The Best Kitchen Knife Sets That You Can Buy (2019)

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cutting meat

I love knives. They’re one of the handiest tools to have around the kitchen, and you’d be amazed at how much easier your life is if you have at least the basics. A steak knife simply doesn’t cut it (pun intended) for a lot of tasks. You ever tried carving up a whole chicken with just a paring knife? A brace of potatoes without a good chef’s knife? It’s possible, but a huge pain.

In this article we’re going to go over some kitchen knife set reviews (the best ones I can find) and more importantly how to pick the right one, so you can separate the wheat from the chaff on your own in the future.

For knife sharpeners check out our review here.

Cuisinart C77SS-15PK

Our Best Choice...

Key Features

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    Strong, durable bolster for perfect stability and control
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    Easy to clean and dishwasher safe
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    Ergonomically designed for comfort use
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    Lifetime Warranty.
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    Great value for your money


1. Cuisinart C77SS-15PK 15-Piece Block Set - Best Overall Knife Set

Cuisinart C77SS-15PK

Why you'll love it: This is a simple, well made, no frills knife set with a decent variety and a good price. Overall a perfect choice for our “baseline” model by which to compare other sets.

What We Liked

  • Price: These are excellent knives for the budget. Overall inexpensive while not being so cheap as to make you instantly suspicious of their motives.
  • Variety: As a baseline kitchen knife set, this set is superb. It includes a santoku knife (the Japanese equivalent to a chef’s knife, and my preferred for chopping heavy vegetables), an actual chef’s knife (better for small and light vegetables like bell peppers or green onions), a slicing knife, two paring knives (one a bird’s beak), a serrated utility knife, and 6 serrated steak knives, plus shears and sharpening steel, of course.
  • Block: Block is sturdy and unassuming, while complimenting the color of the knives themselves quite well.
  • High Carbon: As mentioned, a high carbon content is a desirable quality in knives, making them sharper and retain their edge longer. This doesn’t completely remove the need for maintenance, but it does reduce it.

What We Didn't Like

  • Stainless Steel: High carbon stainless is better than plain stainless steel, but still inferior to pure high carbon blades in some ways. Consider this both a “liked” and “didn’t like”. It reduces the risk of rust on the knife, which is good…but if you’re taking proper care of your knives, that isn’t an issue. The tradeoff in hardness and edge retention is not really worth it in my opinion, shifting this just over the wall into this category.
  • Appearance: I’m not a huge fan of the overly simple “all steel” coloring. A bit of paint on the handle always goes a long way, not just for aesthetics, but for slightly improving your grip as well.
  • Serrated Steak Knives: Another preference on my end, I prefer steak knives with smooth blade, as I prefer to slice rather than tear my meat.

Specifications

Size: 15 Piece
Material: Stainless Steel
Dimensions: 6.5 x 14.9 x 11.1 inches
Weight: 8.11 pounds

Calphalon Classic

Why you'll love it: This is a great midrange knife set for an amateur cooking enthusiast, or just someone who wants a good knife set around the house without breaking the bank.

What We Liked

  • Blades: High carbon stainless steel is a solid material, if not as good as regular high carbon steel. These hold their edge well, sharpen quite nicely, and are durable over the long term.
  • Block: The block on this one is quite nice looking, and is an interesting design, doubling as a sharpener. It has a ceramic sharpening edge built into every knife slot. I wouldn’t buy the set just for this feature, but it’s a nice extra.
  • Variety: This is a 12 piece set, and includes all the staples: chef’s knife, santoku knife, serrated utility knife, paring knife, 6 steak knives, shears, and a sharpening block. You get a lot for what you’re paying, and all of the knives available are great.
  • Price: The price here is about double our baseline, and well worth it. It’s quite a great price for what you get.

What We Didn't Like

  • Handles: I’ve never liked these blocky handles very much. They’re uncomfortable and unpleasantly remind me of the knives you get in steakhouse restaurants, which are oversized to make them harder to slip into your pocket or purse and take from the restaurant. It’s not a deal breaker, but is certainly a mark against this particular knife set that is worth being aware of.

Specifications

Size: 12 Piece
Material: Stainless Steel
Dimensions: 15.1 x 12.9 x 15 inches
Weight: 7.1 pounds

Chicago Cutlery 1119644

Why you'll love it: This is a good set, though a little expensive for what it provides.

