The chef’s knife is arguably the most important knife in your kitchen. It’s incredibly versatile - use it to break down proteins or dice vegetables - and really the workhorse of the kitchen. Like any ubiquitous kitchen item, the chef’s knife ranges in quality from the very cheap to the absurdly expensive.
But fear not, you don’t need to drop hundreds of dollars to get your hands on a high quality product. In fact, there are lots of great chef’s knives on the market for under 100 bucks. Here are the absolute best chef’s knives under $100.
Wusthof is obviously a very popular brand, and one known for producing top shelf kitchen knives. This 6” Classic Chef’s Knife is actually one of Wusthof’s higher end products, and yet it’s priced well below $100.
Forged from a single piece of high-carbon stainless steel - as opposed to being stamped, like some of its cheaper imitators - this chef’s knife is incredibly durable. In fact, the Wusthof name is synonymous with resilience. This is what you might expect from knives made in Germany.
This chef’s knife is also a really nice size, coming in at just six inches. Although that is clearly smaller than eight or ten inch chef’s knives, I find the six inch knife to be a fantastic and convenient alternative. They are easier to wield and suitable for almost any kitchen project.
Plus, this knife is really well balanced. It’s weighty, but not too heavy, and the handle is really comfortable. It’s also triple riveted around a full tang for added strength.
Sharpened to a 14 degree blade angle, this knife is also super sharp right out of the box. That said, because it’s made from relatively “soft” steel, you’ll need to hone this knife more frequently to maintain that sharp edge. But, because 14 degrees is fairly standard, this is something you can sharpen with most hand held knife sharpeners, without too much expertise necessary.
The “softness” of the steel makes it more resistant to chipping, and a little maintenance goes a long way. That means hand washing and drying, and keeping this beauty safe in a protective case or knife block.
I have always admired the all stainless steel, unique design of Global knives. They are made to be instantly recognizable, and have a prominent handle that is hard to miss. Global is actually kind of an open secret among knife enthusiasts, known as a company that offers exceptional quality knives - comparable to top names - for a fraction of the price.
This particular knife, the Global G2, is forged from a single piece of stainless steel, a variety called CROMOVA 18, which is a blend of molybdenum, vanadium and chromium. That’s obviously a mouthful, but in short, the mixture is designed to be hard enough that the blade retains its sharpness, yet soft enough to hone easily while reducing fragility.
The feel of this knife is great - it’s definitely appropriately weighted and well balanced. Actually, the blade is forged, but the handle is hollow, and filled with sand to appropriately weight and balance the knife. And while the handle is comfortable, it can get a little slippery when wet, at least more than a normal wooden handle would be under similar conditions.
Although this knife is technically dishwasher safe, I’d advise against that - and against putting any chef’s knife in the dishwasher for that matter. Dishwashers can prematurely dull or damage the blade, and for that reason I would say stick to hand washing.
Global knives are made in Japan, and backed up by a lifetime warranty against defects and breakage. Given the slightly lower price point and superior quality, the Global G-80 is a great alternative to leading brands.
Mercer Culinary has been in the business of making knives for about thirty years, beginning when they noted a significant “need for high-quality, value-driven cutlery for both professionals and food enthusiasts.” I would say that this Renaissance Series 8-Inch Chef’s Knife responds directly to that need - it is made from the highest quality materials and comes in at less than half the cost of its peers.
This knife is forged - not stamped - from a single piece of high-carbon German stainless steel, and while there are no bells or whistles, like Damascus layering or extremely high Rockwell Hardness ratings, this knife is nevertheless tough as nails. It’s got a full tang, which is triple riveted inside an ergonomic, Delrin (a polymer variety) handle.
The knife edge is taper-ground, meaning it's beveled in a V-shape, rather than straight down from the sides, and angled to 15 degrees. This makes the edge a bit more resistant to damage or dulling, and helps to preserve sharpness. It also makes honing and sharpening at home significantly easier.
On the downside, the handle is rather small. I have large hands, and handling a knife with a smaller than normal handle can give me cramps, or worse, blisters. If your hands are on the normal to smaller end of the spectrum though, this knife should be just fine for you.
