The Best Chef’s Knives Under $100 – A Complete Buying Guide

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    Key Features

     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


    Sharp ojects

    A good chef’s knife is a must have for any frequently used kitchen. However, investing in a chef’s knife can be daunting. Many are expensive, and the ways a great knife is differentiated from a good one can be obtuse to people who aren’t already well informed about knives.

    So, the aim here is to solve both of those problems: educate about what kind of things go into making an excellent knife, and how those qualities can still shine through on a knife that doesn’t break the budget, with a short list of some of the best knives on the market for our price range.


    For the complete product list, please continue reading…


    Top 7 Best Chef’s Knives Under $100 (2020 Reviews)

    1. Dalstrong Phantom Series 8 inch Chef’s Knife

    Pros:

     Good steel quality
     Fair price
     Great all rounder design
     Comfortable handle
     Sleek and beautiful knife profile
     Holds a keen edge
     Durable and corrosion resistant

    Cons:

      Not as good in certain arenas as a more specialized knife would be

    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 of the best knives on a reasonable budget out there, with a large number of different series of high carbon German stainless steel blades in a number of styles.

    The Phantom series is an interesting cross between a Japanese kiritsuke knife and a standard European chef’s knife, with some of the advantages of both without going too deep down the specialization rabbit hole just yet.

    That makes it an excellent beginner knife. It lets you sort of sample different knife properties in one convenient package. In this case, the sharper and more angular tip plus the longer than usual protruding cutting edge of a kiritsuke knife married to a thicker cross-sectioned Euro style blade.

    It’s a bit better at slicing than a normal chef’s knife, but a little bit less good at hard chopping of tough vegetables.

    All in all it’s a well rounded blade which falls (if only just) under our price limits for this list. Of course, the basic qualities are all up to snuff; good steel, great handle material and shape, and overall full tang construction are on display as well.


    2. Dalstrong Gladiator Series 8” Chef’s Knife

    Pros:

     Great steel
     Classic European design, great for chopping thicker and harder vegetables
     Comfortable ergonomic grip
     Quality handle material
     Thickly made and sturdy

    Cons:

      Middling slicing ability

    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 another great Dalstrong option, bringing you a classic European knife design. The thick cross section and powerful build near the handle give you a ton of extra cutting force and knuckle clearance. It’s great for chopping up tougher root vegetables and similar hard to chop foods.

    The handle is comfortable and more ergonomic than the Phantom, and is great for those with a heavier grip, while being excellent for a pinch grip as well.

    The steel quality is great for the price, the same as other Dalstrong blades; a high carbon German stainless steel, and the handle is a comfortable and durable pakkawood. I don’t think this one looks as nice as the Phantom, or other knives here, but looks aren’t everything; it has high performance and it won’t make you embarrassed if somebody sees you with it, and that’s really all you need.


    3. Wusthof Classic Ikon 6 inch Chef’s Knife

    Pros:

     Excellent quality German steel
     Comfortable ergonomic handle
     High quality materials
     Great control
     Good for slicing

    Cons:

      Lacks chopping power that a heavier knife would grant you

    Specifications:

      • Materials: German high carbon steel (blade), polymer (handle).
      • Blade length: 6”

    Wusthof knives are often peoples’ first encounter with quality knives, and they’re in part what has made German steel famous worldwide. As a result, Wusthof knives have a reputation for being a bit “basic”, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

    The knives are good, and have a timeless, simple look to them that makes it fit easily into any kitchen.

    The handle is absolutely excellent here, with a nice sinuous curve that fits perfectly in the hand. The knife this time is a tiny one, but no less good for it. A 6 inch knife loses out on a lot of chopping power, but makes up for it with an increase in control.

    You can make fine, precise cuts and mince vegetables much more easily with a knife this small.

    This one is largely going to depend on your preference. I would not get this if you plan to have a knife that serves as your only commonly used prep knife in the kitchen; an 8 or 10 inch knife will serve you much better in that regard.

    However, as a prep knife to keep around for the more precise jobs? Absolutely perfect.


