Ask any professional chef if they were stranded on a desert island and could only bring one kitchen tool, and they'll probably pick a chef's knife. When it comes to slicing and dicing, a great knife saves you time and trouble — and a chef's knife is the all-purpose workhorse.
Our experts in the Kitchen Appliances and Technology Lab tested chef's knives to see how well they cut and retained an edge after slicing and chopping onions, cutting a chicken into eighths, slicing basil into fine ribbons, mincing garlic and parsley and slicing tomatoes, cooked steak, carrots and cheddar cheese. We also checked the comfort of the handle or grip and the overall experience using the knife.
One common question that comes up a lot as beginners begin to browse chef's knives: What's the difference between a German and a Japanese knife? They're not as dissimilar as one may think (and many knives actually combine aspects of both styles), but here are the key points of differentiation worth noting:
German knives: Heavy and thick, especially at the bolster (where the blade meets the handle), they can be used for everything from mincing garlic to cutting through chicken bones. Blades tend to be curved to facilitate rocking. German knives are made from softer steel, so you’ll need to sharpen frequently.
Japanese knives: Lightweight and razor sharp, western-style Japanese knives tend to have a thinner blade and straighter edge than their German counterparts, making them ideal for precise tasks like cleanly slicing cucumbers or tuna. And because they’re crafted from harder steel, they can typically go longer between sharpenings but may be prone to chipping or cracking.
Our Top Lab Pick is the . For starters, it's razor sharp and super versatile. And it was one of the only knives in our test that could cleanly slice tomatoes, chop onions, and bone a chicken. More on it below.
At the end of the day, finding your go-to chef's knife is largely based upon personal preference. What might feel, say, perfectly balanced to one cook may feel heavy to another. Our best words of advice: Look for a knife that feels like an extension of your hand and keep it sharp. We rounded up the top-tested knives that we think are universally appealing for everyone's needs — these are the ones that made the cut!
This Wüsthof 8-inch chef's knife is razor sharp and super versatile. It was one of the only knives in our test that could cleanly slice tomatoes, chop onions, cut up carrots, bone a chicken, and create thin ribbons of basil. The German classic is fully forged and has a full tang, which helps it feel perfectly balanced and ergonomic in your hand. It's dishwasher safe (a rarity for cutlery), but we recommend hand-washing to extend its lifespan.
This excellent J.A. Henckels Classic Chef's Knife has the heft, shape, and performance of a splurge-worthy chef's knife but comes at a much nicer price point. It's a quintessential, all-purpose tool that does an ace job of blitzing parsley into dust, dicing onions, or deboning a chicken.
Global's Santoku is all stainless steel, so there aren't crevices that trap food. The blade also has hollow notches along the edge, so veggies don't stick as they're cut. This Japanese knife excelled at all tasks but wowed us with its ability to power through chicken bones. Also worth noting that it was one of the sharpest knives we've tested.
This multi-purpose knife from direct-to-consumer company Misen is made of super sharp Japanese steel. The sloped bolster encourages the user to hold the knife properly (with a pinch grip), but regardless of how you hold a knife, you'll find the Misen knife feels balanced, sturdy, and comfortable in your hand. It's beautifully designed — knives of this quality typically cost upwards of twice as much.
Shun's beautiful chef's knife literally glides through ripe tomatoes. The rounded black pakkawood handle is comfortable even for small hands to get around, and if an 8-inch size (the most common length of a chef's knife) feels excessive and heavy, we think the 6-inch blade on this one will be a perfect fit.
The Kramer by Zwilling J.A. Henckels Chef's Knife is one of the top selling knives on Amazon. We've been using the same one for years and can vouch that it stays sharp a long time between honings. It does just as excellent a job at slicing through delicate ribbons of basil as it does plowing through a rough-and-tough butternut squash.
The Victorinox Rosewood Forged Knife doesn't just look beautiful. In our testing, it made quick work of chopping parsley, slicing tomatoes, dicing onions, and even boning a chicken. The knife's gorgeous rosewood curved handle gives you a comfy, ergonomic grip.