When kids help in the kitchen, they need real tools—not toys. Which knives are safe, effective, and comfortable for children?
Published July 1, 2018. Appears in America's Test Kitchen TV Season 15: Spa Cuisine Gets a Makeover
Standard 8-inch chef's knives are too big for most kids, so we were pleased when we discovered kid-size versions a few years ago. These knives have handles designed for smaller hands, shorter 2- to 4-inch metal or plastic blades, and built-in safety features such as blunt cutting edges or finger guards. With more on the market and a team of test cooks busy at work on our upcoming series of children's cookbooks, we wondered if our old favorite from Opinel (about $45.00) was still the best. To find out, we tested it alongside five other knives ranging in price from about $8.00 to $60.00: four kids' chef's knives as well as the 6-inch version of our winning 8-inch chef's knife. Our lineup included a mix of serrated and straight-edged knives with blades made from either plastic or metal.
Before we gave the knives to kids to test, we wanted to make sure they were safe to use. We put them through a round of basic tasks: slicing ripe tomatoes and blocks of cheddar cheese; dicing carrots, celery, and onion; and mincing parsley. Two knives performed so poorly that we eliminated them from the running. Both were serrated and incredibly dull (see “Even For Kids, Sharper Knives Are Safer Knives”). We had to use a labored sawing motion to hack through food, and even then the knives sometimes failed to pierce the skin of produce and skipped off, landing on the cutting board with a thud. One was also too thick, and the other was much too small. The bulky one, the only all-plastic knife in our lineup, was nearly ¼ inch thick at its spine—about five times thicker than the other knives. We knew from our previous standard chef's knife testings that the thickness of the spine affects how easily the blade cuts through food. Sure enough, using this wide blade was like driving a wedge into produce; we had to push hard on it, and the blade often drifted off-center. The small model, meanwhile, was more like a pumpkin-carving tool than a true knife. It had a tiny handle and a dinky metal blade that was less than ½ inch tall and only 3½ inches long—½ inch shorter than any other model in our lineup. These knives' dull serrations damaged food; everything we cut looked ragged and bruised, and puddles of juice accumulated on the cutting board. The other knives were sharp and comfortable. With four strong contenders—three straight and one serrated—we recruited a panel of young cooks to test the knives.
Our panel of testers included 12 boys and girls aged 8 to 13, with a mix of righties and lefties. Some had cooking experience, and others had never held a knife before. The kids approved of all four knives, but...
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Kate is a deputy editor for ATK Reviews. She's a culinary school graduate and former line cook and cheesemonger.