We Tested 21 Kitchen Knife Block Sets and These 5 Are the Best| PEOPLE Tested

2022-08-13 21:32:28 By : Mr. Ray Feng

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Good kitchen knives are an absolute must-have for any home chef. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or more of a kitchen rookie, high quality, sharp knives are essential to food prep.

Block sets eliminate the guesswork involved in buying knives one by one, but there are three knives in particular that you should prioritize if you do buy a set. Chef and Food Network star Aarti Sequeria tells PEOPLE that home chefs should prioritize "a chef’s knife, a serrated knife, and a paring knife… of the best quality you can afford.” 

And the details matter, too. “If you’re looking for a blade that’s going to last, that can be sharpened and honed, don’t bother with knives with those tiny teeth," says Sequeria. "They scrape through meat and produce rather than making clean cuts. You want a blade that’s somewhat heavy so you can smash garlic cloves and cut through a whole chicken.”

PEOPLE Tested got to work slicing and dicing with 21 knife sets, honing in on the chef’s knife, serrated knife, and paring knife in each set. The Mercer Culinary Genesis came out on top as the most impressive set across the board.

These knives were top performers, smoothly slicing and dicing in all our tests. The chef’s knife was a standout for being nice and heavy with an easy to grip rubber handle.

The design, while cool-looking, doesn’t leave room for more knives. The glass block could also show dirt faster than other materials.

The overall winner impressed our tester at every turn. The chef’s knife was “one of the smoothest cutting knives there is,” she noted, adding that she was easily able to thinly slice tomatoes. The chef’s knife is heavy with a rubber handle that’s easy to grip, and there’s a nice curve at the bottom to rest your finger. Dicing onions with the chef’s knife was “like a dream,” our tester reported.

The serrated knife “performed really well” on crusty bread—no sawing necessary. It’s a good size and length, it’s lightweight, and, like the chef’s knife, it features a rubber handle with a nice bolster for your finger on the blade.

In our final test, the paring knife was up to par for hulling strawberries, producing a smooth cut with no resistance. It’s got a nice, sharp tip with a good handle-to-blade ratio.

The design of the block is nice to look at, but there’s no room to expand. The glass also might be hard to keep clean with kitchen splatters and grease. On the positive side, the shape of the block would allow it to sit flush with a wall or backsplash. All things considered, including the list price, this set provides a good value.

Our tester said she would recommend this set to friends. “I thought the quality and performance of this set was excellent for the price,” she said. “It performed as well as much more expensive knives.”

This is a set of very high quality, sturdy, knives that comes with a standalone magnetic base that won’t dull the blades.

It’s cost-prohibitive for many, plus there are two chef’s knives but no serrated knife.

Our pick for a splurge set is a true statement piece for the kitchen. The block design is very unique, extremely well-made, and sturdy. It is magnetic, but it stands alone and doesn't have to be mounted. It's aesthetically very attractive, though it would take up a lot of room on the countertop.

The chef’s knife in this set is “as smooth as it gets. Like a razor,” said our tester. Slicing tomatoes thin and dicing onions was a breeze, with sleek cuts and no resistance. Using the paring knife for hulling strawberries was straightforward and easy. We were disappointed to find no serrated knife in this set, especially at its high price point. The blades are very sharp, but not exceptionally so. 

Our tester said she’d recommend this set to friends or family only if they were after that “wow” factor for their countertop. “I would love to have ONE of these knives on display on my magnetic stand!” she added.

These knives performed extremely well, particularly given their low price point. This would be a great starter knife set or wedding gift.

The block is big and bulky, so it’s not easy to move around on a counter and it takes up a lot of space.

The chef’s knife in this set is heavy and balanced, with a nice curve to the handle to help with grip. Our tester called it “really fluid, smooth and effortless” while thinly slicing tomatoes. While dicing onions, the tester “felt little resistance while cutting.” 

The serrated knife sliced through bread well with little resistance. While hulling strawberries, our tester noted that the paring knife worked well, though most of its weight was in the handle, making for a bit of an odd feel. 

Eight steak knives and a traditional block round out this set, making it a one-stop shop for every kind of knife you may need. Our tester noted its good value for the performance, and would recommend the set to friends and would buy the set herself. 

“These knives are great for general kitchen tasks, and could be used for everyday cooking,” she noted. It’s a particularly good choice for someone new to cooking, as a housewarming or wedding gift, or for anyone looking for a quality “starter” knife set.

Like the Chicago Cutlery set, this is a good starter set of knives with a classic design and—bonus!—a built-in sharpener.

