We Tested 10 Petty Knives—Our Favorites Made Food Prep Easy
Posted in Serious Eats
August 31, 2022

We Tested 10 Petty Knives—Our Favorites Made Food Prep Easy

the lineup of petty knives we tested on a marble countertop
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

To say that choosing a knife is personal is an understatement; for many chefs (as well as home cooks and Serious Eats editors) a knife is one of their most-used kitchen tools, and the “perfect” knife often comes down to a matter of personal preference. That’s why, when reviewing petty knives, I chose to showcase a few preferred models based on different features rather than one best choice. 

Petty knives (which are also called utility knives, not to be confused with utility box cutters; I’ll get more into the nomenclature of petty versus utility later in this review) are smaller than a chef’s knife (which usually have 8-inch blades) but larger than a paring knife (which have 2.5- to 4-inch blades); They usually have blades between 5.5 and 6 inches long and are nimble, versatile knives that deserve a place in your kitchen. 

It’s worth noting I have particularly petite hands, so what I liked may differ from what someone with larger hands might prefer. And the reality is, most of the knives I tested were great: many were extremely sharp fresh out of the box and had nimble blades that sliced cleanly through a variety of produce, raw chicken, and even cured, dried sausage. 

The Winners, at a Glance

The Best Overall Petty Knife: Tojiro DP Petty/Utility Knife

This model is a lovely example of a Japanese-style (read: triangular-shaped) petty knife that’s sharp, nimble, and super comfortable to hold. It deftly minced shallots; cored, sliced, and diced tomatoes and bell peppers; and tackled breaking down a whole chicken so easily, it felt like it was an extension of my hand.

Alternative Pick: Mac Knife Professional Utility Knife, 6-Inch

This knife was near-identical to the Tojiro, save for a slightly different handle shape and a smidge wider blade. It was very sharp and nimble. 

The Best Petty Knife for Larger Hands: Shun Hikari 6-Inch Utility Knife

This is a gorgeous, gorgeous knife—just look at the lattice pattern on the blade. But it also had practical niceties, too. There was enough clearance between the back of the blade (the bolster) and the handle and enough curve to the blade to make a rocking-style chop comfortable (no finger smashing). And the super-sharp blade made quick work of produce like shallots and tomatoes. It’s on the larger side for a petty-style knife, with a thick, long handle that I found a bit unwieldy, but that could be well-suited for folks with larger hands. The only other downside is that it’s rather expensive.   

The Best Budget Petty Knife: Victorinox 6-Inch Fibrox Pro Chef’s Knife

No, this isn’t a flashy knife, but it is super-sharp, versatile, and has a nice, grippy handle. The blade is nicely curved, which made it easy to cut in a rocking motion. Though it’s confusingly called a chef’s knife, it is, for all intents and purposes, a petty/utility knife based on its shape and size. 

The Tests

a knife on a cutting board with cut up pieces of cured sausage
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly
  • Blade sharpness test: I ran each knife (right from the box) through a blade sharpness measurer three times and averaged the results. 
  • Paper test: I used each knife to cut through a piece of printer paper, noting if it was a clean slice or if there was any resistance or jagged edges. 
  • Tomato test: I used each knife to core and thinly slice one tomato. I then chopped the tomato, noting if there was any resistance when cutting through the skin. 
  • Shallot test: I used each knife to mince a whole shallot—examining sharpness, agility, and if the knife could comfortably be used in a rock-chop motion.
  • Herb test: I used each knife to mince parsley to see if the knife was easy to control and if it could be used in a rock-chop motion.
  • Bell pepper test: I cored, sliced, and chopped bell peppers with each knife. Bell peppers have rubbery skin and a core that requires an agile knife to cut out. 
  • Whole chicken test (winners-only): I used my top knives to break down whole chickens, seeing if the blades were nimble enough to cut meat from bone and to get in between joints, and also if they could easily slice through slippery meat and skin. 
  • Cured sausage test (winners-only): I used my top knives to slice thin pieces from a hard, cured sausage to see if the knives were durable. 
  • Cleaning tests: After every test, I washed each knife by hand to see if it was easy to clean and if it became slippery when wet. 

