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5 Best Chef Knives (without breaking the bank)

What is my primary chef’s knife? The Shun Classic 8-Inch Chef’s Knife with Scallops (Amazon) and it is a sweet blade…

Shun Classic 8 Inch Hollow Ground Chef’s Knife Premium, Handcrafted in Japan Multi-Purpose, High-Performance Steel Cuts, Chops and Dices Fruits, Brown

I really like it because it fits my hand & grip perfectly. It is due to the unique handle, so when I rock the knife to chop or slice the back of the blade will not hit the underside of my forearm. See the Shun at Amazon.

Looking for the best chefs’ knives that are premium level quality? You are in the right place. The great part about this price range is that basically ALL the knives are pretty darn good. They have high quality, hard stainless steel and are made by well-known brands. You can’t go wrong…

Finding the right chef’s knife can be a real challenge. A chef’s knife handles much of the food prep work in most kitchens. Constant and repetitive use means you will need a knife that is durable, comfortable to hold, and suits your specific kitchen needs.

I created a list to help you narrow down your choices and give you the details to make an informed purchase. One of the coolest knives I’ve seen recently is the ZELITE Infinity line – And the pricing is surprisingly LOW.

Best Chef’s Knives on a BudgetBest Features
1. Wusthof Classic 8-Inch Cook’s Knife dishwasher safe and comes with a lifetime guarantee
2. 8-Inch Zelite Infinity Knife high carbon Japanese steel and has a precise, sharp edge
3. 7-Inch Shun Premier Santoku Knife ideal for slicing, dicing and mincing and is NSF certified for use in professional kitchens
4. Shun 8-Inch Classic Western Chef’s Knife great hybrid knife combining Japanese design with western-style blade and has traditional black pakkawood handle
5. Zwilling 8-Inch Pro Series Knife dishwasher safe and boasts unique curved bolster and blade shape

Wusthof Classic 8-Inch Cook’s Knife

WÜSTHOF Classic 8 Inch Chef’s Knife,Black,8-Inch

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This knife is one of the best out there. It’s a dishwasher safe piece, so none of that extra, time-consuming hand washing.

The knife is forged, high carbon stainless steel, and weighted perfectly to provide effortless cutting and slicing.

It has a traditional style handle that has 3 rivets to provide a strong and secure grip on the knife itself. Since this knife has a full tang, it is strong and very durable. It’s great for repeated use, and it will easily return to factory edge with just a few passes over the sharpening steel.

This Wusthof knife comes with a lifetime guarantee.

One of my favorites…The Classic handle doesn’t fit my hand perfectly because I have small hands. But it’s not a dealbreaker…it just depends on what I am cutting.

8-Inch Zelite Infinity Knife

Zelite Infinity Chef Knife 8 Inch, Damascus Japanese AUS-10 Super Stainless Steel Blade Lasts a Lifetime, Sharpest Professional Chefs Knife For Cooking, Gyuto Made for Home Cook or Restaurant Kitchen

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This is a beautiful knife, offering a sleek, ergonomic design. And it comes at a bargain price compared to the Wusthof which surprises me.

The blade itself is a High Carbon, Japanese stainless steel, which is cooked cryogenically, offering an incredibly hard steel that takes a while to lose its edge.

The knife is well weighted and comes sharpened at a lower angle to provide a more precise, sharp edge. This is an ideal choice for anyone looking for a high-end, well-performing knife.

  • Japanese VG10 Steel with High Carbon Stainless Steel. This is the same as some of the real hard blends that Japanese knives are famous for. This steel is non-stick as well as stain and rust resistant.
  • 15º Angle – This is a true Japanese blade.
  • Lifetime warranty & great customer service.

7-Inch Shun Premier Santoku Knife (The Best All Around Kitchen Knife)

Shun Cutlery Premier 7” Santoku Knife; Easily Handles All Basic Kitchen Cutting Tasks, Light, Agile and Very Easy to Maneuver, Fits in Hand Like a Glove, Hand-Sharpened, Handcrafted in Japan

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I love Shuns. I sort of have small hands and these Japanese blades fit me better. Technically, this is a Santoku but most people use these as an all-purpose chefs knife and I do too. I prefer the wide blade – tip to bolster – over a regular chefs knife.

