Most kitchens nowadays generally rely on the chef’s knife to slice and cut pretty much any kind of food.
That is after all what the chef’s knife was created for, and why it is to this day the “old reliable” among all kitchen knives.
However, while a traditional chef’s knife is pretty good at cutting vegetables and fruits, it is by no means the best for this kind of task.
Japanese knife types such as the Santoku or Nakiri were specifically designed for cutting, slicing and dicing veggies, while sacrificing versatility in other areas such as cutting meats.
If space is at a premium, then another option is to choose a small form factor knife such as the paring knife, which is much more adept at secondary functions such as peeling, decorative cuts or even picking cores in veggies and fruits.
I am a nerd and want to know more about knives
This short section covers a few basic essentials of knives, such as why some cost $20 and others $200, why some seem to stay sharp forever, while others get dull quickly and many more.
If you just want to see the knife recommendations, skip this and scroll below.
Carbon steel vs stainless steel
Stainless steel knives are produced by mixing in chromium in the metal alloy to produce a steel that doesn’t rust, stain or oxidize very easily.
This means stainless steel knives can be left wet in the sink overnight, put in the dish washer and not worry about rust or chipping it.
Stainless steel is also softer and more flexible, which allows users to be careless and not worry that dropping the knife might chip or break it.
The disadvantage of stainless steel is that it’s generally not as sharp as carbon steel, and is also much harder to sharpen.
For most home cooks however, the advantages of stainless steel outweigh the negatives so stainless steel is generally the “default” when it comes to home kitchens.
Carbon steel knives are made from a simple a carbon and iron alloy, without the chromium. This makes the knife more brittle and fragile, but more importantly very vulnerable to rust.
Because of this, carbon steel knives have a very strict and simple use principle: Use the knife, clean the knife, dry the knife, repeat.
The advantage of carbon knives however is that they are much, much sharper than stainless steel knives.
Not only that, but they also keep their edge for longer and are considerably easier to sharpen.
Ever seen knives that effortlessly slice through paper? In nearly every case that’s a carbon steel knife.
Most common knife grinds
A knife grind is the shape of the cutting edge of the knife. There are multiple types of knife grinds, and each one has its advantages and disadvantages.
Hollow grinds: fantastic at slicing, hold sharp edges very well but can chip easily especially for larger knives.
Full flat grind: very similar to the hollow grind, exceptsturdier but doesn’t cut quite as well. Most common type of knife grind.
Chisel grind: typically good for chopping foods, easy to sharpen. However chisel grinds are hard to get right, so you have a lot of quality variations among knife makers.
If possible, buy knives with a Rockwell scale over 56
The Rockwell scale describes the hardness of metal.
This is important in knives, since the harder a metal is, the sharper it is and the more it will keep its sharp edge.
Most manufacturers don’t show a Rockwell scale for their knives, but if you happen to find it, then know that a knife with a Rockwell scale rating of 56 is reasonably sharp and can hold an edge reasonably well.
The rule is pretty simple: the wider the blade the sturdier the knife. Knives with wide blades are generally recommended if you want to cut harder veggies, while thinner blades are for softer ones.
The disadvantage of wider blades is that they’re often not as sharp as thinner ones.
Best Western Chef style knives
Western chef knives are the most common and widespread cutting tools used in most kitchens around the world, and most certainly in Western kitchens.
Invented by the French and perfected by the Germans, the chef’s knife stands out for its sharp tip and curved edge called the “belly”, which is wide at the base and narrows towards the tip.
Western style chef knives stand out for being generally hard and resilient tools. They’re made from a heavier but soft metal (meaning it’s a bit more flexible), which prevents chipping or breaking so careless users can throw them around in sinks or drop on the floor without worrying it might ruin the knife.
The downside to this is that the chef knife isn’t as sharp as other knifes on this list.
Another common issue with the chef’s knife is that you’ll sometimes have fruit or vegetable slices get stuck to the blade of the knife.
Great for: A jack-of-all-trades kind of knife that is good at cutting everything, including vegetables like potatoes or onions, but isn’t quite the best at anything.
KIWI is a brand of knives from Thailand and are widely liked by many amateur cooks for their excellent price-to-quality ratio, and good sharp edge that’s easy to sharpen.
They aren’t the best of the best, but they will outperform most knives you could buy at Walmart for a similar price simply due to how thin they are – this gives them pretty solid cutting performance.
They aren’t fancy, they aren’t pretty, but for a really low budget knife they can get most jobs done just fine.
Excellent quality fit and finish, with an integrated bolster that is discrete but also does its job of protecting your fingers.
The steel type used is X50CrMoV15, which is a high-quality German steel specifically designed for kitchen knives.
