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A dull, lifeless kitchen knife can transform the art of cooking into a dangerous exercise in utter frustration and tedium. And if you’re currently stuck with a soul-sucking chef’s knife, well, it’s time to get a new one.
What To Look For In A Chefs Knife
There are a lot of things that need to be taken into account when looking for a Chef’s Knife. For one, do you go with French or German or Japanese-style knives? There are pros and cons for each. French Chefs Knives are straighter, curving up at the tip. German blades tend to curve deeply along the cutting edge. Whereas Japanese Blades tend to be very lightweight and incredibly sharp.
You also need to take into account the way the steel is crafted. Do you go with forged or stamped steel? Forged tend to be stronger whereas stamped go for sharpness.
Then you need to take into account the way the handle is made, what kind of material is used. How it fits in your hand and how long the handle can last is important, since these knives tend to go for a pretty penny.
In the end, you’ll need to weigh the differences between durability or sharpness. Do you want a knife that’ll last you longer but doesn’t cut as well, or do you want a knife that’ll cut through anything with ease that may chip or snap easily?
Our Top Picks
Mac Chef’s Knife used by Eric Ripert – Best Japanese-Style Knife
Wusthof Classic used by Michael Lomanaco – Best German Steel Forged Knife
Kramer by Zwilling used by Michael Solomonov – Best American Made Knife
While we could’ve scoured the Internet for top-rated knives, we made the smart play and asked brilliant chefs who’ve worked their way up through the world’s most demanding kitchens to reach the top of the restaurant game.
We’re talking Daniel Boulud. Michael Solomonov. Eric Ripert. Jose Garces. These culinary aficionados have the knowledge, skills, and background to help you justify spending a few hundred dollars on a hunk of (exceptionally sharp, hand-crafted) metal that’ll change your kitchen routine.
Here are the most outstanding blades you can buy, according to some of the finest chefs in the country.
Best Japanese-Style Knife – MAC Chef’s Knife used by Eric Ripert
Very few chefs have mastered the art of transforming the ocean’s freshest catches into refined, elegant dishes like Eric Ripert. The chef and co-owner of Le Bernardin, a New York institution with three Michelin stars and four The New York Times stars since 1986, Ripert is an expert in delicate seafood and other rare ingredients.
“My ultimate go-to is a MAC chef knife,” says Ripert. “There is nothing like a Japanese knife. It’s custom, made for me and my hand—it’s a workhorse.” But, most important, Ripert is diligent when it comes to caring for his blades: “I take really good care of it, and get it sharpened on a stone very often to keep it in good condition.”
[$145, amazon.com]Get it!
Best Balanced Knife -Michel Bras Collection used by Daniel Boulud
One of the most highly regarded chefs in the world, Daniel Boulud is an undisputed master of all things culinary. Perhaps best known for Daniel, his eponymous, Michelin-starred restaurant, this French maestro also helms his own culinary empire around the world, including the recently opened Boulud Sud in Downtown Miami, and high-end marketplaces in New York City.
His go-to knife brand: The Michel Bras collection. “It’s the perfect combination of Japanese precision and sharpness, and French balance,” Boulud says. For the collection, acclaimed French chef Michael Bras “collaborated with Kai of Shun knives to make these out of stainless steel and PakkaWood in Japan”. According to Boulud, “it’s the finest collaboration of expertise between a chef and a steel master, with a beautiful design”. And though the price tag might be a bit shocking, Boulud offers this: “While they are very expensive, they will last a lifetime.”
[$972 for 7-piece set, amazon.com]Get it!
Best American Made Knife – Bob Kramer 8″ Stainless Damascus Chef’s Knife by Zwilling J.A. Henckels used by Michael Solomonov
Chef Michael Solomonov, a three-time James Beard Award winner (and 2017’s “Outstanding Chef”) unequivocally put Israeli cuisine on the map in the United States. His Philadelphia-based restaurant Zahav has garnered critical acclaim and widespread popularity for transforming the authentic flavors of Israel’s cuisine into modern, soulful dishes.
His go-to knife also happens to be one of our personal favorites: “My Kramer knife is the jam,” he says. “Bob Kramer knives have super-sturdy blades, hold an edge well, and have the perfect balance when it comes to grip and weight.” Solomonov gives “bonus” points to these steel-cut beauties for being American-made and to Bob Kramer himself: “He’s a legit mensch of a guy, which is huge.”
[$400, amazon.com]Get it!
Best Classic Knife -C Thomas Knives used by Eric Bromberg
A long-time favorite of both chefs and epicurean New Yorkers, the Blue Ribbon Brasserie is one of the city’s essential restaurants (take one bite of their decadent beef marrow and oxtail marmalade and you’ll understand why). Eric Bromberg, chef and co-owner of Blue Ribbon Restaurants, has been at the helm (along with his brother and co-owner, Bruce) of this much-beloved culinary assemblage since 1992.
“C Thomas Knives are my favorite,” he says. “Having a good, sharp, and well-maintained knife is essential to being a chef.” What makes these knives so special, though, is that “Cary Thomas is actually a former restaurant owner, so he understands what chefs are looking for in a knife.” On top of that, his knives “are handcrafted works of art from a knife-maker in the mountains of North Idaho, which makes them unique”.
(Prices vary, ctknives.com)Get it!
Best Versatile Knife – 9.4″ Masamoto VG-10 Chef’s Knife used by Jose Garces
For Jose Garces—a restaurateur, Iron Chef, and James Beard Award-winner—blending the rich traditions of Latin-American cuisine with modern techniques has always been at the core of his cooking. To do that extraordinarily well at one of his dozen restaurants, he relies on a knife that’s both versatile and durable.
