We review the best kitchen knives on the UK market
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If you’ve met many professional chefs (or just watched too many episodes of Masterchef and Chef’s Table) you’ll know their most crucial, and beloved kitchen tool is almost always the chef’s knife.
While butcher’s knives, paring knives and serrated knives all have their part to play in food preparation, a well cared for chef’s knife can do everything - slice, dice, carve, pare - and last for years and years.
What to look for in a chef’s knife
Once you learn to use a chef’s knife correctly, it is the ultimate kitchen all-rounder - it can be turned to any task needed.
The right sized chef’s knife for you depends a little on personal preference. On average they are around 20cm long, usually the largest in your drawer, though of course you can go larger or smaller.
Consider your hand and arm strength before purchasing. Weight and balance must be considered when choosing a knife, too heavy and it will be hard to operate safely. Choose the one you feel works for you; otherwise, it may feel awkward.
Heavier knives are sturdier, but they can tire hands when slicing hard ingredients like potatoes. If upper body strength isn’t your forte, you may wish to avoid.
Larger-handled, lighter knives give you more control, while the smaller handles knives allowed you to slice quickly and thinly. If you loved a sofrito, go for a smaller-handled knife - it will help you be more dextrous.
Make sure you are careful with your knife
Brandishing a large chef’s knife does not automatically make you a better cook, quite the opposite, working with a knife that is too big can potentially be dangerous.
Always use a knife that feels safe and secure for you.
The blade will vary by style and can be more rounded on some than others, made of various metals, adding qualities such as hardened blades, stay sharp edges and anti-corrosion.
Full tang knives are where the blade continues through to the end of the handle, which can be heavier. A two-part blade and handle knives will undoubtedly be more lightweight, with any imbalance usually offset with added weight in the handle.
How to care for your knife
Caring for your knife means regularly sharpening to keep a clean, sharp edge, and where possible, keep knives away from the dishwasher. Instead, wash by hand and dry immediately after use and put away either in a knife block or drawer immediately.
Global Ukon Chef's knife
The award-winning knives brand Global has been wooing chefs and cooks for years with their stylish knives by Yoshikin in Japan.
They liken their craftsmanship to Samurai sword-making, and these knives are sharp indeed.
The finely honed blade made with their own stainless steel Cromova 18 is ground on both sides and at an acute angle that slips seamlessly through meat, fish, vegetables and even the ripest tomatoes.
The knife is light and carefully weighted, making it effortless to use.
These are knives you would never put anywhere near a dishwasher; it will ruin them; a quick hand wash with soap and hot water will suffice as the seamless knife has nowhere to harbour germs.
If the knife seems expensive, you buy one of the sharpest and finely designed commercial chef knives out there and one that should last a lifetime.
Colori® Titanium Chef’s Knife
The Swiss-made Colori knife from Kuhn Rikon is called a chef’s knife but is shorter than the standard 20cm/ 8 inches and is also so light we wondered if it could perform like its larger rivals.
Yes, it can.
The lightness makes this an easy knife to use, and its USP of having a non-stick Titanium coated blade is an attribute; the food falls away easily while chopping and slicing, which sometimes can be a little annoying with others.
The Colori’s smaller stature does not compromise its strength, made from Japanese stainless steel; it is not surprising this knife has received design awards.
A low price, a small knife but a big offer with this one.
Sabatier at Judge Chef's Knife
The hardened steel chef knife from Sabatier at Judge comes with a 25-year guarantee; that’s how confident they are of its quality.
They have good reason to feel assured; this knife is lovely, oozing classic good looks with its full tang blade and riveted ergonomic handle.
We found the knife slightly back-heavy, but it was easy to adjust with use, and this slight off-balance did not hinder its efficiency in chopping, slicing, or dicing.
Unusually, they say the knife is dishwasher safe which is not usual practice for a knife, but there is the backup of that guarantee should you need it.
At this price, there is a lot to like about this classic knife.
Zwilling 20cm chef knife
The Zwilling knife is extraordinarily good looking and beautifully crafted.
The blade is forged from a single piece of steel and ice-hardened using a process called Friodur® which giving a robust and super sharpness to the knife, which we found delightful to use.
