Food and Nutrition

Professional Chefs Tell Us These Are the Only Knife Sets Worth Buying

Photo: Getty Images/Capelle.r
If there's one must-have in your kitchen, culinary skills aside, it's good, sharp knives. After all, what's the use of having cabinets full of Instagram cookware if you're never going to actually cook anything in them? The best (and safest) knives are sharp knives, and if you want to remove the guesswork out of what you need to buy, a knife set can help make the decision an easier one.

There are a few things you should look out for in any good knife set (namely, which knives are actually included), but then there are many other subjective factors, like style of knives, whether or not you want a block, and how much you want to spend. To help you sharpen up your options, we talked to a number of chefs to find out what you should look for in a knife set and which ones they prefer or use themselves. Ahead, find 16 of the best knife sets to have in your kitchen, so you can get cracking on all the pumpkin recipes for the season.

Best kitchen knife sets

henkels 7 piece knife set
Zwilling J.A. Henckels Professional "S" 7-Piece Knife Block Set — $350.00

This Henckels seven-piece set has everything you need to start testing our some new recipes, including an 8″ chef’s knife, 4″ paring knife, 5″ serrated utility knife, 6″ slicing knife, kitchen shears, honing steel, and a wood storage block to hold everything in one place.

“This is basic and beautiful. I love how simple it is. This set will last for a lifetime,” says Carla Contreras, a chef, food stylist, photographer, and health coach. Adds Zoë François, pastry chef and host of Zoë Bakes on Magnolia Network, “Henkel were my very first set of knives and they still hold up 30+ years later.”

wusthof seven piece knife set
WÜSTHOF Classic Seven Piece Knife Block Set — $280.00

These Wusthof knives have blades that are precision-forged from a single piece of high-carbon stainless steel and synthetic handles. This is another seven-piece set that includes an 8″ cook’s knife, 3 1/2″ paring knife, 6″ utility knife, 8″ bread knife, 9″ honing steal, kitchen shears, and a 13-slot storage block so you have extra room to stash some extra knives you pick up later.

“This was my first set of professional knives and what got me through culinary school. Wusthof makes quality knives that will last for decades. I find the grip and handles are smooth and comfortable, but some people may find these knives to be a little heavy, especially the chef’s knife,” says Devan Cameron, chef and owner of Braised & Deglazed, a food-focused website with recipes, tips and inspiration for the home cook.

Wusthof “are great workhorse knives. They are affordable, have a heavier and durable blade and last forever,” says Katie Button, award-winning chef, restaurateur, and host of the upcoming series From the Source, premiering November 19 on Magnolia Network.

Best knife sets with block

Calphalon self sharpening knife set
Calphalon Classic Self-Sharpening 12-Piece Cutlery Set — $170.00

The block included this set has built-in ceramic sharpeners, ensuring your knives are nice and sharp every time you remove or put them back into the block. There are six, 12, and 15-piece options depending on what knives you need. The 12-piece includes a 8″ chef’s knife, 6″ serrated utility knife, 4.5″ paring knife, 5″ Santoku knife, six steak knives, kitchen shears, and the block. And to make it easier for you to grab the right knife at the right time, most of the knives have labeled handles.

wusthof 12 piece knife set
WÜSTHOF Gourmet Twelve Piece Block Set — $300.00

This Wusthof 12-piece set includes all your go-to cutlery: An 8″ cook’s knife, 2 1/2″ and 3″ paring knives, a 4 1/2″ utility knife, and 8″ bread knife”— as well as a steel, kitchen shears, and four steak knives to help you properly enjoy your dinners at home.

Chef Alain Allegretti of Fig & Olive Restaurant Group suggests this set for at home use. “This has the essentials for anyone to use in their home kitchen—they are sharp, durable, and affordable.”

Material The Knives + Stand
Material The Knives + Stand — $195.00

Simple and sleek, Material’s set includes an 8″ chef’s knife, 6″ serrated knife, and an almost 4″ paring knife, as well as a walnut or beech stand. The knives have three layers of Japanese stainless steel and carbon to be both super sharp and durable, and the stand is magnetized for easy storage. The knives + stand were also a pick for Oprah’s Favorite Things 2021.

 

Best knife sets for chefs

Mercer Culinary Genesis 7-Piece Forged Knife Roll Set
Mercer Culinary Genesis 7-Piece Forged Knife Roll Set — $155.00

There’s no block included in this set, but there is a knife roll that will make you think you’re a contestant on Top Chef. The roll has a non-slip grip, can withstand hot and cold temperatures, and has seven pockets to hold the knives included in this set: A paring knife, utility knife, flexible boning knife, bread knife, chef’s knife, and sharpening steel.

