The Best Kitchen Knife for Sharper Slicing and DicingThe Best Kitchen Knife for Sharper Slicing and Dicing

The Best Kitchen Knife

Or how to hone your weeknight dinner prep with a better chef knife.
Elese Dowden
Words by 
Elese Dowden
Updated 
Jan 20, 2021
Category -> 
Kitchen
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At a glance

Anyone with a top-notch kitchen knife will tell you that good knives make cooking a real joy instead of another weeknight chore. The best kitchen knife is sharp, durable, and versatile, with a high-quality blade, and a handle that fits comfortably in the palm of your hand. We reckon a great set of knives is just as important as a good frying pan. So, resident kitchenware nerd and Cosier writer Elese has combed the web to round up some of Australia's favourite kitchen knife brands.

How we picked

A good knife makes the world of difference to your cooking, but it's hard to know where to start. Luckily for you, Cosier writer Elese (yep - still here) has years of experience selling kitchen knives. While I do have a soft spot for certain brands, fairness is key to the Cosier ethos. To make sure I gave the options a fair go, I started by checking CHOICE, Australia's biggest consumer advocacy group, to see what they'd reviewed. 

Turns out CHOICE also has good taste in kitchen knives, though there were a few brands I hadn't heard of. I cross-checked by looking at reviews on ProductReview.com.au. As it happens, Aussies have strong opinions about kitchen knives, so I made note of some of the best-rated products, and started slicing lesser-regarded brands from the list. After doing some virtual window-shopping, I crossed some of the less-available brands off. That's how I ended up with my top picks for Australia's best kitchen knife set.

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How we picked

A good knife makes the world of difference to your cooking, but it's hard to know where to start. Luckily for you, Cosier writer Elese (yep - still here) has years of experience selling kitchen knives. While I do have a soft spot for certain brands, fairness is key to the Cosier ethos. To make sure I gave the options a fair go, I started by checking CHOICE, Australia's biggest consumer advocacy group, to see what they'd reviewed. 

Turns out CHOICE also has good taste in kitchen knives, though there were a few brands I hadn't heard of. I cross-checked by looking at reviews on ProductReview.com.au. As it happens, Aussies have strong opinions about kitchen knives, so I made note of some of the best-rated products, and started slicing lesser-regarded brands from the list. After doing some virtual window-shopping, I crossed some of the less-available brands off. That's how I ended up with my top picks for Australia's best kitchen knife set.

Global

Global

Global makes some of Australia's best-selling Japanese chef knives, combining Italian design, German toughness, and Japanese precision for a tough, versatile range that suits beginners to pros. These double-tempered knives are made from Japanese CROMOVA 18 stainless steel, with hollow polka-dotted handles which ensure better grip and lighter weight. It's no surprise that Matt Moran rates these knives, and they're reviewed by CHOICE, too. We rate the Global G2 20cm Cook's Knife and the Ikasu Block Set.

Are there any downsides? One reviewer points out that these knives are "too light and thin to cut hard stuff like pumpkin," which is spot on. Japanese knives are better for precision cutting, so the weight and blade thickness of Global knives reflects this. I (Cosier writer Elese - g'day!) once witnessed a friend snapping his mother's prized Global chef knife by cutting a sweet potato. The knife had been washed regularly in the dishwasher, and the handle snapped at the hilt. It's best to take care of kitchen knives with gentle handwashing, and to choose the right knife for the right job.

Choose this if...

You want mid-to-entry level Japanese knives for beginners and families.

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Shun

Shun

Shun (rhymes with 'moon') has a reputation for beautiful, well-made Japanese kitchen knives. They're ideal for anyone who considers themselves a bit of a gourmet, and they're also Donna Hay's fave. My own Shun Premier 20cm Chef's Knife is the best knife in my kitchen for delicate slicing, with beautiful multi-layered Damascus cladding for core support and stain resistance. The hammered finish on the Premier series also means that with one of these bad boys, slicing fish is a breeze. The walnut handles are a nice touch, and they're much lighter than German knives.

For a slightly less expensive option, Shun's Classic series are made of composite VG MAX Damascus steel, with black pakkawood handles. We like their Classic 3pc Knife Set. The Classic series blades are flexible, yet hard, so they're ideal for cutting meat. Some reviewers on ProductReview.com.au find the Classic range rusts if you don't dry them after washing. It goes without saying that these knives shouldn't go in the dishwasher. If you do find they rust, Shun recommends Flitz gel for rust removal.

Choose this if...

You want a true Japanese chef knife that'll be taken care of for years to come.

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Victorinox

Victorinox

Victorinox is known for making well-priced knives that get the job done. These entry-level knives are made in Switzerland, with high-quality stainless steel blades and black polypropylene handles. Victorinox knives are affordable, starting at around $45 for a carving knife. They're technically dishwasher safe, but the blades will stay sharp longer if you wash them by hand. 

