If you’re a chef wannabe, you have to have a Japanese-style knife. Lighter than traditional Western knives yet made of a strong steel that keeps its edge with remarkable tenacity, these knives have become ubiquitous in the kitchens of ambitious American home cooks.
Now all kinds of companies (including Western ones like Germany’s Wüsthof) manufacture Japanese-style knives. While classic Japanese knives tend to be specialized—there’s a particular kind for filleting fish, another for chopping vegetables—many of the new knives are multipurpose. The santoku, for example, can handle meat, fish or produce; on some, scalloped indentations on one side of the blade help it slice cleanly.
To pick our favorite knives, we evaluated more than 100; all are widely available and can be honed on a steel. We took the 30 that felt best in our hands and used them in the F&W Test Kitchen for everything from slicing grapes to chopping chicken.