Good chef knives are the workhorses of any kitchen – they will slice, chop and crush as well as a whole drawer of kitchen gadgets. A quality blade will last virtually forever, avoiding the hassle and expense of replacement, and a well-built knife will make preparing ingredients much more efficient.
Chef knives have blades around 8 inches long, although this may vary according to personal preference. The most popular chef’s knife style is the “German” type, which has a curved edge for cutting with a rocking motion. All of the following knives feature a full-tang design, meaning the steel from the blade continues down through the handle for balance and durability.
Shun Ken Onion Chef Knife
The Shun Ken Onion Chef Knife is a fusion of top-quality materials and innovative design. The 8-inch blade is forged from VG-10 stainless steel, and the ergonomic and moisture-resistant Pakkawood handle provides a comfortable grip with great leverage for cutting. The distinctive layered-steel blade is sharpened to a razor-sharp 16-degree edge – which is terrific for slicing, just be sure to adjust your sharpening technique accordingly. The Shun Ken Onion also comes with the pictured holder, so you can admire the design even when you’re not cooking.
You can find the Shun Ken Onion Chef’s Knife at Amazon for $199.95
Wüsthof Gourmet 10-Inch Cook’s Knife
The Wüsthof Gourmet 10-Inch Cook’s Knife is a great all-around option that won’t break the bank, and provides a little extra blade length. The blade is stamped instead of forged, so it may require more frequent sharpening, but the metal is laser-cut, quality high-carbon steel with good stain resistance. The polypropylene handle offers a comfortable grip, and it’s triple-riveted for durability. Some chefs prefer the feel of a knife with a bolster (a flared metal edge where the handle meets the blade), but Amazon reviewers like the Gourmet’s lack of bulk and sleeker feel.
You can find the Wüsthof Gourmet 10-Inch Cook’s Knife at Amazon for $67.95.
Kyocera Revolution Series 7-Inch Ceramic Chef’s Knife
The Kyocera Revolution 7-Inch Professional Chef’s Knife is unique, since it features a ceramic blade instead of traditional steel construction. It’s worth noting that ceramic blades hold their edge for a very long time, but users generally can’t sharpen the knives themselves. Ceramic blades can also crack if dropped, or used for tasks like prying. An advantage of ceramic blades besides their sharpness is that they won’t react with certain foods the way metal blades can, so food may stay fresher longer once sliced. The Kyocera Revolution features a molded resin handle, so while overall this knife is lighter than comparable steel models, it still offers good balance while cutting.
The Kyocera Revolution Series 7-Inch Ceramic Chef’s Knife is available from Amazon for $82.17
J.A. Henckels Four Star 8-Inch Chef’s Knife
J.A. Henckels produces a huge variety of cutlery, and the Four Star line is some of its best. The Four Star 8-Inch Chef’s Knife is forged from high-carbon steel, and its “Sintermetal Component Technology” fuses different grades of steel (for the blade, bolster, and tang) together into a single piece. The hefty blade is also subjected to Henckels’ proprietary ice-hardening process, which according to the manufacturer increases corrosion resistance and edge durability. The bonded polypropylene handle is comfortable in the hand, and extremely durable.
You can find the J.A. Henckels Four Star 8-Inch Chef’s Knife at Amazon for $94.99.
Epicurean Wood Composite Cutting Boards
Once you’ve made the investment in quality chef knives, make sure you’re using it with an appropriate cutting board. Hard surfaces like glass are sanitary, but they’re tough on knives. And some softer surfaces can harbor bacteria from the food that’s prepared on them.
An innovative solution is a composite board like those from Epicurean Cutting Surfaces. Epicurean cutting boards are made from a composite material of sustainably harvested wood fiber. The boards are dishwasher safe, and the manufacturer states that while they are soft enough to protect knife blades, they are also non-porous, so they won’t absorb bacteria from foods. The boards are National Safety Foundation approved, and they’re also heat-resistant: they can be withstand temperatures up to 350 degrees, so they can be used as trivets for hot pots or pans.
Epicurean composite cutting boards are available in a variety of sizes and styles. Two of the most popular are the full-size 15” x 11” board ($23.38 at Amazon), and the compact 8” x 6” bar board ($9.56 at Amazon).