What Length Chef Knife Should I Get?

By Ryan Leavitt •  Updated: 05/17/21 •  5 min read

The knife is, without a doubt, one of the most important tools in the kitchen.

And the Chef’s variant – named precisely as such because it is used by professionals all over the world – is the ultimate workhorse.

Since it comes in numerous sizes – from 6 to 14 inches – it is quite understandable that this is asked by new home cooks.

So… what is the right length for you?

Do the Forearm Test

The easiest way to know which length of Chef’s knife to get is to do the forearm test. This is simply done by measuring your forearm – from the edge of your elbow to the heel of your wrist – and matching that up with a blade of the same length.

According to bladesmiths and kitchen pros, matching the blade’s length to your size is necessary to prevent straining too much while doing your chopping board chores.

This is a great rule of thumb if you’re going to a shop to choose from since you can just grab several Chef’s types and put them close to your forearm for comparison.

If you’re doing your shopping online, just measure your arm using a ruler and order the one with the closest length.

Check Out This Size Guide

This would be a good guide if you’re buying a knife as a gift for a family or friend.

If you know how tall (or short) they are then you can still get them a piece that would fit them well.

• 5 feet and 4 inches or shorter = 6 inches
• 5 feet and 5 inches to 6 feet = 8 inches
• 6 feet and 1 inch and taller = 10 inches

Other Factors to Consider

Let’s get one thing straight: length is important, yes.
But it’s not the only feature that must be taken into consideration when choosing a Chef’s type in general.

1. Heel Size

This is the part of the blade that does not touch or is not connected to the handle.

It is important to check this too because this, essentially, is the distance that your fingers will have from the chopping board.

If the heel is too short, your knuckles will likely hit the board when you’re slicing.

2. Bolster

This is the thicker part of the blade that connects the blade and the handle.

The bolster adds to the weight of the knife, helping the user with maneuverability.

Larger, longer Chef’s blades often have heavier bolsters. These are best fitted for larger individuals.

This feature is also a sign of good quality.
Thick, solid bolsters are an indicator of full tangs, which means that the blade won’t just fall off the handle like low-cost brands.

3. Overall Weight

The blade’s length, the heel’s distance, and the bolster’s thickness all point to two important factors which you should be taking into consideration when going on a knife hunt: the weight and the balance.

People who like heavy knives will often go for longer blades, wider heels, and thicker bolster. More often than not, these are fully-forged variants.

Even with the new tech that bladesmiths use today, stamping and cold pressing included, larger knives are heavier and heftier than smaller ones.

4. Balance

To be honest, weight is more subjective. Some like it heavy, others want it light.
This is why after assessing the weight of the piece in your hand, it’s important to check the balance next.

One way to do this is to place lift the knife an inch above the board, with your forefinger on the bolster.

A well-balanced blade won’t wobble. If it tilts towards the sharp point, the blade is too heavy. If it tilts towards the other end, the handle is too heavy.

Whether that’s a stamped or a fully-forged piece, make sure that your Chef’s knife is well-balanced.

Brands to Look Out For

Some companies offer Chef’s knives of different lengths. To be honest, these are the ones that care about their users since they understand the need for variety.

Here are some brands that you can rely on when it comes to this kitchen must-have.

Wusthof Classic – 6, 8, 10, and 12
• Zwilling J.A. Henckels Five Star – 6, 8, 10, and 12
Shun Premier – 6, 8, and 10

Below are cheaper options – each piece costing just under $50.

Victorinox Fibrox – 6, 8, and 10
Mercer Culinary – 6, 8, 10, and 12
• TUO Chef’s – 6 and 8

At the End of the Day, It’s All About Preference

The guide above helps a great deal, especially when you’re a confessed newbie in the kitchen.

But the feel of the knife in your hand is still the most important thing to take note of.

The best suggestion pros will give is to go to the store and try Chef’s knives of different lengths.

Aside from matching it up with your forearm, try using it.

Good shops will let you slice and dice various food items, allowing you to choose your purchase well.

Ryan Leavitt

Hi my name is Ryan Leavitt a Marine Corps Veteran and currently an over the road trucker (Long Haul). I am no expert chef but am enjoying preparing my own meals on the road and testing all the different knives.