We Tested the Best Chef's Knife for Every Type of Task
Whether you're an advanced home cook or a novice, having a sharp, durable, and sturdy chef's knife is essential when preparing a meal. It's one of the only kitchen tools you use almost every time you prepare food, so selecting high-quality cutlery can have major benefits in the kitchen—both in terms of safety and efficiency. However, chef's knives aren't one-size-fits-all, and what works for some may not work for others. In search of the best chef's knife, we put some of the leading models to the test by chopping, slicing, and dicing a variety of foods.
There is no such thing as a universal best chef's knife because finding the knife that works best for you involves considering many personal variables, like the size of your hands, the style of your cooking, and what feels natural and comfortable to you. However, a solid chef's knife should always be sharp, balanced, and comfortable to hold, no matter the size. Before shopping for one, it's important to assess what types of food you plan to use it for and how often, as well as how you plan to clean and care for it.
After researching popular models and testing them in our test kitchen and at home, it's clear that the Mac Professional Mighty Hollow Edge Knife is the most reliable choice for home cooks hunting for the best chef's knife. This knife is sharp, durable, and easy to use, and it helped complete prep work quickly and efficiently. Read on for more of our favorite professional-quality knives to use at home.
Our Top Picks
Best Value: Material Chef's Knife
Overall, the Mac Professional Mighty Hollow Edge Knife allows you to prep food as quickly and efficiently as a professional line cook in your very own home. Our testers love how sharp the blade is and how consistently it can cut through all different types of food. If you're looking to invest in a high-quality chef's knife that can handle meat, vegetables, and fish, this is a fantastic choice.
Factors to Consider
When shopping for a chef's knife, there are traditionally two styles to choose between. Heavy-duty, German-style models are usually made with a curved belly that allows for a rocking, chopping motion, in which the tip of the knife doesn't leave the cutting board. German knives typically have a heartier blade that lends itself to tough tasks like breaking down a whole chicken or slicing through dense squash. As a result, the knives are typically heavier and more durable.
Alternatively, Japanese knives are lightweight with a sharp, straight blade, which makes repetitive motions like rocking and chopping difficult. However, this style of blade is ideal for making precise slices and cuts on a number of different types of foods. Some Japanese knives—like a Santoku knife—also feature dimples on the blade, which aim to prevent food from sticking.
In addition to the shape of the cutting edge, it's important to consider whether or not the blade has a bolster. Bolsters sit between the blade and the handle and act as a guard that protects your fingers from touching the sharp edge. They're common in German-style models and are particularly helpful for cooks who like to choke up on the knife. Though bolsters provide protection, they add weight and can sometimes cause the knife to feel heavy or unbalanced.
Types of Steel
The type of metal your knife is made from can have major implications on blade sharpness and how easy it is to clean. The much-simplified big picture is that if you are looking for an all-purpose 8-inch chef's knife—one that's in a reasonable price range and carried by most retailers—you have a choice between heavy-duty, German-style models that are usually made with slightly softer steel alloys (like high-carbon stainless steel), or lighter Japanese-style models, that are usually made with harder steel alloys (like Damascus steel). Neither is necessarily better than the other. They are just different, especially in terms of the way they feel and move in your hand.
Harder steel holds a sharper edge for a longer period of time but can be more difficult to sharpen once it does get dull. And a very hard, very sharp edge can also be more delicate and brittle than a softer one, making cutting up a heavy squash, say, a little risky to the blade. A softer steel alloy, like those used in the German tradition, might be less sharp to begin with and get dull a little faster. However, it can be easier to re-sharpen, and therefore better for heavy-duty jobs—like splitting bone-in chicken breasts—without worry that you're going to damage the blade. In general, harder steel is sharper and more delicate, while softer steel is tougher. If you're shopping for a knife, ask where it falls on the Rockwell Hardness Scale. Low to mid-50s is on the softer end, mid-50s to low 60s is harder.
One of the most important aspects of a chef's knife is a balance between blade and handle. A knife with a heavy handle can put a strain on your wrist, making long-term use painful and inefficient. Repetitive motions like chopping and slicing can be tiresome, so having a knife that is easy to control and maneuver is essential. The handle should not feel significantly heavier than the blade, and the knife itself should feel balanced from heel to tip. If you plan to use your knife frequently for prep work like slicing vegetables, chopping herbs, or mincing garlic, balance is a key factor to consider.
Throughout our tests, we assessed everything from how sharp the blades were to how balanced they felt from tip to heel. We also took note of the weight and grip of each handle and assessed whether they felt heavy or light and slippery or sturdy. We noted how easy each blade was to clean and if the blades stained easily. In order to do so, we performed a series of different tests.
To test sharpness out of the box, we conducted a paper cutting test. Holding the paper tightly with one hand, we dragged the blade of each knife through the paper along the entire length of the blade. We assessed whether or not we could achieve a clean slice, and evaluated how easily each blade could move through the paper, taking note of any snagging or tearing. This test helped us establish a baseline by determining how sharp each knife was directly out of the box, without any prior use.
After completing the paper test, we ran each knife through a series of vegetable tests to see how they performed using different textures of food. To test basic prep functionality, we diced an onion both coarsely and finely, which helped us assess the sharpness of the blade as well as how easy they were to use. We made sure to use both the tip of the blade and the belly of the blade to determine if the edge was consistent.
Next, we evaluated each knife by cutting through a tomato, whose skins are taut and slippery. Tomatoes are notoriously hard to cut through without mashing them, and chefs often use a serrated knife to help manage the uncooperative skins. Therefore, they serve as an appropriate test of blade sharpness and handle grip. We took note of which knives were able to achieve thin, even slices and which knives caused the skins to wrinkle and tear.
Lastly, we used each knife to cube one of the densest vegetables we could find: a butternut squash. Cutting a thick, heavy vegetable allowed us to assess handle grip, balance, weight, and blade sharpness. Though lightweight knives are typically preferable, having a heavy-duty knife can make tough tasks easier and safer.
What Didn't Make the List
Shun Classic Western Chef's Knife
Imarku Chef's Knife
Victorinox Fibrox Pro Chef's Knife
Victorinox Grand Maitre Chef's Knife
KRAMER by Zwilling Euroline Essential Collection
Misen Chef's Knife
Mercer Culinary Renaissance Forged Chef's Knife
Mercer Culinary Millennia Black Handle Chef's Knife
J.A. Henckels International Classic Chef's Knife
Kyocera Ceramic Revolution Series Chef's Knife
Made In Chef's Knife
Laura Denby is a former professional chef who has spent years cooking in professional and private kitchens throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Hamptons. A graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education with a degree in Culinary Arts, Laura now uses her experience in the kitchen to guide her expert product reviews for sites like Food & Wine and AllRecipes. Her writing can be found on FoodNetwork.com, Delish, Southern Living, Real Simple, and more. For this piece, Culinary Specialist and Food Stylist Sarah Brekke and Test Kitchen Brand Manager Juli Hale tested 17 different chef's knives to find the best one. Using their culinary and product testing expertise, they assessed different styles of knives over the course of several weeks.