2. If your budget is $50 or less, this is your best bet:
Schmidt Brothers Cutlery, Forge 8” Chef Knife ($30, available here). Food writer and author Michael Ruhlman recommends this knife for any cook on a tight budget. Made of good quality stainless steel, this knife performs better than any other in its price point. It won’t hold stay sharp as well as a slightly more expensive knife, but with proper care and the occasional professional sharpening, it’s a solid addition to a simple home kitchen. Plus, the wood handle makes the knife more gift-worthy.
3. If you want something between $50 - $100:
Mac Chef Series Chef’s Knife, 7 1/4” ($59.95, available here). J. Kenji López-Alt, Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats and author of The Food Lab (@thefoodlab), says this one is “the most inexpensive knife I know of with a balanced forged blade, full tang, and riveted handle made out of good quality high carbon steel.” The slightly smaller blade is good for more intermediate cooks who want more precision when cutting or chopping.
4. If you want a really durable, quality knife for under $150:
Wusthof Classic 8” Chef’s Knife ($129.95, available here). There are plenty of trusted knife brands out there, but Ruhlman recommends Wusthof above all others. The 8-inch blade is multipurpose without being unwieldly. This German knife is made of stainless steel that’s also high carbon, meaning that it’s easy to clean but also that it stays sharper longer than many other knivesOn top of that, the Wusthof Classic has an evenly weighted, balanced handle that makes it really easy to control. Good for a beginner, but so user-friendly that more advanced cooks will appreciate it, as well.
5. If you want a really beautiful (but still functional) knife for under $150:
Togiharu Hammered Texture Damascus Gyutou, 8” ($149, available here). Made in Japan, this is still a Western style knife — Japanese style knives have single edged blades, meaning they’re only sharpened on one side, are more difficult to maintain, and aren’t as multipurpose as Western style knives — but it is thinner and more lightweight than most European knives. Also, the hammered steel and hardwood handle make for a really beautiful gift.
6. If you’re willing to splurge:
Misono UX10 Santoku ($179 - $199, available here). According to López-Alt, “The knife I use most at home is the Misono UX10 Santoku, which has a great balance of heft and maneuverability, has an asymmetrical bevel on its Swedish steel blade that can be honed to a razor-sharp edge, and is the right size for almost all kitchen tasks.” It’s probably better suited to a more seasoned cook with decent knife skills and an understanding of how to sharpen and care for a knife; though, the 7-inch stainless steel blade is durable and so easy to handle that anyone would appreciate it.