If you’re looking for a complete knife set you’ll be proud of at a price that won’t put a dent in your savings account, this is the clear winner. If you’d like to step things up a few notches, it’s hard to go wrong with the Willing Pro 7-Piece Knife Block Set.
Complete with four knives all forged from a single piece of high-carbon stainless steel, the precision-honed blades are extra-sharp, stylish and just feel really nice in your hand. But if you’re looking to make an investment in your kitchen tools, we can’t think of a better place to start.
At first blush, we didn’t think we’d like the poly padded handles, but they were actually extremely comfortable and kept the knives from slipping, even after they had just been hand-washed. Plus, it is exceptionally sharp and took practically zero effort to drag through a few-days-old loaf of crusty bread, take the rind off a cantaloupe or slice berthing pieces from a tender tomato or peach, earning it more points than the Willing or Author versions.
After plenty of chopping, slicing and dicing, the Chicago Cutlery knives remained as sharp as their brand-new counterparts. Also putting Chicago over the top were all the extras: The steak knives performed great while slicing through grilled filet Mignon and the two Santos knives were handy for slicing cheese, mincing garlic and scooping everything off the cutting board.
They’re great for chopping soft or sticky things like meat, veggies, herbs and cheese and for scooping food off your cutting board, thanks to their wide blade.) When you’re seeking out knives that are super sharp, durable, ergonomic and will last a lifetime, we highly suggest you stop and give this standout set a good look.
Heckles, which was founded back in 1731, also takes into account the benefits of both Western and Asian knife design. For example, the chef’s knife blade has a broad curve to allow for a Western-style rocking motion, but a straight back that aligns with the Asian chopping style.
They’re forged from a single piece of high-carbon stainless steel, making them harder and sharper than many other models. Lasers are then used to angle the edges of the blades for precision sharpness, and the process seems to have succeeded.
The chef’s knife, which was our favorite from the Willing set, for one, practically dropped through a head of lettuce, and easily sliced through carrots, onions, herbs and more. In fact, it seemed more like a utility knife, and the oversized blade, while very sharp, made it difficult to core a tomato or hull a strawberry.
Thinner than other knives we tested, the handles fit perfectly in a woman’s hand, but our male tester wished they were a smudge more substantial. It glided through onions, potatoes and tomatoes, took the corn off the cob with ease and sliced through the tough rind of a pineapple like it was nothing.
The paring and utility knives fit comfortably into our hands and easily sliced everything we tested them on: limes, oranges, strawberries, carrots, zucchini, radishes, you name it. The serrated bread knife drew right through our baguette loaves, making us dream of a second career as an apprentice in a French boulangerie.
The fact that the set includes just four knives and comes with a $450 price tag kept it from being our overall winner or runner-up. If you have the money to invest, however, we think the classic, elegant set will not only look like a crown jewel on your kitchen counter, but also continue to dazzle for a lifetime.
We spent weeks testing these knife sets, comparing each model by the same criteria, including overall performance, build quality, added accessories and warranty, taking detailed notes on how specific knives functioned based on everything from sharpness and materials to heft and hand-feel to how they looked and the usefulness of any included extras. We ordered two of each set so that after spending several days slicing and dicing our hearts out, we were able to compare the used knive’s sharpness to their just-out-of-the-box twins.
As avid home cooks, we already spend a significant amount of time in the kitchen, but as our dining room table became overtaken with woodblocks filled with knives to test, we quickly found ourselves continually looking for things to chop. Chef’s knife: This standard tool is made to take on most of the bigger jobs in the kitchen.
Its weight makes it easier to chop uploads of ingredients in one go, say, for a big pot of soup or to roast a bounty of potatoes and vegetables. We tested chopping through meat, onions, carrots, herbs and more, noting the knife’s design, grip, weight and general feel.
We noted the ease of drawing the blade through different food items, and also whether the knife glided through paper or snagged. So, for this knife, we cored and peeled apples and tomatoes, and minced shallots and garlic to evaluate its performance and feel.
Too many items to list, including tomatoes, hard cheese, oranges, carrots and salami, were used to test how easily this knife could live up to its name. We looked at ease of cutting through difficult foods, as well as how thin we could slice something softer, such as a tomato.
Forged knives, for example, are typically stronger than stamped, which are cut from a flat metal sheet. Full tang, meaning the blade extends through the handle, helps create balance and overall heft.
Feel: So much of handling a kitchen knife rests on how it feels in your hand, so we paid special attention to the heaviness of the blades and handles, maneuverability, weight distribution and ease of sliding the knives in and out of their blocks. While we realize taste is subjective, we noted our general reaction to how nice they looked.
Build had a maximum of 35 points: quality (15); knife feel (10); room for knuckle clearance (5); appearance (5). Handcrafted in Semi, Japan, the durable, beautiful and razor-sharp Damascus stainless steel blades had us oohing and aching at their ability to perfectly slice through everything.
The paring knife, for instance, was so sharp that as we used it to core a tomato, we found it was shaving skin off our finger from the slightest touch. Admittedly, we thought the claim that the block’s built-in ceramic sharpeners would work with each use was a gimmick, but we were quickly impressed that the knives really did seem to get sharper every time we chopped and sliced.
As far as performance, the all-stainless steel, full-tang knives handled well and felt balanced, although they did feel overly heavy in our hands. We also appreciated the fact that the handles are labeled so you can quickly grab the correct knife.
These knives scored lower on performance than most models: They weren’t as sharp, the hollow metal handles felt too light, causing an imbalance, and they tended to get slippery when wet. Besides the value price, it features lightweight, dishwasher-safe stainless steel blades that will cover your cutting needs.
We must admit, when we unboxed this midnight black set noted by the company for its “menacing design,” we were prepared to be underwhelmed. Our aesthetic biases had us thinking these would prove to be more flash than performance, though we know some will dub the highly stylized look as awesome.