Speaking of, it's handy having a couple of Victorinox knives round the house. You can prep veggies for dinner, and probably won't mind catching your flatmate using one to open a box. The grip is great, and they're reviewed by CHOICE. Our picks are the Victorinox 20cm Chef's Knife, and the Classic Kitchen Knife 7pc Set.

Choose this if...

You're not ready to invest, but you still want durable knives that are up to the challenge.

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Wusthof

Wusthof

Wusthof makes the quintessential German chef knife. They're on the supply list for the world's best culinary schools, and Gordon Ramsay famously loves his Wusthof knives. My own Wusthof Classic 20cm Chef's Knife has lasted me 9 years, with no sign of slowing down. It's no wonder they're rated nearly 5 stars from over 10 reviews on ProductReview.com.au. CHOICE has also reviewed these knives, and they're widely available across Australia through specialty stores and major retailers alike. 

Wusthof's chef knife is well-regarded as the best in the world because they're fully-forged from a single piece of German steel, with 20 degree double-ground blades for a variety of kitchen tasks. This makes them a little heavier than Japanese knives, but they're real workhorses. Wusthof knives will handle almost anything except the dishwasher. The handles are comfortable, too. Wusthof also makes some of the best knife sets. Their knife blocks represent excellent value, with the Classic 6-Piece Knife Set being a popular choice for Aussie households.

Choose this if...

You want the global standard in German knives.

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Mundial

Mundial

If your household is a little rough-and-tumble with kitchenware, a Mundial kitchen knife set may be the answer. These durable knives have a lifetime warranty, with tough high-carbon stainless steel blades and robust handles that won't crack under pressure. Mundial knives are made in Brazil, and are reviewed by CHOICE. We rate Mundial for making some of the best knife sets around, especially because they slot all the basics in one tidy block. If you're keen to try out a chef's knife first, the 20cm Classic Cook's Knife is a safe bet.

The Mundial 9pc Bonza Block set is popular with Aussies. This set includes a handy pair of kitchen shears and a sharpening steel, as well as a carving fork, 26cm bread knife, 20cm carving, 20cm cook's, 15cm utility and 10cm paring. This set scores nearly 4.5 stars from over 40 reviews, and Australian reviewers say they're razor-sharp. While these sets come with a recommended retail of around $799, you'll easily find them on sale.

Choose this if...

You want hard-wearing knives that don't compromise on sharpness.

Zwilling J.A. Henckels

Zwilling J.A. Henckels

If you're on the hunt for a top-tier foodie wedding present or birthday gift, your best bet is a Zwilling J.A. Henckels kitchen knife. Zwilling is a major player in the global knife business, inventing the ice-hardening process for optimum steel hardness. Their Four Star knives are made from a single piece of steel with slim, ergonomic handles. Zwilling's Four Star Chef Knife is polished to 15 degrees on each side, and the 7 Piece Knife Block Set makes an ideal wedding gift. They're made in Germany, with a lifetime guarantee. Pretty impressive if you ask us.

Choose this if...

You're after a beautiful set of German knives to impress.

Kiwi

Kiwi

Ask any chef about the best kitchen knife, and you'll be surprised to hear them recommend a cheap-as-chips Kiwi knife. I first discovered Kiwi knives in Brisbane, buying an inexpensive 501 paring knife from the Asian grocer on a whim. But the knife exceeded my expectations. It was an elegant shape, and the super-sharp tip was ideal for almost any vege prep task. The blade remained sharp even after I put it in the dishwasher, and I found myself buying several more Kiwi knives so I could always have one handy.

Kiwi knives are made in Thailand, with brass rivets and light hardwood handles. While they don't come in sleek knife blocks or fancy packaging, they'll quickly become the most-used knives in your repertoire. A Kiwi 171 is the best chef knife for almost any household, because they're extremely robust, holding their sharpness well. Contrary to what you might think, a sharper knife is a safer knife, because they're more effective than blunt knives. It also means you can put less force into slicing, so sharp knives promote safer cutting technique.

Choose this if...

You want a knife that's as sharp as it is cheap.

Important features to consider

While you might think a chef's knife's is a chef's knife, there are plenty of different options to cater to different cooking styles. Here are some features we think will help you decide.

Knife type

Regardless of who you are and how you cook, everyone needs at least a chef's knife and a paring knife. Beyond that - it's up to you. Here are some of the most common kinds of kitchen knives.

