The topic of kitchen knives might bring up bad memories of the time you accidentally sliced your thumb open while trying to dice an onion, but there is no denying that a good knife is an essential part of any home cook’s toolkit - ask any professional chef what is the one basic kitchen tool they wouldn’t be able to live without and we are willing to bet our money on them choosing one kind of knife or another.
Here at SquareMeal, we are not ones to pass judgement (too often), but if you have accidentally cut yourself previously while in the kitchen, you may well only have yourself to blame - don’t worry, we have all been there. The reason we say this is because you are actually more likely to injure yourself using a blunt knife than a properly sharpened one, and that investing in professional kitchen knives over lousy alternatives will lead to greater precision, easier slicing, dicing and filleting, plus less need for a jumbo pack of Tesco plasters to be on standby at all times.
However, it is also true that the professional knives favoured by top chefs do not come cheap, with many priced north of the £100 mark. It is important to remember though that these knives are an investment - one which will make your cooking adventures far easier and more efficient, as well as being a tool that you can use time and time again over a number of years. Whenever you are parting with a chunk of cash on a tool you have never used before though, it is always worth shopping around and seeing which one will be the right fit for you.
To help you out, we have rounded up some of the best tried-and-tested professional chef’s knives on the market today. Check out our pick of top blades and if you are newer to cooking, read the section below on how to choose the best chef’s knife for you.
How to choose the best chef's knife for you
When searching for professional chef’s knives online, you will come across two main categories of knife to choose from: German knives and Japanese knives. Despite being found on different sides of the world, these two genres of knife are actually pretty similar to one another and many knives on the market combine aspects of both styles. If you do want to know the difference between the two though, check out our handy explanation below:
German knives are heavier and thicker than their Japanese counterparts, with this being especially obvious at the part of the knife where the blade meets the handle (known as the ‘bolster’). German knives also have thicker blades which are made from softer steel, meaning they do need to be sharpened frequently. The blades of German knives are also typically curved, which facilitates rocking and allows for an easier grip.
In comparison to their German alternatives, Japanese knives tend to be lighter and sharper and they also typically have a thinner blade and straighter edge. These elements mean Japanese knives are better suited to tasks which require precision, such as peeling fruit or cutting up small garnishes. Japanese knives are made from harder steel, so they do not need to be sharpened as regularly as German knives, but they may be more prone to chipping or cracking.
The best knives for at home cooks
Looking to up your game in the kitchen and use the same tools that are utilised by top chefs around the world? Check out our pick of professional blades that will lead to success and efficiency in any home kitchen
Zwilling Diplome Chef’s Knife 8-inch Steel
Why: Inspired by traditional Japanese cooking knives, the handle and blade of Zwilling’s Diplome Chef’s Knife are seamlessly interconnected, making the knife easy to use, as well as clean up afterwards. While making this collection of knives, Zwilling was advised by chefs from the famous Le Cordon Bleu cookery school, so you know it’s a blade you can rely on.
Best for: This versatile blade can be used to chop up vegetables, meat or fish
Buy the Zwilling Diplome Chef's Knife 20 cm Steel
Santoku 7-Inch Chef's Knife
Why: This knife from Global Santoku is hand-crafted in Japan and made entirely of stainless steel. The knife’s fluted blade (a series of hollow notches along the edge) stops food sticking to the blade and therefore makes it perfect for dicing. The impressive sharpness also makes it great for cutting through tougher vegetables such as swede or squashes.
Best for: This super sharp knife is great for cutting through tough root vegetables or even chicken bone
Buy the Santoku 7-Inch Chef's Knife
Kai Sun 6-Inch Chef’s Knife
Why: If you are a budding chef with smaller hands who finds the traditional 8-inch length of chef’s knives too clunky or heavy, then this small 6-inch knife from Kai Sun is a great alternative. Aside from its handy length, the blade is also impressively sharp and versatile, as well as among the most aesthetically pleasing in our list - it would look great on display.
Best for: This shorter blade is great for cooks with small hands and can be used to comfortably cut through vegetables, fish or meat
Buy the Kai Sun 6-Inch Chef’s Knife
Victorinox 8-Inch Chef’s Knife
What: The stunning curved rosewood handle of this Victorinox 8-Inch Chef’s Knife doesn’t just look good, but also provides a comfortable and sturdy grip for home cooks looking to up their game. The blade can be used to dice and slice fruits and vegetables, or even for the tougher likes of deboning a chicken.
Best for: This versatile knife can help you conquer all manner of cooking tasks
Buy the Victorinox 8-Inch Chef’s Knife
Mercer Culinary Renaissance 8-Inch Chef’s Knife
What: With its thick black handle, first impressions might make you think the Mercer Culinary Renaissance 8-Inch Chef’s Knife would feel heavy and hard to maneuver. This is not the case though, with it feeling sturdy, rather than overbearing, while the high-carbon, no-stain German steel blade means this knife glides through vegetables without the need for much pressure from your hand.
