The best kitchen knives you can buy

  • Sharp knives of different shapes and sizes are essential tools for cooks.
  • Having the right type of knife - chef's, paring, knife, utility, for example - makes life easier for tackling many culinary tasks.
  • For excellent quality and performance, use the sturdy German-made Wüsthof Classic 8-inch Cook's Knife for making light work of chopping, slicing, dicing, mincing, and more.

As ghoulish as this sounds, I can't live without knives. Each day in the kitchen, I wield my two favorites: a chef's knife for chopping vegetables and slicing meat and a paring knife for peeling fruit. I also often halve bagels with a bread knife and use my utility knife for tasks smaller than those requiring a chef's knife. Although the assortment of knives on the market is overwhelming, most home cooks only need these four kinds.

These are the 4 types of knives every home cook needs:

  1. A chef's knife (aka cook's knife): This versatile knife has an 8-to-12-inch blade. It's used for chopping, cubing, slicing, and dicing vegetables, meats, and other ingredients, especially in volume. I also use the flat, broad side of my chef's knife to crush garlic.
  2. A paring knife: Small but mighty, this knife is great for precision-cutting tasks, like peeling and coring fruits, deveining shrimp, slicing garlic, and scoring pastries, for example. I like the fine control I have over a paring knife with its typically 3-to-4-inch-long blade.
  3. A bread knife: I used to think this type knife was unnecessary until I tried slicing a fresh loaf … and squashed it. With its long (about 10 inches), narrow serrated blade, the bread knife cuts through soft foods like bread and tomatoes without crushing them.
  4. A utility knife: I think of this knife as the "in-between" knife. With its 4-to-7-inch-long blade, the utility knife is large enough to slice moderate volumes of ingredients and small enough to cut with moderate precision. It's convenient to use for medium-sized tasks - like cutting sandwiches - that are too big for a paring knife but don't need the big guns of a chef's knife. When your chef's knife or paring knife is dirty or unavailable, the utility knife often can serve as a handy substitute.

Don't automatically purchase a block set of knives. It may include more pieces than you need. A pro I spoke with advised against buying specialty knives in a block. Instead, he suggested thinking about what culinary tasks you do and then focusing on high-quality models that address those specific needs.

What to consider when shopping for knives:

  • Blade material: In order to cut well and remain sharp, a blade must be made of strong, hard, corrosion-resistant material. Stainless steel has those qualities but also needs to be sharpened regularly. Carbon steel blades are favored by chefs because their higher carbon content means the cutting edge stays sharp longer, but they're more expensive. Damascus blades have a carbon steel core topped with alternating layers of hard and soft stainless steel; they're very hard and can be ground to be extremely sharp. Ceramic blades are very light, very hard (comparable to diamonds), and hold their sharp edges well. Titanium, in combination with something like ceramic, makes for a durable and extremely lightweight knife.
  • Style (German or Japanese): You can't go wrong with either German or Japanese engineering, and both types of knives have their benefits. German knives are heavier and have blades with curved bellies. The curved cutting edge accommodates rocking the blade from tip to heel for versatile tasks, including chopping, cutting, and slicing. Japanese knives are more lightweight with thinner but extremely sharp blades. Made from harder steel, their blades tend to stay sharp longer. The blade's slightly straighter cutting edge is best suited for precise slicing.
  • Construction (forged versus stamped): A forged knife is made of a single piece of steel that's then tempered and hammered into shape. The resulting blade is sturdy and stiff. A stamped knife has a blade that's been cut cookie-cutter style from a sheet of steel before being tempered and hardened. The resulting blade is thinner, lighter, and more flexible. Forged knives are usually more expensive than stamped knives. Although forged knives generally are recommended over stamped knives, not all stamped knives are inferior to forged knives - it depends on the materials used and the manufacturer.
  • Tang: If you have a bird's eye view of the knife's handle, look for a line of metal extending from the blade through the handles, sandwiched between both halves. This is the tang. A full tang continues the length of the handle to the end; a partial tang goes halfway or so down the handle. A tang offers balance and strength. While knives with full tangs are preferable (and often costlier), a knife with a partial tang can still perform well. In fact, some of the top Japanese knives have partial tangs.
  • Weight: Although many cooks prefer heavier knives because they offer more heft and require less force when cutting, some like that lighter knives offer more control and create less fatigue. And as mentioned, Japanese knives are lighter by design but not inferior to their heavier Western counterparts.
  • Handle: Look for a comfortable, easy-to-grip-without-slipping handle made of plastic or composite; wood tends to warp. The blade must be securely riveted to the handle.
  • Balance: You want the blade and handle to be fairly even in weight and not overly heavy in one direction or the other.

