Chef's knives are a versatile kitchen accessory and can be used for anything from cutting meat and hard vegetables to chopping nuts. We test brands like Victorinox, Stellar and Sabatier to pick our favourite versions.
A chef's knife (also sometimes called a cook's knife) is a firm, large bladed, all-purpose kitchen knife. It's surprisingly versatile and will assist you in the kitchen with all sorts of jobs, from finely chopping herbs and nuts and preparing meat and hard vegetables like squash or red cabbage, through to cutting vegetables and baked products with precision.
If you maintain a chef's knife, it will last you for years. To keep it in good order, sharpen the blade frequently, especially if it's made from steel, and always cut on a wooden or plastic board as hard surfaces like glass or granite will damage and dull them. Avoid using them to cut bone or frozen produce, as this could cause the blade to chip.
The best chef's knives 2019
Victorinox Grand Maître chef’s knife (20cm)
Best chef's knife for comfort
Pros: Robust ergonomic design, durable edge, versatile, lifetime warranty, dishwasher safe
Cons: Expensive, heavy
The knife feels solid and is impressively well-engineered. Victorinox makes a variety of chef’s knives, and this has one of the highest specs. It didn’t disappoint and aced our sharpness test. It's perfectly balanced and feels comfortable in the hand, too.
IKEA VARDAGEN cook's knife (20 cm)
Best budget chef's knife
Pros: Incredible value, lightweight, versatile, lifetime warranty, easy to use
Cons: Less durable edge, handwash only
IKEA has produced a knife with an incredibly consistent balance at the bolster, and it's lightweight without feeling flimsy. The plastic handle and matte steel do feel and look a little on the cheap side, but its classic European shape and wide blade feel pleasingly natural when chopping in all directions and styles. It may not seem as sleek and fancy as its more expensive competitors, but it does the job with a versatile, easy-to-use grace. It’s sadly handwash only, but the stainless steel means you won’t need to be obsessive about care.
Deglon Sabatier C003 cook's knife (20cm)
Best traditional chef's knife
Pros: Good value, very lightweight, versatile, dishwasher safe, familiar design
Cons: Less durable edge, short strokes
This knife is certainly one for the traditionalists with its wooden French blade and lightweight manoeuvrable feel. It's sturdy with a natural curve and distinct point/tip, though it's perhaps a touch front-heavy when it comes to balance. The traditional straight, gentle tapered blade provides a pleasant rocking action, though it's a touch flat at the heel, so favours long full strokes and slightly struggles with more with downward chopping.
Richardson Sheffield Scandi cook’s knife (20cm)
Best chef's knife for sharpness
Pros: Good value, precision edge, feels light, versatile, modern fluid design, tactile wooden handle
Cons: Handwash only
The shape of both blade and handle help this knife move with a very fluid action and little gripping resistance. It feels modern and traditional all at once, with its water-resistant ash wood handle (handwashing still recommended) and a mixture of carbon-stainless steel (great for both durability and corrosion resistance). It's weighted perfectly and feels light overall, even considering its actual weight and robust build. The point and tip, though not visibly that distinct, work brilliantly as well.
ZWILLING Pro chef’s knife (20cm)
Best blowout chef's knife
Pros: Modern ergonomic design, precision point, versatile, lifetime warranty, shaprens well
Cons: Less durable edge, expensive, heavy
This robust engineered knife feels comfortable when chopping and slicing. It takes the bare essentials of a European knife and modernises them with its high-pointed tip, sleek shape at the bolster and a robust handle that encourages a comfortable 'pinch grip' style of chopping. The only downside is that it's not quite perfectly balanced and has a slight front lean.
Stellar Taiku cook’s knife (20cm)
Best Japanese style chef's knife
Pros: Modern fusion design, durable edge, precision point, versatile, lifetime warranty
Cons: Less precision, sharp
Stellar has produced a Gyuto-style, 'East-meets-West' knife with a shorter, gently curving blade made from European stainless steel. It feels surprisingly light and has a slender, Japanese-style ambidextrous handle that’s dishwasher-friendly. Pair this with the durable steel and you have a knife that will last with even casual care. The long gentle taper and distinct point of the blade feel natural in all regular tasks. Overall, you get the best of both worlds – solid sharpness and added dexterity.