The Mercer Culinary Renaissance Series 8-Inch Chef’s Knife is a fantastic value for the money. I would highly recommend it - or really any knife by Mercer Culinary - if you are looking to spend less money without sacrificing quality.
The Cutluxe 8 Inch Chef’s Knife is the perfect product for someone that’s starting to get serious about cooking, but who isn’t quite ready to drop major dough on professional grade knives. That said, this knife is no cut rate knock off; in fact, it’s miles ahead of other chef knives at this price point.
How many knives at this price point are actually forged, rather than stamped, and made out of premium quality German stainless steel? Not many. I’m actually surprised not only by the superior materials in this knife - the steel is hardened to 56+ on the Rockwell Hardness Scale - but also to the more costly process by which it was made.
The knife is also really solid. As I said, it’s forged from a single piece of steel, which means it’s got a full tang embedded in the triple-riveted handle. And the handle isn’t plastic, like some cheaper knives, but rather crafted from genuine pakkawood.
The handle is actually quite stunning. I’ve always loved dark pakkawood, and the subtle aesthetics of this knife are truly special. My only complaint is that the spine of the tang is slightly higher than the wood of the handle, which makes the grip slightly uncomfortable.
The Cutluxe chef’s knife is also rather sharp. It’s honed to 14 to 16 degrees right out of the box, which, combined with the relatively “soft” steel makes the blade incredibly durable. This thing holds a razor sharp edge forever.
All in all, I can’t believe how affordable this knife is, given the superior craftsmanship that Cutluxe is offering. Plus, this thing comes with a lifetime warranty - pretty incredible for a knife under 40 bucks.
This Nunchi 8-Inch Chef’s Knife is really a hybrid of Japanese and Western knife styles, taking the best elements of each to make a really phenomenal product.
While the knife is made from Japanese steel, it's sharpened to a higher angle than most Japanese knives, and while the blade is hammered in a Damascus style, it’s also got a larger heel. I will go into more detail about the significance of these design decisions below.
First, let’s start with the materials and construction. In many ways, Nunchi is matching the quality and standards of well known knife makers here - think Shun, and even Dalstrong.
This chef’s knife is made from 67 layers of super strong VG-10 Japanese stainless steel, hardened to anywhere from 60 to 62 on the Rockwell Hardness Scale. This is truly hard, though it does make the blade somewhat more susceptible to chipping. So be careful and treat this knife with the love it deserves!
But on the other hand, while the blade is incredibly hard, it’s also sharpened to only 12 to 15 degrees. This is significantly higher than a lot of Japanese knives - and what I’m referring to when I talk about hybridity - but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The higher knife angle is plenty sharp, and coupled with the hardness of the blade, it keeps a sharp edge exceptionally well.
The other thing is the handle and grip. I really love the rose colored pakkawood handle. This really is a traditional, Japanese handle, and yet, it’s coupled with a large heel (a distinctly Western design feature) to accommodate large hands.
This is a small but important feature, and one you’ll actually need to pay extra for from some other companies. Nunchi seems to have succeeded in adapting the best of both styles and bringing them together as a new standard.
I tend to think of this knife as on par with the Dalstrong Shogun Series knives, but perhaps a bit less flashy. Those Dalstrong knives are definitely statement pieces, and this knife is a bit more subdued and classic. It is, without hesitation, my top choice for the best chef’s knife under $100.
The Dalstrong Shogun Series Chef’s Knife will definitely turn a few heads. It’s unique and flashy, but rest assured, this knife is far from being just looks. It’s also made from some of the highest quality materials available.
This chef’s knife is precision forged from a single piece of AUS-10V Japanese steel, and repeatedly heated and nitrogen cooled to increase strength and durability. Of course, the blade needs to be super hard - about 62+ on the Rockwell Hardness Scale - in order to maintain the 8 - 12 degree blade angle.
Dalstrong likes to describe this blade as “ruthlessly sharp,” and I can’t disagree. That said, such a steep angle makes it a bit tough for home cooks to sharpen themselves, so I’d recommend taking this to a professional every 9 months or so, depending on use.
The 66 layers of premium, high carbon stainless steel are simply breathtaking, and create a classic Damascus pattern. I also really like the hammered patterning, which, in addition to looking cool, also helps prevent food items from sticking to the blade.
