The New York Times recently named the MAC MTH-80 the best overall chef’s knife.
But what makes the brand so special? Are MAC knives worth buying?
To find out, I put them to the test.
In this review, I break down the pros and cons of MAC knives. You’ll learn the facts about their design, construction, materials, performance, price, and more.
Keep reading to find out if MAC knives are a worthy addition to your kitchen.
Use the links below to navigate the review:
- MAC Knives: Video Review
- Knife Collections
- Materials and Construction
- What Others Are Saying
- Bottom Line: Are MAC Knives Worth Buying?
MAC Knives: Video Review
Want to see MAC knives in action? Check out my video review:
You can also view this video on YouTube.
MAC offers several unique knife collections. Whether you need an all-purpose chef’s knife, a paring knife for peeling citrus, or a Yanigaba to prepare fish for sushi, MAC knives can handle your culinary tasks.
The following chart reveals a quick look at how each MAC knife collection compares.
Swipe to view the entire chart on mobile.
|Price||Key Feature||Blade Material||Handle Material||Blade Construction|
|Original Series||$$||Flexible blade, rounded tip||Molybdenum high-carbon steel||PakkaWood||Stamped|
|Superior Series||$$$||Thin, but stiff blade, elevated handle||Sub-zero tempered steel||PakkaWood||Stamped|
|Chef Series||$$||Pointed tip, handle aligned with blade spine||Molybdenum high-carbon steel||PakkaWood||Stamped|
|Professional Series||$$$$||Welded bolster||Sub-zero tempered steel||PakkaWood||Stamped|
|Ultimate Series||$$$$||Sharpness lasts 6-8 weeks, versus 4-6 weeks||Molybdenum high-carbon steel||PakkaWood||Stamped|
|Japanese Series||$$$||Single and double bevel||Molybdenum high-carbon steel||PakkaWood, magnolia wood, or ebony||Stamped and forged (varies by knife)|
In this section, I’ll give you an up-close look at the Professional Series (the knife that The New York Times named the best chef’s knife) to give you a sense of MAC’s design. I’ll also share some interesting characteristics from other MAC collections.
MAC Professional Series
The Professional Series is designed with the professional chef in mind. That means a comfortable handle and a sharp blade.
The MAC Mighty MTH-80 chef’s knife is made from MAC’s sub-zero tempered steel. MAC calls it superior steel.
The edge is a hybrid between a traditional Japanese single bevel chisel and a Western V-shaped edge. The blade narrows toward the point, offering you more control in smaller spaces, such as when breaking down a chicken or puncturing meat close to the bone.
MAC has a unique blade profile. The edge is curved enough to produce a rocking chop yet straight enough for push-pull cuts. It’s almost a hybrid between a chef’s knife and a Santoku.
The stamped blade has a welded-on half bolster (a bolster is the part between the blade and handle where the steel thickens). A half bolster does not take away any of the blade’s edge. So, the entire blade is sharp. And while you’ll get the benefit of that sharpness, its smaller profile means that you can’t use it to scoop up as much chopped food as most chef’s knives.
The knife also features a Granton edge (also known as a hollow edge), which are small indents along the blade that prevent food from sticking.
With the half bolster and handle, this knife has an incredibly balanced feel. Its ergonomic design keeps your hand from getting weary, and it’s heavy enough to feel steady and solid.
The PakkaWood handle on the MAC Mighty MTH-80 has subtle wood grain. Unless you look up close, the handle appears solid black.
The thin layers of wood veneer are bonded together with resin. Its dark finish provides a nice contrast to the sheen of the blade.
It has a slight downward curve toward the butt of the knife, offering a place to rest your pinky for a secure grip.
Other MAC Collections
In terms of design, there are subtle differences across the collections.
The MAC logo, shown on the blade’s face, is in color. That stands out because most brands simply use black engraving on steel blades.
The Ultimate Series features a gray floral design, and the Japanese Series knives display Japanese letters.
The MAC Original and Superior Series offer unique Honesuki-style cleaver blades. The narrow, bolster-free blades have a blunt point and either a straight or slightly curved profile. Some of the knives have a cross-shaped hole punched into the blade for hanging them for storage.
The Chef Series is ideal if you’re looking for a more traditional Western-style shape. These stamped knives have no bolster. Each knife has a uniquely styled handle designed to deliver precision cuts while remaining comfortable to hold.
