How Big Should a Chef’s Knife Be – A Full Guide


Having a good chef’s knife in your kitchen can make cooking a joy, both for professional chefs and home cooks.

It makes food preparation much easier and quicker, I believe that taking the time to consider what would be the best chef knife for you is well worth doing given the long term benefits.

A good quality knife will last decades if you look after it well so it’s well worth investing a bit of time in getting the right one.

One of the key factors in choosing a knife is getting one that is comfortable. This means having control over the knife, as well as it being comfortable for your hand and wrist.

Given that we all come in different shapes and sizes, not every knife will suit every person.

A large knife will be hard to control for a smaller person and could easily lead to arm/wrist strain and increase the risk of injury.

The size of the knife you choose can make a big difference to how easy and comfortable it is to use, so let’s take a look into how big your chef’s knife should be.

In this article, I’ll go into detail about how to choose the right sized chef’s knife and how big your chef’s knife should be.

I’ll give a description about the most important parts of a chef’s knife as well as a couple of simple guides about how to choose the correct size.

For most people, a chef’s knife should be 8 inches long. Chef’s knives can range between 6 to 14 inches. The best way to choose the size of your chef’s knife is to pick a knife with a blade length similar to the length from your forearm, from your elbow to your wrist.

Looking for a chef’s knife?

I’ve written a lot of in-depth reviews on all types of kitchen knives.

If you’re looking for a chef knife of a certain size then I would recommend checking them out.

All the knives I feature are made from top quality materials by great manufacturers, so to understand which chef knife size is best for you then check out the rest of this article.

My chef knife recommendations and reviews

Knife sizeMy personal favoriteView the full list
The best 8-inch chef’s knives (average)Wüsthof Classic 8 Inch (link to Amazon)Take me there
Chef’s knives for small handsGlobal 6 Inch (link to Amazon)Take me there
Chef’s knives for big handsGlobal 10 Inch (link to Amazon)Take me there

How to choose your chef’s knife size – Two easy methods

Method 1. Follow my chef knife size guide

Below is a table that gives some estimates for how different knife lengths may suit different people.

The most popular knives for home use are 8 – 10 inches in length. If you’re getting a knife as a gift then this table should be really useful.

If you’re purchasing it for yourself then you should use the forearm test in the next section.

Blade LengthUser HeightMy Recommendations
6 inches< 5.4 ftGlobal 6 Inch (link to Amazon)
8 inches5.9 ftWüsthof Classic 8 Inch (link to Amazon)
10 inches> 6.1 ftGlobal 10 Inch (link to Amazon)

For home use, it’s usually worth considering whether a knife will be shared between partners or the family. You may think you can handle a 12-inch knife, but it may not be very practical for other members of the household!

In these cases, we find it best to pick the size which is in between, usually the 10 or 8-inch knife.

Method 2. The forearm test

The above table is a very useful guide of which knife you should buy, especially if you are buying it as a gift and don’t have access to the receiver’s forearm!

But we all come in different shapes and sizes and there is a really quick and easy way to measure whether a knife is the right size for you. The forearm test.

Measure the knife from the tip of the blade to the heel of the blade against your forearm, with the heel at your wrist. Usually, you will be comfortable using a knife which is a similar length to your forearm.

You should be looking for a knife that has a similar length from heel to tip as your wrist to your elbow.

If it’s longer than your forearm then you might find it difficult to control. If it’s shorter than your forearm then you miss out on.

If you are buying the knife online you can measure your forearm with a ruler and then search for the correct sized knives that way.

We all have differently proportioned limbs, so although the table we have presented is a really useful rough guide, the forearm test should ensure that you pick the perfect knife for you.

Here’s a handy video showing an example of the forearm test:

6 inch vs 8 inch vs 10 inch chef knife

When looking for a chef’s knife one of the first things you’ll notice is that they come in different sizes.

For Western chef’s knives, this tends to be either 6, 8 or 10 inches, measured by measuring the length of the blade, not including the handle.

Which you choose usually depends on your own size, specifically the length of your forearm, as I’ve described in the forearm test above.

Of course, this might not be clear cut, what do you do if your forearm is 7 inches, do you go for a 6 or 8 inch knife?

Is a 6 inch chef knife too small

A 6 inch knife is certainly not too small. In fact for most people 5.4ft and under it’s the ideal size.

When choosing a knife using the forearm test I’ve shown above, I would advise generally rounding down, so if your forearm is 7 inches long, go for a 6-inch knife rather than an 8 inch knife.

A smaller knife gives you more control and as a general rule, it’s better for a knife to be a little too small rather than a little too big.

And smaller knives cost less too which is an added bonus!

Although, you should also consider who else is using the knife.

Often a household will have one quality chef’s knife that gets used by various people (of various sizes), in that case, an 8 inch knife might be best option.

Is a 8 inch chef knife too big

8 inches is the best size chef’s knife for the average person and is the size most chef’s knives come in as standard.

If you’re in a family household where the wife, husband, kids, maybe even grandparents will all be using the knife, then an 8 inch length is a good one to go for.

It’s not really big enough for smaller people to find unmanageable, and it’s not small enough for tall people to find arkward.

I’ve recommended the Wüsthof 8 inch above, which is a fantastic knife.

But if you’re a little worried about it feeling too bulky then the Global 8 inch (View it on Amazon) would be ideal for you. It’s a very slim and lightweight knife, it has no bolster and the handle is hollow and filled with sand to keep the weight low.

Is a 10 inch chef knife too big

The 10 inch knife is the one that comes with the largest risk.

Generally taller people will find both an 8 inch and 6 inch knife comfortable. But a smaller person will usually find a 10 inch knife very awkward to use.

I would only recommend buying a 10 inch knife if you’re around 6.1ft+ tall with a 10 inch forearm and the knife isn’t going to be jointly used by other people who aren’t quite as big as you.

If you’re an average size or smaller then a 10 inch knife will be too big.

Other knife size considerations

I’ve talked about the knife length above, which is the main factor that determines which size knife will suit you but there are some other considerations too.

Choosing the best size chef knife for you comes down to three main properties of the knife:

  • Knife length (as discussed above, this is the length of the blade)
  • Heel size (determines the space your knuckles will have)
  • Bolster (adds weight to the knife)

All of these knife parts come in varying sizes and weights depending on the knife and usually, your preference will revolve around your own height and the size of your hands.

To learn more, I’ve described each below and why each is an important feature when choosing the best size chef knife for you.

Knife Length

The length of a knife is the measurement of the blade length, not including the handle.

An 8-inch knife will have an 8-inch long blade, with the handle not included.

Chef’s knives vary in length from 6 inches to 14 inches, the size which is right for you generally depends on your own size.

To understand which knife length will suit you the best check out the ‘Choosing the size’ section of this article above.

Heel

The heel of a knife is the length between the handle and the sharp edge of the blade.

Essentially it’s the distance your fingers will have between the handle and the cutting board.

A larger heel should suit people with larger hands, giving plenty of space between your fingers and the cutting board.

If the heel is too small then your knuckles are likely to hit the surface of the cutting board with the up-and-down motion of the knife.

The heel should be at least long enough to give your knuckles some clearance from the cutting board.

Knives designed for smaller hands will generally have a smaller heel, making them easier to control.

Bolster

The bolster of the knife is the thick piece of metal where the blade and handle meet.

Not all knives will have a bolster, but in western style chef’s knives a bolster is usually a sign of good quality.

Their added weight can often be comfortable for larger users, making the knife easier to control.

For smaller cooks, the added weight of a large bolster can put more strain on the hand and wrist.

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