No matter which one you buy, there’s no single knife that’s right for every kitchen cutting task. Any chef could eventually find themselves frustrated by a situation where they don’t have the right knife for the job.
Today we’re going to head that problem off at the pass. In this article, we’ll examine the best kitchen knife sets, and offer our thoughts on the positives and negatives of different styles.
How to Choose the Best Kitchen Knife Set
The topic of kitchen knives is a more complex one than you might expect, since there are many different styles with different uses. Buying them as a set can offer certain advantages and also help strengthen the visual appeal of your kitchen.
Before getting started, it may be helpful for you to take a look at the anatomy of a knife and get familiar with the terms we will use to describe the knife sets.
What Defines a Kitchen Knife Set?
A knife set is a collection of different knives. Their makeup is not standardized, so there’s no single answer to the question of what’s included. We can, however, make some generalizations.
Nearly every knife set you find will include a chef’s knife, utility knife, and paring knife.
Most include at least a few others such as a serrated bread knife, boning knife, santoku knife, steak knives, or kitchen shears, though the offering varies by manufacturer. Some may even include specialty items such as a cleaver, or fillet knife.
To determine the knives that you need in your set, take a look at our article on The Types of Knives and Their Uses in the kitchen.
Naturally, the price can vary significantly based on the number of pieces in the set. It’s a good idea, therefore, to take stock of the types of cutting and cooking you actually do before buying your set. There’s no point in choosing an expensive set with a heavy cleaver if you’re never going to use it.
Most kitchen knife sets include a honing rod made of steel or ceramic.
While it can’t be used for cutting, the honing rod is an important tool in the kitchen. It straightens and regenerates the knife edge, maintaining the knife’s effectiveness between more serious sharpenings. Proper use of a rod minimizes the need for sharpening to once or twice per year.
If placed haphazardly in a drawer, your knives are likely to get chipped and dulled when they bounce against each other. That’s why most knife sets come with an associated knife block. This is essentially the storage rack for your knives and can also be an elegant addition to your kitchen.
Many of the most treasured blocks are made of hardwoods like maple or walnut. However, no small number of metal, glass, or even polymer blocks are also on the market nowadays.
Also on the market are magnetic strips that can stand alone or be affixed to the wall. These make it easier to find and retrieve the knives you need. They’re also a more hygienic choice as cleaning them is much simpler than cleaning knife blocks. However, they also tend to be more expensive.
Note that most of the time, the honing rod and the block or strip are each considered one of the pieces in the knife set. A package advertised as an eight-piece set will have no more than six blades if a rod and block are included.
Forged vs. Stamped Knives and the Hardness
In centuries past all blades were forged— produced by heating and hammering a billet of steel into the desired shape. Most high-end knives today are still made this way, and it offers manufacturers more flexibility to tailor the metal’s properties to their specifications. The downside is that it is a time-consuming and expensive process, so your wallet will feel it.
The alternative made possible by the industrial revolution is stamping. Stamped blades are cut from a sheet of rolled steel. They tend not to be quite as tough as their forged counterparts, but are usually far cheaper. Stamped knives have markedly improved in recent decades, so depending on the model, they may serve you almost as well as forged ones.
The hardness of a blade is usually indicated by its Rockwell score (HRC). Most kitchen knives fall in the range of 54 - 61 HRC. A higher score translates to better edge retention while a lower score allows for more flexibility and ease of sharpening.
Should You Buy a Knife Set, or Should You Go A la Carte?
Most cutlery manufacturers offer the same knives individually as can be found in their larger sets or collections. For some people it will make more sense to just pick up one knife at a time. Others will benefit from purchasing them all at once.
Acquiring a full collection of kitchen utensils is a long (arguably never-ending) process. Chances are you already have at least some of the styles of knife you’d find in a set.
If you already have a high-quality chef’s knife, utility knife, and paring knife, you may not need to buy a full set. It makes sense to just pick up those few you still need individually. A mish-mash of brands and models may not look as pretty, but good knives aren’t cheap, so economics are important to consider.
Speaking of cost, though, if you’re still in need of a quality chef’s knife and are also missing some of the other styles, a full set can actually be the cheaper way to go.
It’s important to select a quality brand— you don’t want to be stuck with a pile of sub-par blades that will wear out quickly— but a set of knives is usually much cheaper than they would be if purchased individually.
Plus, with many sets at least, you also get a purpose-built knife block. A professional knife set in an elegant block can be a striking aesthetic addition to your kitchen.
