Best Chef's Knives of 2019
A chef's knife lets you slice and dice your way to tasty meals for your whole family. Our shopping guide is here to help you find the best chef's knives that are right for you.
Slice and Dice: Your Guide to the Best Chef's Knives
In restaurant kitchens, the chef's knife is the most essential tool used to prepare meals. A chef's knife shapes the cut of your meat, dices the vegetables swimming in your soup, minces the herbs sprinkled on your entrée, and slices that indulgent piece of chocolate cake. To take your home cooking to the next level, you need a chef's knife in your kitchen.
But to say there are a multitude of chef's knives out there is an understatement. Chef's knives come in different sizes, weights, and materials, and these factors affect their performance. How do you sort through the options to find the chef's knife that's right for you?
At BestReviews, we take it on ourselves to give you all the pertinent information you need to make the most informed purchases. Our thoroughly researched reviews are backed up by expert advice, product testing, and consumer feedback. Plus, we never accept promotional products from manufacturers, so you can rest assured that our recommendations come to you without bias.
If you're ready to buy a chef's knife, scroll up for BestReviews' top picks. For more on choosing and using a chef's knife, you've come to the right place.
Knife Terminology to Know
The knife world has a language all its own. Here are some terms to look for when you're shopping for a chef's knife.
- Blade: The blade refers to the entire knife, excluding the handle.
- Point: The point is the tip of the blade.
- Edge: The edge is the sharpened side of the blade.
- Heel: The heel is the place where the blade meets the handle.
- Tang: The tang is where the blade extends into the handle.
- Butt: The butt refers to the very end of the handle.
Prime Cut: What to Consider When Buying Chef's Knives
Size and Weight
Chef's knives are typically 8 inches long. Shorter chef's knives and longer chef's knives are available, but they have more specific purposes.
The key to unearthing a good chef's knife is finding one that feels good in your hand. A chef's knife that isn't quite right for your grip will be difficult to use. It should feel steady in your hand. You may feel more comfortable with a lighter chef's knife. Or maybe a heavier chef's knife will provide the perfect amount of balance.
Chef's knives can be either forged or stamped. Let's take a look at the difference.
- Forged: Forged chef's knives are typically more expensive than stamped chef's knives. That's because forged chef's knives are made from one solid piece of metal, which is heated up and pounded into shape. They are usually quite a bit heavier than stamped chef's knives. You'll find forged chef's knives in most professional kitchens.
- Stamped: Stamped chef's knives are mass produced using a machine that punches the knife out of steel. That steel is then sharpened and riveted into a handle. Stamped chef's knives are usually less expensive than their forged counterparts.
Chef's knives' blades are usually made from one of three materials.
- Stainless Steel: Stainless-steel blades are the least expensive and the most common in home kitchens. They don't rust, and they are easy to sharpen. That's a good thing since they typically need to be sharpened frequently.
- Carbon Steel: Carbon-steel blades are more expensive than stainless steel, but they hold their edges better and require sharpening less often.
- High-Carbon Stainless Steel: High-carbon stainless-steel blades are the most expensive on the market for a few reasons. First, there's carbon mixed into the steel, which makes the chef's knife strong and sturdy. Second, this mixture also makes the chef's knife less likely to rust or stain.
The type of handle on a chef's knife is important for both balance and comfort.
- Wood: Wood handles are very common. Chef's knives with wood handles can look rustically stylish, but be careful. Like any wood in the kitchen, these handles are magnets for bacteria. Clean them well and often.
- Laminate: Laminate handles are made from a combination of plastic and wood. They also have a rustic design, but they're much easier to care for than wood handles.
- Plastic: Plastic handles don't get the endorsements of many chefs. They're lightweight and easy to care for, but they're not particularly durable and are prone to cracking and breaking.
- Stainless Steel: Premium chef's knives have both stainless-steel blades and handles.
How Much Do Quality Chef's Knives Cost?
Chef's knives vary in price depending on their make and brand. However, just because a chef's knife is cheaper, don't automatically dismiss it. Remember, the best chef's knife is the one that fits your hands and your needs.
- Budget-Friendly: For $5 to $15, you'll mainly find chef's knives with stainless-steel blades and plastic handles. Some will have ergonomic handles. For $15 to $25, you'll get blades made of stainless steel or high-carbon stainless steel with plastic handles. Although there's a lot of value in high-carbon stainless-steel blades, the plastic handles take these affordable chef's knives down a peg.
- Mid-Range: For $25 to $50, you'll find chef's knives that are fully forged with laminate handles and high-carbon stainless-steel blades. Many will be imported from Japan or Germany.
- Expensive: For $50 to $100, settle for nothing less than a fully forged chef's knife with a high-carbon stainless-steel blade and a laminate handle. These chef's knives should be easy to maintain and sharpen. They are virtually indestructible.
- Premium: For more than $100, you'll get specialty chef's knives—for instance, chef's knives with curved blades that rock on the cutting board. Many come from Japan and feature unique designs. Most will have both a stainless-steel blade and handle.
Quick Tips for Using Chef's Knives
- Cutting on a hard kitchen counter will damage your chef's knife's edge.
- Sharpness is in large part determined by the thinness of the chef's knife's blade.
- Sharpening steels do not actually sharpen chef's knives. They realign the edges.
- Hold your chef's knife correctly. Pinch the tang with your index finger and thumb, then wrap the rest of your fingers around the handle.
Q. Can I put my chef's knife in the dishwasher?
A. Although many chef's knives, especially the less expensive ones, claim to be dishwasher-safe, BestReviews recommends cleaning them by hand. Use a sponge to wipe the chef's knife on both sides, but be careful not to cut yourself.
Q. What are the best ways to sharpen a chef's knife?
A. When it comes to sharpening, you have several different options. First, you can opt to use a sharpening stone. Place the stone on a flat surface, then use oil or water to wet the stone. Hold the chef's knife at a 45-degree angle, then slowly draw the knife across the stone. Turn the chef's knife over, and repeat on the other side.
With an electric sharpener, follow the manufacturer's directions. Make sure you are getting a good edge every time you use the machine.
The last way to sharpen your chef's knife is also the most expensive. But it requires the least effort on your part: Send your chef's knife out to a professional.
Q. How should I store my chef's knives?
A. Treat your chef's knives with respect, and they'll last a long time. If you plan on storing them in a drawer, use knife blade covers to minimize contact. It's better to store your chef's knives in a knife block. Many knife sets come with a block. But if you're buying your chef's knives individually, you can buy a block to fit them all.