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8 best kitchen knife sets for every budget and cooking ability, from students to professionals

Stainless steel or carbon blades? We’ve found the tools that will fulfil all of your culinary needs

Qin Xie
Tuesday 30 November 2021 11:44
<p>Serious home cooks might want to consider fish or boning knives, which can be used for filleting and breaking down larger joints of meat </p>

Serious home cooks might want to consider fish or boning knives, which can be used for filleting and breaking down larger joints of meat

A kitchen knife set is a great low-hassle way to kit out your kitchen quickly. Not only do all of your knives match, it’s also often more affordable than buying each one individually. But price shouldn’t be the only thing to consider – style, range of knives and sizes all matter.

For every set, you’ll need to start with a decent chef’s knife. Bigger versions are generally more versatile, especially if you’re cooking for a family, but smaller ones might be easier to store and more comfortable to use for those who aren’t as confident in the kitchen.

You’ll also need a smaller utility knife, or paring knife, which can be used for smaller or more delicate cutting tasks, such as slicing up garlic. After that, it becomes a matter of preference.

A long serrated bread knife will come in handy for those who buy whole loaves, while a pair of kitchen scissors can be used for everything from snipping herbs to spatchcocking a chicken. Serious home cooks might also want to consider fish or boning knives, which can be used for filleting and breaking down larger joints of meat respectively.

And then, of course, there’s the matter of storage. Kitchen knife sets that come with knife blocks are generally more expensive, but they’re a great way to keep all your knives in one place.

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How we tested

To get you started on choosing a kitchen knife set for your home, we tested a selection in our kitchen, putting each one through its paces in a range of cutting tasks. We considered the style of knives in each set, the price and of course how easy they are to use. Here are our favourites.

The best kitchen knife sets for 2021 are:

  • Best overall – Robert Welch Signature knife block, set of 6: £305, Robertwelch.com
  • Best for easy sharpening – Zwilling Pro ash self-sharpening knife block, set of 7: £449.00, Zwilling-shop.com
  • Best budget buy – Zyliss kitchen knife set, set of 6: £49.99, Zyliss.co.uk
  • Best for fun design – Kuhn Rikon colori professional knife set, set of 3: £29.95, Kuhnrikon.co.uk
  • Best for safety – Viners assure knife set, set of 4: £15.50, Viners.co.uk
  • Best for everyday luxury – Stellar Sebatier IS angled knife block, set of 5: £84, Horwood.co.uk
  • Best for Japanese-style knives –Sous Chef Japanese knife set, set of 3: £99, Souschef.co.uk
  • Best for small kitchens – Judge Sabatier IV knife block, set of 3: £3, Horwood.co.uk

Robert Welch signature knife block

Best: Overall

Rating: 10/10

In the set:

  • 8cm vegetable/paring knife
  • 12cm serrated utility knife
  • 14cm kitchen knife
  • 14cm chef’s knife
  • 22cm bread knife
  • 23cm carving knife
  • Knife block with removable knife sharpener

Opening Robert Welch’s knife set was the first time we’ve ever had to use pliers – these knives are so sharp, the cardboard wrapped around each of the blades are secured into position using grip pins that actually took some manoeuvring to remove. Fortunately, you only have to do this once. After that, the knives go into a solid knife block that’s fitted with magnets designed to keep the blades away from the edges, thereby keeping them sharper for longer.

All of the knives in the set were part of the brand’s signature range, which feature elongated handles with rounded ends that sit at a slight angle to the blade. For the chef’s knife, which we felt was on the smaller side, this took some getting used to, but the style was perfect for the carving knife. We were also particularly impressed by the bread knife, which sliced through crouton-level stale bread with ease, instead of crushing it like other knives we’ve tried in the past.

We haven’t had to sharpen the knives at all during testing, which is a great sign, but the knife block is fitted with a removable knife sharpener to make things easy. They also come with a lifetime guarantee – as you might expect for the price point. The one thing to note is that the knife block is quite big – measuring H22cm (32cm with knives) x W23cm x D20cm – so it’s not one for small kitchens.

