Having a good set of knives available when cooking your favorite recipes, regardless of how complex the recipe is or how skilled you are, is crucial to enjoy the cooking experience and the overall results at the table.
1. What Are Knife Sets?
A knife set is exactly what it sounds like: a set of several, different knives, grouped together as a single product, meant to cover a wide range of cutting tasks and meal prep.
There is a great variety of sets in the market, from a massive 24-piece set with complementary pieces like a knife block or a knife sharpener, to a modest 2-piece set with a chef’s knife and a paring knife. Five-piece sets are among the most popular and best-selling.
Beyond the number of pieces, kitchen knife sets can truly differ in materials, type of knives, design, manufacturer, decorative style and of course, quality. Keep reading to find out how to assess all these points!
2. How To Choose The Right Set Of Kitchen Knives?
When it comes to choosing the “right” set of kitchen knives (*right for you) the analysis is two-fold: the set as a product on its own, and the characteristics of the knives themselves. Bear with me:
What to consider about the set:
- Intended use and number of knives. The first thing to consider is who is going to use the knives and what for. There are big, high-end knife sets for professional cooks and there are also knife sets for beginners or cooking enthusiasts.
- Types of knives included. Beyond the number of knives, the type of knives included should also cover the purposes that best fit your cooking lifestyle: If bread and pastries are a big part of your life, make sure to include a serrated blade. If you like to play grill master, you’ll need a butcher knife (just to name two examples).
- Knife brand and quality of the blades. However, while not all cooks require the same amount of knives for their daily needs, they will all benefit from premium, sharp knives. In this regard, while the brand is not always a guarantee of the best quality, make sure to check the brand for milestones or testimonials to ensure high quality materials and manufacture.
- Price. More often than not, quality comes at a price. But counting on a good army of knives that have your back at all times is something in which you should not skimp. That being said, it’s perfectly possible to find affordable, high-quality blades.
- Looks and presentation. Does the set style suit the decoration of your kitchen? Would you proudly display it on your countertop? Sounds superficial, but trust me, you’ll want to consider this as well. If you choose right, these knives will be a part of your home for years and years to come.
What to consider about the knives:1. Blade quality. Craftsmanship, strength, sharpness and edge-retention should be your basic checklist here.
2. Blade material. These are your most common choices:
- Stainless steel is the most popular. They are easy to sharpen and do not rust easily, but they are also softer than other materials.
- Carbon steel retains its edge for much longer. A carbon steel blade is sturdy, durable and efficient. You need to take care of them so they don’t rust.
- Damascus steel forged knives are unmistakable for their beautiful and unique pattern design. They are strong and sharp, with great flexibility, hardness and edge retention. A set of Damascus steel knives may not be cheap, but think of it as a good investment.
- Ceramic knives can be relatively affordable, versatile and attractive. However, they are delicate and should be used for fine cuts and stored carefully, as the blade tends to scratch, chip or split.
- In forged knives, the blade and tang are made from a single piece of metal. The blade is hard, dense and flexible thanks to the heat -, cooling - and tempering processes. They have greater durability and balance compared to a stamped knife. They also cost more, but are worth it.
- Stamped knives are manufactured in bulks from a steel sheet. They are thinner and less resistant than forged knives. Also less balanced. Stamped knives are usually more affordable.
5. Handle ergonomics. Handles can come in many materials such as wood, metal, plastic or rubber. More important than the materials is whether the shape is ergonomic and comfortable. A good grip makes all the difference.
6. Single or double-edged. Most knives have only one sharp side because they are designed for right-handed people. If you are left-handed it is advisable to get a set of double-edged knives for effortless cuts.
7. Tang. There are three types of tang available:
- Full tang. Always the best choice. The blade is a solid piece of metal that extends through the entire length of the knife. The handle will never come loose from the blade.
- Half tang. The tang only goes halfway down the handle.
- Rat-tail tang. The tang of the blade is pointed and tapers as it goes through the handle. It is only welded at the base and could loosen over time.
3. Must-Have Knives In Your Knife Set
There are about 30 types of kitchen knives designed for different purposes, each one with unique features. While a good chef's knife and a good cutting board will be your workhorses for many basic tasks, broadening your arsenal will bring endless recipe possibilities!
Kitchen knife sets range from 2 basic pieces to even 24 pieces. Some will include more than just knives: kitchen shears, sharpeners and storage pieces are common extras.
The “must-haves” in your set will be determined by the type of cooking you do and how often you do it. If you only cook occasionally (really cook, pasta with pesto doesn’t count) or are just starting in the culinary arts, then these are the non-negotiable items:
With a wide blade that tapers to a point and measures between 6 and 12 inches, chef’s knives are the most important in every home or professional kitchen because they can be used for almost every cutting task, from boning chicken to chopping vegetables. You will find that this knife is present in almost every knife set, no matter how simple.
Many cooks prefer a smaller and lighter blade, so they use a Santoku as their main blade instead of a chef's knife. This Japanese model is especially good for cutting meat, chopping vegetables and filleting fish. While they are similar, each one offers its own advantage: Chef’s knives have curved blades and are better for cutting with a rocking motion, while Santoku knives have flat blades and a Granton edge.
Smaller than a chef's knife (3-4 inches), but more versatile when it comes to precision cuts and tasks like peeling and coring fruits and vegetables, deveining shrimp, deboning meat, etc. In addition to the classic paring knife, there are other types like the “sheep's foot” and the "bird's beak".
These multi-purpose knives feature a blade longer than a paring knife and narrower than a chef's knife, providing precision in tasks where the chef's knife may too large and the paring knife may be too small. Its length varies from 5" to 9" and can have either a straight or serrated edge.
I debated a lot about including it in the starter-pack, since many blogs will place it under “optional”. But the truth is a serrated blade can perform in places where the aforementioned knives can’t. Suitable for foods with a tricky crust and softer interior like knives or bread.
Now, if you enjoy experimenting with new, exotic dishes, entertaining friends and family with different recipes every time, or if you’re planning on becoming a professional chef, then consider sets including these knives:
Another Japanese knife, designed to cut vegetables. It has a long, straight blade and a square tip. If you are a vegetarian, this nakiri will make your life easier.
Removes bones and makes very smooth cuts in raw meat, pork, poultry and fish.
Very similar to a boning knife, but fillet knives are special for fish. The long, curved 6- to 11-inch blade is able to glide smoothly under the skin of fish.
Very useful for making thin cuts in large cooked meats, such as poultry, ham and roasts. Their thin blade length ranges from 8" to 12", allowing them to carve and cut thinner slices.
Cleavers are used primarily to cut large pieces of meat, bones and dense, heavy foods. They have short, wide blades to be used with an up-down motion. On the other hand, butcher knives have a long, curved blade, which cuts through meat with a sawing motion.
A type of serrated knife for cutting bread, cakes, muffins, pies and baked goods, and even large pieces of food such as meat, poultry and seafood. Bread knives are among the longest knives, measuring between 7 and 10 inches in length.
And for the more experienced and dedicated chefs and cooks, there are other specialty kitchen knives, even more specific and rare in informal home cooking. To mention some of them:
- Tomato knife
- Pastry knife
- Cheese knife
- Clam knife
- Sausage knife
- Ham knife
- Oyster knife
- Mezzaluna knife
- Trimming knife
4. Best Dalstrong Knife Sets For You
This knife set is perfect for a professional chef or for home cooks who take their cooking very seriously. It includes a selection of Western and Japanese knives, perfect for making all cuts with ease and precision
The set includes a 4" paring knife, a 5" utility knife, a 7" Santoku, an 8" Chef's Knife, a 9" Bread Knife and a 9.5" Kiritsuke Chef's Knife.
- The blades in this set are made from Japanese high-carbon steel for superior strength.
- All six knives have different blade lengths for variety and functionality.
- The traditional Japanese D-shaped handle offers a comfortable, non-slip grip.
- A walnut wood magnetic block is included for storage, with double-sided columns and powerful magnets to display knives in a spiral.
- The knife block leaves room for 6 more knives, so you can continue to expand your collection.
- For meat-lovers, it may be better to get a set that also includes steak knives such as the 12-Piece Block Set from the Gladiator Series.
- You have to consider if the spiral design and the wooden tones suit the style of your kitchen.
This steel look from end to end is certainly impressive and unique. This set is more contemporary and minimalist.
The set includes an 8" chef's knife, a 7" santoku knife, an 8" bread knife, a 6" utility knife, a 5.5" serrated utility knife, a 4.5" paring knife and an 8" sharpening rod, all in a handmade block of Manchurian ash wood.
- The Crusader series blades are made of German ThyssenKrupp steel, sharpened to 58+ Rockwell with exceptional performance.
- The high chrome content ensures maximum stain resistance. Your knives will stay shiny.
- Each Crusader knife has a groove along the blade that reduces friction and improves its balance.
- The block has a beautiful glass display that also optimizes space in your countertop.
- The all-steel knives are hygienic and easier to clean.
- The premium sharpening rod included will keep the edges on point.
- As the block only offers space for the six knives which are included, if you decide to expand your collection, you may need to look for another storage option.
- Traditional wooden handles have their share of followers who will maybe pass on the steel handles in this series.
This is a very complete set to cover all desires and needs. Each knife has been manufactured to high quality standards with a traditional design and different blade lengths.
The set includes a 9" Carving/Slicing Knife, 9" Bread Knife, 8.5" Kiritsuke Chef's Knife, 8" Chef's Knife, 7" Santoku Knife, 7" Nakiri Knife, 6" Boning Knife, 6.5" Utility Knife, 6" Serrated Utility Knife, Six (6) 5" Straight Edge Steak Knives, 3.5" Paring Knife and a 2.75" Bird Beak Knife.
- Suitable for both home and professional cooks because it includes every blade you need to prepare any recipe.
- The Gladiator series knives feature a full tang forged from premium German stainless steel with high carbon content.
- The blades are hand sharpened to 16-18° per side to ensure a sharp edge that lasts longer and resharpens easily (a 10" honing steel is included).
- The knife set comes in a beautiful, classic acacia wood block that fits elegantly in any kitchen style.
- All parts of the set are designed for easy cleaning and maintenance.
- Excellent value for money. A complete high quality set at a reasonable price.
- The white handles give the knives an impressive, unusual look, but ‘unusual’ is not everybody’s cup of tea.
- This set includes some specialty knives that some home cooks would rarely or never use, so I wouldn’t recommend it for beginners or occasional cooks (they should look at the other recommendations in this same article).
When duty calls in the kitchen, you'll be able to cook your everyday recipes with this exclusive, very original knife set. Designed with portability and endurance in mind, this set is also perfect to take on a camping or hiking trip.
The set includes just the right types of knife to gracefully survive in the kitchen: Included: 8" chef's knife, a 7" Santoku and a 4" paring knife.
- Made of premium high-carbon stainless steel, for maximum wear resistance and edge retention.
- The knives are double-beveled and ultra sharp.
- The G10 handle with a camouflage design is highly impervious to heat, moisture and chemicals.
- The knives have a small loop on the pommel. You can hang them on a kitchen peg or hook, or even your backpack.
- Each knife comes with a leather sheath with a snap mechanism to store and protect the blade.
- The “topographical” pattern on the blade protects the steel and reduces food drag.
- The military style of this knife may be too much for some (it is for me). However, I understand it represents the warrior, always-ready spirit of the set.
- The price of this set compares to the price of some other sets with more pieces. So you need to assess if quantity or variety is a factor in your case.
A set that needs no introduction once you take a look at it. The Quantum 1 Series brings a state-of-the-art knife set designed for those looking for something as versatile as visually striking.
This knife block set includes an 8.5" chef's knife, a 7" Santoku knife, a 7" serrated utility knife, a 4" paring knife and a 6.5" boning knife.
- Extra-durable, wear-resistant, ultra-sharp high-carbon American steel.
- "Nova Prime" blade pattern that increases cutting efficiency.
- Dragon Skin G10 carbon fiber handle with a modern, eye-catching design.
- Ergonomic handle for maximum grip comfort in every maneuver.
- Oak wood block with additional space to expand your knife collection.
- The high price, although justified by design and quality, can be out of reach for modest budgets.
- Following the previous point, the price-quantity ratio can be a downside, especially when you consider that the 18 Piece Knife Set From The Gladiator Series is worth half the price.
5. How Do You Care For Your Knives?
It’s not only about buying the perfect set of kitchen knives. It’s also about making them a part of your life, taking care of your investment and ensuring that they’re always at their best performance. Here are a few tips:
- Proper storage is key. A knife block is my favorite, but there are other options like magnetic holders. Also, many sets come with sheaths to safely protect, store and carry your knives, which I always count as a nice plus.
- Clean your knives after every use.
- In the cleaning process, avoid abrasive materials to scrub knives. Use a mild soap (never bleach, soda or chlorinated products). Do not soak knives for more than 15 minutes. Avoid the dishwasher, even if the manufacturer says it’s ok.
- Dry thoroughly with a soft cloth immediately after cleaning.
- Sharpen your knives regularly. Many knife sets come with a sharpening tool.
- Always use a good cutting board. Wooden cutting boards, for example, are very friendly to the cutting edge of knives.
- One of the best things about getting a set is that you can always use the right knife for a specific task, and this benefits your knives as well. For example, the crust of bread can spoil knives with straight edges, so you better use a serrated - or bread knife.
- In case we need to clarify: Don’t use your knives for things other than their intended purpose (such as a screwdriver).
6. Frequently Asked Questions About Kitchen Knives
How many knives should a home cook's knife set have?
The starter knife set and the number of knives depend on the user and his or her cooking skills, routine and preferences. A chef's knife or a Santoku provide a good base for any set because they are suitable for most kitchen tasks.
Is it redundant to have a Santoku Knife and a Chef's Knife in the same set?
Although these knives are both multi-purpose and very similar, they are not exactly the same. Each has a different edge shape and a particular cutting technique. They are often included in the same set with different blade lengths to complement each other.
Should a knife set include kitchen shears?
Although kitchen shears are not knives, it is not uncommon to see them as an extra piece in some sets. They can be very handy in the kitchen and are an alternative to full-size knives when you want to quickly chop, trim and cut without having to use a cutting board.