If you own a set of knives–or even if you own a hodgepodge of individual knives–you know they have to be stored somewhere. The two most popular options are knife blocks, which are wood, metal, or plastic contraptions that you slide your knives into appropriately sized slots, and knife magnets, which are strips of magnet that are typically screwed into a wall, though there are countertop models, as well. Which one is better? Let’s find out.
Keeps knives exposed to the air
Displays your knives openly
Does not take up counter or drawer space
Requires screwing into the wall
Can store any size knife
May fall down, which would damage knives
Prevents knives from being exposed to air
Hides your knives
Takes up counter or drawer space
Does not impact the wall
Requires knives to be specific sizes to fit
No risk of falling
Some are self-sharpening
Is one better than the other? We looked at specific magnets and blocks to get a clearer picture of what each has to offer and what it’s good for.
Though both store knives, they do it in entirely different ways. Knife blocks are essentially a house for knives, with each knife going into a particular room to spend the night (and day). Whether you have a counter or a drawer block, they function similarly. Magnets are just that: A magnetic surface that you place your knives against. This leaves them exposed to the air, and to the room, so they’re visible for all to see. While being visible, they also can pose a threat, which a knife block can’t, because knives are dangerous tools.
Knife magnets are great for display, whereas blocks aren’t. Unless your knives have gorgeous handles, chances are they aren’t going to shine in a block. However, they are going to be kept safe, and they won’t pose a threat to anyone.
Fits Odd Size Knives
A knife magnet will fit any knife with a blade that’s made of a magnetic material, such as steel. It doesn’t matter whether it’s enormous or tiny, wide or narrow. Conversely, knife blocks have slots with very specifically sized spaces that correspond with standard knife sizes. If you have oddly sized or shaped knives, a knife magnet will do a better job of fitting them.
Holds Knives in Place
Though it’d be nice to assume knife magnets are all incredibly strong, the truth is that they aren’t necessarily. Some are poorly or inexpensively constructed, and your knives may not stick perfectly. That said, even if you have a great knife magnet, your knives can get knocked around on it. There’s no supporting structure. A block will keep your knives in place exactly where you put them, and they won’t move.
Adds to Kitchen Decor
OK, a knife magnet does look cooler than a block—it puts your knives on full display. If you have fun-looking knives, a magnet is the way to let everyone who enters your kitchen know. With a knife block, all that’s visible is the handle, and even that is only the case if it’s a counter block. If you have a drawer block, your knives are essentially invisible when not in use.
Fits in Drawers
Because magnets are placed on walls, the knife block is a clear winner here (providing you get a drawer block and not a counter one). If knife magnets did exist for drawers, they’d be dangerous: You’d have to reach in somewhere too close to the blade to pull a knife out. For safety’s sake, blocks are the only way to go for drawer storage.
Speaking of safety, a knife block is simply the safer choice. There are two main reasons for this: For one thing, a knife magnet could fall down. More importantly, though, your knives are just hanging out against a wall and could hurt someone. You could hurt yourself by accidentally touching the wrong part of a knife, or someone could bang up against it. There are countless ways a knife magnet could be a hazard. A knife block does not pose risk.
Dusty, sticky knives probably don’t sound ideal to you, but unless you use and clean your knives on a magnet constantly, that’s what you could end up with. Kitchens are notorious for creating messes, and if you’ve ever gotten marinara splatters on the wall, chances are you’ll have marinara splatters on your magnet-stored knives, too. Additionally, some blocks have features that keep knives sharp, further creating an environment for long-term thriving.
Ideal for Small Spaces
If you’re short on counter or drawer space, a magnet is the answer. It sits right on a wall, and most people don’t mind sacrificing wall decor for the sake of functionality. A knife block, whether counter or drawer, will take up considerably more space. If that’s something you can’t spare, those aren’t the answer for you.
Best for Rentals
Hanging a knife magnet is more serious than putting up a picture with a nail. Screws are required, and those can cause damage to walls. For anyone who rents and is worried about the harm caused by a magnet, a knife block is a safer pick. It sits on a counter or in a drawer, so no defacing of your home is required.
wooDsom Customized Magnetic Knife Strip
What it’s best for: Hanging knives and shears, seeing everything from handle to tip, saving on counter space, aesthetics
This magnet comes in numerous attractive finishes, such as maple, oak, and walnut, and a host of lengths, from 8 to 36 inches (with an 8-inch board, we were able to fit two chef's knives and two utility knives). The food-safe wood finish is easy to clean, and the board itself is simple to install: Mounting hardware is included, and setup requires only a drill and screwdriver.
This magnetic knife strip can hold a variety of tools, such as kitchen shears, but it does have dead spots where the screws are that mount it to the wall, so you’ll want to hang with caution initially until you’re clear you’re avoiding those non-magnetic areas. The rest of the board, however, has very strong magnets, so you shouldn't ever have to worry about your cutlery falling down in the middle of the night.
For a more budget friendly option, we suggest the stainless steel Ouddy 16-inch Magnetic Knife Holder.
Wusthof Classic 9-Piece Knife Block Set
What it’s best for: Keeping blades covered and fingers safe, displaying on the counter, a whole new matching knife set with room for the collection to grow
High-carbon steel knives are included with the block for this set, so it’s a two-in-one win if you’re in the market for a new round of cutlery. This set is a classic one and includes the following: a 3.5-inch paring knife, 4.5-inch utility knife, 4.5-inch Asian utility knife (a Western-style kiritsuke), 5-inch serrated utility knife, 8-inch bread knife, 8-inch cook’s knife, 9-inch honing steel, and come-apart kitchen shears.
We found the set’s design efficient and functional, considered the block sturdy, and felt that it looked lovely on the kitchen counter. The included knives have balanced, forged blades that were sharp right out of the box and able to slice and dice a mountain of herbs and vegetables. Plus, there are 15 slots and just nine included knives, so there's room for your collection to grow.
One potential hiccup with this option is that it is rather expensive. If the price of the Wusthof isn’t viable for you at this time, we suggest the Sabatier Sharpening Edgekeeper Pro 21-Piece Forged Triple Rivet Knife Block Set.
So, which should you buy?
Both knife blocks and magnets offer form and function, but in our book, in which safety and longevity are bigger priorities than appearance, the answer is clear: Knife blocks are better. If you don’t want to put your knives on the counter to take up space, a drawer block will still keep them safe and sound.
If you don't need something renter-friendly, want to show off your collection, or have a mismatched set that might not fit in a knife block, a knife magnet could work for you. Maybe you have a small kitchen space and want to save precious counter real estate but don't want to hide your tools away in a drawer—that's fine, too. At the end of the day, it's all about personal preference.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Ariane Resnick is a special diet private chef, bestselling author of five books, and certified nutritionist. She stores her Shun knives in a block and shudders to think of how grimy knives on a magnet would get in a busy kitchen.