The Best Chef Knife

There’s a reason we call the best kitchen knives “chef knives.” A good chef is a multitasker, so a good chef knife is designed to handle multiple jobs. Think of all the slicing and chopping involved in a beef stir-fry or a chicken noodle soup. You want a single tool that can handle it all. But the best chef knife can’t be defined by a single set of features. It’s all about hand-feel: The right knife should feel almost like an extension of your forearm. We talked to two chefs, a cooking instructor, and a knife expert, then chopped, diced, and peeled with 11 best-selling chef knives to see which stood out.

Our Top Pick

MAC MTH-80 Professional Series 8-Inch Chef Knife with DimplesAn all-purpose knife popular among both beginners and professionals.

The “mighty MAC” was the clear favorite of our testing team — and widely praised by the experts we spoke with. It’s maneuverable enough to chop mint leaves, slice carrots, and peel butternut squash, offering clean cuts without requiring perfect form. It feels comfortable for both large and small hands, and its medium-weight balance means it’s neither too light nor too heavy (we’ll go ahead and call it the Goldilocks of knives). A half-bolster helps you maintain a professional grip, and dimples prevent food from sticking to the sides of the knife as you chop. Retails at $175.

Best for Experienced Chefs

Shun Classic 8″ Chef KnifeElegant, versatile, and high maintenance.

The Shun has a weight and heft similar to the MAC and is versatile enough to handle a range of dicing, slicing and chopping — but only if you treat it right. The knife is covered in an outer layer of Damascus steel, which provides a gorgeous appearance but makes the knife edge more likely to chip if you don’t use proper chopping technique. Like the Mac, the Shun is a half-bolster knife, helping you maintain a professional grip without the added weight of a full bolster. Several of our novice cooks had trouble holding the Shun comfortably, but testers who were already experienced in the kitchen loved its elegant performance. The Shun is slightly more expensive than the MAC, retailing at $182, and a good pick for those who’ve mastered the basics.

Best Starter Knife

Victorinox Fibrox 8-Inch Chef’s KnifeBulky but lightweight, with an easy-grip handle.

If you want a quality knife but don’t have a lot of money to invest, the Victorinox is our pick, retailing for around $45. While half an ounce lighter than both the MAC and the Shun, the Victorinox is large — wide blade, wide no-slip plastic handle — and designed to take on big jobs. (Think large cuts of beef, not chicken tenders.) Our testers found it comfortable and easy to use even when chopping herbs, but noticeably bulky compared to the Shun and MAC. The Victorinox’s price point also means the blade might not hold an edge as long as a more high-end knife. If you’re just beginning to explore the world of fancy kitchen equipment, consider it a test run: try it for a few months, and if you find yourself using it all the time, think about upgrading to the MAC or the Shun.

Two other options, the Wusthof Classic 8 and the Global G-2 8-Inch Chef's Knife, are also worth a mention. The Wusthof Classic, like the Victorinox, is geared for heavy-duty chopping and cleaving. It’s the heaviest knife that we tested (9.1 ounces, versus the Victorinox’s 6.6 ounces) and was a favorite among testers with large hands, who liked its extra heft. The Global stood out for the opposite reason: It’s extremely lightweight, at only 5.9 ounces, and most suited for vegetable dicing, but some small-handed testers preferred it over our top picks.

Our Picks for the Best Chef Knife


Most Popular
MAC MTH-80 Professional Series 8-Inch Chef Knife with Dimples
MAC
Intuitive design for most hand sizes and skill levels.

The MAC MTH-80 Professional Series 8-Inch Chef Knife with Dimples is the brand’s “most popular knife for everyday use” — and it was the most popular knife in our testing room. It was easy to handle, comfortable for most hand sizes, and allowed us to complete a full range of chopping, slicing, and peeling.

At 7.1 ounces, the MAC is right in the middle of our contenders in terms of weight, but the blade is only 1.88 inches across — which means you never feel like you’re wielding a cleaver (unlike the Messermeister Park Plaza Carbon, which one tester reported “just felt big and heavy”). In fact, the MAC’s satisfying heft was a running theme, which one tester describing the knife as “thin and light, but balanced.”

MAC Close-up for Chef Knife

This balance might have been helped along by the MAC’s half-bolster. Two of the three full-bolstered knives that we tested got dinged for feeling “clunky” or “heavy,” while the Global G-2 8-Inch Chef’s Knife, which has no bolster at all, felt “almost too light” to some of our testers.

