Summery

We handpicked 13 of the top selling kitchen knife sets to see how established brands like Wüsthof and Shun stacked up to lesser known brands. We tested to evaluate performance and quality – but also we wanted to find where the value was. Jump down to read the complete reviews and see the winners and losers. As a bonus, we rounded up our favorite collection of knives to create the ultimate à la carte set.

Choosing the best set of knives for your kitchen can be a tricky problem. You can save time and money by simply purchasing a premade knife set. The potential downside to this is that you can end up with a cheap collection of knives that serve better as a decoration than for cutting.

Your knives are the backbone of your kitchen, and they deserve careful consideration, especially since a good knife should basically last forever. Good knives are more comfortable, work better, and are safer — it’s easy to forget that you’ve got a potentially dangerous blade in your hand when you use it every day, but a well-maintained knife helps keep the blood on the right side of your fingers. It’s easier to count how many recipes in your library don’t start with you picking up a knife than the ones that do.

In this article, we’ll look at knives, premade knife sets, and how to build your own knife set.

Updated: 10/21/20

RANKING OUR TOP SETS

TESTING

How We Tested kitchen Knives

My background is as a kitchen professional, restaurateur, and an avid home cook since childhood. I have a few decades in the industry with time in the front and back of the house. This gave me the opportunity to work with some very talented chefs, and spend years in a hands-on role in my own kitchens. As a result, I have the benefit of tapping the opinions of some pros when it comes to longevity of use and knife characteristics. It also brings certain biases in testing knives. Looking at how a knife will perform when you have a twenty-five pound sack of onions to chop, versus preparing dinner for four, is a big difference.  Hopefully, having done both, you will get an idea of performance that is in your own cooking realm.

How We Tested

We evaluated all the knives in each set, but the workhorse of any knife set is typically the chef’s blade. Right out of the box, we graded the first look; aesthetics, grip, feel and weight. Those last three, along with the edge, the spine, flex and grip texture were part of the deeper calculations.

Onions

Chopping onions is ubiquitous in kitchens, to the point that most pros become nearly impervious to tearing up from the fumes. In addition to dicing onions we chopped carrots, which because of their taper make you move them closer to your hand as you cut. Getting this better leverage is a great way to judge the balance and edge of a blade.

Whole Chicken

We sliced up whole chickens. Breaking down a chickens involves cutting skin – not as easy as you might think – cutting meat, and cutting through light bones. To test the boning knifes we took the meat off the split breast pieces.

Hard Cut

Finally we cut down some pumpkins and squash for a ‘hard’ cut test. Just to see how they held up we thin sliced onion to wrap it up.

How We Rated the Sets

All the ratings were on a five point scale, each set being awarded a final rating number. After the aggregate ratings we also rated just the chef’s knife, just the block, and everything else in the box put together as a package. Value is always a factor in our evaluation. Having some of these knife brands in my personal set for literally decades also helps the value equation of up-front cost versus longevity. True to form, the scores were mostly reflective of the money that was spent. Higher price, higher score, mostly, but not in every instance.

Pro perspective: we didn’t evaluate rust and staining. These are the tools of our trade, regardless of the cost, you always hand wash and dry your knives even if they say dishwasher safe. Treated and stored properly, rust isn’t an issue.

Best Kitchen Knife Sets for 2020

1. Dalstrong Gladiator Series (18-Piece Knife Set) – BEST OVERALL

Best Overall

OverallChef KnifeBlockOther Items

4.6 4.7 4.9 4.5

Product Ratings

See Current Price @ Amazon

As soon as you pick up these knives you will notice the weight and balance. With a solid bolster, spine, and end cap, they might be too hefty for some people. Add their well-honed blades to the weight and cutting was much easier to push through everything we threw at it. Even fine work, testing the edge of the chef’s blade after chickens and squash, you could peel paper thin slices of onion.  Dalstrong advertises around a 16 degree blade edge, which is a good combination of sharpness without getting too steep, which thins out the blade and requires more sharpening.

cutting chicken with Dalstrong knife

The set is an excellent selection covering almost all the basics of style, and does have a pretty sharp looking block. The set lacks a boning knife, which may not be a big deal for many people. The straight bladed utility knife performed admirably to bone out the chicken breasts in its place. At 9” the bread knife and slicer are long enough to offer more functionality, and the indents on the slicer make it a dream for cutting roasted meats. As a brand unfamiliar to me when we started testing, I can see adding some of their products to my kitchen.

