What Knives Do Professional Chefs Use?
Sharp knives are surely the most indispensable kitchen tool in a chef's arsenal. A good knife blade will make cooking and prep work easier and more enjoyable for home cooks, but for professional chefs who might cut hundreds of pounds of produce and meat in one shift, knife selection can make a huge difference in speed, comfort and quality of their output.
The Essential Knives Every Chef Uses
Chef’s Knife: The workhorse of the kitchen
If you only had one knife, a Chef’s Knife, also known as a gyutou would be the best option to handle slicing, dicing, mincing, and prep work. A good chef’s knife, ranging from 7-10” can handle all of the most commonly used ingredients and works equally well with meat or even hard veggies like butternut squash.
Here are some of our top picks:
- Kazan Ginsan Nashiji Gyutou 210mm (8.2”) One of our best sellers since it’s introduction, this knife is forged in Tosa, Japan out of stainless Ginsan (silver 3) steel. Ginsan is known for being a tough steel with excellent edge retention and easy maintenance. The blades are finished in the nashiji style, hand sharpened and fitted with octagonal oak handles. $165
- Chubo Inox Gyutou 210mm (8.2”) We developed the Chubo Inox line to be a great workhorse. These durable knives are crafted and hand-finished in Seki, Japan from stain-resistant Inox steel, long used for hybrid knives in Japan. This line is medium weight, with a thin blade, exceptionally well balanced and comfortable in the hand and very easy to sharpen. It’s a favorite among line cooks. $135
- Kazan Aogami Super Gyutou 210mm (8.2”) Aogami Super (AS) is a blue steel, which is considered one of the best for knife making. It is a hard steel, but has the toughness to combat chips and damage. The blades are a 70/30 bevel, semi-stainless and come with a razor sharp cutting edge straight out of the box. They hold an excellent edge without being difficult to sharpen.
The petty knife is the Japanese version of a paring or utility knife that is perfect for smaller tasks where precision is very important. These knives range from 4-6” and are one of the most used pieces of cutlery among a chef’s kitchen knives.
Here are some of our top sellers.
- Sakai Takayuki 45 Layer Damascus Wa Petty 150mm (5.9”) Sakai Takayuki's 45 Layer Damascus line features an AUS10 steel cutting core and hand-hammered tsuchimi finish for added strength and quick food release. Beautiful octagonal walnut handles are paired with the thin blade to create a light center-balanced feel, and is comfortable in the hand even after long hours of use. $118
- Akira Saku Blue #2 Petty 150mm (5.9”) Our Akira Saku line is made exclusively for Chubo, by blacksmith Shoji Yoshida in Shimabara, Kyushu. These knives are completely hand-forged and shaped from Blue Steel #2. Yoshida-san attaches soft iron ore completely by hand using no automation in the process, then leaves the blades unpolished in the kurouchi style that is typical of the region. This finish not only looks cool, but helps prevent oxidation of carbon steel. They are hand sharpened and finished with traditional octagonal oak handles. $115
Bread Knife: Not just for bread; the value of a serrated knife
Serrated bread knives are a great option for cutting baked goods. Both soft and harder crusted breads benefit from being cut with a serrated blade that cuts cleanly without crushing the item
Our best seller:
- Sakai Takayuki Bread Knife 300mm This bread knife from Sakai Takayuki holds an excellent edge, making it the ideal choice for busy kitchens. The longer blade gives flexibility for all size breads and cakes and is perfect for a professional kitchen. $84
Santoku Knife: The versatile Japanese alternative to the classic chef’s knife.
Santoku Knives have a bit more height off the cutting board with slightly shorter blades. Their name in Japanese means three virtues, meaning the ability to cut fish, meat and vegetables equally well.
Our top sellers:
- Sakai Takayuki 33 Layer Damascus Santoku 180mm (7.1") The Sakai Takayuki 33 Layer Collection is crafted from folded damascus steel with a VG10 cutting core. The blades are stain resistant, hold a great edge and are hand-hammered for added blade strength and quick food release. They are medium weight and impeccably finished with beautiful mahogany wood handles. $145
- Kazan V1 Santoku 165mm (6.5") Made in Tosa, Japan from V1 steel, a stainless steel similar to VG10. The V1 knives are tough and hold a great edge, while being easy to sharpen. $117
- Takamura R2 Santoku 170mm (6.7") Takamura Cutlery is a second-generation workshop, highly regarded by chefs worldwide for producing top quality kitchen knives. Pioneers in the use of high performing powdered steels, their blades are renowned for their incredible edge retention and extreme attention to detail in every step of the crafting process. $175
Cleaver: A versatile high performance shape based on the Chinese Cleaver.Here’s two of our top sellers.
