The Best Knives for Chefs of 2020
The Zwilling Professional Chef's Knife is equally as suited to restaurant work as it is to preparing a Sunday dinner at home. With a classic rockered blade, this knife absolutely excelled at chopping and mincing. The polymer handle is ergonomic and large enough to offer comfort for even the biggest of hands.
While not quite as good at the more delicate knife work as some of the Japanese style blades we tested, the Zwilling handled julienning and chiffonades the best of all the euro-style knives we tested. With an excellent hand feel and enough weight behind it to have no trouble with hard squashes, this knife was our number one choice for a do it all chef's knife.
Wustof has long been known in the culinary world for its quality German steel. The Classic Ikon is their take on a traditional Santoku style chef's knife. The first thing you notice when picking up the knife is the way it sits in your hand. With a pleasing weight and a long tapered handle, this was one of our favorite knives to simply hold. The straight thin blade made this knife a standout for slicing and julienning.
The shortness of the blade does make it more challenging to cut through large squashes or cabbages, but it's handling of every other metric more than makes up for its shorter stature.
Global knives are crafted from a single piece of stainless steel, which gives them a distinctive look and feel. With one of the thinner heels of any of the rockered blades we tested, the entire length of the blade stays thin, which helped this knife perform well at slicing, mincing, and chiffonades, while the rocker let it perform almost as equally as well at chopping and dicing.
One of the only downsides of this knife was that testers with larger hands felt the handle was on the small side. This, however, might be a selling point for those with smaller hands looking for an eight-inch rockered blade. All in all, this is a great all arounder, priced where you won't be worried about putting it through the wringer of everyday use either at home or in a professional kitchen.
The Victorinox chef's knife is the perfect introduction to the world of quality knives. While it isn't the most beautiful in our fleet, it is incredibly utilitarian. Sporting a plastic handle and a light weight, it doesn't have the best hand feel, but it performed fairly well across all our metrics. It wasn't the highest scorer in any category, but for its low price, you really can't complain.
Capable of being a prep workhorse and a knife, you won't be worried about careless roommates ruining it. This knife is a great first chef's knife to start building your kitchen essentials around.
The MAC Mighty chef's knife is indeed mighty. With a razor-sharp factory edge and a comfy wooden handle, this knife tore through everything we threw at it. An excellent slicer, it was able to pull off the thinnest of cuts and turn carrots into perfect matchsticks. The dimpled, or Granton edge made veggies roll off the side of the blade with much greater ease than many of the other knives we tested, leaving you to cut as fast as you want without having to wipe off the blade.
With a higher price tag and a thin blade that could be more challenging to care for, this MAC knife is best suited for experienced cooks that are looking to upgrade.
A well-made chef's knife is the daily driver of choice for anyone who spends time much in the kitchen. Many people only own one chef's knife and will often hold onto it for years and years. Having that knife not only be functional but also beautiful can be a compelling reason to pick one knife over another. The Shun chef's knife is an elegant blend of form and function. From its pakkawood handle to its stylized blade, this knife was far and away the most aesthetically pleasing blade we reviewed. But no matter how good something looks, if it doesn't function equally as well, it doesn't amount to much. The Shun's long handle and thin blade made it both an excellent slicer and equally as good of a chopper. The knife was capable of chiffonading and julienning with the best of them.
Some of our testers felt that the long, perfectly straight handle made the knife feel "stiff" and detracted from the knife's handling. However, with its good looks and more than adequate functionality, this is, without a doubt, a quality knife.
The Tojiro DP is a Gyuto knife, which is the Japanese equivalent of the European style chef's knife. The most noticeable difference is a slightly smaller rocker and thinner blade than those found on European knives. The thinness of the blade makes it excel at dicing, slicing, mincing, and any of the more delicate tasks you have in the kitchen.
Thicker and heavier European knives handle tough squashes and separating chicken bones a little better, but if you're after a highly agile knife that can race through most prep work, this is the knife for you.
The Wusthof chef's knife is everything you would expect a classic german made knife to be. It's heavy, has a substantial rocker, a large heel, and a sharp blade. This knife is best suited for heavy-duty chopping and prep work. The extra weight and thickness of the blade are great for separating chicken bones and cutting through troublesome veggies, like butternut squash.
