Victorinox Fibrox 8-Inch Chef's Knife
Victorinox Fibrox 8-Inch Chef's Knife

Best chef's knife

No other chef's knife gets the kind of love the Victorinox Fibrox 8-Inch Chef's Knife gets from professional testers, expert reviewers, amateur foodies and beginner cooks. The blade is made from high carbon stainless steel, the handle is comfortable and well-designed, experts say, for an optimal ergonomic experience regardless of grip. It's as efficient at dismembering a chicken as it is finely slicing a delicate tomato.
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Wüsthof Classic Santoku 4183
Wüsthof Classic Santoku 4183

Best santoku knife

A top performer in reviews, the Wusthof Classic gets nearly perfect ratings in hundreds of customer reviews. Users say it is light and well balanced, with a comfortable grip. It's reported as extremely versatile, easily handling a variety of tasks, from cutting through thick cuts of meat to finely slicing cheese, to chopping vegetables. In fact, it's particularly popular with vegetarians, who say it's the perfect knife for vegetables. It doesn't rate as highly as a top chef's knife for heavier tasks, like cutting through poultry joints.

Kyocera Revolution Series 7-Inch Professional Chef's Knife
Kyocera Revolution Series 7-Inch Professional Chef's Knife

Best ceramic knife

It excels in professional tests, and owners of the Kyocera Revolution Series 7-inch Professional Chef's Knife say they can't imagine life in the kitchen without it. The knife gets top ratings for slicing cleanly and effortlessly through tough items such as carrots and potatoes, yet can slice a tomato as thinly and evenly as you need. It's lighter than metal, something people who do a lot of food prep appreciate, although they say the Kyocera Revolution takes some getting used to.

Victorinox 3-1/4-Inch Paring Knife
Victorinox 3-1/4-Inch Paring Knife

Best paring knife

The Victorinox 3-1/4-Inch Paring Knife earns the top spot in this category because of exceptional performance at an equally exceptional price. Professional testers, chefs, and amateur cooking enthusiast rave about well-balanced and easy the Victorinox Paring Knife is to hold, with a comfortable, sturdy handle. It's sharp out of the box, and stays that way for a long time.
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Wusthof Classic 10-inch Bread Knife
Wusthof Classic 10-inch Bread Knife

Best serrated bread knife

Bread lovers say the Wusthof Classic 10-inch Bread Knife cleanly cuts through even the thickest, crustiest loaves of bread with one stroke. It's also versatile enough for other kitchen tasks, such as slicing through tomatoes watermelon or round cakes. It's forged of high carbon steel, with sharp, deeply tapered serrations that owners say stay sharp for years. It also works for right- or left-handed cooks.
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Wusthof Classic 8-Piece Cutlery Set with Storage Block
Wusthof Classic 8-Piece Cutlery Set with Storage Block

Best knife set

The Wusthof Classic 8-Piece Cutlery Set with Storage Block is worth every penny, reviewers say, because these knives will last a lifetime -- and they have a lifetime warranty to back that up. This set comes with the cutlery that is considered most useful in the kitchen -- top-rated chef, paring, utility, and bread knives, as well as a pair of shears and honing tool.
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J.A. Henckels International Stainless Steel 8-Piece Steak Knife Set
J.A. Henckels International Stainless Steel 8-Piece Steak Knife Set

Best steak knife set

Even if you never pick up a knife for food prep, you need a sharp knife for meals. J.A. Henckels International Stainless Steel 8-Piece Steak Knife Set gets great reviews from owners and professional testers for top performance and its attractive, one-piece styling. These knives are serrated, which experts say help them keep their edge even after repeatedly cutting against ceramic plates.

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A sharp, well-balanced knife is an essential kitchen tool.

Experts agree: a sharp, good quality knife is essential for your kitchen. A dull knife can be dangerous because it requires more force to use, so is more prone to slipping and cutting where it's not supposed to -- like on your hand. The ideal kitchen knife will have a sharp blade that holds its edge well, good balance, a comfortable handle and durable construction.