The Ultimate Series looks like a German-style knife, yet it is not forged. It’s a stamped blade with a rustic appeal. It’s thin, but at 9.2 ounces, it feels like a forged blade.
The Japanese Series offers the most unique-looking knives. The series includes four different series (collections):
- Molybdenum Steel Series — These single-bevel knives with dark Pakkawood handles offer excellent edge retention for lasting sharpness (the vegetable cleaver has a double-bevel blade).
- Sub-Zero Steel Series — This series boasts molybdenum steel tempered in sub-zero temperatures for even greater edge retention. They are stain-resistant, easy to sharpen and feature a Pakkawood handle with a more pronounced grain pattern.
- HO-Series — These knives offer the very best in traditional Japanese style. Hand-forged and crafted from white steel called Yasuki Shirogami, the laminated blades hold an extremely fine edge. The handles are Japanese magnolia wood with buffalo horn end caps.
- SE-Series — This made-to-order series features white honyaki steel blades polished to a mirror finish. They are hand-forged from a single piece of steel and have an extremely sharp edge. The octagon-shaped, ebony wood handles contrast nicely with the shiny blades.
MAC knives are made in Seki City, Japan. To date, the company has sold over 25 million knives. MAC does many things right — like employing high-quality, hard steels designed to retain the sharp edges.
The brand ensures its knives are perfectly balanced and weighted. The ergonomic handles fit comfortably in your hand, and they are made from a durable material that is easy to clean.
Quite simply, these knives stay sharp and are comfortable. These factors make MAC knives a solid choice if you want a top-of-the-line knife set.
Japanese blades are typically harder than Western blades. Hardness determines how fast a blade dulls or chips. Softer steel loses its edge more quickly, but harder steel is more prone to chipping.
MAC primarily uses molybdenum high-carbon steel. On the Rockwell Scale, the steel’s hardness falls between 57 and 61. The steel used for the brand’s most popular collection, Professional, has a Rockwell hardness of 59.
Softer steel loses its edge quicker but resists chipping and is easier to sharpen. Harder steel retains its edge better but is more brittle and more difficult to sharpen.
The hardness of the steel MAC is an ideal balance between edge retention and durability.
Professional and Sub-Zero (Japanese Series) knives feature sub-zero tempered steel called superior steel.
The sub-zero process treats the blade with liquid nitrogen, making the alloy harder and giving it better edge retention. The standard molybdenum, high-carbon steel requires sharpening every 4-6 weeks with heavy use. The sub-zero steel used to make Professional and Japanese Series knives can stay sharper longer, up to eight weeks.
MAC handles are primarily made from Pakkawood, a super-durable type of layered wood veneer. Some are made of magnolia or ebony.
MAC knives are mostly stamped. Only the HO-Series and SE-Series knives are hand-forged.
Stamped knives tend to be thinner and lighter than forged. A forged blade is made from a single steel bar, while stamped knives are cut out from a large sheet.
Bolsters are welded after the knife is stamped.
The forging process is generally more labor-intensive, while stamped knives require fewer steps. Both have pros and cons, but forged knives are more durable, while stamped knives are more affordable.
If you are hesitant to buy MAC knives because most of their blades are stamped, don’t be.
- High-quality stamped knives are still durable and made to last.
- MAC’s stamping process is advanced.
- Skilled craftspeople make precise cuts and grind the blade close to the edge.
Japanese knife makers like Shun and Global only grind the steel halfway up the blade. MAC grinds and bevels the whole side from the spine to the edge, resulting in a complete, V-shaped tapered edge. This method produces a thinner and sharper knife with superior edge retention.
As stated earlier, MAC knife edges aren’t the traditional single bevel of many Japanese knives. They also don’t have a center double bevel like most Western-style knives.
Instead, MAC’s blades are slightly off-center and sharpened to a 15-degree angle on both sides (for a total 30-degree angle).
I’ve been testing the MAC MTH-80 chef’s knife for several months. Here’s what I like and don’t like in terms of performance.
First of all, it’s lightweight and balanced. When you pick it up, you’ll immediately notice that it’s much lighter than most 8-inch chef’s knives, especially compared to German knives like Wusthof or Zwilling.
The balance point is right in the center of the knife between the handle and the blade.
