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Best Chef's Knives 2023

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The versatile chef’s knife is the MVP of any knife collection, and with good reason. Designed to handle the lion’s share of chopping, slicing and cutting tasks, the best chef’s knives excel at precise knife work and tougher cuts alike: They chop through hard winter squash, mince herbs with necessary delicacy and break down raw chickens with ease. After extensively testing 10 popular chef’s knives, during which I considered sharpness, versatility, comfort and price, I found the MAC Professional Series Chef’s Knife (MTH-80) to be the best option for most home chefs, as it easily tackled just about every culinary task it faced.

The best chef’s knives are kitchen workhorses, featuring super sharp blades and comfortable, secure … [+] handles.

Illustration: Forbes / Image: Retailers

That said, more than one blade impressed me. Here are all the winning chef’s knives from my testing process:

  • Best Chef’s Knife Overall: MAC Professional Series Chef’s Knife (MTH-80)
  • Runner-Up: Global Classic Chef’s Knife (G-2)
  • Best Budget-Friendly Chef’s Knife: Our Place Everyday Chef’s Knife
  • Best Western-Style Chef’s Knife: Wüsthof Classic Ikon

When a chef’s knife feels like a true extension of your hand—easy to hold, control and maneuver—you’ll know you’ve found the right one for you. While I believe the MTH-80 to be the best option currently available, the sleek, all-steel Global Classic Chef’s Knife (G-2) was a close runner-up, performing every task just as well. However, its thin spine, bolsterless design and stainless steel handle aren’t for everyone. If you prefer heavier, German-style knives that shine during heavy-duty tasks, you can’t go wrong with the Wüsthof Classic Ikon. And for those seeking a more affordable pick, consider the Our Place Everyday Chef’s Knife, which performed nearly as well as the other winning knives for a much lower price. Ahead, here’s what I loved about these knives.


Amazon

MAC Professional Series 8-Inch Chef’s Knife (MTH-80)

Blade material: Molybdenum steel | Handle material: Pakkawood | Weight: 6.5 ounces | Style: Western-Japanese hybrid

Best for:

  • Home cooks seeking something between a Western-style and Japanese-style knife
  • Cooks who want a single knife they can use for almost anything
  • Cooks who don’t mind a little extra knife care in exchange for longer-lasting sharpness

Skip if:

  • You’re on a budget
  • You don’t want to commit to a light amount of special knife care (primarily rinsing and drying the knife immediately after cutting foods to minimize the risk of stains and/or rust)

The MTH-80 is MAC’s most popular everyday knife, and after testing it’s easy to see why. A hybrid of Western- and Japanese-style knives, the MTH-80 (often referred to as the MAC Mighty) is sturdy yet agile, the kind of knife you feel you can bend to your will before you even pick it up. Perhaps most importantly, it boasts an extremely sharp factory edge that makes it a pleasure to use right out of the box. For these reasons, it’s my pick for best chef’s knife overall. (Read my full review of the knife here.)

Throughout testing, the knife excelled at slicing, dicing and chopping whatever I threw its way. It effortlessly julienned scallions and cut some of the neatest diced onions, and it was easy to maneuver around the curves of the baby watermelon rind. The thin blade also slipped through dense butternut squash with ease—it didn’t feel overly delicate or brittle like many Japanese-made carbon steel knives. What’s more, it remained comfortable to hold. Weighing in at 6.5 ounces, the MTH-80 is one of the lighter chef’s knives I tested, and I found I could put in lots of cutting time without any undue wrist or hand strain. The ergonomic resin pakkawood handle, featuring a slight curve at the end of the handle for your pinky to rest, adds to the knife’s overall grip.

The MAC MTH-80 yielded beautifully neat, precise diced onion.

Christina Chaey

Like the majority of the knives I tested, the MTH-80 features a partial or half-bolster, which allows you to sharpen the full length of the blade. More about the blade: It’s stamped, meaning the metal was cut out of a sheet of steel and extends all the way through the end of the handle. The blade also features dimples on both sides, which are intended to reduce how much food sticks to the knife. (However, this particular feature didn’t stand out in my testing.)

After six months of daily use, the blade has retained an impressively sharp edge, thanks to the hard steel. That said, this material does come with a potential downside: You have to take some special care to prevent rust spots or stains from forming on the blade, including promptly rinsing and drying your knife after cutting foods. One other potential downside is the cost. If you believe as much as I do that investing in a great, high-quality knife will make meal prep faster and cooking more enjoyable, though, the MAC MTH-80 is absolutely worth the investment.


