There’s a reason we call the best kitchen knives “chef knives.” A good chef is a multitasker, so a good chef knife is designed to handle multiple jobs. Think of all the slicing and chopping involved in a beef stir-fry or a chicken noodle soup. You want a single tool that can handle it all. But the best chef knife can’t be defined by a single set of features.
It’s all about hand-feel: The right knife should feel almost like an extension of your forearm. We talked to two chefs, a cooking instructor, and a knife expert, then chopped, diced, and peeled with 11 bestselling chef knives to see which stood out.
While many aspects of the best chef knife come down to personal preference, blade length and material were rare areas of consensus: All the experts we spoke with recommended 8-inch, stainless steel blades for home cooks.
“Eight inches is great,” chef Ariane Resnick explained. “Twelve or 13 is enormous! I’d only recommend that if you do a lot of cutting really large food.” Bon Appetit also recommends 8 inches, noting, “Residential-kitchen counters, nonindustrial cutting boards, and civilian muscles can’t handle anything much bigger than that.” This size allows for both precision tasks like dicing garlic and larger jobs like chopping root vegetables or cuts of meat.
Stainless steel blades
We placed an emphasis on stainless steel knives. While there are benefits to ceramic — it can be sharper, keep an edge longer, and prevent rust — the downsides are significant. Ceramic is extremely brittle, and if you chop into a rogue bone or hit your cutting board at the wrong angle, there’s a good chance that your blade will chip.
Bestsellers across nine brands
We compared buying guides from Serious Eats and Consumer Reports, noted the preferences of users in cooking forums like Chef Talk and Chowhound, then polled our experts to see which brands they preferred, bringing our list of 28 brands down to just eight consistently popular options.
There is no absolute best kitchen knife for every person. Different budgets, grip styles and aesthetic tastes, not to mention a dozen other micro-decisions, all determine which knife is best for the task at hand.
This guide aims to identify which kitchen knives are most useful, and hopefully, it helps you divorce from overpriced, unnecessarily bulky knife block sets. It also answers age-old questions haunting the kitchen: Do I really need a utility knife? When should I use paring knife? What in the hell does X50CrMoV15 mean? But first, our top recs for the most useful kitchen knives available in 2019.
Best Kitchen Knife for the Money: Victorinox Fibrox Pro Chef’s Knife
Ultimately, Victorinox’s ultra cheap 8-inch chef’s knife won out, though it too is liable to blade chipping and isn’t the most comfortable to use. But for the price of two movie tickets, there isn’t a knife that performs this well or is as widely available (you can find them in most home goods sections). Also, the handle isn’t as aggressively “ergonomic” as many others in this category, making it a bit easier to switch between knife grips.
Best Japanese Kitchen Knife: Global G-2
The design is both Japanese (the blade is very light and very thin) and anti-Japanese (its balance isn’t pushed toward the cutting end and the whole thing is one piece; most Japanese-style knives taper into a wooden handle). This means it has the nice slicing properties you’d expect from a great Japanese knife, but in a much more durable, familiar package. Its stainless steel makeup (exact properties are proprietary) resists staining or corrosion and remains wicked sharp during use.
Best Premium Kitchen Knife: Korin Special Inox Gyutuo
It’s hard to put into words how great this knife is. It is impeccably balanced, gorgeous to look at and scores a high 60 on the Rockwell scale. It slices, chops and glides through anything gracefully and is somehow also fairly corrosion-resistant. It’s made of a slightly altered AUS-10 steel, which is technically a high carbon stainless mix (it carries properties of stainless and carbon steels). Its biggest fault is a penchant for staining, but staining only occurs when not properly cleaned and dried after use.
Best Chef Knives Testing — Malarky
Although I own all six chef knives on this best chef knives list and have used them to chop onions, quarter cantaloupes, slice tomatoes, and more—I have not officially “tested” them. Huh?
Yep. I have declined to put these knives through a series of, supposedly, quantifiable kitchenistic tasks and use their perceived performance as a basis of rating each knife. Why? Because I don’t think it’s accurate or, in the long-run, truly useful to the consumer. Because, in the end, the main thing you’re testing is just how sharp the factory edge is. And, while it is more than nice to buy a chef knife with a razor-sharp factory edge—on average, the factory sharpitude of your new knife, even if you hone it religiously, will probably only last a year or two max. Not 25 years. Not even five.
So why make the sharpness of the factory edge the end-all criteria for whether or not a chef knife works for you? Especially if there’s another blade you love in every other way except that it doesn’t happen to be quite as out-of-the-box sharp.
No matter where you live, you can ship your favorite chef knife off to a top-notch professional sharpener and they will give you an edge sharper than most factories. There, problem solved. But other, more permanent, characteristics can’t be so easily tweaked. Like the feel of the handle. The weight. The size of the blade. The look and style of the knife. These you can’t change. . .so why not be happy with them?