Sharpen up your skills in the kitchen with a good set of knives. We've put a selection of knife sets through their paces – read on to see which came out on top.
Knives are a kitchen essential – you'll need them for just about every meal you prepare. Investing in a set of knives means you will cover all the basics and a matching knife set can look smart, too. It can also be more cost-effective than buying them individually.
When you're looking to buy a knife set, one of the first things to consider is whether they will meet all your needs. Some of the smaller sets we tested didn’t contain a bread knife, for instance. This might be fine if you already have one, or only buy sliced bread, but it will be an issue for many.
Most knife sets have one or two smaller knives for jobs like cutting vegetables, along with a carving knife and chef’s knife. If you haven’t bought knives for a while, you might be surprised to find a santoku knife in some sets. These versatile Japanese-style knives have indents on the blade and are designed for chopping and dicing. You can also use the flat surface to scoop up finely chopped ingredients like herbs and garlic.
The quality of the knives is key as well. A full tang knife is one where the blade is a single piece of metal running the whole length (as opposed to the handle being attached to the blade) and is generally thought to be stronger. However, these are usually more expensive.
You also need to think about storage. Some sets can be kept in the cutlery draw while others come in a block, in a variety of colours, sizes and styles. Think about how much space they take up and whether you want a compact one or one that makes more of a statement.
If you’re a parent, safety will also be a consideration. In some of our blocks, the knives sat at the side, while others needed to be pulled from the top end, making them harder for young children to remove.
Read on to discover which knife sets to buy. For more, visit our reviews section to find over 200 practical buyer’s guides offering unbiased advice on what equipment is worth investing in.
The best kitchen knife sets
Joseph Joseph Elevate knives carousel set (£80)
Richardson Sheffield Scandi 5-piece knife set (£108)
Judge Sabatier IV knife block set (from £29.99)
Robert Welch Signature Book Oak knife block set (£250)
BergHOFF Leo 5-piece knife block (£50)
Lakeland fully forged stainless steel 5-piece knife block (£79.99)
Zyliss Comfort 6-piece knife set (from £36.99)
Leiths Wusthof classic knife set (£399)
ProCook Elite Ice X50 knife set (£169)
Kitchen knife sets tried and tested
Joseph Joseph Elevate knives carousel set
Best knife set for people with limited space
Pros: clever design, good value
Cons: carousel feels a bit lightweight
Set contains: 3.5in paring knife, 4.5in serrated knife, 5.5in santoku knife, 6.5in chef’s knife, 8in bread knife
Like so many Joseph Joseph products, the Elevate knives carousel is cleverly designed to save space. It's a rotating block which means it doesn’t take up much space on your worktop. You just spin it to access the knives.
There are a host of other design features, too, which added together make life easier. The knives all have black handles, but are colour-coded at the top and bottom of the handle to make selecting the right one easier.
We also liked the integrated knife rests – the handles are designed so the blade doesn’t touch the surface, if you put it down, making it more hygienic and creating less mess. The rest also helps secure them in the block.
The knives themselves, which are made from Japanese stainless steel, cover all the basics and are very sharp. We liked the fact there was a serrated knife included in the set as well as a santoku. They feel pleasingly light. The knives don't go in the dishwasher, though, which might be an issue for some.
Richardson Sheffield Scandi 5-piece knife set
Most stylish knife set
Pros: light to hold, 25 year guarantee
Cons: not dishwasher-proof
Set contains: paring knife, all-purpose knife, 20cm cook’s knife, carving knife, bread knife
The Scandi name reflects the simple but modern look of this knife set. It's a really attractive collection of five full tang knives with high-carbon stainless steel blades.
We thought the rich brown colour of the handles was eye-catching and would suit most styles of kitchen. The knives sit in a small, neat, carbonised ash block that would take up little room on the worktop if space is an issue.
There is a high level of attention to detail here – even the rivets in the handles are stylish.
We also liked the way the two smaller knives go in separate slots at a different height, to help you identify the knife you need. Knives need to be removed from the top of the block, which could be an advantage for safety-conscious parents.
The knives are light to hold while cutting a range of food extremely well, slicing through tomatoes, carrots and potatoes with ease. There’s a confident 25-year guarantee, too. The only slight downside is that they are handwash only.
Judge Sabatier IV knife block set
Best knife set under £100
Pros: small footprint, built-in honer to keep knives sharp
Cons: knives are fairly ordinary looking
Set contains: 9cm paring knife, 14cm boning knife, 15cm cook’s knife, 20cm carving knife, 20cm bread knife
This is a solid-feeling knife set in a wooden block that has a small footprint. It’s an unobtrusive block with a traditional look to fit most kitchen styles. There are anti-slip pads on the bottom to help avoid scuffing your work surface, too.
We liked the way the knives slotted into the top rather than at the side, as this made it feel safer, with knives less likely to slip out.
The corner of the block has a built-in honer or sharpener, which means you don’t need a separate one and saves further space.
