Skip to content

How To Find Your Perfect Knife Set + 12 Expert-Approved Options

Heather Bien
Author:
Updated on June 8, 2022
Heather Bien
By Heather Bien
mbg Contributor
Heather Bien is a freelance writer currently living in Washington, DC. She received her B.A. from the University of Virginia, and has written for Apartment Therapy, MyDomaine, HelloGiggles, StyleBlueprint, The Knot, The Everygirl, and other lifestyle websites.
Last updated on June 8, 2022
Our editors have independently chosen the products listed on this page. If you purchase something mentioned in this article, we may earn a small commission.

A cook is only as good as their knife. It's the critical tool that can make or break your efficiency and proficiency in the kitchen.

For beginner and expert cooks alike, a knife set is a great starting block. In a knife set, you'll get several knives to cover your basic cooking needs, and you can supplement with more specialized knives depending on what you're most likely to whip up in the kitchen

Here, recipe developers, food bloggers, and professional chefs share their top tips for choosing, buying, and caring for a knife set, as well as the sets they use all the time. With their tips and tricks, you'll be able to find the perfect knife set for your kitchen.

What you'll find in a knife set.

While some chefs and professional cooks recommend that you go in person to try out the knives and feel the weight and balance in your own hand, there are countless options you can buy online.

In your search, you'll come across knife sets with a dozen knives of all shapes and sizes, from Japanese to European, stainless steel and carbon fiber. But chef Stephanie Harris-Uyidi, also known as The Posh Pescatarian, says, "My motto is quality over quantity! It is rare to use all of the knives in most sets, and most folks tend to rely on a few."

With this in mind, here are the knives that every good set needs, and the tools and accessories that can also be nice to have depending on your cooking style.

Types of knives.

The most essential knife set can be reduced to three knives: a chef's knife, a paring knife, and a bread knife.

  • Chef's knife: The desert island tool for almost all cooks is the chef's knife. This multipurpose knife is used for slicing, dicing, and everything in between. It's typically eight to 10 inches long, with a slightly rounded tip, and it allows for accurate control. Michele Sidorenkov, RDN, the classically trained chef and registered dietitian nutritionist behind My Millennial Kitchen, says, "No matter your skill level, first evaluate the chef's knife in a knife set. This is your all-purpose knife that you will use the most, so it should feel really good in your hand."
  • Paring knife: A basic knife set also includes a small, sharp paring knife for precise mincing and peeling. Amy Oztan, recipe blogger at Amy Ever After, says, "Most people need a paring knife to do smaller tasks. You can't hull a strawberry or slice an orange into supremes with a chef's knife."
  • Bread knife: Lastly, Mushka Haskelevich, a private chef based in NYC, says, "For the post-COVID bread bakers out there, a serrated bread knife is also a nice addition." This large knife is critical to have on hand whether you're cutting into a crusty sourdough or a soft sandwich bread.

Knife set upgrades:

You can cook gourmet meals with the three basic knives and never give a second thought to expanding your repertoire. But Sidorenkov says that if you're looking to make dynamic meals that involve more laborious tasks like deboning a chicken, you'll need some additional tools. Many knife block sets feature these kind of extras anyway.

Here are a few extras that can take your basic knife set to the next level:

  • Boning knife: Boning knives are long with rounded tips that are designed to easily and accurately remove meat from the bone.
  • Butcher knife: Ben Rayl, the blogger behind Comfortable Food, says butcher knives like cleavers are "useful for heavy-duty chopping—tasks like pounding garlic, slicing large vegetables like pumpkins, and chopping meat cuts that have bones and tendons." Some cooks even swear by a cleaver in place of a chef's knife. 
  • Fillet knife: Fillet knives are similar to boning knives, but they have slightly different maneuverability that's perfect for fish. Harris-Uyidi says, "As a pescatarian, I find a fillet knife handy since I fillet and skin lots of fish."
  • Kitchen shears: "I truly believe that everyone should have at least two good pairs of heavy-duty kitchen shears," Jill Nguyen, the baker behind Capitol Jill Baking and a veteran of a commercial catering kitchen, says. These can be used for cutting herbs and thin bread and doing odd jobs around the kitchen like opening stubborn packaging.
  • Santoku knife: Originating in Japan, a Santoku knife is similar to a chef's knife in size and appearance, but with a much sharper blade that's suited to precision cutting.
  • Utility knife: A utility knife is similar to a chef's knife but on a smaller scale. It is primarily used for fruit or tender meat.

