These Are the Best Knives on Amazon, According to Reviewers. We Tested Them
Apr 20, 2023
By Noah Kaufman
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It makes sense to search for the best knives on Amazon. Because whatever your personal feelings are about Amazon.com, there's no denying that it is one of the easiest places to buy kitchen knives, and kitchen gear of all sorts. However, the fast shipping and the practically infinite scroll of inventory come with downsides—and wading through those endless listings to find something actually good is definitely one of them. Often the top results, if you put, say, "chef's knife" into the search bar, include some that look familiar—your Wüsthofs, your Henckels, your Mercer Culinary. But then there are other knives. All of them are well-reviewed by thousands of people, but they have names that are much less recognizable. They have a confounding mix of eyebrow-raising low prices and high-end craftsmanship looks—a number of the knives, at least in their photos, have characteristics similar to $440 Bob Kramer Damascus steel knives. We don't know exactly what goes into creating the order that knives appear in Amazon's search results, and clearly a number of the results are sponsored in order to get a spot at the top, but we did want to know which of the top results and bestsellers might actually be worth buying.
Dalstrong Chef Knife, 8-Inch Blade, Gladiator Series
Shan Zu Chef Knife 8-Inch Damascus Kitchen Knife
Let's get one thing straight: This was not a test looking for the best chef's knife. If you want that, please click over and read The Best Chef's Knife, Tested and Reviewed. We didn't include brands like Shun, Wüsthof, or Zwilling, all of which you can certainly buy on Amazon, but they have developed their own stellar reputations over decades or even centuries. The point here was to test those random, unknown knives that haunt the top of our search results—not knives we already know.
We chose knives that had 3,000-plus reviews, appeared repeatedly as either top sponsored listings or top seller listings, and were, as best as we could tell, relative newcomers. We also chose to look exclusively at chef's knives as opposed to santoku knives, paring knives, bread knives, or carving knives. This is the blade that you build a knife set around; it is the most versatile workhorse in a kitchen and the first knife you should get.
The reason we wanted to focus on highly reviewed but less widely reputed knives is because of reporting like this from John Herrman in The New York Times that found lots of top-searched brands represent little more than a successful trademark filing on what are fairly generic products coming out of China. That doesn't mean the products are inherently bad—Herrman found the mystery brand gloves in his story to be "fine," but with something like a chef's knife no one wants a product that will only last a year.
Two things can make a knife expensive: materials and labor. Lots of the inexpensive knives you see on Amazon come from Yangjiang, China, which is probably the mass-manufactured knife and shears capital of the world. This is true of the Dalstrong knife below, for example. The city produces about 70% of the knives in China, many of which are drop-shipped. In this context, that means they are sold wholesale to other companies, which put their branding on them. None of this means the knives are inherently bad, but it is a major source of manufacturing scale and efficiency.
Additionally, many of these knives will be stamped as opposed to forged. That means many knife blades are cut from a large roll of steel. Stamping is cheaper than the forging process, which involves heating and pounding a single piece of steel. Again, a forged knife is not necessarily better than a stamped knife—our favorite budget knife from Victorinox is stamped and it's an excellent value.
One problem with Amazon listings is that they aren't always correct. For example, that Victorinox knife, which Victorinox itself lists as stamped, is listed as forged here. "Price should be a clue," says Jeremy Watson, founder of the well-curated online Japanese knife shop Chubo Knives. "Even if you look at some of the standard knife brands for sale in department and home stores, the wholesale price is generally half of what they sell it to consumers for. So think of the cost and what goes into producing a knife, and that will give you an idea of whether or not it's a good investment." Put another way: Because of the work involved in making it, a good knife can only get so cheap.
In terms of materials, according to the World Steel Association, there are 3,500 different types of steel available today. There is a good chance that if you’re buying a cheaper knife, it's made with cheaper steel. Watson notes, "quality of steel makes a big difference in ability to get sharp, to keep an edge, and to respond to sharpening." Some knife makers may try to cover up any steel quality issues with flashy patterns printed on the blade. David Eriksson, textile management PhD and associate professor at the University of Borås in Sweden, has a nice thread on this "printimascus" phenomenon.
