9 best kitchen knife sets for every budget, from students to professionals

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

Stacey Smith
Monday 16 November 2020 15:00
<p>We were testing for well-weighted styles that sliced through a variety of ingredients with little to no pressure</p>

We were testing for well-weighted styles that sliced through a variety of ingredients with little to no pressure

It can be tricky knowing where to start when buying a decent set of kitchen knives. With each size and shape aimed at a different job, buying each one individually can feel a bit overwhelming.

By opting for a kitchen knife set instead, you should have peace of mind that you’ll be covered for each and every eventuality.  

There are a number of more common knives you’ll find in these sets, including the chef’s knife (sometimes called a cook’s knife, which is your multi-purpose option); Santoku knife (similar to a cook’s knife, but the blade is a little thinner); paring knife (smaller and more nimble, this knife can be used for more detailed work and also peeling) and a carving knife (a long, thin blade designed to cut big joints of meat; every Sunday roast needs one). 

Although these are the most popular, you’ll find a variety of shapes and sizes which might come in useful, depending on your repertoire. All of the sets we’ve included below have a minimum of three knives.

Although some brands say their knives can go in the dishwasher, almost all advise against it. To avoid rust and to keep them looking as good as the day you bought them, we’d recommend washing and drying by hand.

When putting our knives to the test, we were looking for well-weighted styles that sliced through a variety of ingredients with little to no pressure. You might notice us mentioning the “tang” – this is the portion of the blade that retracts into the handle. Generally, better knives have a full tang, which will make them better balanced. In order to earn their spot on this list, each set had to contain genuinely useful shapes and sizes that the average kitchen needs.

Whether you’re looking to upgrade a blunt set that’s seen better days, or simply need a starter set for your new home, we’ve rounded up a selection whatever your budget.  

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

Zwilling pro set of knives, 3pcs

Includes:

Paring knife (weight 75g, blade length 10cm, overall length 21.9cm)

Slicing knife (weight 164g, blade length 20cm, overall length 32.9cm)

Chef’s knife (weight 242g, blade length 20cm, overall length 33.5cm)

This isn’t the cheapest set offered by Zwilling, however, if you’re prepared to spend a little more, it is a great option. It includes a versatile paring knife, a slim slicing knife (often referred to as a carving knife), and finally a wider chef’s knife. Excellent quality, the blades are super sharp and made from ice-hardened steel, which means they should last for years (they come with a lifetime warranty). The plastic handles and full tang make these a weightier choice, but in a good way, and we found them well-balanced and a joy to use. We particularly liked the seamless transition from blade to handle, which ensures there are no unhygienic dirt traps.

Opinel parallèle knives, set of three

Includes:  

N°118 chef’s knife (weight 150g, blade length 20cm, overall length 32.8 cm)  

N°120 carving knife (weight 90g, blade length 16cm, overall length 30cm)  

N°126 paring knife (weight 20g, blade length 8cm, overall length 17.6cm

Known for its distinctive pocketknives and outdoorsy approach, this year, French brand Opinel, celebrate its 130th anniversary. This simple, straight-forward set includes three genuinely useful knives you’ll actually find yourself using. The multi-use chef’s knife is the one we find ourselves turning to 99 per cent of the time. With a 3mm-thick blade, the curved cutting edge allows for a helpful seesaw movement. For carving roasts and large joints of meat, the N°120 with its long, slimmer blade, will be your go-to. Lastly, the baby of the pack, N°126 is a multi-purpose paring knife, perfect for peeling fruit and veg or trimming meat. All are made using highly anti-corrosive stainless steel and are finished with light brown French beech handles. A great value for money set for the modern kitchen.

Prue’s World 3-piece knife set with knife roll

Includes:  

Paring knife (weight 100g, blade length 9cm, overall length 24cm)

Santoku knife (weight 165g, blade length 16cm, overall length 31.5cm)

Carving knife (weight 165g, blade length 20cm, overall length 34cm)

Great British Bake Off’s very own Prue Leith has come up with a very stylish three-piece Japanese kitchen knife set covering all our kitchen bases. Made from durable stainless steel, the blades are smooth and handled everything we threw at them with ease. The handles are made from crushed bamboo, creating a unique stripey design on each. With a paring knife for peeling fruit and veg, a broader santoku knife for a multitude of uses, and a carving knife, we really don’t think there’s anything else you’d need – and all at an outstanding price.

