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The chef’s knife is one of the few items that people agree is essential for any kitchen. It’s the workhorse of the cutting tools and can be used for slicing or chopping vegetables, bashing cloves of garlic, dicing onions, mincing herbs, and even for slicing meat. The best knives have a good balance, so they’re not tiring to use during long cooking sessions, and they have handles that are easy to grip. When it comes to knife comfort, it can depend on personal preference as well as the size of the user’s hand, but some knives are built with more of an eye on comfort whereas others are more about utility.
Eventually, all knife blades will get dull. Metal formulations are always a balance between the ability to hold an edge, brittleness, and ease of sharpening, but it’s hard to go wrong with any modern metal knife. Ceramic knives can be super-sharp, but they require special sharpening tools or a return to the manufacturer for professional sharpening.
If you're ready to start shopping, here are the best chef's knives on the market today.
Best Overall: Wusthof CLASSIC Cook's Knife, 8-Inch Hollow Ground Blade
Trusted brand known for durability
Food doesn't stick
On the heavier side
This knife is a true kitchen workhorse that you’ll reach for every day. The Granton edge on the 8-inch blade helps keep food from sticking to the blade as you chop, slice, and dice. The blade is forged rather than stamped, for better durability and a comfortable weight, and the knife has a full tang with a triple-riveted handle for security and a classic look.
The knife is made in Germany and has a synthetic handle that can stand up to kitchen abuse while providing a good balance when cutting. The full tang keeps fingers away from the blade and helps promote a proper pinch grip when cutting, for more efficient and safer use every time. When it comes to weight, it's all about personal preference, but some warn this one is on the heavier side for chef's knives.
Best Mid-Range: Victorinox Fibrox Pro 8-Inch Chef’s Knife
Included sheath may be too thin for storage
Rough handle surface grabs debris
Blade is stamped rather than forged
If the Victorinox name seems familiar, perhaps it’s because it's the manufacturer of the very popular Swiss Army knives. Like those knives, this one is made in Switzerland. The 8-inch blade on this knife is made from high-carbon stainless steel that will maintain its super-sharp edge. The blade is straight with a gently curved tip that encourages a rocking motion, so it’s also great for slicing meats.
The handle is made from the proprietary Fibrox material that is textured to provide a nonslip grip. It's placed so you won’t hit your knuckles on the cutting board, even if your hands are large, and it’s designed to provide a comfortable ergonomic feel for most users. Our tester said the knife came "seriously sharp" and also reported that it maintained its edge well during her testing.
"There’s not much this knife can’t do, so if the budget is tight, it would be a great first knife until there’s room in the budget for a companion or two." — Donna Currie, Product Tester
Best Professional: Mac Knife Professional Hollow Edge Chef's Knife, 8 Inch
High-quality craftsmanship that will last
Stays sharp for long
Mac Knives have a long-standing reputation for quality Japanese craftsmanship, and this 8-inch knife is beloved by professionals and novices alike. Its lightweight design (6.5 ounces) and thin 2.5-millimeter blade and bolster make it easy to slice through almost anything. Added dimples aid in chopping sticky foods like potatoes and squash. The Pakka wood handle offers a comfortable grip that cooks say is well-balanced and easy to use no matter what you're trying to chop.
It's extremely sharp and holds an edge well (customers recommend Mac Knives' sharpeners for when you do need to resharpen the blade). This knife is not dishwasher safe, but if you follow the care instructions carefully, it should last you for many years even with regular use. While it may not be the cheapest, its versatility and durability make it worth the cost.
Best Design: Shun Classic 8-Inch Chef’s Knife
Proprietary core is extremely durable
Not the best for lefties
The popular Japanese knife brand Shun calls its Classic Chef's Knife the "one knife you simply can't be without." And it's easy to see why. It's beautifully designed with an ebony Pakka wood handle, a full tang for balance, and 34 layers of Damascus steel enveloping each side of the blade. In terms of quality and durability, all Shun knives are made with a proprietary VG-MAX cutting core that lends extra strength and corrosion resistance.