What all that means for home cooks is that the cutlery we’re discussing here—even the knives that handle well, feel well-balanced, and come out of the box with incredibly razor-sharp blades—may not be the most durable. Watson did not mince words when asked what he thought: "Definitely stick with reputable brands. Even if you are not after a handmade knife from a renowned blacksmith, there are very good, high-quality knives from larger manufacturers." All that said, there were a couple of knives that performed well in our initial tests.
The branding on Dalstrong knives is aggressive and unforgettable. The company's images make it seem like they sell warrior weapons rather than kitchen tools, which makes sense considering they have a whole line co-branded with Call of Duty. But this knife was the top performer in this batch of testing. It took some force to get through the tougher vegetables, but the design of the knife, a more German-style, was such that it was easy to put some weight behind it while still feeling in total control. That was not the case with several other knives here. The Dalstrong arrived to us as a very sharp knife; it sliced beautifully through tomatoes and offered nice handling when mincing herbs.
The handle was comfortable and it was easy to choke up on the bolster even though the carbon-steel blade is huge (the blade length is only 8 inches, but it feels bigger). This is a heavy, full-tang knife—it weighed in at 270 grams, which is about 50% more than the Mac Professional Chef's knife, which has come out on top of our chef's knife testing for several years. The company also notes that this is a forged knife.
The Shan Zu knife feels balanced and nice in hand. Even though it weighs 20% more than the Mac Pro, it doesn't feel heavy in the same way the Dalstrong does. It was fairly smooth cutting through sweet potatoes and flew right through the tomatoes. When it came to chopping herbs this one performed best of the bunch—it was very responsive and easy to move around the board.
As far as we can tell, this is the best-selling kitchen knife on Amazon and has well over 10,000 reviews, 90% of which are positive. But this thing feels like a toy. A slippery toy. It did cut surprisingly well through the root vegetables, but using it didn't inspire a lot of confidence. It seemed like it might slip and cut a finger at any moment.
The Tuo knife gave the poorest performance of the bunch. It jammed repeatedly trying to get through the sweet potato and even had a hard time slicing tomatoes. The biggest issue was with the grip. It has the opposite of an ergonomic handle; instead, it's bulbous and very hard to grip. Combined with the fact that the knife was incredibly lightweight it led to a feeling of instability.
This looks to be one of the "printamascus" knives Ericksson wrote about. It felt both too light and unbalanced, which can be a dangerous combination with a sharp blade, which the Paudin did have, making fairly easy work of the sweet potatoes. The bummer of this knife was using it to mince and chop herbs and garlic. The blade didn't come off the cutting board easily, almost getting stuck at times. It made for a very uneven experience.
Some nice things about the Mosfiata knife: It comes with a knife sharpener and a finger guard. It lists the specific steel the knife is made of (1.4116). However, it also lists that steel as a "high carbon stainless steel," which, Watson notes, is kind of an oxymoron. The composition of a high carbon steel will lack the amount of chromium—the thing that makes it stainless—to qualify as stainless steel. As for the actual handling and performance of the knife, its chopping and slicing were similarly labored to the Tuo above, however, this was a much more comfortable knife to hold. The micarta (laminate) handle had a more ergonomic shape and didn't feel slippery.
We subjected each knife to the same tests all our other chef's knives go through. After spending some time holding them to get a feel for the handle, the weight of the knife, and how well-balanced (or not) it was, we started chopping, slicing, and dicing through tough raw sweet potatoes and carrots, delicate tomatoes, onions, and herbs. We also included the Victorinox Swiss Classic chef's knife, our top budget pick, in this testing to see how these brands compared to a known performer.
If you purchase kitchen gear and gadgets on Amazon, you will encounter these knives. We don't think the Dalstrong and Shan Zu, both of which performed well in our testing, are necessarily bad knives—and they certainly look stylish. But even though they come out of the box slicing impressively, there are reasons to doubt that they’d hold up over time and, as we always emphasize, if a knife gets dull, it can be dangerous. We’ll continue to work them to see how well they hold an edge and sharpen. If cost is an issue or if you’re a beginner who doesn't want to drop hundreds of dollars on your first knife, it's possible to get quality knives that are not much more expensive than these. Watson recommends a Tojiro if you’re looking for a value Japanese-style knife, and we’ve had good luck for years with Misen's Western-style chef's knife or the much lighter Swiss Classic from Victorinox.