So, if you’re in the market for a full collection, read on for our nominations for the best kitchen knife sets!
Reviews of the Best Kitchen Knife Sets in 2021
Among the many different knife sets on the market, we tried to choose a lineup that includes options for everyone— some are professional level, while others make cost the top consideration. Below is our list of best kitchen knife sets to buy in 2021.
- Mercer Culinary - Best to Buy in 2021
- Shun Premier - Best Professional Knife Set
- HomeHero Knife Set - Best Budget Knife Set
- Messermeister Avanta Steak Knife Set- Best Steak Knife Set
- Shun Classic 6-Piece Block Set - Best Japanese Knife Set
- Cutlery Fusion 1119644 - Best Chicago Cutlery Knife Set
- Cuisinart C77SS-15PK - Best Cuisinart Kitchen Knife Set
Below are our reviews for the Best Kitchen Knife Sets.
1. Mercer Culinary Genesis 6-Piece Magnetic Board Knife Set - Best to Buy in 2021
Mercer Culinary combines utility with unique elegance in this six-piece set. We chose it as the best kitchen knife set to buy because it offers high-quality examples of all the critical blades, but still comes in at a reasonable price.
Forged high-carbon stainless steel
Attractive open-air magnetic board
Doesn’t include honing steel
Too tall for some kitchens
The blades cover all the basics: you get a chef’s knife, bread knife, boning knife, utility knife, and paring knife, plus a unique open-air magnetic rack. All the blades are forged from authentic German high-carbon stainless steel and heat-treated to a Rockwell Hardness number of 58. This helps ensure that they don’t easily chip.
Like all of Mercer Culinary’s products, these knives are NSF compliant. This means they are equally as usable in a restaurant setting as a home kitchen.
An Elegant and Functional Magnetic Board
Visually speaking, the stand-out feature of this set is the magnetic storage board. Mercer chose to create a thin acacia-wood board with magnetic backing on which to both store and display your knives. It’s pretty and, in a busy kitchen, allows you to find and retrieve the knives you need more easily.
You should always hand-wash your knives and wipe them dry with a towel after washing. If there’s any moisture left on the blades, they will dry much faster on this board than they would in a more enclosed block.
The Minor Shortcomings
With only five knives, it’s a smaller set than some, so you miss out on the benefits of a matching set of kitchen shears and honing steel.
The storage board is also quite tall, so it’s not well suited to kitchens with very low-hanging cupboards. Note also that it’s important to be careful with this set if young kids are about— mischievous small hands could knock the tall board over more easily than a more bottom-heavy block.
All Mercer Culinary products are covered by a lifetime limited warranty (or 25 years if you are a corporate user) so you can cut with confidence for many years to come.
2. Shun Premier 7-Piece Essential Block Set - Best Professional Knife Set
Shun’s Premier Essential Block Set is where you should turn to if you need a truly professional level set designed for the top chefs in the world. It includes the most essential blades, all forged, NSF certified for commercial use, and stored in a heavy (and stylish) bamboo knife block.
Shears and honing steel included
Block has extra space for more knives
Lifetime warranty and free blade sharpening
Blades slightly easier to chip than most
Japanese Forged Knives
This gorgeous set includes a chef’s knife, utility knife, paring knife, and serrated bread knife, along with a set of shears and honing steel.
Shun’s Premier series of blades are made of Japanese high-carbon stainless steel and ground sharper than most. They come in between 60 and 61 HRC on the Rockwell Hardness scale, which means they can keep their edge sharp for months on end without the need for sharpening. On the other hand, cutting through hard bones or frozen food should be avoided.
All the knives and the honing steel sport a contoured, ergonomic pakkawood handle that’s both easy on the eye and easy to clean up.
The undulating “Tsuchime” texture of the finished blade not only looks beautiful, but also serves to reduce friction when cutting sticky foods. It helps prevent things like sashimi or soft cheese from sticking to the metal.
Though this set doesn’t have quite as many knives as some others, the knife block features an additional five slots ready to accept your other blades.
A Price Tag That Matches Its Quality
We won’t beat around the bush on this one: the Premier Essential Block Set is very expensive. It’s specifically intended for use by chefs in high-end restaurants, who are more likely to make the investment in truly top-of-the-line cutlery.
