Read the BBC Good Food review of top chef’s knives for your kitchen. Our cheap buys all cost less than £40, showing budget blades can still be super-sharp.
Victorinox Fibrox 20cm chef’s knife
Comments: This was the sharpest knife we tested and the best all-rounder. It glides through everyday chopping tasks but is ideally shaped and flexible enough for more experienced jobs like jointing chicken or filleting fish. Simple in design, the handle was one size fits all in easy-to-clean plastic, but for more of a looker and about £8 extra, Victorinox do a very similar rosewood handled knife we were also impressed with. The knife comes with a re-usable sheath for safe storage.
Best bits: Remarkably reasonable price and novel handle design
Comments: Not the weightiest knife in the block but in the under £10 category it was the sharpest and most comfortable to use. Our testers particularly liked the finger stop at the end of the handle that fits the first finger almost like a trigger. Sharp enough to carry out all our tasks and flexible enough to make it multi-purpose we thought this a great first time knife for a rookie cook who can upgrade in time.
Best for… gifting
Best bits: Good weight balance between blade and handle, plus great aesthetic
Comments: ‘Sabatier’ is now a name licensed to different manufacturers that denotes a style of classic French kitchen knife rather than a sign of quality. But this one is a good-looking workhorse of a knife that feels much more expensive than its thrifty price tag. The knife is a full-tanged, well-balanced big chopper that makes easy work of tough ingredients like red cabbage or celeriac.
Best bits: Great rocking action and excellent forged handle
Comments: Not sold as a Japanese-style, this is more of a hybrid which combines the weight and forged handle of a modern kitchen knife with the sleek shaped blade of a ‘deba’ style Japanese knife. This paired with a great balance makes the knife easy to rock from the tip to the heel of the blade so it’s an excellent knife for slicing skinnier ingredients like carrots or celery sticks.
Best bits: Clever blade design that helps ingredients easily slide off after chopping
Comments: Our test team had their reservations about the grooved blade, but respect where it’s due – this was the only knife out of 15 that butternut squash didn’t annoyingly stick to. Also, with one of the most grippable rubber handles we tried, this knife would be a great buy for a veg-centric cook who is honing their knife skills.
A good knife is pretty much the most important piece of kit a cook can buy. While expensive knives can be a wise long-term investment, cheaper blades offer them a real run for their money, as we discovered when researching this competitive market.
What should I buy?
A knife is about more than just blade sharpness – how it feels in the hand is just as important, especially if you’re going to be slicing and chopping for any length of time. If you can, hold a knife before you buy it – a good knife should be a bit like a level seesaw that doesn’t tip to one particular side.
What we looked for:
Sharpness: We thought each knife would be razor sharp when box fresh but some were noticeably sharper than others. We were surprised to find some knives struggled with the skin of a squash.
Handle comfort: You should be able to easily grip a good handle regardless of the size of your hand. We looked at where the heel of the knife meets the handle – if this isn’t honed properly, like a bad pair of shoes on a long walk, it can rub and cause calluses.
Balance and weight: You should be able to feel weight in the knife but it shouldn’t be heavy. Blade to handle balance is important for good control and for the true feeling that the knife is an extension of the hand.
Tang: The ‘tang’ is the part of the metal blade that becomes the handle. The strongest knives are full tang which means the blade and handle are forged from the same bit of metal, from tip to end, with the handle bolted on. Full tang is a sign of quality in general knife-making but not a deal breaker when it comes to choosing kitchen knives.
How we tested:
We spent a day in the kitchen with 15 of the most easily available 19-20cm chef's knives. We hacked our way through hard-to-handle butternut squash and sliced tomatoes. To test knife-point precision, we put each one to the more intricate tasks of finely chopping shallots and shredding carrots. All knives that claimed to be dishwasher friendly were run on a hot cycle.
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