The Best Knife Sets

I’ve browsed the knife-set offerings at many home-goods stores over the years — though they’re initially appealing, upon closer inspection, I inevitably notice some pieces in strange sizes or with unappealing curves that I know will go to die in my cutlery drawer.

Buying prepackaged multiples of cookware and tools of any kind can be tricky, but the key is assessing what you really need, whether you’re starting completely from scratch, redoing the basic makeup of your collection, or simply want to add a handful of additional blades to what you already own. To find the very best compositions, I talked to nearly a dozen experts and tested several groupings myself and ended up with a varied list: three pieces all the way up to 20-something, all chef’s knives or mixed kinds, ones that include sharpening tools and blocks (and ones that don’t). Read on to find the assortment that best suits your own kitchen.

Best overall knife set

Wüsthof Ikon 6-Piece Starter Knife Block Set

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Number of pieces: Six | Style: European

Wüsthof is a classic company. It’s the one that cook and Top Chef Canada host Eden Grinshpan was told to buy when she was in culinary school, the one cookbook author Erin Gleeson registered for when she got married a decade ago and still uses, and the one preferred by multiple celebrity chefs with varying cooking styles (a quick Google search will tell you that both Ina Garten and Gordon Ramsay swear by them). “They’re just superhigh quality, and they really stand the test of time,” Grinshpan says. “I still have some of the pieces in my kitchen.” This particular set comes with a paring knife, a chef’s knife, and a serrated knife — the only three you really need when it comes down to performing most cooking tasks, as I explained before. It also includes some helpful (not superfluous) accessories: a wooden block to hold your blades safely, a honing steel to sharpen the edges, and a pair of “come-apart” kitchen shears (the “come-apart” makes them easy to clean). “I use the scissors all the time,” Gleeson says, “for cutting everything from pizza and flatbreads to scallions.”

Best less expensive knife set

Wüsthof Gourmet 6-Piece Starter Knife Block Set

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Number of pieces: Six | Style: European

This more affordable set from Wüsthof has a similar setup. The paring knife is a half-inch smaller (which shouldn’t make any noticeable difference), the serrated knife is three inches smaller (a utility knife intended to cut things like tomatoes as opposed to crusty bread), and the block is made from a different variety of wood (beechwood instead of acacia). Most notably, the knives are stamped (cut from one large sheet of steel) instead of forged (made from a single bar of steel that is heated and then pounded into shape by hand or machine). This makes them not quite as durable but much cheaper — and they can totally do the trick (and do it well), especially if you aren’t particularly hard on your knives.

Best simple knife set

Material Kitchen The Trio of Knives

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Number of pieces: Three | Style: Japanese

Strategist-favorite brand Material Kitchen sells a knife set with the three most basic, essential knives. The eight-inch chef’s knife is a favorite of recipe developer and writer Rebecca Firkser, who says it’s balanced in her hand and has stayed in great shape for over three years when sharpened every couple of months at home. “I got it in the neutral color, which is just plain pleasing to me in a sea of black-handled knives,” she says. Notably, the serrated knife is six inches long, which is significantly shorter than most. While it wouldn’t be substantial enough to cut through a round cake layer to even out the surface, it can handle other tasks well, like slicing bread and tomato slices. I, for one, even prefer shorter blades since they give you more control. And finally, there’s a 3.5-inch paring knife for intricate tasks.

Best piece knife

Made In the Knife Set

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Number of pieces: Four | Style: European

Made In makes a relatively uncommon combination of knives — the three essentials, plus a Nakiri knife, which I have found to be a useful addition. It looks a bit like a small cleaver but is meant for cutting vegetables with an entirely straight edge. The blade is only six inches long (two inches shorter than another Nakiri I own that I find too big for nuanced tasks like chopping through cauliflower). This one gives great control and is still hardy enough to hack away at a squash. I also really like the chef’s knife, which is on the heavier side (eight ounces) without feeling burdensome. The weight feels good in my hand and helps guide the sharp edge seamlessly through whatever I’m cutting.

