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Best Chef's Knife

By: Kelly Burgess on November 10, 2017

A chef's knife is a kitchen must-have

The right chef's knife will be your kitchen workhorse. The best will cut easily through poultry joints and thick-skinned items like squash, yet cleanly and evenly slice and dice more delicate foods like tomatoes and onions without turning them to mush or leaving ragged edges. Experts say you really only need three knives in your kitchen: a chef's knife, a paring knife and a serrated bread knife. See our suggestions for the latter two elsewhere in this report. For those who would like the versatility and handy storage options of a knife set, those, too, are discussed elsewhere in this report.

It was close, very close, among top chef's knives, but if you are serious about cooking and want a knife that will go the distance, experts say you need the Mac MTH-80 (Est. $150). Yes, it's a bit pricey, but, in the words of Sarah DiGregorio at Food & Wine, "If I could only have one knife, I would definitely choose this one."

In addition to being DiGregorio's go-to knife, the Mac MTH-80 is the top pick at Wirecutter, where, in testing, it performed equally well cutting through thick squashes and chopping -- without crushing -- delicate basil. Testers there also found it comfortable to hold, heavy enough to be effective, but balanced enough to be comfortable and maneuverable. The MTH-90 is a Japanese knife, but experts agree it feels more like a heftier German knife in use.

At Reviews.com, editors note that the Mac MTH-80 is a great choice for either beginner or professional cooks, saying it offers, "clean cuts without requiring perfect form." In testing there, it also performed very well across a wide variety of kitchen prep tasks. Testers praise it's balance too, "It feels comfortable for both large and small hands, and its medium-weight balance means it's neither too light nor too heavy."

In addition to its well-balanced heft, the Mac's stamped blade is made from a carbon steel alloy that is hard, but flexible. It's sharp out of the box and stays that way longer than most other knives. It's also easy to hone and sharpen. The beveled edge and dimples help to keep starchy foods from sticking as you slice -- something that can slow down food prep, although testers at Wirecutter didn't think it made much difference.

Owners agree with the experts and make the Mac MTH-80 one of the highest-rated chef's knives there. Most say the Mac performs any task beautifully, and maintains its sharpness well, but is easy to sharpen when that's needed. Most also praise how versatile it is for just about anything you might need to do food prep-wise.

As we said, finding the best chef's knife was a close call and either of our runners up -- the Wusthof Classic 8-Inch Chef's Knife (Est. $100), or the Global G-2 8inch Chef's Knife (Est. $100) -- would also be a worthy addition to your kitchen -- and both come in at a slightly lower price point.

The Wusthof Classic is a German knife, heavier than the Mac MTH-80 at 9.28 ounces to the Mac's 6.5 ounces, but that heft makes it more suitable for some tasks, experts note, such as cutting up a chicken and cubing squash. It's the top choice at both Wirecutter and Food & Wine for those who need a knife for heavier-duty kitchen prep work, or just because they prefer a heftier chef's knife.

At Amazon the Wusthof is even more popular with owners than the Mac, with users saying it's sharp and sturdy. It's durable too, with many noting that they've owned this knife for a decade or more. The only thing that keeps this knife out of our top spot is that the Mac is a top pick with more experts, who agree that it's a better choice for the widest range of experience levels. This is primarily because the softer steel of the Wusthof needs sharpening more frequently, and the knife itself is not as versatile as the Mac. However, unlike the Mac which comes only in an 8-inch blade size, the Wusthof is also available in 4.5-, 6-, 7-, 9-, 10-, and 12-inch blade sizes.

The Global G-2 8inch Chef's Knife has been a staple in this report for years, it was even the Best Reviewed chef's knife once upon a time, and it's still a darn good knife. It gets some gripes from users for its smaller, tapered handle, which some -- particularly men -- complain is too small for their hands and hence not comfortable for long cooking sessions.

However, in cutting performance, the Global G-2 gets absolute top rankings in professional tests and from owners. Reports say it cuts through carrots and potatoes effortlessly, yet cleanly makes thin slices through tomatoes and onions. The edge retains sharpness very well and for long periods, and it's said to be very easy to hone and sharpen. It's also an absolutely beautiful knife with its one-piece, stainless steel construction.

At Food & Wine, DiGregorio says the G-2 was the first knife she ever owned and she says it stands the test of time. At 5.89 ounces, it's lighter than either the Wusthof or the Mac, a plus if you prefer a lighter knife, although she also notes (and other reviewers agree), that this knife is not the best choice for heavy tasks.