The blade profile is narrower than most knives, making it nimble and allowing you to easily navigate in small spaces (for example: breaking down a chicken). Since the edge is flatter than most chef’s knives (similar to a Santoku), it’s easy to produce perfectly straight cuts. Yet, there’s enough of a curve to rock chop, too.
I really like the handle design. You’ll like it if you’re used to traditional German knives. The PakkaWood is smooth and comfortable, and it has a curve towards the butt end to protect your handle from slipping.
Last but certainly not least, it’s one of the sharpest knives I’ve tested out of the box. It easily cuts through ingredients — even hard ingredients like carrots and potatoes. The V taper from spine to edge and high carbon steel enhances its edge retention, so you don’t need to sharpen it often.
Although my experience testing MAC knives was overwhelmingly positive, there were a few downsides I need to mention.
The handle is noticeably short. It’s about 4.5 inches long. It still felt comfortable to me, but the handle might be slightly too small if you have large hands.
The edge is ultra-sharp, but it feels more delicate than German knives because the edge is so fine. In fact, the insert that comes in the box says never to cut bones, frozen foods, or hard squash.
Lastly,the blade profile is narrow, making it more agile, but it doesn’t allow you to scoop a bunch of diced ingredients as well as you could with a wider blade.
Overall, MAC knives pass the test. They’re light, balanced, razor-sharp, and stay sharp longer than most knives. Check out this video to see MAC knives in action.
MAC knives aren’t the most expensive, but they aren’t cheap either. Prices vary drastically by collection.
The most expensive knives are in the Ultimate and Professional Series. However, a few of the Japanese Series knives are also pricey. The Original and Chef Series knives are the least expensive.
The chart below shows the current prices of MAC’s most popular knives on Amazon. Click the chart to view more details about each knife or knife set:
|Knife / Knife Set||Price||View Details|
|MAC Knife Original Series 4-Piece Starter Set||Amazon|
|MAC Knife Professional Series 8-Inch Chef's Knife||Amazon|
|MAC Knife Professional 6.5-Inch Santoku Knife||Amazon|
|MAC Knife Japanese Series 6.5-Inch Vegetable Cleaver||Amazon|
|MAC Knife Superior Series 6.5-Inch Santoku Knife||Amazon|
|MAC Knife Chef's Series 10-Inch Chef's Knife||Amazon|
|MAC Knife Professional Series 5-Inch Paring/Utility Knife||Amazon|
|MAC Knife Chef Series 7-Inch Chef's Knife||Amazon|
MAC knives boast a lot of positives, but there are some downsides to note before you make a purchase.
Because the blades are stamped, many collections lack a bolster to protect your hand and center the balance point. Some offer welded bolsters, but there are imperfections in the steel if you look closely. It’s not smooth; it looks jagged up close. By contrast, a forged blade offers a sleek and smooth transition between blade and bolster.
More prone to chipping
Despite MAC’s claim that their hard blades are less brittle than VG-10 steel knives, some users have claimed the tip of their knife shattered. You’ll need to be more cautious when cutting hard ingredients with MAC knives. The included instructions advise against cutting bones, frozen foods, and tough squash. If you’re looking for a workhorse knife, consider a brand like Wusthof, Zwilling, or Messermeister.
Rust and staining
Due to its high carbon content, the steel is more prone to rust than typical stainless steel. Therefore, it requires extra care. Hand wash and dry your knives immediately after using them.
Also, if you frequently need to cut corrosive acidic foods like citrus fruits or tomatoes, know that repeated exposure to such foods can cause discoloration, encourage rust, and dull the edge of high-carbon steel knives. Fortunately, you can polish off any rust or stains.
Most MAC knife handles are 4.5 inches long. If you have large hands, you might find that the handles are too small.
The blade profile on MAC chef’s knives is narrow, so you can’t scoop up the ingredients as well as you could with a wider blade, such as Made In’s chef’s knife.
MAC knives aren’t the most expensive knives on the market, but they also aren’t cheap. Buying MAC knives requires an investment, but with proper care, they should last.
If you prefer to hold a knife in your hands before you buy it or test it out in a retail store, you’ll need to look elsewhere. MAC knives are sold on MACKnife.com, Amazon, and eBay, so you’ll need to buy them to test them out.
MAC has earned a solid reputation for its knives. It’s frequently mentioned on best-of and top-ten lists. The following is a snapshot of how review sites and food publications view MAC knives.
