A chef’s knife is more than a knife – it’s an extension of a cook’s hand. Armed with a well crafted blade, can slice vegetables, smash garlic, hack through hunks of meat, and complete nearly every cutting task a meal requires. A sharpened, well-maintained chef knife is the most important tool in any cook’s arsenal, be he an at home amateur or the executive at a Michelin-starred eatery. Chef Kenneth Weinrich couldn’t agree more. The knife skills instructor at The Brooklyn Kitchen, he teaches the way of the blade to hundreds of students per week. That’s why we asked him to evaluate and rank the year’s most promising releases. After spending a week julienning, slicing, and carving, he concluded that these are the three best new blades around.
1. Zwilling J.A. Henckels Bob Kramer Essentials 8-inch Chef’s Knife
Bob Kramer is one of only a handful of master bladesmiths in the country, a title awarded to knife makers of only the highest caliber. After running his own custom shop, where the wait list was more than a decade long and blades cost tens of thousands of dollars, Kramer joined forces with Zwilling J.A. Henckles to bring his tools to the masses. His most recent blade ditches high-maintenance carbon-steel for a stainless alloy that’s easier for home chefs to handle. Imbued with a mesh of ultra-strong carbide, the blades can hold an edge for months. Ken said the blade is equisitely weighted and its edge never dulled after a week’s worth of hard kitchen time. And when roughed up with sandpaper and re-sharpened, the knife still sliced clean through a sheet of paper. [$200; zwilling.com]
2. Kai Shun Blue Kiritsuke 8-inch
“Right out of the box, I take the knife and put it on my thumbnail and run it down,” explains Weinreich, “If [the edge] catches, you can tell that there’s a little burr.” Straight from the factory, Shun’s beautiful Japanese slicer has no such hiccups. As impressive as the Japanese-style carbon steel blade is the octagonal handle, which makes the grip feel extra secure as you make quick work of onions, herbs, and other mise en place. A deep belly helps the knife pull itself through food as you rock it back and forth on the board. Ken loved the blade, but noted that this is a heavy, sharp blade and better suited for sure-handed chefs. [$288; shun.kaiusaltd.com]
3. Wusthof 200th Anniversary Classic Knife Set
High-carbon steel makes this 9-incher lighter than its stainless counterparts, so you can chop for hours without getting a pain in the wrist. Even with a feathery blade, a well-balanced handle keeps it from feeling lopsided—it’s German-engineered, after all. The knife’s traditional lines (hence it’s “classic” moniker) haven’t changed in decades for good reason. The belly rocks nicely on the board, and the blade comes to a fine tip, which, according to Weinreich, allows for intricate work—say, snipping the tops off of tomatoes. [$200; wusthof.com]