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A great set of knives is essential for your kitchen, whether you’re regularly mincing up a mirepoix or simply carving a grocery store rotisserie chicken for serving. Sharp, easy-to-hold knives make chopping and slicing easier and safer, and can allow you to have greater control when dealing with more intricate cuts.
Knives can be quite a personal choice since they vary greatly in material and maintenance requirements. With all those variables—stainless steel to ceramic blades, plastic to hardwood handles, Granton or flat edges—knife care and sharpening is not one-size-fits-all and should be considered when selecting a set of knives.
Whether you’re shopping for a starter set or upgraded replacement for your current cutlery, keep reading for our picks of the best knife sets.
Best Overall: Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set
Great selection of knives
Includes sharpening steel
Poorly made knife block
No serrated steak knives
It’s hard to find fault with this comprehensive set that includes every knife you’ll need, along with a sharpening steel. The blades are made from high-carbon stainless steel and have rubber and metal handles that are designed for style, and as our tester revealed, have a "very comfortable grip." The knife edge is not only super-sharp but it’s designed to be easy to re-sharpen when necessary, so you never need to worry about a dull blade.
This set includes a 7 3/4-inch chef knife, 7 3/4-inch serrated bread knife, 7- and 5-inch santoku knives, 5-inch utility knife, 3 1/4-inch paring knife, eight 4.5-inch steak knives, sharpening steel, and chop assist. A knife block to hold all of the components is also included. These knives should be hand washed to retain their sharpness.
Our tester noted that the steak knives aren't serrated, but smoothly cut through steak anyway. It's likely that they will need to be resharpened at some point if used often.
Blade Material: High carbon stainless steel | Number of Knives: 14 | Sharpening: Sharpening steel
"Given its extensive array of super-sharp knives, it’s definitely worth the cost." — Sage McHugh, Product Tester
Best All Stainless Steel: Cuisinart Graphix 15-Piece Stainless Steel Hollow Handle Block Set
All stainless steel construction
Sharpening steel included
Crowded knife block orientation
While most knives have handles made from wood, rubber, or plastic, these knives are all metal for a sleek, modern appearance and easy care. They’re made from high carbon stainless steel and have a taper-ground blade for a very sharp edge and easy sharpening.
The set includes a 3 1/2-inch paring knife, a 3 1/2-inch bird’s beak paring knife, a 5 1/2-inch serrated utility knife, a 7-inch santoku knife, an 8-inch slicing knife, an 8-inch chef’s knife, six steak knives, a pair of shears, and 8-inch sharpening steel. Our tester particularly loved the paring knife, which she said was "a favorite for small jobs, like slicing nectarines, plums, and berries." The included black knife block holds all the components and adds to the modern look of the set. These should be hand washed and dried. While they may look hefty, our tester notes that the knives are surprisingly lightweight, due to the hollow handles.
Blade Material: High carbon stainless steel | Number of Knives: 12 + scissors | Sharpening: Sharpening steel
"I found the high-carbon stainless steel blades ideal for cutting." — Sharon Lehman, Product Tester
Best Nonstick: Cuisinart Advantage 12-Piece Color-Coded Knife Set
Fun, colorful design
Easy to clean
Doesn’t include a sharpener
Can’t identify blade types with blade guards on
Nonstick blades help keep food from sticking and are easy to clean as well. This colorful, affordable set from Cuisinart includes six knives and six matching sheaths, so you can tuck the knives into a drawer without worrying about damaging the blades or stabbing yourself when you reach into the drawer for a peeler. Our reviewer chopped, sliced, and diced and found this set "offers plenty of utility and sharp cutting ability without breaking the bank." You just have to memorize which color knife is which, since it's hard to tell when the sheaths are on.
Since these are so inexpensive, they’re also great for taking along to picnics or potlucks, for a college kid’s apartment, or for the vacation cabin or RV. The set includes a 3 1/2-inch paring knife, a 6 1/2-inch utility knife, a 7-inch santoku, an 8-inch serrated bread knife, an 8-inch slicing knife, and an 8-inch chef’s knife. The manufacturer suggests hand washing, but several users said they’ve been washing them in the dishwasher with no apparent harm. Still, we'd recommend hand washing for the best care for your knives.
