Why buy a chef’s knife?
There are so many reasons. You almost have to test drive one, like a new car, to understand, but we’ll do our best to explain. Firstly, a professional chef’s knife is made to perform in a professional kitchen—but these high-quality knives are available to any of us who cook. They’re sharper than other knives and maintain their edge longer. In fact, they’re easier to control and, therefore, less likely to cause injury.
What should you look for in a chef’s knife?
- Material: Most chef’s knives are stainless steel or high-carbon steel. One isn’t necessarily better than the other. Stainless steel is rust and discoloration-resistant, durable, and easy to sharpen. The chromium content makes the blade softer but easier to sharpen than carbon steel knives. In chef’s knives, high-carbon steel makes a harder blade but requires more maintenance than a stainless steel blade. It helps to add a patina, wash it after cooking with mineral oil, and sharpen it regularly. Look for National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) certified chef’s knives because it shows that the product has passed rigorous sanitation and health safety testing.
- Blade Length: Chef’s knife blades vary from six to 12 inches long, though eight inches are the most common. We assumed length was critical in terms of performance, but it’s more a preference. You may want to consider the size of your hands and the degree of familiarity you have using knives. Some experts recommend buying several knives of different blade lengths for various tasks. Use long-bladed knives for cutting gourds and large melons, any food large in diameter, and large amounts of herbs. Many cooks rely on shorter knives for almost everything else.
- Handle: Perhaps not as critical as a quality blade, the chef’s knife plays a significant role in performance and comfort. You may benefit from an ergonomic handle if you cook preparing large meals. At the very least, consider a nonslip grip handle to increase safety. It’s hard to argue against the superiority of hardwood handles. Choose depending on your aesthetic preferences; most types offer inherent nonslip qualities. They’re more expensive, of course, and require more care than plastic or composite handles. Interestingly, plastic offers the most excellent nonslip quality but is less comfortable. Resin handles provide the best of both wood and plastic.
Which is better: Western-Style Japanese or German chef’s knives?
Also called Western knives, German chef’s knives have double-beveled blades that angle inward on both sides, meeting at the blade’s edge. The blade is curved, a design that helps rock as you mince herbs. German chef’s knives are softer and thicker than Japanese knives and are easier to sharpen. Western Japanese knives are also double-beveled but have thinner, sharper blades. They’re harder than their counterpart and are best for precision. Which is better? It depends on your cooking style. German chef’s knives are the most versatile; they’re more durable and less brittle, so they perform well for most kitchen tasks. If you prefer knives with greater precision for meticulous slicing, the Japanese knife is worth consideration.
imarku Japanese Chef Knife
This sleek Japanese chef's knife features a high-carbon blade and Pakkawood handle.
Pros: The imarku Japanese chef knife has a high-carbon German stainless-steel (0.6-0.75 carbon) 2.3-millimeter-thick blade, approximately twice as hard as similar knives. The blade has been nitrogen cryogenic hardened for extra strength and durability and is rated 56-58 on the Rockwell scale (HRC) for hardness. The max HRC for this steel is 60-63. This multipurpose knife cuts, dice, and slices like the best of them, even meat off bones. The 13-inch knife has an 8-inch blade and a 5-inch handle. The handle is made of Pakkawood, a wood veneer commonly used for knife handles.
Cons: The imarku will not pass most professional cooks’ standards as it doesn’t cleanly cut thick foods like onions and carrots.
Bottom Line: This handsome knife offers a slew of qualities, which makes it a good tool for most home cooks. It’s relatively inexpensive yet made of quality materials.
Mercer Culinary Ultimate White Chef's Knife
This high-carbon Japanese knife has a razor-sharp blade and comes in three sizes at an affordable price.
Pros: This NSF-certified chef’s knife is made with high-carbon Japanese steel for precision performance. With the beveled, razor-edged blade, your burgeoning slicing and dicing skills will take off, allowing you to shop through thick vegetables like squash and meats. The white polypropylene handle features an ergonomic grip with textured finger points for a slip-free experience. Mercer acknowledges that the knife blade will dull and need to be sharpened; honesty we respect.