This knife is ideal for slicing, dicing, and mincing. The knife blade has a hammered finish, adding visual interest and creates a knife that also slices more cleanly through food.

I have no clue how this knife is dishwasher safe considering the wood handle and beautiful steel!

The blade is Damascus steel, and is dishwasher safe, though as with all knives, hand washing is recommended. The handle is pakkawood, and it’s designed to be comfortable in a variety of positions. I have no clue how this knife is dishwasher safe considering the wood handle and beautiful steel! So, please hand wash this really nice piece of cutlery.

It’s also NSF certified to be used in professional kitchens. Not only that, but it’s sharpened to a 16-degree angle, making it an incredibly sharp knife, right out of the box.

This is the sleekest, and most visually interesting knife on this list. My personal favorite.

Zelite versus Shun

That’s a real toss-up. In the simplest comparison:

  • If you have a higher budget, go for the Shun.
  • If you have a tighter budget, go for the Zelite.

But in reality, you should handle both of them because the feel is SO important. My hands are small so the Shun Ken Onion Chef’s Knife fits my hand better than any other chef’s knife. I love Shun, but if I’m telling you about the best bang for the buck, then you ought to try the Zelite because it is such a GREAT value.

Shun 8-Inch Classic Western Chef’s Knife

Shun Cutlery Classic 8” Western Cook’s Knife; Heavy Duty Chef’s Knife with 22 Cutting Angle; Expertly Crafted, Japanese Stainless-Steel Blade Cuts Tough, Heavy Foods with Exceptional Ease

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Unlike the last two Japanese knives, this knife is a traditional western style knife, boasting a lower angle edge that holds its sharpness for longer.

The blade has an extra strong steel core that has 32 layers of high carbon Damascus Stainless steel. This knife also has a black pakkawood handle, that’s designed for professional chefs and folks who do a lot of cutting throughout their day.

If you like the look & feel of a Shun but like the traditional blade shape of a chefs knife, then this is the knife to get…

The knife itself is tall enough that it keeps your knuckles off the cutting board, and the handle is designed with the right-handed person in mind.

This is a great hybrid knife including the benefits of Japanese design with a western-styled blade.

Zwilling 8-Inch Pro Series Knife

ZWILLING Professional "S" Chef's Knife 8-Inch, Black

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This is a well-known brand who provides top-notch knives. This knife is from their pro series, designed with the professional chef or serious home chef in mind.

The knife itself was designed in Italy. It boasts a unique curved bolster, and its blade shape is unique to this knife brand.

It can be washed in the dishwasher, though hand washing is recommended. But you really should be hand washing a knife this nice.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I hand wash my knife?

Every good knife should be handwash to protect it from the dangerous environment inside the dishwasher.

The hot, hot water combine with the overly harsh detergent is unforgiving to the steel the blades are made of.

It can cause the blade to become loose in the handle, or dull the blade. The debris that fly around the dishwasher can also scratch or dull the blade.

Hand washing ensures the knife doesn’t have to deal with these harsh conditions, so it stays sharp longer.

What’s the difference between the American and Asian blades?

The angle of the blade is the largest difference between the two different types of blades.

An Asian blade is made at around a 16-degree angle, making it sharper than the American blade at 22 degrees.

The Zelite Infinity blade is sharpened at a 12-degree angle, making it the sharpest blade on the list. It is a fine Japanese blade.

The most important thing about the angle comes when sharpening. You have to make sure you sharpen the blade at the angle it was made at in order to keep its integrity.

How often does my knife need to be sharpened?

That’s different for everyone. There is no set time or number of cuts that need to pass between sharpening.

You will know when you’re blade needs sharpening, you’ll feel it in your gut. The blade will feel wrong as it glides through, or fails to glide through, whatever you’re cutting.

It doesn’t take much to sharpen the blade if you have an electric sharpener, it’s a little more work if you sharpen it by hand.

We have a related article on electric knife sharpeners that you should check out!

How should I store my knives?

Knives should be stored in one of three ways, all of which help keep the blade sharp and your fingers safe from cuts!

The first way to store knives is obviously in a knife block. This keeps all your knives together and safe. If you toss your knives in a drawer, they will hurt each other and you risk cutting yourself every time you reach for a blade.

The second way to store your blades is to use a magnetic strip and hang them from the wall. This again will keep them separated and prevent injury.

