Editor's Note: Products featured on Wide Open Eats are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.
Every kitchen has a certain array of essential tools that are used every time you cook. Often, these implements don't draw as much celebration in the flurry of day-to-day activities. After all, a reliable vegetable peeler is much less flashy (and fun) than a sparkling new collection of wine glasses. However, if these fundamental instruments haven't been well considered, their influence on your daily cooking can become much less benign. Take your kitchen knives, for example. The difference between poorly made kitchen choppers and the best knife sets is more than money; it's a smashed (rather than sliced) tomato, uneven slices of bread, or a grilled steak that looks like it was cut via the garbage disposal. Fortunately, these sets will make every dish easier to make and better quality, too -- plus, you'll have them in your kitchen for years to come. And while some sets might include a greater quantity of blades than others, there are some things you should universally search for in every kit.
What to know before buying a knife set
One of the first things you should consider when buying a knife set is if you want a knife block included or not: Not only does the knife block provide aesthetic appeal and storage, but it also keeps your blades free from nicks, scratches, and damages. However, you may have limited counter space and would prefer alternate storage options, like this knife holder for your drawer. After that, you'll want to consider the selection of blades included in your kit. Primarily, we recommend that your knife set consists of these three major essentials: A chef's knife, a utility knife, and a serrated bread knife. With these blades models, you'll have the minimum necessary to deal with any food coming across your cutting board.
After making sure that your knife set has the required pieces to get your kitchen jobs done, you should consider the utensils' style, make, and material. There are two main fashions of knives that dominate the market. One is the Western style, commonly based on German or French knives. These styles are often heavier, as they're intended for carving hefty cuts of meat or thick, hearty vegetables. German blades tend to be slightly curved (which is better for the rocking motion of mincing), while French knives are straighter (to make for a cleaner slice). Then, there is the Asian (typically Japanese) style of knives. These thinner blades are intended for slightly more delicate foods, such as fish and softer vegetables. Although they are finely designed, the blade is thinner and thus can damage when used on tougher foods like a whole melon. No matter the style, nearly all blades on the market are made from high-carbon stainless steel. The carbon component helps your edge keep razor sharp for longer, while the stainless steel minimizes the amount of maintenance you'll need to perform on your knife set. Your knives may be made from one piece of molten forged steel, or they may be stamped out from a large, flat piece of metal. Forged blades are more resilient (often with a higher price), but stamped knives can be more manageable to wield (and easier on your wallet).
Now that you may have an idea as to what you're looking for, check out our top picks below:
1. Best Overall Knife Set
- Three essential knives (chef's, bread, and utility)
- Santoku, boning, tomato, and paring knife
- Eight steak knives, kitchen shears, and a 6" kitchen fork
- Block included
An American company, Calphalon has been supplying high-quality cookware since the early 1960s, and their product has only grown more innovative with time. Thanks to their proprietary SharpIN™ Technology, the high-carbon, fully-forged German steel blades are sharpened every time you return them to their beautiful maple wood block. The contoured, soft handles are a perfect ergonomic fit for any grip, while the full tang provides balance with every slice. Small touches, such as a label at the bottom of every knife, prove that the brand goes above and beyond to bring you a great knife set.
2. Best Japanese Knife Set
- Bread, utility, and chef's knives
- Nakiri, santoku, and pairing knives
- Durable pakkawood handles
This Paudin seven-piece set includes several essential pieces for anyone seeking the distinct style of Japanese knives, including a 7" straight-edge nakiri blade ideal for cutting tougher vegetables. With a 15-degree edge on either side of each blade, precision and edge are maintained, while a 56+ Rockwell hardness grade ensures your knife set lasts for years to come. If an issue arises, however, Paudin offers a lifetime warranty that should easily cut through any inhibitions over purchasing this set. With split-resistant pakkawood handles, you can chop, mince, slice, and peel with artistic creativity.
3. Best Basic Knife Set
- Chef's, serrated prep, and pairing knife
- Included blade sharpener
Although the Henckels Solution Knife Set is straightforward and basic, it makes a perfect option if you are looking for a well-made knife kit without all the bells and whistles. It also makes a great housewarming set for someone just getting started in the kitchen. Despite being crafted from fabricated stainless steel (read: stamped), the three blades are made with a full tang, which means an increased range of motion as you slice and dice. Henckels knives are known to stay sharp, but should you lose some of that edge, the tabletop sharpener is easy and safe to use.
4. Best Western-Style Knife Set
- Chef's, bread, and serrated utility knife included
- 15-slot acacia wood block for future additions
- Laser-cut from high-carbon, stainless steel sheet
Across the world of kitchen knives, Wüsthof is widely known to be one of the most well-designed brands around. This thoughtful, farmer-inspired set looks good and slices better, with bolstered beechwood handles that provide a sure grip and make you feel at one with the produce on your plate. In fact, as those handles are made from sustainable materials, you might feel like you harvested this knife set straight from your own garden. Along with the three essentials, the kit includes a 9" honing steel, kitchen shears, and a 4" paring knife. Made of tempered high-carbon materials, the only thing rustic about this kitchen equipment is the appearance.
5. Best Dishwasher-Safe Set
- Three essential blades, plus a santoku, paring, and steak knife set
- Forged blades for maximum durability
- Mixed wood and stainless steel block
For the home cook who doesn't want to think about their kitchen knife set constantly, Henckels has you covered. Not only does the knife block have a ceramic sharpener on each slot, but the knives are also dishwasher-safe -- a rarity for a quality set of kitchen cutters. Simple to wash, easy to keep sharp, and with enough steak knives to outfit the whole family. There's a lot to love about this low-maintenance knife set.
6. Best Value Knife Set
- High-carbon German stainless steel
- Blades have a 14-degree edge
- Mixed, modern style
Brodark has created a knife set that straddles the line between Western and Asian styles of blades. The 8" chef's knife has a straight start that ends in a delicate curve, made of durable German steel that can cut through whatever you set your blade to. The culmination of 38 years of experience, Brodark blades are finely tuned yet tough, with aesthetically pleasing handles that also feel good to the touch. Nowadays, you don't have to pick one style over another, and Brodark proves that you can have it all in one kit.
7. Best Knife Set From A Buzzed-About Brand
- High-Carbon AICHI Japanese Steel Blades have a 15-degree edge
- Chef's Knife, Serrated Knife, Paring Knife, Santoku Knife, Utility Knife
- Modern look in multiple colorways
There are plenty of DTC cookware companies on the market right now (and their splashy ads probably pop up all over your social media accounts), but Misen's Essentials knife set is worth the hype. Made with Japanese steel, these blades have a unique sloped bolster to provide a "pinched grip" that allows for both comfort and control. They're known for being extra-sharp but light in the hand, and we love that they're available in 1-, 3-, 5-, and 7-piece sets so you can customize these exactly for your kitchen needs.