The 10 Best Knife Sets
This wiki has been updated 34 times since it was first published in April of 2015. A quality knife set is a must-have for both home and commercial kitchens. Almost anything you cook requires some slicing and dicing, and having the right tools for the job makes it much easier. We've included everything from starter sets that are suitable as housewarming gifts for a young couple to heavy-duty packages that provide the performance and durability a master chef demands. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
October 27, 2020:
There are at least a few caveats to keep in mind when searching for a knife set. First is to avoid the no-name off-brand models that seem to pervade the buying market in some places. While it's true that many premium knife makers in Japan aren't household names in America, most of those folks don't release entire sets. For that reason, we were very careful to include only highly reputable manufacturers.
Second, most professionals and knife enthusiasts will tell you to avoid purchasing an entire set, as they might not have what you need, or they might have too many knives that you won't use. However, that's not to say that there aren't worthwhile selections available with large variations of blades. The J.A. Henckels Statement, for example, has the large storage block and six steak knives commonly found on what people largely think of when they think of knife sets.
If you don't need steak knives but still want plenty of options, the Case XX Household is a good choice because of its variety. In a similar vein, the Tojiro DP line is known for its premium construction, and the knives in this set are consistently recommended by and for professional cooks who need high performance at relatively moderate prices. The Global Ikasu, on the other, is decidedly expensive for what it provides, but Global knives are both distinct in appearance, and capable of holding a wicked edge.
With that said, though, you don't have to spend a fortune for good knives, and you might not even need many, which is why the Mercer Millennia and Mercer Genesis get such good reviews. Similarly, Victorinox Fibrox is a go-to in restaurants around the country, and despite their spartan appearance and low cost, are good enough to last through many, many sharpenings. We also want to make special mention of the Ontario Knife Old Hickory set. It doesn't include a chef's knife, but if you already have one of those that you like a lot, these make a fantastic addition, as their range of utility and premium carbon steel can add a lot to the home or professional cooking experience.
May 28, 2019:
The Wusthof Classic Ikon is a durable, high-quality set with full tang blades made from high-carbon steel and sharpened using Precision Edge Technology for better edge retention. It comes with an 8-inch chef's knife, a paring knife, a utility knife, a serrated blade for bread, and a pair of shears, and the block has extra slots that you can fill as you add to your collection. The knives in the Zwilling J.A. Henckels Signature are ice-hardened, which makes them resistant to chipping and helps them stay sharp longer. Unlike some others, they're stamped rather than forged and don't have bolsters, resulting in a lighter weight. The Global 6-Piece are made entirely from stainless steel that contains molybdenum, vanadium, and chromium, making them strong and resistant to rust. The included block is slimmer than most, so it's good for those with limited counter space. With its see-through glass block, the Mercer Culinary Genesis has a distinctive appearance, and the Santoprene handles offer a nonslip grip, even when wet. They also meet NSF standards for safety.
If you're more of a casual cook and don't want to spend too much, the AmazonBasics Premium is an affordable 18-piece set that comes with all the basic, everyday tools you'll ever need, plus a few specialty blades and eight steak knives, all for a reasonable price. The Cuisinart Steel is another budget-friendly option with lightweight knives that are comfortable to hold. They're easy to clean, but skip this set if you want something that's dishwasher-safe, as they tend to rust if not dried immediately.
Miyabi Artisan Fans of Japanese-style knives will appreciate this set, which features elegant pakkawood handles and hand-honed blades with katana edges. The SG2 micro-carbide powder steel is ice-hardened to retain sharpness longer, and it's layered in a Tsuchime hammered finish to help prevent food from sticking. zwilling.com
Messermeister Royale Elité Pricey, but deservedly so, this is a good option for the serious home cook. These knives are extremely sharp and well-balanced with ergonomic walnut handles, and the blades are hammer-forged from a single piece of steel for strength and durability. Properly cared for, this set will last for years, and it's backed by a lifetime warranty. messermeister.com
A Cutting Rite Of Passage
A good knife is a well balanced knife that feels simultaneously lightweight in the hand and heavy enough to get the job done.
A knife set can serve as a rite of passage, whether given as a gift or set up for a lifetime of use in a busy kitchen. What marries them all to one another is a consistency in the basics of each set's design. There are the knives themselves, equipped as they are with their handles and blades, the variety which makes certain knives more suitable for specific tasks than others. Then, there's the block or stand, the device designed to house the knives, keeping them safe and organized for years of use.
A good knife is a well balanced knife that feels simultaneously lightweight in the hand and heavy enough to get the job done. Your serrated blades are ideal for cutting through breads, tomatoes, and the like. Your straight-edged blades, on the other hand, make much cleaner cuts through things like steak, fruits, and leafy greens.
Most of the blocks here are wood, which is breathable enough to prevent moisture from collecting and lingering inside the block, where it could damage your knives over time. A couple of the sets on this list use steel blocks, which aren't as breathable, but also won't harbor any unwanted substances of their own should they endure prolonged exposure to moisture.
What's In The Block
There is nothing more dangerous in the kitchen than a dull knife. I have never cut myself on a sharp knife, because a sharp knife–if it's the right knife for the job at hand–will cut through your materials effortlessly. As soon as you feel yourself forcing your way through a cut, you're probably just about to lose a finger. Knives, in that sense, are a lot like love; you can't force it, but if it's right, it ought to work on its own.
If money's an issue for you, you can invest in a smaller set that has a bigger block into which you can add more knives down the line.
Perhaps, then, you should let your heart guide you toward the ideal knife set for your kitchen. At least, it's a good way to start. Since we're a bit of a superficial society, let's let our hearts evaluate the look of each set to begin with. After all, one of these sets is bound to live in your kitchen for a good long while, and you want it to match what you've got going on in there.
Once you see a style you like, whether it's the cool, modernist steel or the rustic, unfinished wood look, you can head on to the next vital criteria: size. If you have a house full of would-be chefs, and they act like chefs, then they do a lot of cooking and not a lot of cleaning. That means, especially if you're as pressed for time as the rest of the western world, that you don't have time to go washing somebody else's knife just to make yourself some lunch.
In that case, you want to get your hands on a set with as many knives as possible. If money's an issue for you, you can invest in a smaller set that has a bigger block into which you can add more knives down the line. This way, you get quality cutting now and a reduction in homicidal thoughts later.
Finally, when selecting from among the knife sets on our list, you should consider the knives within. If you're a vegetarian, for example, you probably don't need a set that includes eight steak knives. They're useful to have around, but a set with only four would serve you just fine. The more carnivorous cooks should look for sets with eight steak knives, fillet knives, and even small cleavers where available.
Sharper And Sharper
For a great long while, knives were the only utensil known to man. Most people as far back as history goes, utilized some form of sharp cutting utensil for food preparation as well as a variety of work around the home and field. Eventually, these knives evolved from stone to bronze and iron, and knives took on the characteristics we can recognize in today's designs.
At that point in the history of the blades, most every male carried a knife on his person. This he used to cut his meat, protect himself, and more. Around the height of the Roman Empire, the introduction of forks and other utensils into the lower classes slowly relegated the knife to a place primarily in the kitchen.
Knives today are designed with all the advantages of laser cutting, 3-D printing, computer modeling, and rigorous, unprecedented tests for durability and sharpness, making the simple steel elements of even 150 years ago seem little more than the stone tools used by early man.