I've tested and employed all different types and brands of knives over more than 20 years of cooking. To supplement my research, I interviewed a former prep cook and read a breadth of reviews by experts who have tested these knives.

Here are the best kitchen knives you can buy:

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Find all the best offers at our Coupons page.

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Insider Picks team. We highlight products and services you might find interesting. If you buy them, we get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners. We frequently receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. We operate independently from our advertising sales team. We welcome your feedback. Email us at insiderpicks@businessinsider.com.

{{}}

View As: One Page Slides

The best kitchen knife overall

The best kitchen knife overall
A sturdy and dependable workhorse, the German-made Wüsthof Classic 8-Inch Cook's Knife is an ideal and efficient culinary cutting tool.

I've used my Wüsthof Classic 8-Inch Cook's Knife almost daily for nearly two decades to prepare both Chinese and Western dishes. I've chopped, cut, sliced, and diced countless ingredients (vegetables, fruits, meats, tofu) of different thicknesses and textures with ease.

Constructed of high-carbon stainless steel, the knife's blade has a slightly rounded belly for efficiently rocking it back and forth while cutting. The honed, extremely hard metal creates a sharp cutting edge that retains its sharpness well. The 5-inch-long handle is made of very durable engineered thermoplastic. This forged knife has a full tang that's riveted to the handle in three places.

I find the handle very comfortable, even when I'm chopping thick, hard ingredients like melons and carrots for a long time, and balanced in weight with the blade. Also, I really like that this 8.5-ounce knife is heavy and heavy duty. It's not too heavy to cause fatigue but hefty enough to help enormously with cutting. You get both force and control.

In my experience, the versatile Wüsthof Classic 8-Inch Cook's Knife is excellent for working on diverse ingredients. Good Housekeeping used it to slice tomatoes, chop onions, debone a chicken, and even shred basil into fine ribbons. For that last task, I admit that I employ a smaller, lighter utility knife, and like me, testers at Food & Wine found that "the delicate leaves get ever-so-slightly bruised on the edges" from this chef's knife.

Although advertised as dishwasher safe, I urge hand washing and drying the Wüsthof Classic 8-Inch Cook's Knife. Good Housekeeping named this knife "Best Overall Chef Knife" and "Top Lab Pick." Food & Wine dubbed it the "Best Tough Workhorse," and former international culinary professional Daniel Gritzer of Serious Eats chose it as the "Favorite High-End Western Chef's Knife."

Pros: Sturdy, heavy duty, versatile, well-constructed, sharp

Cons: Not inexpensive, less nimble than lighter knives

The best budget chef's knife

The best budget chef's knife
Henckels' International Classic 8-inch Chef's Knife delivers excellent cutting performance and accommodates many different tasks — all at a reasonable price.

Made in Spain, Henckels' International Classic 8-Inch Chef's Knife has a blade of stainless steel that's honed for sharpness and precise cutting. This forged knife has a full tang that is triple-riveted to a polymer handle. The 4.72-inch-long handle is well-balanced with the blade. Many Amazon customers found the handle quite comfortable although a few noted that its edges are a bit squared off and not completely comfortable.

The cutting blade accommodates many different tasks, including chopping, dicing, slicing, and mincing vegetables, fruits, meat, and fish. Good Housekeeping noted that it performed an "ace job of blitzing parsley into dust, dicing onions, or deboning a chicken." Testers at Food & Wine found that like the Wüsthof Classic 8-inch Cook's Knife, Henckel's International Classic 8-Inch Chef's Knife slightly bruised basil leaves when slicing them, but successfully cubed butternut squash and cut through a chicken's breastbone to split breasts.

Although advertised as dishwasher safe, Henckels' International Classic 8-Inch Chef's Knife is best washed and dried by hand. The manufacturer Zwilling J.A. Henckels is very well known for delivering durable, high-quality knives at moderate prices.

