Best chef’s knife 2020: what you need to know and what to buy

A chef’s knife is a jack of all trades and grasp of a number of. It is just like the AK47 of the kitchen, there while you completely, positively acquired to cut every thing edible within the room, as Samuel L Jackson as soon as roughly stated.

Due to the fetishisation of kitchen actions, you could be underneath the impression that purchasing a knife is barely extra advanced than deciding on a brand new inside organ, and more likely to require extra upkeep afterwards. Nevertheless, by selecting the very best chef’s knife you are able to do away with the necessity for a lot of specialist knives, and have one thing that, with minimal maintenance, stays sharp sufficient to be helpful, perpetually.

Fundamental knife jargon buster

Chef’s knife Multi-purpose knife, normally from 16cm to 24cm in size, though you may get a lot larger knives which are nonetheless described as chef’s knives. 20cm is the default size for many cooks, however T3 tends to favour shorter, extra nimble, 16-18cm  blades.

Cook dinner’s knife The very same factor as a chef’s knife.

Gyotu Japanese chef’s knife. Because of the extra difficult upkeep necessities and slicing methods concerned, I have not truly included any of those 20cm-30cm, single-edged knives on this listing, nevertheless it’s price mentioning that the title is Japanese for ‘beef sword’, which sounds vaguely impolite.

Santoku A shortened Japanese chef’s knife, about 16-18cm. The title derives from the Japanese for ‘three virtues’, as a result of it’s good at three issues: slicing, dicing and mincing. So, in different phrases, it is a chef’s knife. These are nice tools and an excellent different or addition to a Western chef’s knife.

Tang The steel bit that runs from the start of the blade, down the size of the deal with. Higher knives normally have a tang that runs the entire size of the deal with, riveted in place. This makes the prospect of the blade snapping off its deal with far more distant. 

Shopping for and sustaining the very best chef’s knife

The very first thing to search for is weight. In case your cooking tends to contain numerous intricate slicing and dicing and you do not have forearms like Popeye you may want one thing on the lighter finish of the shanking scale. In case your eating regimen consists largely of dense root greens, you need one thing heavier – or possibly simply get a cleaver or chopper as an alternative.

Really figuring out the burden in grammes of the knife is not very significant, as knives stability in several methods, and cooks use them in various manners. So, attempt before you purchase. Do not simply decide a knife up in John Lewis and wave it round – that’ll simply upset individuals. Maintain it as you’d when utilizing it and do a little bit of ‘air slicing’. 

It appears we are saying this in numerous our purchasing guides however for chef’s knives I would actually actually advocate shopping for the most costly one you possibly can afford, from one of many extremely respected manufacturers under. My private favorite is Wüsthof, which comes right down to the vagaries of weighting and really feel, however none of those knives goes to let anybody down. They’re all moderately expensive aside from the Kuhn Rikon mega discount at #5.

There’s, actually, a distinct strategy to purchasing knives and it’s this: purchase a great, low cost one, and count on to chuck it out – or not less than relegate it to ‘spare’ standing – inside a yr or so. That is not a really purist standpoint, nevertheless it’s a superbly okay technique to strategy knife shopping for. 

Most knife manufacturers have multiple vary, from entry degree to ‘oh my gosh’. I would normally advocate sticking to the cheaper ranges of the dearer manufacturers, however upgrading is at all times very tempting. 

Taking Wüsthof for example, its Traditional vary does every thing that the majority cooks will want. Nevertheless, it is price stepping as much as its pricier Traditional Ikon vary in case you have the cash. Is it then price going as much as its Ikon or Epicure vary? I would say for most individuals, most likely not. It’s tempting although, is not it?

Upkeep ought to be easy. Sharpen briefly at times, utilizing a great pull-through knife sharpener, and you must seldom have any points. That is significantly true should you use a sharpener made by the identical model because the knife. Simply do not pull a Japanese blade via an affordable sharpener designed for western ones, as you could find yourself crying bitter tears, like seawater. You may as well use a sharpening metal to hone the blade.

