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Best chef’s knife 2021: Our favourite affordable, beginner and professional chef’s knives

Derek Adams
12 Aug 2021
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Ready to take your chopping to the next level? One of these top-notch knives is an essential addition to your kitchen

Chef’s knives – the style of blade, not knives specifically for chefs – are widely considered the most versatile of all kitchen blades. The size and shape of these knives make them the go-to tool for most prepping tasks, whether it’s slicing, cutting or chopping. The best chef’s knife comes with a gently curved blade, which is perfectly suited to the rocking motion cut that any self-respecting cook will employ during the prep stages of a banquet.

After a great deal of research, we finally decided on the following classy cutters, called them in to the Expert Reviews office and put them through a few extensive real-world prepping tests. To be honest, they’ve all been brilliant at performing the tasks they were designed for, but which one is best for you?

READ NEXT: The best kitchen knives


At a glance: Best chef knife


How to choose the best chef’s knife for you

Which type of chef’s knife is best?

Choosing one knife over another is mostly a personal preference. Do you want a typical chef’s knife with an 8in curved blade and pointy tip or a shorter Japanese-style Santoku knife with a flatter blade and squarer tip? How comfortable is the handle? How much does it weigh? How well is it balanced? Is it easy to use? How much does it cost? Questions, questions.

Frankly, any of the blades below will transform your cooking and reinvigorate your enthusiasm for preparing your next meal, but we’ve settled on a range that has something for everyone.

What size blade should I choose?

The average optimum length of a chef’s knife is 8in (around 20cm), although 6in blades are popular, especially among novice cooks. Finding the right size blade for you is important, though, as it will improve prep times and the accuracy of your cut. We’d always suggest starting out with a smaller blade, but if you have particularly big hands you might prefer a larger option from the get-go.

How do you keep your knife in tip-top condition?

All knife blades will gradually blunt with use, and even the act of slicing soft vegetables on a chopping board will slowly degrade the edge of the blade. Therefore, it’s advisable to always ensure your knife’s edge is razor sharp. Not only does this make the task of cutting, slicing and chopping a breeze, but you’re also far less likely to cut yourself with a sharp blade than with a blunt one.

There are many types of blade sharpeners on the market, from sharpening steels (long thin shafts of buffed steel) to electric sharpeners and stone blocks. However, a sharpening steel needs to be used at an accurate angle or the blade’s geometry may alter. Traditional stones with some water are among the best knife sharpeners but they’re also arguably among the hardest ways to achieve the correct angle, especially if you’re a novice.

Any other care tips?

Even if the manufacturer says it’s okay to sling your chef’s knife in the dishwasher, we’d advise hand-cleaning it instead – especially if it has a wooden handle. It only takes a rinse under the hot tap and a quick wipe down to make it gleam again.

You should also purchase something to store your knives in. Standard wooden knife blocks are fine, but they won’t accommodate certain knives. Magnetic wall-mounted knife holders are more versatile, but some of them aren’t strong enough to hold an 8in knife.

The best option is one of a new breed of fibre-based knife blocks that will safely store a wide variety of knife sizes. These blocks are filled with removable plastic bristles that part as you drop the knife in, keeping the blade perfectly protected. John Lewis sells a pair of highly recommended models.

READ NEXT: Our pick of the best knife sharperners

    The best chef's knives to buy

    1. Robert Welch Signature Santoku Knife 11cm: Best mini Santoku for general duties

    Price: £44 | Buy now from Amazon

    We’re breaking with chef’s knife tradition here and recommending a much smaller blade than the 8-inch norm. The 11cm (4.3in) Signature Santoku is the perfect size and form for light duties such as preparing vegetables, fish and smaller cuts of meat.

    Cast from high-quality German DIN 1.4116 stainless steel and with a hand-applied 15° Japanese-style edge for superior cutting power, this is one of the sharpest blades in this roundup, and it will stay that way for a very long time if properly cared for. That means no dishwashers and no mixing it with other knives or cutlery. In our sharpness test, it easily sliced a dropped grape and had no problem dealing with a soft tomato.