Best for: This super sharp blade is great for dicing vegetables
Buy the Mercer Culinary Renaissance 8-Inch Chef’s Knife
Wusthof Classic Chef’s Knife
What: There’s no denying that professional chef knives can be expensive, but when it comes to value for money, it’s hard to beat this Wusthof Classic Chef’s Knife, which serves as a chef’s knife, boning knife and carving knife all in one. You can use the knife for chopping and dicing, deboning and filleting with the tip. One of the best all-round knives on the market.
Best for: Arguably the most versatile knife on our list, this blade can help you accomplish all manner of kitchen tasks
Buy the Wusthof Classic Craftman’s Knife
IO Shen 9-Inch Chef’s Knife
What: Boasting a pretty pattern carved into the handle, IO Shen’s 9-Inch Chef’s Knife has a weighty handle which helps to steady your hand and provides greater precision when chopping up ingredients. This knife is especially useful for vegetables that are harder to cut, but works well with all manner of meat and veggies.
Best for: Especially good for cutting through tough vegetables such as squash and turnips
Buy the IO Shen 9-Inch Chef’s Knife
Kai Shun Premier 6-Inch Knife
What: Part of a series of six knives spanning bread knives to santoku varieties, this Kai Shun blade is made in Japan and crafted from corrosion-resistant 32-layer steel, which allows for a sturdy grip and maximum hardness. The walnut handle is not only nice to look at, but its particularly symmetrical shape helps to ensure precision for both right and left-handed users.
Best for: The 6-inch length of this knife makes it perfect for chefs who find 8-inch knives difficult to manoeuvre
Buy the Kai Shun Premier 6-Inch Knife
Zwilling Professional 8-Inch Chef’s Knife
What: Zwilling has long been a knife brand trusted by top chefs and this 8-inch Chef’s Knife is no exception. As well as being useful for chopping up herbs, vegetables, meat and fish, this blade also boasts a wide flat side (akin to that of a cleaver), which makes it easier to move chopped food into a sizzling pan, sliding it off the blade.
Best for: A versatile knife that will slice and dice through practically any vegetable or meat
Buy the Zwilling Professional 8-Inch Chef’s Knife
Wusthof 3-Inch Pairing Knife
What: Pairing knives (smaller blades used for peeling or other intricate kitchen tasks) are often described as a chef’s best friend, so it’s worth adding one to your culinary arsenal. This 3-inch version from Wusthof is incredibly sharp and easily maintainable too, so you will be able to use it for years to come.
Best for: Ideal for peeling fruits and vegetables or fiddly tasks such as deveining or deseeding.
Buy the Wusthof 3-Inch Pairing Knife
The best at-home knife sharpeners
Knives are an essential kitchen tool for any at home cook, but a blunt knife certainly won’t serve you well in your kitchen adventures. It is important to sharpen your knives periodically, not least because it is actually more dangerous to use a blunt knife than a freshly sharpened one. Below, we have rounded up a handful of hand-held block sharpeners which are well suited to home kitchens
AnySharp Knife Sharpener
Why: This compact gadget would take up barely any space in a cupboard or on a kitchen counter, but packs a serious punch when it comes to sharpening. The lever secures the suction base to the surface very firmly, making it feel reassuringly safe to use, while your knives will be good as new after just a few pulls.
Buy the AnySharp Knife Sharpener
Pro Cook Twin Wheel Manual Knife Sharpener
Why: Delightfully easy to use (simply draw your knife through the sharpener in a ‘to and fro’ motion), this diminutive tool benefits from a sturdy handle which ensures you keep at a safe distance from the blade area and offers great sharpening. Top tip: lubricate the wheels by adding a splash of water for an even better result.
Buy the Pro Cook Twin Wheel Manual Knife Sharpener
Lantana Smart Sharp Knife Sharpener
Why: Easy to use (the product comes with a handy ‘how to’ booklet), this nifty knife sharpener features a non-slip rubber handle and base to ensure safe use. Unlike sharpeners with suction cup designs, this version doesn’t need a suitably clean surface, meaning any flat surface in your kitchen will do - it’s also impressively dinky, so won’t take up much room at home.
Buy the Lantana Smart Sharp Knife Sharpener
Robert Welch Signature Knife Sharpener
Why: Coming with a 25 year manufacturer’s guarantee, this knife sharpener is ergonomically designed, being comfortable to hold and having a sturdy grip. The thumb guard makes things feel extra safe too. Note that this model only has one setting, but it still sharpens knives well.
Buy the Robert Welch Signature Knife Sharpener
Chantry Knife Sharpener
Why: Slightly larger than most of the sharpeners in our list, this offering (available from John Lewis) is sturdy and robust, as well as easy to use. There are two V-shaped rotating wheels, which you use by pulling the knife through towards yourself. After a handful of pulls, your knife will be freshly sharpened and ready to use.
Buy the Chantry Knife Sharpener
Want to make use of your new knives? Check out the best UK-wide recipe boxes to subscribe to, so you can put your dicing and slicing skills to the test.
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