Blade Material: Ceramic | Number of Knives: 6 | Sharpening: None
"Each piece is lightweight, comfortable, and safe to grip thanks to the thoughtfully designed contouring on the handle." — Sharon Lehman, Product Tester
Best Budget: Farberware Edgekeeper 21-Piece Forged Triple Riveted Block Set
Nice weight for balanced cutting
Wood block has built-in sharpener
Prone to rust with time
This low-cost set saves you money in two ways. First, it’s inexpensive to purchase, and second, you won’t need to buy a knife sharpener to maintain the knives. The knife block has Edgekeeper sharpeners in each slot, so your knives will get a sharpening swipe every time you insert and remove them. The blades are forged from high carbon stainless steel and the triple-riveted handles are comfortable to hold.
This set includes an 8-inch chef’s knife, a 7-inch santoku knife, an 8-inch bread knife, an 8-inch slicing knife, a 6-inch boning knife, a 6-inch cleaver, a 5 1/2-inch serrated utility knife, a 3 1/2-inch paring knife, a carving fork, eight steak knives, and a pair of kitchen shears. The included knife block keeps all of them secure and accessible on your counter. These knives should be hand washed and dried immediately.
Blade Material: High carbon stainless steel | Number of Knives: 18 + scissors | Sharpening: Built-in
Best for Chefs: Mercer Genesis 4-Piece Forged Knife Starter Set
Commercial-grade, high-quality materials
Storage roll a little flimsy
For chefs who have mastered their knife skills—this set is NSF certified for professional kitchen use and comes in a knife roll for safe and easy transportation and storage. The handles are Santoprene, which can stand up to rough kitchen use, extreme temperatures, and kitchen oils, while still offering a sure, comfortable grip, even with wet or greasy hands.
The bolster adds to the balance, making these knives easy to work with for long periods of time. The blades are made from high carbon German steel that resists stains and rust and the taper-ground edge stays sharp and is easy to re-sharpen, when necessary.
This set includes a 3 1/2 inch paring knife, a 5-inch utility knife, and a 7-inch santoku, so it’s a perfect starter set that can be added to, depending on the chef’s needs. These knives should be hand washed and dried.
Blade Material: High carbon stainless steel | Number of Knives: 3 | Sharpening: None
There are seven main types of kitchen knives: chef's (or French), santoku, serrated, paring, boning, utility, and cleaver. Not all knife sets include every single one of those—although some do and more—so make sure to evaluate your personal needs before making a purchase.
Best Splurge: Wüsthof Classic 9-Piece Block Set
Built to last
A great upgrade set, or the first set for a serious cook, this doesn’t include a whole kitchen’s worth of knives but they are the knives you will use most. Even better, the slim knife block will be easy to find room for, even in a small kitchen. If you feel that you need a specialty knife, you’ll have no trouble finding one to match this set.
The blades are high carbon stainless steel with a forged full tang and a bolster. The handles are comfortable to hold and triple riveted for security. The handle material is a dense synthetic that resists fading, so these knives will look good for years. The set includes a 3 1/2-inch paring knife, a 4 1/2-inch utility knife, a 5-inch serrated utility knife, a 6-inch prep knife, an 8-inch bread knife, an 8-inch chef’s knife, and kitchen shears that come apart for thorough cleaning. The set also includes a honing steel for maintaining your knives' sharpness between heavier-duty sharpening. The knives should be hand washed.
While our tester found that the pairing knife and the straight utility knives were essentially the same knives, both performed extremely well. The favorite knife in the set was the 6-inch prep knife, also known as a kiritsuke knife, which could handle any task thrown at it and made prepping a wide variety of ingredients a breeze.
