When shopping for kitchen knives, you’ll find an immense array of sizes, shapes and materials ranging in price from a few dollars to a few hundred dollars. Is there really a significant difference between knife styles and quality? Yes, there really is.
In this case, quality knife is key – although an expensive knife doesn’t guarantee better quality, as reflected in many of our kitchen knife reviews below.
To help you purchase knives that will go the distance and make food prep a dream, we will fill you in on the types of knives you need – or don’t need, and point key things to look for before taking you through our top 15 picks for the best kitchen knives this year.
What Knives Do I Need?
Before you rush out and spend your hard-earned savings on a dozen fancy, extremely specific kitchen knives, take a few minutes to really consider what type of cook you are.
What key knives will be used frequently enough in your home to make them a worthwhile investment? Although having a block full of 18 knives may make you look like a professional, you’re just pouring money down the drain if you only use three or four in that set.
It’s far better to invest more money on a handful of key tools than to buy a large, lower quality set.
For example, a vegetarian household has no need for a boning, filleting or carving knife, and a basic home chef can probably get by with just two or three good quality knives.
Don’t feel obliged to buy all your knives from the same brand. Unless you are super strict on having matching utensils, there’s no harm in mixing and matching the knives that feel most comfortable for you – shop around.
What To Look For?
When it comes to knives for your kitchen, it’s not a one size fits all kind of deal. The brand that your best friend can’t live without may feel awkward and clunky to you and vice versa.
Our best advice is to forget about brand names and technical details for now and head out to your local kitchenware or knife shop to get hands-on. But if you’re so inclined, here are some of the best knife brands in the world.
Along with the practical considerations of durability, balance and sharpness, a prime consideration is comfort.
The most expensive, sharpest knife in the world is going to be a drag to use if it feels awkward or causes you discomfort.
After taking into consideration the best kind of knife for your needs, here are some standard things to take note of when shopping for any knife.
- Blade: scan the blade for any imperfections, signs of pitting or other deficiencies that may indicate weakness
- Height: handle the knife and see if you feel there is enough clearance below the handle for you to work comfortably without scraping your knuckles.
- Balance: It’s super important that your knife is evenly balanced between blade and handle. A balanced knife will require less effort from you. Don’t forget about lateral balance from side to side too.
- Weight: Figure out whether you feel more comfortable with a lightweight knife or prefer a little more heft. When chopping lighter ingredients, lighter weight knives are good for precision and speed, whereas heavy knives will make your work harder.
Reverse this for heavier foods like nuts. There is really no ideal weight. Again, it’s all down to what feels better to you personally.
Basic Anatomy Of A Knife
- Tang: A full tang means the metal blade travels all the way up through the handle, creating a nicely balanced knife. Partial tang only goes partway up along the top edge of the handle.
- Bolster/shank: the thick piece of metal where the blade and handle join. It helps to strengthen and stabilize the knife as well as protecting your finger from the sharp blade. Japanese style knives don’t generally have a bolster. One advantage of no bolster means you can easily sharpen the entire blade length.
- Heel: in most knives, this is the thickest part of the blade and comes in useful on those tougher kitchen jobs like chopping through a squash.
- Spine: The top, blunt part of the blade.
SEE ALSO: Parts Of A Knife
There’s four key choices here for a quality knife:
- Carbon steel: At the top end of the price scale, carbon steel is stronger but more high maintenance. It can rust, stain and discolor quite easily, so needs to be treated with TLC. Not a throw in the sink kind of knife.
- Stainless steel: The most popular model of knife, this material is rust-proof and stain resistant, which is strong enough and easily sharpened. If your household tends to leave dirty knives in the sink or throw them in the dishwasher, go for stainless steel which won’t rust.
- High-carbon stainless steel: Basically the same as stainless steel but more durable. Cheaper and more rust-proof than carbon steel.
- Ceramic: Less common, ceramic is lightweight, super sharp and holds an edge for longer. The downside is that this material is brittle and can chip and break quite easily – also can’t be sharpened as easily as other materials.
Forged Or Stamped Blade?
- Forged knives: each blade is carefully molded from one solid piece of metal using super-high heat. The process creates a heavy and durable blade that will hold a sharp edge well. As these are the highest quality, they come with the highest price tag.