What We Liked

  • Aesthetics: I love the angling of the block on this one, and the finished wood coloring. As well, the steel on black on steel coloring of the knives themselves look very nice sitting on your countertop.
  • Variety: This one has a lot of knives, and trends toward a more Japanese style in its knife choices, with both a santoku and a partoku knife in place of the standard chopper or chef’s knife. The partoku is a bit closer, having a more rounded edge as compared to the straight, flat edge, and makes it great for cutting small vegetables. It also comes with a paring knife, a peeler, a utility knife, a slicer, and a bread knife (relatively rare in these sets). It of course comes with a set of steak knives (8 of them) and a steel sharpener, but no kitchen shears.
  • Handles: Handles are very nicely curved and lined with rubber, giving them an excellent grip and profile. They both look and feel very nice.
  • Easy to Sharpen: The way the knives are taper ground makes them quite sharp by default, and more importantly easy to re-sharpen, which is perfect for the average person in their kitchen.

What We Didn't Like

  • Not Dishwasher Safe: These knives are a bit brittle at the edges due to how they’re sharpened, so need to be washed by hand.
  • Price: While not an unreasonable price by any means (I’d gladly pay it) as compared to our baseline, this set is a bit expensive.

Specifications

Size: 18 Piece
Material: Stainless Steel
Dimensions: 9.6 x 8.4 x 14.8 inches
Weight: 13.45 pounds

Mercer Culinary Genesis

Why you'll love it: These are a series of very high quality knives, and provide most of the essentials.

What We Liked

  • Steel: These are German high carbon, non-staining knives, notably not stainless steel. These are tough, easy to sharpen, and extraordinarily sharp knives if you take even the bare minimum care of them.
  • Grip: The grips are santoprene, which is kind of an extra flexible rubber. They are non-slip and moisture wicking, and don’t break down when exposed to oil. SO these are very durable, ergonomic, and slip resistant knife grips.
  • Variety: While the set lacks some of what you’d consider staples (steak knives, shears, a sharpener) it includes great versions of a paring knife, chef’s knife, bread knife, boning knife, and utility knife. This covers most of what you’ll find yourself needing when preparing food, if not when eating it.
  • Price: While high (even more than the set just above), it is more than reasonable for the quality of these knives. It’s well worth the investment.

What We Didn't Like

  • Knife Block: While the idea is interesting, the execution is lacking. The idea is that it is a metal frame set in a wooden block with a glass viewport. This makes it possible to see what knife you’re going to pull out before you do so. Unfortunately there are problems with this, in my opinion. 
  • The block itself is quite ugly, and sets out to solve a problem that doesn’t really exist. I have never had issue finding the right knife in my opaque block; each has a place, and it always goes back in its proper place. Second the knives are drawn upward, instead of angled, making it less convenient.

Specifications

Size: 6 Piece
Material: Steel
Dimensions: 10 x 4 x 15 inches
Weight: 8.1 pounds

 Cangshan N1 Series

Why you'll love it: These are knives with great blades, held back by terrible handles and a high price.

What We Liked

  • Variety: This knife set boasts a huge variety of knives: a chef and a santoku knife, a cleaver, a bread knife, a carving knife, a boning knife, a fine edged utility knife, and a serrated utility knife, along with a set of 8 serrated steak knives. Rounding it out are a carving fork and a pair of very sturdy kitchen shears.
  • Steel: The steel is a high carbon, harder than average (58 on the Rockwell Hardness Scale, slightly above the minimum of 56 for good steel, though well below the 66 maximum), and quite pleasing to the eye. It holds its edge well and is durable in the long term, with a lifetime warranty against manufacturer defects. NSF graded to be safe for cooking.
  • Block: Block is well shaped and made of a very nice walnut wood, each hand crafted and uniquely  grained.

What We Didn't Like

  • Handles: The handles are hollow and made of what appears to be stainless steel. This has the same aesthetic issues of steel on steel as is my problem with out winner, but that’s the least of the problem with this design. The hollow handles are great for flair, but beyond looking cool as you spin your knife on a finger to slap into the palm, they serve no practical purpose.
  • On the contrary, they make the handles much lighter and less sturdy. The knives feel weak and light in the hand, which is not just a matter of preference; a heavier knife will cut better than a lighter one, and a knife should be well balanced not just in the blade but the handle. This isn’t some kind of throwing blade that wants to be heavier at the tip, it needs to be properly balanced all over.
  • Price: This set costs about 6 times what our winner does, and isn’t worth it for the glaring issue of the handles, even if the blades are impeccable.