Designating this model as the "Best Value Chef's Knife," Good Housekeeping noted that it has the "heft, shape, and performance of a splurge-worthy chef's knife but comes at a much nicer price point." Food and Wine called it the "Best Tough Workhorse." Sharon Franke, a professional culinary equipment and tester formerly of Good Housekeeping, named it "Best Budget Knife for More Serious Cooks." She said, "Honestly, this knife is almost exactly the same as the Wüsthof. It's just a small step down in terms of materials."

Pros: Great value, versatility, excellent cutting performance

Cons: Squared edges on handle uncomfortable for some

The best paring knife

The best paring knife
The petite and nimble Victorinox Swiss Army 3.25-Inch Straight Paring Knife is perfect for close work on small, intricate, and/or delicate ingredients.

When I think of a Swiss Army knife, I think of survival skills. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I need my paring knife to survive in my kitchen. The Victorinox Swiss Army 3.25-inch Straight Paring Knife is great for any culinary MacGyver.

This Swiss-made stamped knife is incredibly maneuverable and weighs 1.6 ounces. With its 3.25-inch-long blade, it can handle jobs ranging from peeling or seeding fruit to slicing onions to mincing garlic. Many Amazon reviewers liked the blade's flexibility. Some did feel that the knife is a bit too lightweight and the handle is a little small and thin.

In terms of performance, though, the Victorinox Swiss Army 3.25-inch Straight Paring Knife more than pulls its weight. Commending its control and versatility, Wirecutter reported that this knife excelled in hulling strawberries with one smooth, circular action as well slipping beneath a shrimp shell for efficient peeling and deveining.

I have to admit that I sometimes put my paring knife in the dishwasher since it's small and — unlike a large chef's knife — blends in with regular cutlery. The Victorinox Swiss Army 3.25-inch Straight Paring Knife is machine washable. Good Housekeeping ran it through repeated dishwashing cycles and found only one small speck of rust. Even if this paring knife gets a bit worn after going through the dishwasher many times, it's very inexpensive to replace.

This knife is Wirecutter's "Top Pick" for paring knives and the "Favorite Paring Knife" of Cook's Illustrated of America's Test Kitchen. Good Housekeeping rated this model 4 out of 5 for ease of use, 5 out of 5 for design, and 4 out of 5 for performance.

Pros: Inexpensive, sharp, very maneuverable, and easy to control

Cons: Feels flimsy (especially thin plastic handle) and too lightweight for some

The best utility kitchen knife

The best utility kitchen knife
The Japanese Shun Classic 6-Inch Utility Knife is versatile and great for jobs ranging from small, precise cutting chores to large, broader chopping tasks.

Smaller than a chef's knife and larger than a paring knife, Shun Classic 6-inch Utility Knife can take care of most jobs that the other two perform. Handcrafted in Japan, this knife sports a blade that's thin but very strong. The blade's core is made of Shun's proprietary advanced steel that's hardened by additional carbon, cobalt, chromium, and tungsten. This core is wrapped with multiple layers of Damascus stainless steel clad to resist wear and corrosion as well as retain an extremely sharp edge.

Many Amazon customers raved about how well and how long this knife holds its sharp edge. They also loved how lightweight and easily controlled it is, requiring little force to cut. The downside of such a hard metal, though, is that it's prone to chipping.

This Japanese knife is indeed lighter than its Western utility knife counterparts. What makes it a little similar, though, is its very slightly curved belly. Instead of being completely straight like many Japanese knives, the Shun Classic 6-inch Utility Knife has a cutting edge conducive to rocking moderately when cutting.

The D-shaped handle is made of smooth PakkaWood, an engineered wood/plastic composite material that's dense, waterproof, and warp-resistant. Many Amazon customers noted that this handle is comfortable and fits their hands well.

The Shun Classic 6-inch Utility Knife can be used like a large paring knife or small chef's knife. I use my utility knife for trimming broccoli, slicing onions, cutting sandwiches, and other "medium-size" jobs. But it's not good for bigger or more heavy-duty jobs like deboning a chicken.

Shun was the first brand recommended by the prep cook I interviewed, and Good Housekeeping also loved this company. Hotel sous chef Ivan of Knife Lover named this knife his top pick for 6-inch kitchen knives.