2. Mercer Culinary Genesis (6-Piece Set) – BEST VALUE

Mercer Culinary Genesis 6-Piece Forged Knife Block Se

OverallChef KnifeBlockOther Items

4.2 4.1 4.8 4.2

Product Ratings

See Current Price @ Amazon

These are a stalwart knife in the industry, and you will find their basic models in many kitchens.  Running restaurants makes you very frugal, and the base knives from Mercer are durable enough to survive the lazy cook that throws them in the dishwasher, then hold an edge with endurance, delivering the value of longevity. The ‘Culinary’ line jumps only slightly in price from the base models, and certainly look nicer at this level. The handles are comfortable, in the soft grip style, they do well when wet and in most working conditions. Speaking of look, the glass block is a nice touch for your countertops.

slicing apple with Mercer Apple

Blade shapes are traditional, nothing fancy, they just get the job done. With a heavy spine and a forged bolster they’re made to be durable. Good flex on the boning knife and an even sided taper to the paring knife offer good functionality. If you wanted to quibble, serrating the utility knife would make it more versatile and a longer bread knife is handy with many loafs. But you almost have to look for the flaws, and you’ll forget all that when you get your hands on these blades.

3. Emojoy Knife Set  (18-Piece) – BUDGET BUY

Emojoy

OverallChef KnifeBlockOther Items

3.8 4 3.8 4.5

Product Ratings

See Current Price @ Amazon

I may have chuckled when I saw ‘Professional’ in the name. That stopped when I opened the box. All forged with bolsters, full tangs and end caps, even the steak knives, at this price point…there must be a problem. Couldn’t find any. Sure, a couple unneeded knives, and we established that I prefer longer slicing and bread blades. But these worked great. The slicer made fine work of a pork loin and the boning knife was downright impressive with shape size and flex.

testing Emojoy knifes

Looking at many sets, it became apparent there are two approaches to handles. Maintain a similar size throughout the set, or have them reduce in size commensurate to the blade. While we didn’t score this aspect, Emojoy did a good job of matching handle scale to the blade. Okay, the shears were just so-so. That’s searching pretty deep for flaws in a value priced knife set. Obviously we couldn’t speak to how they will look in five, ten, or twenty years, but they are pretty darn good right out of the gate.

cutting pork with emojoy

4. Wüsthof Classic w/ Walnut Knife Block (8-Piece)

Best Knife Set by Wusthof Winner

OverallChef KnifeBlockOther Items

4.3 4.5 4.4 4.7

Product Ratings

See Current Price @ Amazon

These knives tied for second place when all was said and done. They got first billing not because it was the most expensive set, but because my 30 year old Wüsthof chef’s blade still holds up against the new ones. With heritage and history, these are an utterly timeless knife product. During this testing I realized that I lean toward a traditional handle shape with a center bulge and end tip. All the grips share the shape, with sizing that is appropriate to the blade length. With 5 blades in the set, it is a decent selection. Our favorite scissors, these are a come apart style with metal teeth in the gripper section and the weight to snip small bones.

slicing onion with Wusthof

The beauty of the engineering in these knives is how well they hold an edge, our testing confirmed that. If you touch them up between uses, you can go for years before they visit the professional sharpener. The next most noticeable trait is the balance. For rapid fire chopping their chef’s blade is equal to anything in the market. The block with this set is good looking, and has additional slots as you grow the collection to the blades that you need.

5. Zwilling J.A. Henckels Professional S Set (7-Piece)

J.A. Henckels

OverallChef KnifeBlockOther Items

4.3 4.7 3.8 3.8

Product Ratings

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Early in the business, Henckels were the grail of restaurant cooks, only the most established chefs and best cooks had them in their knife roll and you never touched them without permission. Zwilling, German for twin, has been their trademark for almost 300 years, so they know their business.

chopping with zwilling j.a. henckels

For a top end product, these are a workhorse in the kitchen. 15 degree bevels, full tangs and riveted handles deliver functionality with the longevity of high carbon steel.

