Choosing the correct chef knife size is an important consideration when picking a chef’s knife. Chef’s knives come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The most important consideration is choosing the correct chef knife length for you.
In this article, I’ll go into detail about how to choose the correct-sized chef’s knife and how big your chef’s knife should be.
There are some quick and easy methods you can use to help understand the correct knife size for you.
The quick answer
For most people, a chef’s knife should be 8 inches long. The length refers to the blade only, not including the handle. 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.
My chef knife recommendations and reviews
|Knife size||My personal favorite||View 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 hands||Global 6 Inch (link to Amazon)||Take me there|
|Chef’s knives for big hands||Global 10 Inch (link to Amazon)||Take me there|
How to choose chef knife size
What is knife length?
The length of the knife refers to the blade of the knife. It does not include the length of the handle.
Chef’s knives generally come in 6, 8 and 10-inch lengths and generally taller people will suit longer knife lengths.
Method 1. Chef knife size guide
Below is a table that gives some estimates for how different knife lengths may suit different people based on their height.
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 can also use the forearm test in the next section.
|User Height||Blade Length||My Recommendations|
|< 5.4 ft||6 inches||Global 6 Inch (link to Amazon)|
|5.9 ft||8 inches||Wüsthof Classic 8 Inch (link to Amazon)|
|> 6.1 ft||10 inches||Global 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.
My video at the top of this article shows how to do the forearm test in detail, with or without an actual knife.
Chef’s knife dimensions guide
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.
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.
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.
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.
6 inch vs 8 inch vs 10 inch chef’s 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 the 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 awkward.
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.