The geometric design of the military-grade G10 handles actually fit really comfortably into our hands and their slight texture made slippage a non-issue. The full-tang titanium nitride-coated German steel blades were razored sharp and excellent at chopping and slicing everything we threw at them.
The curved blade of the chef’s knife was helpful in chopping, but its thinness made it feel a bit light. In fact, the heavy handles, paired with thin blades, seemed to affect the balance of the knives.
And, at a rather hefty price, it includes just five knives (chef’s, paring, utility, serrated and Santos) plus a honing steel. Then again, if your home decor is Kylo Men meets Jacques Pepin, put these on your wish list immediately.
If you know a college student who has made the move from their dorm to their first apartment, this colorful set of kitchen knives would make a fine housewarming gift. They’re BPA-free and come with matching sheaths, so they can be easily stored in a drawer, saving precious counter space.
They didn’t feel especially sharp out of the box, our fingers smashed against the cutting board as we chopped and the blades felt heavy compared to the plastic handles, which threw off the balance of the knives in our hands. Its unique, vertical tempered glass block had one family member wrinkling his nose with distaste, two teenagers dubbing it “sick” (a good thing) and one who kept waffling between “so cool” and “trying too hard.” But whether you like the looks of the glass block, no one can argue that these are great knives.
Nice and sharp out of the box, they’re made using high-carbon German steel, a bolster for support and neoprene handles with full tang, offering fairly even weight distribution. With the set, you get five knives : 8-inch chef’s, 8-inch bread, 6-inch boning, 5-inch utility and 3 1/2-inch paring, plus that controversial holder.
Made of honed, stainless steel blades and plastic curved handles with full tang, the chef’s knife was our favorite, although it felt a bit light in the hand. Overall, the knives were sharp out of the box, look nice in their wood block and come with an affordable price tag when on sale (which seems to be most of the time at most retailers).
With more than 11,000 reviews and a five-star rating, the Mercer Millennia is the undisputed champion of chef’s knives available on Amazon. Reviewers are particularly taken with the handle, which they describe as “comfortable” and “ergonomic,” as well as the incredibly sharp, 12-inch blade.
Two years ago, celebrity chef Sean Brock shared a photo of a truly stunning chef’s knife on his Instagram “entirely handcrafted from reclaimed materials found in the mountains of East Tennessee.” Its stainless steel blade was forged from a “100+ year old 1095 high carbon sawmill blade” while the dark wood handle was carved from “some old growth cocoon.” The knife was custom-made by John Phillips, who sells the knives one by one to his newsletter subscribers. It’s damn near impossible to cop one of these beauties, but if you manage to, it’ll become an instant family heirloom.
Michelin-starred chefs Elise Knack and Anna Hieronymus recently told us Shun is “one of our favorite knife brands.” And with a lifetime guarantee and a blade that stays sharp longer than it has any right to, it’ll be one of yours, too. Risen was one of the earliest entrants into the fast-growing contingent of direct-to-consumer cookware brands, starting out as a Kickstarter launched in 2014.
In 2018, writer Parthia Rosin penned a convincing ode to the Honcho Kobe, or Long Chef’s Knife, a Japanese-made chef’s knife handcrafted in the seaside town of Banjo and available at L.A.-based Japanese home goods store The Good Liver. Rosin writes that she was immediately taken with the wood handle, which is “meticulously worked through a char coaling process that ensures its water resistant and antibacterial” as well as the blade made with two types of steel for added structural integrity.
“It’s so you learn the technique of holding the knife.” It also comes with a finger guard, which is perfect for amateur chefs in first, second, or third grade. Lightweight Japanese-style knives may be the blades du jour, but if you want a knife with some serious heft, one that can take a beating, go for the 11.1 ounce Author.
“I prefer the weight and thickness of the blade of this heavier knife,” says James Beard–nominated pastry chef Shannon Swindle. “It will slice through watermelons, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, potatoes by the pounds without a hiccup,” says one reviewer.
As New Orleans–based chef Justin Devilries points out, this is also the knife you want to take on the road, saying, “For a home cook who’s very recreational and weekend warrior–is, you don’t want to pull out some crazy-heavy thing that shatters if you drop it.” We publish buyer’s guides to essential pieces of kitchen gear based on real-world testing.
A softer steel alloy, like those used in the German tradition, may be less sharp to begin with and get dull a little faster. But it can be easier to re-sharpen, and better for heavier-duty jobs, like splitting bone-in chicken breasts, without worry that you’re going to damage the blade.
“For everyone else, I have no way of knowing if you prefer heavy or light, a deeper throat, a special blade, something bigger. I used them in the normal course of my daily cooking, just to get to know them, and I also tested them in six important tasks: dicing an onion, slicing basil into chiffon, slicing tomatoes, cubing butternut squash, spreeing an orange and cutting up a whole chicken.
Those tasks tell you almost everything you need to know about whether a knife is nimble and sharp, sturdy and powerful, and above all, comfortable and secure-feeling. The knives ranged from $38 to about $200, and I found that price isn’t necessarily commensurate with quality and performance, though the very best knives are not cheap.
A note on keeping your knives sharp: You can buy the best knife there is, but eventually you will need to sharpen it or it will be useless. Home cooks can bring the knife to a professional or can buy a simple, plastic wheel grinder, which makes sharpening cheap, fast, and foolproof.
Hayward says that he likes to relax at night with a glass of wine and a whetstone and painstakingly sharpen his hundreds of knives. Made in Japan, it has a hard, super-sharp blade and a simple wooden handle that’s extremely comfortable and feels secure in the hand.
The blade is beveled to a very thin, very acute angle, which makes it extraordinarily sharp. It effortlessly bites through tomato skin and cuts a neat onion dice with ease.
But these two models have so many similarities in style, design and performance, and such a difference in price, that it’s hard to recommend the Author over the Heckles. When you chiffon basil with this knife, it feels like the leaves are springing off the blade in perfect ribbons all by themselves.
It feels almost alive in your hand, super light, and extremely agile. It bites through tomatoes with ease and supreme an orange into perfectly clean, neat segments in a few seconds.