It comes very sharp out of the box, and the high-quality steel keeps the edge for a relatively long time. Needs some sharpening every 6 months or so to keep it razor sharp.
Victorinox is a well-regarded knife maker among chef and amateur cooks alike, because they offer a very good price-to-quality ratio.
Victorinox knives use the same high-quality metal found in premium knife brands such as Wustof and Henckles, but at 1/3 to ½ of the price.
Victorinox knives are sharp, can keep an edge well, and are generally durable.
Compared to dollar store knives they feel very premium and high quality, but don’t have the same balance, feel and construction quality as the very high-end knives in the $100+ range.
A high-quality German knife, heavy but well balanced, with an extremely sharp tip and blade. Requires little to no sharpening and holds and edge extremely well. A buy-it-for-life kind of purchase.
Another expensive, buy-it-for-life German knife. Solid, weighty, and can take a lot of abuse. Excellent for any kind of cutting, from splitting chicken tendons to going through vegetables. If you want one knife that does it all and does it well, then the Ikon is a great choice.
Best Santoku style knives
Santoku means “three virtues” or “three uses” which refers to what the knife is meant to be used for which is slicing, dicing, and mincing.
The Santoku knife is a Japanese variation of the chef knife and, just like the chef knife, serves as an all-round knife for cutting pretty much anything in the kitchen.
In terms of build quality, true Japanese Santoku knives are made from metal with higher carbon concentrations than Western chef knives, which make them harder, thinner and more delicate.
The advantage of this is that the knife is much lighter and noticeably sharper, as well as being easier to sharpen yourself.
The disadvantage however is that Santoku knives generally require more care when using them, otherwise you risk chipping the blade.
When it comes to vegetables, the biggest difference between Santoku and chef knives is in the cutting motion.
If you want methodical and precise control over how you cut vegetables, then use a chef knife since it’s sharp tip and curved edge allow you to better control how you rock the knife forwards and backwards.
If you just want to slice and dice as quickly as possible, then use a Santoku knife since it is much sharper than a chef knife and, combined with its straighter edge, allows you to use an “up-down” cutting motion with much more confidence than you would with a chef’s knife.
Finally, the grooves and dimples alongside the edge of the knife prevent vegetables such as onions and potatoes from getting stuck to the blade.
Great for: Great all-purpose knife, usually better than the chef’s knife for vegetables such as potatoes and onions, but not as good for precisely cutting meats.
Extremely affordable but have a ridiculously good bang-for-buck ratio (comes with two knives!). The metal is extremely sharp, but soft and bendy, especially when going through harder vegetables such as butternut squash or kohlrabi.
A knife with a good grip and sharp edge. Can be sharpened further if need be, but it’s not very pleasant. A great knife for the home cook but won’t make quite that perfect clean cut anymore after a year or two of use unless sharpened.
Quality, entry level Japanese knife, made with Japanese VG-10 steel, so it will stay sharp much longer than other knives at similar or lower prices. The handle and bolster aren’t the most comfortable, but neither are they deal breakers.
An unusual combination between Santoku and Gyuto knives. Metal and quality is great, but you need to decide whether you want a combined knife, or either a Gyuto or Santoku. Still a very capable all-purpose knife that will slice through any veggies easily for a long time.
Produced in Solingen, Germany, this Wusthof knife is called “hollow edge” because of the indentations on the side of the blade that help the knife slide easier through foods and have anti-stick properties.
Handling is top notch, and the blade is scary sharp. It can hold an edge for years with only minimal amounts of sharpening now and then.
Best Gyuto style Knives
The Gyuto knife is a much more faithful copy of the chef knife, and like its inspiration is designed as an all-purpose knife.
The main differences between a western chef’s knife and a gyuto are the profile, weight and balance, edge geometry, thickness and sometimes the handle.
Most gyuto knives have a rounded handle, with a balance point further up the blade because the handle is lighter which lends itself very well to a pinch grip.
Most gyuto’s also have an asymmetrical edge grind which doesn’t necessarily make the knife sharper but does give the perception of sharpness as it tends to move through foods easier.
Finally, gyuto knives, like the Santoku, are made from harder and thinner metals and usually keep their sharp edge better than Western chef knives.
Great for: all-purpose knife, get this if you want something in between a Santoku or a chef-knife.
Best Nakiri knives
The Nakiri is a Japanese knife specifically designed to cut vegetables and fruits as easily as possible.
The Nakiri is very thin and light, and has a deep blade that touches the cutting board with the entire edge, which leads to clean and uniform cuts.
With chef knives, you would sometimes have veggies and fruits that were still connected in certain places because the curve of the blade didn’t cleanly separate them.