You will love both the look and feel of this knife. The ergonomic D-shaped handle provides a comfortable hold, although left-handed chefs may not like it as much as righthanded folks. It's meant to be "rocked" (the curved belly is better suited for this motion than straight chopping), and the extra-wide blade is ideal for transferring your freshly chopped herbs and other food from cutting board to pan.
Best Service and Warranty: Cutco Knives Petite Chef Knife
Unique handle design
Warranty includes sharpening and buffing
Hand wash only
Slightly shorter than typical chef's knives
Cutco knives have a bit of a cult following, perhaps because there was a time when they were only sold through their sales force. Now, they’re easy to buy since they’re available online. The Petite Chef Knife arrives very sharp and has a unique handle design that’s comfortable to hold. The blade is slightly shorter than most chef’s knives, but it’s still able to handle all the kitchen tasks, from slicing tomatoes to dicing celery. While the knife is expensive to purchase, the lifetime warranty means you’ll never need to pay for a replacement—and the warranty also covers sharpening and buffing to keep it in good condition.
"The blade is rounded towards the tip and flat towards the handle so it’s just as good for rocking cuts as it is for slicing and mincing, making it a true all-purpose blade." — Donna Currie, Product Tester
Best 6-Inch: Mercer Culinary Genesis Forged Chef's Knife, 6 Inch
Perfect for smaller hands
Not professional quality
This chef’s knife has a 6-inch blade, so it’s easier for people with small hands to use, or for those who simply prefer the shorter length. It’s also great for tiny kitchens where counters and cutting boards are similarly small. The handle on this knife is made from Santoprene, so it’s NSF safe for commercial kitchens and easy to keep clean. The Santoprene material also provides a firm, non-slip grip, no matter if your hands are wet or dry, so it’s great for working with wet foods that you’ve just washed. Also, it's unaffected by heat, cold, or food oils, so it won’t crack, get sticky, or degrade over time.
The blade is made from German high-carbon steel that resists corrosion and is forged rather than stamped. The edge is taper ground (meaning it slowly decreases from handle to tip), which means it can be honed easily and will maintain a sharp edge for a longer time.
Best All-Metal: Global 8-Inch Chef's Knife
Easy to clean
Can be uncomfortable for larger hands
Unlike knives that have an attached handle, this entire knife is made from stainless steel, with no joints, rivets, or corners where food could accumulate. To provide a better grip, the handle has dimples that create a textured surface.
The knife is designed to be lightweight (despite being made entirely from metal), so it’s easy to wield. Made from molybdenum/vanadium stainless steel, the blade is razor-sharp and will retain its edge. This knife comes with a lifetime warranty against breakage.
Best Ceramic: Kyocera Advanced Ceramic Revolution Series 7-inch Chef's Knife
Can be sent to manufacturer for resharpening
Ceramic blades are becoming increasingly popular, and they’re being made better than ever before. While ceramic blades can shatter or break when dropped, they’re completely resistant to acids, salts, or oils, and they’ll never rust or corrode.
The 7-inch black blade on this knife looks professional and it’s precision-ground by the manufacturer for a super-hard and extremely sharp edge. To keep that edge, the knife can be sent back to the manufacturer for resharpening. For home maintenance, the Kyocera electric knife sharpener for ceramic blades is recommended.
Since ceramics are lighter than metal and the handle is designed to be ergonomic, this is great for people who fatigue easily.
Best Budget: Farberware EdgeKeeper Chef Knife, 6-Inch
Not the sharpest
This knife is inexpensive to buy and inexpensive to maintain, since a sharpener is built into the sheath. Every time the knife is inserted or removed, the blade sweeps against the sharpener to hone it and keep it sharp without the need for a separate sharpener.