Savernake knives aquila knife set

Includes:  

Savernake knife (weight 140g, blade length 17.8cm, overall length 31cm)  

Nimble chopper (weight 90g, blade length 12.7cm, overall length 25cm)

Raven’s claw (weight 110g, blade length 15.2cm, overall length: 28cm)  

This three-piece set from Savernake (note, the last e is silent) focuses on those everyday kitchen tasks. It includes its large signature namesake, alongside the nimble chopper which has a smaller handle and is best suited to chopping herbs and veg, as well as the super-smooth raven’s claw which is the perfect all-rounder. All Savernake knives are cut to order using Formula 1 technology and are fully customisable, allowing you to change the veneer at no additional cost, making for some very striking combinations.  

Although the most expensive set we’ve featured, because of the excellent Swedish steel used and handmade approach, these would take an age to blunt, and regardless, they come with a reassuring lifetime guarantee. The knives are delivered without a stand or holder, however, Savernake includes finishing oil as appropriate (i.e. for wooden handles), as well as a personalised letter with care and sharpening details. An absolute treat of a knife set that we’d be delighted to own.

Global Knives six piece set with magnetic rack

Includes: 

G-2 cook’s knife (weight 222g, blade length 20cm, overall length 30cm)  

G-9 bread knife (weight 160g, blade length 22cm, overall length 37.3cm)

GS-5 vegetable chopper (weight 110g, blade length 14cm, overall length 26.3cm)

GS-11 utility knife (weight 177g, blade length 15cm, overall length 30cm)

GS-38 paring knife (weight118 g, blade length 9cm, overall length 25.5cm)

Used in professional kitchens worldwide, Global has been hand crafting its knives in Japan for more than 30 years. You’ll notice each one is made from a single piece of steel, from the tip to the handle, and we can confirm they’re exceptionally sharp. We love that this extensive set comes with a magnetic rack that keeps them in handy reach without cluttering up your kitchen counter.

Robert Welch signature home chef set

Includes:  

Santoku knife (weight 116g, blade length 11cm, overall length 22.1cm)

Kitchen knife (weight 106g, blade length 12cm, overall length 22.5cm)

Cook’s knife (weight 192g, blade length 18cm, overall length 30.3cm)

If you’re not fussed about getting a knife block or rack, this set includes three of Robert Welch’s bestselling knives in a presentation box – and you’ll save more than £30 by buying them like this, rather than individually. They’re all fully forged from a single piece of steel, and have a full tang, making them beautifully balanced. Although all these knives are multi-purpose, the santoku features a wider scalloped blade that suits chopping veg, the cook’s knife allows for more of a rocking motion and the nimble kitchen knife is the one you find yourself using all the time. Using super sharp German stainless steel, these award-winning knives are a kitchen classic.

Tog Knives set of three

Includes:  

Petty knife (weight 84g, blade length 12.5cm, overall length 24cm)

Santoku knife (weight 143g, blade length 17cm, overall length 29.3cm)

Gyuto knife (weight 160g, blade length 21cm, overall length 33.5cm)

Owning a set of Tog knives is second only to owning a samurai sword. Crafted in Seki City (the Samurai sword capital of Japan), these knives are made using traditional sword making methods, with eight craftspeople needed for each knife. These are the first knives Tog designed and they’re super versatile. Each beautiful blade is individually numbered, and forged with layers of stainless steel and hygienic, antimicrobial copper. The comfortable, water-resistant handles are made from natural wood and are laser etched with a pattern said to be 600 years old. A truly stunning set.

Japanese Knife trio

Includes:  

Small deba (weight 62g, blade length 12.7cm, overall length 23.8cm)

Santoku (weight 101g, blade length 17.4cm, overall length 29.6cm)

Nakiri (weight 130g, blade length 18cm, overall length 30.3cm)

The Japanese are known for creating fantastic quality knives and this set contains three that will work just as well in western kitchens. The small deba is designed for slicing small fish, but it can also be used for boning smaller joints of meat. The santoku is similar to a chef’s knife and a great allrounder, which we got into a very rhythmic chopping motion with. Finally, the nakiri, which is traditionally used for chopping veg. The beautiful dappled steel blades also help to prevent food from sticking. Although fairly lightweight, we found the handles a touch bulky for small hands. They arrive in a gold embossed presentation box which would make this set a lovely housewarming gift or wedding present. While currently out of stock, sign up for email notification for when they’re back.  

The verdict: Kitchen knife sets

If you’re just starting out, we reckon, you can’t go wrong with the trusty three-piece set from Opinel. However, if you have a little more to spend, or are perhaps looking to replace an existing set, we’ve awarded our best buy to Zwilling, which strikes a good balance between performance and value for money. If you’re happy to blow the budget, Savernake produces the most beautiful settings we’ve seen and we didn’t want to give them back.

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

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