Japanese vs European-style?Japanese-style knives are lighter, with thinner blades; European-style (or German-style) knives are heavier, with wider blades. Neither is necessarily better. It boils down to personal preference and the type of cooking you're likely to do.

“The MAC knife is one of my favorites,” Brownstein told us. “The weight/balance is perfect for me. It’s wide enough to keep your food together and it keeps a great edge.” Tate agrees that the MAC is good for smaller hands and for people who want to make thin cuts. It’s a Japanese-style knife, which means it’s going to be smaller in general than a European-style knife. If you plan on cutting up, say, a lot of chicken bones (or if, like a couple of our testers, you just want more finger protection), you might consider a heavier knife with a full bolster, like the Wusthof Classic Chef Knife, one of our runners-up.

The MAC’s granton edge — aka the “dimples” along the side of its blade — are designed to prevent food from sticking to the knife as you chop. Brownstein noted that while these divots don’t make a huge difference, the best way to keep sticky food off is to rub the blade of the knife with a little plain vegetable oil before cutting things like garlic or potato. But testers did notice that the MAC accumulated fewer bits of carrot and mint than dimple-less knives.

The final selling point? We asked Brownstein which knife she’d like to take home with her, as a thank you for helping us with the tests. She chose the MAC.

Best for
Experienced Chefs
Shun Classic 8
Shun
Gorgeous, but with a tougher learning curve.

The Shun Classic 8 was another testing room favorite. The packaging was so beautiful it caught our eye before we even took it out of the box: the Shun seems designed to elevate dinner prep to an artistic event.

It also made a vivid impression when we started chopping. Testers had no trouble halving a butternut squash, and the knife was maneuverable enough to peel said squash in “nice long strips.” It was also the only knife we tested that made that satisfying “shwing” sound when we sliced. (If you hold a piece of paper in front of you and slice off a corner — carefully, and away from your body — you’ll hear it.)

The Shun, like the Mac, is a lightweight Japanese knife with a half bolster — no chicken bone chopping, please. “I love Shun knives,” Brownstein told us. “They’re beautiful — like a functional art piece — with great balance and good quality steel.” At 7.3 ounces, with a blade that’s 1.8 inches wide, it had a heft and balance similar to the MAC.

Shun Close-up for Chef Knife

But the Shun is clearly designed for people who already know their way around a kitchen. Several novice cooks in our group struggled to maintain a comfortable grip, with one lamenting that “it just doesn’t feel right.” The knife’s spine was also less forgiving, rubbing against index fingers that slid out of a proper pinch grip. That said, the knife got an overwhelmingly favorable response from experienced chefs — and even novices liked it better than the Japanese-style Miyabi knives we tested, which had blades and handles that felt stiff and clunky.

Shun Close-up for Chef Knife

In fact, the Shun’s handle was a standout feature. Rather than being totally round (like some traditional Japanese knives), it’s D-shaped: the curve of the D fits into the curve of your fingers as you grip the knife. But here again, Shun notes that the handle is designed with a professional pinch grip in mind. If you’re not maintaining proper form, your mileage may vary.

Left-handed? A note about Shun's handles.

The curse of the Shun’s ergonomic handle is that it’s designed for right-handed people. The company offered a “reverse grip” for lefties but discontinued the line, stating that many lefties actually prefer the standard handle. This raises a whole new set of questions (why offer ergonomic handles at all if they don’t make a difference?), but we’re begrudgingly inclined to believe Shun: our left-handed tester had no trouble with the knife, despite her general dislike of kitchen equipment for righties. That said, we’d suggest trying it out in person before you buy.

The trade-off for the Shun’s visual elegance is that the knife requires careful maintenance. The handle, for instance, is made of a wood/plastic composite that’s more delicate than the polymer or Fibrox of picks like the Wusthof and Victorinox. Brownstein noted that too much water exposure would be bad for it; you’ll need to dry both knife and handle thoroughly after use.

The knife is also Damascus-clad: The blade is made of steel, then coated with an outer layer of Damascus steel. The end result is a gorgeous swirled pattern on the blade, but Tate doesn’t like Damascus-clad knives. While Damascus on its own is quite strong, when it’s only an outer layer, the knife edge is more likely to chip. In fact, Shun’s website includes this warning in their FAQ: “Chips can happen due to improper cutting technique. Shun Cutlery is designed to be used in a smooth, slicing motion—and never in a forceful, up-and-down ‘chopping’ manner.”

But if you master the right technique, your Shun can stay sharp for a long time. “My favorite brand of knife is Shun,” Resnick told us. “Their Western-style Japanese knives can go ages without sharpening, even with serious use.”

