Kitchen knife test – Find the right knife for cooking

Kitchen knife is one of the most commonly used tools. The universal kitchen knife is the linchpin here: it is used for cutting, weighing and chopping vegetables, meat and fish. This universal knife is called a kitchen knife. Thanks to its smooth and distinctly curved blade, which is about 20 cm long, it is able to do almost any task on the plate.

In this comparative test, the kitchen knife is the focus of attention. It is a common tool in most kitchens and finds its place when specialists like boning knives or cradle knives are not available.

These are the 5 best kitchen knives

place 1: PAUDIN chef’s knife kitchen knife

Place 2: Kitchen knife set (32 cm and 24 cm)

Place 3: Sword crown 4 blade set straight

Place 4: Victorinox Swiss Classic 6 pieces

Place 5: Axer kitchen knife set with 6 stainless steel knives

Axer Küchenmesser Set mit 6 Edelstahlmessern für Köche (Schwarz)*
Axer Küchenmesser Set mit 6 Edelstahlmessern für Köche (Schwarz)
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What you need to know about kitchen knives

Kitchen knives differ according to their function: bread knives are wavy, boning knives are sharp and thin, paring knives are curved and meat knives have a smooth, straight blade.

Today, not everyone in the kitchen wants to have 15 specialized battery-powered blades. These things take up space, and every knife needs maintenance.

That is why there are two universal tools in the kitchen world: a kitchen knife with a curved blade of 17 to 20 centimetres in diameter and a lighter, smaller universal knife, garden or office knife with a slightly curved blade of 6 to 9 centimetres in diameter.

With the filigree desk knife you can easily cut and peel fruit or use it for processing vegetables or meat. Thanks to the short blade, you can make small cuts – ideal for a decorative effect. You can also fry meat and fish fillets with this small kitchen aid. However, the table knife reaches its limits when many fresh ingredients and a lot of meat are processed. Here the small blade is simply ineffective.

This is where the universal kitchen knife with the 17 to 20 centimetre long blade comes into play, which we have tested here. It has a smooth blade for cutting meat. Its blade is clearly curved so that it can be used as a two-handed cradle knife. The kitchen knife is a larger universal kitchen knife that is used to cut, weigh and chop vegetables, meat and fish.

For a good kitchen knife you can put up to 200 euros on the table, prices start at 10 to 30 euros. Professional knives are available at prices between 50 and 100 euros. With good care they will last a lifetime. Besides 100 Euro we are in the luxury segment. Here you will find handmade knives in exquisite craftsmanship as well as particularly impressive Asian Santoku knives.

You can save money with a knife set or a knife block, but you have to divide the price of the set into individual knives. If only one knife is already in the “poor quality” category, raise your hand. It is better to give a little more money once for a knife that will last you the rest of your life.

For beginners, advanced and professionals

As a beginner you should (for the time being) leave the world of special knives and concentrate on the standard kitchen knife, the table knife, the bread knife and the fruit knife. The layman can handle these knives well, they do not require any special training or experience as filleting knives.

The kitchen knife must not be longer than 21 centimetres. Longer blades are more difficult to handle. Asian kitchen knives are hardly recommended for beginners, as the lack of protection increases the risk of injury.

Experienced cooks find it easier to work with longer blades. You can also work with the Japanese Santoku knife, which is a very good all-purpose knife.

Professionals often use several special knives, such as boning knives or ham knives. The quality and durability of kitchen knives is particularly important here, which is why they are in the highest price range (50 to 100 euros).

Professionals usually choose the European standard kitchen knife or the Japanese Santoku.

European and Asian kitchen knives

For kitchen knives, these are the knives of a European and Asian chef. The knife of a European chef is the universal knife of the European kitchen. In contrast to an Asian kitchen knife, its European counterpart is more suitable for rough cutting movements.

There are different subtypes of European kitchen knives. There is a suitable knife for every type of food to be cut. The different types of knives differ in size, shape and weight.

The advantages of European knives are that they are stable, offer safety when compacting the handle tip and are especially suitable for beginners. The disadvantage is again that the cutting surface is limited by thickening and is not suitable for filigree cutting.

European kitchen knives are relatively heavy compared to their Asian counterparts. Here, in the test, we see a difference of at least 50 grams.