The chef’s knife has a boxy handle that wasn’t our favorite to hold, and the serrated knife produced inconsistent cuts.

This set has the most knives of any of our winners—it’s a good starter set with everything you could need and more. The built-in knife sharpener was a great touch, and the wood knife block is aesthetically pleasing with its classic rivet design.

The quality, however, matches the price tag. Our tester found the handles of the knives to be poorly constructed, and in our particular set, the blades had lots of imperfections along the edges and spines. 

The chef’s knife felt balanced, but the handle wasn’t ergonomically-friendly with its boxy shape. It did perform well slicing tomatoes, though we noticed some light tearing. It cleanly sliced through the onion as well, and the tip and edge of the knife did a good job with dicing.

We didn’t have as much success with the serrated knife, which wasn’t very sharp and tore the bread. The cuts in this test were inconsistent. The paring knife fared much better, with a sharp blade and a handle long enough to fit into your entire hand. The tip easily cored the strawberries, and the knife felt light and balanced to hold. 

You won’t lack for variety with this set, which even includes a tourné knife, but it’s missing a honing steel, which would be useful. The knives could be sharper, but this set is very fairly priced for the variety of knives included. “This set would be great for somebody with basic or intermediate cooking skills, or general kitchen tasks,” said our tester.

These knives are sharp right out of the box and performed exceptionally well.

The handles aren’t as grippy as we’d like.

Our pick for best Japanese knife set performed “exceptionally well,” said our tester, and the knives, “were capable of slicing through everything with great ease.”

The weight of the chef’s knife alone was enough to slice through a tomato, and it took very little effort to dice an onion as well. The knives are labeled as being beveled to 15 degrees, which is characteristic of Japanese-style knives.

There was no serrated bread knife included in this set; however, it does include a small serrated utility knife, which is very sharp and features rounded serrations. It worked out fine to slice through bread, though a longer knife would have been better suited for the job. The paring knife is “incredibly sharp and well-balanced,” said our tester. “It easily hulls and cores the strawberries.”

The knife block—and the set as a whole—is relatively light, with handles that did not feel very grippy. The knives could also be more comfortable to hold and use, our tester noted, and the block itself is rather large and clunky for the limited number of knives that it stores. 

In terms of value, the quality of construction and performance make this set very fairly priced. Our tester said he would “absolutely recommend this set for the price and how well these knives performed. This set is great for any and all kitchen tasks.”

The 3 Most Important Knives: As Food Network star Aarti Sequeria points out above, buying a chef’s knife, a serrated knife, and a paring knife—in the best quality you can afford—is key to kitchen success. “That’s all you need to do pretty much anything in the kitchen!” she says.

The Feel: Making an investment in kitchen knives, adds Sequeria, may require getting hands-on with the products before making a final decision. (We hate buying online and returning, too, but in this case, it may be worth it if you don’t find the winner on the first try.) “Try to feel the knife in your hands. It should feel solid, not flimsy. The blade shouldn’t bend.”  

Sharpen-ability: A good knife is a sharp knife, so consider whether the set comes with a sharpener, or if you’ll have to purchase one separately. Wood knife blocks, Sequeria notes, “tend to dull your blade.” So if you opt for a wood model, be sure you have the ability to sharpen your knives. 

Cooking Needs: Consider what you have in your kitchen already (steak knives? shears?) when checking out knife block sets so you don’t end up with duplicates. If you’re well stocked with standard knives already, a block set may not be the best choice for you. Sequeria advises that if you’ve got the three high-quality staples on hand (chef’s knife, serrated knife, paring knife), a knife block set may not be necessary.

The Look: A wood block is a classic look that would fit in with many types of kitchens. If you prefer your knives to be showpieces, or a more modern look, there are magnetic and glass blocks among our picks that fit the bill. 

Your Skill Level: If you’re more of a beginner chef, a starter set might suit you well and there’s no need to spend more. A seasoned pro? Consider the look and the function of the knives, particularly those big three (chef’s, serrated, and paring). 

Our testers tried out a total of 21 different kitchen knife block sets, with a range of 3 to 21 pieces per set (including steak knives, honing steels, kitchen shears, and applicable storage accessories such as blocks, magnetic bars, and sheaths). For each set, we tested the chef’s knife, the serrated bread knife, and the paring knife to evaluate their performance slicing and dicing tomatoes and onions. We also rated the design, size (or quantity and variety of knives in the set), and value. Overall, we found that the prices were not necessarily indicative of quality, as many less-expensive sets outperformed the more expensive options.

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