The Best Chef’s Knife This Year (Highly Recommended List)

    Last Updated on October 15, 2020
    Dalstrong Phantom Series

    Our Top Choice...

    Key Features

    • Masterfully elegant, perfectly balanced and razor sharp
    • Beautifully designed
    • With  traditional Japanese D-shaped handle
    • Full tang for incredible robustness and quality
    • Dalstrong Trust: Rocksolid 100% SATISFACTION OR MONEY BACK GUARANTEE

    Kitchen cutlery

    A chef’s knife is every cook’s best friend, and for most people should be their most used kitchen utensil. Befitting that, you want to get the best possible blade you can afford a lot of the time.
     
    So what makes a blade worth your money? Well, let’s take a look at some common features that go into high end chef’s knives, and some of the knives on the market that best apply those principles.
     
     
     

    For the complete product list, please continue reading...


    Top 9 Best Chef Knives (2020 Reviews)

    Pros

    Great quality steel
    Great subdued and class look
    Very fair price for the quality
    Comfortable pakkawood handle
    Lightweight and easy to maneuver

    Cons

    May struggle with hard chopping tasks

    Specifications:

    • Materials: German high carbon stainless steel (blade), pakkawood (handle)
    • Blade length: 8”
    • Blade angle: 13 to 15 degrees
    • Rockwell hardness: 58+
    • Dimensions: 13.15” x 1.93” x .1”
    • Total weight: 6.6 ounces

    Dalstrong makes some excellent knives, though most are in the European style. This Japanese style chef’s knife (characterized by its slimmer, leaner profile and lighter overall weight) is a bit different than their usual, though no less high quality.

    The steel used is excellent, and overall perfect for most purposes around the kitchen, leaning a bit more towards slicing than chopping uses, with a more rounded edge and sharper tip.

    The knife is perfect for the midrange price it commands, splitting the difference between immensely high quality or luxury knives, and the cheaper serviceable but ultimately lower quality knife that most people think of when talking about a chef’s knife.

    This is kind of the average knife in a lot of ways. Good steel but not the best, long but not exceptionally so, nice looking but not decorative, and pricey but not overly expensive. Ultimately that’s why it just barely edges out the best spot. Not because it’s necessarily the highest quality knife here, but because it’s the best and most expensive I would expect the average person to be comfortable buying. Unless you’re a professional chef or just really love knives, this is the best you’ll probably feel a need to get.


    Pros

    Exceptional blade design good for all purpose use
    Better for slicing and delicate tip work than a standard European chef’s knife
    Comfortable in the hand, with an ergonomic handle and lightweight feel
    High grade steel
    Luxury handle materials

    Cons

    A bit pricey
    Specialized for more delicate work and shouldn’t be used for heavy duty stuff
    Tacky faux Damascus etching mars what would be an otherwise elegant and refined looking knife

    Specifications:

    • Materials: Japanese 67 layer steel (blade), ebony wood with a buffalo horn bolster (handle)
    • Blade length: 8”
    • Blade angle: presumed 16 degrees
    • Dimensions: 16.1” x 3.7” x 1.4”
    • Total weight: 1.1 ounces

    This is an excellent quality knife, though the shape and use might take a bit of getting used to.

    A kiritsuke knife is sort of like a hybrid shape between two other Japanese knives; one used for vegetable chopping and the other for filleting and thin slicing for sushi. This knife marries the two purposes perfectly with a rounded, sharp bottom that allows a protruded sharp point to come off it.

    Not only does this create a striking and beautiful blade profile (actually marred, in my opinion, by the tacky Damascus etching) it allows this to be an excellent all purpose knife that, once you get used to it, can offer performance in many areas well beyond what your standard European style chef’s knife could offer, though with a little less raw heft and cutting power (Japanese blades universally have a more slender cross section than other knives).

    If you find yourself doing a lot of slicing work or using the point of your knife for various purposes (besides the obvious fileting use, it’s good for digging seeds and pits out of vegetables and fruits) this could be a good one to pick up.

    Just keep in mind the price. This is a high end knife made of good steel, and with some luxury materials used (ebony and buffalo horn for the handle), so it’s a bit on the pricier side, though nothing too exorbitant.