  • Chef’s Knife - a chef's knife, also known as a cook's knife, is the workhorse of the kitchen, with a rounded edge for a smoothing rocking movement as you slice.
  • Paring Knife - small and indispensable, paring knives are lightweight knives used mostly for cutting fruit and vegetables.
  • Utility Knife - somewhere between a paring knife and chef's knife, these versatile knives are ideal for trimming fat or carving meat, as well as your usual veggie prep tasks.
  • Carving Knife - like a utility knife, but longer, with a pointed tip for making tidy work of a roast.
  • Bread Knife - a bread knife has serrated edges so you can slowly draw the blade over softer foods like bread or tomatoes without crushing.
  • Santoku Knife - similar to a chef's knife, but with a flat blade and lighter handle for finer prep tasks.
  • Cleaver - the slightly terrifying older cousin of a chef's knife, the cleaver is ideal for heavier butchery tasks.

German or Japanese

There are broadly two kinds of kitchen knives to choose from - German, or Western knives, and Japanese knives. German knives are usually heftier, with full-tang blades that make them weigh more than Japanese knives. Full-tang means the steel goes right from one end of the blade to the farthest end of the handle for a stronger knife. The blade angle on German knives are usually between 15 - 20 degrees, and they're ideal for preparing dense, bulky items like pumpkins or beef. These knives have curved blades to help rock back and forth over food to achieve a fine texture.

Japanese knives are often lighter and thinner than German knives. They're best for precision work because they're much more maneuverable, with fine, deft blades for things like fish, sushi, and vegetables. They don't always have a bolster (the thick part of the steel before the handle), which reduces weight. This also means they're weaker at the hilt, so they're not ideal for cutting large, dense foods like sweet potatoes. The thinner blades on Japanese knives mean they're at a finer angle than German knives, so they're sharper, but may need more regular sharpening.

Dishwasher-safe

As a hard and fast rule, kitchen knives are not meant to go in the dishwasher. The heat and movement of the dishwasher will wear your knife faster, making for blunt knives that aren't safe to cut with. Some brands make 'dishwasher-safe' knives, but this tends to be a feature of less expensive brands. Gentle hand-washing is always the best way to clean a knife.

Budget

Good kitchen knives are rarely cheap, but there's a great kitchen knife for every budget. At the lower end of the price range, Kiwi or Victorinox knives are good options. Well-known brands like Global and Wusthof make excellent knives for mid-range budgets, and you can expect to spend between $100 - $300 a knife. In this range, you'll see the best value with a set, and can expect to pay between $300 - $1,000 for a reasonable knife block. 

At the upper end of the scale, you'll find handmade knives, speciality knives, or premier ranges from big brands, setting you back anywhere from $400 to prices in the thousands.

Steel type

Most knives are made from stainless steel, which is more resistant to rust. This is because stainless steel is a metal alloy, with other add-ins like chromium, iron, or carbon for strength and stain resistance. Carbon steel knives are also very popular, though they're susceptible to rust if you don't dry them carefully after each use. 

Damascus steel knives are made from different types of steel hardened together for a tough, yet very sharp blade. These knives often have beautiful patterns as a result of the combined layers of steel. Ceramic knives are also an option, though they're prone to chipping or shattering. They're light, but need a special tool to sharpen them.

What you get if you spend more

Ever wondered why people spend $300 on a chef's knife when they could grab a $20 bargain? Here's why.

Quality

Once you've used a higher-quality kitchen knife, it's difficult to go back. Pricier knives tend to last much longer, holding a sharper blade between honing. If you invest in a good knife, it'll last you a lifetime if you take care of it. It's cheaper in the long run to buy a few good knives that last 50 years, rather than buying several knives every few years. 

To keep your kitchen knives in tip-top shape, aim to get them professionally sharpened once every few months. Kitchenware stores and specialty knife sharpening services usually do this for around $5 - $15 per knife. You'll also get a better result by sharpening them at home with a whetstone or steel at least every couple of weeks, if not more regularly.

Knife block

If you spend $500+ on kitchen knives, it's likely you've purchased a set or a knife block instead of a single knife. A knife block is an economical way to buy knives, and it's worth noting brands count the block and knife accessories in the 'pieces' of the set. This means a 7-piece set could have only 5 knives, with a knife block and sharpening steel making up the other 2 parts.

Material

Expensive knives are usually pricey because of the materials they're made with. Higher-end knives like Shun use Damascus steel or other steel composites, designed to be harder while retaining a fine, sharp blade. The handles on higher-quality knives are generally made from wood instead of plastic - which is usually better for the environment, too.

Design

Pricier kitchen knives often have much more thought behind the manufacturing process in comparison to cheaper knives. Their handles tend to be more ergonomic for a comfortable grip, and they're less prone to breaking, chipping, or shattering. If you spend a bit more, you're also likely to end up with a beautiful knife you can be proud of for years to come.

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