That is in case you are a fairly regular particular person. When you require absolute, meticulous, razor sharpness always, you could be higher off with a metal, whetstone or electrical sharpener. Nevertheless, I just lately learn a bit of recommendation from a chef that has caught with me: simply get a professional to sharpen your foremost chef’s knife (or all of your knives) as soon as per yr, and aside from that, attempt to not fear about it. 

Equally, in case your blade begins to look warped or misshapen, you’ve gotten two selections: seek the advice of knowledgeable sharpener if it is an costly knife, or chuck it out and purchase a brand new one, if it was cheaper. Okay, there are methods you possibly can repair this your self however for many of us, life’s too quick to get into making an attempt to fix kinks, nicks and bends in stainless-steel. Simply take excellent care of it within the first place, and do not use something lighter than a Chinese language cleaver to chop via or take away bones.

If you need a extra in-depth information to knife upkeep, Tog has an excellent one. I really do think most people will look at that – all 18 pages of it – and think, “I had better lightly sharpen my knives regularly, then.” Little and often. 

If your knife says it’s dishwasher proof, you may as well clean it in the dishwasher, despite what your mum will tell you. However, it is really not hard cleaning a knife by hand, so long as you remember not to lop your fingers off. Do this as soon as possible after use, and maybe even wipe dry rather than leaving it on the draining board.

Storage should be on a magnetic strip or carefully placed in a drawer lined with a tea towel. Knife blocks are not the most hygienic or space-efficient way of storing knives but if that’s what you prefer, that’s up to you.

Personally, I have totally mistreated all of these knives, disobeyed all of my own guidelines, failed to sharpen or clean them promptly and regularly, and they all still cut beautifully. Just don’t, you know, use them to prune hedges or jab them into your granite worktop. 

Speaking of which, wooden chopping boards are the best, but there’s usually nothing wrong with decent plastic fibre ones. Please don’t use glass boards, though.

The best chef’s knives, cook’s knives and santoku knives, in order

Wüsthof Ikon

1. Wusthof Classik Ikon 20cm Chef’s Knife

Best chef’s knife pound for pound


Blade length: 20cm

Other lengths available: 23cm, 16cm

Dishwasher safe: No

Reasons to buy

+Sharp as you like+Easy to use and maintain+Heavy enough for spuds, light enough for long-term use

• This has sold out at Amazon… but you can still get it for about the same price  with a paring knife thrown in

• You could also considering stepping down to the Wusthof Classic range and getting this 20cm chef’s knife – I use this type all the time as it’s less intimidatingly fancy

Wüsthof is the only German knife brand that actually forges and makes all its knives in Germany. That’s not to say that an expensive, Chinese-made knife is going to be any worse, but there is something reassuring about the historic and provincial, vorsprung durch technik of Wüsthof’s knives. 

This is from one of its pricier ranges and is perfect for any chef who prefers to do just about everything with one knife, rather than having a massive block or drawer full of speciality blades.

It’s made from a single piece of chromium-molybdenum-vanadium blade steel (that’s ‘X50 Cr MoV 15’ for the metallurgists amongst you) with the tang running the full length of the beautifully ergonomic handle. Needing just a little sharpening now and then, its balance, sharpness and hint of heftiness mean it makes short work of just about anything you put under it. The subtly contoured handle – to the untrained eye, the only noticeable difference between this and other Wusthof ranges –  is also very pleasing. More petite chefs may prefer the 16cm Wusthof Ikon Chef’s Knife… Or you could always get both.

Tog Santoku

2. TOG Santoku

Best shorter chef’s knife


Blade length: 17cm

Other lengths available: No, though Tog also does a 21cm gyotu

Dishwasher safe: Not stated but we’d very much recommend not

Reasons to buy

+Arrives sharp and stays that way+Great weight and size+Very attractive styling

Reasons to avoid

Slightly dubious claims about the blade’s copper content

• Buy TOG Santoku direct from TOG

Roll-forged from 21 layers of high-carbon steel, this is a classic example of a Japanese-style knife, adapted for the Western market. The light weight, excellent balance, and full tang handle, made of attractively finished Kebony Maple wood, make it a real joy to use.