However, unlike the MAC, which has just enough sturdiness to deal with a chicken and butternut squash, this knife just doesn’t have the oomph for hefty jobs. It has a scalpel-like delicacy and when I used it to tackle big, tough ingredients, it felt wrong, even a little dangerous, and I worried I would damage the blade.
Hayward calls it “a living hell” to keep it sharpened correctly. If you run it through an at-home wheel sharpener, it will hone the blade to an even “v,” which is standard, and you will lose the knife’s distinct quality.
(As with all the knives, I tested with a brand-new version to keep all the variables consistent.) It was the second-lightest knife I tested, only slightly heavier than the Mason, but it doesn’t require special knowledge to sharpen.
It’s made of just one piece of metal, including the handle, which is hollow and filled with sand, which provides a subtle, shifting balance that you don’t really notice while you’re using it. The metal handle has dimples to provide the grip, and while some cooks think it gets slippery when used to cut chicken, meat, or anything juicy, I haven’t found that to be the case.
It excels at tasks like slicing tomatoes, chiffonading basil, and dicing onion: It’s quite sharp and bites right through. Although it’s less well-suited to cutting up chicken or butternut squash, lacking the heft of the German models, with some extra care it can certainly get those jobs done.
It’s in the hefty, powerful German style, made by a family-owned company in the United States. It ably handles just about anything you throw its way, though it’s a bit clunky in the hand and less-than-razor-sharp on delicate ingredients like basil, on which it leaves subtle bruises.
It’s a long, thin grip that’s completely smooth, without any contour at all, and though it looks beautiful, it felt slippery and small in my hand. It’s a very nice knife, a classic, sturdy German blade with a deep belly that makes a rocking chop very comfortable.
This is a wonderful knife, a Japanese-German hybrid, with a flat-sided wooden handle and a very sharp, very hard blade with a relatively wide, curved belly. It simply didn’t surpass other comparable knives in testing, particularly in quickly and easily dicing an onion and slicing tomatoes.
But oddly, it didn’t seem as sharp as the others, as it was a bit of a struggle to make a clean tomato slice. I wanted to like it because, of all the heavy knives, it was the most comfortable and balanced to hold, but it didn’t perform as well as I hoped.
This knife tops many lists as a great value, but I found it to be the worst of the two worlds: light but not very sharp, cumbersome and large. It was reasonably sharp coming out of the box (though still on the dull side compared to most others on this list) but after a couple of weeks of use, it was a struggle to slice a tomato or an onion.
We waded through all the nonsense and set out to find the best chef’s knives for home cooks at the best prices. Read on to discover the best chef’s knife of 2020 in each category, including the best all-around, runner-up, and an impressive budget pick.
The agile blade is relatively straight and tapers at the end, giving it a curve reminiscent of a Western knife, but the same sharp edge of a Japanese model. We also know from using them in the Epicurus Test Kitchen that they stay sharp for a long time and are easy to sharpen.
With its simple design and finish, wooden handle, and dimples along the blade that keep food from sticking to the sides, this knife is a kitchen workhorse that will last a long time. The hollow handles of Global knives are filled with a precise amount of sand to ensure perfect balance.
© Provided by Epicurus BUY NOW Sure, the finish quality on this Victorinox knife isn’t nearly as high as the Mac or the Global, but at less than $40, it’s a total steal. It glided through tough sweet potatoes with precision and delicacy and made quick work of slicing an onion.
It isn’t full tang, meaning the metal of the stainless-steel blade doesn’t extend all the way to the base of the handle, which is generally said to indicate a lower-quality, less-sturdy knife. As Test Kitchen Director Chris Morocco told us, “It’s probably the best chef’s knife out there for the money.
© Provided by Epicurus BUY NOW © Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Prop Styling by Beatrice Chaste The first step in evaluating a knife is getting a feel for the tool. We some spent time with each of the 14 chef’s knives we tested just holding them in our hands, observing the quality of the metal and sharpened edge, the feel of the handle, and the overall weight of the knife.
From the start we were looking for a thin, sharp blade, which makes slicing easier and smoother and also weighs less overall. Naturally, we wanted a knife with a comfortable handle, which we interpreted as lightweight and smooth rather than heavy and long.
When you chop something, you’ll feel like you have greater control over the cutting motion and more of a connection with the knife. In addition to handling the heft and toughness of something like a potato, we wanted a knife that could slice through herbs without crushing them.
We ultimately liked a smoother transition without the cuff, as it resulted in a lighter knife that made for an easy and comfortable slicing motion. Ultimately, we found it was a bit too heavy and not as nicely finished as we wanted, but it handled the job of cutting through hefty vegetables just fine.
While it was extremely sharp out of the box and sliced through a sweet potato with more ease than some of our winners, it dulled quickly with each subsequent use. It also couldn’t handle the more delicate jobs of slicing onion, tender herbs, or tomato nearly as well as our winning knives.
The Author Gourmet and Classic models were both pleasantly lighter than the knives we’re accustomed to from the company. They’re sharp and effective for delicate knife work but had a bit of trouble handling the tough sweet potato.
The $8 Brandless knife felt slippery in our hand and did a lackluster job with both sweet potatoes and tender herbs. Finally, the Mercer knife felt clunky and choppy, especially compared to the winning Mac and Victorinox, both of which glided as they chopped.
It’s a Japanese-style knife, and though the blade is super thin and precise, the handle has some width and bulk to make it feel steady. But it wasn’t quite as responsive as the Mac knife and fell short of the Global in terms of its price point.
A. Heckles Classic chef’s knife ($54) features a squared-off handle that we thought would be hard to hold, but was actually one of the most comfortable knives of the bunch. It was extremely sharp and sliced an onion with ease, but required more force than we would have liked to cut through sturdy sweet potato.
Made In’s chef’s knife ($89), while extremely sharp out of the box, dulled quickly with each subsequent use. It also couldn’t handle the more delicate jobs of slicing onion and chopping tender herbs nearly as well as our winning knives.