    The smooth DuPont handle is a joy to hold and is nothing like as slippery as it looks. This knife also reigned supreme in our real-world test, slicing cucumber and tomato with supreme accuracy. In fact, this writer – not a very good chef, it has to be said – was really surprised at how precisely and uniformly the knife cut through all salad vegetables. The blade’s slim spine certainly helped in this respect.

    If all you want is an easy-to-use, razor-sharp knife for general cutting and slicing tasks, then this keenly priced model is the perfect fit.

    Key specs – Blade material: Stainless steel Handle material: DuPont plastic; Size: 11cm


    2. Victorinox Fibrox Santoku Knife: Best affordable 6in Santoku knife for novices

    Price: £48 | Buy now from Amazon

    This 17cm model is a perfect choice for the novice seeking a Japanese-style general-purpose knife. It’s an outstanding all-rounder that’s as adept at chopping herbs as it is at slicing tomatoes and cucumbers.

    The Fibrox Santoku’s blade has little pits that are said to help dispel sticky ingredients such as cucumber and apple. It does work, but not to the degree you’d expect. Sharpness-wise, the dishwasher-safe stainless steel blade failed to slice the dropped grape but, being the thinnest blade here, it excelled in the cucumber slicing test. For such a short blade, it also tacked swede better than expected (we suspect the cheap but grippy plastic handle helped a lot in this respect).

    This isn’t a knife to show off to your friends, but it cuts, slices and dices with unflappable poise.

    Key specs Blade material: Carbon stainless steel Handle material: TPE; Size: 17cm

    Buy now from Amazon


    3. Robert Welch Signature 12cm Cook’s Knife: Best extra small chef’s knife

    Price: £42 | Buy now from Amazon

    This model has an equally sharp blade of similar curvature to the company’s classic chef’s knife reviewed below, only it’s much easier to handle, especially when it comes to slicing small vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, spring onions and garlic.

    Just 12cm long (4.72in), the Signature’s blade is cast from German DIN 1.4116 stainless steel, and its 15° Japanese-style edge is hand-applied for long-lasting sharpness. As is the case with all Robert Welch Signature editions, the ebony-like DuPont handle is perfectly shaped for comfort, and its smooth texture feels tactile in the hand.

    Granted, this knife won’t tackle large vegetables such as swede and pumpkin, but it will handle pretty much everything else, including chicken breast, steak and fish. So, if you’re looking for a smaller-bladed chef’s knife that doesn’t feel intimidating and doesn’t cost the earth, step right this way.

    Key specs Blade material: German DIN 1.4116 stainless steel; Handle material: DuPont plastic; Size: 20cm

    Buy now from Amazon


    4. TOG Santoku: Best chef’s knife bar none

    Price: £230 | Buy now from TOG

    Taking price out of the equation, this is arguably the best classic chef’s knife we’ve used to date and is also the blade of choice for several Michelin-starred chefs. This 6.5in (17cm) model was perfect for pretty much every task we put in its path.

    The Santoku blade’s shape and slimness owes more to the Japanese preference for a straighter line at the heel end with a gentle curve towards a less sharply pointed tip, and this proved ideal for cutting transparently thin slices of tomato and cucumber. It also sliced through an 8oz filet steak with sushi-like precision and passed our unofficial 14in grape-drop test, slicing it clean in half as if it were made of jelly.

    The metalwork here is exquisite, which is hardly surprising given that each TOG blade is produced by eight different craftspeople in the town of Seki, Japan’s undisputed capital of Samurai sword manufacture. Consequently, every one of its high-quality, roll-forged Japanese steel blades is individually laser etched with a serial number and the TOG logo.

    The shape and design of the laser-etched Kebony handle (a Norwegian alternative to tropical hardwood) impresses as much as anything else, particularly the short little finger scoop at the butt end that really does help with precision cutting and slicing.