- Stamped knives: this process is more like a cookie cutter style of manufacture, with each blade being cut out of a flat sheet of steel then sharpened. They are cheaper, but the blade is lighter and more flexible and doesn’t hold an edge so well.
Handles can be crafted from wood, plastic, metal or some other composite. Although wood looks nice, it’s not durable and can become misshapen. Look for a plastic or composite that is comfortable to hold and non-slip, even when wet or oily.
Top 15: Best Kitchen Knives
1. Wusthof Classic 7.5” Heavy Cleaver
There’s nothing like a solid cleaver to make you feel like a real kitchen boss, and this heavy Wusthof Classic – weighing in at 1.88 pounds – is a true kitchen workhorse. Fans of heavy-duty knives will appreciate the solid, well-balanced feel to this cleaver.
Made from high carbon German stainless steel, it’s ideal for chopping and smashing through bones, butchering chickens and effortlessly separating ribs. The sturdiness of it means you can let the bulk of the cleaver do the cutting, rather than your own muscle power.
Cleavers are manufactured with a softer type of steel than most kitchen knives, because a harder material might buckle or shatter under heavy use. Be aware of this when sharpening, you may lose a lot of metal off the blade in the process, so take it slowly.
Most cleavers aren’t renowned for sharpness, relying instead on the power of the cook’s swing, but the Wusthof has a sharper blade to reduce some of that effort. What sets the Wusthof apart is that it has a nice, thick blade which chops through bone easily.
Although the price is a bit up there, think of this cleaver as an investment that should last you for many years. If you are looking for a heavy-duty cleaver that won’t have a problem getting through large bones, give this bad boy a try.
2. DALSTRONG Chef Knife - Gladiator Series - German HC Steel - 8” (200mm)
This attractive specimen is forged from high carbon German steel, so should be nicely stain resistant. The black pakkawood handle looks great and works even better – it’s laminated to make it stronger and resistant to water stains.
This is a heavier and sturdier knife that is sharp right out of the box and really outperforms its price range. If you buy the Dalstrong, you’re getting a high-quality knife without the high-quality price. It’s seriously comparable to a chef’s knife you’d pay double the price for.
Most users find this knife extremely comfortable to handle, with a tall blade height to prevent knuckle scraping and a reassuring sturdiness to it. If you’re more comfortable with a lighter instrument, you may be happier with the Mercer below.
Bear in mind this isn’t stainless steel, so it can be prone to corrosion and rust. If you’re not prepared to put a few minutes into appropriate cleaning, drying and storage of this knife, better to go for the stainless steel J.A. Henckels International Chef’s Knife below.
We are impressed with the customer service of the family-owned Dalstrong brand. They really stand by their product and will respond quickly to any issues you have.
Along with the quality of the knife itself, it’s also presented beautifully, making for an impressive gift. This is our top pick for a chef’s knife; it’s high quality at an affordable price and should impress even the most seasoned chef.
3. J.A. HENCKELS INTERNATIONAL Classic 8” Chef’s Knife
This cheaper chef’s knife from J.A. Henckels is forged from German stainless steel – a good choice for someone who wants the freedom to be a little bit careless with regards to maintenance.
Sharp from the minute you unbox it, it both re-sharpens and stays sharp extremely well.
Unfortunately, the spine is also sharp enough to cut! This is quite a glaring oversight – check this before getting carried away with this knife, you may end up with an unanticipated extra cutting edge right into your fingers. If it is a problem, you can sand this down to an acceptable level.
Although Henckels do make a luxury quality range of knives, the international range tends to be more budget-focused. It’s a more lightweight knife with a thinner blade, which might appeal to some users.
As far as budget knives go, we think this chef’s knife is pretty good for the low price. Ideal for someone who doesn’t have a huge budget but still wants a better quality knife, this will still competently handle all the work you throw at it.
4. Mercer Culinary Renaissance 10” Forged Chef’s Knife
Our third chef’s knife recommendation is another forged blade, and is made from high carbon German steel, just like the Dalstrong.
At a lower price than Dalstrong, the Mercer Culinary Renaissance also has a slightly rounded spine for comfortable use (as opposed to the sharp Henckels spine above), and a shorter bolster which allows you to sharpen the entire blade easily.