Of course, the blade has a full tang, and the handle is triple riveted for added strength. The knife feels really good - it’s obviously very well balanced - and the six inch length is particularly convenient. The only thing I don’t love is that I find the cutting to be relatively flat, rather than arched, which makes rocking this chef’s knife a little more difficult. It’s definitely curved, don’t get me wrong, but in my opinion, could be more so.
You’ll want to keep this knife safe - protecting both the knife itself and wandering hands - and so I love that Dalstrong throws in a protective sheath. It locks around the blade, holding it firm, and I know the knife is well protected by the soft suede interior.
And, as they do for all of their blades - the sign of a good company that stands by its product - Dalstrong also offers a lifetime warranty against defect, and a 100% satisfaction or your money back guarantee.
A good chef’s knife is one of the most important tools in the kitchen. It’s an item that I use every day, and for that reason, I think of a high quality chef’s knife as a smart and valuable investment, and one that will pay me back with delicious meals for years to come.
Given the ubiquity of the chef’s knife in any serious kitchen, selecting the right one is obviously of paramount importance. But given the variety of styles, materials and features, and the massive range in pricing, knowing where to start can be a little intimidating.
I would recommend starting with your hands. What I mean to say here is that you need to go with the knife that you anticipate being the most comfortable in your hands. Comfort is, in my opinion, the most critical factor in selecting an appropriate knife, because it will directly impact how well you are able to wield that knife.
It doesn’t matter how expensive or well made that knife is if it doesn’t fit appropriately in your hands, or if it’s too heavy or too light. And not only that, using a knife that you don’t feel comfortable with can be dangerous.
So, if you are smaller, or have smaller hands, go with a smaller knife. And larger hands? You see where I’m going here...get what will fit, because the reality is that a good chef’s knife becomes an extension of your arm as you become increasingly comfortable using it.
Bolster - The bolster is what connects the blade to the handle of the knife. Usually made from material that transitions seamlessly into the blade, it also often extends down to the heel. The bolster is also used to adjust weight for appropriate knife balance.
Tang - The tang is like the “root” of the knife blade, and extends into the handle. Depending on handle design, you may see a strip of the tang on either the top or bottom of the handle, or it may be hidden entirely.
Heel - The heel is the section of the blade edge that comes closest to bolster and handle.
Handle - The handle is what wraps around the knife tang, and is used for grip.
Rivet - Rivets are often used to secure the handle on either side to the internal knife tang.
Butt - The butt of the knife is located at the extreme end of the handle, and may or may not be slightly larger than the rest of the grip.
(Cutting) edge - The edge is the sharpened part of the blade that does the actual cutting. Depending on your knife, the edge may be beveled on one or both sides, and at varying angles.
Tip - Despite being called the “tip,” the tip is not actually the end of the knife. Rather, the tip refers to the end portion of the cutting edge.
Point - The point is the true end of the knife.
Spine - The spine is the wider, back side of the blade, opposite the cutting edge.
HRC - HRC is shorthand for the Rockwell Hardness Scale C, and refers to the hardness of steel or alloyed materials. It is measured by pressing a specially shaped indenter against a surface with a specific force.
It is important to note that a high HRC value does not always translate to actual strength, since harder steels can also be stiffer and thus more brittle. This accounts for the relative ease with which harder steel blades often chip.
Edge degree - Edge degree refers to the angle at which the blade is sharpened. Measured against the blade itself, the lower the degree often translates to sharpness. That said, lower degree blades may have difficulty holding an edge, so you’ll want to ensure that lower degree blades are composed of a very hard steel.
Full tang - “Full tang” means that the knife tang extends all the way into the handle, essentially that your knife has been made from a single piece of steel. Full tang knives are far more durable than knives composed of multiple pieces.
Stamped vs. forged - This refers to the method of manufacture. Forged knives are made from a single piece of steel which is typically heated and then pounded into shape. Heating and cooling during the forging process also enhance blade strength.
Stamped knives, on the other hand, are usually cut out - think of a cookie cutter - from a larger sheet of style, before being sharpened and honed. You can usually tell a forged knife from the bolster, which will be wider and more substantial than is possible on stamped knives.
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