Best Chef Knife for the Money – Updated 2017

Sliced green onions with garlic in backgroundWe are going to help you find the best chef knife for the money. Though “best” is a little tricky when it comes to knives. There are lots of things to consider: Japanese or German, handle length and material, forged or stamped are just a few examples. For one person, the best chef knife for the money might be a Japanese Damascus knife because of its long-lasting sharp edge and beauty. Others might prefer a heavier German knife. There are a variety of chef knives out there that range in performance, looks and price.

The Chef knife, also called a cook’s knife is usually the most used and arguably the most versatile knife you can have in your kitchen. They typically come in 6, 8 and 10-inch models, but 12-inch behemoths aren’t uncommon. The 8-inch chef’s knife is most preferred because it is large enough to handle most jobs, but not too big that it’s unwieldy. It’s the “goldilocks” size.

Depending on your budget and preferences, you might spend well over $100 for a high-end Japanese or German knife or under $15 for a cheap chef knife. This is the knife that you will probably use more than any other in your kitchen. So it’s worthwhile to invest a little more into this knife. Below, we’ve reviewed what we think are some of the best 8-inch chef’s knives for the money across different price ranges and styles.


The Best Japanese Chef Knife for the Money

Shun Premier 8-inch Chef Knife Review

Click here to see price for the Shun Premier 8-inch chef knife

The beautiful Damascus stainless Shun knife.

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The Japanese Shun Premier 8-inch chef’s knife is the most expensive chef knife on this list. It is also the most aesthetically pleasing. Bottom line, this knife looks very cool. It’s made out of Damascus steel.
You can read all about Damascus steel here; in short, it is layered steel that creates a wavy wood-grain-like finish. It’s thin, light weight, super-sharp and beautiful. Read more below and you will find out why the Shun Premier 8-inch chef knife made the cut. Pun intended.

 

Hollow Ground Damascus Super Steel Blade

Okay, so the Damascus steel knives definitely look good (we’ll dive more into that later on). But, there’s more to Damascus stainless steel knives than just the good looks. A lot goes into making these knives. Starting with 16-layers of “SUS410/SUS431 Pattern Damascus stainless steel”, whatever that means right? Well, those steel types are corrosion resistant and make the blades stronger and more flexible.

The blade core is made of VG-10, a Japanese super-steel that allows these knives to keep their edge for years. The Shun chef knife’s 16-degree angle plays a vital role in its sharpness. European kitchen knives, Henckels & Wusthof for example, typically have a 20-22 degree angle. While other knife manufacturers would certainly disagree, Shun claims to have the sharpest knives out of the box.

The Shun Premier chef’s knife has a hollow ground or hollow grind edge. You may have experienced slicing onions for example and had the slices stick to the blade. That can be annoying. The hand-hammered finish creates tiny cavities which reduces friction. This helps prevent food from sticking to the knife blade.

The Prettiest Knife in the Block

The Shun kitchen knives are known for their long lasting edge retention, thin blade, and light weight, but what really sets them apart is their beauty. The 16 layers of Damascus steel creates what resembles woodgrain, and the hammering process gives the knives a textured hand-crafted finish. We’ve had the pleasure of seeing these knives up close and they are truly amazing [Click here to see up close pic on Amazon].

The Handle is made of Pakkawood. Pakkawood is a high quality hardwood that’s impregnated with a resin. This process makes the handle moisture resistant. Sanding and buffing gives the Pakkawood handle its glossy finish. You end up with a beautiful handle that fits perfectly in your hand.

Features/Specs.

  • Hand hammered finish
  • 16 layers of corrosion resistant stainless-steel
  • High carbon VG-10 Japanese “super steel” core
  • 8-inch blade
  • ​Comfortable Pakkawood handle
  • Made in Japan
  • Hand hammered finish reduces food sticking to blade
  • Beautiful Damascus style

Performance Durability and Warranty

Out of the box, The Shun Premier 8-inch chef knife claims to be sharper than any other. The Shun Premier chef knife blade is thinner than its European counterparts. High carbon makes this knife very hard and allows it to keep a blade edge much longer than other blades (with regular honing and sharpening). Its balance and comfort helps prevent hand fatigue.

Generally, the Shun Premier Chef knife seems to be durable but it doesn’t seem to be as durable or as versatile as the other chef knives on this list. However, with regular maintenance, proper care and proper use, you should not have any durability issues. In case you do, it comes with a lifetime limited warranty.

What Do Customers Think?

The Shun Premier 8-inch Chef knife had a ton of reviews. Overall, these reviews would seem to suggest a product that customers are pleased with.

