During my tenure as a Chef, cook, whatever you want to call me. I had the opportunity to use a lot of Chef knives. I got used them to cut through shallots, onions carrots…occasionally break down a chicken.
That is what is great about Chef knives, if you only buy one knife, this would be the one I recommend. This style of knife will give you the most versatility. It is why I never I understood utility knives. Why would I buy a smaller version of a chef knife? Instead, just buy one knife that can do all the things you need. Even Alton Brown supports purchasing tools that can perform more than one job in the kitchen.
Some of the Chef knives I used were great, others were horrible. Even some knives that cost 200$ can really..well..suck. I don’t think there is a better word to describe the state of improperly developed and designed knife. Many knives have bad grips, poor quality of steel and little thought given to the end user. I wanted to take a moment to list the top 5 chef knives that I have personally used. Knives I know I can trust to use 14 hours a day 6 days a week. There aren’t a lot I would trust. If you don’t see the knife you want below.
Feel free to ask questions about it, I will only answer if I have used the knife in question. I don’t want you to buy something you have to use for the next 20 years and hate.
A good Chef knife range from 50$-999$(I wouldn’t actually spend 999$ on a knife…). It should be made out of a solid steel and the blade should run all the way through the handle. This is called full tang. You should be able to see the blade at the butt of the hilt. This makes your knife sturdier, and less likely to break. I would never buy anything half tang. It just doesn’t make sense to have two pieces. It should be one solid piece of metal.
The knives below range anywhere from 50$ to 350$. Each of them would be great to have as a young cook, old cook, Chef, Kitchen Manager and so on. Even if you are a home cook, these knives are really nice to use. If you think you know sharp, you haven’t met sharp until you have used #1 or #5.
Please let me know what you think, do you agree, do you have any questions about knife maintenance? I am here to help!
Wusthof has several tiers, and this is by far the most expensive. Amazon has this chef knife for a little over 100$. This is a great deal for this style of knife. What this knife offers is a sturdy structure, and hard steel. This means it retains its edge very well. This was my personal Chef knife through out my entire career. Even when I happened to chip the tip of my knife, it was easy to re=sharpen the knife and bring back the tip. It fits great in any Chef knife bag or roll and you don’t have to sharpen it as often as you would a softer steeled knife.
What I really like about this knife though is its grip. There are several other tiers in the Wusthof family. Each of them have the same steel and blade for the most part. The issue with the other knives is that they feel cheap. The hilts are made out of a funky plastic and it really doesn’t have that full tang effect. So if you want a knife under 100$ then you could pick either the Wusthof, or Wusthof Classic. These are decent knives, but they are not on my top 5 list of knives.
2. Victorinox Rosewood Chef’s Knife–BEST VALUE
Alright, if you want a good Chefs Knife under 50$. Here it is. This is arguable the best knife for the money. That being said, it is only a 50$ dollar knife. So the value isn’t at the caliber of any of these other knives on the list. So it is really a give and take. If your plan is to go into management, or maybe your working for a place that doesn’t care too much about how your shallots look, then you can get away with this knife. The big con of this knife is that it never gets as nice of an edge as any of the other knives on this list. It will constantly need to be steeled but you won’t feel bad smashing through bones with this knife. If you need to break down some duck, or celery root. There is no need to worry about damaging the blade against such tough products. Nope, it will keep cutting. Be wary if it gets dull though. You don’t want to accidentally cut yourself!
Also, I tend to prefer non-plastic handles. I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth and I know it.
When I review my experience with this knife I really did love using it. It is sadly not under 100, so it might be a little steep if that is your goal for a chef knife.
Let’s put money aside though. What is really nice about this chef knife is that the design also looks pretty sleek and the handle is decent for my grip. It also has a great blade. The design allows for full control. The straight handle doesn’t couture as closely to one’s hand shape as much as an Ikon Classic. However, I occasionally like that. This means your knife goes exactly where you want it to go. There is no fancy grip, it will cut with you.