Pros: Very sharp, retains sharp edge well, versatile, lifetime warranty

Cons: Brittle blade prone to chipping

The best bread knife

The best bread knife
The Mercer Culinary Millennia Wavy Edge 10-Inch Wide Bread Knife cuts through your bread "like butter" without crushing it.

Don't worry about flattening a fresh (or not-so-fresh) loaf of bread with the Mercer Culinary Millennia Wavy Edge 10-inch Wide Bread Knife. This stamped knife has a thin, flexible blade made of high-carbon, stain-free Japanese steel as well as durable, rubber-like plastic handles.

The blade's serrated edge is designed to cut through a tough and/or hard exterior layer (like the bread's crust) and not tear or crush a soft interior. The textured handle resists slipping, which you want to avoid with such a sharp knife.

Cook's Illustrated of America's Test Kitchen described this knife as "our go-to knife for slicing everything from bread to tomatoes to sandwiches. Its sharp points and grippy handle make it both powerful and comfortable." When Wirecutter tested it, the knife performed well overall, easily cutting sandwiches and cinnamon rolls. But it did shatter the bread crust a little and left teeth marks on roast beef slices.

Good Housekeeping noted that although this knife sliced foods without much added force, the blade's deep and wide serrations allowed a little less control, and it was challenging to cut wafer-thin slices and resulted in imperfect edges. Nonetheless, they said that for people who aren't overly concerned about precision-cutting for some breads and meats, they recommend this knife.

We don't recommend washing the Mercer Culinary Millennia Wavy Edge 10-inch Wide Bread Knife in the dishwasher. Wash and dry it by hand before putting it away in order to protect the serrated cutting edge.

What we love is this knife's low price. Good Housekeeping rated it the "Best Value" among its picks of best bread knives. Wirecutter named it a "good budget option" and the "Runner-up" to their more expensive pick for best bread knife. Better Homes and Gardens noted that the knife serves the needs of professional chefs and home cooks.

Pros: Good value, excellent serrated cutting edge, limited lifetime warranty

Cons: Doesn't cut wafer-thin slices with perfect, teeth-mark-free edges; not great for meats

Use and care of specialty kitchen knives

Use and care of specialty kitchen knives

Treat your knives with well, and you'll reap years of sharp service from them.

Here are some knife-care tips:
  • Don't use a glass cutting board. Use one made of softer material, like wood that's easier on knife blades. End-grain wood is best.
  • When storing knives, don't just toss them into a drawer where they'll clatter against each other, chip, and possibly cut someone reaching into the drawer. Protect the blades and store the knives on a magnetic strip or in a slotted drawer insert, a chef's knife roll, or freestanding block.
  • When transporting and/or storing individual knives, a knife sheath or blade guard works well.
  • Don't leave dirty knives sitting in the sink. They can bump against each other and other objects as well as corrode over time.
  • Don't put them in the dishwasher. Good Housekeeping noted that, regardless of manufacturer directions, hand washing and drying maintains the sharpness of a knife blade longer than running it through the dishwasher.
  • Keep your knives sharp. Through repeated use, knife blades become dull and dangerous because you have to use more force when trying to cut something.
How to test a knife's sharpness:

To determine if your knife is still sharp, try one of the following tests:

  • Lightly run your fingertips over the blade's edge to feel for a sharp, not rounded, edge.
  • Dangle a sheet of paper in front of you and try to slice it in half. A sharp knife cuts through the sheet; a dull knife slips off the edge or rips it unevenly.
  • Slice a tomato and see if the blade cuts — not smashes — it.
  • Place the knife on an onion. A sharp blade easily cuts through skin and layers; a dull blade slides off the skin.
  • Gently skim the knife over your forearm. A sharp blade cuts straight through arm hair; a dull blade folds over hair.
  • If your knife needs sharpening, use an electric sharpener or take it to a professional knife sharpener. Manual sharpeners don't work as well and whetstones required someone trained to use them (and not mess up your knife).
  • Be aware that the steel rod that comes with knife sets doesn't actually sharpen knives. It used to hone a dull blade, but regular sharpening is still necessary.
Add Comment()
Comments ()
X
Sort By:
Be the first one to comment.
We have sent you a verification email. This comment will be published once verification is done.