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A good knife can last through a lifetime of slicing and dicing. The best chef's knife can often be pricey, however, requiring some research before you buy. With so many options available in every shape, size, and price, how do you choose the right one?
Start with the basics. The best chef's knife will be made with carbon steel or stainless steel. Carbon-steel knives are the best for cutting, but they're high maintenance. The edge is extremely sharp but can rust, especially if you don't maintain the knife with care. Stainless steel knives are easier to keep in working order, but a serious cooking enthusiast may notice the difference in sharpness between carbon and stainless steel. Many knife manufacturers produce a hybrid blade that uses a combination of carbon and stainless steel, giving you the best of both worlds.
Regardless of the type you choose, the best chef's knife will need regular maintenance. Avoid putting your knife in the dishwasher, and make sure to dry the knife after washing it. Sharpening it regularly yourself (or having a professional do it) will extend the life of the blade and keep the knife at its sharpest. Now that you have an idea of what it entails to own a quality chef's knife, we present you with ZDNet's top picks for best chef knife.
Let's start with the top-of-the-line knife. No serious roundup of the best chef's knives can skip Shun. Made in Japan, the 8-inch knife is all-purpose. Use it for cutting sashimi, dicing fruits and vegetables -- nearly any type of cutting you need to do.
Shun uses VG-MAX steel for its Damascus-clad blades. It's a combination of forged carbon, tungsten, cobalt, vanadium, and chromium. The effect is beautiful -- you'll see layers and swirling patterns on the blade, which are unique to each knife. But behind the blade's beauty is one of the most durable, sharp knives available with excellent corrosion and rust resistance.
The sleek, genuine hardwood PakkaWood handle is stained in ebony and is extremely durable. Shun infuses the hardwood with resin for a water-resistant finish that will withstand heavy use. If you're in search of a knife that you'll treasure, but that's not so precious that you'll hesitate to use it, the Shun Classic chef's knife is our recommendation.
Wusthof knives have been produced in Germany for more than 200 years. Chefs and home cooks seem to agree: Wusthof Classic Cook knives have been best-sellers for generations.
The 8" chef's knife is a good size for most uses and sharp enough to cut effortlessly, even when chopping heavier-duty foods. It's forged from high-carbon stainless steel, but it feels more precise than its predecessors due to technological improvements. (Yes, even knives adopt tech.) Wusthof's Precision Edge Technology produces blades that are 20% sharper than the previous Classic Cook chef's knives. You'll also find that the tech improvements during the manufacturing process make the knife stronger without losing its precision. Wusthof claims it has twice the edge retention than before.
The full tang, 5-inch contoured handle is comfortable and ergonomic, featuring a bolster and finger guard for safety. Weighing 8.5 ounces, the knife is well-balanced and ready for most cutting tasks. This knife can last a lifetime with care and will look as good as new down the road; the handle is made from a fade-resistant synthetic material that will resist discoloration.
Versatile size and style
20% sharper than previous models
Part of Wusthof's best-selling Classic Cook series
You're probably familiar with J.A. Henckels and its logo of twins; the German company is one of the best-known knife manufacturers in the world. J.A. Henckels sells two separate brands of knives: Henckels, the entry-level knife brand, and Zwilling, the company's premium line of professional knives.
We're jumping straight to Zwilling knives, since our review is about the best chef's knife available. Although Henckels does offer great knives, the Zwilling models are one step up.
This model is Sigma-forged from a single piece of high-carbon solid stainless steel. It's a bit heavier than the Wusthof, but it still has a nice feel that even beginners can manage.
J.A. Henckels has a unique process to harden the stainless blade -- it hardens it using ice -- making it resilient while staying sharper for longer. In addition, the edge is precision-honed and laser-controlled for the sharpest, most durable knife possible.
The Victorinox Fibrox Pro series is relatively affordable for high-quality knives, which can lead many to question where and how it's made. All Victorinox knives are made in Switzerland, meaning you're getting great value. Like the German companies, Swiss knife manufacturers are among the best in the world thanks to their expertise with extreme precision.
So how is this knife significantly more affordable than its German competitors? The blade is stamped from European stainless steel. It's still high-quality, but perhaps not as flawless as a knife made from solid, high-carbon steel. Besides the steel, the Victorinox Fibrox Pro knife doesn't have a full tang. This could be a longevity issue, since the blade isn't integrated into the synthetic handle. Nevertheless, the knife is well-balanced and comfortable to use, providing serious value. It will likely get good use for years.
