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The best kitchen knives in 2022, according to chefs

We asked cookbook authors and professional chefs about how to choose the best knives for your cooking needs.
We spoke to professional chefs about what to look for while shopping for kitchen knives, and they shared some of their favorites for different cooking needs.
We spoke to professional chefs about what to look for while shopping for kitchen knives, and they shared some of their favorites for different cooking needs.W?sthof

Upgrading your kitchen knife collection is less about quantity and more about quality. Ask any culinary pro and they will likely have the same advice: A few quality knives are all any chef needs to more than cover their bases in the kitchen.

"Knives are a chef’s best friend and the most essential tool in every kitchen. You’ll pick one up literally every time you cook,” said chef Dennis Prescott, co-host of “Restaurants on the Edge” and author of “Eat Delicious: 125 Recipes for Your Daily Dose of Awesome.” For most households, the three knives that will “do the trick” are a chef’s knife, a paring knife and a serrated knife. “Do I have more shapes and sizes of knives in my kit? Yes. Do I need more than these three? Not really,” Prescott said.

IN THIS ARTICLE How to shop for kitchen knives | How to take care of your kitchen knives

We spoke to professional chefs about what to look for while shopping for kitchen knives. They also shared some of their favorites for different cooking needs.

The best knife for every home cook

From budget-friendly chef knives to santoku knives worth splurging on, these are the essential kitchen knives that our experts recommend. And remember, you don't have to build up your knife collection overnight — a few key pieces are more worthwhile than a massive set with a wide variety of mediocre knives.

The best chef's knives for home cooks

This all-purpose knife is what you’ll use for almost every task in the kitchen, Prescott said. Originating in Germany and France, a chef’s knife can vary in length from 6 to 12 inches and has a broad blade that curves upward to form a tip. “They’re great for ‘rocker-style’ chopping and are typically heavier than their Japanese-style counterparts,” Prescott said, alluding to the Santoku knife, which we cover below.

Wüsthof Gourmet Chef's Knife

Rockwell Hardness rating: 55 to 60

Wüsthof’s versatile high-carbon steel chef’s knife is a kitchen workhorse with a sturdy, 8-inch blade, according to Prescott. “You will pay a little more, but the Wusthof is still a reasonable price point while offering great quality, and it’s easy to find in a store, so you can check it out [in person],” he said. “The German craftsmanship is excellent. It will last you forever.”

Victorinox Fibrox Pro Chef's Knife

Rockwell Hardness rating: 56

This Swiss company has been making knives since 1884. And from the non-slip ergonomic handle for easy maneuvering to the comfortable 6.1-ounce weight, Prescott said this stainless steel 8-inch chef’s knife is both practical and dependable, adding that the Victorinox brand generally offers very good quality line at a reasonable price.

Mac MTH-80 Chef's Knife

Rockwell Hardness rating: 59 to 61

At 6.5 ounces, the Japanese Mac MTH is considered a great lightweight option among the experts we consulted. It has a 2-millimeter-thick 8-inch blade, and although it’s made of high-carbon tempered steel, the brand says it’s rust-resistant. Dimples on the blade provide added ease when slicing through potentially sticky foods, Mac says.

Best santoku knives for home cooks

The santoku knife is Japan’s version of an all-purpose knife — it is similar to a chef’s knife, though it has a much thinner and harder blade for better precision when cutting. “This style has a wide blade with no tip [and] a dull back spine that curves down to meet the straight-edged front blade,” Prescott said. “It’s thinner and lighter to hold than a chef’s knife and allows for more refined slicing (and my personal preference in the kitchen).”

Used for a variety of tasks in the kitchen — from cutting meats to chopping nuts — a santoku blade typically ranges from 5 to 8 inches long.

Shun Classic Hollow-Ground Santoku Knife

Rockwell Hardness rating: 60 to 61

With an ebony pakkawood handle and a Damascus steel-clad, hand-sharpened blade, this Japanese knife is equally beautiful and durable. With a shorter, 7-inch blade, this option is also a favorite of celebrity chef David Burke — he said he prefers a shorter handle because there is less risk of knocking it off the counter. Prescott added that the Shun is his go-to knife when he cooks for friends, family and at events. “I have a bunch of Shuns. They always hold up,” he said.