The backside is useful too; use it to help collect scraps on your cutting board, as doing so with the sharp side will dull your blade. For a less expensive option that boasts unbelievable balance, choose the Global chef’s knife.
The truth is that what makes the perfect knife for you will depend on many factors, including your comfort level with knives, the size of your hands, and what sort of food you like to cook. The chef's knife is capable of dicing veggies, slicing meat, chopping herbs and nuts, and, in a pinch, it'll even go through small bones without too much trouble.
There's a bewildering range of chef's knives available, from dirt-cheap to very expensive specialty blades. To help you make sense of it all, we sliced and diced with dozens of knives until a simple truth emerged: A poorly-made $10 blade you sharpen every day is more useful than a $200 blade that's dull.
Much of the price difference in knives comes down to the quality of materials, which in turn often translates into how well the blade holds its edge. We stuck mostly with 8-inch blades, the sweet spot for the classic chef's knife.
If you're just starting out on your cooking journey, this makes a great first chef's knife and will serve you well for years. It holds an edge very well for a knife at this price and makes a great first step into the world of Japanese knives.
It's a bit longer than many of the blades here, but unlike a lot of Japanese knives, it has a western-style handle. They're dirt-cheap, and the quality of the blade reflects that, but if you regularly sharpen them, they'll perform just as well as knives costing hundreds of dollars more.
For a few dollars more you can grab a set of them ($13 at Amazon), which includes a small cleaver that I love for chopping herbs. Again, take the money you save and invest it in a good set of sharpening stones and you'll have knives that will serve you well for a long time.
All you really need to do is wipe down your knife every time you use it (but especially with highly acidic foods, like lemons and tomatoes). Regularly wiping your knife is a good habit to be in from a cleanliness standpoint as well, and it will ensure your carbon steel blade doesn't rust.
It's easier to get a fine edge on this than on other stainless blades I've tested, and it holds it for a long time. A couple of quick swipes on honing steel and the edge is back.
The Author is definitely a larger, heavier knife, but it's very comfortable to hold and will easily handle anything you throw at it. Tojo's DP You is a solid performer at a great price.
It holds an edge nearly as well as blades twice its price, and it has a wonderful, solid feeling in your hand. The only thing to watch out for with this one is the handle height, which is a little on the low side.
It's not carbon steel soft, but it's much thinner and softer than most European-style knives and therefore easier to sharpen. Keep that in mind when sharpening on a stone, as you'll want to hold it a bit differently to get that great edge back.
NoB ox markets this knife as perfect for “the backcountry chef or traveling cook,” but really it's great in any kitchen, on the trail or off. One distinctly backcountry appeal is that, in a pinch, you can clean fish with this one thanks to its thinner shape.
Knife sets often cost twice as much as buying those three knives separately and don't offer anything else useful. The large wooden storage blocks also steal useful counter space.
A dull knife is not only useless, it's more dangerous, because you will make up for that lack of a sharp edge with more pressure. I have spent enough time in the ER reflecting on this to become somewhat religious about sharpening my knives.
In particular, many modern stainless steel blades are too hard to effectively be sharpened by traditional water stones. Even for those who find cooking to be a chore, a quality chef’s knife might make the task feel easier.
Selecting a chef’s knife has a lot to do with personal preference, but we’re confident that the Mac Mighty MTH-80 is one of the most widely appealing knives out there. Its razor-sharp edge, comfortable handle, and agile blade make chopping tasks much easier, which in turn cuts down on meal-prep time.
Thanks to its extremely sharp edge, super-hard steel, quality construction, and affordable price, this model is one of the best values in Japanese-made knives. The Tojo knife is thinner and more brittle than our top pick, so its edge is more vulnerable to microscopic chips when you use it on dense vegetables like butternut squash.
Compared with the other forged German knives we tested, the Classic Iron’s thinner blade cut more smoothly through butternut squash and carrots. We liked how easily it maneuvered around curves when cutting away butternut squash skin and citrus rinds.
But the Classic Iron’s blade is made of softer steel than that of our top pick, the Mac MTH-80, which means it will dull faster. It’s a favorite of several food publications and budget-conscious home cooks, and it has an ergonomically shaped plastic handle that appeals to most people.
The factory edge isn’t as sharp as that of our other picks, so in our tests it left us with split carrots and unevenly halved butternut squash. However, most testers preferred the Victorinox for its maneuverability and comfortable feel, compared with the other budget knives we tried.
Collapse all Over the course of my two-decade (and counting) culinary career, I’ve cooked in fine-dining restaurants, brewpubs, small cafés, private homes, and test kitchens. I’ve also covered knives for this site for more than two years, racking up over 120 hours of research and testing.
Tens of thousands of pounds of vegetables, fruit, meat, and fish have crossed my cutting board over the years. I’ve either owned or used every major brand of chef’s knife, as well as a good number of artisanal blades.
A Japanese auto (top) has a flatter edge, and the classic German knife (bottom) has a more pronounced curve. Photo: Michael Session This is the most widely recognized style of chef’s knife in the West.
Full bolsters add weight to the knife and require a professional sharpening service to grind away the extra steel at the heel of the blade. German knives generally weigh more and have thicker blades than their Japanese counterparts, making them great for tough jobs like breaking lobsters and splitting bone-in chicken breasts.
Their blades have an even bevel (meaning both sides are ground to the same angle) and tend to be made of softer steel, so they can lose their edge more quickly. Guts generally have thinner blades with flatter belly curves than German knives, and they taper to a very sharp tip.
You’ll never find a auto with a full bolster that extends to the edge (unlike with German knives). Because guts are thinner and made of hard carbon steel, their edge takes a much more acute bevel angle, and they tend to stay sharper longer than German knives.
For this guide, however, we focused on guts with even bevels, which are easier for home cooks to sharpen and maintain. Photo: Michael HessionSince 2013, we’ve racked up over 150 hours researching and comparing more than 100 knives.