The last way is in a drawer… I’m not kidding. If you do pick to store your knives this way, make sure they come with, or that you can buy, covers for them. These covers will keep you safe and your knives sharp.

Can I use this blade in both hands?

For the most part, these blades can be used by either lefties or righties. The handles on most of these blades are designed with both types of people in mind.

There was one complaint, from a leftie, about the Shun not being comfortable in a user’s left hand. Other users seemed to find little to no difference between how well it fit in either hand.

The other three blades boast about their ability to fit in either hand. The handles are designed symmetrically so they can be used by anyone!


Those are my top 5 recommendations for chef’s knives. The key thing to remember is to get a knife that fits your hand well. If you are getting a knife in this price range it will probably be great quality – so make sure it feels good while you are using it.

Determine which style of knife best serves your needs in term of the blades angle, the weight of the knife and the size of the handle.

One of these 5 will serve you excellently in the kitchen for years to come.

Kitchen Professor author
About the Author: Amy Spencer

Amy Spencer is a food fanatic, library card user, and cast iron hunter, in that order. She has been cooking for anyone that will taste it ever since her mom let her make doughnuts on Saturday mornings at the age of 7.

16 thoughts on “5 Best Chef Knives (without breaking the bank)”

  1. Not one mention of Rada knives….surgical stainless steel, Choice of black or molded aluminum handles, lifetime warranty, made in USA, and a great value …. Super sharp and easy to handle. These should’ve at least made the top 5 if not #1… Sorry but don’t agree with your “sponsored” choices.

  2. lol riveted knife thats dishwasher safe what planet are you living matey constant heating and cooling of rivets in a molded handle like wusthof makes em come loose in the end thats a fact

    • Hey, thanks for the comment. Well, I say don’t put knives in but the manufacturer says they are dishwasher safe. So you can take it up with them!

  3. I have a Wusthoff block set. I love the chef knife.
    Do you have an opinion on cutco knives? Someone we know is selling them.

    • Hey Arline, I’m not a huge fan of Cutco since they are generally serrated. At least all the ones that I’ve seen. However, I know people that have had their Cutcos for 30 years and love them. So try them out and see how you like them….but if you have the Wusthof, then you are probably set in the knife department.

      • Cutco is actually NOT a serrated edge. It is called a recessed edge. Try it out for yourself, does not tear at your food like a serrated edge and cuts cleaner, smoother and faster. Also try out Cutco chef vs any other chef, still better.

        • Cutco knives are fabricated from cheap 420 steel and no matter what term you use their serrated knives are serrated.

  4. I’ve tried Shun and Miyabi, both excellent, but bang for the buck Dalstrong wins hands down and should be on your list. They all come with sheaths and beautiful engravings, and less expensive than any of the other Japanese steel knives on this list. Trust me, check them out, you cannot go wrong.

  5. Is there anyone who is Zwilling user. I’m really confused between Santoku and Zwilling knife. Please help me guys which one would be best for my kitchen. Thanks in advanced

  6. Wusthoff may cost a bit more but they manufacture an excellent product that will last a lifetime if properly maintained. This brand is probably the best choice for the typical American home cook.

    Zelite provides fine, low-cost KITCHEN knives but the Professor didn’t do his homework. Zelite knives, depending on the knife, uses German, Swedish, or Japanese steel. Also, Zelite knives are manufactured in CHINA, NOT JAPAN. And no matter what anyone says, never machine wash your knives — at least if you want them to stay sharp and last as long as possible.

    Zwilling provides many different kitchen knife models manufactured in different counties. The Chef Pro is an excellent knife and, by any measure, the equal of the Wusthoff. But if you purchase a Zwilling confirm it is this model.

    Shun provides well constructed, quality kitchen knives. A bit over-priced, these are still without question one of the best mass-produced knives available.

    Electric sharpener results are typically disappointing. Many rely on creating a burr, rather than an edge, for sharpness (BIG DIFFERENCE) and grind off far more material than necessary shortening the effective life of the knife by a lot. My recommendation is to locate a local professional sharpener (not a hardware store) and have your two or three most used knives sharpened once or twice a year. Then purchase a decent ceramic rod and touch up the blade (three or four swipes per side) before or after each use. If you forget to hone, don’t worry. Just try to remember the next time you use it.


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