Newbies Guide To Buying Kitchen Knives With 20+ Recommendations

I've been seeing a lot of sham knife websites, and while I trust everyone's ability to make sound decisions and do independent research, I've decided to take some time and create a quick list of quality knife options here.
Posted on Jun 30, 2021 By Kenneth Huot Kenneth Huot

Note that I am in no way a professional in the field of knives (only in the kitchen), but I do consider myself to be a slight enthusiast.

That being said some parts of what’s written here is completely subjective and you can spend your money however the hell you want.

Personal preference

Note that most of this list applies to 8-inch and 210mm gyutos/chef knives which is my personal preference in length.

240 and 270mm lengths exist for most of these (for a slightly higher price), along with most of them also having a santoku version if you prefer the santoku shape (generally cheaper because santokus are shorter in length).

This list only goes up to a budget of $150 USD because honestly when your budget gets above $125, your options for aesthetics and whatnot expand so much more.

Keep in mind if you’re planning on chopping more than chicken and fish bones, you’re looking for a heavy cleaver that’s specifically designed for cutting bone, not the standard cai dao.

There’s no cleaver that does well in dual-purpose use because a bone cleaver needs to be thick and heavy, which isn’t good for cutting harder vegetables and the like since they’ll just wedge and crack instead of actually cut.

Buying considerations

Here’s a few notes on the topic that I didn’t throw into the spreadsheet:

Pricing of big sets is usually detrimental anyway since you won’t be using half of the knives.

My personal choice of must have would be: an all-purpose knife(chef/gyuto/santoku/cai dao), a paring knife, a kiwi steak knife, and a serrated bread knife.

I generally recommend stainless for beginners, because there’s not much as much maintenance and care needed.

When it comes to higher carbon knives, you’ll have to be careful due to the reactivity and hardness. Can’t let em air dry or stay wet or else they’ll develop rust spots. Can’t treat em harshly or else there’s a risk of chipping. Gotta worry about patina development affecting aesthetics. That’s the trade-off for better performance.

We don’t mention ceramic here because it’s trash.

You generally do not need to spend big bucks on knives if you’re an average home cook. A good ol $40 stainless knife will do the trick honestly.

I used to not suggest the victorinox because the handle was trash and the cover they sell for it was bulky trash, but the modern handle ones are ok.

Hell, I use a $2 kiwi steak knife at home for 80% of things despite having multi-hundred dollar knives. That being said tho, if you like something and have the money for it, go ahead and buy it. (I’ve bought a matte black dalstrong kiritsuke just because of how edgy it looked.)

The overall quality of knives is not primarily based on sharpness, especially initial out of the box sharpness and demo video sharpness.

As you may have seen on Youtube, the one Japanese dude makes knives of virtually anything and sharpens them to have a cutting edge.

My point is that anything can be sharpened to a screaming sharpness.

One of the biggest selling points is related to the steel quality, which in turn translates to the points of edge retention (how long a sharpened knife will stay sharp) and ease of sharpening to a desirable edge.

Harder/higher quality steel will hold it’s sharpened edge longer, however when you get to the higher end of steel quality, the knives tend to be more prone to damage/chipping and thus should be used more carefully.

They also tend to have higher carbon content in their steel and so you must wash and dry them properly. This should be common sense, but if you throw your knives in a drawer together without sheaths/covers, they’ll get dull. Never ever put your knife through a dish washer.

Leading off of the previous point, your knife may come sharp out of the box, but it’ll be dull in a few months with regular use.

You should either learn to sharpen on a whetstone or find a reputable sharpening service (i.e. not KnifeAid. I find brick and mortar stores that sell actual Japanese knives to be relatively trustworthy).

King brand 1k/6k stone is the standard beginner/budget whetstone option. A pull through sharpener is disrespecting your knives and will ruin your knife’s edge, but hey if you consider your knives disposable then go ahead.

Brands Info

Here I’ll discuss certain popular brands and why they’re not in this list along with scam related info.

