Every cook should have a great chef's knife. It’s a go-to tool for cutting everything from vegetables to meat and is capable of tackling all your slicing, dicing, chopping, and mincing needs. The right steel knife can feel like an extension of your arm, an all-purpose kitchen tool. With it, you can chop anything. But how do you know which chef's knife is right for you? There are a dizzying array of options, and it can be hard to know where to begin and which brand to buy.
With this in mind, we selected 15 knives from all price points to find their strengths and weaknesses, relying heavily on testing procedures instead of just personal preference. We put them in the hands of a trained chef (yours truly) to test how well each kitchen knife could tackle the most common tasks.
After hours of testing, we came away with some solid recommendations: a high-quality chef’s knife capable of any kitchen task—the winning Zwilling Pro 8" Chef's Knife(available at Zwilling), a slightly more specialized knife for experienced cooks, and a value knife that went edge-to-edge with some of the more expensive knives.
J.A. Henckels is one of the most recognizable names in the knife making industry, so it’s not surprising that this knife rose to the top of our list. The Henckels Zwilling Pro is a serious workhorse, pulling ahead of the pack in nearly every one of our tests and earning the top spot as Best Overall Chef’s Knife.
This high-carbon steel German knife weighs in at 9.5 ounces, making it one of the heftier knives we tested. The weight gave it the strength to handle the heavy-duty tasks we threw at it, cutting through butternut squash with ease. A heavier knife can be less adept at precise cuts, but the Zwilling Pro has a super sharp edge that sliced up a tomato without issue. The design of the wide, tapered bolster made this knife easy to grip and seriously comfortable to use.
Overall, this is a really solid, well-balanced blade with excellent control, allowing you to confidently work through large cuts with precision and comfort. It's a perfect starter knife for beginners and would make a great addition to any pro’s knife collection.
Victorinox Fibrox Pro 8-Inch Chef's Knife (5.2063.20)
While the Victorinox 8-inch Fibrox Pro didn’t feel as sturdy as some of the other knives, it made up for it by acing most of our tests. The knife got a little stuck when cutting through tough butternut squash, but otherwise had great control with rocking, chopping, and slicing. It stood edge-to-edge on sharpness with some of the more expensive knives. It stays sharp, too.
The blade is stamped from Swiss stainless steel and doesn’t feature a full tang, meaning that the blade is simply connected to the synthetic plastic handle. The knife itself appears cheap and flimsy but don’t let looks fool you; it's well balanced and comfortable to use.
Amazon reviewers seemed to agree—the Victorinox has over 5,000 reviews with a 4.8-star rating. With a lightweight feel (6.5 ounces) and razor sharp blade, this knife may not be built to last a lifetime—but at this price point, it doesn’t have to. That makes it our pick for Best Value.
Mac Professional Series 8" Chef's Knife With Dimples (MTH-80)
You may have heard of Japanese knife makers like Shun and Global, but MAC knives fly under the radar for Japanese hybrid-style chef’s knives. These hybrid knives take hard Japanese steel and forge them to be all-purpose like traditional Western chef’s knives, sharpening both sides of the blade.
The MAC Professional Hollow Edge Chef’s Knife was easily my favorite knife throughout the tests. It aced every single test that we threw at it, with a super-sharp edge that made a beautiful chiffonade of basil. I thought this lighter knife would struggle to tackle the heavy-duty tasks, but it sliced through butternut squash like it was a soft stick of butter.
The super-thin, high-carbon steel blade is dimpled to help it glide easily through sticky foods like squash and cheese. In addition to sharpness and strength, it had the best control of all the knives, even when rocked to mince garlic.
With a wicked sharp blade, this MAC blade is ideal for experienced cooks. The knife would be a great addition to anyone’s knife bag, but we feel that beginners may benefit more from the sturdiness that comes from traditional, German knives.
Hi, I’m Lindsay Mattison, a trained professional chef. I tend to use a chef's knife for most of my cutting tasks, as they last a lifetime if you take good care of them. They're also the perfect tool for cutting a large steak or prepping vegetables due to their straight, rigid blades. If you're working with a flexible budget and don't mind the maintenance, a chef's knife really is really an essential part of the kitchen.
A good chef’s knife should be able to tackle the majority of your knife work in the kitchen, so it needs to be well-rounded and capable of handling almost any task you can throw at it. We tested each knife on three major criteria: sharpness, strength, and control.
A dull knife is a dangerous knife! When your knife isn’t sharp, it’s more likely to bounce off food than cut through it, which could result in serious injury. To test sharpness, we put each knife to the precision work test: If it could get through tomato skin without snagging and cut basil without bruising the delicate herb, we deemed it sharp enough.
We tested each knife on three major criteria: sharpness, strength, and control.
We tested strength by throwing heavy duty ingredients at each blade, seeing if it could get through butternut squash’s hard exterior without sticking and slice a large block of cheddar cheese without crumbling or tilting.
Finally, we tested overall control by monitoring how the knife felt as we tackled each ingredient, assessing how the knife’s weight and balance felt in our hand. We paid attention to comfort additions like beveled bolsters and curved handles and measured how the knife tackled chopping versus rocking motions.
Chef knives are usually made of either stainless steel or carbon steel. There's actually quite a big difference between the two. Carbon steel knives cut better, but they're more fragile and prone to rust. Stainless steel knives, on the other hand, are made of softer steel and easier to maintain.
One of the major things to consider is whether or you want to keep up with regular maintenance. If you're willing to sharpen your chef knife a few times a year, you're going to have a product that'll last you a lifetime. If you're not comfortable sharpening your own knife, you can always bring it to a professional.
