Best Kitchen Knives 2017: The ultimate choppers for master chefs

We’ve tried 10 of the best chef’s knives that are sure to help any wannabe Masterchef sharpen up their act. 

Even if you’re an infrequent cook, a good knife is an essential piece of kit for your kitchen. If you choose to invest in only one, make it a cook’s – or chef’s – knife. All-purpose and versatile, a chef’s knife can be used for practically all tasks, from finely chopping herbs and slicing meat to every aspect of fruit and vegetable prep.

However, shop around and you’ll find that the price of chef’s knives can run from the budget-friendly to hundreds of pounds, depending on what it’s made from and how it’s made. They also come in all shapes and sizes. Most important is that you find one you’re comfortable holding and using – ideally, it should feel like an extension of your hand and be easy to control, even when precision chopping. It’s worth spending extra to find the right one for you – and avoid buying on looks alone; ease of sharpening, function and ergonomics are more important than a stylish handle.

In this round-up, we’ve tested 10 of the most popular and well-known brands you can buy, from a sub-£20 bargain blade to a premium German-engineered knife built with more than 200 years of craftsmanship.

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Chef’s knives jargon explained

Tang: This is the part of the blade that attaches it to the handle. Knives can be described as full tang or half tang. Full tang knives feature a tang that extends the whole length of the handle, which helps to provide strength and balance. The tang in half tang knives extends only part of the way along the handle, although this may be as much as three-quarters of the length of the knife. Half tang will be fine for regular prep work but full tang is preferable for keen cooks.

Balance: The balance of a knife is pretty subjective – but roughly speaking, it’s the feeling that neither the handle nor the blade is uncomfortably weighted, dragging you back or forward when in use. A knife that feels unstable will demand more effort when preparing food, so it’s important to find the right balance. The total weight of a knife will affect how it feels. Large, heavy knives won’t be for everyone; consider a lighter or smaller design if a hefty blade is hard to manoeuvre. The bolster (the wedge-shaped part between handle and blade) will affect the balance and control too, although stamped blades and Japanese-style blades usually won’t have this feature.

Stainless steel, carbon steel and Damascus steel: The type of steel from which the knife is made will affect both its performance and maintenance. Stainless steel is the most affordable option but the blade won’t hold its cutting edge for long, so it will require regular sharpening, ideally after each use. Carbon steel, with a higher carbon content than plain stainless steel, is more expensive but it’s easier to keep the blade sharp; you may need to sharpen it only every few months. Damascus steel is made by forging two or more types of steel alloy together in layers. It will usually have a carbon steel core that’s overlaid with hard and soft stainless steel. This creates an edge that can be ground to be very sharp, and a mottled appearance.

Ceramic: Lightweight and low maintenance, ceramic blades retain their edge for longer than steel and are harder than carbon steel, which is great news for those who forget to sharpen regularly. However, they can chip and snap under excess pressure. Thanks to a thin, precise blade, they excel at filleting, carving, dicing and slicing – but may not be up to the heavy-duty tasks of a steel knife.

Santoku: Still a chef’s knife but a Japanese-style design that’s becoming increasingly popular. Rather than having a pointed end, it’s curved, making it adept at the slicing and chopping that features heavily in Asian cuisine. You may also find dimples or scallops ground into the blade that allow air to flow between the food and the blades, so slices fall away instead of sticking. These are also known as a Granton edge. Where Santoku knives may fall short is for the bigger jobs, such as halving a chicken, since they lack the broad heel of a traditional chef’s knife.

Sabatier: Used by several manufacturers to indicate quality by referring to knife production in Thiers, France. The name isn’t protected and as such the knives might be made by several producers, located anywhere.

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How we test chef’s knives

Each of the chef’s knives in this round-up was subjected to the same tests to see how it coped with different types of food. We sliced tomatoes to test overall sharpness; meat and poultry to ascertain how well each handled chopping tough, fatty flesh and smooth chicken breasts; and fish for finer slicing with delicate, raw tuna steaks. We also tested them on a typical, heavy-duty task: chopping a butternut squash, for example. Balance and usability, as mentioned, is a more subjective process but we’ve tried to approach this from the view of a typical user.

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Judge Sabatier Chef’s Knife

1 of 10

Score

Key features:

  • Hardened stainless steel; polished POM handle
  • 15cm/6-inch blade
  • H4.5 x W28cm, 194g
  • Full tang

If you’re looking for an affordable, basic chef’s knife then the Judge Sabatier IC is a good fit.

Traditionally styled with a gently curved handle, generous bolster and riveted finish, it’s compact enough to manoeuvre when dicing but has enough bulk to make light work of most chopping. It’s a little more weighted towards the handle but relatively light overall, making it great for beginners.

Slicing the tomatoes and chicken was a straightforward job; however, it struggled with the meat and fish, tearing at fat and fibres rather than cutting them. Plenty of effort and several motions were required to carve the butternut squash, but it did get through the fibrous flesh eventually.

