A knife is undoubtedly the most essential tool in the kitchen. From chopping onions to carving out a juicy watermelon, a knife can enhance or dull (pardon the pun!) your kitchen journey. A chef's knife is an all-around tool, from slicing, dicing, and chopping to breaking down garlic cloves and many others. Making the best knives has always been a challenge. With the market's ever-growing demands, some companies have had to find a balance between quality and volume. The best professional kitchen knives take years of expertise to construct.
As a chef, whether in the home or at a restaurant, you'll need a good chef's knife like a soldier needs reliable weaponry.
Many of the leading chef knife brands come from either country, each with its strengths and distinction. Japanese knives are thinner and lighter and are usually designed for precision cutting, thereby boasting a more acute angle of 15 to 16 degrees than the more western angles of 20 degrees, allowing cleaner and more precise slices. Japanese knives usually come with a partial-tang, making them lighter and easier to control. German blades are thicker and heavier and are made for versatility from slicing to chopping. They are usually designed with a full-tang for increased durability and weight.
So what are the best professional kitchen knives for chefs? Read on for an in-depth discussion of the best sharp kitchen knives the market has to offer:
The Henckel company has been around since the 1700s, making them one of the oldest and persevering authorities in the knife industry. Henckels' product lines are manufactured in Solingen, Germany's knife-making capital. They also have manufacturing lines in Spain and Japan. No matter what model you choose, you'll always be assured of superb and fine quality that you can pass down to your children.
The J.A Henckels International Classic Chef's knife is made out of High Carbon stainless steel. The carbon content makes for an excellent edge, while stainless steel aids the metal's durability and protects against corrosion. The blade is manufactured via a hot drop-forging process to provide optimum strength and balance to the knife. Henckel achieved an acute angle of 15 degrees by grounding a single piece of steel in two directions, giving it an edge ideal for better slicing precision.
The international classic comes with a 3-rivet polyoxyethylene handle that is more durable than polypropylene and other plastic handles. This handle material is easy to maintain and is more resistant to high heat and water absorption due to the full tang filling the handle gaps, preventing food particles from inserting in between.
The International Classic's blade is thicker at the spine base and gradually narrows down near the edge. The thick spine increases stability and balance during use. This blade is versatile, and you won't have to fuss about damaging it by butchering through fatty solids like pork or beef. The blade's spine is not too smooth, so users may experience slight discomfort when using the pinch grip.
Overall, the international classic offers excellent value with its price for such a premium-made model. With the price, you're getting a forged blade with a full, solid bolster that makes it a pleasure to handle. The knife comes out of the box with a hair-splitting sharpness, although after multiple uses, you'll have to hone it to maintain the optimal slice.
Price(from Amazon): $60
Next to Henckel, Wusthof commands a formidable superiority amongst other knife manufacturers in Solingen, Germany. Wusthof is a family-run brand that's been churning out quality professional, sharp kitchen knives for almost 200 years, allowing them centuries to refine their steel selection methods, forgery, and other techniques to make a truly unique product for the market. This particular model boasts a highly comfortable handle with a partial bolster that will make it feel like an extension of your hand.
The blade is made out of a single piece of high-carbon stainless steel made exclusively for Wusthof. Like most professional kitchen knives, the steel has undergone heat treatment, making the knife extra attractive and durable. Wusthof's unique PEtec (Precision Edge Technology) ensures every blade is coming out of the factory razor-sharp by using laser technology to measure every knife's dimensions and robots to do the sharpening. This system aims to achieve consistency so that every blade is evenly sharpened from tip to heel. If you want perfect sharpness right out of the box, Wusthof definitely won't disappoint.
The first thing that catches the eye about this blade is its handle. The V-shaped polyoxymethylene handle curves downward without straight edges. It is also satisfyingly polished and reinforced with three rivets. The bolster does not cover the entirety of the blade's edge, making it easier to sharpen the blade from tip to end. Plus, the bolster smoothly extends into the blade with no extruding edges, making it convenient to clean. Like the Henckel knife, the Ikon also comes with a full tang for more control and fewer breakage chances.
Price(from amazon): $179
The Messermeister lines are also produced in Solingen, Germany. While the Messermeister may not be known as the others, they're just as respected within the culinary world. They were the first German company to take on the 15-degree angle compared to the usual 20-22 degrees. The elite stealth is an alternate model to their premium forged lines and boasts a 25 percent thinner and 10 percent lighter weight than the traditional model. Messermeister was also the first company in the german knife league to forge a blade without a full bolster. A trailblazing brand, indeed.
The Elite Stealth is built of lighter stuff and lets you slice through onions and carrots for an entire work shift with less arm fatigue. The 1.4116 stainless carbon alloy material allows the blade to resist stains and corrosion, improves toughness and durability, and provides better edge retention. Despite the lightness, Messermeister defies the modern age by sticking with the traditional hot-drop hammer forging method, which gives consistent quality and hardness to their blades.