Zwilling pro ash self sharpening knife block, set of 7

Best: For easy sharpening

Rating: 10/10

In the set:

  • 10cm paring knife
  • 13cm serrated utility knife
  • 20cm slicing knife
  • 20cm chef’s knife
  • 20cm bread knife
  • 20cm kitchen scissors
  • Ash knife block with integrated ceramic sharpeners

For ultra-sharp knives with minimum maintenance, it’s hard to beat this set from Zwilling. The secret is in the knife block, which has been fitted with ceramic sharpeners that maintain the edge on your blade every time you put the knife in or pull it out, so you never have to sharpen them separately. Each of the straight-edged knives in the set goes into its own dedicated slot (marked with a little picture), and the sharpeners are angled specifically for that blade. The serrated knives and the kitchen scissors also have their dedicated slots, although these don’t have sharpeners in them.

In testing, we found these knives easy to use and their weight lent to the durable feel of the blades. The larger size of the chef’s knife was particularly useful when tackling bigger vegetables while the two serrated blades – the bread knife and the utility knife – were both great for cutting through crusty loaves and sandwiches. We also liked that this set came with a pair of sturdy kitchen scissors.

Zyliss kitchen knife set, set of 6

Best: Budget buy

Rating: 9/10

In the set:

  • 6.5cm peeling knife
  • 8.5cm paring knife
  • 10cm serrated paring knife
  • 13cm utility knife
  • 17.5cm santoku knife
  • 18.5cm chef’s knife

This set from Zyliss contains just about every type of knife you’d need for a starter home and, thanks to its affordable price point, we think it would make a great option for students. The knives each feature soft-touch handles that are textured to improve grip. They also have a casing that goes over the blade for safe storage, and as both the handle and the cover are colour coded, it’s easy to match them up.

The knives performed well in testing, and we liked that there were so many to choose from for different tasks. We also liked that the knives had a nice weight about them, especially the bigger ones, which improved efficiency when cutting tougher vegetables. However, they didn’t retain their cutting edge as well as some of the more premium options we tested – a quick brush against a knife steel soon solved that problem. Other than that, it’s hard to fault this set.

Kuhn Rikon colori professional knife set, set of 3

Best: For fun design

Rating: 9/10

In the set:

  • 9.5cm serrated paring knife
  • 11.5cm utility knife
  • 17cm chef’s knife

The sets in the Kuhn Rikon Colori range all feature patterns that add a pop of colour to your kitchen. We tested the Tropical Leaf set, where the silicone non-stick coating applied to each of the blades is printed with the pattern of a different leaf. The chef’s knife has banana leaves in mauve and teal, the utility knife features monstera leaves in the same shades, while the ferns on the utility knife are teal and turquoise against a navy background. The three shades are also reflected in the handle of the knives.

The fun designs aren’t a distraction from the seriousness of the blades though – in fact, we were seriously impressed by how sharp they were. The chef’s knife, for example, made light work of a pile of sweet potatoes for chips. We also liked the fact that the knives each came with plastic covers, so they’re easy to store in the kitchen drawer. Plus, all of the knives are dishwasher safe as well.

Viners assure knife set, set of 4

Best: For safety

Rating: 8/10

In the set:

  • 9cm paring knife
  • 12.5cm utility knife
  • 15cm chef’s knife
  • 15cm santoku knife

This set of knives from Viners is designed with safety in mind – unlike most other knives, the tips on these have been squared off, which minimises the risk of injury, especially if you’re prone to walking around your kitchen with a knife. The stainless steel blades have been coated with a black non-stick material, which makes them look elegant and is supposed to help the food release quicker. It colour-coordinates with the plastic handles, which are soft to the touch and moulded to fit.

In testing, we found the knives great for a range of everyday tasks, whether it’s chopping up tomatoes for salads or onions for a curry. The squared-off tips made these knives especially easy to store, although they’re less helpful if you normally use the tip of a knife to open packets. The non-stick coating did seem to help food release from the blade better, although it does stain when you’re cutting things such as sweet potatoes. The limited size range also means these knives aren’t great for bigger cutting jobs – a whole pumpkin, for example – but that’s no reason to hold it against them if you’re used to using smaller knives.

