Whether you're chopping up vegetables for a salad or preparing joint of meat for a Sunday Roast, a simple but effective knife is your best friend when cooking up a storm. For a tool which might seem quite basic, there is a lot of variation within the world of knives, and this article will define these differences in order to find the best knife for you.
Perhaps you're a budding chef looking to take your knife skills to the next level, or maybe you're a beginner and are just learning the basics - whichever end of the spectrum you are, there is a knife out there for you. We've found some of the best Japanese and European kitchen knives available on Amazon from brands such as Wüsthof and Victorinox. Moreover, we have partnered with chef Ryan Yen for reviewing and fact-checking the article to deliver you the best information.
Ryan is a trained chef with experience in several restaurants (with various kitchen supplies across the restaurant experience) and hotels, he also attended le cordon bleu to further his training in cuisine and patisserie and focus on creating simple and delicious dishes. Ryan is now formally working as a chef tutor.
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Table of Contents
Ryan is a trained chef with experience in several restaurants (with various kitchen supplies across the restaurant experience) and hotels.
He also attended le cordon bleu to further his training in cuisine and patisserie and focus on creating simple and delicious dishes. Ryan is now formally working as a chef tutor.
When looking at buying a knife, there are a few terms that you should know. The blade is the sharp part of the knife, and the tip is the end of this blade. To make sure your knife is as effective as possible, it's best to find a sharp edge which runs down the complete length of the blade.
The bolster is the section of the knife that attaches the handle to the blade and is important because this is often a weak point of a knife and can be where they break.
The handle is the part that the user holds and, like the blade, comes in a variety of shapes and materials, all of which will suit different people for different reasons. At the end of the handle, you find the heel, which should fit comfortably in your hand. These are all the terms to look out for that you will find keep popping up in this guide.
Knives come in all shapes and sizes, with different purposes for each, but the most important knife to have in your culinary arsenal is the appropriately-named chef's (or cook's) knife.
This knife is designed to be versatile, whether you're chopping fruit or bones. It has a smooth blade which is usually around 8 inches (20 centimetres) long. Some are a bit shorter, which means you can pick a size that works for both your hand and your experience.
A chef's knife has a blade of varying widths and should be well-balanced and easy to use. A good quality chef's knife can if looked after, last for many years. You don't necessarily need to spend lots of money to find this quality, although it can help, so this guide will have a range of budgets in mind.
In order for a knife to be comfortable to use, it must be well-balanced. This means that the weight is evenly distributed between the blade and the handle, making it much easier to control and cut with precision.
It would be easier to use a slightly bigger knife for more control and precision in cutting. The heaviness depends on the steel used rather than the size itself, the size does not matter too much, but for better precisions, it is recommended to use a bigger knife.
When looking at the blade of a kitchen knife, steel is the go-to material. However, not all steel blades are made equal. To ensure that your blade doesn't weaken or snap, it's best to look for a knife which has been forged from a a single piece of metal. It must be said that this will also be a more expensive route to go down.
The type of steels vary, but if you look for carbon steel, stainless steel or stainless steel alloys, they will all do the job. There is also the choice of a ceramic blade, which is good if you're looking for a light knife, but it does have the pitfall of being a more brittle material.
Talking of ceramics, take a look at our guide to Mortar and Pestles here for the lowdown on the right kitchen crushers and grinders.
The two main styles of chef's knife are European and Japanese, although these days a lot are an amalgamation of the two. Learn the pros and cons of both when shopping for a knife.
The more traditional choice in western cooking has been German and French, but Japanese knives are increasing in popularity. European-style knives tend to have a thicker blade, making them slightly less sharp, but their softer steel does mean they are less likely to break. This style of knife also tends to have more of a curved blade, which some people prefer for a smooth chopping motion.
Japanese knives, on the other hand, have thinner blades and are therefore razor-sharp, great for precise cutting. However, the thinner blade - normally made from harder steel - makes it more prone to breaking. Because of this, they require lots of care and attention. The Japanese style also normally has a straighter blade, which helps with precision, but can mean a less smooth chopping motion.
You may also find a pair of chef's kitchen scissors extremely useful in the kitchen, so do take a look at our guide.
The blade is clearly important, but focus on this part of the knife should not be at the expense of the handle. As the part of the knife that you're going to be holding, it's important that it fits well in your hand. Some handles are more curved, some are smaller and each of these factors will alter the feel of a knife.
