If there’s one knife to rule them all, it’s the kitchen knife. Nearly everyone has a kitchen knife in their house, even those who cook infrequently. Whether you’re chopping vegetables, slicing meat, or cutting up an apple, a good kitchen knife is essential.
Something that many people also forget is a good knife is also much safer to use. When I used to work in a restaurant I saw many knife accidents. Most of them were caused by dull blades that required extra force from the chef which ended up with the blade slipping out. It’s important that no matter what knife you end up using that you keep the blade conditioned with a knife sharpener.
So, what is the best kitchen knife for you? A professional chef, a home chef, and a knife enthusiast may have different preferences and needs. Don’t worry–I’m addicted to knives and have tried dozens of them so you don’t have to. Here are my top five picks for kitchen knives, and a little about the thought process that goes into choosing a kitchen knife for your wants and needs.
Table of Contents
- What to Look For in a Kitchen Knife
- Best Kitchen Knives
What to Look For in a Kitchen Knife
While there are tons of things to consider, there are three main factors that I keep in mind when selecting a kitchen knife.
Some knives are built with inexpensive materials, designed to provide you with a good value; others are built to the highest standards and are designed to last a lifetime.
A knife that has a “full tang,” for example, extends the blade all the way through the handle, providing a sturdier knife that feels solid to use and grip. In contrast, budget knives may only extend the tang partway into the handle (a “half tang” or similar), which–in addition to lowering the cost–can also make the knife a little more lightweight, which may be preferred by some users.
If you’re going for a starter knife, you might want something fairly basic. Inexpensive knives can do the job pretty well, and there are diminishing returns to putting more and more money into a knife. At the same time, my parents have owned the same kitchen knife since the 80’s and it’s still going strong; since a kitchen knife can be a lifelong asset, spending a bit more for an excellent build definitely pays off over the decades.
Use of Dimples
Some knives, such as the Mac Knife MTH-80, add dimples along the edge of the blade to help prevent food from sticking to the blade by lowering the amount of contact and friction that food has with the blade. This can make it easier to chop, slice, or cut certain food items, such as starchy potatoes.
Personally, I’ve never had a real issue using a dimple-free knife for cutting these types of items, but they do provide a bit of help if you’re frequently or primarily cutting foods that are likely to stick to the blade.
One limitation of the use of dimples is that they can potentially make a knife more awkward to sharpen, particularly if the knife is poorly designed. Some manufacturers simply add these features in the wrong place with no real understanding of why they are there to begin with. However, with a good quality knife (like the ones on review today) this is not something you need to worry about.
Japanese or Western?
Japanese knives are rarely curved and are generally built from a harder steel than western knives. The harder steel means that these knives tend to be thinner and sharper than western knives. Additionally, these knives are generally sharpened only on one side of the blade.
One important consideration is that many knife sharpeners are designed to work with western knives, and can cause damage to Japanese knives, which can impact your choices about what type of sharpener or sharpening system to use with Japanese knives in comparison to western knives. If you do choose a Japanese knife a good quality whetstone will be a great purchase.
Western knives tend to be curved along the blade and tend to be sharpened on both sides. Additionally, western knives tend to be thicker, since they are made from a softer material and require more weight to provide cutting strength. One impact of this choice of softer steel is that western knives can require sharpening more frequently, which you may notice if you use your knives heavily.
There’s a strong argument to be made for both styles but it largely comes down to personal preference. The knives reviewed below include both Japanese and western options and if you’re not sure which you’re interested in, both styles are a joy to use. They can handle all kinds of cooking and prep work no problem!
Best Kitchen Knives
The vast majority of cutting in a kitchen can be done easily with a chef’s knife or paring knife. While there are other types of knives that can be useful, they tend to be more situational. The major selling point to this set is that you’ll have an excellent baseline for basically anything you might conceivable want to cut.
Just looking at this knife is quite aesthetically pleasing. The handles are made of a sleek walnut wood, giving a nice matching pair of knives that will look great in any kitchen. I’ve got a magnetic strip that I stick my knives up to, and they’re right at home.
As for cutting, these knives are sharp! Plus, since these are western-style knives, they can easily be sharpened at home over the years, using any basic knife sharpener. This can be a big plus for home chefs who want to be able to sharpen their knives with any basic, slot-based knife sharpener, rather than needing to use something like a whetstone, which can be a bit more complicated to use.