  • I did not include the former golden standard Tojiro DP gyuto because its price went up incredibly due to popularity, while its true value stays at around $65 for the 210mm gyuto.
  • Overpriced, but known brands. These are generally only worth buying at a 30%+ discount/sub $100: Kai/Shun, Yaxell, Miyabi, Enso, Global, basically most high end you’ll find at a williams sonoma/sur la table. Some of them have decent benefits tho like Shun’s lifetime free sharpening.
  • Overpriced: Misen (poor QC like many chinese-made knives).
  • Popular but questionable in quality and price: Dalstrong (overpriced, relatively known for poor heat treatment), Dao Vua (very bad quality, mainly sold on background story and rustic aesthetic, barely worth a $30 price tag).
  • Iffy: Kan Kitchen – Has all the similar signs of rebranded mass produced chinese vg-10 knives, but seems to be a lot more popular due to Kenji Lopez endorsement, however doesn’t have enough testing by knowledgeable individuals to full confirm. Not yet lumped in w/ the other chinese rebrands due to the fact that 100% replica listings have not yet been seen on aliexpress/alibaba. In the case that they are legitimate, it’s still about as overpriced as the aforementioned “known brands”. With the price tag, you’re better off buying a known high quality standard.
  • Truly trash overpriced: Cutco – You know they’ve really cut down on production costs when there’s a big hollow ground edge that’s generally produced via machine wheels. Overall just poor product sold for ridiculous prices. Marketing strategy is just taking advantage of inexperienced highschool kids to scam their friends and family. Only plus is that they offer free lifetime sharpening for their trash.
  • Also truly trash overpriced: Kamikoto – Practically the same as cutco, taking advantage of people who don’t know any better. Peddling $10 garbage for exorbitant prices but putting “ooOoO bicc SALE!” along with other flashy keywords.
  • Pure scam websites I’ve seen while scrolling FB: Wasabi Knives, Kitsune Cutlery, Choppn’ Knives, Kanzen Knives, Sikkina, Kotai Kitchen, Zeekka, AikidoSteel, Kogami Steel, Pro Sharp Blades, Seido Knives, Knives Etcetera, Kataari Knives, and almost every single site that sells the rustic “serbian style” knife you see in the outdoor cooking videos.
  • All of these websites just take advantage of unknowing individuals, selling rebranded, mass produced $10-20 chinese knives for a 300-400% markup. In general, I would not make high end knife purchases on Amazon or based on Facebook ads. (Despite there being some legitimate sites)

Chinese made knives

Now we’re not completely beating down Chinese made knives. The first main issue that comes forth with the websites selling rebranded “Japanese style” chinese knives is the fact that most are changing practically nothing and upselling them by 400%+ the standard issue price you can get them for on aliexpress (excluding wholesale pricing), all while shoving misleading information down your throat. The second issue is that quality control is a known issue when it comes to most of these Chinese factory manufactured knives.

It’s essentially a gamble when throwing money at these knives. It could be great, could be trash depending on if you win the knife lottery. Go and buy them on aliexpress if you like their look, just don’t buy them at the 300-400% markup.

Meanwhile you could get a guaranteed standard with a similar amount of money from the known, reputable brands and manufacturers.

ChefPanko on youtube often does decent initial reviews of some of these cheaper aliexpress knives.

One potential upside is that they offer stunning aesthetics at a fraction of the price(and in most cases, a fraction of the overall quality).

One last topic I’d like to address is the possible question of “why is there no high-end cleaver in this list?”. My answer to that is the general idea of cai daos are to be this all round knife that are practically made to be abused. This functionality is somewhat decreased when we get to the higher end steels because they tend to be harder and prone to chipping and the like.

If you’ve made it down here, thank you for reading. And if you’ve got ever got a problem with your knives, sprinkle some msg on them or something. It won’t fix anything, but your knives would probably taste better.

Note that I am in no way a professional in the field of knives (only in the kitchen), but I do consider myself to be a slight enthusiast.

That being said some parts of what’s written here is completely subjective and you can spend your money however the hell you want.

See the Google sheets based on the original sheet.

If you’re interested in learning more, head on over to r/chefknives on reddit.

Kenneth Huot

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