Says Contreras, “This is a culinary school kit by Mercer. These are incredible knives and some of my favorites! They are affordable and last for ages.”

wolf gourmet
Wolf 7 Piece Cutlery Set — $800.00

Wolf is synonymous with professional-level kitchen appliances, and this applies to their knives, too. This set comes with four knives—bread, paring, chef’s, and Santoku—with high carbon stainless steel blades and moisture-resistant wood handles. You also get a honing steel, kitchen shears, and a wood block that has a tablet/book rest on the back if you need to refer to some new or old recipes.

This set was made with industry professions in mind, says Aceq chef and owner Elijah Stafford. “While comfortable and easy to use, the knives are designed to last since it was made in line with Japanese precision and German durability. At home, I use each instrument for prepping big meals or making a quick meal after a long night,” he says.

Best Japanese knife sets

shun five-piece knife set
Shun Premier Blonde 5-Piece Knife Block Set — $450.00

Shun knives are handcrafted in Japan with hand-hammered blades and wooden knives, making them lightweight, effective, and attractive on your counter. The slim bamboo block holds an 8″ chef’s knife, 4″ paring knife, 6 1/2″ utility knife, and a combination honing steel.

“Shun makes great knives both for the professional and the home chef. Great blade that will retain its edge with good care, ” say Khoran Horn, a Philadelphia-based chef and restaurateur.

global seven piece knife set
Global Classic 7-Piece Takashi Knife Wood Block Set — $490.00

Handcrafted in Japan, Global knives have been made using the same tradition for decades and have super sharp edges that have been ground into a point. No matter what you’re slicing or chopping, the knives in this set—8″ chef’s, 3″ peeling, 4 1/4″ utility, 5 1/2″ vegetable, and 9″ bread— will make meal prep a breeze. When it’s time to resharpen those blades, you can use the included ceramic honing rod.

“This is an Eastern style designed knife set that can be sharpened like Western knives, which makes them a lot easier to care for. The design is simple and beautiful,” says Contreras.

Best knife sets from Amazon

amazon basics 18 piece knife set
Amazon Basics 18-Piece Kitchen Knife Block Set — $63.00

If you’re looking for some bang for your buck, this 18-piece Amazon Basics set is it. It includes a chef’s Santoku, slicing, bread, utility, boning, and paring knife, as well as shears, a sharpener, a knife block, and eight steak knives. All the knives have stainless steel blades and ergonomic handles. The extremely affordable set also has over 13,000 five-star reviews, with one reviewer saying, “There is nothing flimsy about the blades…thick, sturdy and they seem to hold an edge. The full tang adds strength and balance, a bonus not usually found when purchasing inexpensive knives.”

cuisinart hollow handle knife set
Cuisinart 15-Piece Stainless Steel Hollow Handle Block Set — $80.00

The stainless steel knives in this set have precision-tapered ground blades and hollow handles, making them sharp and lightweight enough to handle even the biggest jobs in the kitchen. The set includes 15 pieces, including a chef’s knife, a Santoku knife, a paring knife, six steak knives, shears, and more. The set is highly rated on Amazon, with reviews like this one: “First things first; they are SHARP. I can only cut with one hand and these bad boys slice through tomatoes like nobody’s business. One handed cutters dream!! Second, they are GORGEOUS. I am beyond proud of displaying them. Third, they have a wonderful balance to them.”

Ginsu 8 piece knife set
Ginsu Gourmet Chikara Series Forged 8-Piece Japanese Steel Knife Set — $100.00

Ginsu knives are forged from Japanese stainless steel and have traditional rounded handles that are heat resistant. The set includes five different knives, a honing rod, kitchen shears, and bamboo storage block. One reviewer said, “These knives are sharp! They are balanced well and the round grip works fine. I like the variety of knives in the set—I have used the chef’s knife for chopping, the Santoku for slicing, the paring knife for peeling and hand-cutting things like broccoli. The scissors are super sharp and cut through anything, even splitting a chicken.”

Best knife sets for the money

misen essential knife set
Misen Essentials Knife Set — $150.00

For minimalists, this Misen set includes just the essentials: a chef’s knife, a paring knife, and a serrated knife. Top Chef season 18 contestant Sara Hauman calls it “the best knife set for home use and is reasonably priced and made from steel that will stay sharp and can take a beating from everyday use. The set includes three knives that are really all you need to tackle any kitchen task.” There’s also a five-piece set that has the essentials, plus a Santoku knife and utility knife.

victorinox 7 piece knife set
Victorinox Forschner 7 Pc Fibrox Deluxe Culinary Knife Roll Set — $140.00

This knife roll set can be used be amateur or pro chefs, and includes five different knives, including an offset wavy bread knife, a sharpening steel, and a handy polyester bag to store it all away without taking up too much room. “Victorinox makes great but affordable knives. It’s worth noting that these knives won’t keep their edge as long as Wusthof or Henckel knives but they’re still easily sharpened. I highly recommend Victorinox knives for their very reasonable price and comfortable grips,” says Cameron.

