We last tested kitchen knives in 2013. There are no updates planned.
Are high-end knives better?
We tested the sharpness and edge durability of 12 knives in the 18-21cm range – and then gave them to our experts in the test lab kitchen for some hands-on assessment.
Most home users want a knife to be sharp when it’s new – and they want it to be able to hold its edge for as long as possible before it needs steeling and ultimately resharpening. To test each knife identically we turned to the lab.
A knife-test machine gave us an initial sharpness result along the entire length of each blade. All except the Scanpan Spectrum Cook's Knife were acceptably sharp at this stage.
Then the torture began: we blunted each knife by running a weighted aluminium rod along the edge of its blade 50 times before putting the knife back in the test machine. We used the difference between the “before” and “after” sharpness to give a score for edge durability.
To get an idea of how each knife handled and how easy it was to use, we gave a second set of the knives to our testers in the kitchen. After much chopped parsley, carrots, cucumber and trimmed raw meat we had an idea of how well each knife cut, as well as its feel and balance and the comfort of its handle.
And it’s definitely safer than a blunt knife. But while the shape, feel and balance of a knife are a mix of ergonomics, personal preference and design, its sharpness and edge retention are down to metallurgy and sharpening skill.
It's no surprise that our top 3 recommended knives are all Japanese: Shun Classic Chef's Knife, Global G-2 Cook's Knife and Tojiro Flash Chef's Knife.
These have harder and higher-quality steel in the blades and often have more than 1 layer of steel. This means that the knife blades can be thinner, lighter and sharper and yet still hold their edge for longer. (Of course all these benefits come with suitably sized price tags.)
While not quite as good as the Japanese knives, the Victorinox Chef's Knife was a standout at a surprisingly low price of $76. The Victorinox has a stamped blade of European steel that handles more like a Japanese knife and this is coupled with a cheap but user-friendly moulded plastic handle. The Scanpan Classic Cook’s Knife also performed well and costs just over $100.
The 3 knives that are “worth considering” cover a wide range of prices – and there’s some variability in their mix of scores (see our Test results comparison). The lower-grade steel used in these knives means their blades are thicker than the Japanese ones, and there’s more of a tradeoff between sharpness and edge durability.