A quality kitchen knife comes at a price, right? But is this an excuse for extortion? Of course not. A superior quality chef’s knife is a must-have in every kitchen and perhaps the most interesting part is that all the best ones have a less than $100 price tag. If you’re in the market shopping for the best chef knife under 100 you will find value in this post. We’ll look at a few best-sellers, their pros, and cons and end up with a list of red flags you should look for when getting a kitchen knife. Of course, you could pour excesses of $300 to get a kitchen knife but with the right research, you will realize that all the great knives are in the <$100 price tag. I’ll go through various knives and you will see how each one of them made it to my list.
Wusthof Classic 6 inch (the best chef knife under 100)
What do you get when you match a razor-sharp hardened stainless-steel blade to a Polyoxymethylene handle? A great quality kitchen knife without breaking the brand. Perhaps the biggest selling point of this three-rivet knife is in its smooth, curved handle. Since 1824, this German-based manufacturer Wusthof has been designing knives with curved handles for added comfortability and sturdiness. In this model, the brand puts a smooth contour next to the widened butt giving your hand leverage when cutting. In the box, this 6-inch chef’s knife comes paired with a 3.5-inch paring knife. Isn’t this one of the best ways you could use your $100?
The blade is crafted from high carbon hardened stainless steel. All the leading German knife brands (Wusthof, Henckels and the others) use this alloy as it’s resistant to chipping without compromising on ease of sharpening. When making this alloy, carbon is added for its durability, chromium for its resistance to staining and discoloration and molybdenum that gives the knife its resistance to corrosion. In fact, this blend is often referred to as German Stainless Steel as all the best knife brands make use of it.
The Polyoxymethylene (POM) handle is light and immune to dislocation and fading. 5 years down the line, the handle will still be as good as new as its fairly resistant to scratching too. This knife comes with a full tang handle – the visible extension of the blade that runs from the neck to the butt. When chopping, you will notice that the pinkie finger rests on the curved handle nicely giving you leverage (and comfort). Polyoxymethylene has a nice matte finish adding an aesthetic appeal to the knife.
All Wusthof knives including this Wusthof classic 6 inch have edges inclined at 14 degrees (on both sides). This cutting surface is a perfect match for the toughest of foods. With brands sharpening their edges at between 14 and 20 degrees, Wusthof knives lie on the sharper edge of this spectrum. The obvious advantage of this is that you have a sharp knife. However, sharp surfaces are more prone to chipping and this is a downside as it negatively affects this knife’s durability.
Wusthof Grand Prix II 6-inch Chef’s Knife
It’s no surprise another Wusthof knife is first runners up in this list. If you loved the Wusthof classic 6 inch, you will notice that the Grand Prix is a rebooted version of the Wusthof classic but with a different handle. It’s the second-best chef’s knife under $100 with only difference from the former being that it doesn’t come paired with a paring knife and that it has an even smoother curve. Let’s look at it in detail.
It has a polypropylene. Just like POM, polypropylene is as sturdy heat and water-resistant compound used in manufacturing budget knives. All Wusthof classic series knives have a polypropylene handle. Even though it’s just as hard and as dense as POM, it differs in that polypropylene is lighter and isn’t as durable. It finds industrial application as its more economical when compared to POM.
It uses the same blade as the Wusthof classic. The blade has slight curves on the belly. This knife has a tang too except that it’s covered by the polypropylene handle. The biggest difference between the Wusthof classic product line and the Grand Prix 2 is that the latter has rounder handles. The curve near the butt isn’t as steep either. On the first touch, you will notice that the Grand Prix 2’s handle is textured for added grip. This design is soft on the eyes while it makes the knife comfortable.
Shun 8-inch chef’s knife
This list wouldn’t be complete without featuring a Japanese knife. Wusthof makes great German (or western-inspired) knives while Shun makes Japanese knives. They differ in that Japanese knives have straighter edges and lighter blades while German ones are heavier and often thicker.
This knife is unique in that it has a straighter blade. When using it, you will notice that it tends to stay longer on the chopping board in comparison to the two Wusthof knives above. The beautiful polished mirror creates a nice reflective surface giving the knife a nostalgic Japanese feel. At the neck, where the blade meets the handle, there’s a lovely wavy pattern too.
Just like your typical Wusthof knife, Shun uses composite polymers on their handles too. In this model, a synthetic thermoplastic polymer is used. It’s strong and easy to maintain.
Japanese knives rarely have bolsters. Unless you fancy a knife that cuts with all parts of the blades from the tip to the neck, this will be a deal-breaker. Bolsters usually make knives bulky. Without one, this Shun model is lighter and versatile It’s easy to maneuver when making basic cuts such as when cutting onions.
The 61-point hardness on the Rockwell scale is this knife’s selling point. Hardness correlates to sharpness and its without a doubt that this knife is one of the sharpest ones you could buy. Hard blades can tolerate sharper edges but they’re more likely to chip. You’ll be the one making the decision. Either way, you couldn’t go wrong with this knife.