The best chef’s knives for impressive results

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Few chefs are as infatuated by knives as Henry Harris, chef-director of The Hero of Maida, The Coach and Three Cranes. Harris owns around 100, and uses a dozen or so regularly. “A sharp knife, and the right knife for the task at hand, is the chef’s most important tool,” Harris adds. With a very good nakiri (a Japanese vegetable knife), Harris explains, you can chop onions without spraying juice everywhere, meaning you won’t cry – the same can be said for a good, sharp chef’s knife. 

Chef’s knives aren’t perfect for everything . You may struggle to carve meat, peel a potato or slice bread – and, for me, a paring knife works better for mincing garlic, for example. But for your overall, everyday chopping, it’s a real workhorse. 

What are the most important features to look out for? 

There are several important features determining a good knife. A sharp, robust blade is paramount. Good-quality steel (most tested are stainless steel, which is easier to look after, but carbon and Damascus steel are having a resurgence) is sharp, durable, easy to clean, strong and flexible. Ceramic knives – sharp but brittle – haven’t been included in this test. 

“Comfort and balance are absolutely key,” says Laurie Timpson, founder of Savernake Knives, which produces handmade knives in Wiltshire. When holding a well-balanced knife properly, with forefinger near the heel, it should feel equally weighted on each side, so neither the blade nor handle is significantly heavier than the other. 

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