The 6-inch blade is great for people who have smaller hands, and it’s also great for tiny kitchens. Since it comes with a sturdy sheath, you can safely store this in a kitchen drawer or toss it into a picnic basket without worrying about finding the blade instead of the handle. With an affordable price point and lack of maintenance needed, this is also a great knife for a vacation cottage or RV, or for taking along to potlucks or parties where you want to slice the food onsite.
Best As-Seen-on-TV: Trusted Butcher Professional 8-Inch Chef Knife
Often sold in a set
A great knife for new cooks, the Trusted Butcher chef’s knife usually comes with a set of four steak knives and a plastic case, but it can also be found (for much cheaper) as a single piece from some retailers. The knife looks attractive, it cuts well, and it is well-balanced, making it a true bargain. While it may never be the best knife in your knife block, it’s good enough for basic tasks and inexpensive enough to leave in the RV or vacation cabin, and it’s great to send off to college so kids can prep easy meals or slice their takeout in the dorm room.
"I was pleasantly surprised the knife was comfortable to hold and that it was sharp on arrival." — Donna Currie, Product Tester
What to Look for in a Chef's Knife
Chef's knives commonly range from 6 to 10 inches and there are different shapes and thickness for the blades. Longer blades are good for single strokes, and blades with a more curved tip are better for cutting food with a "rocking" motion. Some prefer smaller blades, whether that's because your hands are smaller and they're easier to use or you have a smaller kitchen or cutting board and chopping space is at a premium.
Consider how often you'll be using your knife and how often it needs to be sharpened—some hold an edge much longer than others. Also, consider how likely it is to rust or get water stains. Wooden handles are very common, but they can also attract food and bacteria, unlike all-metal knives. While most manufacturers recommend hand washing knives, there are some that can be put in the dishwasher.
A chef's knife is often considered the most important knife to have in your kitchen because of its versatility. For this reason, it might make sense to invest in one that's going to last. However, if you're shopping for a vacation home or a small kitchen that doesn't get used much, there are plenty of budget options that will get the job done.
What is a chef's knife used for?
A chef’s knife is an all-around knife in the kitchen. It can handle slicing, dicing, and chopping fruits and vegetables, and it can also be used for prepping meats. In a pinch, it can also be used as a slicer, for carving roasts. While other knives come in handy as the knife collection grows, a chef’s knife will always be one the cook reaches for.
How do you sharpen a chef's knife?
There are a number of tools that can be used to sharpen knives, from electric sharpeners to pull-through manual sharpeners to whetstones. Electric sharpeners are the easiest to use, with guides that make it nearly impossible to grind the knife at the wrong angle. The downside of an electric sharpener is that it can sharpen too aggressively. The manual method using a whetstone is much more gentle on knives, making it preferred for more expensive knives. The downside is that there’s a bit of a learning curve. No matter what method is used for sharpening, it’s wise to have a honing steel to touch up the knife as it’s used and keep it in good shape between sharpening.
How do you hold a chef's knife?
There are plenty of names for the proper hold on a chef’s knife. Some describe it as a handshake while others talk about a pinch grip. Generally, the thumb and forefinger are doing all the work, while the other three fingers grasp the handle more gently. With the proper grip, cutting will feel easy and comfortable, and the knife will always be under complete control.
Do you need a chef's knife and a santoku?
A chef’s knife and a santoku perform the same—or very similar—tasks in the kitchen. Both are good for cutting, dicing, slicing, and chopping, so it’s not necessary to own both. However, while chef’s knives are generally about 8 inches long, there are 5-inch santoku knives that may be more comfortable for cooks with smaller hands, or for taking over the tasks of a utility knife. An extra knife in the kitchen can be handy when there are helpers around, too.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Donna Currie is a cookbook author, food writer, and product tester for The Spruce Eats, and she personally tested three of the knives on this list. While she's somewhat partial to Wusthof knives, her knife block is a hodgepodge of brands from crazy expensive ones like Shun to some that are dirt cheap. She recommends going with one that feels comfortable in your hand—it's all about personal preference.