A good set of knives means you’re ready for anything in the kitchen. But which are the best kitchen knives for you? Whether you’re a wannabe MasterChef winner or just want to get dinner on the table, we’ve found the best kitchen knife sets to suit a range of budgets.
We tested each knife against essential kitchen tasks: dicing onions, slicing tomatoes, cutting bread, and chopping hard vegetables. Our tester panel included a chef, a professional caterer, a food stylist and a keen home cook for a range of perspectives. The panel also tested each knife without knowing the retail price to remove bias as much as possible.
A knife set is usually made up of a multi-purpose chef or Santoku knife, a smaller utility or paring knife, and a bread knife. You might also get a small serrated or a filleting knife, but you should select a set based on what you do most often in the kitchen: if you never sit down to a Sunday roast, don’t bother paying for a carving knife that will only gather dust.
Savvy chefs might buy a high-end set with just two outstanding knives they’ll use all the time, and then pick up cheaper paring and bread knives, for example, to finish off. Get a good pair of kitchen scissors while you’re at it, so you’re not tempted to use your beautiful new knives to open plastic packaging.
If in doubt, make the decision based on the chef’s knife or Santoku, as that’s what you’ll use most often. Chef’s knives have a slight curve for a rocking-cutting motion, and Santoku are good for up-and-down chopping of large vegetables.
Justin Kowbel, from Borough Kitchen shop, London, recommends looking for three things in a knife: sharpness and robustness; how easily food comes off the blade; and how it feels in the hand.
Some knives are ‘better’ than others because of the quality of the steel, but ultimately the ‘right’ knife is one that feels right for you.
If you live in a hectic household, try Western-style stainless steel knives that are harder wearing, have a more durable 22° blade angle, and usually a bolster for easier grip.
But if you’re prepared to look after your knives, then go for sharper Japanese carbon steel blades with around 16° angle. Whatever knives you end up buying, don’t put them in the dishwasher.
Swiss Classic In-Drawer Knife Holder Set: £180, Victorinox
Modern, affordable and durable, this Victorinox knife set was the top choice among our testers.
We loved the in-drawer design to keep knives out the way. This is a utility-driven set, with ergonomic, easy-grip handles, and an excellent range of knives in Swiss-made steel. They’re durable enough for family life, so they’d suit an entry-level cook as much as a seasoned chef.
The fluted Santoku is lightweight and dextrous, and we found the deep blade made easy work of butternut squash. The bread knife gave a clean cut on a crusty loaf, and the serrated knife was the right size for prepping salad and tomatoes.
TOG set of three – Petty, Santoku & Gyuto: £370, Tog knives
If you want what the chefs have, get yourself a set of TOG knives. Not only are they beautiful to look at with engraved maple wood handles and distinctive copper stripes – they’re ridiculously sharp too. The 21-layer, high-carbon Japanese steel is roll-forged in Seki City, which is the Samurai sword capital of Japan.
Testers liked the blade weighting and natural hand-feel. The Petty utility and paring knife sliced onions finely, the Santoku multipurpose knife cut veg and tomatoes with ease, and the 21cm Gyuto chef’s knife sheered through butternut squash without sticking. We found these knives made even basic tasks feel effortless. They don’t come in a block, so they’re best stored on a magnetic wall mount.
Wüsthof Classic IKON 6-piece Knife Block Set: £378, Knives and Tools
These were some of the sharpest we tested: it wasn’t so much the knife cutting the onion, as the onion yielding to the knife.
Testers were torn between the Classic IKON and Epicure range. Epicure had an even blade-to-handle balance, with the full bolster adding heft, whereas the Classic IKON was more weighted in the handle. Overall the Classic IKON was a favourite as it combined Wüsthof’s traditional style with modern, ergonomic handles and a contemporary knife block.
The Classic IKON bread knife has double serrated, high-carbon stainless steel blade, which kept crumbs to a minimum in the test and the extra length made it a pleasure to cut slice after slice. The 9cm paring knife is perfectly sized for fiddly tasks like removing butternut squash seeds. The utility knife is on the larger side, but makes a dextrous alternative to the chef’s knife. The set includes a serrated tomato knife – but with blades this sharp, you’ll hardly need it.