Petty Versus Utility Knives: What’s the Difference?

our favorite knives on a marble countertop
Our favorite knives were called by both names (petty and utility) and had subtle differences.Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

In Josh Donald’s book Sharp, he explains that petty knives were created in Japan in the late 19th century in response to Western-style “utility” knives (not to be confused with an industrial, box cutter utility knife). Back then, Western-style utility knives were pointed, straight knives that looked like an elongated paring knife. The Japanese-style petty knives had a different shape: triangular blades that were slightly wider towards the handle. But, today, many knife brands use the two terms interchangeably, and the differences can be minimal. 

In general, modern petty/utility knives are smaller than a chef’s knife but longer than a paring knife; most have blades that clock in between 5.5 and 6 inches long, in contrast with chef’s knives, which often have 8-inch long blades. (Paring knives have blades that are typically 2.5 to 4 inches long.) They are also a bit more nimble than a traditional chef’s knife, since they have a shorter blade and smaller handle. 

We found some subtle differences between the knives we tested that didn’t necessarily correspond with whatever they were called (petty, utility, or sometimes both); some had more of a Japanese-style triangular blade, while others had a slightly more curved blade. Both styles have advantages and disadvantages—but neither is better or worse than the other. 

I like using my petty/utility knife for a myriad of kitchen prep tasks, including cutting up vegetables and prepping meats (like breaking down whole chickens, which the nimble, little blades are quite good at doing; they easily slip between joints and cleanly separate meat from bone). It should be noted that the Japanese-style knives, in general, are harder and thus more brittle than Western-style knives. This means they aren’t ideal for hacking through bones (get a cleaver!) or tackling harder produce, like watermelons or winter squash, as they might chip. 

What We Learned

Handle Shape and Material Were Important  

a hand holding a knife
We preferred knives with handles that weren’t too large, bulky, or slippery.Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

A knife can be sharp, but if it’s bulky or slippery to hold, you might not want to use it. I preferred slimmer handles (my favorites were a half-inch wide) with beveled, squared edges over bulky, tubular handles. I also preferred handles with butts that tapered inward at the bottom of the knife; they were easier to grip and more comfortable to hold than ones that curved up under the handle. 

Some handles were downright bulky, like those on the Misen Utility Knife and Berghoff Ron Utility Knife. The handle of the Berghoff was particularly uncomfortable since it was tubular, wide, and made of unfinished wood; I felt like it might splinter or warp over time and after multiple washes. While the Shun had a larger, tubular wood composite handle, it was smooth, polished, and easy to grip. The handle on the ​​Kasumi 6" Utility Knife was a nice length, though the tubular shape and light, plasticky-feel made it slippery, especially after washing.

The Sharper, The Better

an illustrated chart demonstrating the sharpness of the knives.
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

It might seem obvious, but a factory sharp knife is a beautiful thing. Most of the knives I tested were ridiculously sharp out-of-the box (most were “utility razor blade” levels of sharp when we tested them on the Edge-on-up professional edge tester) and cleanly cut through paper, produce, and chicken. The sharpest knife, per the edge tester, was the Tojiro, which produced quick, clean cuts without any resistance. Our other top picks (from Shun, Mac, and Victorinox) were also incredibly sharp, and easily sliced through everything we pit against them.

The Berghoff and Wusthoff, while they had decent sharpness scores, felt dull in comparison. The Berghoff struggled to cleanly cut shallots, splintering the shallot when slicing and mashing the allium when mincing. It also see-sawed against the skin of a bell pepper when I tried cutting through it. 

