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The chef’s knife is one of the items that are essential for any kitchen. It’s the workhorse of cutting tools, used for slicing or chopping vegetables, crushing cloves of garlic, dicing onions, mincing, even slicing meat. The best chef's knives have good balance, so they’re not tiring to use during long cooking sessions, and they have handles that are easy to grip. Modern metal knives can easily be sharpened at home or by a professional. Ceramic ones can be super-sharp, but they require special sharpening tools or a return to the manufacturer for sharpening.
We chose the Mac Knife Professional 8-inch Hollow Edge Chef Knife as our top pick because it's balanced, easy to use, and versatile. Our testers also loved the Victorinox Fibrox Pro 8-Inch Chef's Knife, which is utilitarian and efficient yet affordable, earning it the top spot in the best budget category.
To help you find the chef's knife that will best suit your needs and budget, we made sure to put our choices through our rigorous testing process. First, based on user reviews and manufacturer data, we chose the best option in each category of chef's knives and sent it to our Lab for testing. We also purchased some of the knives and sent them to our trusted crew of home cooks and product testers for their take. Lastly, we used the results to evaluate and rate each knife based on its design, size, performance, ease of cleaning, and overall value.
If you're ready to start shopping, here are the best chef's knives on the market today, based on our test findings.
Best Overall: Mac Knife Professional Series 8-Inch Chef's Knife with Dimples (MTH-80)
Extreme sharpness that lasts
High-quality, durable craftsmanship
No sheath included
Mac Knives have a long-standing reputation for quality Japanese craftsmanship, and it's no surprise the Professional Series 8-Inch Hollow Edge Knife was the top overall choice in our lab testing. The hollow edge is the standout feature of this knife. It's balanced, easy to use, and cuts well, thanks to its lightweight design (6.5 ounces) and thin 2.5-millimeter blade and bolster. Plus, its Pakkawood handle offers a comfortable grip.
Our lab testers tried the knife on a number of things, including garlic, onion, tomato, and even a piece of paper. On the tomato, they noted that there was no tearing, and the knife was able to slice very thinly with ease. It smashes garlic easily and minces well. The knife's sharp hollow edge helped it glide through an onion, and it only experienced a slight drag when cutting butternut squash. It even sliced through paper twice, with only minimal tearing on the second run.
Though the knife doesn't come with a sheath, which testers would have preferred, it was easy to clean with no remaining residue after cleaning and no streaks.
In terms of long-term performance, customers say that it holds its edge well (and they recommend Mac Knife sharpeners for when you do need to resharpen the blade). This knife is not dishwasher-safe, but follow the care instructions carefully and it should last you years. While it may not be the cheapest, its versatility and durability make it worth the cost.
Blade Length: 8.25 inches | Material: Alloy steel | Handle Length: 4.25 inches | Handle Material: Pakkawood | Weight: 6.75 ounces
"When cutting the garlic, onion, and tomato, we essentially let the weight of the knife glide through the items—very smooth.”
Best Budget: Victorinox Fibrox Pro 8-Inch Chef’s Knife
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. Though our lab testers noted that the knife's appearance is very utilitarian, a winning combination of price and efficiency made this knife the winner in the Best Budget category.
The handle is made from the proprietary Fibrox material that is textured to provide a nonslip grip, and it's designed to provide an ergonomic feel. In the lab, the paper slice test left fuzzy edges both times, but the paper didn't tear. While slicing a tomato, the first slice was fine, though further clean slices were tougher to get—however, the tomato didn't tear, either.
Garlic cloves were easily smashed and neatly minced. Lab testers were able to cut through an onion skin, but noted the knife didn't feel very nimble. The Victorinox also cut through and cubed a heavy butternut squash without any issues. When cleaning, lab testers discovered the blade to be a bit streaky and spotty after being washed, but noted that for the price point, this is a good choice.
Our home tester, Donna Currie, said that the knife came "seriously sharp" and that it maintained its edge well during her testing.
Blade Length: 8.25 inches | Material: Stainless steel | Handle Length: 5.5 inches | Handle Material: Fibrox | Weight: 5.6 ounces
“This is a totally reliable inexpensive knife that can do all tasks well.”
Best High-End: Zwilling Kramer by Zwilling Euroline Essential Collection 8-Inch Chef's Knife
Great for large hands
Cleaning is easy and streak-free
Wide blade offers good knuckle clearance
May be clunky for those with smaller hands
Forged in Japan, this Zwilling Chef's Knife is designed by Bob Kramer, considered to be the best knifesmith in the world. Creating this Damascus steel blade involves forging and hammering almost 100 layers of steel together before sharpening the blade. This knife is hand-finished in a three-step process by skilled Japanese artisans and paired with a thick polymer handle with brass rivets. It also features an extra-wide blade with a notch at the bottom that allows for knuckle clearance.