Blade Material: High carbon stainless steel | Number of Knives: 6 + scissors | Sharpening: Honing Steel
"The assortment of knives in the set got me through most kitchen tasks with ease. Chopping and slicing tomatoes were a breeze, and so were dicing and slicing onions." - Renu Dhar, Product Tester
Best without Block: Zwilling J.A. Henckels 30720-000 Twin Signature Starter Knife Set
Great starter set
Comfortable to hold
No serrated knife
If you already have a knife block or you prefer other storage, this knife set is the perfect option since it doesn’t include a block you won’t use. This three-piece set is a perfect upgrade or starter set, with three essential kitchen knives in popular sizes. It includes a 4-inch paring knife, a 7-inch utility knife, and an 8-inch chef’s knife. The blades are precision-stamped for lighter weight and ice-hardened for strength and edge retention. The synthetic handles are triple-riveted for security and designed for a comfortable grip. These should be hand washed.
Blade Material: High carbon stainless steel | Number of Knives: 3 | Sharpening: None
Best Ceramic: Kyocera Bamboo Knife Block Set
Food doesn't stick
Good selection of knives
Not the most durable
Ceramic knives are extremely hard and can be extremely sharp while they resist staining and will never corrode. They also tend to protect foods like apples or lettuce from browning after cutting. This four-piece set included the knives you’ll use most often and comes with a knife block to keep them safe when not in use.
This set includes a 3-inch paring knife, a 4 1/2-inch utility knife, a 5 1/2-inch santoku knife, and a 6-inch chef’s knife. The knives in this set have black handles and white blades, but two other color options are also available. The block is made from sturdy, attractive bamboo.
Because ceramic blades are brittle, these should not be used for prying around bones, for cutting frozen or super-hard foods, or for aggressive chopping. They can also break if dropped on a hard surface. For sharpening, these can be sent back to Kyocera, or you’ll need a sharpener that is specifically made for sharpening ceramic blades. These should be hand washed.
Blade Material: Ceramic | Number of Knives: 4 | Sharpening: None
Best Japanese: Shun Classic 6-Piece Slim Knife Block Set
Attractive Damascus layered steel
No serrated knife included
One of the best-known Japanese knife brands, Shun knives are definitely high quality. They’re handmade in Seki, Japan, with layered steel that provides a beautiful blade with a wavy design that’s not just skin-deep. The handles are made from durable PakkaWood with a D-shape that’s comfortable to hold, so they’re great for long cutting sessions. The set includes a 3 1/2-inch paring knife, a 7-inch santoku knife, an 8-inch chef’s knife, 9-inch honing steel, and kitchen shears. It also includes an 8-slot knife block, so there’s room for more knives as the collection grows.
Blade Material: VG-MAX steel | Number of Knives: 3 + scissors | Sharpening: Sharpening Steel
Best Self-Sharpening: Sabatier Sharpening Edgekeeper Pro 21-Piece Forged Triple Rivet Knife Block Set
May be too many knives for some
Not all knives arrive super-sharp
Block arrangement not intuitive
The perfect set for a new kitchen, and great for cooks who don’t like sharpening their knives, the knife block in this set has sharpeners inset in the slots that hold the straight-edged blades. This is a comprehensive set, so the cook won’t need to add to it unless they’re doing very specialized cutting. Besides the block, it includes an 8-inch chef’s knife, an 8-inch slicer, a 6-inch boning knife, a 6-inch cleaver, a 5 1/2-inch serrated utility knife, a 5-inch santoku knife, a 4 1/2-inch utility knife, a 3 1/2-inch paring knife, a 3-inch paring knife, a 3-inch bird’s beak paring knife, eight 4 1/2-inch steak knives, a carving fork, and kitchen shears. The knives have a comfortable handle with three rivets for security and a full bolster for safe cutting.
Our tester noticed that while the block itself is conveniently compact, it's doing a lot of work holding all of those knives and can seem a little bit crowded. They also noticed that some of the knives don't come extremely sharp straight out of the box, but a little sharpening on the block and they were ready for action.