    4. Mosfiata 8” Professional Chef’s Knife

    Pros:

     Solid quality stainless steel
     Comfortable pakkawood handle
     Quite inexpensive, especially given the quality
     Holds a good edge
     Comfortable sizing

    Cons:

      Terrible looking “Damascus” decoration

    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 a very solidly made German high carbon stainless steel option. This gives it more corrosion resistance than a high carbon steel on its own would, at the cost of a bit less of a keen edge. However, as you can tell by its price point, it drives the cost down quite a bit, which is perfect for our purposes.

    The blade is solid (full tang) and has a pretty good pakkawood handle that’s done up to look like a more natural wood.

    If it weren’t for the “Damascus” etching I’d like it more, but frankly I think the way this is done looks terrible. It’s not as bad as some I’ve seen, but looks cheap and very clearly fake, unlike some other decorative etchings I can think of.

    But, it’s exceptionally cheap and very well made for what it is, so if you need a solid slimline chef’s knife to get your knife collection started, you can do a whole lot worse than this.


    5. Paudin Pro 8 inch Chef’s Knife

    Pros:

     Slim construction for an 8 inch blade
     Comfortable handle
     Sleek and elegant look
     Very low price
     Excellent for precision work

    Cons:

    Holds somewhat of a poorer edge than other knives here

    Specifications:

      • Materials: German high carbon stainless steel (blade), pakkawood (presumed; handle)
      • Blade length: 8”
      • Blade angle: 15 degrees
      • Rockwell hardness: 58
      • Dimensions: 7.99” x 1.77” x .08”
      • Total weight: 6.8 ounces

    Another high carbon stainless steel option, but this time even cheaper. This is an amazing quality knife when compared to the price, sitting at just above the cost of a regular stainless steel knife or about the same.

    It’s a very tasteful knife as well, with a beautiful swirled pakkawood handle and some of the better looking faux Damascus etching I’ve seen on one of these knives.

    The blade is surprisingly slim for an 8 inch chef’s knife, and it’s perfect for a pointed finger grip and (by extension) slicing. While still recognizably a European style blade, it’s also perfect for slicing and deboning fish, or doing other precise work that a heavier, thicker chef’s knife might struggle with if you don’t choke up on it uncomfortably.

    As an entry level knife, Paudin Pro Chef’s Knife is absolutely perfect. Pick this up if you want something cheap and reliable, or are getting seriously into cooking for the first time and want something a little better than the standard knives you can get at your local department stores.


    6. Fanteck 8 inch Gyuto Chef’s Knife

    Pros:

     Beautiful blade and handle
     Perfect for a rock chopping style of use
     Exceptionally hard and durable steel
     Good price for the quality

    Cons:

      Requires a fairly specific method of optimal use which may not be for everyone

    Specifications:

      • Materials: Japanese VG-10 steel (blade), pakkawood and acrylic (handle)
      • Blade length: 8”
      • Blade angle: 10 to 15 degrees
      • Rockwell hardness: 62
      • Dimensions: 18” x 4” x 2”
      • Total weight: 16 ounces

    This is a very nice looking mid range knife. It’s a gyuto knife, one of the standard Japanese style blades. It fits a “rock chopping” knife style, where you basically anchor the tip on the cutting board and use the knife almost like a pair of scissors against the boards. This is my preferred style of chopping, though may not be for everyone.

    The handle is absolutely beautiful, a mix of pakkawood and acrylic that looks quite nice overall. The faux Damascus etching I’m a little more on the fence about, but as these go it’s pretty nice, lending the blade a darker look that contrasts well with the brighter steel and medium colored wood.

    The steel is quite good, a Japanese VG-10 steel. It’s an exceptionally hard steel, and can hold a variety of edge angles with ease, including some extraordinarily steep ones. Essentially in comparison to a German steel, it may be harder to sharpen initially but will hold its edge a lot longer if well maintained.

    If you like the style of this blade, don’t let this one pass you by.


    7. Tuo Fiery Phoenix Series 8 inch Chef’s Knife

    Pros:

     Easy to use comfortable handle.
     Slim profile is great or slicing.
     Sturdy AUS 10 Japanese steel.
     Looks nice overall

    Cons:

      Awkward pricing; better than the cheap options but worse than only slightly more expensive offerings

    Specifications:

      • Materials: Japanese AUS-10 steel (blade), pakkawood (handle)
      • Blade length: 8”
      • Blade angle: 15 degrees
      • Rockwell hardness: 54 to 58
      • Dimensions: 13.35” x .11” x 1.71”
      • Total weight: 12 ounces

    This is a very nice little blade. It’s another slim Euro style blade with an excellent and very nice looking pakkawood handle. The faux Damascus etching is especially hideous on this one, which knocks it down quite a bit.

