The Ultimate Kitchen Knife Buying Guide

by Tamkota Cutlery on Oct 12, 2021

The Ultimate Kitchen Knife Buying Guide

When you search on Reddit. You probably found that many topics about how to choose a good kitchen knife. Like "Recommendation for my first "high end" Japanese knives or Chef's Knife suggestions?: BuyItForLife - Reddit"

So today we will try to found the best knife for your kitchen.

Kitchen Knife Anatomy

Essential Kitchen Knives

Knives come in all shapes and sizes. Some are versatile, some task‐specific. Some are straight, some serrated. Some are metal, some ceramic. Understanding how knives are constructed and why those differences exist will help you pick the right tool for the job.

Blade: The most common blade material is stainless steel, which is either forged or stamped. Forged blades are molded into shape and are generally heavier and more durable, with a prominent heel at the base of the blade. Stamped blades are cut from a solid sheet of metal and are more lightweight, but dull more quickly. Stamped blades are common on inexpensive, low‐quality knives, but high‐quality stamped blades can also be found.Stainless blades of both types are easily sharpened.

Ceramic blades are very lightweight and can stay sharp for a very long time, but must be sharpened using a specialized grinder. Ceramic is also very brittle, so knives will shatter if dropped. They should not be used for tasks that involve hitting (e.g., breaking bones, cracking nuts). Ceramic knives are typically more expensive than their stainless counterparts.

Handle: Wood has traditionally been used for knife handles, but is being replaced by plastics and laminated woods. Wood warps when it is wet and can harbor bacteria, making it very hard to clean. Plastic handles are found often in commercial kitchens because they are easy to clean and require no special care. Plastic is used most often on stamped knives that do not have a full tang, an extension of the blade that the handles are attached to. On forged knives, the tang continues through the length and width of the handle. The handle is attached to the tang using three rivets.

Full Tang Chef Knife

What knives does a professional chef need?

Knives are an essential piece of cutlery for chefs. No matter the skill level, if a chef is equipped with the wrong knife, it can completely destroy the outcome of the food.

There are so many different types of knives that a chef can have, and each has their own individual use. From standard chopping to peeling, there’s a different knife for everything. Let’s break down the most popular knives and their uses.

Standard Chef Knife Types

These knives are a standard in most kitchen. These four professional knives for chefs can create a high-performing set that can accomplish most basic cooking tasks.

Chef’s Knife (French Style)

The iconic Chef's Knife, as well as its Japanese counterparts, the Gyuto knife and Santoku knife, are designed to be a cook's primary knife. We recommend you choose one of these as your first knife, which you can use to chop, slice, dice and mince all types of vegetables, fruits, meats and fish. This knife will be your most valuable player, no matter what type you pick. Though these knives are similar, they are not the same. Read on to explore the subtle differences.  The Chef's Knife is one of the most useful and versatile designs available. The rocking curvature of the blade, the sharp fine tip and the deep, stable heel combine in a form that is utterly faithful to function. You need only look at a chef's knife to understand how to use it. When choosing your first western style chef's knife, we recommend one that is made from high-carbon stainless steel. Other materials can be used to make fine chef's knives, but most quality manufacturers prefer high-carbon stainless steel because it offers a good edge retention, toughness and ease of maintenance. Additionally, they won't rust and are generally a bit less fragile against hard materials. The 8" chef's knife is the most popular size for home cooks.  The Gyuto (or gyutou) is a more recent design in Japan's impressive bladesmithing history. Similar to the western Chef's knife in shape and size, the Gyuto is lighter and just awesome to use. The blade is curved and suitable for rocking, but the knife's light weight just begs to be lifted from the board for quick "tap-tap-tap" cuts. A broad generalization exists that Japanese knives are spectacularly sharp, but thinner and harder, which can make them somewhat more brittle. This becomes evident if you hold a typical Gyuto next to a German Chef's knife. But it's the light weight, ability to take an extremely sharp edge, and versatility that make the Gyuto a great all-around knife that excels at mincing, precision vegetable prep and light protein prep (fish and chicken). The biggest downside? You can't use them for heavy-duty tasks like chopping through bones or splitting winter squashes in half. You can also expect quality Gyuto to cost more than quality Chef's knives.The first and most important is the chef’s knife. This standard knife has a broad blade that spans about 6-12 inches long. It usually translates to faster and easier slicing, dicing, chopping, and Julianne. The 8’’ French style knife is the perfect size for all cooks. Shorter blades will give more control for dainty jobs. Longer blades for mass chopping or slicing large product.