Amazon

Global Classic 8-inch Chef’s Knife (G-2)

Blade material: Stainless steel | Handle material: Stainless steel | Weight: 6 ounces | Style: Japanese

Best for:

  • Home cooks who like their knives incredibly lightweight
  • Those who favor a thin blade for precise knife work
  • Anyone drawn to a minimalist design

Skip if:

  • You want a knife with a bolster
  • You tend to favor heavier/bulkier knives

The entirely stainless steel Global G-2 chef’s knife is my runner-up to the MAC MTH-80 because while it performed every cutting test just as well as the MAC, some elements of the knife’s design can be polarizing (which I’ll get into). Weighing in at 6 ounces, the Global is incredibly lightweight. No matter what you’re chopping, it feels like the blade flies right through.

The Global’s stainless steel stamped blade features a steep edge that is incredibly sharp out of the box and passed my cutting tests with flying colors: It made no noise as it sliced through scallions, and it produced perfect swaths of watermelon rind with minimal waste. It was particularly fun to dice onions with the Global, as the blade slipped through the allium with remarkable ease. Because of how lightweight this knife is, I was initially concerned it wouldn’t be able to stand up to sturdier ingredients like butternut squash and chicken. But in my testing, the blade smoothly sliced through the dense squash flesh and chicken joints better than some of its weightier competitors.

Now onto the knife’s love-it-or-hate-it design: It lacks a bolster, the cuff of metal that typically sits where the knife blade meets the handle (which is filled with sand for weight). While its absence didn’t affect the blade’s performance, there were times when the side of the blade pressed up against my finger uncomfortably. J. Kenji López-Alt, the author of the New York Times–bestselling books The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science and The Wok: Recipes and Techniques, has similar thoughts on the Global: “They’re nice and well balanced, but when I’m holding it, the blade can dig into my finger a bit.”

Additionally, this was the only knife I tested that features a stainless steel handle, which takes some getting used to in terms of the feel. The signature dimple pattern all over the handle is meant to provide a nonslip grip, to which this sweaty-palmed cook can attest. However, be careful not to get your hands too greasy while using this knife, as things might get slippery.


Our Place – US

Our Place Everyday Chef’s Knife

Blade material: German stainless steel | Handle material: Thermoplastic | Weight: 7 ounces | Style: Western

Best for:

  • Anyone on a budget
  • Beginner cooks who want to work on their knife-holding technique
  • Those drawn to chic, colorful kitchen tools

Skip if:

  • You need a bolster

At $70, the Our Place Everyday Chef’s Knife provides great value for a knife that consistently performed almost as well as my pricier top picks. Featuring a full-tang, stainless steel blade, this Western-style knife feels strong without being weighty. Additionally, the thermoplastic handle comes in six trendy, muted pastel colors, which add a fun pop of color and make the knife enjoyable to look at. (Read my full review here.)

Out of the box, the factory edge on the knife was extremely sharp, making tasks like thinly slicing onions a joy and a breeze. It also had the agility and maneuverability to easily follow the curves of the watermelon rind, which isn’t something I can say about many of the other blades I tested. Even more notably, the Everyday Chef’s Knife earned top marks in my butternut squash test—a real feat, considering how difficult a vegetable it is to chop.

The Our Place Everyday Chef’s Knife features a “proprietary intuitive pinch grip handle,” designed … [+] to help you master the knife-holding technique preferred by the pros.

Christina Chaey

Of the 10 knives I tested, the Our Place knife was the only one that came with a protective sheath for storage, which is a nice touch. The handle, too, stands out for its uniqueness. Described by Our Place as a “proprietary intuitive pinch grip handle,” it features a groove that’s meant to coax you into holding the knife in a pinch grip, the grip commonly used by the pros. If you want to master the pinch grip but need to work on your current knife skills, the Our Place knife might help get you there. If you’re not invested in mastering the pinch, though, the groove may feel like it’s in the way of your natural grip.

Where the Our Place knife falls short of higher-end knives such as the MAC and the Global is its overall construction: It doesn’t feel as well crafted. But it’s a small price to pay for all the other benefits you get in one well-priced package.