Specifications

Size: 23 Piece
Material: German Steel
Dimensions: 10 x 7 x 10.5 inches
Weight: 25.6 pounds

6. TUO Kitchen Knife Set - Best Handles

TUO Kitchen

Why you'll love it: This is a very nice and reasonably priced set of blades, that’s suffers a bit from being limited in number.

What We Liked

  • Handles: These are quite beautiful and sturdy pakkawood handles. Pakkawood is a wood and plastic composite material commonly used for kitchen knives. Unlike wood, it won’t expand or shrink over time, and feels very nice in the hand, being somewhat moisture wicking. These handles are well shaped and very nice to look at, by far my favorite of the knives we’ve looked at thus far.
  • Block: This is a better execution on the block design the Mercer Culinary set used, with no ugly glass in the way and a more comfortable angle to pull the knives from. I still think it’s unnecessary overall, but if you’re going to assume people don’t remember where their knives are, you could do far worse than this design.
  • Steel: These knives are made of an excellent material, being the same hard, sharp German steel a lot of the knives on this list are forged from. Not much new to say; it’s an excellent high carbon steel and probably the best possible to make kitchen knives from.

What We Didn't Like

  • Variety: The choice of knives for this one is a bit odd. You have a santoku knife, a paring knife, and a utility knife, a cleaver, and a cheese knife. 4 of the 5 are welcome, but in such a limited knife set I highly question the addition of a cheese knife over a more commonly useful knife, like a butcher’s knife, carving knife, or even a bread knife.

Specifications

Size: 8 Piece
Material: Japanese AUS-10
Dimensions: 13.8 x 2 x 3.9 inches
Weight: 8.39 pounds

Wusthof Classic

Why you'll love it: These are great knives with an excellent block, though are quite expensive.

What We Liked

  • Blades: Blades are sharp, strong, and easily sharpened. While stainless steel, it is a high carbon variant, making it a bit of a cut above regular stainless steel at least. For average kitchen use this is good.
  • Handles: Polyoxymethylene is a great material for handles. While not as non-slip as other options, it’s also a lot more durable over the long term, being highly resistant to chipping, cracking, fading, or discoloration unlike rubber handles. Plus I’ve always liked how it looks on knife handles.
  • Variety: While it doesn’t have a ton of knives, it has pretty much everything anyone will ever actually use in the kitchen. You get a paring knife, a serrated utility knife, a chef’s knife, a kiritsuke prep knife, and a bread knife. Plus some very great shears that come apart if you need them to (making them easier to clean, and acting as a pair of extra paring knives in a pinch).
  • Block: Block is slim and made of acacia wood, which is one of my favorites in terms of appearance. It has a small footprint and looks absolutely excellent on your kitchen counter. By far my favorite of the blocks we’ll see today.

What We Didn't Like

  • Price: While these knives and the block especially are great, they don’t really justify the insane price for what you get. You’re looking at about 6 times the cost of our baseline model for knives that are certainly higher quality…but not 6 times the quality for sure.
  • Chef’s Knife: The chef’s knife is of the long (8”)  and especially thick variety, which isn’t really to my taste. As mentioned I prefer santoku knives for general prep, and when I can’t get that, a slightly shorter knife is my preference. Not really a knock on the knife itself, but a statement of my preference.

Specifications

Size: 7 Piece
Material: Polyoxymethylene
Dimensions: 17.1 x 12.4 x 4.2 inches
Weight: 6.8 pounds

Shun Classic

Why you'll love it: This is a great high carbon steel knife set that loses a few points for being misleading and extraordinarily expensive.

What We Liked

  • Blades: Blades are a high carbon non-stainless steel with an excellent hardness (between 60 and 61 on the Rockwell hardness scale) and a superior edge. While these require a bit more care than stainless knives (they must be dried immediately, as high carbon steel rusts incredibly fast), it’s well worth the increase in performance, as they are easy to sharpen, hold an edge well, and  are durable for a lifetime (and beyond).
  • Handles: Handles are high quality pakkawood. They last a long time, and are surprisingly comfortable despite what appearances might suggest.
  • Block: Block is a nice understated dark wood with a very slim profile, looking nice on a  countertop while taking up very little space in the grand scheme.
  • Variety: A paring knife, a santoku knife, and a chef’s knife plus shears and a honing steel are all this comes with, but these knives themselves are the most versatile available, and given the overall quality of each individual knife, it’s more than enough where a lesser set would need a few other knives t round everything out.