Blindfolded you wouldn’t be likely to note the difference between these and the Wüsthof blades.  Frankly though, this assortment is a starter set of 4 blades. They’re all good, but you will need more types to meet most needs, and the block offers slots to put them in. Their 3” paring knife in particular is nimble and fun to work with. It worked to bone some chicken, but is ideal for paring an apple or peeling veggies.

amercian vs chinese made knifes
Tip: The twins indicate the American made collection, while a single guy indicates a Chinese manufactured knife.

6. Shun Cutlery Classic Starter Knife Set (5-Piece)

Shun Cutlery Classic

OverallChef KnifeBlockOther Items

4.2 4.2 4.7 3.8

Product Ratings

See Current Price @ Amazon

These are probably the best looking knives in the test group, with a continuity of style through the 3 blades included in the set. In addition to beauty, Japanese blades can command some very high prices. The carbon content and metallurgical technology are actually the big expense. The end results are very resilient blades that are lighter and more flexible than their western counterparts. These knives hold their edge, and if needed Shun will sharpen them for you as long as you own them.

test Shun cutting

In all the cutting tests these knives performed very well. They were our pick for a random test cutting up a pineapple. The knife performed very well, the slender profile and great edge made short work of removing the fibrous skin and slicing the fruit. Grips are about the only negative aspect of these knives. The ‘D’ shaped handles mean they’re not ambidextrous. Combine that with almost no taper, and they do not serve you well for hours of knife work, hand fatigue becomes a factor. They will make the actual work part easier with speed and maneuverability from their lighter weight.

pineapple cutting with shun knife

7. Calphalon Contemporary Knife Block Set (20-Piece)

Calphalon Contemporary Knife Block Set

OverallChef KnifeBlockOther Items

3.8 4.2 4.8 4.3

Product Ratings

See Current Price @ Amazon

I’m a big fan of Calphalon cookware, so I was excited to sample their knives. Don’t let a fifth place ranking scare you away, it speaks more of the competition than the quality of this set. The block lists self-sharpening, although the ceramic used in the block is typically a honing step in most sharpeners. It ends up being perfect for every time you draw out the knife. These knifes have nice heft, balance and style. Especially the stamped label in the end cap, very nice touch. The grip shape also offers a nice bulge to hold on to.

onions cutting with calphalon

This is a thorough set, with a knife to meet almost all your needs, including a nice set of steak knives. The steak knives and shears are the lightest weight part of the set, not quite the quality of the ‘real’ knives. Two Santoku knives may be unnecessary, and longer slicers would be better. But these are all functional knives that held their edges well, enhanced by the built in sharpener.

8. Chicago Cutlery Fusion Knife Block Set (12-Piece)

Chicago Cutlery Fusion knife set

OverallChef KnifeBlockOther Items

3.3 3.4 4.6 3.3

Product Ratings

See Current Price @ Amazon

This is a good looking set from an established company that has evolved to cover a spread of price ranges. A stylish block, sideways slots for the kitchen knives, and with steak knives that match the design of the set. The steak knives also have a straight edge which means they can be sharpened easily. Like some others, a longer slicer blade would be nice. The bread knife is an average length with decent serration, and the paring knife is very usable. The utility knife is a little pedestrian, but did well in place of a boning knife for the chicken. The tapering grips are going to favor a smaller hand, and they have a nice rubberized texture.

cutlery chef knife by chicago

The gray areas for this set are in the structure. The bolster is good, it grips well when needed, and feels solid. Disappearing into the rubberized grip, it is impossible to tell the weight and strength of the tang as it extends through to the end cap. Hopefully it is strong enough to bear up over time.  They are listed as a 26 degree tapered edge, which means they do not have a bevel per se, the tapering starts higher on the blade down to the edge  . You will likely end up with a bevel though, because that’s how home sharpeners generally work. That makes this a decent set that should age well, but may change somewhat over the years.