But if you’re a home cook or simply an enthusiast with the funds to put into pro-level hardware, this is one set that won’t let you down. It’ll likely last decades, and of course, it carries Shun’s limited lifetime warranty.
Looking for an Alternative?
If you can’t spring for such a pricey set, but still want NSF-compliant cutlery, have a look at Victorinox’s Swiss Army Cutlery Fibrox Pro set. It features stamped versions of the same four types of knife at a much more affordable price. Note, though, that there’s no block, shears, or honing steel. It would be a good idea to find a separate knife block or blade guards for this set.
3. Home Hero 17 Pieces Kitchen Knives Set - Best Budget Knife Set
Not everyone is in a position to splurge hundreds of dollars on a set of knives. For them there’s the HomeHero set— a large collection of stamped stainless steel knives for an extremely low price.
Includes a blade sharpener
Coating may get into food if scraped off
Not full-tang blades
A Knife for Every Cutting Need
The sheer number of pieces in this set are what makes it our best budget kitchen knife set pick for 2021. If you’re a starter and want to get familiar with various cutting tasks in the kitchen, this set offers everything you need.
And by everything, we mean everything. There are 13 knives included. Apart from the three essentials (chef’s knife, paring knife, and utility knife) and carving knife for general cooking purposes, you have three separate ones for cutting cheese, pizza, and bread, plus six serrated steak knives.
There’s also a set of shears and a vegetable peeler!
Two-Stage Sharpener & Convenient Transparent Stand
The set includes a two-stage pull-through knife sharpener. Having a small body, this sharpener can stay in a drawer until you need a quick fix for small chips or burrs on your knife edge.
The stand that holds everything is made from transparent plastic — useful for selecting the right knife from the huge collection.
It Won’t Serve As an Heirloom
Without being too direct: In the realm of cutlery, you get what you pay for.
Unlike most, the knives in this set have a black non-stick coating that’s very pretty, but you will have to be extra careful to avoid scraping it off.
These inexpensive stamped blades are sharp and with proper maintenance, will serve you well for a few years. However, it’d be unrealistic to expect them to last a lifetime the way more pricey forged ones might.
4. Messermeister Avanta 4-Piece 5 Fine Edge Steak Knife Set - Best Steak Knife Set
Steak knife sets, fortunately, aren’t as pricey as cooking-knife sets. This four-piece set from Messermeister is proof that even quality forged German high-carbon stainless steel doesn’t have to break the bank.
Forged high-carbon stainless steel
Multiple handle and edge options
No blade sheaths or knife block
Lack of serrations make tough steaks harder to cut
Straight Edge for Fine, Clean Cuts
These elegant fine-edge steak knives don’t have the serrations common to many others.
This absence means they may lose their edge faster than serrated steak knives, but the benefit is they are much easier to sharpen. As a result, you can keep them for decades, as opposed to serrated knives that go into the garbage bin the moment they become dull.
They also make finer, smoother cuts and don’t tear the meat the way a dull serrated knife would. Of course, you will have to sharpen them regularly to maintain the effect.
Various Handle Choices
The full-tang forged blades are complemented by your choice of stainless steel, black polymer, PakkaWood, or teak wood handles to ensure they fit in well with your existing kitchenware.
They are all fastened to the full tang with three rivets and finished with a stainless steel butt, which makes for a solid, weighted feel as you hold the knife.
Keep Them Separated
The Avanta steak knife set doesn’t include any case or sheath. We encourage you to take care when placing them in a drawer (or find an aftermarket knife block) to ensure the edges don’t chip.
You can also take comfort in Messermeister’s lifetime warranty against material and manufacturing defects.If you’re looking for something different, take a look at our reviews of the best steak knife sets from other brands.
5. Shun Classic 6-piece Slim Knife Block Set - Best Japanese Knife Set
Shun Cutlery is among Japan’s top knife brands, and their Classic kitchen set is unlikely to disappoint. It features both a Western chef’s knife and Santoku knife along with kitchen shears, paring knife, and honing steel. The included wooden block has space for an additional three blades, so you have room to expand the set.
Includes German- and Japanese-style kitchen knives
Shears and honing steel included
Block has extra space for more knives
Lifetime warranty and free sharpening of knives
No bread knife
Blades slightly easier to chip than most
The Best of Both Worlds
Unlike most cutlery sets, this one includes both German- and Japanese-style kitchen knives, making it best suited to a chef who is knowledgeable in both styles of food preparation. They’re constructed of proprietary VG-MAX high-carbon stainless steel, and clad with an attractive “Damascus” style finish.