What We Didn't Like

  • Damascus Cladding: While it looks nice, Damascus cladding is a bit of a pet peeve of mine, since it often comes off as a deceptive marketing technique. Most people know Damascus steel is supposed to be good, almost legendary; and it is. Damascus cladding is not Damascus steel. It is regular steel etched to LOOK like Damascus steel, and is part of where I imagine the exorbitant price comes in. Speaking of:
  • Price: This is one of the most expensive premade knife sets I have ever seen, being about 8 times the cost of our baseline set. While the knives and block are very high quality, as mentioned I expect a certain significant amount of this increased cost comes from the Damascus cladding they added to the knife, and while it’s beautiful, it is simply not worth the price increase on its own.

Specifications

Size: 6 Piece
Material: VG-MAX Core with 34-layers Damascus Stainless Steel
Dimensions: 17.6 x 13.8 x 9.4 inches
Weight: 8.9 pounds

9. Global 7-piece Ikasu Knife Block Set - Best Stainless Steel Knife Set

Global Ikasu

Why you'll love it: This is an expensive knife set that is quality in some ways, but stumbles too much for a serious recommendation.

What We Liked

  • Blade: The blades are quite excellent steel, with a seriously fine edge (a symmetrical bevel grind, as opposed to many Japanese kitchen knives which use an asymmetrical grind). The blades hold their edge well, are easy to re-sharpen with household available tools, and amazingly sharp, which ensures they are safe to use.

What We Didn't Like

  • Handles: Besides the issue of setting off certain peoples’ trypophobia, I do not like how these handles fit in the hand. At first glance they look fine, with comfortable seeming slots for your index finger to rest and guide the knife, but everything else is simply…wrong, as if they’re made for alien hands.
  • They are not comfortable and dig into the hand when using them, being variably either too large or too small or oddly shaped to get a proper grip on any of the knives presented here. The design on these handles is absolutely baffling. The only redeeming feature is their moisture wicking grips, aided by those holes.
  • Block: Much like the Mercer Culinary set, this uses the straight down, transparent block design. As mentioned before, I find this ugly and largely pointless. Even in the display picture this looks grimy, as a glass that sets on a countertop is likely to get very quickly. This adds extra work for you, needing to clean the glass often in addition to keeping the knives pristine, for the added benefit of making it slightly easier to keep track of a mere 6 distinct knives.
  • Price: The price is frankly absurd for what you get. It seems to be a bit of a  trend that these expensive knife sets have terrible handles and low versatility, only having the most basic and general purpose knives.

Specifications

Size: 7 Piece
Material: Stainless steel
Dimensions: 4.7 x 14.2 x 9.7 inches
Weight: 2.2 pounds

Victorinox Swiss Army

Why you'll love it: This is a bit of a barebones set, but each of the four knives is of great quality.

What We Liked

  • Blades: Blades are cold tempered Swiss steel and are easy to sharpen while holding a very good edge. They’re not the best knives I’ve ever seen in this regard but are quite serviceable as kitchen cutlery, and will last quite a long time.
  • Handles: Handles are understated but non-slip, even when wet. They’re shaped nicely and comfortably for the human hand and don’t look too bad to stick in a block or unroll from a knife sleeve.

What We Didn't Like

  • No Block: These knives come with no means of storage, neither a knife block nor a sleeve or roll. So you’ll need to provide your own or keep them in a drawer.
  • Price: These knives are quite expensive for what they provide, or what they don’t more accurately. Too little comes in this knife set to come with the surprisingly high price tag.
  • Lack of Variety: This set only comes with 4 knives: a chef’s knife, a paring knife, a utility knife, and a bread knife. These are all great knives, but the lack of variety provided again does not justify the high price tag. The choice to price these knives so highly when neither the steel or other construction nor the variety of knives available justifies it is kind of baffling to me.

Specifications

Size: 4 Piece
Material: European steel
Dimensions: 19.5 x 6.8 x 1.8 inches
Weight: 1.5 pounds

11. Cuisinart C55-01-12PCKS Knife Set - Most Colorful Knife Set

Cuisinart C55-01

Why you'll love it: These knives are terrible, but quite cheap…but I’d say just shell out the slightly extra cash for our baselines set if you’re looking for cheap knives.