Amazon

Wüsthof Classic Ikon 8-Inch Chef’s Knife

Blade material: German stainless steel | Handle material: Synthetic material (polyoxymethylene) | Weight: 9.75 ounces | Style: Western

Best for:

  • Home cooks who prefer a heavier chef’s knife
  • Those who do a lot of tougher cuts at home—chopping winter squash, chocolate and the like
  • People with larger hands

Skip if:

  • You prefer lighter, Japanese-style knives
  • The majority of your knife work is precise

If you prefer a thicker, heavier chef’s knife that’s ideal for robust chopping tasks, the elegant Wüsthof Classic Ikon features the hallmark details that are characteristic of German knives: Its wide, rounded blade is conducive to rock-chopping, as well as scooping up and transferring food from the cutting board to the pan. Despite being the heaviest knife I tested—it clocks in at nearly 10 ounces—I found this pick to be balanced overall, plus easier to control and maneuver than many of its much lighter competitors.

Thanks to its curved ergonomic handle, the Wüsthof Classic Ikon is remarkably comfortable to hold. While it feels sturdy in your hand, it’s not bulky, distinguishing it from some of the clumsier German-style knives I tested. When slicing through butternut squash and peeling watermelon, for example, the blade glided through the hard produce with ease. That said, I found the knife to be slightly less accurate during some of my precision work. For example, the Classic Ikon wasn’t as adept at neatly dicing onions and chives, and I had some trouble getting clean cuts through the chicken skin.

That’s really the only drawback of the knife: While it makes a great all-purpose blade, it’s not as precise a slicer as the MAC or Global knives, which both have thinner blades. (In general, Japanese knives excel at fine knife work over German knives, for this reason.) But if you want a knife that’s robust, hefty and durable—all characteristics associated with German-style knives—this may be your blade.


Other Chef’s Knives I Tested

In addition to the four winners, I tested six other chef’s knives that didn’t make the cut.

Victorinox Swiss Classic 8-Inch Chef’s Knife: This popular budget-pick knife was a solid middle-of-the-road performer across all my tests, which means it ultimately didn’t get top marks. While it made relatively clean and easy cuts, it often required extra effort to maneuver the knife.

Miyabi Kaizen II 8-Inch Chef’s Knife: While this knife’s flashy Damascus pattern makes it a looker, it had mixed results in my tests. The knife has a very handle-heavy balance point that works against the blade as you cut, meaning it takes more effort on the cook’s part to simply halve an onion or dice squash. (Speaking of squash, the thin blade wanted to bend while I was cutting rounds of butternut.)

Zwilling Twin Four Star II 8-Inch Chef’s Knife: I liked how this knife excelled at cutting through chicken bones, but that’s where my compliments end. Regardless of whether I was slicing chives or dicing onions, whenever I was doing finer knife work, this knife felt like it had a mind of its own, as if it were somehow resisting my direction.

Material 8-Inch Knife: This is one chic-looking knife. Unfortunately, the goods didn’t match the looks in my testing. From the onions and squash with jagged edges, to the fact that I was exhausted after expending the effort it took to get this knife through all my tests, the Material knife did not live up to my expectations.

Wüsthof Classic 8-Inch Chef’s Knife: At $160, this was one of the most expensive knives I tested. Unfortunately, the blade edge kept threatening to slip while I was dicing onions and cutting squash, ultimately making it not worth the price tag.

JA Henckels Forged Premio 8-Inch Chef’s Knife: This was the only knife I tested that came with only the blade of the knife packaged in hard plastic, and the exposed handle had a tiny ding in it. For the price, I wouldn’t be afraid to use this knife for more aggressive tasks such as butchery and chopping big blocks of chocolate, but I couldn’t get it to yield good-quality precise knifework.


After extensive research, I decided to test 10 top-rated chef’s knives.

Christina Chaey

How I Tested The Best Chef’s Knives

I selected 10 knives to test based on extensive online research and reviews of bestselling knives at major retail outlets, as well as recommendations from food industry professionals. I considered a mix of Western-style chef’s knives from widely available, well-known knife brands such as Wüsthof and Zwilling, as well as some knives from newer, direct-to-consumer brands such as Our Place and Material; I also included a few double-bevel Japanese chef’s knives, which are sharper, lighter and more delicate than their Western-style counterparts. While chef’s knives can range in size from 6 to 14 inches long, I considered 8-inch knives, which is the ideal size for most people.