Utility KnifeA Utility Knife is usually 5-6" long with a narrow blade that can be straight or serrated. It's ideal for all-around-the-kitchen, everyday use and nice as a knife that can be used by a helper. It will also take some weight off of the Paring Knife for small food prep and sandwiches.The utility knife is essentially a condensed chef’s knife. Its smaller blade ranges from 4-7 inches in length and typically comes straight. Utility knives can also be serrated to make slicing smaller vegetables and meat a bit easier.

Kitchen ShearsKitchen Shears  The main uses for kitchen shears are the most obvious ones: snipping herbs, cutting open food packaging, and breaking down poultry.Kitchen shears aren’t commonly in the knife category, but they should be. Shears can be used to accomplish more than just cutting. These scissors are made with extra sharp blades that can help with creating garnishes from herbs, plants, and even help cut vegetables as well.

Santoku KnifeThe Santoku is a bit more traditional in design than the Gyuto; it has a straight edge that is not made for rocking. Rather, this blade must be lifted from the board for every cut. But the fine edge is supported by a wider blade all the way to the tip so it can make very precise, straight cuts, even slices and fine chops and minces. Santoku are the knives for the kitchen perfectionist. If you want very uniform cuts for super-clean presentations, a Santoku will help you get there. The classic size for a Santoku is about 7".  Japan makes a great deal of knives of varying quality and from many materials. But in the quality cutlery market, Japan is known for making exquisite blades that, typically, are thinner than western blades and breathtakingly sharp. Some high quality Japanese producers forge blades from carbon steel because it is very hard and will hold a very sharp edge on a thin blade for a long time. Be aware that knives made from carbon steel are prone to rusting and will require additional care. And even when properly cared for, the blades will generally develop a dull "patina". The fact that they do not stay shiny does not diminish the performance of the blade whatsoever. Japan is also a world leader in advanced ceramic blades that also require specific care and handling. In the end, be sure to learn the specific maintenance requirements for the knife you choose.The Santoku knife is a bit thinner and shorter than a chef’s knife, and is typically flat. The flat bottom does not allow for rocking on the cutting board, which can make it a less used option than the chef’s knife. The blade on this knife often is created with divots. These divots create air pockets that give the chef an easier time cutting through meats and other sticky materials. These knives are best for jobs that do not require specific size or style of cuts.Specialty Chef Knife TypesThere are always a few professional knives for chefs that can be used for specific cooking needs. Often, these are found in commercial kitchens but used less than the knives listed above.

Cleaver KnifeA cleaver can take on heavy vegetables like different varieties of squash and root vegetables with more force than a chef's knife or santoku knife. Aside from breaking down tendons and bones, cleavers can also be used for pounding, mincing, dicing, and slicing of a variety of other foods.
Cleaver knives are large, bulky knives that have a weighted handle. These heavy-duty knives are used to cut through bones and other thick, rough foods. The wide, heavy blade makes it ideal for pulverizing cooked or uncooked meat, poultry and fish, and crushing garlic as well.