    If money’s no object – this is an expensive knife by any stretch of the imagination – then this one comes highly recommended.

    Key specs – Blade material: Roll-forged Japanese steel and copper; Handle material: Kebony; Size: 17cm

    Buy now from TOG


    5. Wüsthof Classic Cook’s Knife: Best heavy-duty 8in chef’s knife

    Price: £117 | Buy now from Amazon

    This stunning blade is a great example of the workmanship that goes into Wüsthof's products. The knife’s beautifully crafted 20cm (7.87in) blade is the optimum length for most food-processing duties. Forged from a single piece of chromium-molybdenum-vanadium steel, its gentle curve is perfectly dialled for rocking motion cuts. However, it does feel quite heavy in the hand and its heel is quite wide, too, which makes precision slicing of fruit and veg a little bit tricky, especially if you’re a novice.

    The handle is shaped for both comfort and safety (it comes with a deep one-inch finger-protecting bolster) and fashioned from what looks and feels like high-quality ebony. The handle – expertly chamfered with steel studs to keep it in place – is honed to give it a smooth texture that should remain that way as long as you never, ever put it in the dishwasher.

    For the discerning home cook for whom only the best-quality equipment will do, this Wüsthof is a worthwhile addition to the cutlery collection.

    Key specs Blade material: High-carbon steel; Handle material: High impact polypropylene; Size: 20cm

    Buy now from Amazon


    6. Robert Welch Signature 20cm Cook’s Knife: Best classic chef’s knife for novices

    Price: £58 | Buy now from Amazon

    Cotswolds-based Robert Welch produces a broad range of beautifully designed kitchen knives that ooze quality all the way from the tip of their blades to the gorgeously fashioned DuPont handles. In many respects, this 20cm knife is the epitome of what a chef’s knife should be: it’s 8in long and has a steep curve leading to a very pointy tip, making it perfect for rocking cuts and general step-style chopping duties.

    The blade here is of the fully forged German steel variety and very tough it is, too. However, the ultra smooth, contoured handle might not suit someone with large hands because it is rather slim and very round. It’s superbly balanced and easy to use as an everyday work tool, though.

    It sailed through every real-world task we threw at it, including the swede. However, it didn’t quite slice as thinly as the TOG or Victorinox. If you’re after a classic, easy-to-use chef’s knife that looks gorgeous and will last ages, hold its sharpness and survive a few drops, then this is the one for you.

    Key specs Blade material: German 1.4116 stainless steel; Handle material: DuPont plastic; Size: 20cm

    Buy now from Amazon


    7. Mac Chef’s Knife TH-100: Best 10in chef’s knife for experienced preppers

    Price: £140 | Buy now from Kitchen Knives

    Mac knives are popular among pro and semi-pro chefs who rave about the Japanese company’s attention to detail, the quality of its metals, its impressive manufacturing process, the weight and balance of its knives and, above all, the slimness and sharpness of its blades.

    This is the longest blade here (9.88in), so it’s the one to grab for cutting large vegetables and fruit such as swedes, pumpkins and watermelons. That said, in our test it was just as adept at dealing with smaller, more delicate tasks such as slicing meats, fish, tomatoes, cucumber and carrots.

    The dropped grape was no match for this blade – it sliced it clean in half with the sort of “sssip” sound you might hear in a samurai movie. It really is terrifyingly sharp. The wooden handle, too, is shaped to fit comfortably in the hand and the whole thing felt nicely balanced and not too heavy for long periods at the chopping board.

    Some users may find that this granton (ie dimpled) blade is a little too unwieldy, in which case we’d advise opting for the smaller 8in model, which is closer to the norm. But if you’re an experienced prepper – or someone who takes such pride in their cooking that only the very best tool for the job will do – then the Mac is a clear-cut winner.

    Key specs – Blade material: High carbon Chrome Molybdenum Vanadium steel; Handle material: Pakawood; Size: 25cm

    Buy now from Kitchen Knives


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