In 2020, we tested the 8-inch chef’s knife from Food52’s Five Two Essential Knives collection, and we retested our new budget pick, the . We’ve ruled out any small-batch blade craters, since forging a knife by hand is time-consuming, costly, and usually a custom-order affair.
You also won’t see Santos knives in this guide; Santos have shorter blades, generally 6 or 7 inches, that limit their ability to slice through large vegetables with one cut. And because a chef’s knife is an essential piece of kitchen equipment, we wanted to keep our picks accessible for most budgets.
A chef’s knife is the main workhorse in your kitchen -cutlery arsenal, tackling 80% to 90% of cutting tasks. So factors such as sharpness, edge retention, durability, versatility, and easy maintenance are key to the performance of any good chef’s knife.
As New York Times food editor Sam Sift on told us during testing, “ is the balance of utility and the thing that moves your heart.” Your knife should remain sharp through moderate use for six to 12 months, as long as you hone it regularly, wash and dry it by hand after each use, and store it so the edge doesn’t get dinged up.
You don’t have as much control with a dull edge, which increases both your prep time and your chances of cutting yourself. Good edge retention relies on a combination of steel composition and hardness, blade thickness, and bevel angle.
When a blade is thin and made from a hard steel, the edge can take and hold a tight angle. We think an 8-inch knife is the perfect length for most people because it’s long enough to halve large vegetables but still manageable for most home cooks.
Most mass-produced Western-forged knives are drop-forged, meaning the manufacturer heats a blank of steel to an extremely high temperature and then uses a high-pressure hammer to pound it into the shape of a blade. The quality of stamped blades varies widely, from the flimsy knives found at grocery stores to our and runner-up pick.
Knife makers like Mac and Tojo heat-treat their blades to make them just as strong as forged steel. Chad Ward argues in An Edge in the Kitchen that a full tang is unnecessary since knife balance is largely a personal preference.
We think this design is so common because the full tang has stood as a benchmark of quality among both knife makers and cooks. Knife makers claim the air pockets keep food from sticking to the blade.
Even though our top pick has a Grafton edge, we don’t find dimples to be very effective at keeping food from clinging to a knife. We couldn’t test all the possible contenders that fit our criteria, so we’ve focused on popular, widely available knives.
Since we first published this guide in 2013, we’ve tested 23 knives that all had an 8-inch blade, carried a price tag of $200 or less, lacked a full bolster, and came with recommendations from experts and trusted editorial sources. Senior staff writer Lesley Stockton explains the difference between full and half bolsters.
Senior staff writer Lesley Stockton explains the difference between full and half bolsters. For the 2017 update of this guide, we invited six friends and colleagues of all culinary stripes to our test kitchen to participate in a chopping panel.
We sliced, diced, julienne, peeled, and chiffonier a pile of butternut squash, onions, carrots, apples, oranges, sweet potatoes, and fresh herbs to gauge the knives versatility with foods of varying textures. We then sent the top-performing knives to the kitchen at Le Cocoa in New York City (the James Beard Foundation’s Best New Restaurant of 2017), where the cooks used them for prep and during service.
I tested two knives in my home kitchen, cutting butternut squash, tomatoes, onions, and carrots. The Mac Mighty MTH-80 is our favorite knife because it’s crazy sharp and will stay that way longer than most other knives.
We found it had the best weight and balance; it felt more agile than the German models and more durable than the thin Japanese guts. The MTH-80’s blade shape strikes the perfect middle ground between German and Japanese chef’s knives, curved just enough for rocking but still straight enough for push-pull choppers.
Out of the box, this Mac model sliced straight through paper, which is something our budget pick, the Victorinox Fibrous Pro 8-Inch Chef’s Knife, couldn’t manage. It also made straight cuts through the thick center of butternut squash, which, again, the Victorinox couldn’t do.
The Mac Mighty MTH-80 was one of the few knives in our test group to cut straight through the center of a butternut squash. Photo: Michael Session our tests, the MTH-80 always made clean cuts through fibrous carrots.
The heftier drop-forged German knives fell somewhere in between, causing only a moderate amount of bruising and oxidation to the basil. The daytime kitchen crew at Le Cocoa used the MTH-80 for prep and during lunch service for a week and praised its outstanding performance on vegetables, herbs, and fish.
Scott Horowitz, sous chef at Le Cocoa, said, “ was the favorite of all the cooks. The MTH-80’s blade shape strikes the perfect middle ground between German and Japanese chef’s knives.
Because the Mac’s stamped blade is made of very hard steel (it has a Rockwell hardness of 59 to 61), it will keep its sharp edge longer than softer blades, such as those of the Victorinox Fibrous Pro and Author Classic Iron, which are hardened to 56 and 58 HRC (PDF), respectively. This means it’s less likely to chip (which the Tojo DP F-808 did after we used it to cut hard butternut squash).
The blade geometry is unique in that the edge curve is more articulated than on a classic auto but not quite as extreme as on a German knife. Even testers with larger hands found that the handle gave plenty of knuckle clearance.
Photo: Michael Session 6.6 ounces, the Mac MTH-80 is lighter than a German drop-forged knife but heavier and sturdier-feeling than many guts. The Mac MTH-80 has dimples on both sides of the blade to reduce the chances of food sticking to the knife.
If the Mac MTH-80 isn’t available, or if you want to add a Japanese auto to your collection, the Tojo DP F-808 is an exceptional knife for the price. This classic auto has a flatter belly curve than our top pick, a design best for people who use a push-pull cutting style.
Testers liked chopping vegetables with the Tojo because of its sharpness, control, and easy handling. The Tojo DP F-808 is shaped like a classic auto, with a straighter edge, no bolster, and a pointed tip.
Like the Mac Mighty MTH-80, the Tojo DP F-808 has more heft than lighter knives, such as the Global G-2 and Topiary Molybdenum. Tojo’s steel core is harder than the surface material; that hardness helps the blade hold a better edge, but it appears to be more brittle than Mac’s homogeneous construction.
