Steel and block included
Block has space for more knives
Blades require less frequent sharpening
No serrated knife
Larger slots on bottom of block
We purchased the Shun Premier Grey 5-Piece Starter Block Set so our reviewer could put it to the test in her kitchen. Keep reading for our full product review.
Like you and the rest of the world, I’ve used many, many knives—some good, others not so good. I've also reviewed plenty of them for The Spruce Eats, so I was more than ready to test the Shun Premier Grey 5-Piece Starter Block Set when it arrived at my door.
I stocked up on cooked meats to slice and checked the crisper to make sure I had plenty of vegetables on hand. I sliced, diced, chopped, and minced, cleaning the knives between uses. Does this knife set make the final cut or not? Read on to see what I discovered.
Design: Shiny! Pretty!
There’s no doubt that this knife set is incredibly stunning. If you're big on dapper kitchen looks and the whole aesthetic of your chef domain, then you'll be happy here. The blade is hammered near the spine, so it glints in the light; below that is the waterfall effect of Damascus steel, followed by a razor-sharp edge.
The handles are worth noting because they’re an attractive and unusual gray that shows off the grain of the pakkawood. The end of the handle has a metal cap, finishing the knife with a flourish. The handles are comfortable to hold and grip, and they're so well balanced that any wrist strain you've experienced with other knives during long meal-prep sessions won't exist here.
The handles are comfortable to hold and grip, and they're so well balanced that any wrist strain you've experienced with other knives during long meal prep sessions won't exist here.
The bamboo knife block has thin slats of wood and visible wood grain, but it’s otherwise a bit plain aside from the distinctive—and attractive—Shun logo. The block has four slots for the three included knives, one slot for the included honing steel, and one hole for scissors. I tested the scissors slot with several different kitchen shears I had on hand, and they all fit well.
One thing I thought was a bit odd was that the smaller knife slots are at the top of the block, with two larger slots below. Most of the blocks I've ever used are designed to store larger, longer knives at the top and the smallest knives at the bottom. It’s not a problem, just something to get used to when reaching for a knife.
The honing steel has two different surfaces: the smooth sections are for daily honing, and the ribbed surfaces should be used weekly to keep the blades in top condition. The included angle guide on the steel makes it easier to hone the knives at the correct angle until it becomes a habit.
Material: Fancy, pretty steels with purpose
The blades in the Shun Premier Grey 5-Piece Starter Block Set have a core of VG-MAX “super steel” that is wear-resistant and corrosion-resistant. It keeps a sharp edge, which means less frequent sharpening. The company also says there are 68 micro-layers of Damascus steel in the knives. The design is more than skin-deep, and it serves a purpose in the construction of the knives: The combination of metals creates micro-serrations on the edge that keep your blade super sharp so you can slice and dice away.
The knives are all sharpened to 16 degrees, and they were very sharp upon arrival. The Damascus steel cladding on the blades looks pretty, but it also protects and supports the core. The hammered finish acts much like the Granton edges found on some knives, helping to release food from the blade.
Performance: As imagined, wickedly sharp
Again, these knives are super sharp, sliding through meats, vegetables, and fruits almost effortlessly. Of course, part of that excellent performance is that the manufacturer professionally sharpened the knives. Yet, like all knives, they’ll start to get dull with continued use. And then, like all knives, they’ll need to be sharpened.
Still, the amazing performance shows how good these knives can be when they’re well-maintained.
These knives are super sharp, sliding through meats, vegetables, and fruits almost effortlessly.
The Shun Premier Grey 5-Piece Starter Block Set includes very handy knives you would desire in any kitchen: an 8-inch chef’s knife, a 6.5-inch utility knife, and a 4-inch paring knife. There’s no serrated knife in this set, but the chef’s knife did a fine job slicing bread. Still, a serrated knife would be a good addition to this set, whether it’s a long bread knife or a shorter serrated utility blade.
When slicing roast beef thinly for sandwiches, the chef’s knife slid cleanly through the meat with no tugging or tearing, and I was able to make super-thin slices with no trouble. When slicing hard vegetables like carrots using the utility knife, the knife slid smoothly, and I barely had to exert any pressure while the blade did all the work. You'll find the performance just as good when slicing vegetables for salad. The paring knife made it simple to peel apples and potatoes, and it was handy for slicing limes for a cocktail. When I needed to break down a roast into smaller pieces, the utility knife was agile enough to cut around bones, while the chef’s knife made it easy to cut the meat into the right-sized pieces.
Cleaning and Maintenance: The usual, as with all fine knives
Like all quality knives, these should be hand-washed. The included honing steel makes it easy to keep these maintained, but of course, they’ll eventually need sharpening.
While the 16-degree cutting angle is efficient, that angle is a bit unusual, so it might be hard to re-sharpen the blade to that same angle using one of the many standard sharpeners. The choice, then, is either to sharpen them to a more standard angle, learn how to sharpen at 16 degrees by hand, or find a high-end sharpener that can handle a 16-degree edge.
The Shun Premier Grey 5-Piece Starter Block Set is definitely not a budget set of knives. But it is a set that will last a lifetime—or a generation or two. Considering these knives will never need to be replaced, this set is a good investment and, perhaps, a good splurge.
This is definitely not a budget set of knives. But it is a set that will last a lifetime—or a generation or two.
Shun Premier Grey 5-Piece Starter Block Set vs. Sabatier 21-Piece EdgeKeeper Pro-Forged Cutlery Set
For a small percentage of the price of the Shun Premier Grey 5-Piece Starter Block Set, the Sabatier 21-Piece EdgeKeeper Pro Forged Cutlery Set (view at Amazon) seems like a great bargain. And it is—for new cooks who need a lot of knives on a budget. The Sabatier knives are of good-enough quality to start with, and the large variety of knives lets a new cook decide which knives they like best.
But what needs to be considered is that the Shun set is for a completely different audience: cooks who want a high-quality and beautiful set and don’t want extra knives taking up space. My choice would be the Shun set, though I recognize that the Sabatier set fits its own niche well.
Love at first slice.
Of course, I oohed and ahhed when I first saw the Shun Premier Grey 5-Piece Starter Block Set, but what I appreciated more than the glossy finish was the knives' hard work. They cut through everything with amazing ease, are comfortable to use, and when cooking is done, you can put them right back in their pretty positions.
- Product Name Premier Grey 5-Piece Starter Block Set
- Product Brand Shun
- Price $677.00
- Weight 2.3 lbs.
- Product Dimensions 8.1 x 9.6 x 17.2 in.
- Material VG-MAX core and Damascus-clad stainless steel blades, pakkawood handles, bamboo knife block
- Warranty Limited lifetime
- What's Included 8-inch chef’s knife, 6.5-inch utility knife, 4-inch paring knife, 9-inch honing steel, 6-slot bamboo knife block