The weight of this knife is somewhere in between the Dalstrong and Henckels – not too heavy and not too light. It has excellent balance, just like our other two reviewed chef’s knives, but seems to outdo them in the comfort levels.
It’s a tough choice between the Mercer and the Dalstrong, both are excellent quality knives at a similar value. The Mercer may just win in the comfort stakes, with the ergonomic shape of the handle. See if you can pop into a shop and get a grip on them both to see which you prefer the feel of.
A key point of difference that might help you decide is that this Mercer has a more defined curve than our other two knives – great if you like to chop using a rocking motion, but people that prefer straight up and down chopping might find it irritating.
5. ZELITE INFINITY Santoku Knife 7”
Before we even discuss the practical qualities of this knife, we’d be remiss if we don’t first mention the straight out physical appeal. The Zelite Infinity is just downright good looking!
That fancy “tsunami rose Damascus pattern” isn’t just there to look pretty, it really does help prevent food from sticking to the blade.
On the business end, it’s made from high carbon stainless steel that is both stain and rust resistant. Although Japanese chef knives tend to be lighter, this one is heavy – but comfortably so.
There’s some thoughtful additions to enhance comfort, including a rounded handle with good grip, and tapered bolster.
As for performance, there’s nothing to complain about – the blade is very sharp and sharpens easily. It’s long enough and tough enough to handle the same jobs as a standard chef’s knife, with the added benefit of being thin enough for some more delicate maneuvers.
Although it’s not cheap when compared to standard chef’s knives, the Zelite Infinity is considerably cheaper than other Santoku knives. If you’re after something that looks as good as it performs, this knife will be right up your alley.
6. Tojiro DP Gyutou - 8.2” (21cm)
As opposed to the Zelite above, the Tojiro is all about straight out function and not really fussed on form. Although it’s rather boring to look at, this stain resistant knife can be used by both left and right handed cooks.
The most striking aspect of this knife is its sharpness straight out of the box. It’s incredibly sharp and we can’t overstate this fact – even the most experienced chefs quiver in their aprons while using it.
If you or your fellow kitchen users are a bit clumsy, give this knife a wide berth, but if you love the thrill of slicing through many foods like they were made of cotton candy, you’ll get a real kick out of using the Tojiro.
A few sticking points for this knife is that the spine itself is also a tad sharp. Not a deal breaker, but annoying. The metal also tends to scratch and stain easily – so no throwing it in the sink or dishwasher, you need to take a bit of care with this baby.
Weight-wise, it’s lighter than the Zelite but not too light. If you have larger hands, you may find the clearance space under the handle insufficient.
We reckon the Tojiro DP Gyutou is a good buy, great for a beginner – perhaps someone wanting to trade their German style chef’s knife in without spending the big bucks. However, for the minor price difference, we prefer the standout style and comfort of the Zelite Infinity.
7. Victorinox Swiss Army 6” Fibrox Pro Boning Knife with Flexible Blade
Our top recommendation for an affordable but efficient boning knife, the Victorinox is assured quality – as you’d expect from the original maker of the Swiss Army knife.
As is standard with a boning knife, the high carbon stainless steel blade is thin to allow for better flexibility when maneuvering around bones. The sharpness is good and it re-sharpens well.
Even within boning knives, the amount of flex will differ for varying kinds of meat. This knife has sufficient flex to bone things like fish and chicken, but not so much flex that it feels flimsy, and can also handle larger cuts of meat such as game or even an entire pig.
The Fibrox Pro handle gives a firm grip, even when you have wet hands. As there’s no bolster, there’s a protective finger guard built into the handle. The lack of bolster means you have the entire blade length to slice with.
This is a great wee boning knife with the versatility to handle both finer jobs like skinning or bigger butchering jobs. If you eat fish every now and then, it doubles as a great filleting knife.
8. DALSTRONG Paring Knife - Gladiator Series Paring Knife - German HC Steel - 3.75”
Another remarkable knife from Dalstrong, this paring knife is forged from stain resistant, high carbon German steel and features the nice grip of a black pakkawood handle.
