No other kitchen tool is as important as a chef knife, full stop. But not all chef knives are created equally. Sure, there are plenty out there in the budget-friendly realm that might offer decent functionality. But if you want something really special that you can turn to time and time again — perhaps for a lifetime — you should seek out artisans that truly care about their craft and products. And you can hardly go wrong in that regard if you consider a USA-made chef knife.
The United States is well-known around the world for being synonymous with good craftsmanship, and that’s no exception when it comes to worthwhile kitchen tools such as these. But finding the one that works best for you isn’t as simple as driving down to the store and grabbing a knife off the shelf. Rather it requires a bit of research and familiarity with the options. But we’ve got a bit of a cheat code for that, too, with the guide you are currently reading. We’ve chosen to present this list as brand highlights rather than specific options — as there is a variety of shapes, sizes, and formats that you, the user, will have to choose from based on your needs, desires, and budgetary constraints. Without further ado, these are the 10 best USA-made chef knives.
What Makes For A Good Chef Knife?
Metrics To Consider
A chef knife is a chef knife is a chef knife, right? Well, not exactly. While there are plenty of knives that might be considered “do-anything” kitchen cutting tools, a little knowledge of the space will help you make the right decision when it comes to buying the right knife for you. There are knives out there built specifically with slicing proteins in mind, just as there are those geared toward chopping vegetables, preparing fish, and more. Thankfully, knife manufacturers are pretty good at outlining which knives are good for which purposes, or they at least designate them with a popular style name, so you can do a bit of research to figure out what’s best for you. To help make that search a bit simpler, we’ve outlined some of the important metrics below.
Style/Shape: The length and shape of a chef knife are usually dead giveaways of their intended purpose. For instance, long thin blades are typically used for detail-oriented slicing, whereas stouter blades with a bit of curvature to them are more for high-volume chopping, as is common with vegetables. Familiarize yourself with the various styles, their names, and purposes and your search will be far simpler.
Steel: The steel will affect numerous things about your chef knife, including things like how often you have to maintain your edge, how durable the knife is in the long run, how expensive the blade is, and more. Harder steels are more difficult to sharpen, but they’ll stay sharp for longer — though they can be brittle and prone to chipping. Softer steels will require more frequent sharpening, but they’re a lot less likely to chip or break. And there’s also, of course, a style factor — plain steel appears as a traditional silver color, but there are chef knives with coating and/or those made from alternative steels, like Damascus — which can be exceptional in its performance, appearance, and price. Again, a bit of baseline research can help tremendously in this regard.
Handle: Although this is probably not as seemingly dire as the above two metrics, it’s no less an important one to think about when seeking out chef knives for numerous reasons including style, longevity, grip, and more. Synthetic handles tend to be cheaper, but they’re not always the most attractive and can negatively impact balance. Natural materials, like hardwood, are often more beautiful and offer better balance. And then there are other options like stainless steel, titanium, bone, carbon fiber, Micarta, and more. If possible, we suggest heading to a store where they offer some of these options and trying them for yourself, which will also give you a better idea of how they might impact the cost.
This is not a joke and there are no catches — you can actually get a USA-made chef knife (or what Rada calls its Cooks Utility knife) for as little as $11. And, no it isn’t simply a cheap throwaway, either. Granted, it’s still very much a budget offering, but the prospect remains. Of course, if you have a higher budget, Rada can cover you with higher-end options, as well. Furthermore, Rada is a time-tested and trusted name, with roots that date back to 1948 to the brand’s Waverly, Iowa headquarters. So, if you were worried that getting a true USA-made chef knife might cost you an arm and a leg, those fears have been definitively quashed.
Dexter Russell Cutlery
For more than two centuries, Dexter Russell has remained a family-owned and -operated knifemaking business. That alone should get them on your radar if you seek a solid chef knife. Of course, the fact that they make all their offerings on United States soil, which only helps bolster the brand even further. And here’s where it gets really enticing: Dexter Russell’s offerings run the gamut of prices, materials, and even styles. If you want a low-budget do-it-all utility knife, they’ve got you covered. If you’d prefer a purpose-driven, Chinese-style, butcher-like, high-end chopper, they’ve got that, too. You really can’t go wrong here.
