Chef’s Resources Knife Review Rating System

As we have rated different culinary knives costing anywhere from $13 – $400 or more we have found the need to develop a knife rating system which fairly represents the cost and quality of knives across such a broad spectrum of cost. This is what we have so far…but it will change as our rating system evolves.

We use a 5-star rating system where 5 is a freaking awesome knife which could not be any better. A 3 is an average mass produced professional kitchen knife (3 is not bad…it’s just not a 5!). A 2 is your typical “house” kitchen knife which costs about $10 – $35 bucks and some guy in a van comes around every month to through on a sharpening grinder. They work…but they are like driving a Pinto (i.e. cheap car!)

What evaluations do we use to calculate our knife reviews? That’s a hard question, and one which keeps evolving. This is our evaluation list so far:

  • Sharpness:
    • Up to 5 stars possible
    • Diced Onion (5)
    • Basil Chiffonade (3)
    • Minced Shallot (5)
    • Carrot drag pull (5)
    • Paper push test (3)
    • Free-hand tomato slice (3)
  • Comfort:
    • 5 stars possible
    • Comfort is a subjective thing, but there are certain standards which still apply such as:
      • does it feel comfortable in the hand?
      • is the bolster comfortable, or is it awkward, sharp, obtrusive in the hand?
      • is the handle too big or too small in the hand?
  • Quality of materials:
    • 5 stars possible
    • is it made from quality or mediocre steel?
      • some knives can be very sharp out of the box…but if the quality of the steel is sub-par then the knife will quickly loose its usefulness after a short times use in a professional kitchen.
    • is it durable?
    • is the handle quality?
  • Quality of construction/design:
    • 4 stars possible
    • overall quality of construction?
    • does it have a quality design; engraved pin or marker; engraved end-cap, etc
    • is it full tang or comparable?
  • General Ratings:
    • Blade Price per Inch:
      • 5 stars possible
      • The cost of a knife is a rough (though admittedly inaccurate) way of judging its quality. We take the cost and divide it by the length of the blade to determine the cost per inch for the blade
      • each knife gets a rating of 1 – 4 based upon cost:
        • 1 = under $4 per blade inch
        • 2 = $4.01 – $9 per blade inch
        • 3 = $9.01 – $20 per blade inch
        • 4 = any knife more expensive than $20 per blade inch
      • Being more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean it is a better knife…but one would certainly hope & expect that a more expensive knife will perform better than an inexpensive knife
    • Utility:
      • 5 stars possible
      • does the knife want to make the cut for you? Or do you have to work it to make the cut for which it was designed to do?
        • for instance, does the chef knife have a nice roll to it when slicing, or does it fall flat and take extra effort to make clean cuts?
      • Is it long enough/short enough for it’s stated purpose?
        • for instance, a 14″ chef’s knife is too long for most people to be able to handle…and a 6″ is too short.
    • Overall Impression:
      • 7 stars possible
      • does the knife live up to it’s name (chef knife, boning knife, etc)
      • general overall impression
      • also used to bump the score up or down slightly based upon overall impression
    • Our Star Rating:
      • 5 stars possible
      • the rating we would give the knife
        • our Rating System is a way to try to analytically rate a knife. But Our Star Rating is what we would give this knife if we were to recommend it (or not!) to another professional chef.

Other Considerations

  • Blade angle and shape
    • no stars – informational only
    • Flat Grind
    • Taper Grind
    • Hollow Grind
    • Convex Grind
    • Beveled Grind

Blade Grind Cross Sections

 

Knife Review Example
Possible Actual Rating Test Notes
Sharpness
5 2 Carrot-Lengthwise Test Major struggle; some struggle; minor struggle; hot knife through butter
5 3 Shallot Test Major struggle; some struggle; minor struggle; hot knife through butter
5 4 Onion Test Major struggle; some struggle; minor struggle; hot knife through butter
3 3 Tomato Test Can’t do it; needs help to get it started; multiple slicing action needed; takes just one single very smooth slice
3 3 Basil Test Shreds or bruises; minor bruising; no bruising
3 3 Paper Test Can’t do it; works but with a little resistance; hot knife through butter
Comfort
5 3 Comfortable Handle & Bolster
Quality Materials
5  5 Steel Quality
3  3 Durability
3  3 Handle Quality
Quality Construction/Design
4  4 Overall Construction Quality
3  2 Design, Engraving, End-cap, etc
General Ratings
5  3 High-end Knife? 1 = under $25;      2 = $26 – $75;      3 = $76 – $150;      4 = $151 – $300;      5 = $301+
5  3 Utility
7  5 Overall Impression
5 3 Our Star Rating
Total
69 52  4.5 Stars = Average Quality Professional Knife – See Overall Ranking Below
formula: (actual score/total possible*6)

 

Overall Ranking Code

Our rating system is based upon what we would expect from a Professional Kitchen Knife. A “pretty” knife looks good…but it had better perform well in the kitchen or it will get a poor rating from us! Also, we round all rating down, meaning that a 3.9 is a 3 star rating. To compare the high-end knives with a 5 star rating, look at the decimal value for comparison.

Detailed Ranks

  • Outstanding
    (5 – 5.9 stars)
  • Superior
    (4 – 4.9 stars)
  • Average/Normal
    (3 – 3.9 stars)
  • Substandard
    (2 – 2.9 stars)
  • Poor
    (0 – 1.9 stars)

Overall Ranks

  • 5 StarsOutstanding, Excellent!  No effort is needed, hot knife thru butter realized. Makes you smile. Very high quality materials & workmanship.
  • 4 StarsSuperior Far above average. Almost no effort is needed for cut tests. High quality materials/workmanship.
  • 3 StarsAverage professional knife. Takes a little work, may not cut cleanly all the time. Average quality materials/workmanship.
  • 2 StarsLower-end professional knife. May need to muscle through cuts. Have to focus on making the cut correctly; it may bruise or tear. Basic quality materials/workmanship.
  • 1 StarPoor sub-standard knife. Why bother – toss it!

 

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