Using the right knife makes all the difference in the kitchen. If you've ever tried chopping, mincing, or julienning with the wrong knife, or one that's simply dull or subpar, you know how much of an impact the right chef's knife can have on your overall dish and presentation. Conversely, the right knife can make your task feel faster, more precise, and more enjoyable—that's if you use the proper technique and protect your fingers from getting sliced along with your finely chopped cabbage head.
If you're convinced that it may be time to upgrade your chef's knife, the next step is shopping around for the best one for your budget. In order to do that, you have to know exactly what to look for: the right hardness, the handle's shape, and the proper craftsmanship are all things to look for in a great knife. To help us on our quest to find the best chef's knives, we asked six New York City chefs to share their favorites. Surprisingly, half of them had the exact same answer.
Curious to know what is the best chef's knife NYC chefs all swear by? Let them explain, in their own words, why they swear by this one Japanese knife brand.
In Defense of Nenox Chef's Kinves
Chef Simone Tong, Little Tong Noodle Shop
What is your favorite chef's knife? "I swear by Nenohi Nenox knives. Every series of its knives from traditional Japanese to Western. They last a lifetime."
What do you look for in a great knife? "Every knife has its function and purpose. Some are only for butchering fish, while some are better for slicing protein. But when looking for a knife specific to each utility, I consider the steel’s hardness (HRC), how it feels when I hold it (because everybody’s hands and heights are different), and its value. On the last point, when I was a young prep cook, for example, I leaned toward less expensive, more beginner-friendly knives like Misono’s Molybdenum Gyutou knife. I knew that these knives would help me lay the foundation for advancing my knife, sharpening, and care skills. A knife is only as good as the knowledge and experience of the chef who uses it."
What is your favorite chef's knife? "Nenox makes my favorite knives. You pay for it, but I've been using my Corian handled Nenox daily for well over 15 years."
What do you look for in a great knife? "The handle must be incredibly comfortable, which is important considering the hours of use. The steel should be hard and hold a tight edge for a while. Also, it needs to be stainless steel since it's easiest to maintain, as opposed to carbon steel knives."
Chef Nicolas Caicedo, The Williamsburg Hotel
What is your favorite chef's knife? "Nenox."
What do you look for in a great knife? "It's important to look for balance, as well as a knife with a sharp edge, that is stain-resistant and has a comfortable weight. The best knifework can only be executed with a knife that feels the best, so feeling comfortable and successful with the knife is of the utmost importance. The knife a cook uses represents what kind of a chef they will become."
In Defense of Shun Chef's Knives
Chef Timothy Meyers, Bocce USQ
What is your favorite chef's knife? "My preference, for almost as long as I've been cooking, is for Shun Cutlery. I've tried many other brands, and I keep coming back to Shun for the following reasons: The metal is very strong, which means it will keep a sharp edge after I sharpen it. But the metal isn't so hard that it's a workout to sharpen when it does come time to put the edge back on. The handles are shaped perfectly, no one can match the ergonomics of a Shun. Shun blades are quite thin, so if I'm doing precision knifework, I don't have to worry about the spine of the knife acting like a wedge and ruining my work."
What do you look for in a great knife? "This is a question I get asked a lot, especially by students and interns eager for an edge in the very competitive New York City restaurant scene. The first thing I try to impress is that price is very often not an excellent indicator of a well-made knife. There are a lot of gear-heads in professional kitchens who save up for $300, $400, even $500 knives, but to me, there are excellent knives for a fraction of that cost out there. Don't go too cheap, though, knives under $100 dollars are likely made from a lower quality metal that gets stamped out of a sheet of metal, instead of being crafted from quality knife-makers. So choose a quality knife-maker that won't break the bank. Aside from that, there are a lot of variables that make knife choices a matter of personal preference. I look for a mid-strength metal for a combination of durability and ease of sharpening."
Chef Eric Sze, 886
What is your favorite chef's knife? "A chef knife I swear by is the 8" Shun Japanese chef's knife."
What do you look for in a great knife? "A good knife for me has balance and should feel sturdy but not heavy. But I'd rather take a sharp cheap knife than an expensive dull knife."
In Defense of Global Chef's Knives
Chef Luis Mendez of Untamed Sandwiches & Untamed Taqueria
What is your favorite chef's knife? "I use Global, which is a Japanese knife. I love the quality of the metal and the balanced feel in my hand."
What do you look for in a great knife? "I need knives that are really easy to sharpen. I sharpen my knives three to four times a week, so that is important. At the end of the day, if it doesn't feel good in my hand, I'm not using it!"