Handles can be made from a few different materials, including thermoplastics, rubber or wood. To a level, your choice will come down to personal taste, but there are some practical considerations. Any knife you clean should not be put in the dishwasher. This will lead the knife to lose its shape and sharpness.
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Classic Cook 8 inch
A Well-Crafted Kitchen Knife for Cutting, Chopping, Slicing and Dicing
A Reliable Stainless Steel Knife for Home Cooks
PRO East/West Santoku Knife
Seamless Steel Design for Easy Cleaning and to Prevent Breakage
Infinity Chef Knife
A Large Handle for Chopping With Ease
Four Star Chef's Knife
German Knife With a Corrosion Resistant Ice-Hardened Blade
Genesis Chef's Knife
High-Carbon Steel Chef’s Knife With Non-slip Handle
A Lightweight Knife With a Ceramic Blade
Rosewood Chefs Knife
A Beautiful Rosewood Knife That Will Retain Its Sharpness
This knife's beauty comes in its simplicity. Everything has been thought about, and it has been stripped back to perform perfectly. The bolster, for example, is small so that it is easy to sharpen the whole knife. This also leads to a lighter knife, so cutting, chopping, slicing and dicing can all be fatigue-free.
The blade is a single piece of forged steel, a sign of its quality, and should therefore last a long time if looked after. Classic by name, classic by nature, this knife's stylish look and precise functionality are just what you need to take your cooking up a notch.
Although not the most luxurious or eye-catching knife on this list, this knife is a good all-rounder for an average home cook. Swiss design at a reasonable price? Yes please!
It is relatively light, the polypropylene handle has plenty of texture to prevent slipping, and it's also dishwasher friendly for maximum convenience. The lower price of this knife, which will serve you through the basics and much more, makes it accessible to all.
This knife stands out for its all-in-one look and its ergonomic shaping. The unique handle fits hands perfectly, and looks very stylish. The seamless joining of the handle and the blade also helps with hygiene as there are no challenging gaps to clean.
In the Japanese style, the blade is slightly flatter than other knives on this list, so if you're looking for a blade that is precise and doesn't require too much of a rocking motion, this could be the knife for you.
This knife is ideal for a chef who prefers to feel the heft of a knife. Its weight makes it easy to chop through most things, and the high carbon steel makes it a super strong choice.
As mentioned, this knife is on the heavier side, but it is well-balanced with its chunky handle, so don't be put off just by the weight. It also has a shorter blade, so although it may be a bit heavier, it is still manageable.
This German knife might look simple, but the technology that is used to make it is anything but. It has an ice-hardened blade, making a durable knife that is resistant to corrosion. The one-piece special formula stainless steel helps with this too.
The handle is described as anti-fatigue, allowing you to chop away for hours in comfort. This being said, with such a large amount of strong steel comes added weight. Although well-balanced, this knife's heavier weight might be hard to control for beginners.
This knife is very good value for what it offers. It has all the hallmarks of a dependable knife - a steel blade with good balance - with extra additions such as the grippy material of this knife's handle. It means you can chop away without fear of slipping, even if your hands are wet.
Pretty much the only drawback of this knife, that we could see, is that it is slightly heavier than other options and, as a standard-length chef's knife, it might be quite difficult to wield at first. But with a bit of practice, any budding chef's should be OK.
This knife offers something a bit different. With its black ceramic blade and super-lightweight handle, it would make both a fashionable and practical addition to any kitchen.
As with ceramic blades in general, this knife is very sharp and precise, but it does suffer from being more brittle than its steel equivalents. If you're prepared to put the time into looking after your knife properly, this ceramic blade will definitely go the distance, but if this is not the case it might be worth considering a slightly more durable material.
This knife is great if you are wanting to add a touch of elegance to your kitchen prep. This is a precision made chef's knife, with a beautiful rosewood handle, and a wonderful feel in the hand.
This is about precision and quality but it lands in the mid-range in terms of cost. Made of high carbon stainless steel, the blade is razor sharp and ice-tempered to retain its sharpness for longer.
Written and researched by Emma Cramp
No. 1: Wüsthof | Classic Cook 8 inch
No. 2: Victorinox | Chef's Knife
No. 3: Furi | PRO East/West Santoku Knife
No. 4: Zelite | Infinity Chef Knife
No. 5: Zwilling | Four Star Chef's Knife
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