The 20cm generously curved blade makes slicing, dicing, and chopping easy, and the generous securely riveted handle is both comfortable and secure to hold.
Moreover, even though made of such good quality steel, it’s not overly heavy, so it will suit most hands.
The ZWILLING® Pro is an investment piece and one that, if cared for correctly and never ventures anywhere near a dishwasher, should last for many years and could make the lifetime guarantee the knife comes with redundant.
Opinel Intempora chef's knife
Opinel, the French company, should know a thing or two about knives, having been in business since 1890 from their headquarters in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, Savoie, France, and if the Intempora knife is anything to go by, they do.
The knife is full tang meaning the blade goes straight through the handle in one continuous piece, making the knife heavier and better balanced.
In addition, the blade is generously curved, making cutting simple with a gentle rocking motion. The handle, too, is gently curved, making it supremely comfortable to hold.
Made of high carbon steel and thanks to chrome, the knife is anti-corrosive and needs no special maintenance. If this isn’t enough to impress, the price is a steal for the quality and weight of the knife.
Elite Ice X50 Chefs Knife
The Elite Ice from Procook is a sturdy looking knife with a unique and gorgeous handle made from Micarta - layers of linen, canvas, burlap, sometimes even paper or leather saturated with phenolic resin.
The sturdiness of the knife comes from German stainless steel with 0.5% carbon for good edge retention and a promise of corrosion resistance.
But it is their sci-fi sounding cryogenics that intrigued us. The metal is subjected to a staggering -70C for three hours, altering the metal structure and giving the knife outstanding sharpness.
We found the knife scarily sharp with excellent balance; it slips through everything smoothly and efficiently.
This is an outstanding knife for the price, though the weight may be a tad heavy for some.
Lakeland Select-Grip Japanese Steel Chef's Knife
This professional-grade knife from Lakeland is solid and robust, made from Japanese steel and also has the thickest blade we tried, which for some may be slightly too heavy, but others may prefer that.
We were very impressed with Lakeland’s Select-Grip knife handle, which is soft and comfortable.
Also, the grip is non-slip and knowing it is secure brings added confidence, a bonus to those learning to handle professional quality knives.
The handle also has a steel balance cap to weight the knife correctly, making precision cutting more effortless, and there’s added extra with a safety sheath to protect both the knife and fingers when in storage.
The Lakeland is a lovely sturdy knife at a reasonable price, though the weight may not suit everyone.
Rockingham Forge Equilibrium RF-1502
The Rockingham is a huge surprise of a knife. Priced at the lower end, it has the build and design of one much more expensive.
The knife is made from chromium-molybdenum-vanadium steel and promises to be rustproof and have an ever-lasting edge.
The handle has a beautiful curve with a super smooth finish which is lovely to hold, and there are no rivets or nooks and crannies for germs to hide.
As the name Equilibrium implies, the knife has super balance, and with its generously curved blade, rocks back and forth, making short work of chopping, slicing and dicing.
Nihon X50 Chefs Knife
We admit to liking the look of this knife a lot.
It is the only one we tested with a wooden handle, and we found it supremely comfortable to hold; this is also one that most certainly should stay away from the dishwasher.
The knife is made from stainless steel and carbon yet so light and excellent for anyone for whom a heavier knife could be a problem.
Lightness in no way hampers the performance here as the weight of the blade is balanced by a stainless-steel fixing on the end of the handle.
The razor-sharp blade chopped effortlessly through everything we tried.
The Nihon is a super knife to learn to chop, slice and dice if the heavier knives are too scary, without spending too much money.
Stellar Sabatier Santoku Knife
The Stellar Sabatier Santoku may be the cheapest on our test, but do not be put off by that as this is a super entry-level knife.
Santoku is borrowed from the Japanese to represent the three virtues or uses of the knife for cutting, chopping, and dicing.
Though a different shape with a flatter curve coming from the top of the blade, it has similar use and purpose as a European chef’s knife.
To use the Santoku, you need to handle the knife differently from a regular chef’s knife moving it backwards and forwards rather than a rocking motion.
However, chefs love these knives for their precision, especially when slicing, and this one does not disappoint. It is light, with a sturdy handle and is also, surprisingly at this price point, a full tang knife.