Robert Welch Signature Knife Block Set with Sharpener: £249, Robert Welch
A sleek, well-designed knife block and sharpener distinguishes this Robert Welch 6-knife best seller.
The chef’s knife is just 14cm, which might be too small for some people, but good if you don’t like unwieldy knives. The angled bolster enables a firm grip, and the 15° Japanese-style edge gives a satisfying cut on hard veg.
We found the serrated tomato knife cut wafer thin slices, and the bread knife was good but a little on the shorter side. Testers loved the smooth, rounded handles and excellent balance with the blade. Magnetic action in the storage slots also made them a joy to put away and stops them getting blunt.
Global HIRO 7-piece Black Wood and Steel Block Set: £374.95, Kitchen Knives
If you love Global, you’ll be smitten with this impressive 6-knife set. The HIRO range has slightly longer handles and heavier blades than the classic Global knife, but it’s still lightweight and feels balanced with the signature Global grip handle.
Compared to all the others we tested, this set included the most complete variety of knives. There’s no carving knife, but that’s no loss when you get an efficient multipurpose Santoku, the 13cm and 20cm chef’s knives to switch between small and larger tasks, a paring and a long bread knife.
Butternut squash didn’t stick to the chef’s knife, and our testers loved the small paring knife for its surgical precision, as well as the fine tip on all the knives, which made them outstanding on detailed tasks.
Its slim bolsters will suit keen cooks perfecting their pinch grip, and the ice-hardened, Cromova-18 stainless steel blade has a keen Japanese-style edge that’s easily sharpened.
Kai Shun Classic 3-piece Knife Set: £329, Borough Kitchen
This is an excellent starter set for a keen cook who is willing to invest.
If you’re torn between Japanese and Western-style knives, Shun Classic from Kai is the best of both; with Western-shaped blades made in layered Damascus carbon steel using Samurai knife making techniques from Seki, Japan.
Shun steel is hard, so these knives were thinner and lighter than others we tested.
We liked the D-shaped Pakkawood handle, which enabled a firm grip, and Kai wisely offer reverse grip handles for left-handers too. The full tang through the length of the handle gave a good overall balance and made cutting hard veg feel like cutting through butter.
The bread knife is light and has double serration in different directions from the centre, which gave the cleanest cut of all bread knives we tested.
This Borough Kitchen set includes complimentary annual knife sharpening, although the sharp 15° angle blade is particularly robust and long lasting.
Lion Sabatier Edonist Knife Block Set: £269.99, Kitchen Knives
This classic knife set from Sabatier looks sleek and sits beautifully on the kitchen counter.
We loved the elegant, slim handles echoing traditional western knife design, but they might not suit cooks with larger hands. There’s no paring knife, but the utility knife doubles up and testers found it easy to work with. The serrated knife slices tomatoes extremely thin, and is large enough to be a handy second utility knife.
Fully forged, Nitro+ steel blades have a 58° Rockwell hardness rating, and whilst the chef’s knife is not as large as others we tested, it’s more manageable and responsive with harder veg.
Wilko Matt Black Knife Block and Knives: £28, Wilko
This set is a bargain. It was the best performer among budget sets, with five essential stainless steel knives in a slim line block.
Smooth handles fit easily into the hand, and the bolster provides a good grip. Our testers liked the longer chef’s knife and smooth cut on the bread knife. The utility knife was good for slicing onions and the small paring knife was easy to use.
The stainless steel blades won’t stay sharp for ever, but these are a good value entry-level set, which you won’t have to worry about getting bashed around in the kitchen.
Joseph Joseph Elevate Carousel: £69, Red Candy
This colourful set from Joseph Joseph doesn’t take up too much room on the counter and has easy grip handles with stainless steel blades.
The bolster doubles up as a rest, so the knife doesn’t get your kitchen surface dirty when you put it down. The handle has slightly more weight to it than other economy knives we tested.
With six knives, this is a good value set. We liked the inclusion of a 14cm fluted Santoku for more dexterity and the 16.5cm chef’s knife for larger chopping tasks. The bread knife snagged on the loaf, but the butternut squash didn’t stick to the chef’s knife, and the serrated tomato knife cut smooth slices.