    Pros

    Exceptionally sharp blade
    Easy to maintain
    Grooves help prevent sticking
    Excellent edge retention
    Great shape on the blade

    Cons

    Ludicrously angular handle is uncomfortable in the hand

    Specifications:

    • Materials: BD1N VX hyper-steel steel (blade), G10 carbon fiber hybrid (handle)
    • Blade length: 8.5”
    • Blade angle: 8 to 12 degrees
    • Rockwell hardness: 56
    • Dimensions: 17.09” x 4.72” x 1.77”
    • Total weight: 2 lbs.

    This was a strong contender for winner, but eventually lost out to Dalstrong’s Phantom because of its looks. That sounds a bit petty, but the looks contribute a bit to its comfort as well.

    This is a very SHEER blade. A whole lot of engineering went into contributing to this knife’s angular look. Unfortunately I think it was a bit over engineered. The handle isn’t completely uncomfortable, but is significantly less so than I’d expect from a knife of this price and quality.

    The blade is quite good, with a strong hardness and best in class edge retention, with nice little grooves cut into them that make its cutting a bit smoother, especially for stickier things.

    Overall, it’s an excellent knife if you can get over the ugliness and its relatively uncomfortable handle.


    Pros

    Excellent thick blade increases cutting force and knuckle clearance
    Holds a great edge
    Comfortable and sturdy pakkawood handle
    Easy to hold
    Very good price for the quality
    High quality carbon steel

    Cons

    Depending on your taste, it might be shorter than your optimal preference

    Specifications:

    • Materials: German high carbon steel (blade), pakkawood (handle)
    • Blade length: 8”
    • Blade angle: 14 to 16 degrees
    • Rockwell hardness: 56+
    • Dimensions: 16.93” x 4.06” x 1.42”
    • Total weight: 8 ounces

    This is an excellent, reliable chef’s knife, standing at 8 inches long and boasting a thick blade.

    The design of it is great, being the perfect middle ground between a shorter chef’s knife and one of the in my opinion unwieldy 10 or 12 inch options. The thick blade gives it a lot of heft and cutting power, making it easy to power through those thicker, tougher vegetables, while also increasing knuckle clearance.

    The blade is also of impeccable quality, a high carbon steel that’s durable and holds a great edge, with one of the highest hardness ratings (56+ on the Rockwell scale) you can find in a commercially available knife.

    The handle is made of a comfortable and well shaped pakkawood, with a sleek and modern design that looks nice in an understated way.

    This is just all around an impeccably made knife, and would be a worthy addition to the collection of any home cooking enthusiast just getting started. It has what I’d consider an “entry level” price point, being very low for a knife of such quality, and despite the relative lack of expense is the kind of knife I could easily see someone using for decades.


    Pros

    Good high carbon stainless steel construction
    Strong G10 resin handle
    Looks nice
    Comfortable in the hand
    Very cheap price; good for beginners

    Cons

    Inconsistent manufacturing produces variable hardness

    Specifications:

    • Materials: German high carbon stainless steel (blade), G10 resin (handle)
    • Blade length: 8”
    • Rockwell hardness: 54 to 58 (56 on average)
    • Dimensions: 14.96” x 3.35” x 1.38”
    • Total weight: 1.15 lbs.

    This is a good budget chef’s knife from Vestaware. It comes in at quite a cheap price, and makes a great starting kitchen knife for beginners that need something reliable, but not too expensive; a good carbon steel knife can be a bit brittle and easy to break or chip by accident if you don’t know how to handle them properly yet.

    The handle here adds to that forgiving nature, being made of G10, a very durable and impact resistant epoxy laminate.

    The material is good enough, a high carbon stainless steel. This gives it good durability and the rust resistance common to stainless steels, while still holding a better edge than standard stainless steels. It won’t be as good as a high carbon steel without the chromium content, but it’s more than serviceable and likely to be a cut above (no pun intended) the standard stainless steels many might be used to.

