Though I am not a trained chef, I cook and prepare gourmet meals, spending many hours with a knife in hand. The use of a good knife is highly important in the kitchen. The comfort in hand, sharpness of blade, how long the blade stays sharp, and the balance in the hand are my criteria. These are my opinions only, and may not apply to how they are used by another.
Wusthof Classic 8 inch chef knife
I have had the Wusthof chef knife for 14 years. The first important thing about Wusthof Classic is that the handles are resin, and not wood. I am constantly cutting and chopping and washing the knives, though never in the dishwasher. Wood handles get dry and need oil, just a fact of life. I look for ease. This was a point in favor of Wusthof. Wusthof uses high carbon steel, which holds a sharp edge far longer than blades with a lower carbon content. With a little work, the knife keeps a good sharp edge and works perfectly. The Wusthof chef knife has better weight than any knife I had held before, also a solid point in its favor. It is relatively well balanced and has a full tang, meaning the steel extends the entire length of the knife, into the handle, where it is riveted in place.
Cutco 9.25 inch chef knife
About 3 years ago I bought the Cutco chef knife. First, it is far longer than most other chef knives. This is good when I am chopping a larger quantity of food, but generally it is just long. I am less accustomed to the length, so that is a minus. The weight or heft of the knife is light in comparison to the Wusthof Classic chef knife. It looks nice, but is less balanced in my hand. It does have full tang and the handles are riveted in place. It is a sharp knife, but the company wants it shipped to them for sharpening. This is nice, in the sense that one knows it will be sharpened properly. It is an aggravation to have to take the knife somewhere else. All in all not a bad knife, but not my first choice or recommendation.
Wusthof Grand Prix 7 inch Santoku
In 1998 the Wusthof Classic line did not have a Santoku knife, so I got the Grand Prix Santoku. It does not suit me well, though I use it occasionally. The Santoku blade has little wells cut into the blade, for the purpose of easy release of foods when chopping foods or carving meats. The Grand Prix line does not have the good weight of the Classic line, does not have full tang, and the blade has a straighter edge. For straight down chopping, this works fine. I do a lot of rocker chopping, using the tip of the knife as a pivot and coming down again and again. The Wusthof Grand Prix Santoku does not function well for this application.
Hammer Stahl 7.5 inch Santoku
This year I bought a Hammer Stahl 7.5 inch Santoku knife. I have been using it almost exclusively ever since. This knife is also made of high carbon steel. The weight of the knife is impressive, though extremely well balanced in the hand. The weight makes chopping seem effortless. The shape of the handle fits well in the hand. It is a Santoku blade, though the little wells are much farther back from the blade edge. The line of the blade has more curve, unlike the Wusthof Grand Prix Santoku, allowing great ease with pivot chopping. The blade has full tang, and the knife is a thing of beauty with the resin impregnated Pakka wood handles. For great grip, weight and balance, this is the best knife I own. It is still very sharp after half a year of constant use.
Any really good knife is going to be relatively expensive. These knives range from 60 dollars for the Wusthof Grand Prix Santoku to 160 dollars for the Hammer Stahl Santoku. The Wusthof chef knife costs about 130 dollars, where the Cutco chef knife is about 150 dollars. If possible, go to a store that sells high quality knives and try them out first. Decide what kind of knife you will use most and invest in at least one good knife.
Thank you for taking the time to read my article. I hope it was informative and helped you along your own culinary journey.