Almost every recipe starts with your ingredients and an invaluable tool: a chef's knife. Ask any professional chef or home cook, and they'll tell you that a good sharp knife is one of the most important kitchen utensils. But sharpness isn't the only thing you'll want to look for when shopping for chef knives. Knife shopping can actually be a pretty personal thing — it's a tool you'll use just about every day in the kitchen — so it's important to look for features that make it comfortable to use and able to handle all the recipes in your repertoire.
Think about comfort first. If you do plenty of chopping, mincing and dicing, you'll want a knife with an ergonomic handle that doesn't make your hand cramped and fatigued. Length is equally important — 8 inches is ideal for most people (and most cutting tasks), but it's best to size down an inch or two if you have smaller hands. What you cook is important to consider, too; heavier, thicker steel knives are best (and the most durable option) if you cook meat often and might encounter bones. And carbon knives stay sharper longer, which is convenient if you don't mind carefully cleaning them.
Ready to shop for this fundamental kitchen tool? These are 10 of the top options to suit a variety of needs.
Best Overall: Cuisinart 15-Piece Stainless Steel Hollow Handle Block Set
If you're looking for a good all-around set of kitchen knives, you can't go wrong with the Cuisinart 15-Piece Stainless Steel Hollow Handle Block Set. Made from high carbon stainless steel, the set comes with 13 knives, a pair of kitchen shears, and a sturdy block to help keep them organized. Customers claim they cut well and last a long time when taken care of.
Best Value: Home Hero 7-Piece Stainless Steel Cutlery Knives
If you're looking for an even better deal, the Home Hero 7-Piece Stainless Steel Cutlery Knives are typically found for less than $30, but when you use them, you'll assume they cost much more. The set includes a chef knife, paring knife, bread knife, carving knife, and utility knife, and the stand includes a built-in sharpener.
Best Novelty Knives: The Sports Vault NFL 5-Piece Kitchen Knife Set
The Sports Vault NFL 5-Piece Kitchen Knife Set isn't your average set of kitchen knives, but it is a fun way for NFL fans to show off their favorite team spirit. Whether preparing for a tailgate or using them to make dinner on game day, customers report that they're sharp and get the job done. They also make a unique gift for sports fans.
Best Steak Knives: Bellemain Premium Steak Knives
You'll have a difficult time finding someone who has something bad to say about Bellemain Premium Steak Knives. Available in sets of four, these knives are popular with customers because they're extremely sharp and because they look good too. They also report that they're easy to grip, are dishwasher safe, and they cut through any type of meat.
Best Paring Knives: Rada Cutlery Paring Knife Set
The Rada Cutlery Paring Knife Set includes three knives: a regular paring knife, peeling knife, and heavy-duty paring knife. Customers report that they have super sharp blades yet soft handles that make them easy to grip and use. The knives are all attractive, so they make a nice gift, and they're dishwasher safe.
Best Carving Knife: Wusthof Classic Two Piece Carving Set
Don't celebrate your next Thanksgiving or any holiday without a high-quality carving knife like the one that comes in the Wusthof Classic Two Piece Carving Set. While it may cost a little more than your average knife, customers say it's worth the investment. They claim it "glides" through any type of meat without much effort and with great precision. The set also makes a nice gift.
Best Bread Knife: 10-Inch Imarku Pro Serrated Bread Knife
The 10-Inch Imarku Pro Serrated Bread Knife doesn't just work well on bread. It's an excellent choice for cakes, sandwiches, fruits and much more. It even carves poultry well. At 10 inches and made from German stainless steel, the knife is impressive-looking, but users report that it's as useful as it is beautiful. It's also lightweight and long-lasting.
Best Boning Knife: Dexter-Russell S131F-6PCP Boning Knife
Deboning meat, poultry and fish isn't the most glamorous kitchen activity, but the Dexter-Russell S131F-6PCP Boning Knife helps make it a little easier. Not only is it sharp and easy to use, but the handle is sealed to keep out any bacteria from raw meat. Customers report that it's easy to sharpen when it becomes a little dull, and it doesn't slip when you use it.
Best Electric Knife: Hamilton Beach Electric Knife
The Hamilton Beach Electric Knife is a great product for doing everything from slicing bread to carving turkeys. It requires little effort to use — press the trigger and hold it straight while it does the rest. Customers report that it makes home-cooked food look like something served in a restaurant, and they love the low price.