Similar to the Santoku, the Nakiri requires an up-down cutting motion. It can do this because, unlike chef knives, they are very thin and very sharp.
The downside to the Nakiri is it’s just too flimsy and fragile to cut anything else other than veggies and fruits or foods with similar consistency.
Great for: The Nakiri knife is one of the best knives at cutting vegetables, since its thin, sharp blade can easily push down and cut through vegetables like onions and potatoes without slipping or sliding away.
Mentioned previously, this KIWI knife bundle contains both a Santoku knife, and a Nakiri knife which is specifically designed to cut up vegetables.
The best Nakiri knife you can get at this price range.
This knife is capable of making a tomato slice so thin you can see through it. The fit and finish are very good, blade grind is even, the bolster is slightly above cutting edge of blade so you can get a full cut on cutting board and it’s super sharp.
It’s not as maintenance heavy as most Nakiri knives, but it will still require a whetstone and/or honing rod to periodically sharpen.
A Japanese made knife using high quality VG10 steel. It is relatively thick for Nakiri knife and heavier too. Durable, reliable and keeps a good edge. Like with most Nakiri’s however, it’s best used for veggies and fruits and not meats (especially if they have bones).
A very expensive Japanese knife, made from Damascus steel. It is razor sharp, but at the same thin and made from hard steel that keeps an edge for a long time.
This knife has one job and one job only: to cut vegetables and fruits on a wooden cutting board and does this perfectly. You barely need to push down on the knife to cut vegetables, since it’s so sharp it simply glides through them.
It must not be used for any other task otherwise you risk damaging the blade.
It doesn’t require, but it is very demanding to maintain. Never leave this steel wet, do not throw it around, always carefully rinse of anything on it.
Best paring knives
A small form factor knife primarily designed to precisely cut fruits and vegetables, especially hard vegetables such as carrots and potatoes.
They come in multiple shapes and sizes, depending on what exactly you need to cut.
For example, the sheep’s foot paring knife is ideal for cutting vegetables into long strips.
The spear point knife is great for slicing, dicing and peeling fruits and vegetables.
The bird’s beak knife is excellent for peeling and taking out cores, but also cutting veggies and fruits in a particular shape.
The downside to paring knives however is that they aren’t suited to quickly chop large quantities of veggies and fruits, simply because the blade is too small and you have no finger room between the blade and the cutting board.
Great for: quickly cutting small, individual veggies and fruits with high precision.
German steel, made in Spain. Good quality knife, can be dish washed, compact and easy to handle, keeps an edge well. An all around solid choice and worth the relatively pricey $40 for a paring knife.
Very similar to the nakiri, except it has a significantly taller blade and usually much sharper corners, which can do the initial incision into vegetables and then do a clean, gliding cut.
Besides the different shape, the Chinese vegetable cleaner is heavier and sturdier than the nakiri, which makes it more cumbersome to use for small-medium sized vegetables, compared to the nakiri.
Where the Chinese vegetable cleaver shines however is with bigger, denser vegetables. This is because the extra weight and heft of the cleaver essentially cuts vegetables by itself, with minimal “push” from yourself.
Overall, both the Chinese cleaver and the nakiri serve nearly identical functions, but they just go about it differently.
If you generally cook with lighter and softer vegetables such as tomatoes or onions, then a nakiri is more convenient and easier.
If you lean towards harder vegetables, like potatoes or carrots, then a Chinese cleaver can chop those up just a bit quicker and doesn’t require as much force on your end.
Great for: Chinese cleavers are sturdy knives and are most often used to cut through veggies and fruits, especially harder ones. Unlike the nakiri however, they’re more multipurpose and can even be used to cut meats, tendons etc.
CCK is one of the premier high quality Chinese knife manufacturers. Their products are usually on the more expensive side, but are of higher quality.
The KF1302 is a carbon steel cleaver, which has advantages and disadvantages.
The advantage is that carbon steel is harder, which results in a knife that can hold a sharp edge much longer than a stainless steel knife.
The disadvantage is that carbon steel knives rust very easily, and the KF1302 is no exception.
It must never be left in a pool of water even for a few minutes, cleaning the knife has to be done with a dry towel, and it must never be scrubbed with wire otherwise it damages the coating, which results in even faster rusting.
If you’re willing to accommodate these flaws however, then the KF1302 is an exceptional knife that is well balanced, extremely sharp and easy to sharpen, and will mince through vegetables no problem no matter how slippery they are.
Zwilling is a German knife maker that’s been in continuous operation for nearly 300 years.
The stainless steel used in their vegetable cleaver is their own custom formula, but is hard and durable.
The quality of the steel combined with the relatively solid and bulky construction allow this knife to even cut smaller bones such as chicken or fish bones.