How to choose the right knife set.

Sidorenkov says, "Choosing the right knife kit is almost as important as choosing the right life partner!" But, jokes aside, it is one of the most important decisions you'll make when stocking your kitchen. These expert tips will help guide you to your perfect match:

1.

Consider how the knives feel in your hand.

The No. 1 thing to consider when choosing the right knife set is how it feels in your hand.

If you're able to check out knives in person, you'll want them to have some weight to them so they're easier to control. You'll also want the blade and handle to feel balanced. Oztan says, "If you pick it up in the store and it doesn't feel right, amplify that feeling by 20 carrots and 10 pounds of potatoes.”

If you're buying a set online, pay close attention to the reviews that talk about what the knives actually feel like.

2.

Choose knives that are the right size for you.

Just as all people are not the same size, neither are knives. It's essential that your knives fit your hand comfortably.

Becca Jacobs, food blogger and recipe developer behind O Street Kitchen, recommends, "If you're ordering a knife set online, measure out the length of the handle via ruler or tape measure and feel how it is in your hand. As a smaller person, larger-handle knives aren't comfortable for me and therefore are less useful."

3.

Look for strong materials that are easy to wash.

You'll find knife handles made from stainless steel, aluminum, resin, carbon fiber, and titanium. All of these are excellent choices for a well-weighted, balanced knife.

Kiele-Jael Stanton, certified health-supportive chef and wellness culinary coach, recommends that home cooks look for "full tang" knives with blades that run all the way through their handles. "Look for metal going all the way through the handle so you know that they are sturdy, solid knives with evenly distributed weight," Stanton advises. If the metal doesn't go all the way through the handle, you could face a knife that breaks under pressure. 

When it comes to the classic wooden knife, Nguyen says, "Don't pick knives with wooden handles unless you're committed to hand-washing them. This is a big debate, but I put all of my knives in the dishwasher—and Ina Garten does as well!" If you're also a member of the dishwasher club, steer clear of wooden handles.

How we picked.

Quality over quantity

Most home cooks don't need more than a few sturdy knives, which can last a lifetime if properly cared for.

Durable materials

Stainless steel, aluminum, resin, carbon fiber, and titanium make for long lasting knives that don't require high maintenance care.

Full tang style

This indicates that the blade extends through the handle, helping to distribute the knife's weight more easily.

Practicality

Extra points for taking up minimal counter space, being dishwasher safe, and not requiring frequent sharpening.

mbg's picks for the best knife sets of 2022:

Best for busy kitchens: J.A. Henckels Statement Kitchen Knife Block Set

J.A. Henckels Statement Kitchen Knife Block Set
VIEW ON Zwilling | $150VIEW ON Wayfair | $150

Pros:

  • Stainless steel
  • Dishwasher-safe
  • 15 knives
  • Weighted handle for luxurious feel

Cons:

  • Takes up counter space
Included knives: Chef's knife, Paring knife, Bread knife, Santoku knife, Utility knife


If you're not the only one who's wielding a knife while making dinner, then this J.A. Henckels knife set is perfect for your bustling kitchen. With both a chef's knife and a Japanese style santoku knife, more than one person can take on the slicing and dicing at the same time. Plus, this set includes six steak knives for when you're entertaining at home.