The 15-degree edge is hand stropped on a cloth wheel, giving you a sharpness that's simply hard to forget. The blade's bolster tapers from the handle and blends at the heel into the edge, freeing up the entire blade for use and allowing effortless sharpening. Many home cooks and professional chefs prefer the full tang and riveted handle.
Many of this model's features are explicitly designed for better, faster, and more comfortable kitchen work. The elite stealth's spine is rounded and polished for the pinch grip over the bolster, so you don't feel like the spine is cutting into your index finger, providing maximum longevity and satisfaction. It's tiny details like this that genuinely benchmark Messermeister as one of Germany's pinnacles of quality.
In contrast to other German manufacturers, Messermeister resists the fast encroaching arms of technology. Every blade coming out of the factory is hand-finished, meaning that every edge is painstakingly checked and changed by experts to fit and maintain Messermeister's standards.
Price(from Amazon): $164.95
Let's take a breather from Germany with this Japanese-designed and manufactured MAC MTH-80. Touted as one of the greatest kept secrets of the kitchen knife market, professionals claim this knife as the ultimate cutting machine. MAC is a middle ground of design camps, combining the harder and thinner Japanese trademark with the western durability.
This blade's selling point is its thinness, measuring only a tiny 2.5 mm. This means the blade will slice through food much easier than german knives, which are much thicker and rely on wedging motion to facilitate a cut. The blade also has scalloped edges meant to prevent food from sticking. The MTH-80 is blade-heavy, making it feel like an extension of your hand. MAC isn't very open with their materials, but it is suspected that their blades are infused with high-carbon chrome molybdenum vanadium alloy with tungsten. The MTH-80 is designed with hollow grind edges, so the edge is slightly concave. This feature helps prevent food from sticking and sharpens marginally easier than a regular edge, although the hollow edge results in a slightly weaker knife edge.
As you can see, the MAC comes with a significant hardness, which is excellent since you can slice all day without having to resharpen often. The downside is that too much hardness can make the knife brittle, making it prone to chipping. You'll have to take extra care not to drop your brand new MTH-80 on your tiles, or you might see it in pieces. This also cuts up harder food materials like squash or chicken bones. German knives will come in handy with tough food since they're made to withstand more abuse, although they dull quickly.
The pakkawood handle is a composite material made from both wood and plastic. Pakkawood is advantageous to wood handles since it resists water damage and won't warp and split while looking and feeling natural wood. The handle is on the slim side, so it's perfect for chefs with smaller hands. If you have Frankenstein's hands, this knife might leave you empty-handed. The MTH-80 comes with a half-bolster.
In comparison, a full bolster gets in the way when sharpening. A full bolster was a distinguishing mark of a forged high-standard knife in the past. Nowadays, it's either half bolster or no bolster at all.
Price(from Amazon): $144.95
Shun is a famous and well-known brand in the U.S. Shun knives are manufactured in Seki City, Japan, which, like Solingen, is Japan's cutlery capital. They come super sharp right out of the box. One of their most widely-known models, the Shun classic chef knife, is a modern blade with a big nod to tradition. This knife symbolizes Japan's epic blade work history. Much of the processing is done by hand, with over 100 processes making one knife.
The shun classic is made from japan-exclusive VG-10 steel with faux Damascus patterns. The VG-10 is one of the most highly-regarded Japanese stainless steel for its ability to resist rust and stains. VG-10 contains Vanadium, which boosts its strength, toughness, and edge retention. While the Shun classic comes in three different sizes, the 8-inch model is what we would most recommend, as it combines maneuverability and weight that will enable you to perform a wide range of tasks, from delicate to heavy ones. If you're used to slicing with western designs, you'll be shocked at this knife's lightness and sleekness. You'll find yourself cutting through denser foods with much less resistance, even when compared to heavier blades.
The blade's shape is as traditional as it comes, with a no-frills design intent on exuding functionality and performance. The blade's shape comes with three different types of edge: a flat one for rapid chopping, some belly for a bit of slicing, and a sharp point for piercing.
Like the MAC MTH-80, the shun also comes with a laminated Pakkawood handle, balancing wood aesthetic with plastic durability. The handle is shaped like a D and feels natural in your hands.
Price (from Amazon): $149.98
Each knife is a masterpiece in its own right. For chefs, having the best professional kitchen knives means better performance in the home and restaurants and a better julienne. The Henckels international classic leads the race for the best value, offering stellar german-quality for a fraction of the price. However, the more premium Henckels models could pack quite a hefty price tag. For users with a laser focus on sharpness, the MAC MTH-80 comes out of the box with a blistering sharpness. The MAC's fabled sharpness requires that you observe stringent safety practices to avoid all-too-common kitchen accidents.