Sharp kitchen knives are a must-have tool for cooking. They make tasks like ingredient prep, filleting, deboning, and paring easier and faster. Kitchen knives come in a range of types, from serrated knives to chef’s knives to paring knives. Each is designed to do a specific task. The best way to ensure you get the right knives to cover a variety of needs is to buy a set.
A good knife set will offer a selection of cutting tools without the work of picking out knives individually. Most knife sets also come with a wooden, glass, or metal block that allows them to be safely stored when not in use.
Whether you’re a seasoned home chef or a beginner, a knife set will make cooking easier. Read up on our knife-buying tips and explore some of the best knife sets for daily food prep.
- BEST OVERALL: Mercer Culinary M23500 Renaissance Forged Knife Set
- BEST BUDGET: DEIK Knife Set High Carbon Stainless Steel
- BEST FOR BEGINNERS: Wüsthof Classic Two Piece Prep Set
- BEST FOR CHEFS: Shun Classic 6-piece Slim Knife Block Set
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Knife Set
There are many factors to consider when choosing a knife set, ranging from blade materials to your cooking style. Here’s what you need to know.
Quality and Durability
There are four key things to keep in mind when choosing kitchen knives:
Tang Length: A knife’s tang is the part of the blade that extends into the handle. Knives are described as “partial tang” or “full tang,” depending on how far into the handle the blade goes. Knives with full tangs are better quality, have more balance, and the blades are less likely to break than knives with partial tangs.
Cutting Edge: Kitchen knives have two basic types of edges, smooth or serrated. Smooth blades are best for slicing, chopping, and trimming. Serrated knives are used for cutting bread and thick-skinned fruits and veggies, like tomatoes. Having both types in the kitchen will help you perform an array of cooking tasks.
Bevel and Angle: The bevel is the surface of the knife that has been ground to form the cutting edge. A knife’s cutting power and durability depends on the angle of the bevel, known as the sharpening angle. Great knives should have a sharpening angle between 15 and 20 degrees, offering cutting precision without sacrificing strength.
Hardness: Blade hardness is measured on the Rockwell scale. Many high-quality kitchen knives have carbon or stainless steel blades, so look for values between 55 and 60 HRC (Rockwell Scale of Hardness, part C.) Harder steel will generally hold an edge better than softer steel.
Design and Material
Blades: High-quality knives typically have blades made of carbon steel or stainless steel. Carbon steel is harder than stainless steel and is a favorite of professional chefs who need maximum cutting power. Stainless steel blades are more flexible and are a good choice for at-home cooks.
Handles: Knife handles can be made of metal, wood, or high-tech plastic polymers. Wooden handles are known for their beauty and sustainability, but they may need extra upkeep to prevent splitting, discoloration, and water damage. Plastic handles are lightweight and comfortable to grip, but they may not last as long as metal or wood.
Style and Extras
Knife sets come with more than just knives. Here are some of the extras to look for.
Honing steel is a metal or ceramic rod used to realign the knife blade. A common misconception is that it’s used for sharpening the blade, but that’s not what it’s for. Run a knife along the honing rod to straighten the edge so that you won’t need to sharpen the knife as often.
Kitchen shears have heavy-duty blades for food prep and other household tasks. Just make sure to sterilize the shears before using them on food, especially if they’ve been used for other purposes (like opening packages).
Knife block. This is a stand for the knives to rest in, keeping them safe, rust-free, and off the countertop. A knife block is traditionally made of carved wood, but newer versions may be acrylic, plastic, or glass. The right knife storage helps the knives last longer and keeps them organized and ready for use.
Our Top Picks
We’ve found some of the best knife sets for home chefs and beginners. Our selections are based on criteria ranging from the types of knives included in the set to price.
Mercer’s knife set includes various knives a home cook needs—a chef’s knife, a bread knife, a boning knife, and a paring knife and a utility knife—inside a glass block. The German-made blades are made of high-carbon steel so they are tough, easy to care for, and very sharp. They have full tang blades that run the length of the triple-riveted handle, and a taper-ground cutting edge that will stay sharp for a long time. The set can also be purchased with a wooden stand.
Deik’s 16-piece knife set packs a lot of quality into a low price. The set includes a chef’s knife, utility knife, paring knife, six steak knives, a peeler, scissors, honing steel, and an acrylic stand. The knives have stainless steel blades with Black Oxide Technology, a coating that makes them resistant to corrosion, stains, and pitting. The knives have ergonomic plastic handles that are slip-resistant and comfortable to hold.
Wüsthof knives are for professionals, but this set is a good choice for beginners because it includes just two versatile knives: a cook’s knife and a paring knife. Forged from a single block of German-forged steel, these full-tang knives will hold an edge a long time and are easy to sharpen. Wüsthof has been making top-quality knives for more than 200 years, and this little set lives up to the company’s reputation for quality. Use the cook’s knife for everything from dicing onions to slicing meat. The paring knife is perfect for coring apples and making salads.
Shun knives are known for their lovely design and high-quality blades. This set lives up to the Shun reputation. The six knives in this set are handcrafted in Japan with VG-Max steel, which includes 34 layers of stainless steel for maximum edge retention and corrosion resistance. The knives have razor-sharp edges that give a cook a lot of cutting control and ebony pakkawood handles that look lovely and feel good. The set includes a paring knife, santoku knife, chef’s knife, a honing steel, kitchen shears, and an 8-slot dark wood knife block.
FAQs About Your New Knife Set
Still have questions about choosing the best knife sets? Here is more information to help you shop wisely.
Q. How long do knife sets last?
The best knife sets can last decades and be passed down for generations. Their lifespan depends on their design and construction, and whether they get proper care and maintenance.
Q. What is the best steak knife set?
Steak knives come in two general blade types: straight-edged (also called fine-edged) and serrated. Experts disagree as to which is the best type of blade, but some people prefer straight edges because they are sharper and don’t require users to saw back and forth. We like the DEIK Knife Set High Carbon Stainless Steel, which comes with a set of 6 steak knives plus other helpful tools.
Q. What is the best Japanese knife set?
Japanese knives are some of the best in the world, known for thin, delicate, super sharp blades. They’re typically lighter and sharper than German knives and they require more maintenance. Look for blades with good edge retention that are easy to sharpen. We like Shun Classic 6-piece Slim Knife Block Set.