When to comes to knives used in the kitchen the chef knife is one knife that is probably the most widely used. It’s a knife that can perform a large number of food preparation tasks such as dicing, slicing, trimming, the list really is endless, and for many including myself the chef knife is their go-to knife that you always reach for without even knowing it. So buying a great chef knife that is going to be the workhorse of your kitchen should be done with some thought, don’t you think?
In this article I have handpicked some of the best chef knives that I personally think are worth having in your arsenal. This is not a top ten list of random kitchen knives that you often see scattered all over the web on various blogs, but a selection that I can vouch for and have actually used, or I currently own. This list of chef knives isn’t comprehensive by any means, but it will be updated as and when I get my hands on a new chef knife that is worth recommending.
Chef knives tend to look the same, even if they are from Japan or Germany they typically will the same general shape, style, and length. However, the best chef knives tend to be around 8-inches (20cm) long but you can find various sizes ranging from 6-inches all the way up to 12-inches (15cm – 30cm) in length. What I like to call the classic style chef knife (those that typically come of Germany) will have a blade angle of between 20-22°. The Japanese chef knives tend to have their blades at roughly a 17° angle. Even though your chef knives will be should be razor sharp out of the box always keep in mind the different angles when it’s time to sharpen your chef knife.
The Cornerstone of Any Kitchen: 6 of The Best Chef Knives
Some of the chef knife brands that I personally recommend as of now are Wüsthof, Global, Shun, MAC, Henckels, and Victorinox. This selection of chef knives I recommend (so far) have been manufactured from various parts of the globe, to be honest you’ll actually find that many of the best chef knives come from Germany and Japan. Like I said the list will be regularly updated so make sure you keep checking in. Let’s take a closer look.
Victorinox Swiss Classic 8-inch Chef Knife
I have been a longtime fan of Victorinox kitchen knives and have owned multiple chef knives by this budget knife maker over the years. I say “budget” because Victorinox tend to make good quality knives at a decent price, this is probably why they are a favorite among culinary students and professional chefs. Victorinox are actually the same people behind the iconic Swiss Army Pocket knife and most of their knives are made in Switzerland.
The 8-inch Victorinox chef knife is a stamped knife rather than the more expensive hand forged variety. This basically means that the knife has been stamped out of a large sheet of steel during its manufacture rather than painstakingly molded and grinded into shape as with the more expensive forged knives. This isn’t a bad thing, it just means that they can keep the costs as low as possible and mass produce knives “for the masses”.
The handle on this 8-inch chef knife is made from a slip resistant material that surprisingly give an excellent grip (even with wet hands). You’ll find that many of the best chef knife manufacture’s no longer use natural wood handles on their kitchen knives, this is mainly due to longevity and hygiene. Which brings me nicely back to the many awards Victorinox kitchen knives have earned over the years for having the highest sanitary standards when it comes to knives, earning the NSF (National Sanitary Foundation) seal of approval.
If you are looking for a cheap chef knife that can keep up with the “big boys” the Victorinox Swiss Classic 8-inch Chef Knife is worth looking at.
J.A. Henckels International Classic 8-inch Chef Knife
Henckels is one of the largest knife makers in the world and has been around since the early 1700s. Today, J.A. Henckels manufacture a wide range of kitchen knives from high-end, expensive hand forged knives all the way through to everyday knives that are perfect for the average home cook. The J.A. Henckels International 8-inch chef knife I recommend is the latter, a chef knife that should be affordable to most of you reading this. For under $50 you are getting a great chef knife from a reputable manufacture that has been made from the “preferred” high-carbon German stainless steel and hot-drop forged.
There are more expensive chef knives in the Henckels Pro S line such as the Henckels Twin Pro S 8-inch (which is a great knife might I add), but if you can’t part with over $100 that this chef knife demands the cheaper alternative I’m recommending (J.A. Henckels International 8-inch chef knife) does a great job.
It has a classic looking full-tang triple-rivet handle that just like the above Victorinox is made from some sort of synthetic material (not wood). It fits snugly to the full-tang which helps to stop any food debris from getting inside. The large full-bolster gives this chef knife just the right amount of weight (but nothing that tires my hand out) and balance and also helps to keep your fingers back on the handle where they should be. For under $50 the Henckels is a great chef knife that won’t leave you disappointed.