9. Victorinox Rosewood Knife Block Set  (7-Piece)

9 Victorinox rosewood

OverallChef KnifeBlockOther Items

3.2 3.7 4 4.2

Product Ratings

See Current Price @ Amazon

I so wanted to love this set, I’ve passed along my decades old blades of this brand, and they’re still being used. It is a perfect assortment of blades in great sizes like a 10” slicer and 3.25” paring knife. Their boning knife is classically designed and sharpened all the way to the tip. Even though the spine is not the heaviest of our group, the chef’s blade performed well and all the knives held a good edge.

Carrots Chopping with Victorinox set

The only issue is the handles. Out of the box the Rosewood had a typical aroma of stained wood in an enclosed space, not a long term problem. Compared to the sculpting available in contemporary knives, these handles seemed boxy and bulky, even with fairly big mitts like mine. Granted, the composites and end caps make balance easier, so more wood is needed to get the right equivalent balance. From experience the Rosewood will age well and maintain a good look with minimal attention, the blades too, but for heavy daily use the grips become problematic.

10. Cuisinart C77TR-15P Triple Rivet Collection (15-Piece) – Just Alright

Cuisinart C77TR-15P Triple Rivet Collection

OverallChef KnifeBlockOther Items

3.8 3.4 4 4.3

Product Ratings

See Current Price @ Amazon

This set scored the same as the Emojoy, but they got the higher ranking due to a better assortment of blades. This set does include a decent slicer and bread knife, both classically shaped, especially the bread knife with a slight curve on its length. Interestingly the steak knives are not serrated, which your guests may not be used to, but meaning you can sharpen them. They also do not feel as solid as the kitchen knives.

testing Cuisinart c77tr knife set

The chef’s blade has decent heft, good grip. The blade shape is a bit chubbier with more curve than many blades. Not bad, but unique. The edge out of the box was good, and stayed sharp throughout the testing. That was true of all the blades we played with. Again, no boning knife, the utility knife was okay, but the sharp little paring knife pulled the chicken breast off the bone pretty well. Not sure if this set will last decades, but it makes a good starter or second set for home cooking.

11. Cuisinart C77SS-13P Graphix Collection Block Set (13-Piece) – Just Alright

Cuisinart C77SS-13P

OverallChef KnifeBlockOther Items

3.6 4 4.5 3.8

Product Ratings

See Current Price @ Amazon

Hollow handled knives have always seemed cheap and potentially a problem. Add that to Cuisinart moving in and out of the value sphere, and this is another pleasant surprise in the group. The grips are well textured, look really nice and have been balanced for the blade they are with. When making hard cuts you can keep a good hold on the knife, contrary to smooth hollow handles. The steak knives are interesting, with a handle slightly heftier but still normal flatware, as opposed to a ‘real’ knife handle, they performed well.

collection of Cuisinart c77ss knifes

With only four kitchen blades this set did not show well on assortment, made less so due to the blades chosen. No slicer, only a 5.5” serrated utility knife, and the mediocre black handled shears looked out of place. Their Santoku knife showed off great though, tall enough to chop well against your guiding hand, it held a good edge as did the other knives. This ends up being a good looking set in a nice block with a little more form over function and some unrealized potential.

12. AmazonBasics Premium Set (18-Piece) – NOT SO GREAT

AmazonBasics 18-Piece Premium Knife Block Set

OverallChef KnifeBlockOther Items

2.8 3.7 4 3.7

Product Ratings

See Current Price @ Amazon

AmazonBasics has done a great job of building a brand known for quality and value, so this set had good expectations. They were only partially met. Out of the gate the chef’s blade has a good feel, solid grip and a sharp edge. The Santoku is also a nice blade size and shape. The slicer came out of the box dull, really dull.  A drag type sharpener could not bring an edge to it. The boning knife, which was nice to see, had a good edge, slightly long blade and was very stiff. It also had a handle almost the same size as the chef’s blade making it a bit awkward to maneuver. The bread knife is scalloped, not serrated, which made it less effective in cutting crusty breads.