It’s sharp enough, but will require regular honing – maybe even before you first put it to use.
Again, the packaging for this humble knife is rather grandiose – some would even say excessive – but that means it’s a pretty humbling gift to give someone as a housewarming or wedding present. You even get a nifty sheath for safe storage.
This model features quite a thick blade, which helps with strength but also limits you if you are trying to cut super thin slices.
You may also find that the blade can get discolored easily. If this bothers you, go for the Mercer below, which does a better job at resisting stains.
9. Mercer Culinary Genesis 3.5” Forged Paring Knife
Ever so slightly smaller, the Mercer Culinary Genesis knife is also made from high carbon German steel – so should resist rust, corrosion and staining.
Not so common for a paring knife, it features a full tang, giving it superior balance and strength.
The Mercer has the edge over the more expensive Dalstrong when it comes to sharpness right out of the box – so much so that you can finely slice a ripe tomato – and it holds an edge well, although will still require regular sharpening.
The Santoprene handle won’t break down from exposure to kitchen oils, and has a solid, non-slip grip which we find to be one of the most comfortable grips reviewed.
With the correct care, this knife shouldn’t rust or stain – this means a careful hand wash. Although half the price of the Dalstrong, this knife is our top pick. It has just the right amount of flex and weight, and we like that the granton edge prevents foods from sticking.
10. Kyocera Advanced Ceramic Revolution Series 5” Micro Serrated Utility Knife
The only ceramic knife to make our list, this wee kitchen wonder has a white blade with microscopic serrations. Due to the nature of ceramic, it will never rust or react to acidic foods or oils.
Ceramic does need a bit more fussing over, however. You’ll have to hand wash it only, and it won’t work with regular knife sharpeners. Be careful with chipping ceramic – only use wooden or plastic chopping boards.
Most importantly, ceramic knives won’t hold up to twisting or bending motions – the brittle blade will chip or snap right off. It’s not going to be able to handle bones, but will slice through boneless meat, tomatoes and bread like they were margarine.
Ceramic is much more lightweight than any other material, so may take some adjusting to. Although the blade can be brittle and prone to chipping if not treated right, it will be extra-sharp and stay that way for around 10 times longer than your steel knives.
SEE ALSO: Best Ceramic Knives
This Kyocera utility knife is perfect for small and delicate kitchen chores, but don’t use it for heavy duty chopping. If you don’t mind the fact that you’ll either need to purchase a Kyocera sharpener or send it back to the factory for sharpening now and then, it’s a handy addition to a kitchen at a reasonable price.
11. J.A. Henckels International Eversharp 8-Piece Steak Knife Set
These steak knives all feature a full tang, with 3 rivets to provide long lasting strength. The larger serrations contain smaller micro-serrations to provide extra sharpness.
With 4.5-inch steel blades made from stamped construction, they come at a reasonable price. Sharp from the get-go, they do stay sharp well.
As reflected in the price, these are not super high quality knives, so if you’re looking for something that’s going to absolutely blow you away in the kitchen, better to move on.
They are light weight, and don’t exude superiority, with rather flimsy blades that have far too much flex in them. The tips can bend or even break rather easily, and rather than slicing nicely through your steak, they do tend to tear it apart.
For those in search of a low maintenance set that will do the job adequately without spending an arm and a leg, this set should be satisfactory. On the upside, you can clean them in the dishwasher, and short of throwing them around the kitchen sink, don’t have to be too fussy.
12. Victorinox Swiss Army 3-Piece Gourmet Cheese Knife Gift Set
This is a fine looking group indeed, from the Swiss legends themselves. The set comes with a hard cheese knife perfect for parmesan, a semi-soft cheese knife and a semi-hard cheese knife with a fork tip.
All have a full tang which produces a strong, balanced instrument. The blade is made of a no steel, high carbon material. The semi-soft cheese knife has holes that work well to keep softer cheeses from sticking to the blade.
All three are user friendly with good knuckle clearance and firm blades that are sharp enough for the given tasks. They’re larger than you might expect, but well-built and easy to handle.
The price for all three is a bargain, particularly when compared to other luxe cheese knives. With this set you’ve got all your cheese needs covered with an attractive and affordable, well-known brand. The only reason not to buy this is if you are lactose intolerant or can’t stand cheese. Other than that, what’s not to like?