The Good…

Most customers love the Shun knives. They are generally impressed with its incredibly sharp edge, the looks and performance. It’s interesting to see so many people absolutely head-over-heels for their kitchen knives. Maybe it’s some sort of primal instinct that connects us to knives, who knows? One owner expressed how he had used the knife to julienne over 50 lbs. of onions and didn’t experience any hand discomfort.

Many owners point to liking that the knife is very thin. The incredible sharpness is brought up over and over again in the customer reviews.

Two reviews really stood out for us. They were both very critical, and yet positive. These are the types of reviews that go a long way to influence our purchase decisions. The first, a gentleman with over 20 years of experience as a cook, loves the Shun Premier chef knife, but he’s objective enough to point out its potential downsides.  He even updated his review a year later to comment on its long-term durability.

The other reviewer writes a rather lengthy review that explains the differences between Japanese, German, and American knives. He goes on to explain blade hardness, and benefits gained or lost when blades are harder or softer. For example, a harder high carbon steel blade will keep its edge longer but it also loses some flexibility. He thinks that customer dissatisfaction comes from users that don’t understand the limitations of their knife.

The Not So Good…

There are some customers who hated the Shun Premier Chef knife. A few said that the quality was better with the Shun Classic line. Most of the complaints were from people claiming that the knife just started chipping, or the tip started breaking off. This was alarming at first, but taking a deeper look, we are confident that the majority of these negative reviews were from people that misused or even abused (perhaps unwittingly) their knife.

Straight to the Point...Shun Chef Knife Summary

The Shun knives are amazing, but they aren’t for everyone. If you plan on using your chef knife to disjoint chicken or as a screwdriver then save your money. This is a great multipurpose knife. It’s unbelievably sharp, but that sharpness comes at a price. It’s more brittle. For best results, use your Shun for meats, cheeses, vegetables and other soft food items, and you will have nearly unrivaled performance.


The Best German Chef Knife for the Money

Wusthof Ikon 8-inch Chef Knife Review

The Wusthof 8-inch chef knife.

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Click for price for Wusthof 8-inch chef knife

The Wustof Ikon 8-inch chef knife is a high-end German knife that is universally recognized for quality. To save some money, some might consider the classic line. That wouldn’t be a bad choice, but after holding both the “classic” and “Ikon” in our hands, the difference is in the handle. The contour of the Ikon knife handle is much more comfortable than the classic.

We really like that Wusthof has been making knives for over 200 years. If you hold Japanese and German knives, you will notice that German knives are a bit heavier. For some people this is a good thing. The next thing you notice is that the German knife blades are thicker. A heftier knife is a preference for some people.

Strong and Flexible Knife with Super Sharp Edge

Strength and sharpness are very important when it comes to a good knife. The Wusthof Ikon 8-inch chef knife is both strong and sharp. What’s also important is flexibility. The blade on this knife is flexible for a few reasons: alloy type (ingredients that make up the stainless steel) and the tapered blade. The tapered edge is thicker at the base of the blade and gets narrower towards the tip. There is another taper, however, that goes from the spine of the blade to the blade edge.

The knife is full-tang, meaning that the blade runs the entire length and width of the handle. Wusthof uses a special tempering process. This precise tempering ensures that you have a durable sharp blade that is able to be maintained at your home and doesn’t need to be sent away to be sharpened.

Contoured Handle with Dual Bolsters

The contoured design of the Wusthof Ikon 8-inch chef knife feels very comfortable in your hand. This was one of the most comfortable knives we’ve handled. Not only is the grip comfortable but it feels very balanced too. The dual bolsters are responsible for this added balance. One bolster is at the very bottom of the handle and the other, forward partial bolster, is right at the bottom of the knife blade.

Knives with a full bolster at the bottom of the blade can get in the way of sharpening and honing.   The partial bolster, thinner than the cook’s knife in the classic line, allows you to sharpen the entire length of the blade.

Features/Specs.

  • Extremely durable “workhorse” no need to baby this knife
  • Made of high-carbon German steel
  • Double bolsters add heft and balance
  • Comfortable contoured handle
  • Model number: WU4596/20
  • Made in Germany
  • Lifetime limited warranty
  • Hand washing recommended

What Do the Customers Think?

The Wusthof Ikon 8-inch chef knife has a decent amount of customer feedback. There are a variety of reviews but most of them indicate that most customers are satisfied. While there aren’t a ton of reviews it’s still significant enough to help you make a decision.

The Good…

Most customers were extremely pleased with their purchase of the Wusthof Ikon chef knife. They found it to be extremely sharp and the sharpness last for a long time. A few customers said that it cuts tomatoes super thin. Just as we experienced, the Ikon chef knife gets a lot praise for its comfortable handle. The handle is the most notable difference between the Ikon and Classic Wusthof lines.