We found a tiny, almost microscopic nick in the Tojo knife’s blade after cutting butternut squash. As it turns out, the company’s website recommends the knife not be used for cutting pumpkin (or frozen foods), because the hard vegetable can chip your blade.
But because this Tojo knife’s core has the hardest steel of all our picks, its edge retention is exceptional for the price. Testers with smaller hands found the Tojo DP F-808’s handle comfortable and didn’t have any issues with their knuckles hitting the cutting board.
Senior staff writer Michael Sullivan has been using the Tojo at home since 2017 and said that, as of late 2020, “It continues to hold its razor-sharp edge with minimal sharpening. Compared with other German knives we tested, the Classic Iron has a thinner blade, a more comfortable handle, and a more manageable belly curve for better leverage and control.
In our tests, the Author Classic Iron cut smoothly through butternut squash and onions, although carrots did split slightly. Compared with the , this Author knife was less agile and sharp when peeling the skin from butternut squash.
Many testers liked the Classic Iron’s smooth, rounded handle, which fit nicely into the palm. Heckles Willing Pro and Author Classic Uber, by comparison, had such aggressively curved blades that they made simple cutting tasks feel awkward.
One advantage the Classic Iron has over the Mac MTH-80 is that its softer stainless steel blade is more durable. If you drop a Author into a sink or wait to clean it after cutting acidic foods, it shouldn’t chip, stain, or corrode.
On the other hand, that soft stainless steel also means that the edge of this Author model will dull faster and require more regular sharpening. Former Wire cutter deputy editor Michael Zhao told us that he loves the Classic Iron, but he noticed the difference between its softer steel and the harder Mac MTH-80.
We wouldn’t go so far as to call the Victorinox a “beater knife,” but the polished stainless steel blade and ergonomic plastic handle can withstand more abuse than, say, the Tojo DP auto. The Victorinox’s gentle curved edge is good for any chopping style, and its wide blade lets you easily scoop and transfer food from the cutting board.
The Victorinox’s stamped blade is made from the same steel (an alloy called X50CrMoV15, known for its durability, edge retention, and rust resistance) as most German knives, including the drop-forged Author Classic Iron. Comparatively, the Fibrous Pro has a slightly thinner blade and feels lighter in the hand than the Classic Iron.
Don’t get us wrong, it’s still pretty sharp, and it allowed us to dice onions, julienne carrots, and halve a butternut squash with relative ease and accuracy. But if you’re replacing an old dull knife or buying your first kitchen blade on a budget, the Victorinox won’t disappoint.
Most testers agreed that the Fibrous handle offered the most comfortable and secure grip of all the budget knives we evaluated. It’s not too bulky for folks with small hands, and our larger-handed testers had enough knuckle clearance from the cutting board.
Victorinox covers the 8-inch Fibrous Pro knife with a limited lifetime warranty that excludes normal wear and tear, misuse, or abuse. Hold the handle with the edge facing downward and look along the spine to make sure the blade is perfectly straight.
Video: Michael HessionGerman knife blades are curved and designed for a rocking chopping motion. In this motion (shown above), the tip of the knife mostly keeps contact with the cutting board, and you raise and lower the heel while your guiding hand pushes food underneath the blade.
As you watch a chef whipping a knife down the rod toward their hand at lightning speed, it’s easy to see yourself taking a thumb off. Video: Michael HessionThe key with both styles of honing is to make sure the edge bevel is flush to the rod.
Video: Amado Dialogue way most pros do it is to point the tip of the rod up and pull the knife down toward the handle. If you’re investing in a quality, expensive knife, like, we still believe that a whetstone used properly will provide the sharpest, smoothest edge.
In our tests we found that well-designed ones worked nicely, causing minimal wear to knives while creating a fine edge. And their convenience encourages people to use them regularly, which makes for safer chopping and a happier kitchen experience.
However, make sure to avoid the cheapest knife sharpeners, which will quickly eat away too much of the blade’s metal. The composition of most German knives (including our also-great and budget picks) is X50CrMoV15, which roughly translates to 80% iron, 0.5% carbon, and 15% a combination of chromium, molybdenum, and vanadium.
Chromium protects against corrosion and is what makes the knife stainless, while molybdenum and vanadium increase and wear resistance, and refine the grain. This stainless steel is usually hardened to 56 HRC, softer than Japanese knives but capable of taking a beating well and withstanding up to a certain level of mistreatment.
In An Edge in the Kitchen, Chad Ward writes, “I wouldn’t make garbage can lids out of 420J or 440A, but some manufacturers do use them for kitchen knives.” These types of steel are low carbon and highly corrosion-resistant. It would’ve been one of our top picks, but our testers were split down the middle: People either loved the Global for its lightweight and razor-sharp edge, or hated it because of its dimpled steel handle, which could get slippery in wet hands.
Chad Ward praises this Topiary model in An Edge in the Kitchen, but we think the blade is too thin and delicate for hard vegetables. It lacks the weight and the smooth transition from blade to handle, though, and we found that it simply wasn’t as comfortable to use.
The edge was sharp and the knife itself was comfortable to hold, but the 8½-inch blade length was a little too much for home cooks. The HB-85 offers a good price-to-quality ratio, but our testing panel overwhelmingly chose the Tojo DP F-808 as the better chef’s knife for the price.
The Risen couldn’t make a straight cut down the middle of a butternut squash, and it split carrots instead of cleanly slicing through to the board. But we saw one big problem with the 8-inch Classic Uber 4583-7/20: Its belly curve was much more articulated than those of other Author chef’s knives.
Heckles Willing Pro, we found the Author Classic Uber awkward to use because of the extremely curved belly. In our tests, the drop-forged blade of the Meridian Elite E/3686-8 was sharp enough, but not as smooth as that of the Mac MTH-80 or the Author Classic Iron.
Shinji Nagasaki, cook, Le Cocoa, New York City, in-person interview, August 8, 2017 Lesley Stockton is a senior staff writer reporting on all things cooking and entertaining for Wire cutter.
