Best chef's knives
A chef's knife (also known as a cook's knife) is recognised as the most important blade in the kitchen by many, and can be used for almost every cutting task. It's a must-have item in every knife set, block or drawer.
In March 2021, we tested chef knives from well-known brands, such as Global, Lakeland, ProCook and Robert Welch.
Chef's knives are the most commonly purchased kitchen knife, which was why we chose them for our first-ever knife test.
Pricing and availability last checked: 12 May 2021.
The best chef's knives
Circulon Chef's Knife
This is a well-balanced 20cm chef's knife designed for everyday chopping and slicing.
The blade is forged from Japanese stainless steel.
The handle is covered in soft-grip rubber, which Circulon says is ergonomically designed to sit comfortably in the hand.
Global Stainless Steel Cook's Knife
This Global cook's knife is a back-heavy 13cm blade.
This kitchen knife is hand forged from CROMOVA 18, a high-carbon hand-forged stainless steel that Global says is exclusive to its brand.
It's one piece of metal from cutting edge to handle.
Kitchen Devils Control Large Cook's Knife
This 20cm cook's knife is front heavy.
The steel blade is one of the most flexible and lightest for its size of those we tested.
We found the soft rubber handle is well shaped to offer a comfortable grip.
It's one of the cheapest blades we've tested.
Lakeland Select-Grip Japanese Steel Chef’s Knife
This is a front-heavy 20cm kitchen knife that comes with a sheath for safe storage.
The chef's knife is made from Japanese stainless steel.
The handle of the knife is wrapped in soft-grip rubber.
Masterclass Knife Armour Chef’s Knife
The Masterclass chef's knife is a 15cm back-heavy blade.
This kitchen knife is forged from a single piece of stainless steel.
The whole kitchen knife is covered in an armour coating which makes it dishwasher safe.
But how did this rigid blade compare with the others on test?
Nihon X50 Chef's Knife
The Nihon X50 chef's knife is a perfectly balanced 20cm blade.
Its flexible blade is forged from X50 stainless steel, containing 0.5% carbon and 15% chrome.
This kitchen knife's rounded handle is made from European beech wood.
The cheapest knife we've tested is a 15cm front-heavy blade.
The kitchen knife has a carbon steel blade and an integrated soft-grip handle.
This chef's knife comes in sky or duck egg blue with a matching sheath for safe storage.
ProCook Professional X50 Chef's Knife
The Professional X50 chef's knife from ProCook is a back-heavy 15cm long blade of German steel.
Robert Welch Signature Cook's Knife
Cheapest price: £39.99 available at , also available at , ,
Blade size we tested 12cm, also available in 14cm, 16cm, 18cm, 20cm and 25cm
Comes with a sheath No
Dishwasher safe Yes, but recommended to hand wash
This stylish back-heavy 12cm blade is the smallest of the chef knive we've tested.
The blade of the kitchen knife is forged from German steel.
We found the slightly curved handle comfortable to hold.
Wusthof Crafter Cook’s Knife
This is a perfectly balanced 16cm chef's knife.
The blade of the knife is Japanese steel, while the traditional style handle is smoked oak with brass rivets.
This kitchen knife is the most expensive of those we tested, but did we think it was worth the money?
What is a chef's knife?
A chef's knife is a large, general-purpose kitchen knife usually 12cm to 20cm long with a blade that curves upwards along its length and ends in a narrow point.
How do you use a chef's knife?
Your thumb and index finger should be on opposite sides of the blade, closest to the bolster, while your remaining three fingers should be loosely curled around the handle.
This grip, mainly through the thumb and index finger, gives you extra control over the blade.
Your other hand (not holding the knife) is called your guiding hand. It has the job of holding food in place to keep it from sliding around on the chopping board.
Keep your fingers safe by tucking them into a claw grip: fingers curled inwards, gripping the food with your fingernails. The side of the knife blade should rest against the first knuckle of your guiding hand.
Anatomy of a kitchen knife
- Blade These come in a variety of shapes and sizes, often named after specialised tasks they've been designed for.
- Spine The top edge of the blade is the spine. Usually the thickest part of the blade, the spine provides strength and weight to the knife.
- Bolster This is the balancing point between the blade and the handle. It provides support, balance and protection for your fingers.
- Cutting edge This is the part of the kitchen knife that does the cutting.
- Tang The tang is a portion of the blade enclosed by the handle. A full tang runs the length of the handle and should mean a knife has better balance and durability.
- Handle This is the part of the knife you hold. Most handles are designed to be held in either hand. It should be comfortable to grip.
Back heavy vs front heavy knives
You'll see us refer in our reviews to chef knives as back-heavy, front-heavy or balanced. Here's what that means:
- Back-heavy More weight in the handle – our testers found knives with this balance were easier to control.
- Balanced The handle and the blade are almost equal in weight.
- Front-heavy More weight in the blade.
One is not better than the other. It's a matter of personal preference.
Tang jargon explained
When choosing a knife, you may see it described as having full tang or hidden tang. Here's a quick explanation of what that means:
- Full tang The steel extends through the full handle. In these knives, the balance tends to be towards the handle. Knifemakers say that this type of tang makes a more robust knife.
- Hidden tang The handle steel is covered and the balance is towards the blade.
Japanese vs European knives
- Have thinner blades
- Often don't have bolsters
- Harder steel
- The blade is usually straighter and therefore more suited to slicing
- Normally light and well balanced
European (also known as German) knives:
- Have thicker blades
- Considered more robust especially towards the bolster, which they are more likely to have
- Normally softer steel than Japanese knives
- They are normally heavier than Japanese knives
How we tested the chef's knives?
To find out which of our selected chef's knives was the best, we put the whole selection through a series of tests:
How sharp when new?
Before any other tests were conducted, we examined each knife fresh out the box for its sharpness.
We did this by shining a light directly across the cutting edge of the blade. Reflections on the cutting edge indicated areas of dullness.
The fewer areas of reflection, the higher the knife was rated.
How sharp for cutting?
Next, we sliced each knife through each of these:
- Paper We dragged each knife down through the paper in a slicing motion.
- Cucumber Sliced in half longways, then diced.
- Chicken breast Diced.
- Butternut squash Cut longways with our weight on the blade's handle, then cut into chunks.
- Tomato Sliced through the centre horizontally on a chopping board.
Most of the knives we tested handled paper, cucumbers and chicken breasts well. If a knife didn't, we highlighted this in our verdicts.
Knives that cut through every piece of produce were rated more highly.
Ease of use
Each knife was rated on completing three basic kitchen knife skills:
Dicing Each knife was used to dice half a red onion.
Mincing Each knife was used to mince one garlic clove.
Julienning Each knife was used to julienne one 5cm piece of carrot.
How sharp after use?
After the cutting tests, the sharpness of each knife was rated by shining a light directly across the cutting edge of the blade. Reflections on the cutting edge indicate areas of dullness.
Then each knife was used to attempt to slice a piece of paper in half for the second time in our testing.
After testing, all knives were disposed of in a responsible manner by donating them to local soup kitchens.
How we chose these chef's knives?
We investigated the most popular and bestselling chef's knives from national retailers that were in stock for home delivery at the time of testing.
We purchased all the products we tested.