Last updated: August 9, 2021

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Kitchen knives are often used kitchen tools that help you chop food. Kitchen knives have a long history and over time more and more knives have been made for different purposes. Accordingly, there is a very wide assortment of different kitchen knives on the market to choose from these days.

In our kitchen knife test 2021 I would like to help you get an overview of the most important types of kitchen knives and what one uses which kitchen knife for. Here I have differentiated between European and Asian kitchen knives and show you the respective advantages and disadvantages of these two types of kitchen knives. This should make it as easy as possible for you to choose a kitchen knife.




Summary

  • Kitchen knives are among the most important utensils in the kitchen and help you to cut food into the desired shape.
  • A basic distinction is made between Asian and European kitchen knives, although there are different types of knives for both variants depending on the area of application.
  • European all-purpose knives are particularly suitable for beginners, as they are easy to use and are usually not particularly expensive. Special European kitchen knives and also especially Asian kitchen knives are more suitable for advanced cooks and professionals. Correct handling and care are essential for these types of knives.

The Best Kitchen Knife: Our Choices

Buying and Evaluation Criteria for Kitchen Knives

To help you find the right kitchen knife for you, I have listed the most important criteria for evaluating a kitchen knife below.

The criteria that you can use to compare kitchen knives include:

In the following paragraphs I will go into the individual criteria in more detail.

Workmanship

First of all, the workmanship of the knife is the decisive criterion, as there are very big differences here. This aspect also includes the blade and handle material. From very cheap materials and simple workmanship to very rare and expensive materials and elaborate handwork, everything is available.

The type and quality of workmanship is decisive for the price of the kitchen knife.

You should first decide what materials the blade and handle should be made of. The blade is the part of the kitchen knife that does the cutting and should be suitable for the application. There are many different shapes that determine the suitability of the knife.

The majority of modern kitchen knives are made of ceramic or steel, although there are some differences in the steel. The place of manufacture alone can have an influence on the type of steel here, similar to the case with sparkling wine and champagne. The most important thing to consider with steel is rust resistance, which should be guaranteed in any case. More on this later under the topic "Rust resistance".

Handling

The handling of a kitchen knife is particularly determined by the shape and material of the handle and should not be neglected.

The handle is usually made of wood or plastic and should not have any sharp edges.

It should be ergonomically shaped and fit well in your hand. Using a knife that does not fit well in your hand is no fun and can lead to serious injuries in the worst case.

To ensure that the kitchen knife fits well in your hand, the blade and handle must be optimally balanced. In other words, the weight of the blade and handle should be in good proportion to each other. Otherwise, it could become very strenuous over time to hold the knife in your hand alone, let alone use it.

Sharpness and hardness of the blade

A kitchen knife should logically be as sharp as possible in order to do its job as well as possible. In addition, you have to use much less force when cutting with a sharp knife than when using a blunt knife. Ideally, the kitchen knife is already sharpened and ready for use when you buy it, so you can get started straight away.

Asian kitchen knives have a harder blade, but counterintuitively this means they are more sensitive.

The hardness of a knife blade is measured in Rockwell or"HRC" for short and has a scale from 0 to 100 HR

To give a small insight into the hardness of the blades of typical kitchen knives, here is a small insight with examples.

  • European kitchen knife: 52-56 HRC
  • Swiss army knife: 55 HRC
  • Japanese kitchen knife: 60-68 HRC

The hardness of the blade is a property that is decisive for the life of the knife. The harder the blade of a kitchen knife, the more durable it is. This means that the blade wears less with use.

Type of forging

The forging type is particularly concerned with kitchen knives whose blade is made of steel. More specifically, it is about the process used to forge the blade of the knife. There are far-reaching differences between different types of forging.

Japanese kitchen knives are often forged by hand and are truly unique.

Different types of forging are used in Asia than in Europe.

The differences between Asian and European kitchen knives are explained in more detail later in the article. Which type of forging you choose is often a question of taste.

Dishwasher resistance

The dishwasher resistance of a knife plays a large part in the care of a knife. With a knife that is dishwasher safe, you don't have to worry much about cleaning. However, many knives are not dishwasher safe because the cleaning process in the dishwasher can dull the blade and make the handle brittle.

Kitchen knives that are not suitable for the dishwasher should be cleaned under running water with a dishcloth and some washing-up liquid.