Harts of Stur (£25.50)
How we tested chef's knives
We first detailed the specific benefits of each knife, particularly looking at its overall usability as well as judging the feel and how naturally it performed during sustained use – for example, how does the rocking action feel and do you need to lift the blade? Can it slice without much pressure applied? Can it cut as well at the point/tip as it does further down the blade?
We conducted a variety of tests and used each to assess specific aspects of the knives:
Tomato test – checking the precision sharpness of the edge (burr) with the notoriously tough skin at full length, as well as using it to cut flatly downwards and 'freehand' (cut thin slices horizontally with no opposite pressure).
Onion test – this is great for assessing everyday chopping, whether using flat or full strokes, plus rock chopping through slices, testing the consistency of fine slices and the efficiency of point/tip work.
Paper test – the ultimate test of overall sharpness is whether the fine burr (edge) can effortlessly cut through loose paper. We used magazine paper to make it more challenging for the blade.
Squash test – we want to test the power and force of the overall blade, puncturing and slicing the tough skin and flesh of winter squashes that are especially difficult to work through.
We also assessed the longevity of the edge, powering the knife through regular chopping tasks, firmly cutting it against a regular chopping board, while also running the blade perpendicular to a rough whetstone to actively blunt it.
The knives were then retested as this stage to get an idea for how badly they were affected by this sustained damage, and again after re-sharpening and honing to test if they can regain the same quality that they achieved straight out of the box. We used the excellent AnySharp knife sharpener for this, as recommended in our knife sharpener review.
What to look for in a chef's knife
Durable precision edge
How long does the sharp edge last? Can you recover a blunt burr (edge) with an everyday knife sharpener and honing steel? Can the edge, at its finest, cut through vegetables and paper without opposite pressure applied? Does the edge cut in a flat downward motion with the need for sweeping strokes (a good indicator of sharpness)? Will the blade cut just as efficiently at the point/tip as it does along the blade?
Long lasting value
Price and sustainability are key factors when buying a chef’s knife, and there's often an argument for buying cheap and replacing the knife once it has become too blunt, especially if you don’t have the confidence to hone or re-edge it yourself. We don’t recommend this approach (you can buy an easy-to-use knife sharpener and honing steel cheaply), but if you can get the same quality for significantly less money that simply makes sense, especially if you're on a budget. And in either case you want the knife to last a long time, so we've factored in how much care the steel and handle will need.
Natural, comfortable feel
How the knife feels to each person is also important – some are heavier and slightly longer than others. Depending on the size of your hands, the height of your work surfaces and the tasks you'll use it for, the type of knife you need will vary. We've provided different options (above) to suit your needs, from small, more lightweight chef’s knives to larger ones for harder tasks.
More buyer's advice
Why buy a chef's knife?
A robust, solidly engineered chef’s knife is perhaps the most important tool and investment that you will make in the kitchen. It should almost be an extension of your hand and be able to handle most kitchen tasks when other tools aren’t at hand, from shredding lettuce and dicing carrots, to breaking joint of meat and even helping with more novel tasks like cracking open a coconut. Therefore, real consideration should be taken when making this purchase.
Which chef's knife should I buy?
You should buy a chef’s knife that feels comfortable to hold with a fine edge that’s both precision sharp and durable. Look for a full-tang blade (one that goes the full length, including the handle) that is 20cm long, the best median size for most everyday cooking (overall length and weight will vary even in this narrow bracket). This will provide enough length when you need long strokes, and dexterity when you’re doing more intricate work.
Also factor in how likely you are to care for you knives. In general, stainless steel holds its edge as well and won't rust unlike carbon steel which needs immediate drying to avoid this. Further, some handles will be dishwasher safe and some will not, so take care and double check.
The best kitchen kit, tried and tested
The best paring knives
The best bread knives
The best knife sharpeners
The best non-stick frying pans
The best saucepans
The best knives under £40
The best blenders
The best pressure cookers
Instant Pot Duo review
The best food processors
The best slow cookers
Visit our review section
This review was last updated in December 2019. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you have a favourite cook's knife you couldn't live without? Share your recommendation with us below...