What are the Best Kitchen Knives in the World? Chef-Quality Picks & Tips

Updated on April 7, 2015
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Hunting for Good Chef's Knives? Reviews and Advice

Ever notice how on chef shows, they always seem to cut, dice and chop with ease?

I've got news for you: it's not just technique. If your current blades leave you with uneven carrots and squashed tomatoes, it might be time for an upgrade!

The truth is, a professional chef picks their knives as carefully as an auto mechanic picks their toolkit. A set of good quality chef's knives makes cooking faster, better and more precise.

And the good news, of course, is they are a real investment. With the right blades, good care and a proper sharpener, your set can last a lifetime.

This article is written to help you find the best knives for chefs, whether of the home variety or not. We're specifically looking for cutlery that's tough, sharp and slick. With the right set, you'll actually save hundreds of hours in food prep!

In addition, we'll first briefly cover a closely related topic that I get asked frequently: what's the difference between carbon steel and stainless?

Ready to get started? Read on!

A freshly-honed carbon steel chef's knife.
A freshly-honed carbon steel chef's knife. | Source

Carbon Steel vs. Stainless Steel Knives: Which is Better?

The knives I'm reviewing here today are largely constructed from steel. It's tough, can take a beating, and can be sharpened to keep that blade in working order.

The two varieties you'll run across will be stainless and carbon. There are some key differences, which I'll list here.

Carbon Steel:

  • A carbon steel chef's knife will be harder than a stainless steel equivalent. That means they tend to stay sharper for longer. That CAN also means they're a bit more work to sharpen, since the metal isn't as soft. However, many find that carbon takes to sharpening more easily than stainless.
  • Carbon steel is more brittle than stainless. In a good, high quality kitchen knife set, however, random chipping is very rare. Practically speaking, however, this knife shouldn't go in the dishwasher, and definitely shouldn't be dropped.
  • Carbon stains and rusts. It just does. That doesn't mean the metal is low quality, or degrading, it just means it's more reactive. Things like onions will darken the blade. Careful cleaning and occasional mineral oil treatment will keep your knife in top shape.

Stainless Steel:

  • It's softer than carbon, so it'll require more frequent sharpening. Of course, that's speaking in relative terms, since it's still steel and steel is a strong metal.
  • Stainless doesn't require as much care as carbon steel. You can often wash them in the dishwasher (though I prefer to hand wash), and they aren't nearly as reactive. Any oxidization can usually be wiped away. The lower care requirements give it an obvious advantage, and many of the world's best kitchen knife sets are stainless.

So which is the better option? I'd say that depends on your needs. For 95% of people, stainless steel is a no-brainer. It's just so much easier to deal with. The only downside? You'll need to sharpen it more frequently.

However, if you cook all the time, or if you're a pro or want to become one, you'll love the laser sharpness, lasting strength and ease of sharpening that carbon steel chef's knives offer.

Mercer Genesis: Good quality, affordable chef's kitchen knife set

I often get asked what the best knives for chefs are. I'm happy to give some suggestions. However, there's usually a bit of 'sticker shock'... people see a knife set at Costco for $29.99 and expect to find something in that range.

My advice? If that's your budget, save your money! A top quality knife set is worth splashing out on.

With that disclaimer, I'd like to introduce one of the more affordable sets I'd recommend. The Mercer Genesis series is a good quality chef's knife set with great reviews. The blades are built to last.

Details:

-It's a stainless steel set. The metal is corrosion resistant and very strong, though I recommend regular sharpening to keep it in top cutting condition. They're one-piece, full tang forged blades.

-You get five knives in total. Paring, utility, boning, chef's knife and a serrated one for bread. They all come in an attractive knife block.

-The handles are significant, giving you an excellent grip and fine control.

-The blades take very well to a honing steel, if you're comfortable using one.

You might feel that five blades is not enough for you. I'd encourage you to reassess that. You'll likely reach for the utility and the chef's knife most often. Between these five you can perform all the basic, essential tasks required of a chef. Simple kitchen, simple life!

The Mercer Genesis 6-piece reviews as one of the best professional kitchen knife sets around. It's certainly worth a look.

Yoshihiro: Best chef's knives in the world?

In the culinary world, few need a sharper knife than a Japanese chef. Many of the best brands come from this culture. Yoshihiro is a fantastic name to know. They produce laser sharp, carbon steel chef's knives with fantastic reviews. What's more, they're surprisingly affordable.

I mentioned earlier that carbon steel tends to stain. The Japanese have a type of finish they call 'kuro-uchi', or black forged. It's an intentionally rustic finish, used to protect the blade from staining without reliance on chromium.

