When I put out a knife identification chart some time ago, one of the knives that we mentioned was the chef knives.
Well, that had to be done seeing as they are one of the most popular knives around today. They are also highly functional so they deserve to make lists of this kind.
That said, choosing a chef’s knife is not as simple as going to Amazon and checking out the first one that comes onto your screen.
If I would buy a chef’s knife today, or someone were to ask me what to look for when buying a chef’s knife, the information contained below is what I would share with them.
How to Choose a Good Chef’s Knife
In no particular order, make sure to consider the following.
It is no news that some brands slap a higher premium on their products just because they have their names on them. That is why most people go for start-up and nameless brands.
Now, don’t get me wrong. You might sometimes get lucky and find a great knife from these lesser-known brands. In other cases, though, you would have gambled on a lot of smaller brands with too much money that it would have been better to buy from a well-known brand.
Fortunately, some great brands sell amazing chef knives, and they don’t put a hole in your pocket while at it.
Some of those brands are:
If you have a great chef knife from another brand that didn’t show up here, please let me know in the comments. Share how long you have been using the knife also, as well as what makes it stand out for you.
One would think that chef’s knives would all be the same size since they carry the same name.
Over time, though, I have seen a size disparity between different chef knives. Truth be told, though, the size differences won’t be noticed if you just do basic cooking – but they could be important for professional usage.
That said, the recommended size range for chef knives is between 6 – 8 inches on the blade. That would handle most tasks pretty well.
Did you think that all blades are made of the same material? Ha-ha.
Sorry about that. I’m not laughing at you. I’m laughing with you.
Okay, that said, knife manufacturers and brands have found different materials to work for different purposes.
Some of the common knife blade materials, and why they make sense, include:
- Carbon steel – knives made with high carbon steel possess a higher strength level and can stay sharp for longer times. They are also easier to sharpen than their stainless steel counterparts. Thus, they can cost a premium more than the chef knife blades made with the former material.
- Ceramic – ceramic blades are lightweight, extremely thin, and stay sharper for longer than stainless steel knives too. However, they cannot be used as all-purpose knives, will likely damage faster, and are harder to sharpen.
- Stainless steel – stainless steel knives are praised for their great edge retention, ease of sharpening, resistance to rust/ corrosion, and the fact that they simply get the job done. They also come at one of the best price points, so value for money is up there on the list of what makes this material worth it.
- Non-stick coating – as the name implies, this coating ensures food doesn’t stick to the surface of the knife. They can be great for moisture-rich foods but I don’t see all the fuss in them. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get them if you need them. Just be careful when sharpening them so that you don’t nick the coating off.
- Titanium – titanium is often compared to steel since it resists corrosion better and offers a lighter weight to the latter material. However, they don’t hold their edge quite as well as a stainless steel blade manages.
Construction – Forged vs Stamped Chef Knives
There are two main kinds of chef knife constructions to concern ourselves with here:
The forging process packs a lot of steel into a small space. This density results in a stronger knife which doesn’t bend or damage easily.
It is also easier for a forged knife to keep its edge for longer and thus, stay sharper for an extended period. These kinds of knives are equally easier to sharpen since they don’t bend and twist as much.
Lest I forget, the forging process allows manufacturers to sneak in a bolster where you can rest your fingers when grabbing the knife. The bolster is one of the biggest tell-tale features used to identify a forged knife apart from the stamped one.
The stamped knife model is a modern and faster, cookie-cutter model of making knives.
A machine with the knife shape mold presses down on a continuous sheet of metal, cutting out the shape of the knife. The handle is added afterward.
For this machine to cut easily, you already know that the metal has to be less strong than what we have with forged knives. That, however, makes stamped steel less expensive when compared to forged metal knives.
Stamped knives can be very flexible and that makes it harder to control them when sharpening. It takes some getting used to but you should be fine. Due to the lack of bolsters, too, they might not be as safe as you might expect.
Chef vs Santoku Knife?
This is yet another important consideration to make.
The Japanese Santoku knife has been a strong contender for the traditional chef knives for a long time now. Some professional chefs prefer the santoku knife to the standard chef’s knife while it is the other way around for others.
If you’re stuck on the decision of which one will work best for you, see this comparison guide I developed on the santoku and chef knife.
As I said, this list is based on what I would look for if I were buying a chef’s knife.
I like my things functional as they are pleasing to look at too. Best believe I won’t buy an ugly chef knife just because someone told me it worked great. I’m very sure there is another option out there that looks very good and still gets the job done.
Just look at these guys for example, and they have an average 4-star rating to match:
- Victorinox 45520 Fibrox Pro 8-inch Chef Knife
- Wusthof Classic 8 inch chef knife
- Mercer Culinary M23506 Chef Knife
Finally, price is a strong consideration for me.
Like I would always say, you don’t have to pay through the nose for anything. There is a perfect chef knife for you out there that won’t break your pocket. At the same time, this is not a call for you to go cheap and buy something that won’t last long.
Expect to invest anywhere between $50 – $200 on a chef’s knife. Following the other recommendations on this list, I don’t see how you can go wrong at that price range.
Tell Me What You Bought
Now that you have gone through all of the above, what knife did you settle on?
Do share why that knife caught your fancy above all others. Bonus points if you have started using the knife already, so you can also share how well it is performing for you.