Our lab testers noted that the knife cuts well, and that it's great for those who prefer a hefty knife that has some weight to it. They did note, however, that while it's comfortable for large hands, the thickness of the handle may be clunky for smaller hands. On the paper test, which was done twice, both slices were smooth. They were able to slice tomatoes smoothly without tearing, and lab testers were able to make paper-thin slices. The knife smashed and minced cloves of garlic with ease, and cutting an onion was a snap. On cutting butternut squash, some pressure to cut the squash was required and the squash felt sticky on the blade.
Cleaning the knife was easy, leaving no streaks and a shiny finish.
Blade Length: 8 inches | Material: Fine carbide steel | Handle Length: 5 inches | Handle Material: Brushed polymer | Weight: 9.25 ounces
“This knife is great for those who want a heavier knife that still performs well.”
Best Design: Shun Classic Chef's 8-Inch
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 Pakkawood 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.
Furthermore, the ergonomic D-shaped handle provides a comfortable hold, although left-handed chefs may not like it as much as right-handed folks. It's meant to be "rocked" (the curved belly is better suited for this motion than straight chopping).
Our lab testers loved the Damascus steel and found the knife to be a comfortable weight to hold, but noted that it may be a tad short for someone with really big hands. They found the knife to be balanced and the blade to be super sharp. The paper slice test yielded super smooth cuts both times it was performed. On tomatoes, the Shun sliced beautifully with minimal effort and had no dragging or skin tearing. On garlic, the knife rocked nicely to crush cloves with ease and had great balance and precision when it came to mincing.
Dicing an onion was quite smooth, and even hefty butternut squash was cut with little effort (though some of the squash stuck to the blade a bit). Our testers noted that the knife cleans nicely, and the Damascus steel hides water spots.
Blade Length: 8 inches | Material: 69 layers of Damascus steel | Handle Length: 4.75 inches | Handle Material: Pakkawood | Weight: 6.75 ounces
“For those who are willing to invest in a knife that will last for decades, this one is worth your consideration.”
Best Ceramic: Kyocera Ceramic Revolution Series Chef's Knife
Can be sent to manufacturer for resharpening
Resistant to acids, salts, and oils
Ceramic blades are becoming increasingly popular: They're a lightweight option that's great for people who fatigue easily. 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 blade on this knife looks professional and is 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.
Our lab tester noted that the knife was sharp—not flimsy at all, despite its light weight. And unlike steel blades that seem to have some give, this one felt inflexible in comparison. It did cut butternut squash cleanly, however. On the paper slice test, the knife cut completely through, directly out of the box. But, on the retest, it tore slightly on the cut-through.
On tomatoes, there was no tearing and our tester was able to able to slice the tomatoes very thin. Our lab testers didn't recommend this knife for smashing garlic, though it did work; still, it minced cloves of garlic nicely. Cutting an onion required slight pressure to cut through. On cutting butternut squash, there was some drag when cutting the skin, but it cut the flesh of the squash well.
Cleaning the knife was easy, but there were some streaks and some darker spots that couldn't be removed.
Blade Length: 8 inches | Material: Ceramic | Handle Length: 5 inches | Handle Material: Plastic | Weight: 3.6 ounces
“If you’re looking for a lightweight knife, we’d highly recommend this one.”
Best Mid-Range: Material The 8-Inch Knife
Comes in three pretty colors
High-quality, corrosion-resistant stainless steel
Awkward for those with smaller hands
Aesthetes will appreciate that Material Kitchen's chef's knife has a handle that comes in three colors, but it's more than just a pretty face: The blade is 8 inches of layered high-carbon and corrosion-resistant stainless Japanese steel. The tang extends into the handle for balance, and the handle is made with a comfortable grip. Designed to be low-maintenance, this chef's knife is affordable and high-quality, making it our winner in the Best Mid-Range category.
Our lab testers found this knife very good at most cutting tasks, leaving a pretty edge. However, they noted that the handle is somewhat awkward to hold. The testers also found it to be too long and straight and not very comfortable for people with smaller hands, noting that one tester had the end of the handle bumping into her forearm.
On the paper slice test, both times, this knife cleanly cut the paper. Tomatoes were also sliced very thin with ease, and the tomato was cored with the tip of the knife as easily as if it were a paring knife. Our testers also found that mincing garlic required work to reach a consistent size, but cutting an onion was very easy and accurate. Butternut squash was cut easily and smoothly.
When cleaning the knife, there were spots, streaks, and scratches left behind. Still, overall, the knife performed well, had good balance, and is a good value.