Triangular Blades Were The Most Nimble

a whole chicken cut up on a cutting board
The ultra-sharp, nimble triangular bladed knives were agile and good at slipping between joints when breaking down a whole chicken.Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

The two Japanese-style winners, from Tojiro and Mac, had triangular-shaped, thin blades with a very slight curves. This meant that, while not as good for cutting in a rocking motion, they were very nimble; I really enjoyed using them to break down chickens, since they could easily slide between joints, and between bones and meat.

Curved Blades Were Better for Rocking Cuts

a knife on a cutting board with chopped up pieces of green bell pepper.
Blades that had a bit more curve to them were better for rocking-style cuts.Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

Two of my favorite knives—the Shun and the Victorinox—had slightly more curved blades, which made them great for rocking cuts; they easily chopped shallots, herbs, and bell peppers, and my fingers didn’t graze the cutting board. However, this same feature also made them a little less agile when it came to breaking down chickens, and, as noted above, I preferred the more triangular-shaped blades on the Mac and Tojiro for this task.

The Criteria: What to Look for in a Petty Knife

annotated Tojiro petty knife: nimble blade; thin, tapered handle; incredibly sharp
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

A good petty knife should be sharp and versatile, and easily cut through a variety of ingredients. It should also be fairly nimble, and have a grippy, solid, and not-too-bulky handle. While my top picks fell into two categories (triangular and straight, and slightly curved), each had their own strengths and weaknesses, but all of them were ultra-sharp, versatile knives.

The Best Overall Petty Knife: Tojiro DP Petty/Utility Knife

What we liked: This incredibly sharp, nimble knife was a pleasure to use; it deftly cored, sliced, and chopped tomatoes and bell peppers, and slipped easily between joints when breaking down a chicken. It even cut through dried sausage easily and without chipping. After testing, I found myself grabbing this knife in place of both my chef’s knife and paring knife because it was the perfect balance of both: nimble, sharp, strong and versatile, with the ideal-sized handle for my petite hands.

What we didn’t like: The only qualm I had about this knife is that my knuckles grazed the cutting board when I did a rocking chop. However, it was just that, a graze, and didn’t affect cutting—it was still a pleasure to use.

Key Specs

  • Blade style: Triangular
  • Blade length: 6 inches
  • Blade width at widest part: 1.1 inches
  • Handle Length: 4.25 inches
  • Handle width: .5 inches
  • Sharpness average: 107 (utility razor blade sharp)
  • Weight: 83 grams
  • Materials: Stainless steel, carbon steel, wood
tojiro petty knife on marble countertop
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

Alternative Pick: Mac Knife Professional Utility Knife, 6-Inch

What we liked: The blade was a hair (and I mean it) wider than the Tojiro, but it was still ultra-sharp and nimble knife; I also liked the handle, which, like the Tojiro, inclined inward under the knife but didn’t curve back upwards, like some other knives. 

What we didn’t like: With a similar shape to the Tojiro, we had the same quibble with the Mac: the bolster was just a little short and the curve of the blade a bit shallow, which meant my knuckles grazed the cutting board when cutting in a rocking motion. But it’s really the style of the knife. 

Key Specs

  • Blade style: Triangular
  • Blade length: 6 inches
  • Blade width at widest part: 1.13 inches
  • Handle length: 4.25 inches
  • Handle width: .5 inches
  • Sharpness average: 140 (utility razor blade sharp) 
  • Weight: 85 grams
  • Materials: Stainless steel; wood composite
mac petty knife on marble countertop
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

The Best Petty Knife for Larger Hands: Shun Hikari 6-Inch Utility Knife

What we liked: Since it had a slightly more curved blade, this knife was great when using a rocking chop motion. It was also super-sharp and durable, cleanly and smoothly slicing through even tough dried sausage.

What we didn’t like: The tubular handle was a bit large, and the blade wasn’t quite as thin and nimble as the Tojiro and Mac; it felt a little less agile when I used it to break down a chicken. It’s also one of the more expensive knives in our lineup.  

