Is a 6-Inch Chef Knife Too Small?

There are many factors to consider when buying a knife.

This, admittedly, can be a bit confusing when there are several variants, sizes, and styles to choose from.

But one general pointer pros often share is to get one that is most comfortable in your hand.

Oftentimes, that’s the one that fits easily in your hand.

So… Is a 6-inch chef knife too small?

Or is it just the right one?

6” blades are usually just the right size if it’s a utility knife. This particular kind is quite versatile, used for a whole lot of food preps particularly for slicing and paring. Some people also use this for boning meat and filleting fish, especially when they don’t have the specific one for those tasks.

Six inches is also the right length for the Japanese Santoku, which is used for various chopping board chores.

However, a blade measuring six inches is usually the smallest option for other knives like the must-have Chef’s.

Other knives like the serrated variant for bread, meat slicers, and butcher’s scimitars should be longer, measuring 8 inches or more.

The Need for 6-Inch Knives

According to expert bladesmiths, people should get knives that ‘fit’ them.
The best way is to choose the one which is the same length as your forearm.

If you’re a tall person, you probably should get longer blades. If you’re a bit on the short side, you will have to get the one measuring six inches.

But some knives are small for a reason, like the 3 to 4-inch paring for peeling fresh produce and the all-purpose utility blade.

The 6” Utility Blade

Why This Length is ‘Just Right’

One of the essentials in a kitchen block, the utility knife is an all-rounder. And this is mainly because of its size.

It is a bit longer than the one for paring but is shorter than a Chef’s.

This means that it can be used for peeling fruits and vegetables like the former and for all the tasks that the latter can do like slicing and chopping.

It’s also the go-to for specific tasks that other basic knives can’t do.

As aforementioned, the narrow-body pointed tip, thin spine, and sharp edge make this great for boning and filleting.

This can also be used as a slicer, particularly for roast beef and baked chicken.

It may not do a perfect job but this will work as an adequate substitute.

The 6” Santoku

Perfectly-Sized Asian Blade

Directly translated as ‘three uses’, the Santoku is used mainly for slicing, dicing, and mincing.

This is possible because the sharp edge is flat instead of curved, best used in an up-and-down movement rather than the rocking motion.

Many in the West like this a lot because of its versatility and ergonomic design.

The addition of the ovoid indentations along the blade is one of the smartest ideas because this prevents food from sticking to it.

And this is one of the very few kinds that disprove the idea that the size of the knife depends on the size of the user.

Most Santokus have blades measuring six or seven inches with handles having almost the same length.

The balance between these two and the overall weight (most Japanese knives are light) is what makes this such a joy to use in the kitchen.

The 6” Chef’s Knife

A Small Slicer for Smaller People

This, without a doubt, is the most important tool in the kitchen block.

If you’re just beginning to build your kitchen tool collection, the Chef’s or Cook’s knife the very first thing you should purchase.

Many compare this to the Santoku when it comes to versatility; except for two reasons:

1 – this is handled with the familiar rocking motion and

2 – this can do more tasks including disjointing certain cuts and carving cooked meat.

Many find this intimidating because of its length, with some variants going as long as 14 inches.

But the most common, that which a lot of professional chefs use, is the 8-inch one – and that still feels too big for many.

The 6-inch one is the friendliest, so to say, and the easiest to use. If you are a beginner cook, this is a good choice.

Why Other Knives Don’t Have 6-Inch Variants

Certain knives do not have shorter versions because each works better for the specific job that they are made for.

• Serrated for Bread
• Boning
• Fileting
• Carving
• Salmon Slicer
• Butcher’s Scimitar

These are supposed to be long, measuring 9 inches or more, so that it can slice through the food item in one go (to twice or thrice, at most).

It’s understandable if you’re getting quite confused about all the must-haves the pros are advising you get – particularly in the knives section.

But there are two things you should always consider when shopping: know what these are for and get the one which feels good in your hand.

If you’ve got these in mind, you’re not going to go wrong with your purchase.

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My name is Andy Wang, and I'm a retired chef. I used to work at the City Vineyard restaurant in NYC. I also had a culinary degree from the Institute of Culinary Education in New York. And this blog is where I share my love for knives and cooking with people like you.