AmazonBasics Knife Set Showcase

Peripherally, the steak knives are pretty nice, good heft, full tang and service for eight. The shears come apart for cleaning, have a shallow notch for catching a bone to cut, and metal grippers. The block is unique too. Generally it is a good idea to store knives on their side instead of the blade on the bottom bearing the weight. All the slots, including steak knives, are on the side; nice touch. This set, with forged bolsters and full tangs throughout, has so much going in the right direction, it just fell a little short on some of the execution.

emojoy knives set vs amazon basics knives set

13. Home Hero Kitchen Knives with Stand (7 Piece) –NOT SO GREAT

Home Hero Kitchen 7-Piece Knives Set

OverallChef KnifeBlockOther Items

2.6 3 3.9 4.2

Product Ratings

See Current Price @ Amazon

This set seemed like an easy target to dislike. It was pleasantly better than expected, especially when you keep in mind the value aspect. Yes, the knives are lightweight, handles are composite, and it is unlikely the tang goes more than a couple inches deep. Because all the blades have a honed section at the bottom, they will not have the staying power of good knives. But all of them had good edges out of the box, and the included sharpener will help keep them that way.  This is also a smart blade assortment with a surprisingly good slicer and bread knife. Even the acrylic stand is cool.

Cutting with Home Hero Knife Set

They say they are Teflon coated.  Regardless of whether it may just be paint, it is unlikely to stay on the blade in the long run. Cutting carrots, the chef’s blade made carrot shards because it didn’t have the heft to cut cleanly. But it worked, did well on onions and chicken, and even forced its way through the pumpkin. The utility knife boned the chicken breast and the bread knife didn’t shred the bread. A college kid I know bought the deluxe set with veggie peelers, pizza cutter and more. It should serve well for those years. In that context, this is a pretty good starter set that certainly gives value for the low price point.

KNIFE SET BUYER’S GUIDE

Knives

You want good knives. Not enough info? OK. Aside from the overall quality of the knives, go through the list of knives in the set and tag each knife as something you use all the time, something you might use now and then, or something that’ll basically never come out of the block. The more stuff in those last two categories, the less useful that set is.

Knife Block

Key question: will it fit on your countertop? Some blocks sit at a 45° angle so you can pull a knife out under wall cabinets. Others are vertical to save space, but need enough vertical room to pull a 13” knife (including the handle) out.

You might not be a cookware junkie like me with four chef’s knives, but everybody eventually expands their knife collection. I like to see a block with room for more knives than just what comes with the set. It gives you room to grow over time.

Types of Knives Found in Knife Sets

knives infographic Click to enlarge

There are zillions of knife styles found the world over. Here, we’re mostly looking at knives in the European tradition that are commonly found in American homes.

Chef’s Knife

The chef’s knife is your #1 workhorse knife, and can be used for pretty much anything. An 8” blade is normal for home cooks, though chef’s knives come in a wide range of sizes up to comically gigantic. The key feature of the chef’s knife is the slight curve of the blade that allows the continuous rocking motion for easy chopping. Your chef’s knife should have some weight to it so it can do the work when slicing, but look for good balance to keep the weight under control.

Paring Knife

The chef’s knife is your big knife for big jobs; the paring knife is your small knife for small jobs. Usually carrying a 3‒4” blade, the paring knife is for fine work like peeling and shaping vegetables. It’ll have a thin, light blade compared to your chef’s knife.

Bread Knife

There are very few things that you need a serrated knife for, assuming you keep your regular knives sharp, but bread is cut much better with a serrated edge. The teeth grab onto a crusty loaf and saw open a clean cut. Soft interiors get cut continuously by the small blades of the serrations instead of getting pulled by a smooth knife. Bread knives have a couple of different blade shapes — toothy or scalloped. I prefer toothy.

Boning Knife

This one isn’t important for the vegetarians, but a boning knife is a great tool to help your meat prep. A boning knife is usually about 6” long, very thin, and with a very sharp point. The goal is to separate meat from bone and connective tissue, and you want a thin sharp blade to get all of the meat off of anything. I prefer a straight blade with some flex to it, but they’re also available with a curved blade, a rigid blade, or both.