These knives have a full tang design and are made out of stainless steel, plus, they're dishwasher safe. Nguyen adds, "It's not too expensive for its quality and comes with plenty of steak knives, which we use often. These knives feel extra luxurious to use because of the weighted handle. I love them."

Best budget : Food52 Five Two Essential Kitchen Knives

Food52 Five Two Essential Kitchen Knives
VIEW ON Food 52 | $140

Pros:

  • Japanese steel
  • Comfort grip
  • Customizable handles

Cons:

  • Hand-wash only
  • No block included
Included knives: Chef's knife, Paring knife, Bread knife

Made of super-sharp Japanese steel, this set has everything you need to cook almost anything in the kitchen—including a chef's knife, paring knife, and a serrated bread knife.The knives are carefully designed with a comfortable grip and fun, customizable handles (perfect for Instagram, right?). It's a set that's as pretty as it is functional.

Jacobs says, "This is my favorite knife set to gift people who are getting more into cooking! The quality is really nice for the price and being able to pick the handle color makes it feel a little more custom."

Best splurge: WÜSTHOF Classic 15-Piece Knife Block Set

WÜSTHOF Classic 15-Piece Knife Block Set
VIEW ON Amazon | $700

Pros

  • Full tang style
  • High carbon stainless steel
  • 95% positive ratings

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Not a full set
Included knives: Chef's knife, Paring knife, Bread knife, Kitchen shears, Utility knife

For the cook who wants to invest in seriously sharp and long-lasting knives, this is the set to get. It's a splurge, but includes stunning, full tang, high carbon stainless steel knives, with laser cut edges that reviewers say slice like butter.

In this set, you'll get the basics—a paring knife, two utility knives, a serrated knife, bread knife, and a chef's knife - plus a honing steel and kitchen shears, all in a 17-slot block. And for the price tag you get a lifetime warranty.

Best for small kitchens: J.A. Henckels International Modernist 6-Piece Studio Knife Block Set

J.A. Henckels International Modernist 6-Piece Studio Knife Block Set
VIEW ON Amazon | $120VIEW ON Wayfair | $120VIEW ON Zwilling | $120

Pros

  • Includes shears
  • Dishwasher-safe
  • Small footprint

Cons:

  • Some reviewers dealt with rust
Included knives: Chef's knife, Paring knife, Bread knife, Utility knife


Dédé Wilson, a recipe developer and former Bon Appetit magazine contributing editor, says, "If counter space is minimal, check out the J.A. Henckels International Modernist 6-Piece Studio Knife Block Set. It has a very small footprint—and shears!"

With just four ergonomic knives—a chef's knife, utility knife, paring knife, and serrated utility knife—this is a minimalist's dream. The knife block takes up little counter space, and the knives are dishwasher safe.

Best portable : Kyocera White 5-Piece Universal Block Set

Kyocera White 5-Piece Universal Block Set
VIEW ON Amazon | $160

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Small footprint

Cons:

  • No serrated knife
Included knives: Chef's knife, Paring knife, Santoku knife, Utility knife

With a soft-touch cylindrical knife block and four basic knives (chef's, utility, paring, and Santoku), this set is lightweight and ideal for cooks who travel often—be it to friend's kitchens or just outside to the barbecue—and want to bring their knives with them.

Alexandra Colbus Lawrence, food blogger behind Keys to the Cucina, says, "I'm obsessed with my Kyocera ceramic knives. They would be best for a small kitchen because you don't need to sharpen them, and they come with a minimalist knife block for easy storing."

Best design: Global Classic 5-Piece Teikoku Knife Acrylic Block Set

Global Classic 5-Piece Teikoku Knife Acrylic Block Set
VIEW ON Amazon | $300VIEW ON Sur la table | $300

Pros:

  • High-carbon stainless steel
  • Chic design

Cons:

  • Not dishwasher safe
Included knives: Chef's knife, Paring knife, Bread knife, Utility knife

Describing this sleek, high-style knife block with bamboo and acrylic, Mackenzie Ryan, former Williams-Sonoma culinary expert turned food blogger, says, "These knives function as a statement piece and are less bulky on the countertop."

