5 Best Kitchen Knife Sets of 2023, According to Food Network Kitchen
These knife sets come with high-quality knives you'll actually use.
Our Top Knife Set Picks
- Best Overall: Wusthof Classic Nine Piece Block Set
- Best Self-Sharpening Set: Henckels Classic 15-Piece Self-Sharpening Block Set
- Best Asian Knife Set: Shun Classic 5-Piece Starter Block Set
- Best Value Set: Ginsu Gourmet Chikara Series 8-Piece Set
- Best Basic Set: Misen Essentials Knife Set
By Sharon Franke for Food Network Kitchen
Nothing is more essential for a cook than a good knife set. Whether you’re prepping for dinner, grabbing a snack or carving a roast, you’ll need a sharp tool to get the job done quickly and neatly. When you go to shop, you’ll be confronted with knife sets with a variety of styles and knives and a wide range of prices. To help you cut through all the choices and find the knife set that’s best for you, we explain the differences and what to look for, and make knife set recommendations for all kinds of cooks with all kinds of budgets.
How We Picked
To select our best knife sets, we relied on our years of experience testing knives and using them both in the test kitchen and in our own homes for a wide array of tasks from dicing veggies, to hacking up chickens, to carving roasts. We scoured review sites to see what recommendations were made by other sources and also pored over user comments to find out what home cooks have to say.
In addition to considering how comfortable the knives felt in the hand and how well they cut, we considered what pieces were included in the set. Our picks contain a selection of knives that we think you will use often in everyday cooking.
Included: 8" cooks, 6" utility, 8" bread, 8" carving, and 3" and 3.5" paring knives, kitchen shears, honing steel, block
We think these classic knives are just about perfect and worth the splurge. Forged and full tang, they feel good in your hand, are easy to control and are neither too heavy nor too light. On the chef’s knife, called a "cook’s knife" by Wusthof, there’s a rounded blade that glides when you’re lifting it to cut a carrot or onion and that can be rocked back and forth when you’re mincing a mound of parsley into confetti. Right out of the box, it’s sharp enough to slice ripe tomatoes without squishing. Yet, it also has the heft to cut a whole chicken into quarters.
The knife handles are synthetic, so they’ll never warp or splinter and will always feel smooth in your grip. In the block, you’ll find a great assortment including all the must haves plus a scissors, and a honing steel. If you run your knives along the steel at the correct and consistent angle, you can use it to "tune up" the blades, but eventually you will need to resharpen them.
Included: 8" chef’s, 7" santoku, 5.5" prep, 4" paring, 5" serrated utility, and eight 4.5" steak knives, kitchen shears, block
As we’ve already pointed out, the best knife is a sharp knife. In the block that comes with this set each of the fine-edged knife slots has a mechanism that hones the blade every time you pull the knife out of and return it to its slot. You don’t have to worry about pulling out a steel or holding the blade at the correct angle to maintain sharpness and because you’ll be honing them regularly, you may be able to go longer before you need to put a whole new edge on your knives.
These forged well-balanced knives aren’t as heavy as the Wusthof's, which will make them more comfortable for some cooks. The only time the light weight is a bit of a disadvantage is when it comes to hacking through an acorn squash or a chicken leg.
Each of the knives has its own designated slot. The slots are labeled to make sure you place each piece in the correct one. You get a wide array of tools in this set including a santoku, a serrated tomato slicer, and eight steak knives. However, note that there is no carving knife so if you make a lot of roasts, you can either use the all-purpose chef’s knife or invest in an additional tool.
Included: 8" chef’s, 6" utility, and 3.5" paring knives, honing steel, block
This Shun set give you the very best in Asian knives. Crafted by hand in Japan, they’re forged of Damascus steel which is created by welding together different alloys and folding them into layers. The process leaves a beautiful swirled pattern on the blades and also gives them durability and keeps them sharp. You’ll notice the blades are highly polished and super smooth and carrots and potatoes fall away from the blades rather than stick to them.
Their construction also makes these knives expensive, which is why you get a highly-curated set. With their thin, lightweight gliding blades you can easily use them for carving or filleting a fish, but you probably won’t want to tackle a crusty loaf of sourdough or debone a leg of lamb with one of these beauties. As the bamboo block is small, it won’t take up unnecessary space on your countertop. If and when you have these knives resharpened, make sure you use a sharpener designed for Asian knives or bring them to a pro who’s familiar with them.
Included: 8" chef's, 3.5" paring, 7" santoku, 5" straight and serrated utility knives, sharpening steel, shears, block
Forget about those old TV ads that hawked Ginsu knives by cutting through cans and succeeded in making them a laughing stock. This brand actually makes high-quality tools from Japanese steel that sell for an unbelievable price. Not only are they sharp out of the box, they maintain their edge and they feel exceptionally well balanced in the hand. The rounded handles look a lot like the ones found on far more expensive Asian cutlery but the chef’s knife has the classic European shape that’s good for chopping and rocking and even has the heft to whack through chicken bones. For slicing vegetables or cutting meat into very thin slices for a stir fry, a santoku is included.