At this point, you may or may not have noticed that one of my biggest preferences on knife is the handle. As long as the knife has a standard blade, I need to be able to feel comfortable holding a good knife for hours. If you have ever chopped 50lbs of onions or carrots or all of the above. You know how much wear and tear goes on your hand. Having a knife with a grip that works for you is the most important. So maybe the grips I am choosing here are not right for you. For some reason a lot of knife styles seem to have a bulbous handle.
Alright, remember. This isn’t a list of knives under 100$. Personally, this knife would be higher up if it wasn’t so expensive. It is a good knife, but I don’t think it has the value that the knives above offer. When a knife costs more than 200$ there is a point of diminishing return. A Chef Knife in particular shouldn’t cost that much, typically (Now, Sushi Knives start around 200$). This knife offers that fancy “Damascus Steel” that every giddy chef loves to ogle over. It also has a decent grip and a nice hilt. Now with this knife especially, if you are not a Chef or cook who already have a callous on his or her index finger, you will get one.
Really, I have already mentioned the con, that is the price. It is a good knife, but the price is on the steep side. Most decent knives that stay sharp are in the 110$ – 150$ range. Anything in that range should be reliable. I can’t speak for all brands. However, I know I can trust my Wusthof!
For the most part, I stay away from Shuns. I just never seemed to enjoy them. They seemed to come across more brand name, than true value. Most are made with the flashy Damascus steel and a lot of them have a strange handle too me. It just never seemed to fit. That was until…I met this knife. It really challenges my thoughts on Shun’s in General. It is listed at number 5, but I do think it provides solid value and if you really just have to have a Shun, this is the shun for you.
It is not really a traditional chef knife. It has the curved blade instead of the straight one. This makes it great for Julienning vegetables and cutting nice cubes. It really works very similar to a Chef knife. You can use it for anything you would use a Chef knife for. So if you like being a little different in the kitchen. I say why not. I know many chefs use this one, and will more than vouch for it. I know, because they always mocked my Wusthof. Kind of like how people mock Windows users, for not being as fancy as their Apples…
Everyone has their preferences I guess.
There are a lot of fancy knives out there. Many of them will try to get you to break the bank for a knife that will do as good of a job as many of the knives listed above. All of the knives above have been used by me at some point. Occasionally, as a Chef, you just want to take your friends knife out for a spin. Especially if you don’t feel like spend 200$ for a knife.
However, not everyone is a chef to be out there. Some people want knives under 50$ that they will only use once and a while. Not 14 hours a day 6 days a week. If you are really looking for a knife under 100$ then some of these knives will work! If not, then check out the short list below. It doesn’t have the detail. However, these knives are also good picks. I used them more in culinary school when I forgot my own knives(which is frowned upon…). Nevertheless, take a look!
Also check out these knives under 100$ and 50$ that didn’t make the list, but won’t break your budget!
If you feel like splurging…
Now if you really feel like spending 999$ on a Chef knife, then you want a The Nihei’s Collection MORISHIGE Gyuto Japanese Chef’s Knife Hand Made knife. However, this is only if you can afford to spoil yourself. I can’t.
Don’t worry to much if you don’t have the fanciest knife out there. Just make sure you maintain it, sharpen it and keep it clean. A lot of people like to say that a good Chef doesn’t need a sharp knife because they should be skilled enough to manage with a knife in any stay. I say that is bull. A good Chef knows when it is time to sharpen his or her knife because they know they can’t do good work without a sharp knife. So no matter what you pick, maintain it!
A Chef can’t cook without their knives sharp after all! I have had chefs yell at me for not having sharp knives, or maybe just mock me. It is kind of a shameful thing in a kitchen. How do you expect to cut herbs and not bruise them? Or chop shallots and not break down too many cells? You need a sharp, and reliable knife. So even if you don’t like the ones I reccomended. Don’t skimp on your knife if you are going into culinary school. At least, not your chef knife. It will serve you well if you make sure to keep it well.
Good luck to all you young chefs, and to all you home cooks. Maybe you don’t need the 200$ knife. However, trust me, when you buy a 200$ knife. You will never be able to go back to buying a 100$ set of 10 knives again. It just isn’t the same.