Global is a favorite brand of home chefs, and this set includes knives made of Cromova 18 high-carbon stainless steel. This set includes a utility knife, chef's knife, vegetable knife, and bread knife. It'll cover all your basic needs in the kitchen and look incredible on your countertop when not in use.

Best for beginners: ZWILLING Twin Signature 3-Piece Kitchen Knife Set

ZWILLING Twin Signature 3-Piece Kitchen Knife Set
VIEW ON Amazon | $140VIEW ON Zwilling | $140

Pros:

  • Full tang
  • Lightweight

Cons:

  • Hand washing recommended (though dishwasher-safe)
Included knives: Chef's knife, Paring knife, Utility knife

If you're just starting out, you need the basics. Don't distract yourself with multiple similar knives that could achieve the same result. That's why Haskelevich recommends this affordable three-piece Zwilling set for new cooks.


With a chef's knife, paring knife, and utility knife, this will accomplish all the slicing, dicing, mincing, and chopping you need to do in the kitchen, without any extraneous tools taking up room on your countertop.

Best for plant based cooking: Wüsthof Gourmet Knife Block Set

Wüsthof Gourmet Knife Block Set
VIEW ON Amazon | $220

Pros:

  • High-carbon stainless steel
  • Spear point paring knife for produce
  • Includes shears

Cons:

  • Some reviewers dealt with rust
Included knives: Chef's knife, Paring knife, Kitchen shears, Utility knife

Kitchen shears fans, take note. Jacobs says, "This knife set is a little pricier but includes a butcher block to hold your knives and one of my favorite, but often underrated kitchen tools, shears."


This six-piece knife set includes a paring knife, utility knife, and chef's knife, in addition to a honing steel for sharpening your knives at home. Made of high-carbon stainless steel, these knives are designed to maintain sharpness, and the spear point paring knife is perfect for cooks who often find themselves finely mincing and slicing veggies and fruits.

Best with sharpener : Global Masuta 5-Piece Knife Block Set

Global Masuta 5-Piece Knife Block Set
VIEW ON Amazon | $250VIEW ON Walmart | $350VIEW ON Wayfair | $350

Pros:

  • Lightweight and balanced
  • Japanese-made
  • Stainless steel

Cons:

  • Pricier
Included knives: Chef's knife, Paring knife, Santoku knife

This knife block takes up minimal counter space, so Sidorenkov recommends it for cooks who are limited by a small kitchen but still want the classic feel of a bamboo knife block. This Japanese-made set is lightweight and balanced, with a beautifully contoured design. 


It has a chef's knife, santoku knife, and paring knife, as well as a ceramic sharpening rod, perfect for versatile home cooks who use their knives daily and want a regular at-home sharpening option.

Best midsized set : Misen Essentials Knife Set

Misen Essentials Knife Set
VIEW ON Misen | $250

Pros:

  • High-carbon stainless Japanese steel
  • Balanced and lightweight bolster

Cons:

  • Not dishwasher safe
  • No knife block
Included knives: Chef's knife, Paring knife, Bread knife, Santoku knife, Utility knife

With a chef's knife, serrated knife, paring knife, santoku knife, and utility knife, Stanton recommends this set as the perfect middle ground. For the experienced home cooks who want more than the basics but don't need a dozen plus knives laying around, it checks all the right boxes The knives are made from high-carbon stainless Japanese steel and feature a gently sloped bolster that feels balanced and lightweight in your hand. They're designed to feel as good as they look. 