Victorinox Fibrox Pro Santoku Knife

Rockwell Hardness rating: 56

Victorinox’s Fibrox Pro Santoku Knife has textured plastic handle for easy gripping and a 7-inch agile stainless-steel blade to nail the essential slicing, dicing and mincing.

Henckels Classic Hollow-Edge Santoku Knife

Rockwell Hardness rating: 57

Made in Spain from German stainless steel, this Henckels Santoku Knife is a favorite of Burke’s. According to the brand, it’s an impressive workhorse that you can use to cut vegetables, meat and fish, and its fully forged construction allows for a perfect transition from blade to handle, so it’s great for rocker-style chopping.

Best bread knives for home cooks

The bread knife is a serrated knife with small teeth along the blade to help cut through hard crusts without crushing bread. But your use for this knife will go way past bread — the sharp serrated edge makes easy work of cutting through other foods with hard surfaces but soft insides, like tomatoes. “The bread knife is much more than a bread knife,” Prescott said. “From carving roasts to slicing melon or eggplant — and yes, slicing bread — a serrated knife can often be a lifesaver in the kitchen.”

Wüsthof Gourmet Bread Knife

Rockwell Hardness rating: 56

Wüsthof’s Gourmet 8-inch Bread Knife is one of our experts’ top picks because it’s fairly compact, slim and sharp. This high-carbon steel serrated blade, which the brand says resists stains and corrosion while maintaining its pristine edge, is a great choice for those who want quality without the cost of a forged knife.

Henckels Classic Bread Knife

Rockwell Hardness rating: 56 to 57

For day-in and day-out use, this 7-inch serrated knife is a great option for cutting both crusty and soft loaves of bread, the brand says. Made of stain-resistant German stainless steel and fully forged for durability, this knife should last over time, according to Henckels.

Misono Molybdenum Bread Knife

Rockwell Hardness rating: 56

With a high-carbon stainless-steel blade that comes in two sizes, Misono’s Molybdenum Steel Series bread knife is a top option, according to our experts. From the water-resistant composite wood handle to the sophisticated serration, this knife is for more than just cutting bread — it slices effortlessly through tomatoes, melons and other delicate foods without crushing them, according to the brand.

Best paring knives for home cooks

The paring knife is a small, short-bladed knife used for intricate cutting, peeling, mincing and dicing, Burke explained. The straight blades typically range from 2 to 4 inches and are ideal for more delicate slicing, deveining shrimp, trimming and cutting fruit into different shapes. “It’s a small knife tailor-made for the finer, more finesse-required jobs in the kitchen that require a more delicate touch, like hulling strawberries,” Prescott added.

Victorinox Straight Paring Knife

Rockwell Hardness rating: 56

It’s clear from many of our experts that Victornox’s paring knives aren’t just budget-friendly, but also reliable. With options ranging in length and blade type, these multipurpose knives are ideal for intricate cutting and peeling, they noted.

JCK Natures Raiun Series Paring Knife

Rockwell Hardness rating: 60 to 61

The JCK Natures’ Raiun Series paring knife is much more elegant-looking than most paring knives due to its deep red sandlewood handle and 3.5-inch Damascus steel hand-sharpened blade. For the price and overall quality, our experts recommended this knife for culinary pros as well as those who are new in the kitchen but are willing to splurge on an investment tool for assisting with intricate cuts.

How to shop for kitchen knives

When shopping for a kitchen knife, Prescott said it all comes down to personal preference and how the tool feels in your hand. “Whether you prefer the Japanese-style santoku or German- and French-style chef’s knife, you want to love your knife. Like, actually love,” he said. “Your knife should be the driver to inspire you to want to cook more and encourage community at the table. That should be your end goal.”

There are countless individual knife options to consider, not to mention oversized sets with flashy components. So how do you determine the best investment for your needs? The professional chefs we spoke to said that while price certainly plays a role, you should pay particular attention to the knives’ material and weight, as well as what your personal needs are.

The right knife material

Quality knives typically come in one of three different materials:

  • High carbon steel
  • Stainless steel
  • A composite of both

Carbon steel knives are typically sharper and easier to re-sharpen than stainless steel knives, experts said. However, it’s also harder to maintain. “Carbon steel is beautiful, but it’s finicky and challenging,” Prescott said. “It requires a lot of maintenance because it will discolor if not taken care of properly. You have to be willing to put the work in and be OK with the knife having a life of its own.”

