An Expert Guide to Great Knife Sets: Find the Best Knife SetsPublished on 09/15/2023 · 9 min readKitchen Expert Alex Alcarraz shares his top knife set picks at different price points and experience levels to help you find your perfect fit.
I’ve done the research on what the right knife set would look like within three price ranges and am happy to break it down for you here. Knowing what to expect from your future cutlery set is very important. Asking yourself the following questions will really help you figure that out.
- What's my total budget?
- How many different tasks do I have in a single meal or during the week?
- What kind of vibe do I get from looking at a storage block?
- Do I want steak knives as well?
- Is there enough drawer space for storage?
- Japanese-style knives or Western-style knives?
- I must never put knives in the dishwasher. (This is not a question; it's a statement!)
There are probably a few more things to take into consideration, but what’s listed above is a good start. It will create a clearer idea of your ideal set. Let's take a look at the options that will have everything you need whether you are starting out or looking to round out your collection. Beginners, avid cooks, and even professional chefs will find some must-haves below.
Sets Below $150
If you are just getting started to consider cooking for yourself (or maybe you are looking to upgrade your parents’ gear), price will be a big factor in your purchasing journey. Home cooks are encouraged to consider the sets below if you are looking for a good value bundle.
As far as a starter set is concerned, this is the best for the price. You have your essential 8” chef’s knife, a 7” Santoku knife with a dimpled blade, an 8” serrated knife, and a 3” paring knife. Mercer has been in business for a very long time, and it is widely used in multiple culinary schools, high-production operations, and many catering businesses. Now, this has a bit of flair thanks to the acacia wood magnetic stand. These very comfortable knives are easy to keep clean and will look good for a very long time. These are sharp knives that require a light session with the honing steel between projects. They should be properly sharpened after two weeks if you are cooking every day at home.
With a more streamlined and refined aesthetic, this option from Schmidt Brothers is another solid choice for a beginner knife set. It has all the fundamental knives required in the kitchen, and also includes a magnetic knife stand that will minimize damage to the knife and yourself. Each knife has a single-piece construction and matte titanium finish that will be appreciated as much for the looks as for the ease of cleaning. Other highlights include the no-stain steel build and the laser-honed blade for ideal cutting angle, sharpness, and durability.
The two sets above are great for the beginner cook or someone looking to not splurge but still wants to have a good-quality knife set. When you start out you need a set of knives that are easy to care for, comfortable, and economical. I would recommend not even thinking about Japanese knives yet. They are beautiful, but they can be finicky to take care of and very pricy. Get the old Camry that grandma drove first before you splurge on a BMW, right?
Sets Below $400
You have had your starter set for some time now, and you are looking to upgrade the look and feel of your kitchen area. Alternatively, you are trying to impress a significant other’s parents on a special occasion. You are someone who knows what knives you use most and are ready for a set of tools that will need a bit more care.
Global has been the go-to company for many seasoned cooks and knife enthusiasts. It was founded in the 80s in Japan with the sole goal of bringing high-quality knives at a great price. Do not be swayed by this value bundle. The knives are excellent. The Takashi set gives the user more versatility. The addition of the vegetable knife allows for flexibility in a limited work area as well as a vehicle to practice more precise cuts. The ceramic honing rod results in fewer sharpening sessions. Ceramic steels are slightly more abrasive than an average steel, resulting in honing and sharpening at the same time. The pièce de résistance is the peeler. The reason for this is that the same technology of the CROMOVA 18 stainless steel that is used to make the knives is used to make the blade of the peeler. The addition of the classic block storage wraps up the whole look quite nicely.
With a minimalist design, a comprehensive price, and high-quality Japanese steel, these Forge to Table knives are sure to equally impress both users and guests. The set consists of a very sturdy chef knife, a broad yet aerodynamically shaped Nakiri chef’s knife, a 6-inch utility knife, a 7-inch boning knife, and Titanium kitchen shears. The inclusion of a utility knife is what makes this set more comprehensive. In a professional kitchen, a chef’s knife is used about 50% of the time while the utility knife is used about 30% of the time during preparation hours. That is a lot of to-dos for a smaller tool.
Sets Below $800
Most professionals will not buy a knife set. I am a professional myself, and I know that I enjoy the collector’s route. Purchasing one knife at a time, waiting for the right one to come along. However, there is beauty in a high-end cutlery set. Each knife is made to be part of the other in both use and aesthetics. Within this price range, we are looking at more than just quality. Style and personality are of the essence.
Since 1814, Wüsthof has been making amazing and beautifully handcrafted knives out of Solingen, Germany. Wüsthof is a champion in the knife world and have set the global standard for modern knife design.
The knives are made with a proprietary blend of metals and are heat treated to perfection, resulting in an incredibly high-quality product. From the 8-inch chef all the way down to the 3.5-inch paring knife, this set has every basic knife a skilled chef could want, including the come-apart kitchen shears. You will be ready to slice pretty much anything in your path with all of these!
A knife block is also included in this Wüsthof set and it is just as worthy of attention. Made to acommodate up to 17 knives, the block is constructed from Acacia hardwood—a guarantee of both style and durability.
For professionals and home cooks who swear by a stronger grade of heavy-duty and stretched-out chef knives, this is the right type of set for you. And Cangshan is one of the most renowned knife brands out there!
The Signature series boasts Swedish forged steel and, as you may have guessed, these are high-carbon stainless steel blades. The magnetic knife bar might require some help during installation, but is worth that little bit of effort. Once it’s there, your knives will remain proudly on display in your kitchen, encouraging and inspiring your next meal. This knife set is recommended for professionals who believe that less is more.
Getting to Know Your Knife Set and Yourself
It is almost redundant to say that the chef's knife will be the prep knife of any knife set. It will dice carrots, slice tomatoes, chop onions, and more. However, what about the rest of the knives? Will you need to buy more?
Now, this will stay between you and me—you will most likely need to purchase other knives on top of your knife set. It is inevitable. What you will be able to do as you get more comfortable with your knives will grow. This is the part where you get to know your knife set. This is the part where it really becomes your own.
An option to consider adding would be a carving knife or slicing knife, which are generally sold separately. You will definitely need one to slice that turkey come Thanksgiving. Throw in a nice roasting fork, and you will be as prepared as any maître d' during a table-side presentation. Another knife to mention is a filet knife for breaking down fish. A flexible blade will allow you to be closer to the skin and minimize waste during preparation. These are essential to a well-rounded set.
It can get tiring to think about all the gear you may need. You may not be there yet, and that is fine. It took me about four years to build my own set. Doing it on my own with bits and pieces of information from colleagues became a tiring task. Nevertheless, it helped shape my expectations and wants.
You could be someone whose goal is not achieving precise cuts, and that's okay. You don't have to be the one who makes perfect shapes all the time. However, knowing what you can do with the tools that you have is crucial to improving your skills and self-confidence. Adding other kinds of knives to your arsenal when the time is right will reassure you of the progress you are making. Now, there are other options to consider in a knife set besides chopping, dicing, and slicing, especially if you are looking at a home kitchen.
If you love to entertain at home, consider buying a nice set of cheese knives. You won't need a big budget, and they don't have to be made of carbon steel. Keep them clean and organized, and they will last a long time. If you do want a nicer set, Mercer has you covered!
There are so many options for cutlery out there. The knife sets above were considered for their quality and versatility of use. You will not have a bad experience with any of the sets described.
Still not sure if a full knife set is the right addition to your kitchen collection? Reach out to a Cutlery Expert here on Curated, and we would be happy to help you and answer any questions!