Additional Knives

Utility Knife

In the kitchen, a utility knife is a knife intermediate in size between your chef’s knife and paring knife, and usually looks like a cross between them. They’re theoretically good for intermediate-sized jobs, but your chef’s knife and paring knife can handle pretty much anything with a little practice. Unfortunately, a lot of these knives feel like throw-ins to bulk up the size of a knife set, and often have the quality to match.

Santoku

I said at the top that this article that we were looking at European-style knives, but the Americanized version of the santoku is common enough to be the exception. The santoku is a general-purpose Japanese knife that plays a similar role to the chef’s knife as an all-purpose chopping and slicing knife. The edge is flat (or very slightly curved), so you use a different cutting motion, and the tip is more rounded off. American santokus will usually use the same handle as other European-style knives. So why did the santoku get popular? My guess: it’s your best route to getting an extremely high-quality 6” knife. If you don’t like the size of a chef’s knife, the santoku might become your first choice of knives.

Slicing Knife

A slicer is a long thin knife for cutting perfect slices in a single stroke. I pull mine out when I’ve got a roast because it carves perfect thin slices. I also grab it when I want to cut a cake into layers because it’s long enough to go through the whole cake in one cut. A good slicing knife is not an essential, but it’s very useful to pull out from time to time.

Not Knives, but Often Found in Your Knife Block

items typically found in a knife set

Kitchen Shears

Heavy-duty scissors do more around the kitchen than open packages and cut twine. A good pair of kitchen shears will go through chicken bones with ease and accuracy. They’re also surprisingly good at cutting pizza. When you’ve got an odd job around the kitchen where it’s hard to brace the food against something, pull out the shears since they cut against themselves instead of a cutting board.

Carving Fork

A carving fork is a long two-pronged fork used to steady a roast during carving. You can use an ordinary fork, but you get a better grip by driving the prongs of a carving fork deeper into the meat, and have an easier time repositioning the sharpened tines. A carving fork also lets you keep your off hand farther away from the slicing knife’s blade. It also looks cooler when carving tableside.

Honing Steel

You need to keep your knives sharp for safety and comfort, but a honing steel is not that. In between sharpenings, a honing steel realigns the edge of your knives to maintain your sharpness.

Knife Block

You need a place to put your knives, and a knife block is far better than a drawer. The edges stay safe from getting bashed around, which keeps them sharper for longer. The other things in the drawer, including your fingers, stay safer when they don’t come in contact with the knife edges. Finally, a block keeps your knives up on the counter in view so it’s easy to grab the right one.

Building the Best Custom Knife Set

building your own knife set

The time has come to get some steel for your kitchen. Whether that means you are starting from scratch or moving from your prior knives, change is about to happen. Perhaps someone you know is transitioning, graduating, or getting married. Do you buy a set or build a purpose driven collection?

Buying a set gives you the continuity of your chosen brand; edge quality, feel, durability and such. If the grips work for you, they likely will work throughout the set. However, as we’ve seen, some sets bring a lot of clutter in knives you won’t use. When you use a different shaped blade, you often hold the knife differently, so variation is a plus as well.

Building your own set gets you variety that is helpful to your kitchen mechanics. Purpose chosen knives will fit their respective bill. It allows for transitions too, over time upgrading what you use most for example, without worrying about everything matching.

ABOUT OUR BUILD YOUR OWN KNIFE SETS

Economic realities are that we may not be able to spend what we want for this project. If you can, we have a premium line up that will serve you well for decades. We will also have an economical line up of workhorse knives, which you can easily have for decades with a little care and attention. For more on the makings of a good knife, see our knife buyer’s guide.

Look at how you plan to use your knives and consider upgrading your most popular blade of choice. For most of us that is the chef’s blade, number two being the paring knife. Over time, you can bring the other choices up to a higher level.

Our DIY collections will be chef’s blade, paring knife, bread knife, and boning knife. Due to the increased popularity we will also make a Santoku recommendation in each category.

best diy knife set

The Premium à La Carte Knife Set

Chef’s Knife

ZWILLING Professional “S”: The chef’s knife is the most important knife in your kitchen. There’s no question that this knife deserves the title classic and one of our favorite brands. It checks all the boxes of build quality, known for a sturdy spine on the blade, this knife will be the backbone of your collection.