Bread KnifeBread/Serrated Knife  The fourth most important knife has got to be the 8" Bread Knife (or serrated knife). It's your ace in the hole for a myriad of odd-ball fruits and vegetables that have tough or waxy skins with soft interiors. Use it for tomatoes, eggplants and slicing the rinds of melons, pineapples and hard winter squash. It's true that a sharp Western chef's knife can do these jobs too, but a serrated knife is safer to use and usually more effective. And, obviously the Bread Knife is perfect for slicing cleanly through all types of breads and cakes without smashing them. It's also ideally suited to cutting assorted sandwiches and wraps. Serrated edges cannot be used with a sharpening steel, but are designed to cut effectively for a long time. The edges of quality serrated knives can be re-sharpened by a professional.Bread can’t be cut with just any knife. Well, it can, but it will take the chef more time than it would with a bread knife. This style of knife is crafted with a deeply serrated edge, which helps dig into hard and soft breads with ease and rip through them. These blades are typically long to ensure there is enough blade to get through all different sizes of bread. They come in straight or off-set versions. Off-set bread knives are perfect for cutting sandwiches.

Paring KnifeParing knife. A 3-4" Parer is the knife you use for the small fruit, vegetable and meat prep that just isn't comfortable with the chef's knife: trimming strawberries and brussel sprouts, halving mushrooms or prepping artichokes. If you plan on doing much in-hand cutting (holding a small food in your hand as you cut it, such as "turning" carrots, "fluting" mushrooms or peeling apples), we recommend the 3". Since paring knives are small and meant for delicate work, highly durable build quality seems less of a requirement. You may find that in this category, quality stamped knives are on a more even playing field with forged knives. But don't underestimate how frequently this little knife gets used; stamped or forged, you'll want a good one!When cutting small food like cherry tomatoes, for example, a paring knife is the best tool for the job. The paring knife is short and gives the cook the control they need to make precise cuts quickly and efficiently. A 3-4’’ paring knife is a bartender’s best friend to prepare their citrus garnishes.

Caring for Knives

These knives should be handled with care, and should only be handled by trained professionals. Keeping these standard and specialty knives in the possession of your cooking staff only is imperative for the health and safety of your entire staff. Keep them sharp, and clean them thoroughly and put them away when the job is done. The cooking staff should keep track of kitchen cutlery at all times. It is important to know that these knives should never be found in dish pits or compartment sinks to avoid hospital visits for your dishwashers and stewards.

Finding the Right Knives for Your Kitchen

The right knives can completely change the way your kitchen operates. To ensure you are equipping your kitchen with the best professional knives for chefs, reach out to our team. We can walk you through the different types of knives, their uses, and whether or not they would make for a great option in your kitchen.

Kitchen Knife Blade Material

The steel the the key factor for the performance of your knives. A good kitchen knife must be made of the best steel to get excellent performance.

For example, a chef's knife is well designed, but goes into manufacture with a low-end steel. The knife's performance will be poor.

In the market today, good steels commonly used are SG2 powdered steel, VG-MAX, VG-10, 10Cr15CoMov, AUS-10, AUS-8, 44OC, etc.

Can a good knife cut anything?

No, Don't use a good chef's knife to cut bones or frozen things. Because the hardness of the high end knives can reach 56-62 HRC. Knives can be damaged or chipped.

Is the Damascus chef's knife worth buying?

Personally I recommend you buy it.

What's Damascus Steel?

Damascus steel is not really a type of steel, but rather a process in which multiple steels are pattern welded together. This high temperature bond produces a light/dark wavy affect and pattern on the blade. A flux seals the joint to keep oxygen out. This welded steel is then wrapped or clad over a core steel. Such is often the case over popular Japanese steels like VG-10 and AUS-10, with each knife’s pattern being unique based on the steels used. A quick word of caution: Be careful with super-cheap Damascus knives. Some of them are not true Damascus steels, but rather a surface treatment(Laser engraving Damascus Pattern) that “appears” to be Damascus.