Knives are constructed either from forged or stamped steel Forged knives are made from one piece of steel that is heated and shaped using a hammer or press. Stamped knives are literally "stamped" from one larger piece of metal. It used to be a given that forged knives were better quality, but that's no longer true. These days, stamped knives are manufactured to a very high quality standard that is virtually indistinguishable from forged knives. In fact, many cooks prefer stamped knives because they're lighter and more flexible, and they tend to hold their edge longer than softer, forged knives. Stamped knives are also much more affordable than forged.

Many professionals say you need only three knives -- a chef's knife, paring knife and serrated bread knife. However, many home cooks love a greater variety. Here are a few specialty knives that are commonly found in the home or professional kitchen:

An 8-inch chef's knife, also referred to as a cooks' knife, is the one to choose if you can only have one kitchen knife. Experts say it can handle most kitchen tasks all by itself. Since this knife is the kitchen workhorse, it's crucial to find one that feels good in your hand; with the right weight and balance and a comfortable handle. It should be sharp enough to disjoint a chicken or thinly slice a tomato without crushing.

A santoku knife is similar to a chef's knife but with a shorter, thinner blade and a straighter edge. They also have indentations in the blade that help keep starchy foods, like potatoes, from sticking as they're sliced. They're particularly suited to dealing with vegetables, and we read many reviews from vegetarians who say this is their go-to knife.

Paring knives are used for more intricate work that requires greater control, such as peeling or coring fruit, cutting up small items like fruit or herbs, and removing eyes from potatoes. Typical blade lengths range from 2.5 to 4 inches, but most experts say the perfect size for most people is 3-1/2 inches. People with larger hands often like the 4-inch option, however.

Serrated bread knives are not just for slicing bread. The best bread knife, experts say, is 10 inches long so that it can handle even the largest loves of crusty, artisan bread. However, these knives can also be used for slicing tomatoes, watermelon and cakes. Some serrated knives are made in smaller sizes, so aren't as useful for cutting larger loaves of bread, but many reviewers say they still cut smaller loaves well and are more versatile for other tasks.

Knife sets are very popular with people who are stocking their kitchen for the first time, or those who want a variety of knives and prefer that they match. Some experts say these are not a good value because you don't use every knife in the set, but we found plenty of owners who disagree. They say that they do use all the knives and love having a dedicated place to store them as most sets come with a knife block or other storage option. In addition, there are some very high-quality knife sets that would cost far more if you purchased the same knives individually.

Although the best knives will stay sharp for a long time, most will eventually need to be sharpened. If that's something you'd like to take on at home, see our separate report on knife sharpeners. However, if you think that may be above your level of expertise, you can find a local or mail order professional to do the sharpening for you. Most of the manufacturers in this report will sharpen knives for the life of the knife for a nominal fee.

Finding the best knives

Kitchen knives get a decent amount of feedback and, in recent years, several less expensive brands of knives have risen to the top in many expert reviews and professional tests. To find our top choices, we analyzed the results of professional tests from ConsumerReports.org, Cook's Illustrated and Cooking for Engineers. TheSweetHome.com also consults ConsumerReports.org and other experts and reviewers, but in some cases experienced cooks then conduct testing to find the best choice. Polls from sites such as TheKItchn.com and Gizmodo are instructive for the diverse input offered by readers and editors. Last, we examined hundreds of owner reviews from places like Amazon.com, Cooking.com and other relevant retail sites to see how all of these knives perform and persevere in the real world.

Elsewhere in this report:

Best Chef's Knife: Your chef's knife will be your kitchen workhorse, so be sure to get the best. We review steel and ceramic chef's knives as well as santoku chef's knives.

Best Paring Knife: A sharp, well-balanced paring knife is a must for intricate kitchen tasks. These knives will do the jobs that a chef's knife are too big to handle.

Best Serrated Bread Knife: If you're a lover of artisan bread, you'll need a great 10-inch serrated knife; we also discuss shorter, more versatile serrated knives.

Best Knife Set: Knife sets are very convenient and a good value for those who like to own a wide variety of knives. They also come with their own storage. We also take a look at the top steak knife sets.

Buying Guide: Want to avoid buyer's remorse tomorrow morning? Our Buying Guide explains what to look for in the best kitchen knives.

Our Sources: Links to the expert and user reviews we use to select the top kitchen knives, along with our assessment of each reviewer's expertise, credibility and helpfulness.

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