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Most home cooks don’t need a premium, artisan-quality set of professional knives used in Michelin-starred restaurants. But what you do need is a set of a few basics, which is where a good knife set comes in.
What Are the Best Knife Sets?
The best knife sets should include a paring knife, bread knife, utility knife and a good chef’s knife, all housed in a sturdy knife block for safe and easy organizing. Most popular knife blocks will also include a set of steak knives and cooking shears. The knives should be durable, well-balanced, and able to maintain sharpness without needing constant tune-ups.
What to Look For When Buying the Best Knife Set
Quantity: As we mentioned, the best kitchen knife sets should at the very least include a chef’s knife, a serrated bread knife, and a paring knife. These are the knives you’ll use most often. Other knives to look for are sharp kitchen shears, santoku knives for prepping meat and produce, and elongated carving knives. Many also include a set of serrated steak knives for dining.
Materials: Most knives feature stainless steel blades, but the materials of the knife handles also make a difference. The best knife handles will vary both in quality and personal preference; most are commonly made from steel, plastic, or wood. The knife handle material will impact both the weight and durability of your knives, so consider your own needs.
Tang: When considering balance and longevity, one feature most knowledgable knife-shoppers look for is the “tang.” A knife with a full tang is made from a single piece of high-quality steel that runs the full length of the knife from tip to hilt. A full tang helps maintain balance, allowing the knife to sit securely and evenly in your hand, with even weight distribution too. Still, some argue that if you only need a knife for light jobs like tofu and herbs, a partial tang is perfectly serviceable.
Style: Knife blocks typically sit on your kitchen counter, so obviously you’ll want a set that looks like it belongs there. In general, designs tend to stay on the conservative side, with sturdy wood or steel blocks. These days, the most popular knife manufacturers also put a great deal of energy into sleek and eye-catching designs that may appeal to more contemporary personal tastes.
1. J.A. Henckels International Statement Knife Block
In addition to the quality of the steel, much of what distinguishes a quality chef’s knife and knife set is in the comfort and maneuverability of the knives as a whole. This set is crafted from one piece of high-quality steel, meaning it has a full tang, though it is stamped, not forged. Though forged steel is generally considered of higher quality, stamped knives are much lighter weight, which can actually make them more convenient and comfortable to work with.
We find the knives in this set to be well-balanced, easy to use, and satisfyingly razor sharp.
The block includes the eight-inch chef’s knife, an eight-inch serrated bread knife, and a seven-inch santoku, designed with indentations on the blade to help prevent food from sticking. Also included are shears, a paring knife, a serrated utility knife, and six steak knives.
Henckels is one of the most-trusted names in knife manufacturing, having been making knives out of its factory in Germany since 1895.
2. Ginsu Gourmet Chikara Series Cutlery Set
The first thing we noticed about this set of Ginsu Chikara knives was how aesthetically pleasing they are, with slender black handles and sitting in a richly colored wooden block. But beauty isn’t everything of course, and we also like that they are forged from high-quality Japanese steel with a full tang to maintain good balance.
According to the manufacturer, these blades arrive already sharp, and stay sharp longer than other similar knives. Japanese blades allow for more sensitive cuts, say, for fish or for julienne vegetables. The knives are weightier than the set above, which we really like, but some find the heavier handles require a little more pressure when chopping, which can be cumbersome.
This 12-piece complete set includes the chef’s knife, serrated utility knife, santoku knife, paring knife, shears, and honing rod, as well as four steak knives (note the steak knives are stamped, not forged).
3. Calphalon Classic Self-Sharpening Knife Set
This Calphalon set is stainless steel head-to-toe, including the block, whose angled slots are sharpeners themselves, which means your knives are automatically sharpened every time they are removed or replaced from the block.
We like the clean look of the stainless steel handles, as well as their contoured ergonomic design which is more comfortable to grip and less fatiguing. The knives are also labeled, which is a handy touch. We like that these knives feel balanced, weighty, and most of all, durable.
The set includes an eight-inch chef’s knife, eight-inch bread knife, six-inch utility knife, seven-inch santoku knife, a paring knife, shears, and eight steak knives.
4. Dalstrong Five-Piece Knife Block Set
You might think the most notable feature of this knife block is its The Fifth Element-style design, with the matte black block shaped like a flying cop car of the future, but we actually like it for the thoughtful shape of the handle, which is designed to fit snugly in your palm no matter what kind of grip you have.
The spine is smooth and comfortable, while the material is slightly textured to be extra grippy, to prevent accidental slips.
Of course this isn’t the set’s only selling point. These knives are full tang for balance and maneuverability, and the blades receive a special coating to help resist corrosion and enhance non-stick properties. They are also remarkably sharp, which is obviously a must.
The set includes an eight-inch chef’s knife, a seven-inch santoku knife, a 6.5-inch serrated utility knife, a 5.5-inch utility knife, and a paring knife. It doesn’t have the variety of knives as other sets on our list, but these five basics will still cover most cooking styles and needs.