Included: 8” chef's knife, 9.5” serrated knife, 3” paring knife
This 3-piece set is aptly named Essentials Knife Set because it contains the three knives we think you absolutely must have. With the 8-inch chef’s knife, you can not only chop, mince and slice, you can also carve a roast and debone a chicken, even whacking through bones with the heavy heel. The paring knife comes in handy for peeling an apple, taking the core out of a tomato or slicing a single clove of garlic. Every home needs a serrated knife for cutting a crusty baguette. While the knives in this set rival the ones from the well-known European brands for quality, they’re much more reasonably priced because they’re sold directly from the manufacturer.
While the edge on the chef’s knife is as thin as on an Asian-style knife for precision cutting, it has the shape of a western blade for heft. You’ll find it easily sails through a tomato, creating paper thin slices but also rocks back and forth for mincing garlic or herbs. On all of the pieces, the bolster is sloped, so you can comfortably use the pinch grip that the pros use to give them good control.
Misen specifies that these knives should be hand washed. You can choose between red, blue, black and gray for the handle color. If you like, you can purchase a 5-piece set which includes a 7.5-inch Santoku and a 5-inch utility knife. A block, magnetic strip and in-drawer storage are sold separately.
What to Look for In a Knife Block Set
Look for a knife block set that contains what we consider the three essentials: a chef’s knife, utility knife and serrated bread knife. A chef’s knife is the workhorse you’ll use for chopping onions and celery, slicing tomatoes or eggplant, and mincing garlic and parsley. The curvier its blade, the better it will be at rocking back and forth for tasks like mincing herbs. Although paring knives were once considered must-haves, today we recommend a slightly longer one called a utility knife, which in addition to paring an apple, can be used for slicing small blocks of cheese or segmenting an orange. All good sets will include a long, serrated bread knife. A long thin slicing or carving knife is another good tool to have in your kitchen and we like sets that include one.
Many knife block sets will come will many other pieces that increase the price. Don’t pay more for additional tools unless you know you’ll use them. For example, if you already have a set of steak knives you love, you don’t need more in a knife set. Keep in mind, the block itself is considered one of the pieces. It is a useful tool for storing your knives where they’re easy to access, their blades don’t get nicked or damaged, and you can’t accidentally cut yourself. A block will take up space on your countertop, though, so aim to choose one that fits your needs and space.
What to Know Before Buying Knife Sets
How Does the Knife Feel?
A good knife should feel like an extension of your hand. It should be comfortable to grip and easy to control. Neither the handle nor the blade should feel exceptionally heavier than the other. Before you make a purchase, or make the first cut in your own kitchen, it’s a good idea to simulate slicing and see how a knife feels to you.
What’s It Made Of?
Virtually all high-quality knives today are made from high-carbon stainless steel. Although carbon blades are easy to sharpen and maintain their edge longer, they also discolor and can even rust so they need special attention. The addition of stainless steel makes blades easy to keep looking good with minimal upkeep.
Knife blades are either forged or stamped from steel. Forged blades are formed from a single piece of molten metal while stamped blades are punched out of a large sheet of steel. In general, forged blades are sturdier and hold an edge longer. They have comfortable handles with a bolster, or a band of metal, to ease the transition to the blade and provide protection to your hand. In addition, they have a full tang, which means the blade runs all the way through the handle to give you good control. However, forged knives are also pricier, heavier and less flexible. Some people prefer lighter weight stamped blades which are easier to maneuver, especially around bones or a small item like a mushroom cap.
Knives Come in Two Styles
Most knives in American kitchens are based on Western-style. They tend to be thick and heavy as they’re intended to cut through root vegetables and large cuts of meat. On a German knife, there’s a bolster and a curved blade to make it easy to glide and rock when you’re cutting and mincing. French knives have a straighter edge, which is better for slicing.
In the past decade or so, Asian knives have also become popular. Designed to prep delicate foods like fish and tender vegetables with an up and down motion, they’re lighter and thinner and have blades with less of an angle. While this makes them comfortable to use and helps them to make precise cuts, it also means they have to be handled more carefully and shouldn’t be used for tasks like cutting up butternut squash or through bones.
The most popular Asian shape in American kitchens is the santoku, which has a long wide blade. It’s designed primarily for slicing and can do pretty much whatever a chef’s knife can. However, because it has a straight blade, it’s harder to use for rocking back and forth or scoring vegetables.
Why You Still Have to Sharpen Your Knives – Even In a Knife Block
When it comes to a knife, there’s one thing that’s more important than anything else, and that’s how sharp it is. The most well balanced, comfortable to hold, expensive knife in the world is pretty much useless if it doesn’t have a sharp blade. In addition to just doing the job for which it was intended faster and more precisely, a sharp knife is safer. With a well-honed blade, you are less likely to cut yourself than with a dull one. A dull blade can slip off of a tomato instead of slicing down. To test your knife for sharpness, try to cut a single sheet of paper vertically. A sharp blade will cut right through the paper leaving a clean edge on either side.
Inevitably, you will have to resharpen the blades of your knives. You can bring or send them to a sharpening service once a year or you can buy a countertop or electric model and do it yourself. Check out some of our favorite knife sharpeners here as well as one sharpener a Food Network staffer swears by.
Sharon Franke has been testing and writing about kitchen equipment for over 30 years. Before becoming a cooking tools expert, she spent seven years working as a professional chef in New York City restaurants. In her free time, she's busy baking sourdough bread and rustling pots and pans on her own stove.