Unless you lose them in a boating accident, these knives will have you set for life. They’re a great baseline for anyone’s kitchen, or, if you’ve already got tons of knives, they’re another great set that will last you for years to come.
Holding this knife, I could really feel how light it is, which is a classic feature of Japanese knives; in contrast to western knives, Japanese knives are characterized by use of a harder steel, which means that they are generally thinner, and thus lighter.
So far, I’ve used this one to slice potatoes, sausage, celery, and a few other meats and veggies and it feels like a knife through butter. With other knives, it feels a bit tricky to get, for example, very thin slices of potatoes, but the non-stick dimples and sharpness of the thin, light blade made this task a non-issue.
There are a few cutting tasks where I lean toward a heavier, western-style knife, like slicing carrots. But, I did test this knife out on a number of things and it will certainly cut anything. If you like heavier knives, you might lean more toward the Messermeister Royale Elité, but if you like that quick and light feeling, this is an excellent option.
If you’re looking for a dimpled blade, or just want a decent, Japanese-style chef’s knife, this is what I’d recommend. It’ll easily last you for years, decades even. You could live the rest of your live and never buy another kitchen knife, if you were so inclined.
This is the only knife set listed in this article that has three knives, rather than one or two. While you can easily get by with either a single mid-sized knife or a chef’s knife + paring knife combo, having three sizes to choose from is nice. Plus, the price point is excellent for a set of three full-tang knives.
In terms of build quality, these are solidly made and full-tang. However, the handle was a little less comfortable than some of the other options. Certainly usable, but you can tell that the manufacturer was keeping price in mind when manufacturing these. Which, of course means that you do get a good value for what you pay with these.
They’re definitely sharp. I was able to slice out extremely thin slices of tomato using the knives from this set. Plus, since they’re western-style, all I’ll need to do to sharpen these further down the line will be to use a standard slot-based sharpener and they’re good to go.
This is a decent knife, and you’d definitely be happy with it in your kitchen. If you’re looking for knives that cuts well for a decent rate, check this one out. Compared to the MTH-80, this knife is an inch shorter. For a chef’s knife, I like that extra inch, but you could make an argument for a 7-inch knife, if you want something a little smaller.
Personally, I lean toward the MTH-80, which is similar in terms of functionality and only a bit higher in terms of price point. But, if you want something comparable while keeping a few more bucks in your wallet, this is a solid choice.
As a stand-alone product, this is quite a versatile knife. The blade is six inches long, which is a bit shorter than a longer eight-inch knife, but longer than a smaller paring knife or similar. If you want one knife that can do it all decently, this is a solid option.
However, compared to some of the other options in this article, this product comes with a single knife, whereas there are other options that come with multiple blades. For that reason, I might lean toward one of those sets, which come in at comparable prices, to allow for a wider range of blades, instead of leaning on a single knife for everything.
Regardless, you’d be happy with this knife for years to come and you’ll have no problem slicing any meats, veggies, or other foods you might imagine.
The chef’s knife and paring knife from Messermeister would be my first choice by a decent margin. For a professional chef, you’ll be happy to use these knives daily. For a casual or home chef, you’ll be good to go for basically any cutting task. This is a great addition to the kitchen for a professional, or an excellent baseline to build off of for a casual home cook.
Alternatively, the MTH-80 is a great value for a solid Japanese knife. The dimples are nice, the build quality is solid, and the product is all-around sleek. While the knife stands on its own, it’s also got a surprisingly low cost compared to its quality; I’d even be willing to pay a bit more for this knife, compared to the prices and qualities of other comparable knives.
Of course, you’ll be more than happy with the three-piece J.A Henckels knife set. The set comes with three knives that all perform solidly. In terms of pure quality, there are better knives out there, but these can hold their own and come at an excellent price point. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that these were full tang, considering the price. You’d be more than happy slicing away with these; three solid knives at this price point is a steal.
What kitchen knife are you leaning toward? Do you prefer Japanese kitchen knives, or western ones? Dimpled blades or standard? Let me know in the comments and help the community find the best kitchen knife for their usage.