A few customers who loves tabbouleh noted that this knife does a great job chopping up parsley.  If you’ve ever experienced chopping herbs with a dull knife then you know the frustration. Instead of chopping you end up crushing and tearing. Some customers even point to its good looks as an added benefit. It is indeed a good looking knife. Click here to read some reviews.

The Not So Good…

Most customers had no complaints but there were certainly some. Of the few complaints a couple reviewers said that the knife wasn’t nearly as sharp as they expected. Other critics thought that the handle was too small for their self-described small hands.

The biggest takeaway is that the majority of people are more than happy with the purchase.  Most are upgrading from lower quality knives while some others, having owned top-shelf knives, offer a more critical review. The negatives seem to be one-off and preference based. They don’t seem to point to underlying chronic problems in manufacturing.

Straight to the Point...Wusthof Chef Knife Summary

The best chef knife for you just might be the Wusthof 8-inch Ikon chef’s knife. It felt great in our hands when we held it. It looks good, and it is very sharp. The attention paid to detail gives this knife an edge that is sure to last a very long time. This is a great option if you are used to working with a knife with a little more weight than what is typical of Japanese made knives.


Best Affordable Chef Knife

Victorinox 8-inch Fibrox Chef Knife Review

Victorinox chef knife

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Click here to see price for Victorinox Fibrox 8-inch chef knife

It’s hard to get a consensus on the best knife for the money. People are attracted to the different nuances of knives for different reasons. When it comes to the Victorinox 8-inch chef knife there seems to be universal appeal.

This knife is inexpensive (the cheapest knife on this list), durable, and surprisingly sharp. It holds an edge for a very long time. It is also very easy to hone and sharpen.

The Victorinox Fibrox chef knife proves that you don’t have to break the bank to have a good knife. It is a great knife for any budget. It is endorsed by Americas Test Kitchen, Cooks Illustrated, The Sweet Home, and a host of other knife experts.

High-End Stamped Steel Construction on a Budget Knife

These knives are stamped, not forged like the more expensive knives on this list. But that doesn’t really mean anything for you. The stamping process produces a chef knife that is thinner and lighter weight than other knives, and it doesn’t sacrifice durability. The steel is X50CrMoV15. Although it is sometimes marketed as high-carbon steel, it is not, it contains .5% carbon. High-carbon steel contains .6 to .99% carbon.

Nonetheless, it’s a good quality steel. German Knives with much higher price tags are made out of this same stuff. This knife is not full-tang, meaning that the blade does not extend the entire length and width of the handle. Full tang is important for hunting knives and such but it’s not required for kitchen knives. So there is no point paying for it in a budget priced knife.

To ensure that your knife edge last a very long time (lifetime), Victorinox developed a special tempering process. The goal is that your knife blade can be easily sharpened and will keep its “out of the box” sharpness for as long as you own it.

Comfortable Handle for All

The Victorinox Fibrox chef knife handle is designed in a way that makes it comfortable for all hand sizes and knife grips. It is textured and made out of soft material. The Chef knife is usually the most used knife in the kitchen, so it’s important that the handle is comfortable.

An uncomfortable handle is tolerable if you only use it for a short period of time, but what about when you have to peel a bag of potatoes or onions? We’ve helped cut a ton of vegetables for Thanksgiving with uncomfortable knives, the experience was terrible. You won’t have to deal with that with this knife. The Victorinox chef knife may be a good option for people with arthritis too.

Features/Specs.

  • Comfortable textured handle prevents slippage
  • 8-inch blade perfect for chopping, dicing, and slicing
  • Laser tested blade designed for long-lasting edge retention
  • Lifetime limited warranty
  • Model number(s): 40520, 47520, 45520, 5.2063.20
  • Made in Switzerland

What Do the Customers Think?

The Victorinox Fibrox chef knife has a ton of consumer feedback. Most of it indicates that the customers are very happy with their experience so far.

The Good

While researching this knife, we were really impressed. We’ve never come across a product that had this many reviews and so many of them were positive. The general customer consensus is that this is a great knife. The theme that plays the loudest is how this knife is so great at cutting everything from red meats to disjointing chicken wings.

Unlike the Shun Premier chef knife, you wouldn’t have to be so careful when using it. You won’t need to baby it. It’s a workhorse. Customers appreciate being able to purchase a great chef’s knife at such a reasonable price. What’s more is that even guys that own or used more expensive knives say the same thing; there isn’t another knife on the market that offers better balance, edge and value.