 AUS-6   Type:  Stainless Steel / Origin:  Japan / Hardness:  HRC 55-57 / Series:  AUS    AUS-6 Steel is not that common in kitchen knives.  It’s very inexpensive, but really doesn’t have good cutting characteristics or hold an edge very well.  It’s comparable with 420 series steel.  For this reason, it’s mainly used in cheap knives and perhaps wouldn’t even be advertised in marketing materials.  For this reason, it’s actually quite difficult to find knives made with AUS-6 Steel.  AUS-8  Type:  Stainless Steel / Origin:  Japan / Hardness:  HRC 57-59 / Series:  AUS    AUS-8 Steel is a much more popular knife steel.  it provides a superior balance between price, hardness, and corrosion resistance.  It’s primarily used on mid-range Japanese-style kitchen knives and consumers tend to be pretty happy with it due to the low amount of maintenance required.  AUS-8 Steel is used on Dalstrong Phantom and Zelite Razor-Edge series knives. AUS-10  Type:  Stainless Steel / Origin:  Japan / Hardness:  HRC 58-60 / Series:  AUS    AUS-10 Steel is the top-dog of the AUS-Series steels.  It is quite similar to the ever-popular VG-10 Japanese steel, but not quite as hard, so also less brittle and delicate.  Just like AUS-8, these stainless steel is mainly used in mid-range Japanese-style knives.  You may also see a designation of AUS-10V.  This “V” is added when the steel is Vacuum heat treated, which further enhances its durability and performance characteristics.  A couple examples of knives AUS-10 and AUS-10V are used on are the Zelite Alpha-Royal and Dalstrong Shogun series knives. VG-1  Type:  Stainless Steel / Origin:  Japan / Hardness:  HRC 58-60 / Series:  VG    VG-1 Steel was the original of the VG-series.  For many years, it was the go-to option for Japanese stainless steel knife blades, and for this reason is often referred to as a Japanese Super Steel.  Similar to AUS-10, VG-1 has roughly 1% carbon and 14% chromium.  It is hard, but blades are prone to chipping and rust if not handled correctly.  However, VG-1 was replaced in most cases with the better VG-10 steel (see below), so it’s not longer commonly used in kitchen knives.    VG-10  Type:  Stainless Steel / Origin:  Japan / Hardness:  HRC 60-62 / Series:  VG    VG-10 Steel has all but completely taken over for its predecessor, VG-1.  Also considered a Japanese Super Steel, it is one of the most popular steels used in top-of-the-line Japanese kitchen knives.  VG-10 is synonyms with sharp edges, durability, and edge retention.  Made with 1% carbon, 15% chromium, 1.5% cobalt, 1% molybdenum, 0.5% manganese, and 0.2% vanadium, its fine steel structure makes it relatively easy to sharpen, yet capable of holding that edge longer than most.  It is nearly always uses “clad” with other stainless steels that help improve the blade’s corrosion resistance.  There are tons of kitchen knives that use VG-10 as their core steel.  Popular knives that use VG-10 core steel are Tojiro and Enso HD Series knives.  VG-MAX  Type:  Stainless Steel / Origin:  Japan / Hardness:  HRC 60-62 / Series:  VG    VG-MAX Steel is the latest in the VG series, but is proprietary to Shun Cutlery.  Based on VG-10, they’ve added more carbon to increase strength, more chromium to increase corrosion and wear resistance.  They also made the steel more fine-grained by adding more tungsten and vanadium provides carbides.  Both of these allow the blades to become extremely sharp!  Shun uses VG-MAX in both their Classic and Premier series knives.   X50CrMoV15 / Krupp 4116  Type:  Stainless Steel / Origin:  Germany / Hardness:  HRC 54-57 / Series:  N/A    X50CrMoV15 (Also goes by Krupp 4116 – specifically made by the brand Thyssen-Krupp) is the most common among German knife makers, and really probably the best option for the widest range of users.  With 0.5% carbon, it’s not near as hard as the Japanese steels listed above, but between this and the 15% chromium, it is more stain resistant.  The softer steel isn’t sharpened to quite an acute angle and doesn’t hold an edge as well, but in exchange, it’s very low maintenance and it much heavier-duty.  It really is a great compromise between rust resistance, toughness, edge retention and cost.  This is why it’s the perfect fit for German knives!  So many top brands use this steel.  A couple examples you’ll recognize are Wusthof and Cangshan, who both use X50CrMoV15 in many of their kitchen knives.  