Stellar Sebatier IS angled knife block, set of 5

Best: For everyday luxury

Rating: 8/10

In the set:

  • 9cm paring knife
  • 10cm utility knife
  • 15cm cook’s knife
  • 20cm carving knife
  • 20cm bread knife
  • Wooden knife block

Thanks to its polished wood and solid design, the Stellar Sebatier IS angled knife block looks and feels every inch the premium knife set, but comes without the hefty price tag. The five knives that come with the block are simple in design, with the tang running the length of the plastic handles, secured in place with three rivets. There’s also a nice weight to them – it feels like you’re using something substantial.

In testing, they performed well, cutting through most ingredients we tested with ease. They do need regular sharpening to keep their edge, although it’s easy to get them back into good condition. We particularly liked the design of the paring knife, which has a curved spine that lets you easily rest your index finger over the top to guide the knife. As for the knife block, the knives are well spaced in the block, and at an angle, so it’s easy to remove and return them.

Sous Chef Japanese knife set, set of 3

Best: For Japanese-style knives

Rating: 7/10

In the set:

  • 12cm deba knife (designed for fish or meat)
  • 17cm santoku knife (all-round chef’s knife)
  • 17cm nakiri knife (designed to thinly slice vegetables)

Sous Chef’s Japanese knife set is seriously giftable: it comes in a presentation box where the stainless steel blades stand out beautifully against the red cardboard backing. Each of the knives feature a raw wood handle with a striking black plastic ring where it joins up to the blade. The blades, meanwhile, have a contrasting finish; near the cutting edge it’s completely smooth and dull in colour while the stretch towards the spine has a mirror finish that’s hammered to create a mottled effect that helps food to release during use.

In testing, the knives did a decent job – they were easy to sharpen and held their cutting edge well. The santoku knife – the Japanese version of a chef’s knife – was particularly handy for everyday tasks although the nakiri knife will take some getting used to if you don’t normally use a cleaver-style knife. What we particularly liked was the balance; there was a nice heft to the knives as you used them.

There are a couple of things to note, though. First, the handles. They’re not treated so they feel quite rough to the touch and we would definitely recommend oiling them to help them last longer and to improve comfort. The second is that there are no care instructions so you will have to do some googling, especially when it comes to how to sharpen the blades.

Judge Sabatier IV knife block, set of 3

Best: For small kitchens

Rating: 7/10

In the set:

  • 9cm paring knife
  • 12.5cm utility knife
  • 15cm cook’s knife
  • Knife block

Those with small kitchens will love this set of three knives from Judge. Thanks to the compact, upright design of the knife block, measuring just 12cm x 7cm at the base, this set will look elegant on your kitchen counter without taking up too much room. The downside of the space-saving design is that the knives are positioned quite close together, which means removing and returning them can be quite awkward.

In use, the knives did a decent job at tackling the cutting tasks we tested them on, although they needed to be sharpened more frequently compared with some of the other options we tested. They were also extremely lightweight, which is worth bearing in mind if you prefer heavier blades or cut a lot of tough vegetables. The key attraction for us was that this set offers pretty decent value for money. As well as being dishwasher safe, the affordable set also comes with a 25-year guarantee.

Kitchen knife sets FAQs

What are the three most common knives in the kitchen?

When it comes to knives, there is seemingly no end to the different types you can purchase but, if you simply want to make sure you’ve got the essentials covered, then you really only need three: the serrated knife, the chef’s knife and the paring knife.

The serrated knife, commonly used for fruits and bread, has small grooved edges that mean it can tear through food easily.

The chef’s knife, which usually has an 8in or 10in blade, is by far the most popular in all types of kitchen, as it can be used for everything from chopping melons to carving roast chicken.

Lastly, the paring knife is small, sturdy and nimble with a shark angled point, which makes it best suited for deveining shrimp or segmenting your citrus for your gin and tonics.

Are expensive knives worth it?

From novices to kitchen whizzes, a decent knife is always worth it but, most importantly, you should take care of your knives and make sure they are sharpened so they can perform at their best.

The verdict: Kitchen knife sets

We loved the Robert Welch signature knives for their supreme sharpness and think they make great wedding gifts or serious investment pieces. For a much more affordable option, we couldn’t recommend the Zyliss kitchen knife set enough.

Voucher codes

For the latest discounts on knives and other kitchen appliances offers, try the links below:

For more kitchen accessories, read our review of the best salt and pepper mills, the best bread knives and the best slow cookers

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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