For a knife with a wooden handle, it is also particularly important that the handle is as dry as possible during storage. Otherwise, the life of the handle will be permanently impaired.

Rust resistance

As already mentioned above, the blade of the kitchen knife should be made of a rustproof material. Ceramic or a rust-resistant type of steel is the best choice.

If you choose a knife with a steel blade, make sure that the steel is stainless.

Weight

Depending on the type of kitchen knife you choose, the knife will naturally have a certain weight. There are also big differences in weight within the different types of knives. A cleaver, for example, is particularly heavy in order to chop solid materials as easily as possible.

You should be clear about how much you want to cut with the knife at one time. Especially if you are going to use the knife for a long time, you should choose a kitchen knife that you can still work with after a long period of use.

What types of Kitchen Knives are there and which is the right one for me?

If you want to buy a kitchen knife, you need to know what you want to use it for. The following is a brief overview of the different types of knives and their uses.

Type advantages disadvantages
European kitchen knife suitable for beginners, wide price range, very robust often industrially manufactured, needs frequent sharpening
Asian kitchen knife high-quality workmanship, very sharp, retains sharpness for a very long time not suitable for beginners, usually very expensive, sensitive blade, high-maintenance

For each type of chef's knife, a further distinction is made between different purposes. You can find out more about the two types of kitchen knife in the following paragraphs.

European kitchen knives

A European kitchen knife is considered a robust kitchen tool that is suitable for many applications. It has a contemporary design and should not be missing in any kitchen to perform everyday tasks. There are both all-purpose knives and specific knives that are only suitable for a certain application. These include, for example, the bread knife, the fruit knife or the cheese knife.

The European kitchen knife has a softer blade than the Asian one. This has the advantage that the European kitchen knife is less sensitive if you make a wrong move. The blade is more flexible and can adapt better to a strong force. This characteristic makes the European kitchen knife particularly suitable for beginners and hobby chefs.

Advantages
  • high robustness makes it suitable for beginners
  • very good price-performance ratio
  • easy to sharpen
Disadvantages
  • poor workmanship, especially with cheap models
  • blade quickly becomes blunt with frequent use
  • usually very difficult

The low maintenance required by a European kitchen knife also makes it very attractive for beginners and hobby cooks. Due to the relatively thick blade, the knife can be easily sharpened by oneself and otherwise requires very little care, as most kitchen knives have a handle made of plastic.

Asian kitchen knives

When we talk about Asian kitchen knives, we are usually talking about Japanese kitchen knives. They enjoy a very good reputation because of their high quality. This often goes hand in hand with traditional craftsmanship. These knives are considered traditional craftsmanship and are particularly popular among connoisseurs. Among Asian kitchen knives, there are differences in the shape of the blade depending on the application, just as with European knives. The best known is the so-called Santoku knife, which is considered an all-purpose knife for meat, fish and vegetables.

Advantages
  • hard blade can be ground very sharp
  • sharpness of the blade remains for a long time
  • generally a high level of workmanship makes it a certain prestige object
Disadvantages
  • very high price, as knives are often also handmade
  • blade discolours if not cleaned properly
  • sharpening of blade complicated
  • not suitable for hard foods, as blade is otherwise easily damaged

The Asian kitchen knife has a very thin but hard blade that can be sharpened to a high level of sharpness. The particularly hard blade keeps the blade sharp for a long time and rarely needs sharpening. However, sharpening or grinding is not quite so easy, should not be done by beginners and requires a special sharpening stone. The hard blade also suggests that this type of knife is more suitable for experienced cooks.

Since most Asian kitchen knives are made of very high-quality and delicate materials, the care of this type of knife is very important.

Guide: Frequently asked questions about Kitchen Knives answered in detail

In the following guide, I want to answer the most important questions about kitchen knives. I have selected the questions for you and will answer them shortly. After reading the guide, you will know all the essential background information about kitchen knives.

For whom is which kitchen knife suitable?

First of all, a kitchen knife is suitable for anyone who prepares something in the kitchen. It varies from person to person which knife is needed. A professional chef needs a different knife than a hobby chef.

For beginners, a European kitchen knife is recommended because it is easier to use and maintain. Since there are still many distinctions even among European kitchen knives, the beginner is well served with a universal all-purpose knife to begin with.