These cheap knives are a cut above

For quality, performance and price, you can't beat the Victorinox Fibrox 8-Inch Chef's Knife (Est. $45). It performs as well or better in professional tests as much pricier chef's knives, but at a price that's less than dinner for one at a nice restaurant. Victorinox has made and supplied knives to the Swiss army since the late 1800's, and, as many reviewers point out, it's a company that knows knives.

The blade of the Victorinox Fibrox is made from rust-resistant, high carbon steel sharpened to 15 degrees, which results in a very thin, very sharp edge. It's reported as easy to keep honed, and to re-sharpen as well. The handle is made of the proprietary "Fibrox," which reviewers describe as a rubbery, grippy texture that is easy to hold securely. The handle shape gets particular praise for comfort, with reviewers saying it just works for almost everyone in spite of its lack of a specific ergonomic design -- a feature that professionals say often backfires on other knives because it limits the fit. However, plenty of experts hate the handle, saying it makes the knife feel cheap and plastic-y.

Still, plenty of others love this knife. At one professional test kitchen the Victorinox Fibrox is still the top pick after an astounding 20 years of testing. There, it slides through tough-skinned squash and easily butchers chickens with a minimum of effort on the cook's part. On the more delicate side, it evenly slices tomatoes and dices onions without crushing. The Victorinox is also a runner up pick as a starter knife and best value knife, respectively, at Reviews.com and Cooking for Engineers.

Quite a few professional chefs weigh in on the Victorinox Fibrox at Amazon, saying that this is the knife they use both at home and at work because it performs as well as pricier knives, but they don't have to worry about losing it, leaving it lying around, or beating the heck out of it since it can be so easily and cheaply replaced. Victorinox is dishwasher safe, although most reviewers don't recommend putting knives in the dishwasher as it can affect their performance. A few again point to the low price, saying they like the convenience of tossing it in the dishwasher even if they have to replace it every year.

It's a bit pricier than the Victorinox, but the J.A. Henckels International Classic 8" Chef's Knife (Est. $50) is also a popular choice in this category. DiGregorio compares it favorably to the Wusthof Classic 8-Inch Chef's Knife in her review and at Epicurious Matt Duckor makes it his top pick after testing it against the Wusthof -- his favorite knife. Both are German knives, so are heftier and possibly better suited to heavier tasks.

The J.A. Henckels 8" Chef's Knife is very popular with owners, who says they're thrilled to own a German knife at such a reasonable price. Of course, like all German knives, which are made from slightly softer metals, it doesn't hold its edge as long as some other knives so must be sharpened more frequently. We saw some complaints about that, but also noticed that there were people who complained about the knife going dull quite quickly, but didn't seem to realize that you needed to sharpen it. Those who understand about what a good knife requires, maintenance-wise, are very happy with the J.A. Henckels' performance and value

Ceramic knives are lightweight and keep their edge

Ceramic knives aren't as commonplace in kitchens as metal knives, partly because they have more limited applications. On the plus side, ceramic knives are very lightweight -- one professional housewares tester describes them as "fun" to use. They also stay sharp longer than many steel knives -- which is good because they're not as easy to sharpen as steel knives.

 In addition to being lighter, they are more brittle than steel knives, which makes them unsuitable for heavy work, like cutting up chickens, or for crushing seeds or garlic (as cooks often do with the side of a chef's knife). If it's dropped, a ceramic knife could break, and you need to be sure to only use a soft cutting board to avoid nicking the blade. However, for people who cut up a lot of fruits or vegetables, ceramic knives excel and are highly praised by reviewers for their performance and for keeping fatigue at bay during long cooking sessions.

The Kyocera Revolution Series 7-Inch Professional Chef's Knife (Est. $75) is one ceramic knife that earns kudos from experts and owners alike for its super sharp blade and easy-to-use design. Testers at Chow Hound say the Kyocera "does an amazing job of peeling and slicing vegetables." Owners love that it's so lightweight that they can chop and peel veggies for hours without wearing out their wrists. However, for some cooks that's a con, and they prefer the heft of a steel blade, saying the ceramic Kyocera feels too flimsy.

Kyocera ceramic knives stay sharp for a long time, owners say, and Kyocera offers a free, lifetime sharpening program, though a nominal shipping fee does apply. The company does not recommend sharpening ceramic knives at home. We read a few comments from cooking enthusiasts who say they use their Kyocera knives heavily and they stay very sharp for about a year, then they just buy new ones. Kyocera ceramic knives come with a lifetime warranty, and the company gets excellent reviews for customer service.

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