The blades are relatively long at 20 to 25 centimetres. The avant-garde of European kitchen knives dulls in the direction of the handle because that is where the hand protection is located. The knife can be kept stable because the handles are usually square, although more or less rounded.

The European kitchen knife is a versatile tool for cutting meat, fish and vegetables. The tip of the knife can also do a smaller job.

The back of the knife is almost straight and the cutting edge goes all the way to the tip. This curvature at the right length allows the knives to be used for weighing the cut. The knives of the European chef are sharper than in Santoku. They are suitable for piercing food and for rough cutting.

Asian kitchen knives are mainly Japanese Santoku and Chinese cleavers. There are many different subspecies, which in turn have different functions and advantages and disadvantages.

Santoku: a knife with three virtues

The Santoku is a universal Japanese kitchen knife. Santoku means translated “knife of the three virtues”. It includes fish, meat and vegetables. The blunt upper edge of the blade forms a line with the handle. The wide blade of the santoku jumps far beyond the handle, which ensures a large contact with the boards. The damask steel used for the blade is typical of Japanese knives. It consists of several layers of different types of steel around an iron core and is considered to be of particularly high quality.

The advantage of Japanese knives is that they can cut over the entire length, have a sharp edge and can be ground very finely. The disadvantage is that there is a higher risk of injury due to the missing thickening of the blade. Furthermore, they are not suitable for hard materials such as bones. Beginners should avoid the use of Japanese knives.

The Chinese helicopter has a very high rectangular blade, which is usually twice as long. The cutting edge is hardly bent. The helicopter usually has a very sharp and relatively thin blade. It is mainly used for cutting vegetables, fruit, herbs and poultry. It is rare in European kitchens because it requires a special cutting or chopping technique.

steel or ceramic ?

Whether or not the blade remains sharp for a long time depends on many criteria: The blade material, the thickness of the blade, the blade hardness (HRC) and its sharpness.

Steel is most commonly used to make kitchen knife blades; all the knives in the test have this blade. Steel has the advantage over ceramic knives that it is lighter and more resistant to sharpening. Ceramic knives, on the other hand, are easy to maintain and can cut like a razor if they are of good quality, but the cutting edge is very thin and good quality is usually very expensive.

Stainless steel in various alloys is normally used to make steel blades. There is also carbon steel, which is also good for sharpening, but not stainless steel. In the case of stainless steel, a material with a high carbon content should be used. It has a higher degree of hardness and remains sharp longer. Ordinary stainless steel becomes numb faster. These simple stainless steel blades are more likely to be found in the low price segment and are not relevant in this test.

Damascus blades have a long service life – this means that the sharpness is maintained over a relatively long period of time. Damascus steel consists of many layers of iron and steel and is therefore particularly strong. Especially Japanese Santoku knives are made of it. With good processing quality, the following applies: the more layers of steel, the higher the strength. Knives with up to 67 steel layers were used in the test field.

The thickness of the blade (measured on the back of the blade) indicates the thickness of the blade and is typically 1.5 to 3 millimetres for standard kitchen knives. As a rule, thinner blades are advantageous, move better over the material being cut and are easier to sharpen. If you are cutting hard materials, you will want to use the knife as a lever. A three-millimeter blade is useful here.

The blade should not be too thick, as it would crush the food during cutting. It should also not be too thin, because it would break and be too soft to be used as a lever.

The harder the blade is, the slower it wears out. The blade should therefore have the highest possible degree of hardness (HRC). The abbreviation stands for Rockwell cone hardness, where hardness is the hardness value, Rockwell is the test method and cone is the scale.

Kitchen knives have a hardness level between 50 and 70 HRC. 56 and 61 knives have been tested, but despite the hardness the blade must remain as flexible as possible, otherwise it would break under heavy load.

The knives are shredded on one side and on both sides. On both sides sharp kitchen knives have a better cutting ability and move more easily through the material to be cut. These knives are also very suitable for left-handed people. All knives in the test are sharpened on both sides with a smooth blade.

cavities reduce the grip of cheese, ham etc.

Some kitchen knives have a so-called plunge cut. This means that several adjacent hollows (cavities) are pressed along the blade. There are also hammer cavities that irregularly cover the entire blade (except the cutting edge). The hollows in the cutting surface are intended to prevent sticky products such as cheese, ham or wet bread from sticking to the blade. In practice, however, it is not possible to detect many differences.

