An Expert Guide to Knife Sets

Kitchen 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 $220

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.

Mercer Culinary 5-Piece Millennia Magnetic Knife Board Set

Product image of Mercer Culinary 5-Piece Millennia Magnetic Knife Board Set

Mercer Culinary 5-Piece Millennia Magnetic Knife Board Set

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.

Zwilling Four Star 3-Piece Essentials Starter Knife Set

Product image of Zwilling Four Star 3-Piece Essentials Starter Knife Set

Zwilling Four Star 3-Piece Essentials Starter Knife Set

This is another solid choice for a beginner knife set. This is a little more streamlined. An 8” chef’s knife, a 5” serrated utility knife, and a paring knife make up the set. The set comes as-is, with the knives only. This could be great for someone who keeps a dedicated knife drawer/organizer. If you don’t have an organizer, definitely purchase some knife guards. It will minimize damage to the knife and yourself. The old-school handles give these knives that regal look that can be appreciated in a fine knife from Germany. You also should be very interested in 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 is ready for a set of tools that will need a bit more care.

Global 7-Piece Takashi Knife Block Set

Product image of Global 7-Piece Takashi Knife Block Set

Global 7-Piece Takashi Knife Block Set

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.

Misen Essentials Knife Set

Product image of Misen Essentials Knife Set

Misen Essentials Knife Set

Misen has stormed the knife market in the last couple of years. With a minimalist design, a comprehensive price, and high-quality Japanese steel, these knives are sure to impress and delight users and guests. The set consists of a very sturdy bread knife, a broad yet aerodynamically shaped 8-inch chef’s knife, a Santoku, a 6-inch utility knife, and a paring knife. The utility knife makes this set more comprehensive. In a professional kitchen, a chef’s knife is used about 50% of the time. The utility knife is used about 30% of the time during preparation hours. That is a lot of to-dos for a smaller tool. All of the knives above have a full tang (the blade and the metal in the handle are a single piece), which is something that Misen takes great pride in.

I would say that my favorite part about these knives is the shape of the bolster. It is sloped, allowing for easier cleaning and comfort. There is a 60-day test drive on purchases along with a lifetime guarantee. You could splurge a bit and get the storage block with the shear scissors for 50 more dollars.

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.

Cangshan TS Series 14-Piece DENALI Knife Block Set

Product image of Cangshan TC Series 14-Piece DENALI Knife Block Set

Cangshan TC Series 14-Piece DENALI Knife Block Set

Cangshan is sort of a dark horse in the knife world. It has been in the industry since the 90s making some amazing and beautiful knives. The knives are made with a blend of western and eastern craftsmanship, resulting in an incredibly high-quality product. The modern design of the TC series emphasizes the craftsmanship of each blade. Minimal details extend a purposeful and seamless grip build that translates into the handling of the knives. The set also has a peeling knife, also known as a tourné knife, that is used to shape vegetables with high precision. The boning knife will be there to help you prep those stubborn bone-in roasts. The kitchen shears in this set are no joke as they boast the same cutting technology as the rest of the set. Four steak knives complete this collection. You will be ready to slice pretty much anything in your path with all of these. The wood block is also magnetized for extra safety. You may end up swapping a few pieces from this set into your knife roll at work.

Shun Premier Blonde 5-Piece Knife Block Set

Product image of Shun Premier Blonde 5-Piece Knife Block Set

Shun Premier Blonde 5-Piece Knife Block Set

For professionals who swear by a stronger Japanese style with a minimalist ethos, this is the right set for you. Shun is one of the most renowned knife brands out there. The Premier Blonde series boasts the VG-MAX super steel core which is protected by 34 layers of Damascus steel on each side. As you may have guessed, these are high-carbon stainless steel blades. There are two extra slots in the block. One could be for this same line’s Nakiri knife and the other slot could be used for a pair of shears. Once made, the knives are hand-sharpened following the traditional Japanese three-step process. This 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 can find some on Amazon, 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!

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Written By
I have worked in restaurants for over 15 years. I have used and purchased all kinds of knives across the years. Knives and food go hand in hand. I love cooking and making people happy with my dishes. I do also enjoy showing others how their own cooking can improve by having the right tools. I have d...

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