Testing chef's knives in the kitchen.
A chef's knife is the most important knife in a cook's arsenal. These versatile blades can do everything from chopping vegetables to slicing meat and fish with ease. But that doesn't mean one chef's knife is as good as the next. If you don't want to be slowed down by blades that chip or quickly lose their edge, you need to invest in a quality knife from a respected manufacturer.
Here's what you need to know in order to choose a great chef's knife, including our picks for the three best.
Considerations when choosing chef's knives
Chef's knives are either forged or stamped. Forged knives are made by heating a chunk of metal to a high temperature and then molding it into the right shape. Stamped blades are punched out of a sheet of metal by a machine and then sharpened.
Forged knives are preferred by top chefs because they're usually sturdier, and they hold an edge better, so you don't need to sharpen them as often. However, forged knives are more expensive than their stamped counterparts. If you don't intend to use your chef's knife often, a stamped knife may be just fine for you. But you should be aware that you may need to sharpen it more frequently than you would a forged knife.
Once you've settled on the type of chef's knife you want, there are several other factors to consider.
The majority of chef's knives are stainless steel, but some are made of carbon steel or high-carbon stainless steel. Carbon steel holds an edge better than stainless steel, but it tends to discolor over time. It's also more expensive. High-carbon stainless steel is a combination of stainless and carbon steel. It has the strengths of both, but it's also the most expensive knife material.
The handle should fit comfortably in your hand and be well-balanced for easy cutting. Chef's knife handles are usually made from wood, laminate, or plastic.
If a knife has a full tang, there will be a strip of metal running all the way through the handle. These knives are generally better balanced and sturdier than knives without a full tang.
It's possible to find a cheap chef's knife for under $25, but these are rarely high-quality blades. On the other end of the spectrum, there are chef's knives that go for over $100, but unless you plan to use it daily, you probably don't need to spend this much. If you want a quality blade for occasional use, choose something in the $30 to $60 price range.
Q. What's the difference between Western and Japanese chef's knives?
A. Western and Japanese chef's knives have different characteristics, but one is not better than the other. Japanese knives are known for being lightweight and thin. They're easier to wield, but they're also more likely to break under heavy use. Western knives are heavier and thicker, so they won't break as easily, but they can also be a little unwieldy for some.
Q. What is a Damascus steel blade?
A. Damascus steel is made by folding two different types of steel together, which creates a rippled pattern on the blade. These blades are designed to hold an edge for longer than a traditional steel blade, so you don't need to sharpen them as often.
Chef's knives we recommend
Best of the best: Shun DM0706 Classic 8-Inch Chef's Knife
Our take: Though this chef's knife is a little pricey, it's worth the investment if you want a quality blade that can stand up to heavy use.
What we like: This knife is made from 32 layers of Damascus steel and includes a lifetime warranty against damage. Its pakka wood handle is elegant and weighted so it fits comfortably in your hand.
What we dislike: There have been a few complaints of the blade chipping or pitting over time.
Best bang for your buck: Victorinox Fibrox Pro Chef's Knife
Our take: You won't find a better quality chef's knife in this price range, but if you plan to use it often, you may grow tired of sharpening it.
What we like: This multipurpose blade is made of carbon steel and has an ergonomic, non-slip grip. It's dishwasher-safe and backed by a lifetime warranty.
What we dislike: Users have complained that this knife doesn't hold its edge for long, so you may need to sharpen it frequently.
Choice 3: Global G-2 8-Inch Chef's Knife
Our take: Consider this chef's knife if you want a tough blade that cuts easily and rarely needs sharpening.
What we like: This lightweight blade is made of stainless steel fused with molybdenum and vanadium, which helps it hold its edge for a long time. Like our other picks, this knife is covered by a lifetime warranty against defects.
What we dislike: The stainless-steel handle, while sleek and solid, can be difficult to hold, especially if your hands are sweaty.
Kailey Fralick is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.
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Photo (slicing cornbread): Danielle Atkins
Photo (slicing onion): Ramona King
Photo (knife sharpening): Ideabar Austin