Procook Damascus X100 Knife Set: £379, Procook.com
Our testers liked the magnetic oak presentation block as a clean alternative way to store knives (and maybe show them off a bit too). This set has everything a keen cook needs: the 23cm bread knife cut through hard crusts easily and the chef’s knife performed well for small dicing and chopping larger veg.
The slightly teardrop shaped handle fit snugly in the hand, and we liked the even weighting between the blade and handle. It’s a seriously sharp knife too, with a central core supported between 66 layers of Japanese Damascus stainless steel with 1% carbon for added surgical precision.
Rockingham Forge Equilibrium 6-piece Knife Block Set: £97.95, Milly’s Kitchen Store
These knives will suit cooks who like an authoritative feeling chef’s knife without it being too weighty. The highly curved design encourages a rocking cutting motion on the chef’s knife, and makes finely chopping herbs a pleasure.
We found the paring and utility knife were a little too similar in size, but that also gave more options for smaller tasks like dicing garlic.
The taper-grinding German steel knife-edge sliced hard vegetables easily, and our testers found that the streamlined bolster enabled a strong pinch grip. The curved handle is ergonomically designed, so your hand won’t get tired if you settle into a long cooking session.
Grunwerg Shogun 6-piece Knife Block Set: £79.94, Harts of Stur
This is a stylish no-nonsense set. We loved the traditional D-shaped black Pakkawood handle, which fell into the hand comfortably – although the asymmetrical shape might not suit left-handed cooks.
The set has a solid bread knife which cut through a crusty loaf. Testers found there was a good balance between the handle and stainless steel blade, and the knives felt luxurious within this price point.
Hard veg like butternut squash came off the blade easily and the paring knife was easy to handle.
It’s well designed for a busy kitchen, as the curved block would fit into kitchen corners and the graduated slots help identify each knife quickly.
Taylor’s Eye Witness 9-piece Knife Block With Steak Knives set: £70, Bakewell Cookshop
This nine-piece set is remarkably compact in an acacia wooden block, and the four steak knives mean you can slice your dinner with as much precision as you do the raw ingredients.
It’s a value set that suits everyday food preparation. The stainless steel blades retain a good edge for this price and the full-tang lends weight to the chef’s knife especially.
The bread knife snagged slightly, but hard vegetables came off the chef’s knife. Our testers liked the dextrous, scalloped 13cm Santoku knife, although the handles are quite square and might be uncomfortable after a long cooking session.
Lakeland Fully Forged Stainless Steel 5-Piece Knife Block: £70, Lakeland
This is a reliable knife set with good sharpness for everyday family cooking. We liked the knife block design, as it’s practical and not pretentious (much like the knives themselves) and our testers especially liked the spot for kitchen scissors you probably already own.
The paring and all-purpose knives are a similar size, which made them dextrous for small tasks like dicing an onion or prepping fruit.
The full-tang gave the 20cm chef’s knife a weighty confidence, but the handles were slightly too small on the paring and all-purpose knives for testers with larger hands.
Füri Pro 7-piece Wood Knife Block Set With Diamond Sharpener: £124.94, Harts of Stur
This Füri knife set looks smart, with Japanese high-carbon stainless steel blades and a distinctive utilitarian metal finish. The in-built finger hook in the handle suits cooks who grip the knife there.
The scalloped Santoku knife had more weight than we expected for its 17cm length, which made it a reliable multi-use knife in the test. The deeper blade cut butternut squash well and didn’t get stuck.
Matching 15cm utility knives, one of which is serrated, would suit cooks who prefer more small knives for multiple tasks.
The set comes in an elegant two-tone wooden block, which takes up minimal space, however the smaller knives are a little wobbly in the slots.
The Verdict: Best knife sets
For value for money, efficiency and design, Victorinox Swiss Classic set is the best buy. They’re not fancy, but you know they’ll last and be durable in a busy kitchen.
For keen cooks who are willing to pay that bit more, TOG will give you endless chopping pleasure with its precision blades.
And for a timeless set of high-quality knives, invest in Wüsthof’s Classic IKON knife block.