You can save time and money by simply purchasing a premade knife set. The potential downside to this is that you can end up with a cheap collection of knives that serve better as a decoration than for cutting.
It’s easier to count how many recipes in your library don’t start with you picking up a knife than the ones that do. My background is as a kitchen professional, restaurateur, and an avid home cook since childhood.
This gave me the opportunity to work with some very talented chefs, and spend years in a hands-on role in my own kitchens. As a result, I have the benefit of tapping the opinions of some pros when it comes to longevity of use and knife characteristics.
Looking at how a knife will perform when you have a twenty-five pound sack of onions to chop, versus preparing dinner for four, is a big difference. Those last three, along with the edge, the spine, flex and grip texture were part of the deeper calculations.
In addition to dicing onions we chopped carrots, which because of their taper make you move them closer to your hand as you cut. Having some of these knife brands in my personal set for literally decades also helps the value equation of up-front cost versus longevity.
These are the tools of our trade, regardless of the cost, you always hand wash and dry your knives even if they say dishwasher safe. Overarched KnifeBlockOther Items 188.8.131.52.5 As soon as you pick up these knives you will notice the weight and balance.
Even fine work, testing the edge of the chef’s blade after chickens and squash, you could peel paper thin slices of onion. The set is an excellent selection covering almost all the basics of style, and does have a pretty sharp looking block.
Overarched KnifeBlockOther Items 184.108.40.206.2 These are a stalwart knife in the industry, and you will find their basic models in many kitchens. Running restaurants makes you very frugal, and the base knives from Mercer are durable enough to survive the lazy cook that throws them in the dishwasher, then hold an edge with endurance, delivering the value of longevity.
The ‘Culinary’ line jumps only slightly in price from the base models, and certainly look nicer at this level. The handles are comfortable, in the soft grip style, they do well when wet and in most working conditions.
All forged with bolsters, full tangs and end caps, even the steak knives, at this price point…there must be a problem. Sure, a couple unneeded knives, and we established that I prefer longer slicing and bread blades.
The slicer made fine work of a pork loin and the boning knife was downright impressive with shape size and flex. While we didn’t score this aspect, Emo joy did a good job of matching handle scale to the blade.
Obviously we couldn’t speak to how they will look in five, ten, or twenty years, but they are pretty darn good right out of the gate. They got first billing not because it was the most expensive set, but because my 30-year-old Author chef’s blade still holds up against the new ones.
During this testing I realized that I lean toward a traditional handle shape with a center bulge and end tip. Our favorite scissors, these are a come apart style with metal teeth in the gripper section and the weight to snip small bones.
The block with this set is good-looking, and has additional slots as you grow the collection to the blades that you need. 15 degree bevels, full tangs and riveted handles deliver functionality with the longevity of high carbon steel.
It worked to bone some chicken, but is ideal for paring an apple or peeling veggies. Tip: The twins indicate the American made collection, while a single guy indicates a Chinese manufactured knife.
Overarched KnifeBlockOther Items 220.127.116.11.8 These are probably the best looking knives in the test group, with a continuity of style through the 3 blades included in the set. The end results are very resilient blades that are lighter and more flexible than their western counterparts.
The knife performed very well, the slender profile and great edge made short work of removing the fibrous skin and slicing the fruit. Combine that with almost no taper, and they do not serve you well for hours of knife work, hand fatigue becomes a factor.
They will make the actual work part easier with speed and maneuverability from their lighter weight. Overarched KnifeBlockOther Items 18.104.22.168.3 I’m a big fan of Clifton cookware, so I was excited to sample their knives.
Don’t let the middle of the pack ranking scare you away, it speaks more of the competition than the quality of this set. Overarched KnifeBlockOther Items 22.214.171.124.3 This is a good-looking set from an established company that has evolved to cover a spread of price ranges.
A stylish block, sideways slots for the kitchen knives, and with steak knives that match the design of the set. The tapering grips are going to favor a smaller hand, and they have a nice rubberized texture.
Disappearing into the rubberized grip, it is impossible to tell the weight and strength of the tang as it extends through to the end cap. Overarched KnifeBlockOther Items 3.23.744.2 I so wanted to love this set, I’ve passed along my decades old blades of this brand, and they’re still being used.
It is a perfect assortment of blades in great sizes like a 10” slicer and 3.25” paring knife. Even though the spine is not the heaviest of our group, the chef’s blade performed well and all the knives held a good edge.
Out of the box the Rosewood had a typical aroma of stained wood in an enclosed space, not a long term problem. Compared to the sculpting available in contemporary knives, these handles seemed boxy and bulky, even with fairly big mitts like mine.
From experience the Rosewood will age well and maintain a good look with minimal attention, the blades too, but for heavy daily use the grips become problematic. Overarched KnifeBlockOther Items 3.83.444.3 This set scored the same as the Emo joy, but they got the higher ranking due to a better assortment of blades.
Overarched KnifeBlockOther Items 3.644.53.8 Hollow handled knives have always seemed cheap and potentially a problem. When making hard cuts you can keep a good hold on the knife, contrary to smooth hollow handles.
No slicer, only a 5.5” serrated utility knife, and the mediocre black handled shears looked out of place. Their Santos knife showed off great though, tall enough to chop well against your guiding hand, it held a good edge as did the other knives.
This ends up being a good-looking set in a nice block with a little more form over function and some unrealized potential. Overarched KnifeBlockOther Items 2.83.743.7 AmazonBasics has done a great job of building a brand known for quality and value, so this set had good expectations.
Out of the gate the chef’s blade has a good feel, solid grip and a sharp edge. The boning knife, which was nice to see, had a good edge, slightly long blade and was very stiff.
It also had a handle almost the same size as the chef’s blade making it a bit awkward to maneuver. Peripherally, the steak knives are pretty nice, good heft, full tang and service for eight.