Best
Starter Knife
Victorinox Fibrox 8-Inch Chef's Knife
Victorinox
Inexpensive, and offers a solid performance.

The Victorinox Fibrox 8-Inch Chef's Knife is an excellent option for people who want to start cooking regularly but aren’t yet ready to invest a lot of money, offering a solid performance for around $45.

It’s a European-style knife, meaning the blade is both wider and slightly thicker than the Japanese-style MAC and Shun. It only weighs 6.6 ounces (lighter than both our top picks), but the blade measures 2 inches across at its widest point. It also didn’t feel quite as maneuverable as the Shun or the MAC. One tester noted that she “didn’t like the large handle for cutting small things,” although it was “great for large things” like squash.

The Victorinox’s handle was its most controversial feature. Made of Fibrox, with a slightly textured pattern, it offers a no-slip grip even if your hands are wet. Our fingers felt undeniably safe. But the handle also felt bulky to some testers, with several people noting the material seemed “cheap” or “flimsy.” One tester even told us, “each time I use it, it’s more comfortable. But it feels cheap, so I have a mental block there.”

Tate agrees that the Victorinox is the best knife for people who are on a budget (although he, like our testers, prefers a wood handle to the Victorinox’s plastic). Brownstein told us that commercial kitchens often order this knife for their line cooks. If you’re looking for low cost but respectable quality, the Victorinox is a good place to start.

We considered one other budget knife during testing, the Zwilling J.A. Henckels Forged Razor Series 8″ Chef’s Knife, which retails for about $40. It looks more impressive than the Victorinox, with a smooth, contoured handle that testers loved. But we were less impressed once we hit the kitchen. One tester noted that “the Victorinox did a better job chopping and peeling” across all categories. Another reported that the Zwilling required her to “saw” in order to cut her squash in half.

Other Chef Knives to Consider

Both the lightest knife and the heaviest knife in our testing group got high marks from our testers although they weren’t as universally popular as our top picks.

Runner-Up
Most Heavy-Duty
Wusthof Classic 8
A European-style knife with a full bolster. Good for large hands or heavy-duty tasks.

The Wusthof Classic 8, a full-bolstered, European-style knife weighing in at 9.1 ounces, was favored by our large-handed testers: “The edge of the bolster has a nice gentle slope and sits wonderfully in my hand,” one participant noted. Testers praised the knife’s good blade control, even when chopping mint, and reported that they fell easily into a smooth rocking motion as they worked. “The Wusthof is my favorite German knife — a little heavier and a little cheaper than its Japanese counterparts,” Brownstein told us. “Wusthof was the first professional knife I bought 28 years ago, and it’s still in perfect shape.”

Wustof Close-up for Chef Knife
Runner-Up
Most Lightweight
Global G-2 8-Inch Chef's Knife
Global
A lightweight knife with no bolster. Good for small hands or quick tasks.

On the other end of the scale — literally — is the Global G-2 8-Inch Chef's Knife, weighing a mere 5.9 ounces. “I’ve always liked Global,” Brownstein said, explaining that this lighter knife is good for people who are more likely to prep for a single meal than spend long stints prepping as it can leave a sore spot on your hand after a long day of prep. Because it is all metal it is easy to maintain. Thanks to great quality steel, it also keeps a wicked edge.

Our testers agreed that the Global felt sleek and easy to handle: slicing carrots was like “cutting butter.” But it tended to be most popular with small-handed testers (one of whom flat-out told us, “I want this knife.”) Others found it a little too lightweight and didn’t like its lack of a bolster, which left fingers feeling exposed.

Global Close-up for Chef Knife

How to Care for Your Chef Knife

Keep your chef knife properly sharpened.

As Muse puts it: “If you buy a professional knife, you need to keep an edge on it, otherwise it’s like owning a car and not putting fuel in it.”

If there’s a professional knife sharpener in your area, you can outsource the task. If not, MAC, Shun, and Wusthof all offer mail-in sharpening for a small fee. (Note that Victorinox and Global do not offer this service.) You can also learn to sharpen your knife yourself, but Wusthof notes: “It is always recommended to use the same brand sharpener as the knives you are sharpening, because the steel hardness varies from one manufacturer to another.”

Honing and sharpening are not the same.

A knife honing rod, or honing steel, is designed keep your knife functioning well between sharpenings. Honing straightens the edge of a knife, while sharpening literally grinds away part of the steel to produce a sharper edge.