Key Specs

  • Blade style: Curved
  • Blade length: 6 inches
  • Blade width at widest part: 1.25 inches
  • Handle Length: 4.5 inches
  • Handle width: .75 inches
  • Sharpness average: 200 (utility razor blade sharp) 
  • Weight: 120 g
  • Materials: Stainless steel blades clad with high-carbon, high-chromium stainless steel; wood composite
Shun petty knife on marble countertop
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

The Best Budget Petty/Utility Knife: Victorinox 6-Inch Fibrox Pro Chef’s Knife

What we liked: This was a durable, user-friendly knife with a fantastically grippy handle that was great for a variety of hand sizes. I was also impressed with how sharp it was; it aced cutting through rubbery tomato and bell pepper skin and, since it has a more curved blade, it made chopping easy. 

What we didn’t like: While this was a super-sharp, durable, and all-around great knife, it wasn’t quite as flexible and nimble as the more triangular-shaped knives; I had more trouble finagling it between joints when breaking down a whole chicken. 

Key Specs

  • Blade style: Curved
  • Blade length: 6 inches
  • Blade width at widest part: 1.2 inches
  • Handle length: 5.25 inches
  • Handle width: .75 inches
  • Sharpness average: 148 (utility razor blade sharp) 
  • Weight: 79 grams
  • Materials: Stainless steel; plastic
Victorinox petty knife on marble countertop
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

The Competition

  • Togiharu PRO Petty: While eerily similar-looking to the Tojiro, I found this knife a bit less sharp. I also didn’t love the butt of the handle, which curved upwards under the knife and was slightly less comfortable to hold.
  • ZWILLING Pro 5.5" Ultimate Prep Knife, inch, Black/Stainless Steel: While I liked the curved shape and thin blade on this knife, the tang on the handle stuck out and was uncomfortable to hold. It was also slightly less nimble and sharp when breaking down a chicken; it snagged on the slippery skin. 
  • Wüsthof Classic Ikon Utility Knife: This knife has a traditional utility knife shape, and to be honest, I wasn’t sure what to make of it; it felt like a long paring knife (that wasn’t particularly sharp) with the handle of a steak knife. The barely curved, straight blade was not good for chopping of any kind, and it wasn’t sharp enough to cleanly cut anything. 
  • Berghoff Ron Utility Knife: This was a clunky knife with a dull blade that struggled in our tests. The handle was also a major drawback, since it was rounded, chunky, and un-finished—I could see it getting mildew or splintering over time. 
  • ​​Kasumi 6" Utility Knife: The biggest drawback to this knife was the plasticky feeling, ultra-light handle; it didn’t have a nice heft to it, and was slippery when dry and very slippery when wet.
  • Misen Utility Knife: While this was a nice (and sharp) knife, the blade and handle were a bit too bulky and chunky (it was also the heaviest knife in our lineup); it felt like a miniaturized chef’s knife more than a petty/utility knife and wasn’t super nimble.


What makes a petty or utility knife different than a chef’s knife?

A petty/utility knife is shorter than a chef’s knife—the blade usually clocks in between 4.5-6 inches long, versus a chef’s knife which usually has an 8-inch blade. The other difference is in the shape of the blade: most petty/utility knives have less of a curve than a Western-style chef’s knife.

What can I use a petty/utility knife for? 

Petty/utility knives can be used for many of the same tasks that you would use a chef’s knife for: mincing shallots, chopping herbs, cutting scallions, and even breaking down whole chickens. They are agile and small knives, making them great for precise cuts. However, since most petty/utility knives are more delicate than a chef’s knife, we wouldn’t recommend using them on hard-to-cut or large ingredients like winter squash or watermelons, or to cut through bone (a cleaver is your friend in that instance).

What’s the best way to sharpen a petty/utility knife? 

To really get your blade freshly sharp again, we recommend using a whetstone. In between sharpenings, you can use a honing rod to keep your knife in good shape.

Grace Kelly August 31, 2022 at 08:26PM

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