Finding out if a chef knife is the one for you is to hold it in your chopping hand and ask – How does it feel? And one of the important things that affects how a knife feels in your hand can be – its length. So, when shopping for a quality chef knife, you’ll be smart to be familiar with the various sizes available.
There are basically two standard sizes of chef knives – an 8-inch and a 10-inch. (The length refers to the blade only – not including the handle.) The 8-inch length is designed more for consumers and the 10-inch for professionals. (There’s also an 11-inch you can sometimes find, but it’s more unusual.) Most major manufacturers make chef knives in these sizes, but not in every type. The 8-inches is probably the most all-out common. So if you want to go with the herd, buy an 8-inch blade. Otherwise, ponder it some, and try out both sizes.
Pros and Cons
There’s no doubt an 8-inch blade is more straightforward to maneuver than its longer sister. Because of this, most home cooks feel more comfortable with this size. It’s not as intimidating. Plus, your average knife block doesn’t usually fit a 10-inch blade (much less an 11). So, there’s less chance you’ll need to make unique plans to revamp how you store your knives.
Yet, for many home cooks, especially those who cook enough to feel like pros, nothing will do but a 10-inch chef’s.
They find the heft and size of the blade speeds up their prep work when dealing with large quantities or handling cumbersome foods like pumpkins and squash and bundles of kale. And the width of the blade enables them to effortlessly scoop up whatever they’ve just chopped up and toss it in the soup pot. Also, if they have large hands, a wide blade ensures their knuckles don’t get pinched between the handle and cutting board when slicing and dicing.
That’s fine. Choose whatever size you’re most comfortable with. And what will work best for the range of tasks you need it for, from cubing carrots to splitting open a melon.
A Couple of Non-Trad Alternatives
In the last few years, increasing numbers of manufacturers have begun offering a 9-inch chef knife, which is awesome news because it’s a great in-between size – a touch more oomph without going the whole hog. Messermeister was one of the first manufacturers to produce this model, but now other major brands, such as Wusthof and Henckels, have followed suit. So, if you desire more knives but aren’t ready to jump up to a 10-inch, you’ve got an intermediate option.
Meanwhile, coming from Japan, a new chef knife style is gaining immense popularity. It’s called a santoku (pronounced “sahn-TOH-Koo”) and sports a different shape than traditional chefs – broader (or broader) with not as sharp a point. What’s nice about a santoku is you end up getting the width of much larger knife without the length.
You can get the advantage of the perks of a longer blade without having to suffer the unwieldiness. Santoku’s come in different sizes, but a 7-inch blade tends to be the standard and is comparable to an 8-inch chef’s.
If you’re unsure what, length of the chef knife is best for you, I recommend going with a standard consumer-sized 8-inch chef’s. Or if you favor Japanese styling and a shorter blade, then a 7-inch santoku. Leave it up to experience to eventually teach you what you do or don’t favor. For that matter, nothing says you can’t buy a couple of different lengths/types and switch back and forth between them.
The other alternative is the Almazan Kitchen® Serbian chef knife. This is a rustic all-around cooking tool that will solve everyday slicing & dicing tasks.
Remember – it doesn’t matter what size blade your favorite celebrity chef brandishes or highly recommends. What matters most is what works best for you. Familiarize yourself with the different lengths (and types) of chef knives, and you’ll be much happier with what you buy.