17 Sep Best Chef Knives You Need
Here are six recommendations that cover some of the best chef knives around, each produced by a different world-class knifemaker. This short list is designed not only to highlight quality chef knives but to give you a sense of what’s out there (a lot!) and help you find the knife that’s right for you.
Henckels is one of the largest knifemakers in the world and has been around since the 1700s. They produce at least 11 different lines of knives, so it’s especially important to be clear what model you’re buying. The Pro S line is one of their finest and is manufactured in Solingen, Germany where their core factories are located. They also have factories in Spain and, as a newer development, in Japan as well. It’s in Japan where they produce their latest creation, a model designed by Bob Kramer, the American bladesmith who has set the bar high for kitchen-knife quality.
Wusthof is the other of the “Big Two” German knifemakers and some pros swear by it over Henckels because they feel the quality is higher. Not sure if this perception is justified, but it’s probably aided by the fact Wusthof has been family-owned and run for almost 200 years. Interesting enough, both Wusthof and Henckels are manufactured in the same German town (along with dozens of other blademakers) which is one of the knife-making capitals of the world. (What’s another capital? Seki City, Japan.)
Messermeister knives, like the name sounds, are rooted in Germany—the Meridian Elite line being forged in the very same German town as the preceding knives from the Big Two. While Messermeister is not as big an operation as Henckels and Wusthof, they’re no less revered for their quality. Maybe even more so.
This knife makes my Best Chef Knives list for three reasons:
1) it’s highly recommended by Chad Ward in his book An Edge in the Kitchen as being uber-sharp. It comes from the factory with a highly polished edge that Ward claims is superior to any of the “big-name knife brands” and will hold it for a substantial amount of time.
2) it has a partial bolster which makes it easier to sharpen (and is a nod to Japanese knives)
3) it comes in a 9-inch size that’s a perfect compromise between an 8- and a 10-inch—but doesn’t cost any more than your average 8-inch. Neat, huh?
There’s only one caveat—the blade width (of the 9-inch) is too wide for your average knife rack. You’ll have to make special provisions. If that concerns you, or, if you don’t care about the extra length, then buy an 8-inch.
Global revolutionized the kitchen-knife world in the 1980s by creating a series of high-performance knives that were on the cutting edge of fashion (forgive the pun), yet still affordable. Like traditional Japanese knives, they’re extremely light with a thin, razor-sharp edge. Yet in blade design, they generally owe more to Western tradition than Japanese. That’s why I call them Japanese hybrids in that they graft one tradition of knifemaking onto another. Most of Global’s knives are not forged, but made of a high-quality steel that has been tempered and heat treated to new levels of sophistication.
MAC knives seem to be one of the best kept secrets of the consumer kitchen knife market. Professionals seem to know all about them with famous chefs like Thomas Keller and Charlie Trotter unabashedly endorsing them as the ultimate cutting machine. But ask your average home gourmet, and odds are they’ve never heard of them.
Japanese designed and manufactured, like Global, they’re a new breed of knife, a hybrid—that incorporates the harder and thinner Japanese steel with a Western-shaped blade. They’re not as stylish as Global, but probably even sharper. And (like Global) they’re also not forged, but highly machined.
As the Messermeister above, Chad Ward (in An Edge in the Kitchen) raves about the pure cutting fury of the MTH-80. So for those who worship sharp, this one’s for you!
The MTH-80 Professional is the workhorse of MACs various product lines and I’m guessing it’s the most popular because it offers the maximum sharpitude for your dollar. Plus, the welded-on bolster creates an unusual combination of super-thin blade with added weight that keeps it balanced in your hand more like a German-style knife. According to Gourmet Magazine, a MAC knife is “the difference between a minivan and race car.” Care to take one out for a spin?
Shun, along with Global, is probably one of the most popular and well-known Japanese brands in the U.S. It’s no wonder—their flagship line, Shun Classic, is very attractive and very sharp. They’re manufactured in Seki City which, along with Solingen, is another knife-making capital.