The one thing you should never do with a chef's knife is put it in your dishwasher. The high water pressure and detergent will absolutely ruin your knife by dulling the edge and messing up the handle. That's why you should only wash it by hand.
Other Chef Knives We Tested
Wüsthof Classic Ikon 8" Cook's Knife (4596/20)
The Wusthof Classic Ikon came in a close second for our Best Overall winner. This is a sharp knife that performed well on most tasks, taking down heavy-duty items with no problems but struggling ever-so-slightly on precision work like tackling tomato skin without snagging and thinly slicing radishes.
I liked the contoured handle for the comfort of its slightly curved design, but the handle is slightly longer than the other knives we tested, which tips its balance and makes the knife harder to control than the competition.
This is in the top two most expensive knives we tested, and while it’s a great overall performer, it didn't quite measure up to the Zwilling.
Shun knives are beautiful and sharp. If your sole purpose is to impress your friends, buy this knife without hesitation! It blazed through many of the tests without a problem, especially the tasks that required thin slices and precision work. However, the same extra-wide, curved blade that helped it perform so well in slicing tests caused it to struggle a bit while mincing the oddly-shaped garlic clove.
One major drawback to the design is that the handle is offset further than the other knives we tested. This makes the blade feel closer to a 10-inch knife than an 8-inch one, affecting the balance and level of control we felt when yielding this knife.
Also worth noting: while this razor sharp, super-thin, lightweight knife is perfect for precision cuts, these thin blades do have a reputation for chipping easily.
I was surprised by how much I liked this knife. Mercer Culinary is best known as the suppliers of culinary school knife kits. I remember disliking this knife when I was in culinary school, but during testing it actually outdid many of the more expensive and flashy knives on the list.
It performed admirably across all testing categories and I dubbed it with the name of Squash Obliterator, as it outperformed every other knife when it came to easily carving up butternut squash. However, this is not a delicate knife, and its weight and balance prevent it from making super thin slices.
Overall, this is a decently sharp knife with great strength and adequate control, although it did dull more quickly than the comparably-priced Victorinox.
Misono has gained popularity over the past few years by making Japanese hybrid-style chef’s knives using Swedish steel. This makes these knives stronger than the average Japanese knife—but with the same super-sharp blade designed to maintain its edge for a long time. Although it was one of the lightest knives we tested (a mere 5.6 ounces), the Misono was great at performing heavy-duty tasks. It was adept at slicing and rocked well, but it took a while for us to get used to the center of control on this knife The blade itself is skinnier than most of the knives we tested, changing the knife’s balance point and the feel of the grip.
The Global 8-inch Chef’s Knife was the lightest knife we tested, weighing in at 5.5 ounces. This super-light knife had a beautiful, sleek look. While it had great balance and control and was sharp enough to perform well on precision tasks, it struggled with heavy-duty tasks because it simply was not heavy enough to accomplish them. After extended periods of use, the metal handle became slippery and greasy in our hands.
Zwilling J.A. Henckels Four Star 8" Chef's Knife (31071-203)
Zwilling J.A. Henckels Four Star Classic has had the same design for the last 40 years. It's one of most lightweight German steel knives we tested, performing well on all of the tests. Its weight and balance made it easy to control when tackling both heavy-duty and precision tasks, and it was especially well-suited for dicing onions. The major drawback of this knife is the synthetic plastic handle, which became sweaty with extended use and made me feel like I had some residue left on my hands.
I am infinitely familiar with this knife: As a chef, I have purchased many of these to use as “house knives” in professional kitchens. The Wusthof Pro is a lightweight knife with a stamped German steel blade and synthetic plastic handle. The handle heavily chokes up on the blade, forcing you to grip the knife mostly by the handle instead of utilizing a blade grip position. It performed well on most of our tests, struggling a little with the squash, but the sharp out-of-the-box edge quickly dulls with use. This knife will require constant sharpening if you want to keep it sharp enough to slice tomatoes.
The Wusthof Grand Prix II is almost as heavy as the Classic Ikon but it lacks the balance of the Classic Ikon to give it the right amount of control. The polypropylene handle is comfortable even after extended use, and the tapered handle tackles rocking tasks such as mincing garlic with ease. The blade wasn’t as sharp as the other knives we tested, and—despite its significant heft—didn’t tackle the heavy duty tasks with as much ease.
While the Tojiro DP Gyutou 8.2-inch knife wasn’t the worst knife on the list, it also didn't measure up to the other Japanese hybrid knives we tested. It was as lightweight as the MAC knife, but lacked the strength to make it through heavy-duty items, sticking in the squash and only going through with concerted effort. While it was sharp enough to cut paper, it made jagged slices of tomatoes and bruised the delicate basil. The blade itself was skinnier than most of the knives we tested, positioning my fingers closer to the blade than I wanted, and it lacked the finer control that a wider blade offers.
There is no denying that the Dalstrong Gladiator Series knife wins for presentation: besides the sleek look of the large blade and beautiful pakkawood handle, the knife comes in an impressive box with a hard plastic blade cover, a polishing cloth, and a keychain (I’m not sure what I’m going to do with that!). Unfortunately, the knife is too heavy at 10.5 ounces, lacks control, has an uncomfortable grip, and is sharper towards the handle and duller towards the tip. It struggled on all of the tests and wasn’t sharp enough to make it through the tomato test.
J.A. Henckels International Classic 8" Chef's Knife (31161-201)
I usually love J.A. Henckels knives, but unfortunately, this knife missed the mark. Made with Spanish steel instead of the traditional German steel, this knife wasn’t strong or sharp enough. It failed to be impressive in any category. While the knife is available at a value price, there are better knives at the same price point that feature sharper blades, stronger steel, and more control.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.