Care and sharpening

Every high-quality knife should always be washed and dried by hand, regardless of whether it has a real wooden handle or not. The dishwasher will bleach the wood or plastic and cut into the blade of the knife. This is because of the sharp additives in the dishwasher’s flaps.

The kitchen knife should only be cleaned with soap and water.

As cutting boards we recommend wooden or plastic boards. Stone or glass reduces the life of the knife edge. During storage, the blades must not touch or rub against each other. Knife blocks, magnetic bars or pockets prevent this.

If the knife no longer cuts a piece of paper smoothly, it must be sharpened. Hand knife sharpeners with diamonds or ceramic sharpening stones are suitable for routine sharpening in the kitchen. For this you have to spend about 25 Euros, because you will receive a WMF gourmet sharpener which we recommend because of its excellent workmanship and the good ceramic gemstones.

The grinding wheel should present the knife at an angle at which it has already been sharpened in the factory. It is 20 degrees for European blades and 15 degrees for Asian blades. Unfortunately, sharpeners very rarely indicate this angle, but it is usually 20 degrees. However, every 15 degrees Santoku can also be sharpened at an angle of 20 degrees.

Therefore we recommend using a coarse grindstone for coarse sharpening (grain less than 800) and a coarse grindstone for fine sharpening after re-sharpening (grain 800-2000). Although it is much longer than a grindstone, a layman cannot cause any damage. For beginners it is recommended to take the knife to a professional for a basic sharpening: If the cutting edge is very serrated, a basic sharpening should be done either with the cutting edge or with a motorized knife sharpener. However, both require practice, otherwise the cutting edge can quickly be ruined – especially with motorized grinding wheels. In addition, the blade can burn because it becomes too hot due to the rapid rotation of the stone.

The most important thing is that the knife is sharp. Farbrik is fresh, all knives are sharp, so you won’t notice much difference. Good knives differ from bad knives in that they stay sharp longer – and are easy to sharpen.

That’s why we brutally blunt all knives with a stone during the test and have checked how fast they become blunt. Then we resharpened them with several knife sharpeners. We saw no difference between apricot and stainless steel.

It is not important for the practice of sharpening the blade material, an apricot coloured knife is not “harder” to sharpen than a steel or stainless steel blade. Sharpening a deep handle of an apricot blade with a hardness of 60 can take longer, but in practice we see no difference in the time needed.

A good kitchen knife must be balanced between handle and blade. This was the case with almost all knives in the test. The centre of gravity of a kitchen knife should be at the end of the handle where it comes into contact with the blade.

We placed our finger under this position and observed whether the knife floated horizontally. If one leans forward or backward, the center of gravity would be either on the handle or on the blade, which would not be good.

European kitchen knives are easier to handle and offer more safety thanks to the hand guard on the back of the blade. They are suitable for cutting all types of food. That is why we have chosen the test winner from the European shapes.

handle and blade must be in balance

During the test we check whether the blade has been pierced or forged. Forged blades are better because the material is thicker and the structure is more uniform. All knives in our test have been forged.

We looked for signs of welding or other assembly methods. These seams can lead to wrinkles or breaks.

The handle attachment is also an important quality feature. The handle, which consists of two parts, is riveted on both sides of the knife steel. The steel is visible between the handles.

The handle, which is hollow inside, is placed on the steel knife and fixed at the end with the head. A more typical example, however, is the steel body of the knife, which continues to the head of the handle and to which the liquid material of the handle is applied. This is usually polypropylene plastic that is poured into an Algaraviar, which is pointed or round on both sides. The most expensive models are equipped with a wooden handle.

Above all, the handle of the knife must fit well and securely in the hand. Here the personal feeling counts. Some people like angular handles that you can feel at any time, others like rounded handles that glide gently over the skin.

However, the material of the handle must be easy to clean so that no bacteria can settle down. In addition, the handle material must have a high density, i.e. it must be hard and scratch-resistant. This is a sign of stability and durability.

The weight of the various kitchen knives varies greatly. It depends on the type of steel, the length and width of the blade and the material of the handle. Santoku knives are generally lighter because they do not protect the hands and have a thinner blade.

Personal preferences are decisive here, because a heavy knife is not bad in itself. A light knife has the advantage that it can work faster and more precisely. A heavy kitchen knife makes work more difficult, but it is ideal for hard foods like nuts, ginger or beets.