Best high-end knife sets

berti knife set
Coltellerie Berti 5 Piece Insieme Kitchen Knife Set — $2,128.00

Handmade in Italy since 1895, Berti knives are almost works of art. Each knife is made by one craftsman from start to finish, and their initials are engraved in the blade. This set of knives has lucite carbon handles and stainless steel blades, and includes a chef’s, utility, paring, and bread knife. Each knife has its own wood block (with a picture of the knife and its Italian name on the front), and the blocks can be magnetized together or kept separated. Oh, and the brand is also a favorite of Giada De Laurentiis‘.

“Berti makes a pretty and pretty good knife set that can be bought individually or separately, the ‘block’ actually snaps together,” says Ashton Keefe, a chef and food stylist.

silverthorn knife set
Silverthorn Knife & Tool Set — $450.00

For a knife set that’s not like what all your other friends have, Horn is a fan of these sets from a hyper local blacksmith out of North Carolina. ‘He pours love into his blades and each is unique, with special steel mixes to create patina over time. For the adventurous chef.” You can choose between sets of trimming, boning, and petty knives, and they all have colorful handles you’ll love looking at while you slice and dice away.

What to look for in a knife set

Essential Knives

Regardless of how many pieces are in a knife set, most chefs agree that there are three essential knives to have: a chef’s knife, paring knife, and serrated knife. You don’t need many knives for day-to-day cooking, says Button, who says she only uses those three knives and either a boning knife or petty (also known as utility knife). Horn also considers a 5-6” petty knife an essential knife as well, as “it’s a great workhorse when you don’t want to unveil your chef's knife,” and can be used on things like mushrooms, herbs, or even a quick breakdown of fruits.

Keefe says the foundation of your knife set will be an 8” or 9” chef’s knife, which is the knife you’ll likely reach for most often. You want something that almost feels like an extension of your hand: it should fit in your hand and not overwhelm it in length or weight. “It doesn't matter how good the set is if you don't love the chef's knife,” she says.

Most high quality knives are made out of high carbon stainless steel, which is low maintenance and rust-resistant, says Contreras, who teaches basic knife skills, sharpening, and care in her online cooking school, Cook+Chop. She adds that once you’ve got your three knives nailed down, look for a pair of kitchen shears, a steel, and a knife sharpener.

Eastern or Western Style

There are traditionally two styles of knives: Eastern (i.e., Japanese) and Western. The difference between the two, explains Keefe, comes down to the blade and the shape of the blade. Western-style knives have two blades (it comes to a point) and generally have more of a curve, whereas Japanese knives have one blade (it looks slightly slanted) and tend to be straighter. “A sharp knife is the best knife, so it's all about sharpening, and many believe that a Japanese knife is sharper because of the type of blade,” says Keefe. But at the end of the day, it's about knowing the difference between sharpening each type and which you're likely to do.

Traditionally, Eastern knives are sharpened on a whetstone and take more care, adds Contreras, while Western knives usually require less maintenance. There are also hybrid designs, and both can be easily maintained with a steel. You still need to sharpen the blade with home use at least once a month for heavy use and every few months for lighter use, she says, but you can also take your knives to a professional to get them sharpened if you don’t want to do it yourself.

“If you aren’t a blacksmith, now is not the time to start,” says Horn. “Honing your blade with a steel (preferably ceramic) is great for keeping your knife's edge even and in the middle.”

Storage

A block can help store all your knives in one place and protect the blades, but it can also take up counter space. If your set doesn’t include a block, you can also store them using in-drawer inserts or a magnetic strip.

How to build your own knife set

While it’s hard to argue with the ease and convenience of a knife set, many chefs recommend building your own. “Trust me, each knife has a purpose and it’s not a one-size-fits-all. You also need way less than you think you do,” says Keefe.

We tend to use only one or two knives in a home kitchen, says Michelle Hernandez, pastry chef and owner of Le Dix-Sept Patisserie in San Francisco. And it’s easier to care for a couple of knives and keep them sharp than a larger set at home. She recommends buying three high-quality knives at a specialty knives store—if it’s a quality knife, it will last a lifetime, she says.

Start with a 8” chef’s knife, a 4” paring knife, and a serrated bread knife, and you can add on from there. You’ll also need a sharpening blade, which you should use every time before using your knife. The key is quality over quantity. “One of my chefs that I worked for in France told me you only need one good knife to do everything in the kitchen,” Hernandez says. Some of her favorite knives include a Wusthof 8” chef’s knife, which is a great sturdy, starter knife; Material’s almost 4” knife or Victorinox Utility Knife; and a Wusthof “double serrated” bread knife to slice through crusty loaves

If you’re looking for domestic craft knives, Button recommends South Carolina-based Middleton Made Knives, which makes comfortable, well-made knives for everyday use, and Vermont-based Chelsea Miller Knives, one of the few female knife makers in the country. “Choosing a domestic craft knife allows you to get to know your knife maker, talk to them about what you want and how you’re going to use it," she adds.

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