“My favorite knife is the 9.4″ Masamoto VG-10 Chef’s Knife,” he says. “This is a production knife—the blade holds a sharp edge for a long time, and the length of the blade makes it possible to work through a lot of vegetables quickly.” It’s also extremely versatile, he adds, and can be used for anything from butchery (this type of blade is perfect for making chef Garces’ provoleta-stuffed pork chops) to more delicate tasks like filleting fish and finely mincing herbs.
[$228, amazon.com]Get it!
Best German Steel Forged Knife – Wüsthof Classic 8″ Chef’s Knife used by Michael Lomonaco
A native New Yorker, Chef Michael Lomonaco has celebrated American cuisine through his classic dishes and innovative techniques for more than 30 years. With a dazzling resume—Le Cirque, 21 Club, Windows on the World (located in the original World Trade Center), and (since 2006) Porter House New York—Lomonaco has seen it all.
“My everyday favorite knife that I have used for decades is the Wüsthof Classic 8″ Chef’s Knife,” he says. “I have a collection of knives, many of which are used often, some less so, but this knife is the first one I select for most of my cooking-prep needs.”
“Raw vegetable prep was a daily part” of Lomonaco’s early career, so he was never without his 10″ chef’s knife. “But eventually as my scope of work changed and my cooking style evolved, the 8″ became my go-to knife of choice for its wide, high-quality blade.” And as for the Wüsthof brand, “it’s an excellent all-around kitchen workhorse,” he says.
[$145, amazon.com]Get it!
Best Precision Knife – Houston Edge Works used by Michael Voltaggio
You probably recognize Michael Voltaggio as the winner of the sixth season of Top Chef, a Bravo reality cooking competition. But it’s his success in actual kitchens, like at his flagship L.A. restaurant ink.well, at which Voltaggio has earned real culinary street cred.
But when it comes to the even sharper stuff, “Houston Edge Works are my favorite knives,” he says. “Stephen of Houston Edge Works custom-makes every single knife to the chef’s preference.” During the production process, “[Stephen] will tweak every millimeter to meet the needs of the design and functionality of its future owner,” Voltaggio explains. “He’s currently making me a sujiki.”
(Prices vary, houstonedgeworks.com)Get it!
Best 9 Inch Knife – Masahiro Carbon 9.5″ Gyuto used by Joe Isidori
Any foodie with an Instagram has probably seen one of those absurdly indulgent milkshakes from Black Tap, a wildly popular collection of craft burger joints. But you might be surprised to find that Joe Isidori, the genius behind this delicious heart-attack of a restaurant concept, is a Michelin-starred chef with a serious background in fine dining.
And despite the whimsical nature of Isidori’s dishes at Black Tap, he’s no-nonsense when it comes to knives. “Masahiro Carbon Steel knives are the way to go,” he says. “Always go with the Japanese brand, never go German.” Why? “The high-quality metal makes for a perfect edge,” he explains of his hands-down favorite blades. “I sharpen my knives every day, and because it’s a Masahiro, it’s a pure pleasure more so than a chore.”
($125, amazon.com)Get it!
Best Value Knife – Misono UX10 Gyutou 8.2″ used by Erling Wu-Bower
That’s why he sticks with Misono, an established knife producer of Western-style Japanese knives. “I love my 8” Misono UX10,” he says. “It’s the knife brand that I recommend to all of my friends,” because “it’s not terribly expensive, seems to last forever, looks sharp, and holds an edge for a good long time.” Most important, “it’s durable as hell.”
($196, amazon.com)Get it!
Best Knife For Meats – Takeda Aogami Super Gyutou 8.3″ by Chubo used by Alex McCrery
If you’re going to design and sell über-stylish and functional (duh) chef wear (chef’s coats, aprons, etc.), you better know your knives, too. Luckily Alex McCrery, co-founder of Tilit (essentially a fashion brand for the hospitality industry), also happens to have worked as a professional chef. (He once worked, in fact, as Jerry Seinfeld’s personal chef.)
McCrery’s preference in knives mirrors his ethos at Tilit, which is why his go-to is the Takeda from Chubo. “The hammered steel finish is pretty enough to be a display piece on my cutting board,” he explains, “while the ridiculously sharp edge is functional enough to use every day when chopping vegetables or slicing protein.” McCrery procures the “super steel” handmade knife, which comes from a master blacksmith in Japan, through his friends at Chubo knives based in New York City.
($330, chuboknives.com)Get it!
Best Knife For Veggies – Gordon Ramsay – J.A. Henckels 7″ Chef’s Knife
Anyone with a proclivity for cooking has to know who Gordon Ramsay is. One of the foremost chefs in the world, this is a man that doesn’t mince words. And when it comes to what gear you should have in your kitchen, you should listen.
For him, the chef knife that anyone should have in their home is the J.A. Henckels 7″ Chef’s Knife. Used primarily for chopping (veggies being the primary target), this knife is made with the strength and sharpness you need to make any meal without any problem.
Best Knife For Home Cooks – Global 8″ Chef’s Knife used by Anthony Bourdain
Long before his death, Anthony Bourdain was well known and loved for his taste and his no-nonsense demeanor. Anyone looking to get into the cooking game should listen to the tips he gave out in his storied career.
For example, he thinks the best knife for beginners and professionals in the Chef’s Knife game is this Global 8″ Chef’s Knife. Whatever meal you’re cooking at home will be easy with this knife slicing and chopping.