    The main issue with this is inconsistency in hardness. The average hardness here is 56 on the Rockwell scale, but the manufacturing makes this fluctuate between 54 and 58, roughly. All of these are decent levels of hardness, but especially at the low end of that scale you can chip a blade a lot easier than you might expect.


    Pros

    Comfortable handle
    Good quality high carbon stainless steel
    Long blade length for extra heft and cutting power
    Great pakkawood handle
    Looks very nice
    Very low price for the quality

    Cons

    Long blade length can make it a little unwieldy for those not used to it

    Specifications:

    • Materials: German high carbon stainless steel (blade), pakkawood (handle)
    • Blade length: 10”
    • Blade angle: 12 to 15 degrees
    • Dimensions: 14.96” x 3.35” x 1.38”
    • Total weight: 1.15 lbs

    TUO provides an excellent option for those that like a longer chef’s knife, clocking in at 10 inches. The extra length of course gives it added weight, and therefore more cutting power than a shorter blade.

    This is great for people who like that sort of added heft, but potentially it can feel unwieldy and hard to use, especially if you’re cutting smaller things more often.

    Personally, I prefer greater control over increased cutting force. You can always bear down on a smaller knife to give it more force, but it’s harder to choke up on a larger knife to get more control, which might make it harder to do fine chopping and mincing.

    Still, it does also make it easier to chop through tendons on a chicken or something, so there’s tradeoffs everywhere.

    It’s a high carbon stainless steel, which brings down price and makes it friendlier to more neglectful users, something welcome for a low to midrange knife like this. It’s also quite pretty, with the nice red patterned pakkawood making a striking appearance in a knife block or sheath.

    This is a great cheaper option to pick up if you want something that looks great and back sit up with solid performance.


    Pros

    Very light in the hand
    Easy to control for fine manipulation
    Top quality VG-Max stainless steel
    Takes an extremely sharp edge and holds it well

    Cons

    Can be a bit brittle
    Very expensive

    Specifications:

    • Materials: Japanese VG-Max steel (blade), pakkawood (handle)
    • Blade length: 6”
    • Blade angle: 16 degrees
    • Rockwell hardness: 60 to 61
    • Dimensions: 16.93” x 4.06” x 1.42”
    • Total weight: 8 ounces

    Japanese blades are typically a bit slimmer and sharper than European style knives, and this is no exception. It’s also quite short, at only 6 inches long; 2 inches shorter than the average for this list.

    This makes it a nimble, efficient cutting tool that can glide through stuff like butter, enabling precise cuts with minimum effort, though it struggles at a lot of the more brute force cutting jobs you might want to work with around the kitchen. Cutting fruits like mangoes, carrots, apples, and the like won’t be a problem.

    That makes this one a bit of an iffy recommendation. Not that it’s bad, by any means (in terms of design, looks, and pure steel quality this is one of the best knives on this list by a good margin), but the combination of its expense, being a true high end chef’s knife with the appropriate price point to go with, and the somewhat limited use makes it best used as a backup knife for a lot of purposes; it excels at filleting and mincing, among other things, but unlike some chef’s knives it cannot be “the only knife you’ll ever need”; you’ll want a good cleaver or larger, heftier chef’s knife to keep around for those less delicate tasks.

    But the VG-Max steel on display here is the real selling point, and what should be the final determiner for whether you want to buy this knife. It’s an incredibly good steel, and more than earns the high price point it commands. Just don’t be fooled by the “Damazcus” designation. This is not Damascus steel, not matter what patters and etched into the blade.


    Pros

    Offers a great middle of the road approach between the two major blade styles, letting you learn what you like best
    Good quality steel
    Comfortable ergonomic pakkawood handle
    Fairly solid hardness and good blade angle
    Great price
    Holds a good edge

    Cons

    Middle of the road approach will not be as good for people who do already know what they want or need

    Specifications:

    • Materials: German high carbon stainless steel (blade), pakkawood (handle)
    • Blade length: 8”
    • Blade angle: 14 to 16 degrees
    • Rockwell hardness: 56+
    • Dimensions: 14,76” x 5.12” x 2.08
    • Total weight: 1.43 lbs.