Because a sharp edge is paramount when considering which chef’s knife to buy, I put each knife through a series of cutting tests designed to see how the blade’s edge held up. But chef’s knives not only need to be razor-sharp—they must also be versatile enough to transform a wide range of foods into a variety of specifications.

Test #1: Cutting Paper

Running a knife down the length of a sheet of paper is a fairly common party trick to show off the sharpness of the blade. For this test, I took each knife—fresh out of the box—and ran it through a sheet of printer paper, pulling the blade from the top to the bottom. I looked for how smoothly and easily each knife sliced through the paper and noted whenever a knife got caught in or tore through the paper.

Test #2: Slicing Scallions And Chives

This test was inspired by one of my all-time favorite anecdotes about proper knife sharpness and technique. In an old episode of the Sporkful podcast featuring López-Alt, he recalls that the chef at his first restaurant job could tell he was slicing scallions incorrectly simply by listening to the sound they made as his knife cut through them. When using the proper technique with a sharp chef’s knife, you’ll neither hear nor feel scallions crunching underneath the blade. What I looked (and listened) for in this test was a smooth and quiet gliding through the scallions.

I also used each knife to mince chives to see which knives turned out light and fluffy herbs with minimal blade stickage, rather than ones that resulted in bruised and/or damp chives that stuck to the blade significantly more (a result of less-sharp knives that crush the cell walls rather than cleanly slicing through them).

Test #3: Dicing Onions

Similar to scallions, diced onions can tell you a lot about the knife that was used to cut them. I worked my way through several pounds of onions, finely dicing them to see which knives glided through as if the onion were butter, and which ones struggled to make clean cuts (due to lack of sharpness).

Test #4: Chopping Butternut Squash

Next, I used each knife to cube hard and dense butternut squash, the perfect example of a vegetable that is infinitely more dangerous to cut with a knife that’s even slightly dull. I looked for how smoothly each knife slid through the squash and how easy it was to produce neat, even cubes.

Test #5: Peeling Baby Watermelons

To see how well the knives maneuvered around curves and grooves, I used each blade to slice away the rind of baby watermelons. Specifically, I noted how it felt to follow the curve of the rind as I sliced, as well as how many strokes it took to fully peel it off.

Test #6: Breaking Down Raw Chickens

I wanted to see how easily each knife could cut through the joints and smaller bones of raw chickens as I broke them down into eight pieces per chicken; I also examined the knives afterward to see if the test caused any chipping of the blades.

Test #7: Cutting Paper (Again)

After performing all of the above tests on each knife, I ran them all through a final paper test to determine whether any had lost significant edge sharpness.

As I made my way through each test, I also considered how comfortable each knife was to use, how easy it was to wield and maneuver and how precisely it executed my desired results. These criteria guided my selection of the winners.


How To Pick A Chef’s Knife

There’s no such thing as a “wrong” chef’s knife, and the buying process is highly subjective. (Remember: The best knife for you should feel like an extension of your hand.) Whenever possible, try to shop for knives in person so you can immediately get a sense of the weight, balance and feel of a particular knife in your hand. That said, buying knives online can also be a great option if you don’t have access to a trusted knife or kitchen store—as long as you know what to look for. Here are some criteria from the experts to help you narrow down your options.

Material

One of the biggest decisions you’ll want to consider when buying a chef’s knife is whether you want a stainless steel or carbon steel blade. First, it’s important to clarify: All culinary-grade steel contains carbon, including stainless steel. The category of “stainless steel” knives refers to steel that additionally contains at least 13% chromium, which bonds with itself to create a protective film that reduces rusting and corrosion.

Stainless steel blades are very popular for their ability to take a bit of a beating in the kitchen without too many consequences. Something to note is that contrary to their namesake, stainless steel knives are not truly stainless; rather, they will stain less and more slowly, even when made with good-quality steel. A trade-off of opting for stainless is that you’ll generally end up with a knife that will dull more quickly (i.e., needs to be sharpened more often) and is harder to sharpen than a carbon steel knife.

Carbon steel blades lack that protective chromium film and thus require more TLC than stainless steel to keep them spot- and rust-free. It’s especially important to promptly wash and thoroughly dry a carbon steel knife after every use. Carbon steel is also generally more brittle and fragile than softer stainless steel. But if you’re willing to put in a little extra care, carbon steel knives are generally sharper—and stay sharp longer. “If you can look after cast iron, you can look after carbon steel,” says Donald. “If you can sharpen it, it’s a great material to work with.”