Shun hardens their knives to 60 or 61 HRC on the Rockwell Hardness scale. As a result, these blades will keep their edge longer than most. A sharpening angle of 16 degrees means they’re sharp but not as vulnerable to chipping as other knives with the same hardness level and smaller edges.
Still, it's important to take care with these knives, especially during washing up or when cutting around bone.
Free Lifetime Sharpening Service
The inclusion of two large blades (the chef’s and santoku knives) naturally contributes to the price, so the set doesn’t come cheap. These professional kitchen knives are for the truly dedicated cook who intends to use them for a lifetime.
Fortunately, Shun offers a free sharpening service for all its knives. They can’t repair major chips, but when that tough steel does eventually need a new edge, all you have to pay for is the shipping, no matter how long you’ve owned the knife.We know a set like this can be cost prohibitive. If you’re looking for a Japanese set at a lower price, try this set from BGT. It comes with a roll-up nylon transport bag rather than a block, but will still serve you well and still offer the benefits of matching German and Santoku knives.
6. Chicago Cutlery Cutlery Fusion 18pc Block Set - Best Chicago Cutlery Knife Set
The Cutlery Fusion set will fill nearly every knife-related niche in the kitchen. Chicago Cutlery’s huge set includes a full 15 blades plus honing steel, and houses them all in a heavy and attractive wooden block.
Each knife is forged from high-carbon stainless steel, but the set still comes in at an extremely reasonable price.
Huge range of blades
Knife block is tightly packed
Asian Inspiration in Design and Sharpness
The Cutlery Fusion set includes everything you’d expect such as a chef’s knife, bread knife, paring knife, utility blade, long slicer, and eight steak knives. Added to the collection are two Japanese blades: a santoku and a partoku, a smaller version of the santoku.
The knives are taper ground to exactly 13 degrees on each side — an angle usually found only on high-end Japanese knives. These blades get a good reputation among users for being extremely sharp out of the box. Being forged out of high carbon stainless steel, they also keep their edge for a long time without the need for sharpening.
The kitchen knives all have rubberized polymer grips while the steak knives and honing steel stick with metal. The grip tapers slightly from the butt to the bolster, offering more security, especially during chopping, as the large butt prevents it from slipping out of your palm.
A Substantial Tang
The blades feature a full tang that extends to the heel. The tang adds weight and improves balance while also serving as a fingerguard. The downside is that sharpening will be a little trickier, as it may get in the way on a stone or a pull-through sharpener.
A Block That Blocks View
The whole thing weighs in at a whopping 13.45 pounds (6.1 kilograms), but considering the sheer amount of steel, that’s hardly a surprise.
One of the drawbacks to such a hefty set of knives, however, is that it’s hard to tell which is which when they’re in the block. Even when you know the one you want, they’re packed in rather tightly, so a careful fingertip draw may be necessary.
7. Cuisinart C77SS-15PK 15-Piece Stainless Steel Handle Block Set - Best Cuisinart Kitchen Knife Set
Cuisinart’s Stainless Steel 15-Piece Block Set is a good, inexpensive option for the chef who enjoys a minimalist design and decent blade quality. With hollow handles, they’re also a good choice for hygiene and wrist fatigue.
Multiple handy paring knives
Sleek, modern aesthetics
No bread knife
Knife block is tightly packed
May rust easier than others
A Unique Blade Collection
Included in the Cuisinart’s Block Set are a chef’s knife, santoku knife, serrated utility knife, 8-inch slicing knife, two types of paring knife, and six serrated steak knives. There’s also a set of kitchen shears and a honing steel, and everything fits in a black wooden block that sits with a rather small footprint.
The set’s makeup is a bit different than most, including a fine-edged slicing knife instead of a bread knife, for instance. That’s great for some users, less so for others. We also definitely like the bird’s beak paring knife, which isn’t available with many other sets.
High Carbon Stainless Steel
The steel used in this set appears to have a slightly lower chromium content than many leading brands use. That increases rigidity and cutting precision and allows them to hold an edge longer.
However, they’re also a bit more likely to develop rust spots. Always hand wash and thoroughly dry your knives before racking them, especially since the block is enclosed and doesn’t allow for air-drying.
The handles all round are made of a brushed version of the same stainless steel as the blades, resulting in a sleek appearance. Cooks with tired wrists will love these knives as the handles are hollow inside, which makes them lightweight and comfortable to use for long hours.