The chef's knife really shines when it comes to cutting control, even if you're rapidly rocking or chopping. However, you may need something heavier-duty if you plan on cutting up a chicken or carving a pumpkin. The trade-off may be worth it, though. It's one of the few knives we evaluated that's dishwasher safe, making it a low-maintenance addition to your kitchen.
Easy to use
Best for lightweight cutting only
Not a full-tang knife, which may not be as long-lasting
If you did a double-take on the price, it isn't a typo. The Mercer 8-inch knife is only $26. It made the top five best chef knives because of its quality and glowing customer reviews. The knife has a near-perfect score from over 2,700 Amazon reviews, with a 4.8 out of 5 stars.
It's crafted from a single piece of Japanese high-carbon steel. The surprisingly sharp blade is stain and corrosion-resistant, and the handle is ergonomic and made from a mix of Santoprene and polypropylene to provide lasting comfort. However, the handle isn't full tang. This may compromise the knife's longevity, but for $26, you can't go wrong with owning one.
Compiling a list of the best chef's knives takes some careful research. We aren't chefs and don't own these knives, so testing each one for days was out of the question. Comparing the specs was essential, and so were customer reviews. We also looked for knives in a variety of price ranges.
Most knives on the market start out sharp. Over time, they become dangerously dull. If you've tried cutting a tomato before with a dull blade, you understand how difficult and dangerous a dull knife can be. Therefore, all the knives we considered had to feature quality steel blades for ultimate durability and stain-resistance. That requirement knocked out many of the lower-cost knives. But some, including the Mercer M22608, still managed to deliver a quality, Japanese steel blade for under $30.
Which is the right one for you?
When choosing a chef's knife, start with an all-purpose size such as 7-inch or 8-inch. There are larger chef's knives available, with 12-inch knives being extremely popular, but such a long blade may not be as versatile for a variety of tasks.
Choosing the right one depends on what you want from your kitchen experience. If you want to occasionally grin at how smoothly your knife slices, the Shun or Zwilling models are both good options. If you want a reliable workhorse, Wusthof's knife is our recommendation. Keep in mind that these knives mentioned so far are all in the $100+ range.
For a more affordable option, the Victorinox chef's knife is only $38. It's also a great option if you know you won't be hand washing and oiling your knife after each use. And if you're looking to gift someone a knife as a housewarming or wedding gift, the Mercer or Victorinox knives reviewed are both excellent options. If you're in the mood to splurge on a gift, the Shun 7-inch Santoku would be a good candidate.
What is a chef's knife?
Knives come in different shapes and sizes based on what you'll be cutting. A chef's knife is one of the most versatile styles to have; it's multi-purpose and generally available in sizes between 6 and 12 inches.The best chef's knife is made from a combination of stainless steel and carbon steel for the ultimate in sharpness, strength, and durability.
To recognize a chef's knife, look for the sloping curve of the edge. There's a reason the blade is curved -- chef's knives are meant to allow you to rock the knife back and forth as you cut or dice. If you're new to the rocking technique, you can always use a chef's knife to cut the regular way.
Can I sharpen a chef's knife myself?
You can sharpen your knife at home after watching some videos to pick up the right technique. The simplest way to sharpen your chef's knife is to buy a two-sided whetstone. One side is coarse, and the other has a finer grit for polishing and finishing.
To sharpen your knife, start on the coarser side of the stone, making about 10 long strokes on each side of the blade at roughly a 20-degree angle. Wipe the blade down with a rag, and turn the stone over to finish the blade. Perform the same strokes using the finer-grit side.
Can I wash my chef's knife in the dishwasher?
Nearly all quality chef's knife manufacturers advise against washing yours in the dishwasher. The extreme heat and high-pressure water can shorten the life of your knife, especially if it has a genuine wood handle. The best way to wash a chef's knife is by hand as soon as you finish using it. Towel dry it right away before you store it to reduce the risk of rust or corrosion.
Are there alternatives worth considering?
What makes the chef's knife one of the most popular tools in the kitchen is its versatility. If you rule out the chef's knife, however, consider these options: