December 5

The Best Kitchen Knife Sets

By trk

Last Updated: December 5, 2022

best kitchen knives, best knife sets, kitchen knife sets, knife sets for kitchen

Kitchen knives are a necessity for cooks, and knife sets can be a great way to get all the knives you need at once (often with a honing steel and kitchen shears). Sets can make great gifts, too, at just about every price point you could want.

But which knives do you really need? And how do you pick out the best set?

We take a look at several kitchen knife sets, from essential 2- and 3-piece sets up to large blocks with everything but the kitchen sink. We look at German knives, Japanese knives, stamped knives, knives made in the USA, the best budget knife sets, and steak knives (another excellent gift idea). We also include a buying guide to help you know what to look for. Even if our choices won't work for you, we'll help you figure out how to get ones that will.

Whether you're shopping for a set of kitchen knives for yourself or for a gift, this article will help you hone in on the right knives. 😉

Best Knife Sets at a Glance

Here are our favorite sets in several helpful (we hope) categories. These are not the only sets worth buying, but they are our favorites based on testing, use, and research. In the reviews below, we have more details on each recommendation, and will include other options so you can get a fuller picture of what's available (though there are too many good quality knife sets on the market to name them all). 

Type of Set

Features

Header

Best 2 piece German set:

Wusthof Classic Ikon 

see it on Amazon

-X50CRMoV15 steel (HRC 58)

-Chef's knife, paring knife

-Hollow ground chef's

-14 degree double bevel

-Full tang, partial bolster

-Resin handle, black or creme (blackwood for Ikon series)

-Made in Germany

-About $270.

-Thick, heavy blades (very durable)

-No storage block

-Expensive.

Wusthof Classic Ikon 2pc starte set

Best 2 piece Japanese set:
Global Starter set

see it on Amazon

-Cromova 18 steel

-Chef's knife, paring knife

-15 degree double bevel

-Stamped

-HRC 56-58

-Hollow steel handle, filled with sand for excellent balance

-Thin and lightweight

-Made in Japan

-About $100 (great price!).

-Won't hold an edge quite as long as other Japanese steels (but more durable)

-No storage block

-Thin blade not great for hard foods.

Global Classic 2pc Knife Set

Best 3 piece German set:
Wushof Classic Ikon

see it on Amazon

-X50CRMoV15 steel (HRC 58)

-Chef's knife, bread knife, paring knife

-Full tang, partial bolster

-14 degree double bevel

-Resin handle, black or creme (blackwood for Ikon series)

-Made in Germany

-About $415.

-Thick, heavy blades (very durable)

-No storage block

-Expensive.

Wusthof Classic Ikon 3piece starter set

Best 3 piece Japanese set:

Shun Classic Starter Set

see it on Amazon

-VGMax steel core w/64 layers of Damascus steel overlay

-Chef's knife, utility knife, paring knife

-34 layers Damascus steel

-16 degree double bevel

-Full composite tang

-HRC 60

-D-shaped Pakkawood handle

-Made in Japan

-About $340.

-Super sharp blades prone to chipping--not great for hard foods

-D-shaped handle designed for right-handed users

-Expensive.

Shun Classic 3 piece starter set

Best block set (German):

Wusthof Classic Ikon 6pc block

see it on Amazon

-X50CRMoV15 steel (58 HRC)

-Chef's, paring, serrated, honing steel, shears, block

-Room to expand in block

-14 degree double bevel 

-Resin handle

-About $475.

-The Classic line is less w/identical steel

-Expensive.

Wusthof Classic Ikon 6pc set with block

Best block set (Japanese):
Miyabi Kaizen II 7pc block set

see it on Amazon

-FC61 steel core (proprietary VG10), 64 layer Damascus overlay, 61 HRC

-Chef's, serrated, paring, utility, shears, honing steel, block

-Room to expand in block

-9.5-12 degree double bevels

-D-shaped Micarta resin handle

-About $630.

-Traditional (thin) Japanese blades not great for hard foods

-No steak knives 

-Shears lower quality

-Expensive.

Miyabi 7pc block knife set

Best budget set:
Tramontina 14pc block set

see it on Amazon

-High carbon German steel

-Chef's, carving, santoku, utility, paring, steak (6), shears, honing steel, hardwood block

-Forged, full tang, full bolster

-52-54 HRC

-Resin handle w/traditional shape

-Made in Brazil

-About $220.

-HRC rating is as low (very soft steel)

-May not need this many knives.

Tramontina 14pc hardwood block knife set

Best stamped knives: MAC 2pc Professional set

see them on Amazon


-High carbon molybdenum steel

-MTH 80 chef's, paring

-Stamped, full tang

-15 degree double bevel

-61 HRC

-Pakkawood handles

-Made in Japan

-About $200.

-Stamped construction: won't be as durable as forged blades.

MAC Professional 2pc Starter Set

Best set made in USA: Lamson 6pc set

see it on Amazon

-Grade 4116 high carbon German steel

-Chef's, fillet, paring, carving, honing steel, block

-Forged, full tang, full bolster

-58 HRC

-Resin, wood, or acrylic handles

-Made in USA (since 1837)

-About $340.

-No serrated knife, have to buy 10pc set to get one.

-Goes out of stock often.

Lamson 6pc Block Set, Maple

Best steak knife set (high end): Laguiole en Aubrac 

see it on Amazon

see it at Williams-Sonoma

-6pc

-Sandvik steel blades

-Smooth edge (not serrated)

-Heirloom quality, hand-crafted

-Made in France

-About $470.

-Expensive

-Be careful not to buy knock-offs.

Laguiole en Aubrac steak knife set 4pc

Best steak knife set (budget): Messermeister Avanta

see it on Amazon

-4pc

-German X50 stainless steel

-Smooth edge (not serrated)

-Made in China

-A favorite of many kitchen sites

-About $70.

-No case.

Messermeister Avanta steak knife set (4)

German or Japanese Knives: Your Two Main Options

The two major camps of kitchen knives today are German or Japanese. 

German knives--also called Western knives and including knives made throughout Europe and in the US--are heavier and made from somewhat softer steel, typically with a hardness rating of 54-58 HRC and bevels of 15-20 degrees.

Japanese knives are made in Japan (with some cheaper versions made in China) and have lighter, thinner blades that typically have a hardness of 60-62 and traditional bevels of just 10-12 degrees.

Harder Japanese blades are brittle and can chip easily, though they can hold an edge remarkably well. Softer German blades are more durable and an excellent choice for tough jobs like cutting through bone and hard foods (and are still extremely sharp and hold an edge well if they have a hardness rating of at least 56 HRC).

Having said all of that, there's a lot of overlap among German and Japanese knives today, with German companies making slim Santokus with 10 degree bevels and Japanese companies making thicker, heavier knives with 16 degree bevels. This means you can get great quality Japanese santokus and nakiris from makers like Wusthof, and you can get excellent all-purpose chef's knives from companies like Shun (though the harder Japanese steel is not great choice for hard foods).

Japanese knives have become extremely popular in the West. Most of them are quite beautiful, and most of the new high-carbon steel technology is found in Japanese knives, both of which make them popular among knife and steel aficionados, but not always the best choice for everyday kitchen use.

We think that every American kitchen needs at least one heavy duty German-style chef's knife, which is more versatile than the lighter, more brittle Japanese chef's knives. And if you love the lightness and nimbleness of Japanese knives, you need one of those for veggie prep and other light tasks. 

This is just an overview of the differences between German and Japanese knives. For more details, see our article on Japanese Vs. German Knives.

back to TOC

How to Choose a Kitchen Knife Set (A Buying Guide)

This section is a buying guide for kitchen knife sets: what to consider before buying, including set size, cost, blade quality, handle material, storage, and warranty. 

If you consider all of these things before buying, the result should be a set of good quality kitchen knives that you will love.

Cost (How Much Do You Want to Spend?)

First, you should have an idea of how much you want to spend. Kitchen knife sets come in a huge price range, from less than $100 up to several hundred (or even thousands depending on brand and set size). 

If you have a tight budget, we recommend buying a small set of just 2-3 knives rather than a large set of cheaply made knives. 

Though some inexpensive knives get great reviews (Victorinox, for example), they aren't a great quality choice: the steel is softer than that on higher end knives, so it won't hold an edge as well (meaning more frequent sharpening). The handles tend to be made from inexpensive plastics that will melt if exposed to heat and crack if exposed to cold. Higher quality handles also tend to be smoother and a little heavier, which give a knife a better feel in your hand and better balance when cutting. 

You will appreciate the higher quality, and you can save up for more knives of similar quality rather than settle for cheap knives with mediocre blades and (often) uncomfortable handles.

If you're on a tight budget, we recommend buying a small set of high quality knives rather than a large set of lower quality knives.

How Many Knives (And What Type) Do You Need?

Big sets are impressive looking, but the truth is that most cooks can do everything they need to with just three knives: a chef's knife, a paring knife, and a serrated knife for bread. 

Some cooks go even further and say all you really need is a good chef's knife. 

Knives other than the three main ones can be useful, depending on your cooking preferences: a carving knife for meats, a utility knife for in-between jobs, a fillet knife for skinning fish, etc. And most cooks need at least one paring knife for small work.

You may also want more than one chef's knife. For example, you might want a heavy German chef's knife for hard foods and a lighter Japanese knife for fruits and veggies. 

Extras: One nice feature of larger sets (6 pieces or more) is that they often come with nice extras: a honing steel and a kitchen shears. A honing steel is an essential tool for keeping your knives sharp, and a shears is also an indispensable tool for most cooks, which you can use for cutting herbs, opening bags, and slicing through soft bone (like chicken). 

You can always buy these separately (follow the links above to do so), but if you get a set that has them, you won't have to.  

(Note: your honing steel does not need to be the same brand as your knives.)

On the other hand, if you don't have room for a knife block on your counter, you may prefer a 2-3 piece set with no block, and buying your honing steel and kitchen shears separately. 

Our recommendation for sets is that you should buy on the small side. You can get just 2-3 essential knives you know you need, or you can get a small block set of 6-7 pieces that includes your basic knives, a honing steel, shears, plus the storage block (which is always counted as one of the set pieces). 

Even smarter is to buy a small block set that has empty slots, which you can fill with the knives of your choice (or leave empty, it's up to you). Shun has "build-a-block" sets that are a great way to start your kitchen knife collection.

We recommend buying small sets of no more than 6 pieces. You can add to your collection as you learn which knives you need. A small block with a honing steel and shears is a great option.

Storage

Linorose magnetic knife rack

A magnetic wall rack is an elegant storage solution that saves counter space.

You also need to consider how you're going to store your knives. One of the simplest options is to use a storage block (which is also an easy way to buy knives). But if you don't have the counter space for a block, you can use a magnetic rack, great for saving counter space. You can also just keep your knives in a drawer--though you should have the blades in sheaths to protect them (never leave kitchen knives loose in a drawer--it's a great way to chip and dull blades). 

You can even buy pull-down cabinets that you install under an upper cabinet, as well as other creative solutions. 

You don't need to buy knives in a block, so if you don't have room for one on your counter, it's good to know there are other storage options. 

Storage is an important consideration--if you don't have the counter space for a knife block, don't buy one. There are many other excellent options for safe kitchen knife storage.

Forged or Stamped?

Now we start to get into knife quality. One of the most basic things to know about kitchen knives is that they are either forged or stamped.

Forged knives are hammered and ground out of one piece of steel. Blade thickness varies, and forged knives always have a bolster. 

Stamped knives are cut from a piece of steel and are all one thickness. They don't have a bolster, although some stamped knives have added bolster material to improve balance and protect your fingers from the blade edge.

Forged knives once were considered higher quality. But today, there are many high quality stamped knives on the market, such as Global and Mac.

Some people believe forged knives have better balance, while others prefer the lightness of a stamped blade. Both Global and Mac chef's knives get great reviews and are favorites of many professional chefs (Anthony Bourdain loved the Global G2 chef's knife, for example).

Stamped knives tend to be less expensive than forged knives because they are less labor intensive. However, high quality stamped knives are not cheap, and they can last just as long as forged knives, hold an edge just as well, and be as much fun to use.

If you're buying good quality knives, worry less about if they're stamped or forged and more about how the knife feels in your hand and if you enjoy using it.

Blade Considerations

The blade is the most technical aspect of buying kitchen knives. Do you want a heavy, durable blade (German)? Or do you prefer a light, nimble blade (Japanese)? Do you want superb hardness (Japanese), or do you want sharpness tempered with durability (German)? Do you prefer a chef's knife shape, or a flatter edge like a santoku? 

While you can really get into gritty details about all of this, we're going to look just at the basic considerations. Those are type of steel, hardness, bevel/edge grind, and size and shape.

Type of Steel

There are many different steels used in knives, and you can really take a deep dive into them if you want to. However, the vast majority of kitchen knives are made from some type of high carbon stainless steel. This includes German and Japanese blades.

High carbon stainless steel can have varying amounts of carbon and chromium, as well as added elements like molybdenum and vanadium, which improve hardness, corrosion resistance, and more. Many brands have proprietary steels (like Shun's VG Max and Global's Cromova 18), but all are some type of high carbon stainless steel.

You can also still find carbon steel knives, but carbon steel is not a good option for two reasons: one, it rusts easily, and two, the new high carbon stainless steels hold an edge just as well.

You don't need to know all the different types of steel used in kitchen knives to make a good choice because all decent brands are going to be made from good quality, high carbon stainless steel. The most important consideration is hardness...

Hardness

Steel hardness is measured on the Rockwell scale and for knives is listed as "HRC." (Hint: if the HRC is not listed, this could be a sign that the knives are poor quality.)

Most kitchen knives have a hardness rating of 56-62 HRC. German knives tend to be 56-58, while Japanese knives tend to be 60-62. 

You might think a higher rating is better, but this isn't necessarily the case. The higher the hardness rating, the more brittle the steel. Brittle steel is more prone to chipping and is also harder to sharpen. 

For this reason, many cooks prefer a lower rating of 56-59. Blades in this range are still extremely sharp, but are also quite durable, so they are less prone to chipping than harder knives. They won't hold an edge quite as long, but many cooks feel this is a fair tradeoff for greater durability.  

You can find softer knives, such as the Tramontina set we recommend as a budget pick, which have an HRC of just 52-54. This is typical of budget brand knives, which tend to use softer steel. We can recommend them because overall, the knives are good quality and they are a decent alternative for people on a tight budget.

Bevel/Edge Grind

Blade Bevels Japanese and German knives

All knife edges are ground to a specific angle, called the bevel. Most knives sold in the US have a bevel of 14-20 degrees on each side. 

Japnese blades at one time had a much thinner bevel than German knives, often just 10-12 degrees on both sides. Some Japanese knives are beveled on just one side, with the other side being flat: this is a good style for cutting sushi. You can find these knives in the American market, but they are not common.

Today, with Japanese companies making German-style knives and Western companies making Japanese style knives, the grinds are all over the place and there is no set standard. For example, the standard Shun sold in the US has a 16 degree double bevel, while Wusthof knives (as well as most Zwilling and Henckels knives) have a 14 degree double bevel (yes: thinner than the Shun!). Even more interesting is the Wusthof santoku and nakiri (Japanese-style) blades have a double bevel of just 10 degrees

German steel can make a superb thin Japanese blade because it's softer and thus less prone to chipping. And even though a Wusthof santoku has a very thin cutting angle, the knives are still thick and heavy, and feel like a German knife. Thus, in a Wusthof santoku, you get the precision of a thin blade, but the durability and weight of a German knife. 

To summarize, you don't have to worry all that much about the bevel. You'll notice more differences in performance from the overall weight and balance of the knife. But you do need to know what the bevel is if you're going to be sharpening your knives at home: if you sharpen to the wrong angle, you can ruin the cutting edge of the knife.

Size and Shape

Length: Knives also come in different lengths. The standard blade length for a chef's knife is 8 inches, while bread knives can be 8-10 inches and paring knives can be 3.5-4 inches. Santoku and nakiri knives are 7 inches, while utility knives are typically 5-6 inches.

However, you can find chef's knives with blades as short as 5 inches and as long as 12 inches, and many varying blade lengths for all types of knives. 

If you're not sure what length blade you want, go with the standard size and decide from there. If you're buying as a gift, the standard size is also the best bet. 

Shape: Knives also come in several different shapes. Even among one type of knife, like a chef's knife or paring knife, there are many styles. Probably the biggest choice you'll have to make is whether you prefer the tapering blade of a chef's knife or the flatter blade of a santoku. These knives are used for roughly the same purposes, but one shape can work better depending on how you like to cut.

Chef's knives are designed to be used in a rocking motion, while santoku (and nakiri) knives are designed for a more straight up-and-down motion. There is no right or wrong here, just preference.

If you're not sure which you prefer, you can try a few different styles and see what feels best. You can also watch videos or consult a knife expert at a kitchen store for guidance.

Top View of Global Classic knife

The spine of a Global chef's knife: about 2mm.

Thickness/Weight: Here we're talking about overall blade thickness, as measured across the spine. German blades tend to be thicker, while Japanese blades tend to be thinner--which is why a Wusthof santoku with a 10 degree bevel can still feel weighty in your hand. A Wusthof chef's knife can be 4-5mm thick, while a Global chef's knife is just 2mm thick. 

As with other blade designs, there is no better or worse thickness; it's just about what you prefer and what you're going to use the knife for. Many cooks love the thinness of a Japanese blade for veggie prep and chopping herbs, but turn to a thicker, heavier blade for harder jobs like cutting through chicken bones.

Blade quality is what makes or breaks a kitchen knife, but as long as you buy a good brand, you'll get good steel. The most important consideration for most people is hardness, because that will have the most effect on daily use: a harder knife holds an edge longer, but is more brittle and can chip. A softer knife needs more sharpening but is also more durable and better for hard foods and bone. Most people prefer a hardness of 56-58 HRC. 

Handle Material, Shape, and Size

Material: Handle material is important for comfort and safety: it should feel good in your hand and be easy to grip firmly without slipping. 

Handle material should also be resistant to bacteria, which means that synthetic handles are superior to most wooden handles. Wooden handles are beautiful (and often more expensive, like Wusthof's Ikon blackwood series), but they do not resist bacteria as well as synthetics. 

In fact, most professional kitchens have rules that allow only synthetic handles for this reason. We prefer synthetics (at least good quality ones) because they're also easier to maintain.

If you love natural wood, then it's a perfectly fine choice for your knife handles. But you do have to be a little more careful with them.

Global introduced stainless steel handles to the kitchen knife market, and now you can find steel handles on many brands. Steel is also great for bacteria resistance, but may or may not feel good in your hand--it is a totally personal choice.

Shape/Size: Handles can be round, oval, octagonal, and flat. Some have grooves, while others are perfectly smooth. Some are very large, while others are on the small side. 

As with everything else about knives, there is no right or wrong handle type. The only way to know which material and shape fits your hand best is to try them. 

Warranty

All good quality knives will have a good warranty. This typically means a limited lifetime warranty against manufacturing defects--the company will replace a knife free of charge.

As long as you buy a reputable brand, you should have no problem with warranty.

Important handle considerations include material (synthetic, wood, or steel?) and shape (does it fit your hand well and is it easy to grip?). The best way to know what's best for you is to try different knives.

Is a Kitchen Knife Set a Good Gift?

Are knives a good gift? It depends on a few things.

If you know the person you're buying for well, and know what they like and what they need, then a kitchen knife set can be a great gift.

If you are less sure of what the person wants or needs, then you should proceed with caution.

Everyone has different styles, and what works for you might not be right for somebody else. For example, you might love a heavy German blade, but someone else may prefer a lighter, nimbler Japanese blade.

One knife set that almost always works is a nice set of steak knives. Nearly everyone can use them, and few people have a set. Or if they do, they're nothing fancy. So unless your giftee is a vegetarian, a nice set of steak knives usually makes a great gift. 

Kitchen knife sets can make a great gift if you know a person well--but if you don't, you risk getting them a set they won't like. Everyone's cooking style is a little different, and what you consider a perfect knife may not somebody else's cup of tea.

Steak knife sets make a good gift for just about everyone except vegetarians.

back to TOC

Best 2 Piece German Set: Wusthof Classic Ikon

Wusthof Classic Ikon 2pc starte set

See Classic Ikon 2 piece set on Amazon

See Classic Ikon 2 piece set in creme on Amazon

About $270

You can get the Wusthof Classic 2 piece set for less (link below), but we prefer the handle and partial bolster of the Classic Ikon. 

The double bolster--that is, the steel end cap--sets the Classic Ikon apart from other Wusthof lines. It's there to counter the blade to improve overall balance (it also looks great). 

These are great, heavy, durable knives that should last a lifetime. Even if you prefer the lighter Japanese knives, every kitchen should have at least one heavy duty German blade for hard foods and bone. 

See our complete Wusthof knives review for more details.

Features:

  • 8" hollow ground chef's knife, 3.5" paring knife
  • X50CRMoV15 steel forged blades
  • HRC 58
  • 14 degree double bevel
  • Full tang
  • Partial bolster
  • Resin handle in black or creme color (Ikon series has a blackwood handle for more $$)
  • Made in Solingen, Germany
  •  Lifetime warranty.

Drawbacks:

These are expensive knives, though extremely well made and should last many decades. You won't get a storage block with such a small set, and you'll have to buy a honing steel, as well; most larger sets come with a honing steel and shears. 

If you need a serrated knife for bread, you'll have to buy one of those, too. If two knives aren't enough for you, check out our 3 pieces sets below.

buy the wusthof classic ikon 2 piece set:

Wusthof Classic Ikon 2pc starte set
Amazon buy button

Other Good German 2-Piece Set Options:
Wusthof Classic starter set
, about $225: Same set and identical steel as the Classic Ikon with a more traditional handle design.

Zwilling J.A. Henckels Professional S 2 Piece Chef's set, chef's and paring, about $140, full bolster and tang, ice-hardend German steel, HRC 57.

Wusthof Classic Ikon Asian knife set, about $270: For the same price, you can get a santoku and Japanese paring knife. The steel is the same with a double 10 degree bevel.

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Best 2 Piece Japanese Set: Global Starter Set

Global Classic 2pc Knife Set

See Global 2 Piece Starter Set on Amazon

See all Global knives on Amazon

About $100

Global knives are a true innovation in the knife world, designed from Japanese traditions, but with many German knife traits.

They're made from softer steel than most Japanese knives, so they're more durable, even though they're extremely thin and lightweight (one of the thinnest kitchen knives on the market). 

Globals also have a long, flat edge grind--which you can see in the photo above- that allows them to maintain sharpness longer than many other knives.

They are excellent for most prep work, and they are also quite beautiful. Though stamped, they are top quality knives.

This 2 piece set includes a hollow-ground chef's knife (Western style, not santoku) and a paring knife.

See our Global Knife Review for a more complete discussion of these fabulous knives.

Features:

  • Hollow ground 7" chef's knife, 3" paring knife 
  • Cromova 18 steel (Global's proprietary high carbon Japanese steel)
  • 15 degree double bevel
  • Stamped construction
  • HRC 56-58
  • Hollow steel handle filled with sand for superb balance
  • Thin and lightweight, with extreme sharp blades
  • Made in Japan.

Drawbacks:

Globals are a little softer than most other Japanese-made knives, so they won't hold an edge quite as long. However, they are more durable and less prone to chipping than harder steels. The long, flat edge grind also helps to maintain the sharpness longer than many other brands.

Because these knives are stamped, there's no bolster to protect your fingers, and the heel of the chef's knife is sharp. If you're accustomed to a full bolster, use care when you're getting to know this knife.

You won't get a storage block or other extras with such a small set, like a honing steel and shears.

The thin blade isn't designed for hard foods and bones, so even if you love using this knife, you should have a thicker, heavier (German) blade for these purposes.

Some people find the handles small, too. But if the Global fits your hand well, it tends to quickly become the favorite knife of many cooks.

Other Good Japanese 2 piece set options:

Shun offers a number of 2 piece starter sets with chef's knives or santokus and a paring knife. The price points vary, but all are good quality. 

MAC is another Japanese maker we like. Their knives are stamped, but excellent quality nevertheless. Their MTH-80 chef's knives is one of the few knives in the world that gets nearly universal positive reviews. We review it below in the stamped knives category.

buy global 2 piece knife set:

Global Classic 2pc Knife Set
Amazon buy button

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Best 3 Piece German Set: Wusthof Classic Ikon

Wusthof Classic Ikon 3piece starter set

See Wusthof Classic Ikon 3 piece set on Amazon

About $415

This set includes the three basic knives that every kitchen needs: the chef's, the paring, and the bread knife. 

You can get the same blade for less in the Wusthof Classic line, but we really love the Classic Ikon's look and feel. The partial bolster makes these knives easier to sharpen, and the double bolster/steel endcap improves balance as well as giving the knife a sleek, modern look. 

See our complete Wusthof knives review for more details.

Features:

  • 8" chef's knife, 8" serrated (bread) knife, 3.5" paring knife
  • X50CRMoV15 steel forged steel blades
  • HRC 58
  • 14 degree double bevel
  • Full tang
  • Partial bolster
  • Resin handle in black or creme color (Ikon series has a blackwood handle for more $$)
  • Made in Solingen Germany with a lifetime warranty.

Drawbacks:

The Classic Ikon is an expensive line, and this small set won't have a storage block, honing steel, or shears.

Wusthof knives are also heavy, so if you're looking for a light knife, consider Global (see above review). However, every kitchen needs at least one heavy German blade for hard foods and bones.

Other German 3 piece set options:

Wusthof Classic 3 piece set, about $340--identical knives with a different handle can save you about $75 (but we don't think they're as pretty as the Classic Ikon lone).

Misen Essentials 3pc set (chef, paring, serrated), about $170. The price is lower because these knives are made in China, but the steel and overall quality are both excellent. Available in four colors, black, gray, blue, and red. A great starter set that gets great reviews.

buy the wusthof classic ikon 3 piece set:

Wusthof Classic Ikon 3piece starter set
Amazon buy button

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Best 3 Piece Japanese Set: Shun Classic Starter Set

Shun Classic 3 piece starter set

See Shun Classic Starter Set on Amazon

About $340

Shun is probably the most recognized name in Japanese cutlery. They make beautiful, high quality knives. The Classic line is their most popular, but you can go higher end (Premier, Dual Core) and lower end (Kanso, Sora). Shun has three different blade technologies, so be sure you're getting the steel you want: the Classic has the proprietary Shun VGMax core (a type of VG10 steel) with 64 layers of Damascus steel overlay. The Damascus steel adds beauty to the knife but in today's high-tech steel world, does not really improve the performance of the knife (nor detract from it, for that matter).

The pakkawood handle is a wood-resin composite that's extremely durable and a pleasure to hold. The Classic line has a D-shaped handle meant for right-handed people, so if this is a problem for you, you may want a different Shun line.

Shun offers free annual sharpening for the lifetime of the knives--just pay shipping.

See our Shun Knife Review for a detailed discussion of all the Shun knives.

Features:

  • 8" chef's knife, 6" utility knife, 3.5" paring knife
  • VGMax proprietary steel core w/64 layers of Damascus steel overlay
  • Forged blades
  • 16 degree double bevel
  • HRC 60
  • Full composite tang
  • Partial bolster
  • D-shaped pakkawood handle
  • Free annual sharpening (just pay shipping)
  • Made in Japan with lifetime warranty. 

Drawbacks:

Shun blades use very hard steel, so they have a bit of a reputation for chipping. They aren't a good choice for cutting bone and hard foods.

The harder steel can also be difficult to sharpen (probably why Shun offers free annual sharpening).

The D-shaped handle is best for right-handers. 

There is no serrated knife in the set--but we couldn't find any small Japanese sets with a serrated knife. Apparently bread isn't as popular in Japan as it is in the US.

And of course, they are expensive.

Other Japanese 3 piece set options:

Shun Premier Build-a-block set: About $260. If you just want to start with the basics and have room to expand, this is an excellent way to go. The set comes with a chef's knife, a honing steel, and a storage block with lots of room to expand. Premier is an expensive line, and though the Damascus steel is beautiful, it adds little to the knives' performance. 

Other Options: There are several 3 piece Japanese sets on the market that we haven't tested, but get great reviews. Unfortunately, it's hard to find a Japanese set that has a serrated knife, so if that's a deal breaker for you, you may want to stick with the German options.

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Best German Block Set: Wusthof Classic Ikon 6 Piece Set

Wusthof Classic Ikon 6pc set with block

See Wusthof Classic Ikon 6 piece set on Amazon

About $475

If you want a top quality German knife set that has everything you need and nothing you don't, this 6 piece set from Wusthof is one of the best choices you can make. You get all the basics: a chef's, paring, and serrated knife, plus a honing steel and kitchen shears, all in a block with room for expansion: you can fit up to 5 more knives, plus 4 steak knives on the bottom. 

We like the Classic Ikon line for its modern handles and double bolster looks (i.e., steel end cap), and the partial bolster that makes it easier to sharpen. But you can find a similar set in the Classic line, which is a little cheaper but offers the same top notch German high carbon stainless steel.

See our complete Wusthof knives review for more details.

Features:

  • 8" chef's, 3.5" paring, 8" serrated, honing steel, shears, block
  • X50CRMoV15 forged steel blades 
  • HRC 58
  • 14 degree double bevel (10 degree on Japanese style Wusthofs)
  • Full tang
  • Partial bolster
  • Resin synthetic handle in black or creme (for excellent bacteria resistance)
  • Room to expand in the block
  • Made in Solingen, Germany with a lifetime warranty.

Drawbacks:

These knives are thick and heavy, which isn't what everyone wants in a kitchen knife. Though every kitchen should have at least one heavy German knife for hard foods, if you prefer lighter knives, you may want to go with a Japanese brand (it's tough to beat Global for lightness and balance).

The Classic Ikon line is expensive, too, though not as expensive as the Ikon line, which has blackwood handles (which are durable, but less resistant to bacteria than the synthetic handles on the Classic Ikon and Ikon lines).

Other German block set options:

Wusthof Classic 6pc set: Pretty much the same as the Classic Ikon set for about $390. The serrated knife has a 5" blade rather than an 8" blade. The Classic handles are more traditional (and we think not as pretty as the Ikon handle).

Wusthof Classic Ikon 16pc set: about $1800, with a walnut block: every knife you could need, including four steak knives. No room for expansion, but then, you should have every knife you could possibly need.

Zwilling JA Henckels Professional 7 piece w/block: about $350. This is one of Zwilling's highest end knife lines, and the set includes an 8" chef's knife, 2.5" paring knife, 5" serrated knife, 5" hollow edge santoku, plus a shears, honing steel, and block. This block also has room for expansion, including two more kitchen knives and 6 steak knives. The block comes in 6 color options.

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Best Japanese Block Set: Miyabi Kaizen II 7 Piece Set

Miyabi 7pc block knife set

See Miyabi Kaizen II 7 piece set on Amazon

About $630

Miyabi isn't as well known as Shun, but their knives are excellent quality, and favorite picks on many knife geek sites. Miyabi is owned by Henckels, and the knives have an interesting blend of Japanese and German technology. The blades use FC61 steel, which is Henckel's proprietary VG10, and are ice-hardened using the (very German) Friodur method. 

The blades are very thin and light, with double bevels ranging from 9.5-12 degrees; this is a thin blade, and excellent for people who want a light, easy-to-handle knife for their prep work.

The knives have a German-looking handle, with a double bolster akin to the Wusthof Classic Ikon. 

There's lots of room for expansion in the block, including 4 steak knife slots.

Features:

  • 8" chef's, 9" serrated, 3.5" paring, 4.5" utility, shears, honing steel, block
  • FC61 steel core (Henckel's proprietary VG10) with 64 layers of Damascus steel overlay
  • Forged blades
  • HRC 61
  • Ice-hardened Friodur blade, forged (not stamped)
  • 9.5-12 degree double bevels (depending on blade)
  • Full tang
  • Partial bolster
  • D-shaped Micarta resin/wood handle
  • Room to expand in block, including 4 steak knife slots
  • Made in Japan with lifetime warranty.

Drawbacks:

These are excellent quality Japanese knives and extremely sharp, but the thin blades aren't great for hard foods: they can chip more easily than softer German steel.

Due to their hardness, they are also harder to sharpen than softer steels.

The block has just 4 steak knife slots (rather than 6).

The shears are not made from the same high quality steel as the blades.

And of course, these are expensive knives. 

Other options:

Global Takashi 7 piece set, about $400, wooden block, good selection of knives. Global also sells several other sets in a variety of block styles, including stainless steel and acrylic. They're all eye-catching.

Shun also makes several block sets in different styles and at different price points.

If you're willing to take a chance on lesser known brands, there are several to choose from on Amazon. These are brands we haven't tested or researched, but they tend to get excellent reviews.

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Best Budget Set: Tramontina 14 Piece Block Set

Tramontina 14pc hardwood block knife set

See Tramontina 14 piece block set on Amazon

About $220

This is a great price for forged, full-tang knives, and the set gets really positive reviews. We found these knives decent to use: they were sharp out of the box and held an edge longer than we thought they would. They're on the heavy side, and not as well balanced as a Wusthof, but overall a decent quality knife. 

Tramontina knives have a loyal following: there are some cooks who wouldn't consider another brand. For a budget price, these are surprisingly good quality knives.

Features:

  • Chef's, carving, santoku, utility, paring, steak (6), shears, honing steel, hardwood block
  • High carbon German steel (exact type not listed)
  • Forged construction
  • HRC 52-54
  • Full tang
  • Full bolster
  • Resin handle with traditional shape
  • Made in Brazil (with German steel).

Drawbacks:

With an HRC rating of 52-54, this is very soft steel, which means you'll have to sharpen them more often; the good news is that steel this soft is relatively easy to sharpen.

And do you really need this many knives? The set is impressive, but you may find that you only use a few of the knives, and the rest spend most of their time sitting in the block.

Other options:

Wusthof Gourmet 10 piece set, about $320. You get top-of-the-line Wusthof steel, but they're stamped, so the price is lower. They're also lighter than other Wusthof lines, but really good quality for stamped knives.

Henckel's knife sets: Henckel's is a great budget brand with a wide variety of quality. Their Chinese sets start under $100 (for a block set!) and going up to about $200. These are decent quality stamped knives and get very good reviews.

Henckels's 20 piece Graphite Self-Sharpening Block, about $280. Forged, full bolster. Each slot sharpens the knife as you remove or replace it. The graphite color is striking, and 8 steak knives are included. These are higher quality than the Henckel's Chinese sets, but still a good price.

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Best Stamped Knives: Mac 2 Piece Professional Set

MAC Professional 2pc Starter Set

See Mac Professional 2 piece set on Amazon

About $200

Mac is a Japanese brand that's been around for about 50 years. They make high quality knives that are hand-ground and hand-sharpened. The Mac MTH-80 chef's knife (pictured above) is a favorite of several kitchen and knife sites for its exceptional sharpness, edge retention, and stain/rust resistance.

If you're looking for an extremely sharp, light, well-balanced knife, the Mac might be your perfect choice.

Get the inexpensive Mac sharpener to go with your Mac knives (about $20).

Features:

  • MTH 80 8" hollow ground chef's knife, 3.5" paring knife
  • High carbon molybdenum steel
  • Stamped construction
  • Full tang
  • Bolstered handle (adds weight and balance to blade)
  • HRC 61
  • 15 degree double bevel
  • Pakkawood handles (wood/resin composite)
  • Made in Seki, Japan.

Drawbacks:

Stamped knives in general aren't as durable as forged knives, though these Mac knives are hand-ground and sharpened for maximum durability. 

The steel is very sharp but very brittle, so it isn't great for hard foods.

They are on the expensive side for a stamped knife.

Other options:

Global knives: All but one line of Global knives are stamped, and the knives are very high quality. 

Wusthof Gourmet: Wusthof's stamped line that is also very high quality.

Chicago Cutlery: These are made in USA and most of their lines are stamped. It's an excellent option if you want to buy an American-made product.

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Best Set Made in USA: Lamson 6 Piece Set

Lamson 6pc Block Set, Maple

See Lamson knives on Amazon 

See all Lamson knives at Lamson site

About $340

Lamson knives are beautiful and high quality. They've been made in the USA since 1837. Their resin handles are G10, a Westinghouse proprietary blend of woven glass and epoxy resin, used commonly in electronics and mechanical devices. 

Lamson knives get overwhelmingly positive reviews on Amazon and are built to last forever. If you have any problems with a Lamson knife, the company will replace it for free, no questions asked.

We love the striking "fire" handle color, but they come in 4 colors, with the others more traditional.

Lamson is probably the highest quality knife made completely in the USA.

Features:

  • 8" chef's, 6" fillet/boning knife, 3.5" paring, 8" carving, honing steel, block
  • Grade 4116 high carbon German steel
  • Forged construction
  • Full tang
  • Full bolster
  • HRC 58
  • Handles available in resin, wood, and acrylic and four colors
  • Made in USA with lifetime warranty.

Drawbacks:

No serrated knife in the 6 piece set; you have to buy the 10 piece set to get it.

No shears in any of the Lamson sets.

They go out of stock frequently on Amazon--here is the Lamson site link, but you'll probably pay more here.

Other Options:

Chicago Cutlery: These are made in USA and most of their lines are stamped. It's an excellent option if you want to buy an American-made product.

Cutco: A popular line of stamped knives still made in the USA. Quality can vary, with some people loving them and others hating them. They are also quite expensive for stamped knives.

If you google for "kitchen knives made in the USA" you can find others, but these are the most popular and best known brands.

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Best High-End Steak Knife Set: Laguiole en Aubrac

Laguiole en Aubrac steak knife set 4pc

See Laguiole en Aubrac steak knives on Amazon

See Laguiole en Aubrac steak knives at Williams-Sonoma

About $470-$500

If you're looking for a fancy set of steak knives or the ultimate high-end kitchen- or food-themed gift, Laguiole en Aubrac steak knives are the best there is. These knives are individually hand made in France by craftsmen following a long tradition of knife making. Each knife set comes with a certificate of authenticity.

Handles are available in several materials. For a look at the full catalog, see the Laguiole en Aubrac site.

If you do decide to make this purchase, be sure you get authentic Laguiole en Aubrac knives: there are a lot of forgeries out there, so be sure to buy from a reputable source. (And "made in France" doesn't necessarily mean they aren't fakes.) The links we provide are all safe to purchase from.

Features:

  • 4-6 pieces, depending on set
  • Sandvik steel blades
  • Smooth edge (not serrated)
  • Hand crafted and heirloom quality
  • Case included
  • Certificate of authenticity included.
  • Made in France.

Drawbacks:

There are two major drawbacks to these knives:

1) they are expensive

2) you have to be careful not to buy knockoffs.

Otherwise, these knives are pretty much flawless.

Other options:

Steak knives are available in a huge range of styles and prices from pretty much every maker of kitchen knives. A short Amazon search will turn up enough options that you should be able to find exactly what you want.

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Best Budget Steak Knife Set: Messermeister Avanta

Messermeister Avanta steak knife set (4)

See Messermeister Avanta steak knives on Amazon

About $70

The Messermeister Avanta set is a favorite of many kitchen and knife review sites (including one of our favorites, Serious Eats). Though these knives are made in China and quite reasonably priced, they're great looking, great quality steak knives that hold their edge well and are a pleasure to use (for most people).

A few reviewers complain that the handles are too big to use comfortably. A few reviewers said they were dull out of the box, though that was not our experience.

Other than that, there are very few negative comments about these highly affordable knives. 

Features:

  • 4 pieces
  • German X50 stainless steel blades
  • Smooth edge (not serrated)
  • Full tang, partial bolster
  • Synthetic POM handle (excellent bacteria resistance, like Wusthof handles)
  • Made in China.

Drawbacks:

There are only four knives in the set, and no case is included. Some reviewers found the handles "too big."

Other options:

Steak knives are available in a huge range of styles and prices from pretty much every brand of kitchen knife. A short Amazon search will turn up enough options that you should be able to find exactly what you want.

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Messermeister Avanta steak knife set (4)
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Kitchen Knife Sets FAQs

What Are the Best Kitchen Knife Sets?

Some of the best brands include Wusthof, Zwilling, Shun, Mac, and Miyabi. These are some of the most popular brands, but there are other good quality brands too numerous to name.

How Much Should a Good Knife Set Cost?

Knife sets are available at several price points, starting below $100 and going up to several hundred (or even thousand). How much you should pay depends on several factors, including steel quality, handle material, and (of course) how many pieces are in a set. 

For an average 5-7 piece set, we think good quality starts around $250. However, you can find good quality knives for less than this if you're willing to live with less durable handle material and/or softer steel. 

You can also get a set of stamped knives (such as Wusthof Gourmet) for far less than forged knives from the same maker. These stamped knives are made from the same steel as the forged knives. They won't be quite as durable because the forging process strengthens steel--but they will be so close, the difference is not likely to be noticed in everyday kitchen work. 

What Knives do Chefs Use?

When you see chefs promoting a particular brand of kitchen knife, you can be sure that is it a paid endorsement. Chef's may actually use the brand, but it's likely that they do so only because the knives are supplied to them free of cost.

The truth is that most professional chefs use inexpensive knives from restaurant supply stores. These are often carbon steel, which rust easily if not washed and dried after every use. But carbon steel holds an edge very well, and chefs know how to take care of their knives well. So it's a fine tradeoff for them.

This isn't to say there aren't exceptions. Anthony Bourdain was a huge fan of the Global G2 chef's knife and used it for decades (and we concur that it's a fabulous knife). But the vast majority of professional chef knife endorsements are paid, and should be taken with a grain of salt.

Where Are the Best Kitchen Knives Made?

Some of the best quality knife sets can be made in Germany, Japan, and the USA. You can also find good quality knives from France and even from China. 

Can Kitchen Knives Go in the Dishwasher?

No, kitchen knives should never go in the dishwasher. Even if the maker says they can, even if the handles are synthetic, you should never put your kitchen knives in the dishwasher because the detergent has abrasive particles that are very hard on both the blade and the handle. 

It's easy to wash your knives by hand with a little soap and warm water. There's no reason to ever put a knife in the dishwasher.

Why Do Kitchen Knives Rust?

All steel can rust, even high quality stainless steel, which is rust resistant but not rust proof. To avoid rusting, be sure to buy stainless steel blades (not carbon steel, which rusts much more easily), and to wash and wipe dry your knives after every use. 

The vast majority of kitchen knives for the consumer market are high carbon stainless steel, including all the brands we recommend in this article, so it's easy to avoid carbon steel blades.

Why Do Some Kitchen Knives have Grooves or Holes on the Blade?

Wusthof Classic Ikon Santoku

Fluted or hollow edge blade.

These are called "fluting," "hollow edge," or sometimes "granton" knives. This design helps helps to prevent wet or sticky foods from clinging to the blade during cutting.

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Final Thoughts on the Best Kitchen Knife Sets

Lamson 6pc Block Set, Maple

The sets we recommend here are favorites based on our testing and research, but there are a lot of great kitchen knives out there. Though we lean towards Wusthof, Zwilling also makes some great knives, and Henckel's is a good quality lower-priced brand ("Zwilling-Henckels" is better quality than just "Henckels"). For Japanese knives, we like Shun and Global, but the Miyabi set we recommended here is also great, as are many other lesser known Japanese makers.

There are also great choices for USA-made knives, though the quality of Lamson is hard to beat.

In other words, we love our picks and stand by them, but we know they aren't the only options if you're looking for a great kitchen knife set. As long as the blades are high carbon stainless steel with a hardness rating of 54-60 HRC and the handles are durable and comfortable, you should be happy with your choice.

Thanks for reading!

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