Best for cutting meat: Mercer Culinary M23500 Renaissance 6-Piece Forged Knife Block Set

Mercer Culinary M23500 Renaissance 6-Piece Forged Knife Block Set
VIEW ON Amazon | $245

Pros:

  • Space efficient
  • Comfort grip handles
  • Stainless-steel blades

Cons:

  • Assembly required
Included knives: Chef's knife, Paring knife, Bread knife, Fillet knife, Boning knife

This knife set grabbed our attention for two reasons. First, it comes with a countertop magnetic board, which is both space-efficient and striking. And second, it has a boning knife, which is perfect for home cooks who are looking to expand their knife collection and get into more complicated endeavors and meat preparations.

With comfort grip handles and stainless-steel blades, this is a great set for a cook who's ready to level up their collection, but it's also a great starting block since it covers the basics: a chef's knife, serrated bread knife, and paring knife.

Best sustainable: Material Knives and Stand

Material Knives and Stand
VIEW ON Amazon | $245VIEW ON Material Kitchen | $225

Pros:

  • Great for small spaces
  • Japanese stainless steel and high carbon
  • Designed to last a lifetime

Cons:

  • Not dishwasher safe
Included knives: Chef's knife, Paring knife, Bread knife

These knives were featured in Oprah's Favorite Things in 2021. Need we say more? But, if you do want the details, this set, which includes a chef's knife, paring knife, and serrated bread knife, is made of incredibly sharp stainless steel and high carbon. It resides on a magnetic wooden stand (again, great for small spaces!), and the design of both the knives and the stand is perfectly modern and sleek. Plus, all of Material's products are made to "keep for life," so you know these are going to last.

Still not sure which to choose? Follow along with this flow chart to pinpoint the one that fits your needs, cooking style, and budget, and read about why it gets high marks below.

flow chart showing you your perfect knife set
Image by Michelle Nahmad / mbg Creative

Caring for a knife set.

Knife sets are investment pieces. If properly cared for with the following tips, they should last you at least a decade.

1.

Don't let knives soak in the sink.

It can be tempting to let dishes sit overnight, but take care to gently wash your knives and dry them immediately. Don't give them a chance to rust or dull. 

2.

Use a cutting board.

Avoid using plates or the counter as a cutting surface if you want your knives to last. "Always use a cutting board. It helps keep the knife blade sharper longer," says Nguyen. Don't forget to keep your cutting board well-maintained, too.

3.

Practice regular maintenance at home.

Knives have to be sharpened, particularly if you use them on a daily basis. Stanton says, "For daily sharpening, a honer sharpener will remove and smooth out any small nicks on the blade."

Haskelevich adds, "Sharpen your knives on a wet stone regularly. I do so monthly, but more casual users can get away with every six months."

Sharpening at home every few days, weeks, or months is a great way to keep your knives in tiptop shape, but they will last longer when they're given professional attention on a consistent basis. Jacobs says, "Find a professional sharpener in your area who can give your knives the attention they deserve at least once a year."

4.

Store your knives safely.

Even if you're short on kitchen storage, never, ever throw your knives haphazardly into a drawer! "Always put your knives away in their block or on a magnetic strip," Haskelevich says.

For the small-space dwellers, Jacobs adds, "I recently moved from butcher block knife storage to a magnetic wall-mounted knife rack, and I am loving the extra counter space. Also, as someone with a few cooler specialty knives, it's nice to have a place to show them off."

The takeaway.

Finding the right knife set can make slicing and dicing a total breeze. With so many options out there these days, it's easier than ever to find one that's perfect for your cooking style. With your trusty knife set chosen, you'll be ready to mince that handful of homegrown herbs and cut through that crusty sourdough with ease.

Reset Your Gut

Sign up for our FREE doctor-approved gut health guide featuring shopping lists, recipes, and tips

Heather Bien
Heather Bien

Heather Bien is a freelance writer currently living in Washington, DC. She received her B.A. from the University of Virginia, and has written for Apartment Therapy, MyDomaine, HelloGiggles, StyleBlueprint, The Knot, The Everygirl, and other lifestyle websites. She writes about home and lifestyle, personal development, relationships, and more.