420J Stainless  Type:  Stainless Steel / Origin:  Japan / Hardness:  HRC 50-ish / Series:  400    420J stainless steel is widely considered to not be a very good performing steel for kitchen knife blades.  It has two things going for it, it’s cheap and it’s very corrosion resistant since it has very little carbon content.  This inferior steel is primarily used on cheapie knives and while the blades are easy to sharpen, they won’t retain the edge very long at all.  The only decent knife that comes to mind with this steel is Ginsu’s Chikara series knives.   440A/440C  Type:  Stainless Steel / Origin:  United States or China / Hardness:  HRC 50-55 / Series:  400    440A and 440C are both stainless steels.  They are used in low to mid-range knives since they’re inexpensive.  They are both highly corrosion resistant due to their large amounts of chromium, but that’s about it.  440C has more carbon, so it’s harder than 440A, makes better blades, and at one time was considered a good steel for knives.  These steels won’t hold a very sharp edge and I assure you, you’ll find better options for your kitchen.   Cronidur 30  Type:  Stainless Steel / Origin:  Germany / Hardness:  HRC 55-60 / Series:  N/A  Cronidur 30, also called X30CRMoN15, is a stainless steel that came out of the aerospace industry.  Some knife makers advertise their knives, saying something like, “our knives are made with the same stainless steel NASA uses.”  I hate to tell you, but that doesn’t mean it makes good knife blades, am I right?  Cronidur has a low amount of carbon, and subs in nitrogen to get the extra hardness.  This is not a widely used steel in kitchen knives.  There are some Zwilling J.A. Henckels knives that do use it, and consumers seem to like it. SG2  Type:  Stainless Powder Steel / Origin:  Japan / Hardness:  HRC 63-64 / Series:  Powder Steel  Powder steels like SG2 are extremely hard due to the very fine grain structure in the powderized stainless steel.  This gives it increased scratch resistance and edge retention over top stainless steels like VG-10, but they’re also more prone to chipping.  It’s critical that you don’t use blades using SG2 powder steel on frozen foods or around bone.  Both can quickly and easily cause damage to the blade.  Due to the high carbon content, SG2 is almost always used laminated, meaning it’s wrapped with one or more stainless steels to give it increased corrosion resistance.  Some of the most popular knives that use SG2 powder steel are Shun’s Premier knives and the Miyabi Mizu & Artisan Series knives. Aogami / Blue Steel  Type:  Carbon Steel / Origin:  Japan / Hardness:  HRC 62-65 / Series:  Blue Paper Steel  Aogami, also called Blue Steel or Blue Paper Steel, is considered a “carbon steel” rather than a “stainless steel”.  Aogami is some of the hardest steel on the planet and is similar to what is used in many swords.  It is very pure and has few flaws in the structure, so it can hold extremely share edges for an extended period of time.  Blue Steel comes in 3 types:  Blue Steel #1, Blue Steel #2, and Blue Super Steel.  It’s common to see very high-end Japanese knives, especially sashimi knives, that use Blue Steel.  As an example, Yoshihiro has many Blue Steel knives. Shirogami / White Steel  Type:  Carbon Steel / Origin:  Japan / Hardness:  HRC 60-65 / Series:  White Paper Steel  Shirogami White Steel is separated into 2 categories:  White Steel #1 and White Steel #2.  White Steel #1 is the hardest of all at HRC 65+.  It also has the most carbon and can hold the sharpest edges of nearly any steel in the world, but be careful, it will corrode!  White Steel #2 has more of a mid-range hardness for “carbon steels” at HRC 60-61.  It’s much more common and less expensive than White Steel #1.  Again, the best example of a knife brand that uses White Steel knives is Yoshihiro.

The performance of Damascus knives is generally not too bad, and every brand operates Damascus series as a high-end production line.

Knife Brand Recommendations?

If you are sick and tired of your cheap, dull knives and want to buy a nice knife set that's long-lasting and maintains an edge really well. Here are some brands you can choose from.

1.Kamikoto Knives

2.Tamkota Cutlery

3.Shun Cutlery

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