do they have any other benefit?
The benefits of retention are minimal compared to the glass cutting board. You can purchase it if you have high-quality blades and you’re using your knives frequently it will reduce the need to hone. I think the main benefit is that the boards inhibit bacteria. The plastic boards can get deep cuts that bacteria will find a place to hold and hide.
What should I look for when purchasing a good quality knife?
I would advise you to go for the knife that feels good in your hands and has a balanced weight that works for you correctly. Choose a knife with the best cutting blade material such as carbon steel, stainless steel and even layered. Get a full tang knife because it adds balance and is more durable. Consider a knife with a smooth plastic or wooden handle that you’ll grip at ease.