Wüsthof Classic 7-inch Santoku Knife
Wüsthof is in the circle of the “big boy” German knife makers producing some of the best chef knives in today’s marketplace. Many professional chefs and even celebrity chef swear by the Wüsthof knives and say that the overall feel and quality is higher. I’ll admit Wüsthof knives are great to use, have excellent balance, stay sharp for longer and I simply love my Santoku I find it’s my go to knife for most of my food preparation jobs around the kitchen. This isn’t really a chef knife ‘per se’ but what I like to think of as an Asian style chef knife.
The Wüsthof Classic 7-inch Santoku Knife performs kitchen duties in exactly to same way as a western style chef knife (as those above) but it has some neat features that make it stand out. For example, the blade has alternating hollows or dimples on the blade’s sides which helps prevent food from sticking (great for cutting tomatoes) and the blade also tends to be flat that curves slightly to the point with an angle of 60-degrees.
Just like the other high-quality chef knives made by Wüsthof their Santoku offering is fully forged and has a full-tang, however unlike Wüsthof’s other chef knives this Santoku does not host a full bolster. To be honest, the bolster isn’t a measure of overall quality it will however make knife sharpening easier and it can give a bit more weight and balance to the knife. Just like other knives in the Wüsthof range the handle has the traditional three rivets that securely hold the tough polypropylene handle firmly to the tang.
Global 8-inch Chef Knife
Don’t tell anyone but I’m a secret Global “fanboy” and when I get the chance I try and add a Global kitchen knife to my collection. Sure they can often be a bit pricey so I tend to look out for any special promos, but I just love the quality and the style of these knives.
The Global 8-inch Chef Knife really doesn’t disappoint and if you are looking for the best chef knife this could very well be it. Made from high-tech molybdenum/vanadium stainless steel the blade is super sharp and holds it edge retention for a long time before it requires re-sharpening or running over a hone.
The sharp edge of the Global is actually on par with the Henckels Twin Pro S 8-inch chef knife but the price is more affordable with the Global (and a better knife as far as I am concerned). Like all Global kitchen knives, the handle is fully molded to the blade and features a dimpled textured surface that has become the Global admired look. This fully-molded handle design also helps to eliminate bacteria and food buildup that can often happen on separate riveted handles.
MAC Professional Series 8-inch Chef Knife
It was only until recently that I stumbled across my first MAC knife and I was pleasantly surprised, to be honest I thin Mac knives are one of the best kept secrets in the consumer kitchen knife market and my only gripe is I wished I’d discovered them sooner. I think professional chefs have been keeping Mac knives “under lock and key” as apparently they seem to know all about them as I learned after I had a chat with a chef friend of mine over a beer.
Just like Global chef knives, MAC’s are designed and manufactured in Japan. I like to think of them as a hybrid chef knife which infuses the harder and thinner Japanese steel along with a western-shaped blade. That really is where the comparison with Global ends because the MAC Professional Series 8-inch Chef Knife is not forged but has been “highly-machined” from a hefty piece of chrome-moly vanadium steel. This MAC favored vanadium steel allows the blade to be manufactured extremely thinly (under 2.5mm) that is also strong, and can hold a great edge.
I love my MAC Professional Series 8-inch Chef Knife and I think you will to, a great knife that is relatively unknown in the consumer marketplace.
Shun Classic 8-inch Chef Knife
The crème de crème of Japanese kitchen knives some might say. Personally I think they can often be overpriced with many of the best Shun kitchen knives being priced at well over $100. I own this identically Shun Chef Knife and to be honest I’m often too scared to bring in out and actually use it, afraid that it may get damaged, scratched or worse. But if you love kitchen knives as much as I do you really have to have a Shun or a few of them in your collection, even if they are not used it’s nice to say you actually own one.
This particular Shun chef knife features a beautiful Damascus style 8-inch blade that has been manufactured from 32-layers high carbon steel, this knife is harder than all of the knives on this list. This razor-sharp blade can hold a 16-degree edge for a very long time before sharpening is needed.
When I picked up this Shun for the first time I was amazed at how light it was compared to the other chef knives I own, it actually took me a while to get a feel for the knife before I had the confidence to do any slicing with it. Unlike the other chef knives on this list the handle on the Shun is made from wood, Pakkawood to be precise. And the d-shaped contour is surprisingly comfy, however it may not be ideal for everyone especially if you have small hands.
If money is no object, the Shun 8-inch Chef Knife is a really nice knife that will take pride of place in any kitchen albeit often unused where it could (in my case) become a shrine where you regularly pray to the kitchen knife gods.