Paring Knife

DALSTRONG Gladiator Series: This blade is just a bit heavier than many paring knifes, and a bit broader, with an excellent grip. From cutting your apple for lunch to making strawberry fans, this knife will be exceptional.

Bread Knife

Wusthof CLASSIC: At 10 inches this is a great knife for slicing large round loaves or crusty baguettes with equal ease. Even bagels and smaller items are easily cut the way you want them.

Boning Knife

Zwilling J.A. Henckels Professional S Flexible: Your boning knife is the most likely to get wet during use, including the grip. So the polymer grips of this knife will be resistant to juices that can ultimately damage real woods. Add the flex of the blade and a solid bolster to keep your grip in place, and this knife will serve you well.

Santoku

Shun Cutlery Premier: This is an exceptionally functional work of art that will probably be passed on to your children. Shun also uses a slightly more ergonomic grip in this line than the extremely traditional tapered cylinder of many blades.

budget diy knife set lineup

The Economical à La Carte Knife Set

Chef’s Knife

Mercer Culinary: It’s amazing these guys can get the knife out in this price range, must less with the durability to stand up to a commercial kitchen. Starting with good steel, a heavy blade and an NSF rating, the handle is built out to offer a bolster that is comfortable to grip. With the money you’ll be saving you can pickup a sharpener.

Paring Knife

Victorinox Swiss Army Cutlery: Lightweight, easy to hold, and it holds an edge, this offers everything you want in a functional paring knife.t.

Bread Knife

Winco KWP-121N: Again, great metallurgy at a great price. This brand is still migrating from the commercial back of the house to the public spotlight based on durability and great value.

Boning Knife

Mercer Culinary Millennia: The grip is made of two materials, both waterproof and durable, making for a solid feel in your hand. A straight blade is common, although they make a curved blade if you prefer, and their quality is excellent.

Santoku

Henckels Statement Hollow Edge: Not a name expected on a value list, this is a better than decent knife. The blade is a bit light, which works for this knife, giving it a nice balance and feel. Another affordable option here is to look at the ceramic Santoku knives we tested and reviewed.
Note: This Henckels knife is manufactured in China.

Knife Blocks & Storage

Now you’ve got them, where do you put them?

For a classic countertop block, Henckels 20-Slot Super Knife Storage Block is great all around and a value. Slots are oversized and sideways for less wear on the edges. They also offer room for everything from steel to shears.

The Mantello block is a universal block with a bundle of plastic rods in an open box, and they have multiple sizes and offerings. You put your knives wherever you want and the friction of the rods holds them in. This is easily reconfigurable if you’re thinking you might change up your collection, plus it’s easy to clean.

If counter space is a premium there are drawer storage options. Bellemain Drawer/Block Organizer works well for 5 long blades and 6 short blades. At just over five inches wide you can easily fit a couple of them side by side.

For drawer and travel, our friends at Mercer make a complete array of knife sheaths that are sturdy and reasonably priced like their Mercer Culinary Knife Guard, 8 Inch x 1.5 Inch. You’ll see the professional cooks carrying their knives in a roll case, and the Shun Knife Roll, 8 Slot is a good value from a premium name. If you are travelling extensively guards are recommended even when the knives are inside many rolls or cases.

The Extras

Those four knives plus the block are your baseline set, but here are some bonus knives worth adding.

Shears

When it comes to cutting up bones, like when spatchcocking a chicken, kitchen shears are precise and powerful. The Messermeister 8.5” do that and many other small jobs very well, and are easy to clean.

Steel

It’s not a knife, but it’s often included with knife sets. A steel is no substitute for sharpening, but will touch up your edges in between sharpenings. The Henckels 9″ has enough length to be worthwhile at a reasonable price.

Slicer

I pull this one out maybe half a dozen times a year, but it’s amazing for gliding through a pork roast or separating cake layers. The Victorinox 12” is definitely an extra, but extremely good. Note: it doesn’t fit anywhere. Get a knife guard that fits it before you cut yourself on it.

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