The New York Times Wirecutter hails the MAC Mighty MTH-80 as the best chef’s knife (after testing over 20 competitors). It’s praised for its ultra-sharp edge, sleek shape, and comfortable. The knife beat out 22 others and has been the top choice of Wirecutter since 2013.
In a recent article, CNET editors chose the top chef’s knives. Joining the ranks of Wüsthof and Global knives, MAC’s Mighty MTH-80 was named the best Japanese-style knife. The hollow edge 8-inch chef’s knife was called “a fantastic product” due to its sharpness, design, and construction. Its thin profile doesn’t sacrifice the heft needed for balance and control. But reviewers also noted that the thin blade is easy to chip, so you must be extra careful.
The MAC Mighty MTH-80 is a frequent headliner of top chef’s knife lists. Epicurious is yet another voice that echoes its praise, naming it the best chef’s knife overall. The home cook resource tested 18 chef’s knives and chose MAC’s popular 8-inch chef’s knife for its moderate pricing, sharpness, design, and performance. Testers noted excellent long edge retention and easy sharpening.
The Strategist also selected the MAC Mighty MTH-80 8-inch chef’s knife as the best of the best. It was called one of the best buys of the year. The editor highlighted that it was great for daily use, very sharp out of the box, and liked how the hollow edge repelled food. She noted that it made once-annoying chopping tasks enjoyable.
Serious Eats tested 16 Santoku knives and chose the MAC MSK-65 Professional Santoku as the favorite. Because of its lightweight feel, balance, and sharpness, it was called “an absolute pleasure to use, no matter the task.” The knife made effortless cuts, whether cutting carrots, breaking down a chicken, or filleting a fish.
Food & Wine tested the best chef’s knife for every task and chose the MAC Mighty MTH-80 as the best overall knife. The testers praised its extremely sharp blade, lightweight feel, and non-slip handle. The well-balanced knife caused minimal pressure and strain during testing. It passed all chopping, slicing, and dicing tests on various foods.
Bottom Line: Are MAC Knives Worth Buying?
Before deciding if MAC knives are right for you, let’s recap the pros and cons.
- Lightweight: MAC knives are thin (blades are between 1.5-2.5 mm) but still have a good heft.
- Nimble and maneuverable: MAC knives have a narrow blade profile that delivers precise cuts, even in intricate places, such as between joints when breaking down poultry.
- Balanced: The knives are well balanced. The design offers a balance point in the center of the knife where the blade and handle meet.
- Smooth, comfortable handle: A comfortable and slip-free handle makes knife work a joy. MAC knives feature a handle design similar to Wüsthof, Zwilling, and Messermeister. Pakkawood is a good choice for the knife material, not only for durability but also for how it feels.
- Unique blade profile: MAC edges are flatter than most knives, enabling the rock chop technique and allowing for straight, precise cuts — it’s almost a hybrid between a chef’s knife and a Santoku.
- Thin and sharp edge: MAC knives are incredibly sharp right out of the box, and they stay that way longer than most knives.
- Lightweight: If you are used to a heavy knife, MAC might throw you off a bit. You’ll need to use more effort to power through firm ingredients.
- Short Handle: If you have large hands, you might find the 4.5-inch handle uncomfortable. It’s shorter than most comparable knives on the market.
- Delicate Edge: The edge is extremely fine and delicate. You’ll want to avoid cutting through bones, frozen foods, or hard squash.
- Prone to Stains and Rust: The knives have a high carbon content, making them more likely to stain or rust. You’ll need to clean and dry them immediately after use, especially when cutting acidic foods like lemons or tomatoes.
- Narrow Blade Profile: The narrow blade profile makes scooping up chopped ingredients difficult. Thus, it takes more time to transport your prepped items to a pan or bowl.
- Expensive: Compared to most stamped knives, MAC is expensive.
- Not Widely Available: MAC knives are available on Amazon, eBay, and MACKnife.com but not in brick and mortar stores. If you buy them on Amazon or eBay, make sure you’re buying from a MAC authorized seller; otherwise, the warranty is invalid.
Bottom line — MAC has a long history of making high-quality Japanese knives. The brand isn’t as mainstream as Wusthof, Zwilling, and Shun, but kitchen experts agree that it is one of the best-performing knives. Based on my testing, I concur.
If you’re searching for lightweight and agile knives that are still tough enough to handle daily tasks, MAC is one of the best you can buy.
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