Culinary producer Kiano Moju first bought this set when she was stocking her culinary creative studio, a kitchen she needed to outfit from scratch. “They hold really nicely,” she says. “When I was working at Sur La Table years ago, someone taught me how to cut with your thumb on the top of the spine, and it balances nicely if that’s how you use your knives. They’re well balanced, and not too heavy at all. Plus, they’re really cute. They come in red, which is my favorite.”

Best knife set with steak knives included

J.A. Henckels 15-Piece Premium Quality Knife Set

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Number of pieces: 15 | Style: European

J.A. Henckels is the more affordable sister brand to Strategist-favorite Zwilling, and this set was a top pick from a previous version of this story. We can understand why it’s so popular among readers — it boasts 4.7 out of five stars on Amazon, with nearly 13,000 ratings. “The knives, while stamped not forged, still have decent heft,” one reviewer notes. “And the handles, though polymer, don’t feel like low-quality plastic.” Beyond quality, there’s an additional feature — one that isn’t usually a part of kitchen-knife sets — that makes this particular buy stand out: It includes six matching serrated steak knives that, according to one reviewer, “don’t rip or shred meat.”

Best knife set without a serrated knife

Global Classic 3-Piece Knife Set

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Number of pieces: Three | Style: Japanese with some European influence

Every other set on this list includes a serrated knife, but if you’re looking to expand your collection without that particular blade, this Global collection fits the bill. (I once found myself in that exact predicament: I already own a serrated blade that I love and find to be plenty for the relatively infrequent tasks it is made for, but wanted a few other straight-edged blades for the high volume of cooking that goes on in my kitchen.) With this configuration, I got a 7-inch chef’s knife (notably, our best overall chef’s knife), a 5-inch utility knife, and a 3.5-inch paring knife. They all hold an ultrasharp edge, are lightweight enough to maneuver with ease but heavy enough to feel in control, and have a comfortable grip. In particular, I reach for the utility knife more than expected. Its size is right between the other two with more of an angled blade. This combination makes it useful for tasks that aren’t so delicate but still require some precision, like cutting into a head of broccoli.

Best paring knife set

Opinel Essential Small Kitchen Knife Set

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Number of pieces: Four | Style: European

Andrew Brady, chef and partner at the Boston-area restaurants Dear Annie and Field and Vine, has several sets of these knives in his work kitchens at all times because they’re so versatile. The collection comes with a classic paring knife, two serrated paring knives (with more pronounced and subtler teeth), and a bonus vegetable peeler. “Smaller knives tend to be made more cheaply,” he says, “but these are sharp.” He calls the dramatically ridged model a “serious workhorse” that’s great for peppers and chilis, garlic, and shallots, or “small foods that still benefit some serious serrated power,” he says. The subtler ridged one, which he uses for more delicate tasks like cutting through tarts and cherry tomatoes, also comes with a hook-like shape at the tip of the knife. That feature is “useful for handheld tasks where you need to get into a piece of food, like cutting the button off a Brussels sprout or the stem off a strawberry,” he says.

Best knife set for camping

Messermeister Adventure Chef 6-Piece Summit Set

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Number of pieces: Six | Style: European

This recommendation from recipe developer and cookbook author Louisa Shafia isn’t strictly a knife set with only knives included, but it comes from the knife company Messermeister, which she has been using since she went to culinary school a couple of decades ago. It’s a compact camping set with two particularly good knives — a foldable six-inch chef’s knife and a foldable six-inch fillet knife (yes, those are full-size, made from the same steel as their regular ones). “It’s everything you would need to go camping and make really nice food,” Shafia says. “You can even handle things if you catch a fish. Plus you need something to cut against that’s not gonna ruin the knives, so it’s nice that it comes with a cutting board.”

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