What We Liked

  • Price: These knives are around a third of the price of our baseline set, which makes them quite affordable.
  • Color Coding: Color coding the knives is an interesting idea for making each knife distinct while within the block.
  • Variety: This knife set comes with every basic type of knife you’d want for most every day kitchen tasks. You have a chef’s knife, paring knife, serrated utility knife, serrated bread knife, slicing knife, and santoku knife.

What We Didn't Like

  • Colors: Quite frankly these knives make my eyes hurt. The colors are eye searingly bright and annoying to look at, and I would honestly be embarrassed to have these in my house. You can get other knives without the colors for the same price point.
  • Blades: The blades are made of stainless steel (not a high carbon variant) which is already a mark against them. The blades are relatively soft and hold a terrible edge; re-sharpening them is basically a fool’s errand. They’re poorly shaped, thin, flimsy, and all around terrible. The santoku knife in particular is way too thin to ever be useful.
  • Handles: These handles are cheap, uncomfortable, and likely to come apart quickly.
  • Serration: The serrated knives are even worse than the others. The serration is incredibly coarse, spaced way too far apart to make proper cuts. You’ll end up mangling pretty much any bread or meat you try to cut with these knives, and they’re already basically useless for cutting vegetables.

Specifications

Size: 12 Piece
Material: Stainless Steel
Dimensions: 1.1 x 5.5 x 13.4 inches
Weight: 1 pounds

Top Knife Block Set Reviews


FInal Verdict

Cuisinart C77SS-15PK

Our baseline set (the Cuisinart model) is a great set, and while not the highest overall quality, is the perfect confluence of value and quality. Other than that if you can stomach the price, the Shun Classic set and TUO Kitchen Knife Set are really good sets. For the most part these are all great, save for the final Cuisinart model above; that is a strong example of what to never look for in a knife set.


How Do I Choose The Knife Set?

Obviously, as a cooking enthusiast you want your set of knives to be of high quality. But what does that mean, in an objective sense?

Primarily with a knife you’re looking at two main things: the steel and the construction.

Unlike many household items, stainless steel is NOT actually the best choice for a kitchen knife. It’s serviceable, but cheap. Stainless steel is harder to sharpen and buff the nicks out of, leading to them deteriorating faster over time.

You want a high carbon (above .6% carbon) steel if it’s possible to get it with a reasonable price. Hand forged knives with even higher quality steel are also possible, but largely beyond the scope of this article; most of those will need to be custom made, and can be quite expensive (though worth it for a cooking enthusiast).

Ceramic is also solid choice for knives

Being technically one of the best materials. They are sharp and keep their edge a long time, requiring little re-sharpening as they age. Unfortunately they are expensive and BRITTLE, a poor combination, and should be avoided for the average household knife set.

Aside the basic material, take a look at how the knife is put together. Any half decent knife will be made of one solid piece of material, riveted to the handle. Inspect your knives; if there is clear indication that the knife is made of two or more pieces or metal welded or glued together, avoid it like the plague. These knives have a tendency to fall apart when you need them most.

Likewise look for solid rivets in the handle, with a coating of clear resin to make it smooth. This creates a solid bond on single piece knives and leaves the handles smooth and sturdy. Finally, the handle should be relatively ergonomic, fitting comfortably in the hand and gliding easily in both a chopping and slicing motion.

After taking a look at the quality of the individual knives, take note of what kind of knives come with the set. At a most basic level a kitchen knife set needs to come with: a paring knife, a chef’s knife, and steak knives. This is the absolute bare minimum, mind you.

A good knife set will not only come with other knives, like a deboning knife, bread knife, butcher’s knife, or other long or heavier blades for various purposes, but also a set of kitchen shears and a piece of sharpening steel. Particularly good sets will come with a variety of lesser used knives like a cheese knife or filet knife, but I count these as an “extra” rather than something expected.

Finally, keep in mind your budget

As knives can get extremely expensive at the higher ends (hundreds, even thousands of dollars for hand forged, custom made models), and most people have little need for knives of that quality. Also keep in mind that not every knife set will be right for a given person; different hand shapes and even aesthetic tastes can make an objectively great knife set awkward to wield for someone to whom they aren’t suited.

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