Ultimately, it was better for chopping and slicing rather than finer trimming work. It would be wise to buy this knife alongside the range’s matching sharpening steel to keep the blade in peak condition.

At time of review the Judge Sabatier 15cm/6in Chef’s Knife was available for £16.

Joseph Joseph Slice&Sharpen Chef’s Knife with sharpening sheath

2 of 10

Score

Key features:

  • Silicone-coated X30Cr13 stainless steel; plastic handle
  • 15cm/6-inch blade
  • H4 x W27.5cm, 97g
  • Half tang

Keeping a chef’s knife sharp is key to its usability and usefulness, so this smart tool has a ceramic sharpener built right into its storage sheath. Not only does this mean you can sharpen it each time before use, it’s also a handy reminder to do so.

The knife itself lacks a bolster and carries more of the weight in the blade – although, overall, it’s compact and lightweight. This made it good at trimming fat off meat and close work, although not as useful for the larger tasks.

The handle is slimmer than most and since it’s made from a smooth plastic, it feels less secure when picked up with wet hands. Despite a coated blade, it was tricky to get through the butternut squash and the blade tore at the fish steak.

It feels as if greater thought has gone into the knife’s ease of sharpening feature than its overall design.


At time of review the Joseph Joseph Slice&Sharpen Chef’s Knife was available for £24.

Kuhn Rikon Colori Titanium Chef’s Knife

3 of 10

Score

Key features:

  • Japanese stainless steel; plastic handle with steel end cap
  • 20cm/8-inch blade
  • H4.5 x W31cm, 125g
  • Half tang

Swiss design meets Japanese stainless steel in this more modern take in a chef’s knife – and winner of an IF design award.

It’s bolster-free, the handle providing a protective guard for fingers against the heel of the blade, and coated with titanium to strengthen the blade itself. Ice-hardening serves to improve its resistance to corrosion and reinforce the blade further. The blade was slightly heavier than the handle, tipping forward, despite a steel cap at the back to help balance it out.

In the tests, the knife excelled at all the slicing tasks, such as tomatoes and meat, but struggled with the harder butternut squash – the lack of a bolster making it hard to work through – and it dragged on the delicate tuna steak.

However, one appealing element is its matching safety sheath to protect the blade when it isn’t in use. This allows it to be stored in a drawer, rather than a knife rack, and out of the reach of curious fingers.

At time of review the Kuhn Rikon Colori Titanium was available for £21.95.

Oxo Good Grips Professional Chef’s Knife with soft grip

4 of 10

Score

Key features:

  • 420J2 (medium carbon) and 430 (18/0) stainless steel; PP and TPE handle material
  • 20cm/8-inch blade
  • H4.5 x W33cm, 181g
  • Full tang

Designed as a pro-style, no-frills tool, this knife places the emphasis on comfort and convenience.

Its handle is soft to the touch and comfortable to hold, while its blade has been created not only to be hard, but also to offer greater resistance to stains – making it great for those who regularly slice meat, citrus fruits and salty food.

The weight of the knife is concentrated in the blade, which tips it forward slightly but could be handy for dicing. Its point wasn’t terribly accurate for trimming fat from the beef, but it sliced through the tomatoes and chicken with ease. The larger size and weight helped when chopping the butternut squash, although it remained a task that required a lot of energy to pull the knife through.

A good knife for chopping, but it won’t be suitable for all your jobs.

At time of review the Oxo Good Grips Professional Chef’s Knife was available for £20.

BergHOFF Ron Chef’s Knife

5 of 10

Score

Key features:

  • Chrome-molybdenum-vanadium steel with a titanium and Teflon Diamond non-stick coating; ashwood handle
  • 19cm/7.5-inch blade
  • H5 x W35cm, 270g
  • Half tang

Created by Pieter Roex, and winner of two design awards, BergHOFF’s Ron knives offer stunning good looks. This chef’s knife is no exception.

In terms of affordable design, it excels; however, its functionality leaves a little to be desired. The timber handle isn’t dishwasher-safe, unlike most of the other knives in this roundup, and even hand-washing leaves the wood feeling rough, which will necessitate oiling.

Its non-stick coating works well at easing the blade through all the foods tested, except for the meat, where it was too non-stick and consistently slipped when trimming fat. It couldn’t get through the butternut squash: it became stuck halfway through and wouldn’t cut any further, so had to be pulled out.

The BergHOFF Ron is a beautiful knife for everyday chopping, and to have on show, but it’s short on versatility.

At time of review the Berghoff Ron 19cm/7½in Chef’s Knife was available for £27.45.

Stellar Taiku Cook’s Knife

6 of 10

Score

Key features:

  • X50 CrMoV15 carbon stainless steel; ABS handle
  • 20cm/8-inch blade
  • H4.5 x W33cm, 245g
  • Full tang

Made from molybdenum vanadium steel for increased resistance to corrosion and wear, as well as greater strength, this taper-ground knife places precision at the heart of its design.