The Not So Good…

Naturally when we see products with rave reviews we want to see a little objectivity. We know from experience that no product is perfect for everyone. Some people won’t like what everyone else seems to love. We think that’s important for you to know. So while the vast overwhelming majority of people love the Victorinox Fibrox chef knife, there is a vocal contingent that have shared their complaints.

The majority of the poor reviews come from customers that complain about the knife losing its sharp edge too quickly.  Some state that it goes dull in a week, others say a month. Some of the more objective reviews stated that despite it being highly recommended by places like Cook’s Illustrated, it’s not a replacement for the more costly high-end Japanese or German knives.

Straight to the Point...Victorinox Chef Knife Summary

The Shun knives are amazing, but they aren’t for everyone. If you plan on using your chef knife to disjoint chicken or as a screwdriver then save you your money. This is a great multipurpose knife. It’s unbelievably sharp, but that sharpness comes at a price. It’s more brittle. For best results, use your Shun for meats, cheeses, vegetables and other soft food items, and you will have nearly unrivaled performance.

Which Chef knife Should You Buy?This chef wants you to have the best kitchen knife available.

The knife that you should buy largely depends on your budget and your preferences. If you want a more specialized knife that is beautiful, has a precision scalpel-like cut with hard-edge retention, then the Shun Premier chef’s knife may be for you. The Wusthof Ikon 8-inch German chef knife is definitely worth consideration. It has a very comfortable handle and a super sharp edge while still being flexible.

With Wusthof, the brand name isn’t just a name, it is a true representation of quality. The light-weight, thin, all purpose Victorinox Fibrox 8-inch chef knife is a great option if you’re looking for something that is versatile, inexpensive, and durable. For most home cooks the best knife for the money will probably be the Victorinox Fibrox 8-inch chef knife. Unless this is an epic case of the “emperor’s new clothes” gone terribly wrong, I just don’t think you can go wrong with this knife. I think it is the best chef knife for the money.

It beats out knives that cost 5 times as much. It comes highly recommended by professionals and home cooks alike. If we were in the market for a new chef knife, we would probably choose the Wusthof Ikon 8-inch chef knife. We prefer a knife with a little more weight. The Wusthof also looks good if that matters to you. We appreciate the craftsmanship and we trust the Wusthof name for kitchen knives.

In Person Impressions

We treat every buying guide as though we are making a purchase. We do online research, then we visit stores to get a closer look. We visited local department stores as well as high-end stores like William-Sonoma to look at knives. When we visited our local department stores to check out their selection of chef’s knives, we made some definitive observations.

These local stores carry brands like OXO, Oneida, Kitchen Aide, Hamilton Forge, and Cuisinart.  These companies are known for making other kitchen tools, but they aren’t known for making quality knives.

We’re not going to individually apply any negative attributes to specific knife brands or models. This is just meant to give you some things to look out for while searching for a chef’s knife. Here are some of the things that we didn’t like about the chef’s knives at our local department stores:

  • Rough Edges – Yes, at least 2 of the knife models that we took a look at had rough edges on the handles. It seems as though during manufacturing when these knives were pulled from the molds they didn’t completely finish sanding and buffing the handles. We also noticed that in some of the full-tang models, the handles were not flush against the blade of the knife.
  • Not Comfortable – If you search chef’s knives on Amazon, you are sure to run into the word ergonomic. This means comfortable to use. It’s very important to have a comfortable chef’s knife. Some of the knives we held were comfortable, but others, not so much. One of the knives was very heavy, this same knife also had a square shaped handle, making it very uncomfortable to use. Imagine slicing and dicing potatoes will a very heavy knife. Nightmare.
  • Fine Serrated Blade – Some of the knives had fine serrations. The problem is that all knife edges get dull over time. Straight edge knives are easy to hone/sharpen. With tiny fine serrations, however, it’s very difficult to sharpen. You will need to spend a good amount of time learning how to sharpen the knives. When considering the cost of these cheap knives and the effort/skill required to sharpen them; they aren’t worth it. They become useless or dangerous. Maybe they can be used as letter openers?

The kind folks at William-Sonoma let us experience first-hand what the premium knives felt like. We tried out the Global, Wusthof, and Shun lines. What shocked us was that Henckels was no longer a brand being carried at William-Sonoma. Macy’s on the other hand had a large selection of Henckels knives.

Without doing research, there is virtually no way to distinguish between these high-end knives for quality. They all looked and felt well made. It comes down to preferences; Japanese or German, Full bolster, Full tang, wooden handle or resin/plastic, etc. The knives across these different high-end brands felt good in our hands. We especially liked the feel of the Wusthof Ikon and the Shun knives.

 

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