Best Kitchen Knife Set Brands
The Cuisinart company got its start in 1971 by bringing the new German innovation known as the “food processor” to American shores.
Though it was a while before it really took off, the company eventually became so successful that the name “Cuisinart” (itself a portmanteau of “cuisine” and “art”) is synonymous with “food processor” to this day. The company’s founder, Carl Sontheimer, also aimed to make kitchen implements more accessible to users with disabilities.
Today, in addition to their infamous food processors, Cuisinart sells a wide line of kitchenware to include coffee makers, toaster ovens, slow cookers, cutlery, and more. True to their principles, they try as much as possible to make their products simple to use for disabled or visually-impaired customers.
2. Chicago Cutlery
This well-loved brand is part of the Corelle Brands conglomeration of kitchenware and craft-product companies. Others that fall under that umbrella include Pyrex, Corningware, and Olfa. The grouping of associated companies allows Chicago Cutlery to focus most on what they do best: knives.
Chicago Cutlery likes to tout itself as “the #1 brand in forged cutlery.” In spite of the tagline, they do offer both forged and stamped knives, and both versions can be found with elegant blocks and beautiful handles.
3. Mercer Culinary
Based out of New York City, Mercer Culinary is famous for their barware and wide line of restaurant-oriented kitchenware. Their immense cutlery line covers all uses and features offerings in inexpensive stamped and high-end forged versions. They also focus on specialty kitchen items using modern materials such as their high-temperature nylon “Hell’s Tools” line.
4. Shun Cutlery
Shun (pronounced, “shoon”) is a Japanese company that draws inspiration from the storied history of Samurai sword-making techniques. They hail from Seki City, a place viewed as the heart of Japanese blade-making for centuries.
Like the blacksmiths of old, Shun views the personal connection to the blade as crucial. Each knife receives individual, hands-on attention during the forging process. Their fusion of high-tech materials into both modern and classical production techniques results in fantastic blades that are famous all over the world.
Wüsthof is a famous German brand, but has expanded to include some Japanese styles in their product line as well. The company has been owned and operated by the same family for seven generations out of Solingen, Germany’s “City of Blades.”
Wüsthof uses modern forging technologies and the latest inspection techniques to maintain their renowned level of German engineering. That said, they don’t let automation take over the process fully. Every blade gets personal attention to ensure they can consider it worthy of the brand’s storied history. All this makes Wüsthof’s some of the best kitchen knife sets on the market today.
Messermeister means “knife master,” and began life in 1981 under the name DAMCO. Founded in California by a husband-and-wife team of globe-trotting German immigrants, Messermeister has retained much of the old German forging tradition.
They're still using the hot-drop, hammer-forging process that made German knives famous in the first place.
As part of a commitment to their customers, Messermeister offers a lifetime warranty against material and manufacturing defects. They also offer their services to sharpen Messermeister products. You can have your straight- and fine-edged knives sharpened for free, but will have to pay a small fee for serrated or scalloped blades.
7. Zwilling J.A. Henckels
Zwilling J.A. Henckels is one of the world’s oldest and largest knife manufacturers. You can trace its origins all the way back to 1731.
Peter Henckels registered his new knife company as “Zwilling,” a word which means “Twin” in German, and is reflected in their famous logo. Like so many of the top German smiths, they have a headquarter in the city of Solingen, but do business around the world.
Zwilling J.A. Henckels makes a range of both forged and stamped blades (as well as, more recently, cookware, kitchen tools, and beauty tools). Most of their knives are hand-honed upon completion. Their forged products also tend to feature large heavy bolsters to aid in the user’s grip and distribute the knife’s weight properly.
Like most high-end knife manufacturers, Zwilling J.A. Henckels warrants their products against manufacturing and material defects.
Have a question, or want to share your experience with a knife set you got? Drop a comment!
Found a keeper among our recommendations of the best kitchen knife sets? Let us know!
A writer and entrepreneur, Luna’s day doesn’t start at the computer keyboard, but in the kitchen.
Half of her working hours are spent on mixing ingredients for her recipes. The other half involve working with the tech team to research and test the tools and appliances that promise to make kitchen work effortless and mess-free. From a kitchen knife or water filter to the Instant Pot, if it can help save time and effort for the home cook, Luna and her team are on it.
Luna’s extracurricular pastimes include camping, travel, and photography.