The Definitive ATBBQ Kitchen Knife Buying Guide

The Definitive ATBBQ Kitchen Knife Buying Guide


Need to prep some Texas-style brisket or mince some herbs? Trying to extract as much meat as you can from your turkey? There's a kitchen knife for that.

No matter what task you're taking on, kitchen knives are an essential item in your culinary cupboard. Of our hundreds of recipes we've developed through the years, you'd be hard pressed to find one that didn't use a knife.

When purchasing a kitchen knife, the type and style you choose will ultimately depend on your specific level of experience and preferred cooking style. To help you out, we've compiled everything you need to know about these razor sharp tools to kick start your decision-making process.

Anatomy of a Kitchen Knife

Blade: The long, flat section of the knife used to crush and occasionally transport food.

Bolster: A thick band of steel connecting the blade to the handle, providing finger protection and added weight for better balance. Knives have a full bolster, half bolster, or no bolster at all.

Handle: Where the knife is held. Western style knife handles sandwich the tang and have rivets. Eastern or Japanese knives have more rounded handles and are rivetless.

Tang: Section of the blade that extends into the handle, providing increased durability and weight. Knives can have a full tang, partial tang, or no tang.

Butt: The section of the handle farthest from the blade.

Spine: The unsharpened top of the blade

Tip: The far end of the blade used for puncturing, piercing and quick slicing.

Edge: The working part of the blade used for cutting. It is either straight or serrated. Granton edges have dimples to reduce friction and enhance slicing ability.

The Blade

You can choose from several types of blade material, and each type has its own advantages.

Stainless Steel

The metal your great grandparents used, stainless steel is the most common blade material. While the term "stainless" is a bit of a myth ("stain-resistant" is more accurate), these budget friendly knives are less likely to rust than carbon steel or high carbon and generally require less maintenance.

Carbon Steel

Carbon steel is a step up in price from stainless steel, but it's also a step up in quality. It's also known for being easier to sharpen and keeping its edge longer while also providing more precise cuts. And while these knives do require greater skill when compared to stainless, they are a step softer than their high carbon counterparts.

High Carbon Steel

Another rung up the ladder of blade metals is high carbon stainless steel. With increased strength, edge retention, stain resistance and cutting ability, high carbon knives are premium knives that offer the benefits of both carbon steel and stainless steel. Seeing "high carbon steel" on a label or the blade itself is an indication the knife blade will be particularly hard and sharp.


With a naturally sharp edge that rarely needs sharpening, ceramic blade knives are great at cutting fruits and veggies and can withstand harsh environs without showing discoloration or rust. A relative newcomer to the knife world, theses budget conscious blades are hard, lightweight and less susceptible to damage that acidic foods can cause with other knives.

The Knife Handle

After the blade, the handle is the most important part of a knife. Similar to the blade, the handle's material can effect how well the knife works as well as the price.


Compared to other materials, wood is softer and can be more comfortable, and different species of wood can improve the feel and comfort level. The classic look of a wood handled knife comes with a greater need to thoroughly clean and sterilize it after use, as wood is naturally porous and therefore more susceptible to bacteria.

Laminates and Synthetics

Laminate handles are made from wood composites and plastic resin, which gives this increasingly popular material the look of wood without the sanitary concerns. Synthetics such as fibrox or plastic are man-made and easier to maintain than wood, while also being lighter than any other material.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel handles are the most sanitary, easiest to maintain and the most durable. They can also be slippery when wet and are heavier than other materials, which can cause a shift in the balance of a knife and cause hand fatigue.

Pro Tip: Always hold a kitchen knife before you buy it. Holding a knife lets you experience how it fits in your hand. It doesn't matter how expensive a knife is if you're not comfortable with the grip or you don't like how it balances when you to use it.

Japanese vs. German Knives

There are two primary countries of origin for kitchen knives--Japan and Germany. Both styles have been developed over centuries and each has its own set of traditions and devotees.

Japanese Style Knives

Japan has developed several of its own types of knives, including the Nakiri and the Santoku knife. Japanese knives are known for their harder steel, lighter handle and ultra thin, broad blade. They are incredibly sharp with narrow edges perfect for executing thin, delicate cuts with ease.

German Style Knives

German (also known as Western) style knives have heavier handles and thicker blades with wider edges. Their softer steel is more forgiving and less prone to chipping. While not as razor sharp as a Japanese knife, a German knife will make larger cuts less difficult.

Forged vs. Stamped

All kitchen knives are made by either forging or stamping, and the two construction methods can mean significant differences in otherwise similar-looking knives.

Forged Blades

Forged blades are thicker, heavier and usually feature a heavy bolster. Professional chef's knives are almost always forged, which is to say they are handcrafted from a single piece of steel that's been heated and pounded into form. They're typically sharper and keep an edge longer, and are more expensive than stamped blades.

Stamped Blades

Stamped blades are punched or cut out from a single piece of steel. They will be lighter with a thinner blade and no bolster, and are less expensive than forged knives.

Some chefs think forged knives will always be more durable and higher quality than stamped knives, and while that used to be true, technology has advanced to the point where it's not always the case. In fact, sometimes the only thing a forged blade knife and a newer stamped blade knife won't have in common is the price.

Serrated Knife vs. Straight Edged Knife

There's a time and a place for both straight edge and serrated knives. A serrated knife shinies when you need to use a sawing motion. A bread knife (which also works wonders on tomatoes) is one example of a serrated knife.

The best time for a straight edge knife is when you need to make a simple push cut, such as slicing open a melon with a chef's knife or carving meat with a slicing knife. Straight edge knives have a classic look and are versatile.

Knife Blocks

Knife blocks look great on a kitchen counter, but if you're just starting out we recommend buying one quality kitchen knife at a time, then getting a block to put them in. The main reason we recommend a "one at a time" approach is beginners likely won't know which knives are the best knives for them until they have some cooking experience. In addition, knife sets from lesser brands often have duplicate knives just to fill out the set.

New to cooking and not sure which knife to get? Check out The Three Kitchen Knives Every Cook Needs

Size, Care and Storage


While most knife types have a standard blade length, sizes can vary and what you choose mostly depends on personal preference. Slicing or carving knives, for example, are usually in the 8 to 10 inch range but can be as long as 12 to 14 inches. A longer carving knife can actually be easier to use on large items, as longer blades can make longer cuts, and many longer carving knives come with rounded tips which allow you to continue cutting without lifting the knife.

Paring knives are considerably shorter, typically 3 to 5 inches. And though this is not a wide range, the differences in size can be meaningful as 3-inch knives will give you more cutting control for precision jobs while longer paring knives can mean fewer cuts when peeling, dicing or slicing.


To keep your knives in the best shape possible, keep them away from the dishwasher. High temperatures can damage the blade and the handle, and the dishwasher can cause corrosion and staining. Hand washing is the way to go to keep your knife in the best condition.


If you don't have a knife block, the best options include individual sheaths, magnetic racks, or a knife bag.

Pro Tip: A sharp knife is a safe knife. Most knife accidents occur due to dull knives which require more pressure to make cuts. This is why knife sharpeners not only extend the life of a knife, they also make them safer. We recommend buying a sharpener when you purchase your first knife.


As with anything, there are budget knives and there are knives you can look at as an investment. How often you plan to use your knife should be the main factor in your spending decision, as the more often you use your knife the more you will want it to be of good quality. If you decide to go the investment route, you should be willing to spend more money, but high quality and high price are not always tied directly together.

As you can see, there are many factors to consider when purchasing kitchen knives. The most important thing to remember is to choose a good knife and care for it properly so it can last a lifetime.