- Sakai Takayuki Inox Cleaver 225mm The Inox line from Sakai Takayuki is made from a medium hardness, stainless steel, which has excellent edge retention and is very easy to resharpen. This cleaver is a heavy knife and works well for general purpose tasks as well as butchery. $185
- Sakai Takayuki 33 Layer Damascus Chinese Cleaver 195mm (7.7") The Sakai Takayuki 33 Layer Collection is crafted from folded damascus steel with a VG10 cutting core. The blades are stain resistant, hold a great edge and are hand-hammered for added blade strength and quick food release. They are medium weight and impeccably finished with beautiful mahogany wood handles. $260
Boning Knife: Butchering and Removing meat from bonesOur top boning knife recommendations:
- Chubo Inox Honesuki 150mm (5.9") We developed the Chubo Inox line to be a great workhorse. These durable knives are crafted and hand-finished in Seki, Japan from stain-resistant Inox steel, long used for hybrid knives in Japan. $115
- Akira-Saku Blue #2 Honesuki 150mm (5.9") Our Akira Saku line is made exclusively for Chubo, by blacksmith Shoji Yoshida in Shimabara, Kyushu. These knives are completely hand-forged and shaped from Blue Steel #2. Yoshida-san attaches soft iron ore completely by hand using no automation in the process, then leaves the blades unpolished in the kurouchi style that is typical of the region. This finish not only looks cool, but helps prevent oxidation of carbon steel. They are hand sharpened and finished with traditional octagonal oak handles. $125
- Sakai Takayuki White #2 Honesuki 150mm (5.9") Tokujo -- meaning 'superior' is one of Sakai Takayuki's highest rank of knives. This series is hand-forged from White #2 by Master blacksmith Kenji Togashi in the kasumi method. These knives are masterfully ground with polished choils and a beautiful kasumi finish created with a natural stone slurry . The blades go through additional tempering, cooling and hammering steps to ensure maximum sharpness and blade strength. Master Sharpener Norikatsu Nishimura creates the edges completely by hand, using a combination of wheels and sharpening stones. They get extremely sharp while maintaining the durability of a honesuki. $280
Types of Steel
Stainless steel vs. carbon steel: The first thing you should consider is whether or not you are comfortable with carbon steel. Professional cooks love carbon steel knives because they are easy to sharpen and have the potential to get super sharp, but they require a bit more care and attention than stainless steel knives. Carbon steel needs to be kept very dry and wiped regularly while in use to avoid corrosion. This is especially true when cutting acidic foods. If this is not something you can commit to doing, there are plenty of stainless and semi stainless steels available.
Brands and Origins
Japanese-style knives vs. Western-style types of knives: Gyuto and more
Most chefs in the US were brought up with legacy brand German knife makers such as Wüsthof Classic, Zwilling, J.A. Henckels or French knife brands like Sabatier. These steel blades then to be heavier and thicker with a robust spine and were made with softer steels. The German-style version of a chef’s knife tends to have a wide belly, with a rounded shape that suits a rocking motion of cutting.
In the 80’s and 90’s French fusion cuisine developed, which paired high end French cooking with Japanese techniques and ingredients. It was through this exchange of ideas and tools that European chefs experienced Japanese chef knives for the first time. High quality Japanese knives were hard to get your hands on without travelling to Japan, but eventually mass produced brands like Shun, Global Knives, Miyabi and MAC were made available to a global market.
Maintenance and Care
Keeping a Sharp Edge: Honing steel, whetstone, and knife sharpeners. Japanese knives should only be sharpened on whetstones. Honing steels can realign an edge when urgently needed, like in the middle of a busy service, but won’t remove steel, which is necessary to restore an edge to a sharp blade. Never use a pull through knife sharpener on a good knife. It removes way more steel than is necessary and can ruin the blade angle.
Hand Wash vs. Dishwasher: Never put a good knife in the dishwasher. The cleaning solution is very abrasive and the hot water can damage handles. Also having a sharp knife loose in the dishwasher can be dangerous.
Storage: Knife block vs. magnetic strips - Both a knife block and magnetic strip are good ways to store knives. If you have limited space and store knives inside a drawer consider a wooden saya or plastic blade cover to protect your knife.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Knife
- Handle: Western style vs. Traditional / Wa Handles. Choosing a handle style is really a matter of personal preference and ergonomics. Some cooks appreciate the versatility of a wa style handle, but great knives are made with a variety of styles.
- Knife Size The length of the knife you choose will also depend on your personal preference and how you intend to use the knife. The most popular size is an 8-inch chef’s knife - but cooks with very large hands or who cut large products might prefer a 9 or even 10 inch chef’s knife.
- Price Point: From high-end to budget-friendly. The most expensive knife is not necessarily the best knife for any individual. Take the blade material, handle offering and skill of the craftsman in mind when accessing the cost of a knife.
- The Cutting Board: Why it's so important. A cutting board is the surface that comes in contact with a blade. The material you choose will have a great impact on the life of your knife’s edge. We recommend end grain cutting boards or a softer synthetic material that can be sanitized.
- Knife Sets: We sell all our knives individually, as cook’s knife collection is prone to grow organically, but sometimes a knife set is the way to go. Knife sets make great gifts and can be purchased at a nice discount.
The Final Slice: What the Pros Choose
Choosing a high-quality knife will make all the difference, whether for beginners or professionals cooks. A sharp knife makes the experience of cooking safer, easier and more enjoyable.
Investing in the best chef's knives and equipment to matches a cook’s needs can significantly improve efficiency and quality of output. Get in touch if we can help find the best knife for you.