R. Murphy Knives
Since 1850, R. Murphy Knives has been crafting kitchen cutting tools by hand in the USA. That kind of longevity doesn’t just happen by accident. Of course, if you need further proof, you can look into the brand’s catalog. As it stands right now, the brand only offers two “chef” knives — one that’s 6″ and another that’s 8″, both with 1095 carbon steel blades and stabilized Honduran rosewood handles — but they’re both spectacular, especially for their relatively low prices. But that’s just the start of the brand’s bladed offerings, which also include a butcher blade, a pairing, knife, and more.
You might be noticing a trend that all of these brands have long histories of American knifemaking. Well, Lamson is no exception to that trend and dates back to 1837. Their current lineup of chef knives is not necessarily super-deep, but it doesn’t need to be. With sizes that range from 4″ up to 10″ — as well as numerous sets to cover your kitchen basics — everything they offer is beautifully crafted from exceptional materials and will serve you for years and years with proper respect and care. Furthermore, many of these knives are offered with a trio of handle material options, giving users access to a touch of personalization and customization, and all of them come with a lifetime guarantee.
Warther’s chef knives span just four options, all built with the same materials but varying in their styles — including 7″ and 9″ French chef knives, a Japanese-style santoku, and a 5″ “baby” chef knife. Their blades are all built from high-end CPM-S45VN Steel (a close sibling of one of the EDC world’s favorites, S35VN) and are mated to either a black or brown wood handle, which can be engraved for a small upcharge. And if you’re worried about pedigree, don’t; Warther, in name, dates back as far as the early 1940s, but the family’s knifemaking expertise goes even further back to 1902.
Perhaps the most enticing part of Cutco’s chef knife offerings is the brand’s iron-clad “Forever Guarantee” — a promise that their blades will never let you down and, if they do, the brand will fix and/or replace them at no cost to you. Of course, that promise is only so enticing because it rides on the shoulders of already outstanding products. At the present moment, the brand only offers two chef knives — made virtually the same — but they’re both beautifully crafted right here in America. You simply have to choose which length suits your kitchen needs best. Of course, you could always get both or pick up a set or two.
In the professional culinary world, Kramer is a name that needs no introduction. In fact, this brand’s chef knives are used by some of the biggest movers and shakers in the industry — even Anthony Bourdain’s go-to chef knife was his custom Kramer. And while the brand’s brightest light shines on its custom offerings, you can still get your hands on a licensed knife that, while not quite as unique, is still built with exceptional craftsmanship and top-tier materials. Yes, even these mass-produced options are quite pricey, but these are the kinds of kitchen tools you’ll buy once and use for the rest of your life, so long as you care for them and perform proper maintenance.
New West Knifeworks
New West KnifeWorks actually offers quite a few different chef knife lines (and a few general kitchen cutting tool collections) — all of which are made in the USA and all of which are worth your hard-earned money. However, for these purposes, we’re the most interested in sharing the brand’s G-Fusion lineup with its unique, gorgeous, and colorful multilayered G10 handles. Of course, the real stars of the show are the blades — all of which are built from exceptional S35VN high-end steel. Available in a wide variety of formats, sizes, and colorways, you could pick any of New West’s offerings out while blindfolded and you’d still end up with an exceptional cutting tool.
Although styling is not and should not be the first and most important metric to consider when buying a chef knife, we’d be remiss if we didn’t sugged that it is at least a touch important. And the offerings that come out of the Carter Cutlery workshop are some of the most beautiful cutting tools we’ve ever beheld. Of course, that appearance is only possible because of the brand’s exceptional craftsmanship, which includes hand-hammered steel, genuine hardwood handles, and more. Sadly, Carter doesn’t slot anywhere near what we’d call “budget-friendly,” but if you can swing the price of these high-end blades, you’ll be satisfied with them for a lifetime.
Chelsea Miller Knives
From a uniqueness standpoint, Chelsea Miller Knives really takes the cake of all the brands on our list. This is due largely to the exceptional craftsmanship of Chelsea Miller herself, but also thanks to her choice of raw materials. You see, these knives are actually crafted with steel repurposed from a Vermont Farrier’s horseshoe rasps and walnut wood gathered from Miller’s childhood family farm. And while that means you’re getting high-quality tool steel with each of her knives, what’s more exciting is the fact that each and every blade is singular in its own way and no two are exactly alike.
The 10 Best Japanese Chef Knives
The USA is far from the only locale with expert craftspeople, especially in the realm of kitchen tools. For instance, there is a long and storied history of blade-crafting in the Far East — and that’s why we’ve put together this guide of the best Japanese chef knives.
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