It’s not very detectable in the image above but the laser-etched blades also have noticeable streaks of copper running through them. This looks very nice indeed, although I am pretty sure its claimed ‘antimicrobial’ qualities are not something I’d rely on to guarantee food hygiene. 

I’ve used one of these for years and taken, to be honest, very minimal care of it. It still slices like a dream. TOG also does the best smaller knife I’ve tried, the TOG Petty knife.

Best chef's knife: Japana SAKAI KYUBA

(Image credit: Japana)

2. Japana Sakai Kyuba Gyuto

Best Japanese-style UK chef’s knife… but the nakiri is even better


Blade length: 21cm

Other lengths available: It’s a set

Dishwasher safe: Noooooo

Reasons to buy

+Looks great+Cuts effortlessly

Reasons to avoid

Some may find it a bit on the long side

• Buy the Gyuto direct from Japana for £280 – use code T320 at checkout to get £20 off

• Or buy the complete Japana Sakai Kyuba knife set – again, use code T320 at checkout to get £20 off

Continuing the Japanese theme, this brand has a very interesting story behind it. Apparently, this gyuto – Japanese for chef’s knife, basically – is made by a legendary master knife maker under a pseudonym. For cultural reasons that I don’t claim to understand, the blacksmiths there are prepared to make a knife for a Western brand, so long as it doesn’t carry their name. That’s also why this knife is merely expensive, rather than outrageously costly. 

None of that would be terribly important if the knife was no good, but this and its siblings – you can also buy the gyuto as part of a set with a nakiri vegetable knife and a petty knife – are exceptional. Hand made from Japanese Damascus 46-layer stainless steel, with an octagonal maple wood handle, the knife is perfectly balanced and very light – part samurai, part ninja if we’re going to get stereotypical, here. 

As a result, it’s a joy to use, although as chef’s knives go it is decidedly on the larger side. In fact – and I admit this is not an opinion likely to curry favour with knife purists – I actually found myself more often using the nakiri from this set as a ‘chef’s knife’, even though it isn’t one, strictly speaking. The size and shape of the nakiri, as well as the razor sharpness, make it a superb choice for cutting just about anything.

3. IO Shen Oriental Slicer

Awesome ‘Jack of all trades’ knife


Blade length: 17cm

Other lengths available: No

Dishwasher safe: No

Reasons to buy

+A great all-rounder for tasks both tough and delicate+Easy, ‘rocking’ cutting action

Reasons to avoid

It probably won’t fit in your knife block (but really – stop using knife blocks)

The IO Shen Oriental Slicer doesn’t look like your average chef’s knife, but that’s because it isn’t. This cleaver-style blade with its curved cutting edge is ideal for getting through tough root vegetables as well as more delicate work such as rock-chopping herbs. The width of the blade also makes it ideal for scooping up chopped herbs or crushed garlic to add to a pan.

The knife has the heft of European blade with the sharper cutting angle of a Japanese knife, while the manufacturer says that the blade will hold its edge for longer due to its construction, which features a layer of extremely hard Japanese steel, sandwiched between two layers of softer stainless steel. Apparently, the softer layers add a protective shock absorbing element to the blade. 

It’s certainly been our experience that the IO Shen requires sharpening much less frequently than a Global. The knife also also has a lifetime manufacturer’s guarantee.

If you have the luxury of choosing two chef’s knives, a heavy German style blade such as the Wüsthof or Zwilling paired with a lighter one such as a Global will give you a pairing that will see you well for years. But if you want just one Jack-of-all-trades knife, then the IO Shen Oriental Slicer is a seriously good option.

