June 4

How to Find The Best Chef Knife For Your Culinary Career


Finding the Best Chef Knife To Match Your Culinary Style Makes All the Difference. Here’s Our Guide To Selecting the Ideal Knife To Grow With You in Your Career

Whether you’re an executive chef with years under your belt or a prep cook just getting started, you know that your knives are not just tools but the backbone of your trade. While you’ll want plenty of options in your knife roll, the chef knife is probably the most essential.  

Choosing a chef knife is not a one-size-fits-all decision. It’s a personal journey that requires you to invest time and research to find the perfect match for your culinary style and personal preferences. 

Since there are many options, we’re here to help you start by breaking down the key features you should consider when shopping for your next best chef knife.

Key Considerations When Finding the Best Chef Knife 

Many factors go into making knives, and not every knife works for every person. Size, weight, and habits all determine what will work for you in the long run. 

As you seek the best chef knife, consider these five core characteristics and formulate your preferences. 

Steel Type

The material of your chef knife is probably one of the more significant decisions you’ll have to make. Each material offers advantages and disadvantages, so consider your culinary goals and personal preferences.

Steel types include: 

  1. Stainless Steel: Stainless steel is high-carbon steel with at least 10% chromium added to provide stain resistance. It is durable and resistant to rust and staining but does not get as sharp or hold its edge as long as other steel options. 

    A stainless steel chef knife is an excellent option for someone who knows their habits and wants something that requires less maintenance. 

  2. High Carbon Steel: High carbon steel sharpens better and faster than stainless steel but requires careful cleaning since it does not have the same stain resistance. 

    If you’re a chef who values your craftsmanship and tools, then carbon steel, while requiring a bit more maintenance, will be a fantastic choice. 

If you want to learn more about the difference between stainless steel and carbon steel knives, check out our conversation with Eytan Zias, a former chef with 30 years of experience sharpening, selling, and making kitchen knives—and who is currently the co-founder of STEELPORT Knife Co. 

Blade Length and Shape

You’ll see chef knives of various lengths, but the most commonly used are either 6 inches, 8 inches, or 10 inches. 

Blade length plays a big part in comfort and usability, so consider your hand size and what you typically use a chef knife for. 

  • Shorter blades (6-8 inches) are easier to control and generally more comfortable for chefs with smaller hands. They are great for precision cuts like slicing vegetables for mirepoix or mincing herbs. 
  • Longer blades (9-12 inches) provide a longer cutting edge, making them a bit more challenging to control for intricate cuts, but they are great when handling large pieces of meat. Additionally, they can be cumbersome for those with smaller hands. 

Additionally, you’ll want to consider the blade shape. A curved edge is best for chopping as you can easily rock back and forth while gliding your ingredients through. A straight edge is better for making precise slices, and a pointed tip can be beneficial when performing intricate knife work. 

It all makes a difference, so consider what knife skills you lean more heavily on when deciding the length and shape of your chef knife will be the most practical for you. Ideally, you’ll invest in a few options to build out your knife roll to easily use the best tool for whatever task in the kitchen. 

Weight and Balance

Weight and balance are essential for endurance. A chef knife that is well-balanced, comfortable, and stable in your hand will reduce fatigue and allow you to chop your way through any shift. 

Visit your local knife shop, and don’t be afraid to feel around! It’s essential to hold the knife you’re considering buying to ensure it will be the best option for your size and, of course, your culinary goals. 

A heavier knife can provide more power and is excellent if you’re working with large portions of meat, whereas a lighter knife is better for quick and agile movements, like prepping veggies, fruits, or herbs. 

Handle Material 

Handle material is crucial to a knife’s comfort, durability, safety, and overall performance. 

When feeling around, consider: 

Grip and ergonomics: The handle should feel comfortable and secure, enhancing ergonomics and safety while allowing prolonged use without causing hand fatigue. 

Durability: Since you will use your chef knife more than the average at-home cook, you’ll want to invest in a chef knife with a durable handle. Handles made with high-quality plastics and composites are more moisture-resistant and typical wear and tear. 

Full or partial tang: The blade of a full-tang knife extends the handle’s full length, offering more power and balance while increasing stability. A partial-tang knife’s blade extends only partially into the handle, making the knife lighter and more comfortable for those with smaller hands. 

Common chef knife handle material includes: 

  • Wood
  • Plastic/Composite
  • Micarta
  • Metal
  • Rubber or thermoplastic elastomers

Focusing on the handle when shopping for your perfect chef knife is essential to increased comfort, durability, safety, and suitability for your kitchen habits and professional goals. 

Style and Tradition

There are many bladesmith traditions—each technique has a unique characteristic, style, and reputation. 

While you might consider the French Sabatier or the Chinese Cleaver (Chai Dao), the most common knife styles on the market are Japanese and German-made knives. 

  • Japanese Chef Knives: Generally appreciated for their craftsmanship and traditions dating back to the katana swords used by samurai warriors. Japanese knives are also single-edged, with the blade only sharpened on one side, offering a clean and smooth slice. 
  • German Chef Knives: Typically heavier, full-tang knives, German-style chef knives offer a durable and thick blade with more curves ideal for chopping and dicing

While you might gravitate towards a particular style and tradition of bladesmithing, consider your professional goals and what type of knife will suit your needs. Again, this ensures comfort, safety, and efficiency while performing the tasks you do most of the time. 

As a chef, you’ll likely collect a variety of knives—because everything has its place, and you’ll want specific tools for specific tasks. 

There are more considerations as you start navigating the world of professional cutlery—but knowing these essential characteristics will help you get closer to finding that perfect chef knife that you’ll cherish for hours on end and years into the future. 


About the author

Ashley McNally likes to cook, loves to bake, and is always dreaming of her next meal. With over 13 years of experience working in various roles within a restaurant — McNally has made a home in hospitality.

About the author

Ashley McNally likes to cook, loves to bake, and is always dreaming of her next meal. With over 13 years of experience working in various roles within a restaurant — McNally has made a home in hospitality.