For those same reasons, it's not the most agile blade, and while not bad at chiffonades or julienning, it didn't perform as well as knives with thinner blades. If you are a fan of euro-style chef's knives, you'll feel right at home with this blade in your hand.
With a slight rocker, the Global Santoku has a little bit of everything and is a great all-purpose knife for smaller handed cooks who don't want an eight-inch blade or a long handle. Forged from a single piece of stainless steel, this knife comes with a sharp as can be factory edge. This knife received high marks in slicing, dicing, mincing, and all the other delicate work we asked of it.
Given its short length and lightweight, it wasn't the best at getting through big squashes. Whether this is the only knife in your draw or just part of your quiver that you break out for technical knife work, it is a worthy addition to any kitchen.
If you're unsure if Santoku style knives are for you, this Victorinox Santoku is a great way to dip your toes in the water without a big financial commitment. All in all, the knife performed decently well in most metrics but had the worst hand feel of any of the knives we tried. The lightweight and plastic handle just feels cheap.
Whether you're on a tight budget or want a decent knife, you can throw in with your car camping gear and forget about; this is a great little knife, but it just isn't of the same quality as the others we tested.
Why You Should Trust Us
Our lead tester, Buck Yedor, has put in the time when it comes to knife work. Having worked as a cook in multiple commercial kitchens, he has spent uncountable hours chopping carrots, dicing onions, mincing garlic, and doing every other kind of prep work under the sun. His first cooking job was under the tutelage of Che Paniz alum and culinary school instructor, Julia Crookston, who schooled him on the ins and outs of proper knife work. This time on task experience has given him a good understanding of the pros and cons of various knife styles. Buck knows the importance of having a well-made knife that you can count on to help you get dinner to the table night after night.
To start our search for the best chef's knives, we researched top-selling products and looked at which knives were commonly being recommended by industry professionals. After narrowing our search down to ten contenders we were interested in testing, we set out to identify what makes each knife unique. We put each one through a series of identical tests that showed us how well they sliced, julienned, diced, chopped, minced, and chiffonaded. We also analyzed the sharpness of their factory edge and the overall hand feel. We chose food items and tasks that are likely to be most representative of prep work you would do in your home or in restaurants. Rather than simply rotating each knife into our daily cooking routines, our systemized testing made sure we could directly compare each knife's functionality for specific tasks. This ensures a comprehensive look at each product that isn't just based on our gut feelings after a one-off trial.
Analysis and Test Results
To test how well each knife handled, we put them through a series of identical tests that showed us how well they sliced, julienned, diced, chopped, minced, and chiffonaded. We also examined the sharpness of their factory edge and the overall hand feel. We chose food items and tasks that are likely to be most representative of prep work you would do in your home or in restaurants. Rather than simply rotating each knife into our daily cooking routines, our systemized testing made sure we could directly compare each knife's functionality for specific tasks; this ensures a comprehensive look at each product that isn't just based on our gut feelings after a one-off trial.
Slicing refers to making long and often thin cuts of whatever food type you are breaking down into smaller pieces. For our slice testing, we chose to use an apple, a head of cabbage, and a lime.
Across the board, we found that the knives with thinner blades, such as the Tojiro DP and the Wusthof Icon, were capable of creating the thinnest and most consistent slices. We also found that the blades with dimples, such as the MAC Mighty, were effective in reducing pieces of apple from sticking to the blade after being sliced.
Testing indicated that the heavier euro-style knives were better for coring the heads of cabbage. The longer length and extra weight behind the blade made slicing the cabbages lengthwise easier and handled the tough core without being held up at all. When it came to slicing the cored cabbage, the thinner Japanese knives again took the lead and were able to make thinner and faster slices.
Also known as matchsticking, the julienne cut refers to creating small and thin pieces, similar in size to a matchstick. To test how well each knife could julienne, we used each one to matchstick a carrot.