    This is an interesting one. It’s somewhere between a European style blade and a Japanese one, in terms of blade thickness and handling. That makes this an exceptionally reliable blade for a lot of purposes. While it lacks the specialized strengths of the two styles, exceptional chopping power for the Euro style and smooth slicing ability of the razor sharp Japanese blades, it also lacks relative weaknesses of the two styles in their opposites.

    This is a beautifully made all purpose blade that you should consider picking up, especially as your first choice of knife when you’re trying to figure out what you need. If it works for you, perfect, but it’s also a great shape and size to tell you if you need something more specialized in a different arena.

    It’s on the fairly low end of the price scale, so you won’t be out too much if you decide it doesn’t do something you really need.

    Plus it comes with an included knife sharpener to keep it in shape, which is always nice.


    Pros

    Extra long and thick blade
    Reliable all around design
    Exceptional blade quality and hardness
    Holds and retains a keen edge
    Great quality handle material
    Very comfortable

    Cons

    Extraordinarily expensive; about 4 times the cost of the next most expensive knife

    Specifications:

    • Materials: 52100 straight carbon steel (blade), grenadille wood(handle)
    • Blade length: 10”
    • Rockwell hardness: 62 to 66
    • Dimensions: 17” x 5” x 2”
    • Total weight: 1.85 lbs.

    This is a very interesting knife design from ZWILLING. You don’t often see one with a fully curved profile like this, from the handle to the tip of the blade. It’s almost reminiscent of a kukri blade, and serves much the same role in the kitchen; an excellent all rounder knife that can perform any task you throw at it, and take a whole lot of punishment.

    The blade is straight carbon steel, giving it incredible hardness and the ability to hold an insane edge, but also means this one is going to require a lot of tender love and care to keep in perfect working order.

    It’s also extremely expensive, as you might expect from a fully carbon steel blade handcrafted by a master smith. This is not your average knife, and honestly the price is not worth it for most people, which is why it sits so low on the list. It’s not technically overpriced, given the quality of the final product and labor required, but it may be hard to justify for most.


    Final Verdict

    Dalstrong Phantom Series

    Picking out the best chef’s knife is hard in an objective sense past a  certain point. It all comes down to your budget, enthusiasm, and needs.

    Rather than pinning down singular winners, I’ll say Dalstrong is the overall winner here, with a good blade for pretty much everybody. They have lighter blades, heavier blades, and blades in both major styles, all with high quality. The other options here are good, especially Katsu’s kiritsuke knife, but most are more limited than the Dalstrong blades mentioned.


    How Do I Choose the Best One For Me?

    The main determining factor of a good knife is its blade, which pretty much comes down to its steel quality. Forging techniques play a lot of a part as well, but discussing that is beyond the scope of this article; any blade we cover and that is commercially sold will have been well forged for its steel type.

    The three major types of steel are stainless steel, carbon steel, and high carbon stainless steels.

    For the purpose of this list discard the first. Any chef’s knife worth its salt will be of higher quality than even the best normal stainless steel.

    So it comes down to carbon steel and high carbon stainless steel. 

    Carbon steel is much harder, holds a keener edge, and can often hold an edge longer. However, it’s brittle and prone to rust, so you need to take good care of it.

    High carbon stainless steels are easier to take care of using a honing steel, but in some ways less high quality, with lesser edges and a lower hardness.

    In addition to the steel type, make sure it has a comfortable handle. Exactly what kind of handle this is will depend on you. Take a hard look at the shape and size of any given handle and think about how it will fit in your hand. Depending on your preferred grip type some may be better than others.

    Finally, pay attention to the blade style. European blades are thicker and heavier, and great for chopping. Japanese blades are thinner and daintier, same with Chinese blades that are perfect for trimming meats and slicing veggies. Easier to control, and excellent for slicing, but less good for heavy duty work.

    In either case, price scales directly by the quality of steel, from about $40 on up to the hundreds of dollars. For more information please check our best chef knives under $100.

    A final note: any decent blade will have a full tang, meaning the steel of the blade continues into the handle. Any grafted handle blade is instantly disqualified as below our minimum quality standards for a good knife.