Zwilling Four Star Chef's Knife

3. Zwilling Four Star Chef’s Knife

Best heavier chef’s knife


Blade length: 20cm

Other lengths available: 16cm, 23cm

Dishwasher safe: Yes but ‘handwashing recommended’

Reasons to buy

+Classic German knife construction+Extra weight to conquer more resistant veg

• Buy Zwilling Four Star chef’s knife, 20cm, for £91 direct from Zwilling

Before you go any further, Zwilling is also currently getting shot of its stocks of the Zwilling Serrated Chef’s Knife at a quite unbelievable price (£29.95, down from £109 a year ago). Even though the serrations make it decidedly challenging to use with harder veg, and trickier to maintain than a classic cook’s knife, at that price, I suggest you go buy two while stocks last. That’s especially true if you often need to cut tomato, aubergine or crusty bread because it goes through that sort of thing like an absolute BOSS.

Now back to the Zwilling chef’s knife I’m actually meant to be recommending. This is a Zwilling Four Star II knife, which adds a bit of additional weight to Zwilling JA Henckels’ classic blend of easy-to-wield, plastic, full-tang handle and ice-hardened steel shaft.

At a handy 20cm length, this is a truly formidable knife for dealing with the kind of starchy root vegetables that usually require more brute force, or a cleaver. The 16cm version has a more squat shape, but easily enough weight to also be extremely usable. Which you prefer comes down to personal taste.

Global Ni Series chef's knife

4. Global Ni Series chef’s knife

Best Global knife for beginners


Blade length: 16cm

Other lengths available: No

Dishwasher safe: No

Reasons to buy

+Excellent cutting surface+Iconic looks

Reasons to avoid

Need more sharpening than the others here

• Buy Global Ni Series

Often probably purchased on looks alone, Global knives are nonetheless very competent blades. From Japan, but with a thicker blade, so as to be more universally appealing than your more hardcore Japanese knives, the Global Ni Series is easy to use and available in John Lewis. You can’t much less intimidating than that for those wanting to dip a toe into learning non-Western knife skills.

The marketing literature may claim Globals “remain razor sharp longer” but in my experience they really do benefit from regular sharpening to get the best results. I also hate the handle, but as that happens to be why most people love it, I’m going to accept I’m in a minority on this one.

Kuhn Rikon Colori Titanium Chef's Knife

5. Kuhn Rikon Colori Titanium Chef’s Knife

Best cheap chef’s knife


Blade length: 18.5 cm

Other lengths available: No

Dishwasher safe: Yes

Reasons to buy

+Very effective +Very cheap+Robust and dishwasher proof

This is the kind of knife you buy, practically never sharpen, and it never lets you down, so long as you don’t expect the kind of pro feel or results of the pricier shivs on show here. Everything Kuhn Rikon makes is on point, and its range of Colori knives is no exception. 

This ice-hardened Japanese steel, titanium-coated chef’s knife is the line’s flagship blade and although it may look a bit Mickey Mouse, it really does give you a level of effortless slicing through meat, herbs and non-root veg that’s comparable to a way more expensive knife.

If £20-£25 is too much, I’ve found that Kuhn Rikon’s cheap Colori+ knives, which use a teflon coating to aid smooth cutting, are also excellent. And by that I mean excellent even if you ignore the fact they only cost about 15 quid tops.

Wusthof Classic 32cm Chef's Knife 4582/32

6. Wusthof Classic 32cm Chef’s Knife 4582/32

Best larger chef’s knife


Blade length: 32 cm

Other lengths available: 16cm, 20cm, 23cm, 26cm

Dishwasher safe: No

Reasons to buy

+About as usable as a 32cm knife can be+Devastatingly choppy+The range it’s from is superb

Reasons to avoid

Obviously, a 32cm chef’s knife is rather niche

And for when sh*t gets really serious… This 32cm monster is good for everything from chopping through huge piles of herbs, to dealing with recalcitrant celeriac to, for all I know, probably decapitating fowl.

It’s worth noting that very few people in the universe actually require a 32cm cook’s knife, but if you want one, this is the one to buy.

The ‘Classic’ is Wüsthof’s workhorse range, pitched above its more rough and ready Pro line for catering use. If you are looking to assemble a whole arsenal of knives, from santoku to paring knives, fruit knives to Chinese cleavers, Wüsthof Classic should be among your first ports of call, every time. 

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