Cons: Not every cook will like the feel of the textured handle. Also, some say the knife is imbalanced, that the blade is heavier than the handle.
Bottom Line: The Mercer chef’s knife has a strong fanbase. Those who rave about it say that the design and materials are of impressive quality and the price is just right.
Dalstrong Phantom Series Chef Knife
This is an ice-tempered Japanese AUS-8 high-carbon steel knife for those who appreciate excellent precision and mesmerizing beauty.
Pros: Dalstrong’s Japanese-inspired Phantom series is one of many, but perhaps the most fantastical. Etched along one side of the AUS-8 high-carbon steel blade’s spine is the word phantom, written in Japanese kanji. The opposing side features the Dalstrong name. The 13 to 15-degree angled blade has the classic Dalstrong curved design with an ergonomic stately-looking arc below the bolster to give you a tight grip. The Phantom is a full-tang knife forged from one piece of steel from the pommel to the blade. We can’t cover all of the essential qualities of the Phantom, but it’s worth knowing that the steel has a 58+ Rockwell hardness, and the handle is made of olive wood. Last but not least, the knife comes with a polymer Dalstrong PerfectFit sheath for protection.
Cons: The sharp arc may injure the backs of your fingers as you grip the knife. Also, while it’s described as sanitary for a busy kitchen, there’s no indication that the Phantom is NSF-certified.
Bottom Line: When you buy the Dalstrong Phantom chef’s knife, you’re inviting the wizardry of mystical lore into your kitchen. Are you ready for that? We hope so because this knife has the potential to make you the master chef.
ZWILLING Twin Signature Three-Piece German Knife Set
This all-around nice knife set of three is perfect for beginners.
Pros: Let’s start with the astounding history of the ZWILLING brand. They’ve been making knives since 1731 and have years of experience. The German carbon steel razor-sharp blades have 57 Rockwell hardness, indicating superior edge retention. The ice-hardened FRIODUR blade has a stamped construction, which makes it lightweight and its sharpness enduring. This three-piece includes a four-inch paring knife, a six-inch utility knife, and an eight-inch chef’s knife. Each of the knives’ blades is full-tang and features an ergonomic polymer handle for easy-grip food preparation.
Cons: The drawback with a kit or set of most products is that some quality is lost to make the product affordable.
Bottom Line: This three piece-set makes a perfect beginner knife set. With a paring, utility, and chef’s knife, a new cook will have what they need to learn which knife is best for which task. The variety of knives also makes trying a wide range of recipes more accessible.
PAUDIN Chef Knife, 8 Inch High Carbon Stainless Steel Sharp Kitchen Knife with Ergonomic Handle, Gift Box for Family & Restaurant
Pros: Like other well-built chef’s knives, the PAUDIN chef’s knife sports a forged high-carbon German stainless steel blade with 56 Rockwell hardness. The impressive sharpness of the blade is due in part to its beveled 15-degree edge at the 0.25-millimeter blade. Considered a German chef’s knife, the PAUDIN works excellently for various tasks. Use it to cut everything from vegetables and fruits to meat and even bread. It’s good that this knife has a soft Pakkawood ergonomically shaped handle since you’ll be using it as a kitchen knife.
Cons: Pakkawood is cheaper and a lower-quality wood. You may notice the second-rate feel to the handle.
Bottom Line: Take a chance on the PAUDIN chef’s knife to experience its satisfying utility for most kitchen tasks. With its quality craftsmanship, you’ll be cutting like a professional in no time.
Becoming a professional in the kitchen is a process that takes time with trials and wins, so don’t be let down by a dull knife when it comes to food prep. A chef’s knife or a set of them will keep your fingers safe and your meals looking just as good as they taste. Here’s to happy chopping, dicing, and slicing with a chef’s knife.