Blade Material: High carbon stainless steel | Number of Knives: 18 + scissors | Sharpening: Built-in
"If you're on a budget, need a lot of knives, or are scared of razor-sharp blades, the Sabatier 21-Piece EdgeKeeper Pro Forged Cutlery Set is the perfect pick." — Donna Currie, Product Tester
The Chicago Cutlery Fusion 18-Piece Block Set is our top choice because it has a great selection of sharp knives and includes sharpening steel. If you want all the essentials at a more affordable price, we recommend the Cuisinart Stainless Steel Hollow Handle 15-Piece Cutlery Block Set.
What to Look for When Buying a Knife Set
Number and Types of Knives
Knife sets will vary in how many knives and what type of knives are included. Know that more isn’t necessarily better if you won’t use all of the knives. If you already have a set of steak knives, you probably don’t need another half-dozen. However, if you don’t have any decent knives at all, it might be your best option to buy a complete set so you get everything you need at the best price.
Style of Storage
Some knife sets will come with storage included, which can be either a vertical or horizontal knife block or a roll-up sheath with individual slots. Consider where you are going to keep the knives and how much space you have; knife blocks are a convenient way to store your knives on your counter, but if you’re short on counter space, it’s a good idea to make sure that the knives and block will fit into a convenient cabinet for easy retrieval. If you’re really short on space, you might prefer the sheath storage so you can place the knives in a drawer.
No matter which knives you choose, they will need maintenance and eventually need to be sharpened. Some knife sets include steels, so you can hone the knives to maintain them regularly, and some knife sets have self-sharpening knife slots. Base your decision on whether you need these options or not.
What makes a good knife set?
With so many options to consider, it might be hard to distinguish a good knife set from a poor set. What makes a good knife set is almost entirely up to you. The three major factors you should consider are what do you need to prepare and cook regularly, what’s the highest quality of those tools you can afford, and how much effort do you want to make to maintain the set. Everything else is really preference and bonus. If you make steaks and roasts regularly, consider getting a set with steak knives. If you’re interested in some butchery work, find a set with a boning knife and cleaver. If you stick to mostly fruits, veggies, bread, and pre-butchered meats, a simpler set will serve you just fine.
Once you’ve established what you need, look for a set that offers those tools made with the best materials you can afford. High carbon stainless steel is the standard for most knives and can be found at reasonable prices. Explore handle finishes for both comfort and aesthetics.
Finally, a good knife set is one you can maintain easily. While we recommend you wash all of your knives by hand to preserve the sharpness and integrity of the blade, you might want to look for a dishwasher-safe set if that realistically suits you better. If you’re not interested in sharpening your knives, get a set that comes super-sharp right out of the box. Ultimately, the most expensive set doesn’t mean it’s the best set for you if you’re never going to use all of it.
Are self-sharpening knife sets good quality? Or should you opt for a separate knife sharpener?
If this is your first set of knives, chances are this is also your first experience with sharpening knives. In that case, having a knife set with an option for simple knife sharpening is a wonderful advantage. Built-in sharpeners are easy to use with quick results. Sets that include a steel to help hone your blade are also great, with a very small learning curve.
On the other hand, if you’re more experienced with sharpening knives and this set is a step up for your collection, consider investing in a separate knife sharpener for more refined knife edges.
Are knife sets worth it? Or should you build a collection by buying each knife separately?
For most people, a reliable high-quality knife set is worth it. Like we mentioned above, it’s all about what you plan on using it for. Even a smaller set with three knives will give you a much wider range when preparing food. If you’re enthusiastic about cooking but aren’t in a position to buy a dozen styles and sizes of high-end knives, a quality larger set will have you cooking up a broader range of culinary delights. Once you’ve become acquainted with the sizes and styles of knives that you use most often, you can start taking a look at individual knives that suit your tastes and customize your collection further.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Donna Currie is a cookbook author, food writer, and product tester. She loves kitchen gadgets and has personally tested all types of kitchen knives and knife sets for The Spruce Eats, including the Sabatier 21-Piece EdgeKeeper Pro Forged Cutlery Set featured in this roundup. Her kitchen is currently filled with a mix of brands—ranging from expensive to affordable—but believes the knives that every kitchen should have are a chef's knife (or santoku), a paring knife, and a serrated knife.