Blade Length: 8 inches | Material: High-carbon Japanese stainless steel | Handle Length: 5 inches | Handle Material: Composite | Weight: 7.6 ounces
"This has a pretty edge and is very good at most tasks, making it a great value."
Best All-Metal: Global 8-Inch Chef's Knife
Easy to clean
Unique, sleek design
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.
The most unique feature of this knife is its design: one solid piece of metal with a dimpled handle. Our lab testers would have liked the handle to be more ergonomic and comfortable to use. But they also found the no-frills design appealing and noted that it was also balanced and lightweight. It also performed beautifully on the paper slice test, leaving clean cuts both times. Tomatoes were easy to cut, even into thin slices.
The knife was easy to maneuver to crush garlic cloves and then mince them. Cutting onions was smooth and easy, too. On cutting the butternut squash, our testers were able to make smooth cuts, though they thought a slightly heavier knife would have required less effort. This knife cleaned easily with very few spots.
Blade Length: 7.5 inches | Material: Cromova 18 stainless steel | Handle Length: 5 inches | Handle Material: Metal with divots | Weight: 5.9 ounces
This is a sleek and simple knife. If you gravitate toward this handle style, this is a great knife to invest in.
Our top pick was the Mac Knife Professional 8-inch Hollow Edge Chef Knife because it cut smoothly and easily through all the items we tested. The Victorinox Fibrox Pro 8-Inch Chef's Knife was the winner in our budget category because it proved efficient yet affordable.
How We Tested
We tested 21 chef’s knives side by side in our Lab. After unboxing the knife, we measured the length of the handle and the blade, then tested for sharpness by slicing two sheets of paper and noting whether the paper sliced cleanly. Lab testers noted the weight and balance of each knife in their hand before cutting several common food items to test how smoothly and comfortably the knives could be handled.
For the tomato test, our staff noted whether the knife was sharp enough to make a clean slice or if the skin tore; in terms of precision, they noted whether the slices were equal in size, and how much effort was required. Testers then evaluated balance and comfort by mincing garlic and dicing an onion, paying special attention to any rocking and ease of maneuvering. Next, testers cubed a butternut squash, noting if any nimbleness or precision was lost when breaking down those tougher foods.
Testers also the comfort of the knife grip and the weight of the handle, noting any fatigue or discomfort during use. When it came to cleaning the knives, testers followed manufacturer instructions, noting how easy it was to wash without damaging the blade. Finally, each knife was rated on design, size, performance, ease of cleaning, and overall value.
Other Options We Tested
- Wusthof Classic IKON 8-inch Knife: This is a great knife performance-wise, but it is not weighted evenly. It's quite heavy and unbalanced—there are better knives out there for less money. At around $200, we feel that this knife is priced too high for what it has to offer. It performed the paper slice test well, and our testers were able to get nice, thin tomato slices with no resistance. The weight of the handle while cutting garlic was noticeable but it cuts nicely. There were no issues when maneuvering with an onion or butternut squash.
- Cutco Knives Petite Chef Knife: This is a great knife that performed well in our home tests. It’s on the pricier end, however, and we did not test it yet side by side with the other knives at the Lab, so we're leaving it off the list for now.
- Mercer Culinary Renaissance 8-Inch Forged Chef's Knife: We tested three different Mercer Chef’s knives (Mercer Culinary M21078 Genesis 8-Inch Short Bolster Chef's Knife and Mercer Culinary Millennia 8-Inch Chef's Knife were the other two), and this was our favorite of the three. But it ultimately still fell short. The handle could be improved, and the tip could be sharper. Our lab testers had to force their way through the vegetables. While this was the best one of all the Mercers we tested, we believe that it's not worth it for the price. "It made thin slices, which were not uniform. Still, it worked well and minced [garlic] easily," our testers noted, adding that there was some slippage and the cuts weren't smooth every time. The knife also completely failed the paper tests (the paper just crumpled). But, the knife did mince garlic well.
- J.A. Henckels International Classic 8-inch Chef's Knife: The Henckels Pro Classic Chef Knife is good for large hands, but it does not cut as well as other comparable knives. It has a very long handle, for starters. It did slice tomatoes well with no tearing, and it minced garlic easily. Our tester needed a moderate amount of pressure to dice the onion, but the butternut squash was fairly difficult to cut and needed a good amount of pressure. Overall, it wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer.
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 thicknesses 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 chefs prefer smaller blades, whether that's because their hands are smaller and they're easier to use, or they 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. 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 a kitchen's all-around knife. 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, or 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.
Rebecca Treon is a food and travel freelance writer, experienced home cook, and mother of two. She's always striving to help readers experience places or learn something new. Rebecca's work has been featured in BBC Travel, Huffington Post, Hemispheres, and Thrillist.