Gift Ideas for Cooks: Best Kitchen Knives for Home Cooks and Chefs

Trying to find great gift ideas for home cooks or burgeoning chefs? Chef Todd Knoll of Jordan Winery recommends three very different–and equally useful– best kitchen knives for the holidays, birthday or house-warming gifts.

When he suggested making a video with his best knives recommendations, I was thrilled to learn more about knife anatomy, types, construction and uses. My favorite Christmas gift of all time is a set of MAC knives my husband bought me when I’d just begun getting serious about home cooking. Chopping instantly went from being a forced chore to a relaxation technique. I love these two knives so much, I’ve been known to bring them on vacation. And in the words of Anthony Bourdain, “I’m hungry for more.”

Overall, Chef Knoll prefers stainless steel knives to high carbon steel due to maintenance. Influenced by Asian cooking while growing up in Hawaii, he has an affinity for all things Japanese and Chinese, including knives. There are several key differences between traditional Western and Japanese knives when making a purchase, such as hardness, weight, sharpening maintenance, bolster and lifespan — generally speaking. (It comes down to personal preference.) Here’s a list of his three favorite knives:

Chef Todd Knoll’s Recommended Knives:

2 sharp knives in a table
All-purpose chef’s knives

Chef’s knife

If Chef Knoll could only have one knife, it would be a chef’s knife, known as “Gyutou” or “Santoku” in Japanese, depending on style. This knife slices, chops, minces–you name it. His favorite purveyor is Korin, founded by Saori Kawano. Korin sells the Nenohi Nenox G-type Gyutou in 8.2 and 10.5 inch ($233-$311) but more affordable models are available from $70. Korin has a wide selection of chef’s knives of high quality, including recommendations for home chefs, and also employs a knife master for sharpening services. If you want to really splurge and wow your loved one, buy a stunning chef’s knife you personally selected direct from the source in Japan at

a person holding the edge of a sharp knife
Ittosai petty knife

Paring knife

Also designed to be all-purpose like a chef’s knife but smaller. The Japanese style is known as a petty knife, and is ideal for peeling and coring. Prices online range from $5 to $200, but it’s best to spend somewhere in between. Korin sells the Ittosai Stainless Steel Petty Knife in 5.9 inch for $100 but a broad selection is available beginning at $50. Korin also sells two-knife gift box sets including a chef’s knife and a paring knife.

a slicer heavy knife for cutting pork and meat
Cleaver by Dexter-Russell


The third knife on Chef Knoll’s must-have list is a Chinese-style cleaver by Misono. Not to be confused with a Chinese chef’s knife (which has a similar rectangular shape), the Chinese cleaver has myriad uses demonstrated in the above video. US-based Dexter-Russell is a solid manufacturer of Chinese cleavers and its 8 inch is a great value at around $40 on

I hope my husband or mother reads this post, because I really want a Dexter cleaver in my stocking this year.

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About the Author

Born and raised in rural Kansas, Lisa Mattson fell in love with wine during college in South Florida and worked for a wine magazine before moving to Northern California. She spent almost a decade working as a writer, marketing director and photographer/videographer for Jordan Winery and now serves as a hospitality design and marketing consultant for several wineries, including Jordan. She also designs succulent gardens under the name Sonoma Succulents. When she’s not eating and sipping her way through Sonoma County in the summer and Baja California Sur in the winter, she travels the world with her husband in search of new succulents, ethnic foods, snorkeling spots and tiki bars.

    • Stanley Thomas
    • March 8, 2021

    Grew up with a kitchen drawer filled with chipped warped dollar store knives and getting a simple Victorian that fit me was life changing

    • Mary
    • April 3, 2016

    The video is simple and straight to the point. It basically provides information on the kind of knives that every household should have. Thanks for sharing this great video. I have created a more thorough review on the different types of kitchen knives on this page. Please feel free to read and leave a comment,

    • Lorrie S. LeBeaux
    • November 27, 2010

    Great information. I like the fact that home cooking information is being posted on a wine blog. Most wine lovers are foodies as well, and they love learning all they can about wine and food.

    Wine and food are meant to be together; so it is nice to see cooking education imparted into the blog!

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