    The blade though is good, a high carbon AUS-10 steel; a Japanese steel roughly equivalent to 440c.

    It’s a very good steel (though not as good as VG-10 and a far cry from VG-Max) and compares very well to the high carbon German stainless steels that populate the majority of this list.

    The main issue here is in comparison to the other knives on this list. It’s not as good as many, and the ones it’s better than it is also a bit too much more in price to be properly compared to them.

    Fiery Phoenix is a great knife to pick up on sale. If you can get it for a bit off the usual asking price, it’s more than worth the price of admission.


    Final Verdict

    Dalstrong Phantom Series

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    I like all the knives on this list a lot. You can get some exceptional blades for a fairly low price, and all of these prove it. The Dalstrong Phantom especially is one of my favorite knives in general, not just for under $100. You get a lot of bang for your buck out of most of these, with only the TUO Fiery Phoenix being an iffy pick unless it’s on sale.

    The biggest issues you’ll run into here is with the edge, and even that should be good for the average user, which ultimately is what a list like this is for.


    What Makes a Good Budget Knife?

    If you’re shopping on a budget, you’re obviously not going to be getting the cutting edge, no pun intended. There is a top end for materials, but those will run you well over $100 on average. So let’s take a look at the most important part of a blade: the steel.

    Quality Steel Types

    The absolute tippy top of quality are VG-Max steel (for Japanese blades) and 1095 (or maybe 154CM) steel for European or American made blades.

    These steels are not present on this list, instead we’re looking at the next rung down. These are steels like AUS-10 or VG-10 for Japanese blades, and nondescript “high carbon stainless steel” blades for knives made and sold elsewhere.

    These steels are technically lower quality, but honestly might be better for the average user. Stainless steels, even high quality ones are easier to take care of than blades with an absurdly high carbon content. Stainless steel blades are resistant to corruption, and while a high carbon content brings a bit of that vulnerability back, the chromium content of stainless steel blades still helps to cut down on how much meticulous care you need to take of them.

    Handles

    At this price range, handles will be made almost exclusively of pakkawood.  This is a good, durable material that looks good and is non-slip for the most part.

    Really, handles are the most consistently good part of any half decent knife; even exceptionally high end knives sometimes use pakkawood or polymer and resin instead of a hand carved wood handle.

    Blade Style

    There are two primary blade styles: Japanese and European style blades.

    The standard European style blade is thick and sturdy, made for chopping tough vegetables(particular root vegetables) and shearing through softer bones and tendons on meat. They have a lot of knuckle clearance and are heavy duty implements, but may lack a little in control as compared to smaller, slimmer knives.

    Japanese blades come into two primary styles: gyuku and kiritsuke knives, at least for chef’s knives. The gyuku is very similar to a European chef’s knife, with a slightly slimmer profile, but still a rounded edge that makes it great for “rock chopping”.

    The kiritsuke is a different beast, and is semi-specialized in slicing and deboning fish, as most smaller knives are.

    Blade Length

    There are three standard chef’s knife lengths: 6 inch, 8 inch, and 10 inch.

    Each size has its own advantages and disadvantages. The smaller the knife, in general, the sharper its tip is going to be and the more control you get with it.

    Smaller knives are going to be excellent for slicing and mincing, while larger 10 inch knives are going to be perfect for chopping up larger, rougher foods.

    In between these two is the 8 inch knife, which I think is the perfect intermediate length. It isn’t as unwieldy as a larger knife, so you don’t need to choke up on it as much if you want to do something with any amount of finesse.

    Price

    Even in the under $100 range, there are some stark differences in pricing and quality tiers.

    You can get a half decent knife for about $20 to $30, actually, but a $60 will usually be more than twice as good, and an $80 will be a whole lot better than that.

    Overall, if you’re just looking for an entry level knife, a good $30 one will be surprisingly good to you, but one of the slightly more expensive ones might actually be good enough to last you a lifetime.