Finally, you may come across many knives marketed as “high-carbon stainless steel,” which conjures a vision of a happy medium between stainless and carbon steel blades. However, Donald says using this phrase to play up a knife is akin to how food brands will slap the term “all-natural” on everything from milk to granola—it doesn’t always mean all that much. “Technically culinary steel is high-carbon steel,” he says. “It’s kind of a marketing thing. Manufacturers want to play up that their stainless steel is good quality.”

Price

Chef’s knives come in a huge range of prices, from $20 to hundreds and even thousands of dollars. But you don’t have to spend a fortune on a great chef’s knife to find one that works for you. When looking at different price points, consider the brand’s reputation, how transparent it is about its manufacturing and forging practices and what you’re willing to spend. Remember: Spending hundreds of dollars on a fancy knife you’re too scared to unsheath isn’t a great idea. You want to buy a knife you’re encouraged to use all the time.


My Expertise

As a professional recipe developer and avid home cook, I use chef’s knives every day, both for work developing new recipes and for pleasure; I’m also a former professional line cook and previously developed recipes for Bon Appétit. Because I make a living cooking food and testing recipes, I seek out knives that maximize my efficiency, which in turn makes cooking feel like a pleasurable activity rather than a chore. More than any other blade in my kit, I depend on a good chef’s knife to prepare a wide variety of foods every week, from dense and bulky vegetables like winter squash to fine, tender herbs like chives to delicate fish and whole chickens.

For this piece, I interviewed Josh Donald, a cofounder of the renowned San Francisco knife shop Bernal Cutlery; I also consulted his book, Sharp: The Definitive Introduction to Knives, Sharpening, and Cutting Techniques, with Recipes from Great Chefs. In addition, I spoke with two chefs: J. Kenji López-Alt, the author of the New York Times–bestselling books The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science and The Wok: Recipes and Techniques; and Niki Nakayama, co-owner of the two-Michelin-starred restaurant N/naka in Los Angeles.


What Knives Do Top Chefs Recommend?

Considering how personal the experience of buying a chef’s knife can be, it’s not surprising that chefs generally recommend going with the knife that feels best to you. “It’s hard to say a Wüsthof is universally better than a Henckels or a Japanese knife,” López-Alt says. “It’s about what feels right to you. It’s a personal decision. What fits my hand and what’s right for me might not feel right to someone else.”

How Should You Care For a Chef’s Knife?

There’s no special knowledge needed to take good basic care of your knife. Get into the habit of washing your knife by hand and drying it with a cloth after each use; this will go a long way toward extending its life. Even if a knife brand claims its products are dishwasher-safe, never put your knife in the dishwasher or leave it soaking in the sink, as this will speed up corrosion and destroy the blade edge.

Keep a ceramic or metal honing rod (like this one) in your kitchen to realign the edge of the blade, as it will naturally slope to one side with use. While honing won’t sharpen the blade, it will preserve an already-sharp edge so you can get more use out of your knife between sharpenings. Finally, sharpen your knife when the blade edge inevitably gets dull. At some point, you’ll want to decide whether you want to sharpen your chef’s knife yourself or bring it to a professional sharpener. If you’re interested in learning how to sharpen your own knives, you might consider getting a carbon steel knife, which will be easier to sharpen. If you’re not interested in sharpening your own knives, stainless steel might be a better pick for you, with the caveat that you’ll need to be more vigilant about getting them professionally sharpened a couple times a year.

How Long Do Chef’s Knives Last?

Some people claim chef’s knives can last a lifetime—but that’s true only so long as you’re not really using them, Donald says. The reality is that knives are meant to be used; those knives will inevitably dull with use, and each time they get sharpened, you’re removing a little more metal off the edge. “Once you grind off a quarter of the blade, there won’t be enough room for your knuckles to clear the knife,” Donald says. In other words, that knife will no longer be functional. So how long will a well-loved chef’s knife last? For a celebrated chef like Nakayama, it could be five years. For a home cook, it could be 10 years or more. But one thing is for certain: The only knives that “last a lifetime” are the ones you don’t use.

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Best Chef's Knives 2023 Reviewed by RP on April 29, 2023 Rating: 5

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