Rather than sporting a perfectly round handle, it slopes either side for greater manoeuvrability – and, like a Santoku knife, is bolster-free. It’s heavier than some, with more of the weight concentrated in the handle, so may not work as well for prolonged prep sessions.

The rear of the blade was easy to control, however, and perfect for fine chopping. The blade was beautifully sharp and handled all the trimming, slicing and chopping tasks effortlessly – except for the butternut squash. This required a significant amount of pressure – exacerbated by the lack of a bolster – to ease the knife through the flesh.

However, for the price, the Stellar Taiku is a good all-rounder and a great value buy.

At time of review the Stellar Taiku 20cm/8in Cook’s Knife was available for £28.

Lakeland Ceramic Chef’s Knife

7 of 10

Score

Key features:

  • Zirconium ceramic; ABS and TPR handle
  • 15cm/6-inch blade
  • H4 x W27.5cm, 100g
  • Half tang

While ceramic knives have a few limitations – in that they shouldn’t be used for jobs that require flexing or crushing, or on food with bones – the superb sharpness of this model may well lure in the sceptics.

Not only is its blade subtly curved to create the traditional rocking motion of a chef’s knife, it’s super-lightweight, offering good balance between blade and handle. Crafted to be 50% harder than steel knives and to remain sharp for 10 times longer, you’ll need to use its plastic sheath in the drawer – although this is as much to protect the other contents and your fingers as it is the blade.

Slicing, dicing, chopping and finer prep work proved a breeze for this knife; its only challenge was the large butternut squash slices, where its compact size was a significant limitation.

At time of review the Lakeland Ceramic Chef’s Knife was available for £30.99.

Robert Welch Signature Cook’s/Chef’s Knife

8 of 10

Score

Key features:

  • Fully forged German DIN 1.4116 stainless steel; DuPont handle
  • 16cm/6.5-inch blade
  • H3.5 x W28.5cm, 185g
  • Full tang

Designed in consultation with professional chefs, there’s good reason that this 16cm Cook’s knife from the multi-award winning Signature range is Robert Welch’s most popular size.

Compact enough not to feel unwieldy, yet with a Japanese-style blade edge that’s hand-applied at a 15-degree angle, the knife offers a perfect blend of strength and balance.

An angled bolster provides good control alongside full use of the blade edge, while the DuPont handle has been ergonomically shaped to minimise fatigue and features an RW insignia as a permanent steel detail.

The knife’s blade features a smooth curve for a two-step chop and rock action, meaning that it sailed through all the tests. Despite its smaller size, it even made light work of the more difficult squash. A fantastically versatile buy.


At time of review the Robert Welch Signature Cook’s/Chef’s Knife was available for £48.

John Lewis Design Project No095 Santoku Knife

9 of 10

Score

Key features:

  • Forged Damascus steel; fibreglass resin composite handle
  • 15cm/6-inch blade
  • H4.5 x W28cm
  • Full tang

The result of a collaboration between John Lewis and knife specialist Taylor’s Eye Witness, this Santoku knife is made using Damascus steel, recognisable by the distinctive rippled pattern.

Its blade uses 67 alternating layers of two grades of steel, around a thin core of 0.8% carbon stainless steel, which helps it to retain a sharp edge longer than standard kitchen knives. A slim bolster has also been welded in place, while its handle features an understated faux grain pattern.

Perfectly weight-balanced, this knife made an excellent prep tool, slicing easily through the fish, poultry, tomatoes and meat. A little more effort was required with the butternut squash, but chopping the hard flesh was still relatively easy. The only task that was tricky was trimming hard fat from the meat; the job was made more difficult due to the knife’s rounded tip

At time of review the John Lewis Design Project No095 Santoku Knife was available for £99.

Wüsthof Classic Cook’s Knife

10 of 10

Score

Key features:

  • Chromium-molybdenum-vanadium blade X50 Cr MoV 15 steel; POM (polyoxymethylene) handle
  • 20cm/8-inch blade
  • H4.5 x W33cm, 266g
  • Full tang

Wüsthof offers a lifetime guarantee against manufacturing defects with its knives and once you’ve used one, it’s easy to see why the manufacturer is so confident of its quality.

Not only is the handle of the Classic Cook’s Knife robustly riveted in place, the blade is ‘pre-sharpened’ with a defined cutting angle. This is then finely sharpened, using the company’s PEtec (Precision Edge Technology), creating an edge that isn’t only razor sharp from the first use, but also easy to maintain.

Complete with a full bolster (there’s also a half-bolster model that’s even easier to sharpen) and ergonomic handle, the knife had enough weight to slice through the dense butternut squash in one motion with minimal effort, as well as glide through every other task.

If you’re not keen on large, heavy knives, Wüsthof’s Classic Cook’s Knife probably isn’t for you – but if you’re looking for a do-it-all professional standard tool, it’s a smart investment.

At time of review the Wüsthof Classic Cook’s Knife was available for £109 at www.inthehaus.co.uk.

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