For the home cook who wants a great knife that is sharp and easy to use, Prescott said stainless steel is the way to go. Burke agreed that stainless is the best option for home cooks, but he also suggested looking into ceramic options, noting that shoppers shouldn’t underestimate this (often more affordable) option. “The sharpest knives I have right now are ceramic, and you can put those in the dishwasher,” he said. “They keep their edge, and they’re pretty in bright colors, so you can find them easily in the drawer.”

The right Hardness Scale rating

Our experts recommended checking out the knife’s Rockwell Hardness Scale rating, which indicates the hardness of steel by measuring the depth of an indentation after a heavy object impacts it. This rating is often indicated on the edge of the blade with the initials HRc. Anything below a 52 is too soft for a kitchen knife. But a rating can be too high as well — if a knife is too tough, it may be prone to chipping. According to knifeart.com, a great knife will properly balance hardness, flexibility and toughness so you end up with a sharp edge that maintains under a range of conditions.

The right weight

Knives aren’t a “one size fits all” situation — how it feels in your hand matters more than many realize. “You always want knives whose weight and size are somewhat comparable to that of the person using them,” Burke said. “A small person is not going to be comfortable with or accurately handle a large, heavy knife, and it’s important that you feel comfortable with the knives you use.”

Prescott emphasized that you’ll be less likely to pick up your knives each day if they don’t feel right in your hands. “It should fit like a glove,” he said. “Coming from someone who’s used a ‘bad’ knife to chop onions for four hours and dealt with the blister battle wounds, you want a knife that is comfortable and fun for you to use.” Prescott said you should try to test the knives out in person before buying them online. “It might look incredible in photos, but you need to hold it in your hand.”

The right blade

Depending on the type of knife you buy, the blade can be constructed in one of two ways: either forged or stamped.

  • A forged knife is formed from a single bar of steel, which is heated and then pounded into the right shape, usually by a specially trained craftsman. According to Prescott, the blade of a forged knife is typically heavier and thicker than a stamped knife.
  • A stamped knife consists of a blade that is cut out or “stamped” from a large sheet of steel, similar to how a cookie is cut from a piece of dough with a cookie cutter. The steel is then honed, heat-treated for durability and attached to the handle. These knives tend to be less expensive and not as strong as those that are forged.

“Forged [knives] are more on the premium side of things,” Prescott said. “But it doesn’t mean a stamped can’t be a great all-around knife. It’s really about how the knife feels in your hand.” Burke agreed, noting that while a forged knife holds up better, you likely won’t “go through that much wear and tear” using your knives at home.

The right price

Knives can range anywhere from $10 up into the thousands, depending on the type of steel, the handle, the craftsmanship and the company’s reputation, Burke noted. But our experts agreed that buying a high-end knife isn’t really necessary.

“The most important thing is keeping [your knives] sharp. It doesn’t matter if it’s a $10 knife or a $100 knife. You can buy the most expensive knife in the world, but if you don’t keep it sharp, you’re not going to like it,” he said. “You just need a knife that’s comfortable in the hand. It’s like a car — you want to feel good in it.”

The right knife for your needs

Beyond a chef’s knife, paring knife and serrated knife, there are myriad options in the knife world — and the options can become overwhelming. So before making any purchases, stop and consider what you actually need in the kitchen.

“If you’re a vegetarian, for example, steer clear of boning knives,” Prescott said. “I always suggest going with individual knife purchases rather than buying the ‘block-style’ bulk sets. That way you can customize your knife collection to suit your individual needs.”

How to take care of your kitchen knives

Just as essential as narrowing down the right type of knives for you in the sea of gadgets and accessories is how you care for them once you start cooking. “The most important thing about knives, no matter the kind, is to keep them sharp,” Burke said. “To keep them sharp, hand wash and dry them – don’t put them in the dishwasher, which can dull blades and destroy handles – and then store properly in a knife drawer, block or on a magnetic wall strip.”

Burke recommended buying a stone to sharpen your knives when they get dull. “The steel rods don’t sharpen your knife — those are just to get the bristles off the edge after sharpening on the stone,” he explained. “It will clean up the edge, but that’s it.”

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