How To Find Your Perfect Knife Set + 12 Expert-Approved Options
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.
- Best for busy kitchens: J.A. Henckels Statement Kitchen Knife Set
- Best budget: Food52 Five Two Essential Kitchen Knives
- Best splurge: Chroma Type 301 9 Piece Knife Block Set
- Best for small kitchens: J.A. Henckels International Modernist 6-pc Studio Knife Block Set
- Best portable: Kyocera White 5 Piece Universal Block Set
- Best design: Global Classic 5-Piece Teikoku Knife Acrylic Block Set
- Best for beginners: ZWILLING Twin Signature 3-pc Kitchen Knife Set
- Best for plant-based cooking: Wüsthof Gourmet Knife Block Set
- Best with sharpener: Global Masuta 5-Piece Knife Block Set
- Best overall: Misen Essentials Knife Set
- Best for cutting meat: Mercer Culinary M23500 Renaissance 6-Piece Forged Knife Block Set
- Best sustainable: Material Knives and Stand
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.
Knife set essentials:
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.
Our picks for the best knife sets of 2022.
Without further ado, here are 12 sets that get the stamp of approval from these discerning experts. 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.
1. Best for busy kitchens: J.A. Henckels Statement Kitchen Knife Block Set
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."
J.A. Henckels Statement Kitchen Knife Set ($140)
2. Best budget: Food52 Five Two Essential Kitchen Knives
Made of super-sharp Japanese steel, this set, which includes a chef's knife, paring knife, and a serrated bread knife, has everything you need to cook almost anything in the kitchen. 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."
Food52 Five Two Essential Kitchen Knives ($139)
3. Best splurge: Chroma Type 301 9 Piece Knife Block Set
For the cook who wants to do it all—and have exactly the right knife for it all—this is the set to get. It's a splurge, but it includes absolutely stunning Japanese 301 steel blade knives designed by F.A. Porsche. With a seamless transition from blade to handle, they're almost a work of art more than a kitchen tool.
In this set, you'll get the basics—a chef's knife, paring knife, and a bread knife—but you'll also get a tomato knife, utility knife, santoku knife, and carving knife.
Chroma Type 301 9 Piece Knife Block Set ($599.95)
4. Best for small kitchens: J.A. Henckels International Modernist 6-pc Studio Knife Block Set
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.
J.A. Henckels International Modernist 6-pc Studio Knife Block Set ($120)
5. Best portable: Kyocera White 5 Piece Universal Block Set
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."
Kyocera White 5 Piece Universal Block Set ($159.95)
6. Best design: Global Classic 5-Piece Teikoku Knife Acrylic Block Set
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.
Global Classic 5-Piece Teikoku Knife Acrylic Block Set ($279.95)
7. Best for beginners: ZWILLING Twin Signature 3-pc Kitchen Knife Set
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.
ZWILLING Twin Signature 3-pc Kitchen Knife Set ($139.95)
8. Best for plant-based cooking: Wüsthof Gourmet Knife Block Set
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.
Wüsthof Gourmet Knife Block Set ($220)
9. Best with sharpener: Global Masuta 5-Piece Knife Block Set
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, vegetable 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.
Global Masuta 5-Piece Knife Block Set ($249.95)
10. Best overall: Misen Essentials Knife Set
With a chef's knife, serrated knife, paring knife, santoku knife, and utility knife, Stanton recommends this set as the best overall. They are made from high-carbon stainless Japanese steel and feature a gently sloped bolster that feels balanced and lightweight in your hand. These knives are designed to feel as good as they look.
Misen Essentials Knife Set ($250)
11. Best for cutting meat: Mercer Culinary M23500 Renaissance 6-Piece Forged Knife Block Set
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.
Mercer Culinary M23500 Renaissance 6-Piece Forged Knife Block Set ($234.35)
12. Best sustainable: Material Knives and Stand
These knives were featured in Oprah's Favorite Things last year. 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.
Material Knives and Stand ($145)
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.
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."
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.