Don't let that rustic appearance fool you. These blades are wickedly sharp, able to tackle meat, fish, veggies and more.

Details:

-This set comes with two blades in total. A beautiful, top quality chef's knife which is a bit shorter than typical but highly usable, and a smaller, shallower utility blade.

-Both are forged with a blue carbon steel core and a white carbon steel exterior. The blade is extremely hard, capable of holding onto its edge for an extended period of time.

-These fantastic chef's knives come with gorgeous rosewood handles. As with most Japanese knives, the handles are more rounded than ergonomic. That said, they're lightweight and a breeze to handle.

This set is pricier than you might expect for two choppers, but compared to Japanese brands of similar quality, they're remarkably affordable. More importantly, they're unique, razor sharp and perfect for preparing most dishes. You don't have to speak Japanese to get it!

ZHEN: Gorgeous, affordable, among the top kitchen knives in the world

If you're into Japanese quality but not so into carbon steel and the care required, ZHEN is offering a wonderful chef's knife set with one of the best price - quality ratios around.

ZHEN isn't a Japanese company (though they seem to want you to think so!), they're actually Taiwanese. They make use of Japanese sourced VG-10 blank blades and then perform the rest of the finish work in Taiwan.

If you're not familiar, VG-10 is a high quality type of steel made mostly in Japan, mostly for the purpose of blades such as these. Sourcing the raw blades from Japan is more than a clever marketing ploy by ZHEN. It allows them to produce VG-10 blades for a much lower price tag.

These stainless steel chef's knives are a good example of a reasonably priced set that will last forever with decent care.

Details:

-The blades are full tang and very sharp out of the box. I would expect that sharpness to fade shortly, and you'll likely need a professional sharpening shortly after. That's a pretty common occurrence with a new set.

-You get five options in total. A fish / boning knife, a chef's knife, a santoku blade (a general purpose knife popular in Japanese kitchens), a utility and a paring knife.

-The fit and finish is surprisingly elegant. The wooden handles feel expensive in hand, and you'll find yourself chopping and dicing with confidence. The only detractor seems to be a slightly above average weight. The excellent price tag counteracts that in my opinion.

Are they the best kitchen knives in the world? No, but they are fantastic, beautiful and high-utility. And just try to find a set of decent VG-10s at a comparable cost.

Saber: Professional-grade chef's / kitchen knives with bag

We're now going to move from east Asia to northern Europe. Saber is a German company which has started to produce a chef's knife set that's intended to appeal to the apprentice chef, as well as home cooking enthusiasts.

The knives and production process were designed in Germany, but they have move production to China. This doesn't seem to affect the end result, fortunately.

All their products are drop forged and heat and cold treated to ensure durability under a variety of good conditions. Their steel is high carbon stainless, with a high degree of chromium in it.

Details:

-Saber's blades seem to take an edge very readily. They are truly, wickedly sharp, enough to slice paper thin veggies with ease. Stainless is a bit softer, so be sure to become familiar with using the honing steel, it'll increase time between full sharpens.

-This is an extensive kit. Here's the list of what you get: two chef's knives, a santoku, a bread slicer, a boning knife, two paring knives, a utility blade, a carving knife, and a honing steel and carving fork. Oh, and a carrying case too! If you work out the per knife value, you'll see it's quite a deal Saber is offering.

-The blades are drop forged steel with full tang blades. They're reasonably light and easy to control. I'd suggest hand washing only.

-The number of blades might be more than the average person will use. I'd say it's something better suited to a pro, aspiring pro or a home chef with a wide range of skills.

These cutters are crafted in a highly controlled setting and are crafted to perfection. The value is unreal. They're definitely some of the best knives for aspiring chefs and home cooks alike.

Common Kitchen Knife Myths:

Myth: A dull knife is safer than a sharp one.

Truth: In fact, a knife is far more likely to slip if it's dull than if it's sharp. A dull knife will result in more cuts and accidents.

Myth: A blade becomes dull because the sharp edge wears away over time.

Truth: In most cases a knife becomes dull because the microscopic edge bends over on itself. The edge is extremely thin and bends very easily. Pieces can even break off. Sharpening is the process of removing this folded edge. A honing steel can temporarily 'unfold' the edge.

Myth: Stainless steel doesn't rust or stain.

Truth: Actually, stainless steel is simply steel forged with a percentage of chromium in it. That makes it resistant to corrosion and rust, but not immune. If you leave a blade in water for too long, it can rust. Dishwashers can cause this too (since they're such damp environments, and the soaps can be harsh.

Questions & Answers

    Have some chef's knife reviews of your own to add? Leave 'em here!

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      • profile image

        Edna 

        20 months ago

        my favorite is karmin knife set ;)

      working

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