The shears come apart for cleaning, have a shallow notch for catching a bone to cut, and metal grippers. Generally it is a good idea to store knives on their side instead of the blade on the bottom bearing the weight.
This set, with forged bolsters and full tangs throughout, has so much going in the right direction, it just fell a little short on some execution. Yes, the knives are lightweight, handles are composite, and it is unlikely the tang goes more than a couple inches deep.
Because all the blades have a honed section at the bottom, they will not have the staying power of good knives. This is also a smart blade assortment with a surprisingly good slicer and bread knife.
A college kid I know bought the deluxe set with veggie peelers, pizza cutter and more. In that context, this is a pretty good starter set that certainly gives value for the low price point.
You might not be a cookware junkie like me with four chef’s knives, but everybody eventually expands their knife collection. Here, we’re mostly looking at knives in the European tradition that are commonly found in American homes.
An 8” blade is normal for home cooks, though chef’s knives come in a wide range of sizes up to comically gigantic. The key feature of the chef’s knife is the slight curve of the blade that allows the continuous rocking motion for easy chopping.
Usually carrying a 34” blade, the paring knife is for fine work like peeling and shaping vegetables. It’ll have a thin, light blade compared to your chef’s knife.
Unfortunately, a lot of these knives feel like throw-ins to bulk up the size of a knife set, and often have the quality to match. The edge is flat (or very slightly curved), so you use a different cutting motion, and the tip is more rounded off.
I pull mine out when I’ve got a roast because it carves perfect thin slices. A good pair of kitchen shears will go through chicken bones with ease and accuracy.
A carving fork also lets you keep your off hand farther away from the slicing knife’s blade. In between sharpening, a honing steel realigns the edge of your knives to maintain your sharpness.
The other things in the drawer, including your fingers, stay safer when they don’t come in contact with the knife edges. Whether that means you are starting from scratch or moving from your prior knives, change is about to happen.
Buying a set gives you the continuity of your chosen brand; edge quality, feel, durability and such. However, as we’ve seen, some sets bring a lot of clutter in knives you won’t use.
We will also have an economical line up of workhorse knives, which you can easily have for decades with a little care and attention. It checks all the boxes of build quality, known for a sturdy spine on the blade, this knife will be the backbone of your collection.
From cutting your apple for lunch to making strawberry fans, this knife will be exceptional. Heckles Professional S Flexible : Your boning knife is the most likely to get wet during use, including the grip.
So the polymer grips of this knife will be resistant to juices that can ultimately damage real woods. Add the flex of the blade and a solid bolster to keep your grip in place, and this knife will serve you well.
Santos Shun Cutlery Premier : This is an exceptionally functional work of art that will probably be passed on to your children. Shun also uses a slightly more ergonomic grip in this line than the extremely traditional tapered cylinder of many blades.
Starting with good steel, a heavy blade and an NSF rating, the handle is built out to offer a bolster that is comfortable to grip. This brand is still migrating from the commercial back of the house to the public spotlight based on durability and great value.
Boning Knife Mercer Culinary Millennia : The grip is made of two materials, both waterproof and durable, making for a solid feel in your hand. Santos Heckles Statement Hollow Edge : Not a name expected on a value list, this is a better than decent knife.
The blade is a bit light, which works for this knife, giving it a nice balance and feel. Another affordable option here is to look at the ceramic Santos knives we tested and reviewed.
For drawer and travel, our friends at Mercer make a complete array of knife sheaths that are sturdy and reasonably priced like their Mercer Culinary Knife Guard, 8 Inch x 1.5 Inch. If you are travelling extensively guards are recommended even when the knives are inside many rolls or cases.
Slicer I pull this one out maybe half a dozen times a year, but it’s amazing for gliding through a pork roast or separating cake layers. We got many emails from people that moved to a new place and are looking for the best cutlery knife sets.
Heckles Premix Set has very good edge retention and it is quite easy to re-sharpen. The Tangshan Z Series 17-piece Knife Block Set combines some of the best from the East and the West.
It also allows the blade to be sharpened from heel to tip and provides improved cutting precision, and safety. The handcrafted full-tang knives are forged from tight-grained, X50Cr15MoV German Steel. The laser-cut blades are quite lightweight which makes it easy to work with them for a long time, but they still offer great performance.
I do like it! The Gladiator Series blades are precision-forged from a single piece of high-carbon ThyssenKrupp German steel. This steel ensures an ultra-sharp edge with excellent wear and stain resistance.
The full-tang knives are hand polished and have a 56+ Rockwell hardness and the edge is 14-16 degrees per side. A traditional design with triple rivets ensures that the handle will last a very long time.
The Ox Good Grips 17 Piece Knife Block Set features knives with a fully forged blade, bolster and tang for superior balance, strength, and durability. Ox uses German stainless steel with high carbon content for long-lasting sharpness and edge retention.
Ox thought hard about the handles for this knife line. The contoured handle and rounded bolster are quite nice and make the knives easy to control.
They use their taper grind edge technology to make the blades sharp for precise cutting. The grip has a nice ergonomic design so it fits good in the hand.
All the knives are FDA approved and the set comes with a 100% Satisfaction Guarantee from Cook. The working knives of the Chicago Cutlery Fusion 18-Piece Block Set have a black polyester handle.
The black Asian-influenced, cushion-grip handles provide a sturdy, non-slip grip. For the blades, Chicago Cutlery uses its signature 26-Degree taper grind edge technology. They are forged from high-carbon stainless steel with metal bolsters for added balance and safe handling.
The Emo joy 15-Piece Knife Block Set stands out with the blue handles. Emojoy uses X50Cr15 High Carbon stainless steel for the blades. The knives have a strong and durable bolster that increases stability and gives you better control.
The Oak wood block keeps your knives safe and does not need a lot of space on your kitchen counter. Triple riveted Lakewood handles ensure a good grip.
This nice set from Clifton is forged from high-carbon stainless steel and features a full tang and bolster. The knife block is designed with Clifton’s “Sharpen Technology”.