New Year New Skills

It’s a brand-new year! What do you want to do in 2020? Cook more meals at home? Learn how to make homemade pasta? Improve your knife skills?

With over 300 instructor-taught classes, our Online Cooking School can help you with all of these goals and more. In our Advanced Knife Skills class you’ll learn how to chiffonade, julienne, and brunoise, as well as how to segment citrus, fillet fish, and butterfly a roast. You’ll also learn how to choose the right knives for a given task and how to maintain them. An 8-inch chef’s knife is arguably the most important knife in your arsenal, and our winner is a longtime test kitchen favorite. If you’re looking for a slightly smaller alternative, check out our favorite santoku knife. Its 7-inch blade has a rounded front edge that some cooks prefer for chopping. With our skilled instructors and our recommend knives, this will be the year that you start slicing and dicing like a professional chef.

This meat cleaver put grace and beauty into the most barbarous tasks. Its perfectly distributed weight and long, tall, gently curved, razor-sharp blade made for truly effortless chopping. And its long, straight pakkawood handle gave us plenty of grip options, although at times its smooth surface got a little slick. Yes, this cleaver is expensive—but you’ll never need another. Strong and durable, it breezed through testing with minimal wear.  More on this test

Our new favorite won us over with its ultrasharp, moderately flexible blade, which made every task seem nearly effortless. It kept its edge throughout testing, even after deboning an additional 10 chicken breasts. Its slightly shorter length proved especially advantageous with finer jobs, giving us more control as we boned chicken breasts. And although we wish the plastic handle were made of a grippier material, its slim profile made it easy to grasp in different ways.  More on this test

“Feels fantastic when you pick it up: comfortable, light, ready.” “A dream” for cutting up chicken and dicing onion, with its “very slim, sharp tip” and an acutely tapered blade that made it feel especially light as well as slightly flexible. With a blade more curved than most of the Japanese knives, it assisted a rocking motion that effortlessly “pulverized parsley into dust.”   More on this test

Still the best—and a bargain—after 20 years, this knife’s “super-sharp” blade was “silent” and “smooth,” even as it cut through tough squash, and it retained its edge after weeks of testing. Its textured grip felt secure for a wide range of hand sizes, and thanks to its gently rounded edges and the soft, hand-polished top spine, we could comfortably choke up on the knife for “precise,” “effortless” cuts. Update: November 2013 Since our story appeared, the price of our winning Victorinox Swiss Army 8" Chef's Knife with Fibrox Handle has risen from $27.21 to about $39.95. We always report the price we paid for products when we bought them for testing; however, product prices are subject to change.  More on this test

Our favorite santoku wowed testers of all abilities, who raved that it felt “agile, sharp, and really good in hand.” “Solid but light,” it made “fine, level cuts” with “great precision and control.” This knife features an asymmetrical blade with a 70/30 bevel that the company hand-sharpens specifically for either right- or left-handers.   More on this test

Superior blades gave our former favorite the edge yet again. With a razor-sharp 25-degree angle, the shears’ cutter blade sliced through every kind of food with equal ease. Deep, angular serrations on the anvil blade helped secure slippery foods. The blades’ length (the longest in the lineup) ensured smooth, continuous cutting; their overall narrowness made them easy to maneuver; and a medium level of tension between them provided just enough shearing force without taxing our hands. They’re ambidextrous, comfortable to hold, and can be taken apart for cleaning. Note: The Kershaw Taskmaster Shears and Shun Multi-Purpose Shears are produced at the same factory and are identical products with different branding; prices vary.  More on this test

This handsome bamboo knife strip provided 1.25 inches of clearance between knife handles and the wall—the most in our lineup. It had medium-strength magnets that held knives with just the right amount of pull, and it was relatively durable, sustaining only a few tiny scratches after extensive use. Finally, it was by far the easiest strip to install. One minor quibble: It has a half-inch of unmagnetized space on either end.  More on this test

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them.   More on this test

This tool had one of the longest and thickest hones in our lineup; testers found it easy to use. The rod's two alternating textures, lightly ridged and smooth, let you choose to start gently with the smooth side or be a bit more aggressive by using the ridges first. Under a microscope, we noticed that this rod had more and finer-textured ridges than others in this style. “Wow,” one tester said, praising the way the freshly honed blade glided through paper and tomatoes. Using it “felt really natural” to most testers, and the results were “beautiful.”  More on this test

With diamond abrasives and a spring-loaded chamber that precisely and gently guided the blade, this sharpener “purred” with perfection, consistently producing edges that were sharper than on brand-new knives from edge to tip. “I’m cutting this paper into confetti,” said one tester. It was the only sharpener to quickly remove nicks in the blade; in 10 minutes, a severely damaged knife looked and cut like a brand-new blade. A big perk: It can convert a 20-degree edge to a sharper 15 degrees.  More on this test

This fairly thin, lightweight plastic model—a smaller version of our Best Buy full-size cutting board—was easy to hold and lift but was also stable on the counter thanks to its grippy rubber sides. It’s dishwasher-safe, and while it got a bit scratched by the end of testing, it was otherwise intact, resisting warping, cracking, or staining and retaining no odors. Testers liked cutting on its textured plastic surface and appreciated that one of its sides had a small trench for collecting juices from roasts or wet foods.   More on this test