Küchenmesser-1

Asian knives are used in Japanese cuisine, for example, to prepare sushi. The knives are very sharp and allow you to cut very precisely.
(Image source: weareaway / Pixabay)

Cooks who already have more experience with preparing different dishes can already consider expanding their range of knives. There is usually a separate kitchen knife for each purpose. Whether it should be a European or Asian kitchen knife depends entirely on the user of the knife.

Which kitchen knives should not be missing in the kitchen?

There is no general rule about which kitchen knives should not be missing in the kitchen. However, there are some knives that are needed more often than average when cooking regularly in the kitchen. It would therefore be practical to have a basic set of kitchen knives that cover most areas of application.

These knives include the following:

  • All-purpose knife
  • Chef's knife
  • Paring knife
  • Bread knife
  • Tomato knife
  • Cheese knife

The all-purpose knife in particular will naturally be used a lot, which is why it is advisable to dig a little deeper into your pocket for this one.

What does a kitchen knife cost?

The price range of kitchen knives is very wide. Everything is possible, from a few euros to many hundreds of euros for a kitchen knife. With cheap knives, however, you must be aware that they are of very inferior quality and usually have a very limited lifespan.

Asian kitchen knives are usually much more expensive than European kitchen knives, as Asian kitchen knives are increasingly made by hand. It is very rare to find an Asian kitchen knife for less than 100 euros. The average price for such a knife is a good 200 euros.

A good European kitchen knife, on the other hand, can be had for much less. For 50 euros, you can already buy very high-quality utility knives from good brands. A kitchen knife should not cost much less if you plan to use it every day. For a knife that you only use for very special things, you don't need to attach so much importance to workmanship and quality.

Type of knife price range
Asian kitchen knife approx. 50-400€
European kitchen knife approx. 20-200€

Last but not least, it is also at the discretion of the person using the knife how much money they spend on it. Some people see knives as collectors' items and then naturally pay less attention to the price.

What alternatives are there to kitchen knives?

If you don't feel like tedious cutting with a kitchen knife, there are some alternatives. However, it must be said that there is not an alternative to the kitchen knife for every purpose.

A bread knife can be replaced by a bread slicer.

A slicer can usually also be used to slice other things such as cheese and sausage.

Dicing an onion with a kitchen knife is very difficult to replace with a suitable alternative. With a chopper, for example, you can also chop an onion. However, the end result is not nearly the same.

As long as you want to cut something other than slices, the kitchen knife is the only alternative.

How do I sharpen my kitchen knife?

If the kitchen knife is no longer sharp enough, it must be sharpened to get it sharp again. This requires a whetstone on which the kitchen knife is then sharpened. A whetstone is a stone that has a certain grain size, comparable to sandpaper.

Küchenmesser-2

A good kitchen knife is the basic prerequisite for working well in the kitchen. So a lot of value should be placed on a sharp knife in order to be able to cut food such as onions easily.
(Image source: Becca Tapert / unsplash)

Sharpening stones usually have a common grit number between 100 and 8000. The larger the grit, the finer the grind on the knife later. You start sharpening with a coarse grit and then work with a finer one for the fine sharpening.

The grinding angle is important when grinding. This is the angle between the whetstone and the kitchen knife and should be between 36 and 40 degrees for European kitchen knives. Asian kitchen knives are sharpened at a slightly lower angle of about 30 degrees.

If these steps are too complicated for you, you can simply take your kitchen knife to a knife sharpener. The sharpener will then do the job. At weekly markets you can often find such a person offering to sharpen your knife.

How do I store my kitchen knife?

There are various places to store a kitchen knife. It is important that the knife is stored safely. This means that it is not lying loose and open somewhere in the kitchen. It is also important to keep kitchen knives out of the reach of children.

Even though most kitchen knives are stainless, it is important to keep them clean and dry.

Either a knife block or a compartment in a kitchen drawer is suitable. Some knives also come with a knife sheath that protects the blade from external influences.

Where can I dispose of my kitchen knife?

If a kitchen knife is to be disposed of, care should be taken. Often a knife is disposed of because it is broken or very dull. However, this does not mean that it can be disposed of in the rubbish bin. It is still possible that the kitchen knife will damage the bin liner from the inside and the rubbish will fall out. In addition, a kitchen knife in the household waste can lead to problems with the further processing of the waste.

Therefore, a kitchen knife should only end up in hazardous waste. At recycling centres, there is usually a separate bin just for knives and other sharp objects.

Image source: fortyforks/ 123rf.com

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