Brownstein recommends honing your knife each time you pick it up (the whole process should only take 10-20 seconds) or, if prepping a lot, whenever it starts to feel dull. She offers these tips:

  • Hold the steel upright and move the blade swiftly across and down the steel at a 25-degree angle, as if you were cutting slices of cheese.
  • After you hone, check your knife’s sharpness by gently sliding it across a soft tomato. The knife should bite into the fruit right away without pressure.

Be aware that not all of our experts recommend honing. “People often hone incorrectly,” Resnick told us, “so unless you know you’re doing it right, it’s not worthwhile.”

There’s a right way and a wrong way to chop.

If you’re looking to improve your chopping game, Bob Tate offers these tips:

  • Imagine your cutting board is a clock. Most people point their knife toward noon, placing the food horizontally across the cutting board. But if you angle your knife so that it points towards 10 o’clock (and adjust your food to stay parallel), the knife becomes an extension of your forearm and is easier to handle.
  • Keep your knife in contact with your cutting board or work surface. There’s no need to lift it off the cutting board for each cut.

And one more word of advice: only use your knife on food. When Brownstein teaches cooking classes, she’s astonished at how many students use their chef knives for tasks like cutting open boxes. “A chefs knife is your most important kitchen tool” she says, “buy a pair of kitchen shears for boxes and bags!”

Avoid the dishwasher.

Regardless of manufacturer instructions, never put your chef knife in the dishwasher. And while you’re at it, never toss it into the sink. Every time the knife blade bangs against something — like the plastic spines of your dishwasher or the metal sides of your sink — it has the potential to dull, and you want to keep the blade as sharp as possible for as long as possible.

Instead, wash your knife by hand with standard dish soap, then use a clean dish towel or paper towel to rub it completely dry. (If you let it air-dry, it can develop water stains or rust spots.)

Chef Knife FAQs

Should I get a knife set?

We don’t think so! All of our experts felt that knife sets were a waste of money. “Buy knives one at a time,” Rachel Muse, private chef and founder of Talk Eat Laugh, told us. “Each chef will have their own mixture; a set is too constricted and too prescriptive.”

How many other kitchen knives do I need?

After you’ve invested in a quality chef knife, you may want to expand your collection with any of the following:

  • A serrated bread knife, for cutting loaves of bread.
  • A paring knife — which has a very short blade — for tasks like paring apples or potatoes.
  • A boning knife or filleting knife. These may be useful depending on the cuts of meat and fish you typically cook with.

As a general rule of thumb, if the purpose of the knife is in its name (bread knife, filleting knife, even steak knife or grapefruit knife) it marks a task that will be difficult to accomplish with an all-purpose chef knife.

What’s the best type of steel for a chef knife?

The best steel for chef knives typically lands between 55-60 on the Rockwell hardness scale — that’s hard enough to retain a sharp edge, but soft enough to avoid being overly brittle. (You want your knife to be able to take a beating without fracturing.)

But digging into specifics beyond this gets tricky, and there’s no objective “best” answer. A lot of manufacturers don’t list details about the exact grade of steel that they use, or how they heat-treat it: A steel’s “grade” refers to the specific blend of alloys that it uses (like chromium or nickel), while heat treatment is the process of heating raw steel to a critical temperature and cooling it — a process that affects how strong (and brittle) the finished product is. Even if you call a company directly to find out more (like we did) a name like XX50CrMoV15 is meaningless without context.

Generally speaking, the harder a steel, the longer it will stay sharp but the more difficult it will be to resharpen on your own, often requiring professional service to get it back its factory condition. (Of our top picks, only Shun offers free lifetime sharpening service.) The knives we looked at all come from high-quality brands and feature high-quality steel, so it’s not something to fret over. But if you’d like to learn more about their specific properties, the guides at KnivesAndTools.com and The Manual are great places to start.

What’s the difference between a chef knife and a Santoku knife?

At a glance, Santoku knives and chef knives look nearly identical. But each caters to a different cooking style. Santoku knives are shorter, lighter, and thinner, with a rounded tip and a flat edge. This means that cutting requires an up-and-down slicing motion. A chef knife’s blade is curved and allows you to cut by rocking the knife against the cutting board.

Santoku means “three virtues” in Japanese.The name refers to the knife’s’ mastery of slicing, dicing, and mincing.

A Santoku excels at tasks that require agility — things like mincing delicate herbs or making precise cuts. The tradeoff is that it’s not as versatile as a chef knife and is likely to struggle against larger tasks, like cutting up a chicken or slicing through butternut squash. But if you have smaller hands or just feel a little intimidated by an 8-inch blade, you might prefer a Santoku.

Our Chef Knife Review: Summed Up