The Japanse knives with straight or nonbeveled edges took to this task with the greatest ease. The agile Tojiro DP with its slightly rockered and sharp as can be blade performed the best in the whole process of breaking down a carrot into matchsticks. The Zwilling's chef's knife was the best performing euro-style knife in this metric, and despite its extra girth wasn't far behind the Japenese knives in terms of performance.
For our testing, what we referred to as chopping means breaking your veggies down into half-inch cubes. To test how well each knife chopped, we ran each knife through a butternut squash and a carrot.
Our favorites choppers were the Zwilling Professional S and the Wusthof 8" Chef's Knife. Both having heavy rockered blades, they flew through all of the chopping work we asked of them and had no trouble cutting through the hard exterior of the butternut squash. The worst performing chopper was the Victorinox Santoku; its small handle and light blade just weren't made for heavy chopping work.
Similar to chopping, dicing also refers to breaking veggies down into small uniform cubes. However, when something is diced, it is at least half the size, if not smaller, than something that has been chopped. To determine how well each knife performed in this metric, we diced our way through red onions and sweet potatoes.
Thin blades such as the Wusthof Icon and the Mac Mighty faired the best at dicing the red onions, making crisp, clean cuts, while the heavy Zwilling Professional S had the best results with the dense and troublesome sweet potatoes.
Mincing is the next step beyond dicing in creating very small uniform pieces of food. To test each knife's ability to break our veggies down into the smallest pieces, we minced garlic and parsley.
The substantially rockered knives made mincing garlic a breeze. The ability to quickly rock back and forth over the garlic was a serious plus for this task. The Zwilling Professional S was a stound-out garlic mincer.
When it came to the parsley, it was a slightly different story. The softness and springiness of the parsley often kept the thicker and beveled European blades from making contact with the cutting board without putting a lot of extra weight into the cut. The Mac Mighty, with its slight rocker and thinner blade, had no trouble cutting through the parsley with every stroke.
The chiffonade cut is a technique in which a thin leafy plant is rolled up and then cut into thin strips. For our chiffonade test, we used mint leaves, which are delicate and prone to tearing.
The top performer was the Tojiro DP; its thin blade cut through the mint without tearing or bruising the leaves, giving us beautiful. clean strips of mint. Other top performers were the Wusthof Icon and the Mac Mighty. The thick and light Victorinox performed the worst, slightly crushing the mint before slicing through it.
None of the knives we tested came out of the box dull by any means. Some, however, came with sharper edges than others. The sharpness is often dictated by the thinness of the blade and what sort of bevel the knife has. Most of the blades we tested are double beveled, meaning that both sides of the blade have been ground at an angle to create the edge.
As we ran through our tests, we took note of how clean the cuts were as well as how easily they penetrated the different materials without having to add significant weight. The sharpest knives were the Tojiro DP and the Shun Classic. The Global 8" was the sharpest fully rockered blade, which can be attributed to its straight beveled edge that all Global knives have.
While it's important that a knife comes with a razor-sharp factory edge, it isn't entirely telling of how well the knife will hold its edge over time and how the blade will respond to repeated sharpening. With that in mind, we looked at and tested the factory edge on each knife, but it wasn't weighted as highly in our decision making as the hand feel of each knife.
By hand feel we mean how the knife performs and feels in hand. Is it balanced? Is it light or heavy? Is the handle ergonomic? The highest scorer in this metric was the Zwilling Professional S; with a comfy and ergonomic handle and a nice heft to the knife as a whole, we found it was easy to control and pleasant to work with. For smaller handed folks, we think either of the Global knives we tested would be a great fit, particularly the Global Santoku which was a highly agile knife. The hand feel of both Victorinox knives was on the bottom end of the spectrum. Both had cheap-feeling handles and lacked the comforting weight of the other knives we tested.
After trialing ten of the best chef's knives on the market, we were able to distinguish which knives are best suited for specific tasks. From traditional European chef's knives to Japanese gyutos, we put them all on the chopping block to see which knives were a cut above the rest. We tested how well each one could slice, julienne, chop, dice, mince, and chiffonade. We also took into account how sharp the factory edge was and how each one felt in hand. We broke down the jargon and sometimes confusing specs so you will have a clear idea of what each knife offers.
— Buck Yedor