13. Norpro 139 Grip-EZ Cheese Knife
Just like cheese itself, cheese knives aren’t all created equal; different qualities are needed for soft, hard, crumbly or semi-soft varieties.
This Norpro EZ cheese knife has a large handle to make slicing easier. It’s dishwasher safe, although we recommend you to always hand wash your knives.
With a whopping 11-inch stainless steel blade, this particular knife works best for stickier cheeses like brie. It can be used both left or right handed.
At the budget end of the scale, it’s not going to break the bank, nor is it going to be the most amazing knife you own, but it will do the job. If, like me, you can polish of a wheel of brie or camembert in 5 minutes, this knife will help you get the job done in record time.
14. Cangshan V2 Series 59533 German Steel Forged Bread Knife, 8”
The humble bread knife is the gentle giant in your collection, underrated but undeniably important.
This Cangshan V2 knife has a 5-inch handle and 8-inch full tang blade, made from German steel. As it’s not stainless steel, the blade is clearly more prone to discoloration and staining.
If you hand wash and dry them as soon as you can after use, this should help keep them pristine.
Most importantly, this serrated knife can produce the most super fine tomato slices effortlessly, and practically melts through bread and cakes.
It feels more expensive than it is, with a solid and sturdy build and excellent balance. Although traditionally serrated knives don’t sharpen so well, this one does a pretty good job of it and the edge will last you a long time between sharpening.
You can’t go wrong with this effective and efficient knife – it boxes above its weight and is a great, affordable addition to any kitchen.
15. Zwilling J.A. Henckels Twin Pro S 7-Piece Knife Set with Block
If you decide that you are better off buying yourself a matching set of knives for the kitchen, why not invest in a trusted premium brand like Zwilling. This set will give you the basics you need for most home or professional kitchens, without leaving any knives unused.
The set features a 3-inch paring knife, 5-inch serrated utility knife, 5-inch hollow edge santoku and 8-inch chef’s knife. They’ve also thrown in a pair of kitchen shears and a 9-inch sharpening steel, all stored in an attractive hardwood block.
The blades in this set are all full tang forged stainless steel. Mind-bogglingly, Zwilling have been working on creating the perfect steel formula for nearly 300 years – you can’t get much more experienced than that.
This set will suit anyone from a professional chef to an amateur – notably, there is no bread knife, but the serrated utility might be able to do the same job.
Note that although the other J.A. Henckels featured in our reviews are the lower quality, international brand, this set is the Zwilling premiere range which is manufactured in Germany.
As such, these are an investment that should really last the distance and are known to be durable without staining or chipping, easy to sharpen and great at retaining razor sharp edges.
This set is ideal for the beginner who wants to get off to a great head start by using a select few professional style knives.
Knife Maintenance Tips
Even if you spend top dollar on a kitchen knife, there will come a point when it needs sharpening. Get yourself a “steel” or a sharpening stone. Steel will help maintain your blade’s edge but can’t create a new one on a blunt knife. Stones can do both.
Never use your knife on surfaces such as stone, glass, steel or ceramic. The best cutting board material is wood or plastic.
Store knives diligently. Use a knife block or roll, or a magnetic strip. Avoid throwing them in a drawer with other utensils – they can get damaged, lose their sharpness, or cut you as you fumble around in the drawer.
Get into the practice of washing and drying any knife as soon as you can after using it. Even if it’s marketed as dishwasher friendly, knives fare much better with a gentle hand wash (How to clean a kitchen knife). This will help prevent staining and rusting.
Often, you don’t know what you’re missing until you get a taste of it – this is definitely the case when it comes to a quality kitchen knife. Once you try one of our top picks, such as the Tojiro DP Gyutou, you won’t know how you ever lived with that cheap, flimsy piece of metal that mangled your ingredients.
If budget is an issue, look for one really great knife that will handle most of your kitchen chores, rather than buying five poor performers that will give you no pleasure. If we had to pick, the DALSTRONG Gladiator Series chef knife feels like a good balance between budget and quality. Remember that the right knife with the right care can last you decades, so choose carefully and happy chopping!