Published August 1, 2005. From Cook's Country.
Could we find a decent knife for less than $50?
Our test kitchen is stocked with premium knives that cost $100 or more. These knives are pretty good—and for that price, they ought to be. But could we find a decent knife for less than $50? To find out, we rounded up nine 8-inch chef’s knives (the best size for most cooks) and headed into the test kitchen.
Just because a knife is cheap doesn’t mean that it should feel cheap. When we cut butternut squash in half, some of our test knives felt dangerously flimsy. Others managed this task but cut crookedly as the blade bent. A few knives completed this task without a hitch and immediately soared to the top of the ratings.
ROUNDED IS RIGHT
We chopped onions and minced parsley with all nine knives. These tasks were much easier to perform if the cutting edge was curved rather than perfectly straight. Try this test to understand why: Start with the knife tilted up on its tip, with the heart of the blade sitting on the food to be cut. From there, slide the knife forward while lowering the handle until the knife sits flat on the cutting board. If the edge is rounded, the knife almost “rocks” back to the starting position when you lift it; a flat blade falls to the board with a rhythm-breaking thump and doesn’t “rock” back up.
BALANCE IS KEY
Some say a heavy blade does some of the work for you. We think a heavy blade is awkward. A handle-heavy knife is no better and can quickly tire your elbow and wrist. The weight should be equally balanced between the handle and blade.
SHARPER IS BETTER
All of the knives started out sharp enough to slice a ripe tomato. At the end of testing, the same could not be said for several knives. Our recommended knives remained sharp throughout our tests.
A SURE GRIP IS SAFER
Smooth, polished handles became dangerously slick when we tried cutting up a chicken, but textured handles helped us keep a good grip, even when our hands were greasy. Blades on some knives were so narrow that our testers’ knuckles kept crashing into the cutting board. At the store, hold the knife in your hand. If the handle is too smooth or if there doesn’t seem to be enough clearance room for your knuckles, move on to another knife.