The more pretentious chefs out there might scoff at the idea of buying a kitchen knife set. They might explain how their Sujihiki blade was hand-forged in a remote Japanese village or that the only good paring knives are made in Germany. But for amateur chefs not trying to turn a cooking utensil into a personality, the knife set — matching blades sold with a Arthurian stone for storage — is a no-brainer.
Japanese or German, entry-level or expensive, countertop or drawer storage, there’s a kitchen knife set for everyone. And that knife set is probably sold on Amazon, which hess enough delicate Akidos and hefty Wüsthofs for anyone still shopping at Whole Foods, the more verdant part of the Bezos empire. Sets tend to differ slightly in their composition – some sets come with shears, steak knives, honing rods, and other accoutrements – and their look so smart shoppers take a beat to consider what might help them become a slightly better home chef.
The Best Kitchen Knife Sets: At a Glance
Victorinox Swiss Classic 5-Piece Knife Set with In-Drawer Knife Holder
What the Experts Say
Rod Gray, National BBQ Champion and CEO of the Kansas City Barbeque Society, uses an expensive Japanese knife set in cooking demonstrations, but when he’s on the competitive circuit he downgrades. He wants tools, not showpieces. The lesson? Get the knives you need and don’t feel like high price necessarily means better results. Gray goes practical and reliable. That makes sense for him.
Interestingly, practical and reliable isn’t just about the knives. It’s about the storage. The block or magnet or countertop installation, should not be an afterthought.
Roger Sitrin, the Lead Recreational Chef Instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education, says storing knives in a way that prevents them from knocking into one another or other objects is vital. He recommends an in-drawer knife block, or a countertop knife block. Shawn Hill, founder and pitmaster of The Grilling Dad, agrees, adding that it’s important to consider space. Counters are only so big. The question becomes whether or not there’s enough space to safely store blades without having to shove them in a drawer.
Henckels Modernist 13-Piece Stainless Steel Knife Set
If there’s a knife set that most people are going to enjoy using, this is it. The 13 pieces include multiple multipurpose knives—two paring, a serrated utility, a santoku, and of course a chef’s knife.
There’s also a bread knife, kitchen shears, four steak knives, and a handsome block you won’t mind leaving out on your counter. The included sharpening steel means you don’t even have to buy something separate to maintain the high-quality stainless steel blades.
Henckels advertises these knives as dishwasher safe, but most chefs recommend treating your knives with care, washing and drying them by hand before returning them immediately to their place in the block. Price wise, they occupy a nice place in between budget knives that won’t last and ultra-premium sets that are overkill for most people cooking at home.
Nanfang Brothers Damascus Steel Knife Set
The five knives in this set are definitely solid, featuring 67 layers of Damascus steel, a material known for its edge retention, corrosion resistance, and durability. And they look great on the included stand, which is basically a big magnet that keeps them in place easily that’s surrounded by wood that prevents the metal-on-metal contact that can dent and dull blades.
Calphalon Classic Kitchen Knife Set with Self-Sharpening Block
Sharpening your knives is one of the more onerous kitchen maintenance tasks there is, but this set helps you by doing a bit of sharpening every time you draw out or slide in one of your straight blades. The secret is the ceramic sharpeners embedded in the block that keep the high-carbon forged steel blades sharper for longer. There’s also a separate sharpening block for more intentional sharpening of the six, 12, or 16-piece versions of this knife set every once in a while.
Farberware 15-Piece Forged Triple-Rivet Knife Block Set
The occasional cook who doesn’t want to spend a bunch of money on knives he won’t use all that often could do a lot worse than this 15-piece set from the most popular cutlery brand in the country. It includes a solid selection of triple-rivet knives housed inside a handsome natural wood storage block for classic functionality and look.
Victorinox Swiss Classic 5-Piece Knife Set with In-Drawer Knife Holder
If counter space is truly at a premium or you just don’t like the look of a block on wood amidst your mise en place, this Victorinox set includes five useful knives — paring, tomato, carving, Santoku, and bread — housed in a wooden knife drawer that keeps them protected and out of site. Each knife has Victorinox’s fibrox handles, which are easy to grasp even when wet and were Gray’s knife of choice for barbeque competitions before, during, and after his sponsorship by the company.
Material Knife Trio + Stand
If you’re going for an uncluttered, sparse aesthetic in your kitchen, this trio of knives and magnetic stand from Material is the best choice. Each full tang knife (that means the metal runs from the tip of the blade to the end of the handle) feels well-balanced and has a handle that complements the four different natural wood options for the stand, which is large enough to hold a handful of other knives.
Global 7-Piece Ikasu Knife Set
If your goal is to have your knives stand out when not in use, this striking set from Japanese knifemaker Global is the one for you. Six of the brand’s signature knives, which are made from one piece of steel and one piece of steel only from blade to handle, sit snugly in a knife block that exposes the blades hanging underneath. It’s a great look with a huge practical advantage: if you can see the blades below, it’s easy to pick out the knife you want the first time no matter which slot it was put into.
Wüsthof Amici 6-Piece Kitchen Knife Set
This over-the-top set costs a pretty penny, and it all starts with the materials: olive wood handles inspired by Italian design, a block wrapped in fine Italian cowhide, and blades forged in Germany from a single piece of steel. Those materials come come together in a luxurious package that looks expensive and contains five knives (paring, slicer, bread, chef’s, and santoku) that can do whatever needs to be done in the (presumably equally opulent) kitchen.
Cuisinart Ceramic-Coated Stainless Steel Knife Set
If you don’t know a santoku from a sudoku, try this inexpensive set from Cuisinart. Each steel blade is wrapped in colorful ceramic with a matching plastic blade guard, so it’s easy to make the blades last even if you toss them in a drawer. The six knives run the gamut from paring to slicing, and are a great way to get a feel for the different kinds of knives and what they can do without dropping money on a more expensive set that you won’t want to damage.
Frequently Asked Questions About Culinary Knives
What knives come in a knife set?
That answer depends on the set, of course, but most include a paring knife, utility knife, and a chef’s knife. Many also include a set of steak knives and some kind of sharpening tool along with a way to store them all.
What’s the best way to store knives?
Slotted knife blocks, magnetic blocks, drawer storage, and blade guards are all effective ways to protect knife blades, so it comes down to personal preference. Slots are classic but can be hard to match to blades. Magnetic blocks are easy to use but can damage cutlery without a proper (usually good) coating. Drawer organizers and blade guards are best for those who want their knives out of sight.
Why should you buy knives as a set instead of individually
Buying a knife set decreases the number of buying decisions you have to make and gives you a set of knives that look good together. If you have specific opinions about the specific brands and types of knives that you use, you’re probably better off buying them individually from. However, most people will do just fine with an all-in-one set.
Will buying a knife set make me a better cook?
Maybe! If you enjoy cooking more after a decent set of knives, you’ll do it more and probably get better at it. Who knows, one day you might be the pretentious jerk lecturing normals on the virtues of hollow edge construction!