The knives are made of high-carbon hardened stainless steel and are full tang for extra strength. Handles have rivets. They feel light, cutting effortlessly through salad ingredients and bread. They are well balanced and comfortable to hold and as a bonus, are also dishwasher-safe.
Robert Welch Signature Book Oak knife block set
The best overall knife set
Pros: great quality, comprehensive set with unusual knife block
Set contains: 10cm vegetable/paring knife, 11cm santoku knife. 14cm kitchen/utility knife, 18cm cook’s/chef’s knife, 22cm bread knife, 23 cm carving knife
This is a “look at me” knife block that resembles books on a shelf – you keep the knives in the “slots” between the spines, meaning they’re very easy to remove. You can pull the knives out of the top or through the front.
The back of the block is flat, so you can push it back against the wall, making it a real space-saver.
The block itself is made of solid oak and is very heavy with feet on the base to avoid slipping.
Of all the knife sets we tried, this arrived with the most safety-conscious packaging. Each knife has one or two clips securing the cardboard cover, which need to be removed with pliers.
The set contains six knives from the company's Signature range. They're full tang and made of German stainless steel but they are also very light.
We tried the two smaller knives on nuts and dried fruit when making a cake and they both made short work of them. When tried on a potentially problematic ripe tomato, the vegetable/paring knife cut cleanly through the fruit without any squishing or splurting. The bread knife, noticeably thinner than other bread knives we tested, glided effortlessly through our crusty loaf.
We also liked the handles, which are contoured and sit snugly in the hand. They can go in the dishwasher, but handwashing is recommended.
BergHOFF Leo 5-piece knife block
Best knife set for new cooks
Pros: great value, clever design
Cons: not the most sophisticated
Set contains: 8.5cm paring knife, 11cm vegetable knife with zester, 14cm small chef’s knife with herb-stripper, 19cm chef’s knife, 23cm bread knife
This is a cleverly designed knife set with some extras you might be surprised to see at this price point. The vegetable knife doubles up as a zester, which we tested successfully with lemon, and the small chef’s knife has a couple of holes for stripping herbs.
Unusually, the grey block has no set slots for the knives and you can just push them through the mesh effect top however you want to. There is also space for three more knives if you want to keep some of your existing knives in with them. This could be useful if you have a couple of kitchen favourites.
The knives are dishwasher-proof and chopped effectively. They come in a variety of pastel colours – two blue, two green and one pink. They also have the name of the knife (e.g. “chef’s knife”) written on them. We did wonder if the paint might scratch over time, but were reassured by the 15-year guarantee.
Lakeland fully forged stainless steel 5-piece knife block
Best value knife set
Pros: excellent quality set for the price
Cons: will be too heavy for some
Set contains: 9cm paring knife, 10.5cm all-purpose knife, 20cm cook’s knife, 22cm carving knife, 22cm bread knife
These knives, which are made from a single piece of stainless steel, are noticeably weightier than others in the same price range, and feel extremely solid and practical. The bread knife is also longer than most others we tested, and combined with the weight, it sliced effortlessly through our crusty baguette.
This knife set made short work of fruit and veg. The smallest, the paring knife, cut neatly and efficiently through carrots, cucumber and pepper. We sliced raw sweet potatoes with the larger cook’s knife and tomatoes with the all-purpose knife. All worked efficiently and quickly. The knives go in the dishwasher, too.
The knives are unspectacular in the looks department, though the curl at the end of the handle is an attractive touch and the wooden block is well finished. It’s bulkier than some others, taking up more space.
This is a no-nonsense, hig- quality knife set – a real workhorse.
Zyliss Comfort 6-piece knife set
Best knife-only set
Pros: varied set, good value
Cons: no bread knife
Set contains: 6.5cm peeling knife, 8.5cm paring knife, 10.5cm serrated paring knife, 13cm utility knife, 18cm santoku knife, 18.5cm chef’s knife
Not every knife set comes with a block and nor does it need to – plenty of people don't want a knife block or don’t have space for one on the worktop. Some of us would rather just keep knives in the kitchen drawer.
We liked these because each knife has its own matching guard which is great for safety and for maintaining sharpness. The knives all come in different colours, so once you get used to them, you will know which coloured knife to use for each task, and locating one becomes quicker.
The knives are very light and sharp and particularly good value. There's an indent at the top of the handle that makes them comfortable to hold and they are easy-grip, too, so you’re less likely to drop them.
Bright and cheerful, they would be an ideal gift for students. In a shared student kitchen, there’s often demand for small knives for vegetables but there are three of these in different sizes, which might help eliminate arguments. They’d also be an ideal gift for someone setting up home for the first time.
The knives are made of Japanese stainless steel, and come with a five-year guarantee.
Leiths Wusthof classic knife set
Best knife set for budding chefs
Pros: excellent quality, razor-sharp knives, comes in a carrying set
Cons: very expensive
Set contains: 9cm half-bolster paring knife, 14cm boning knife, 16cm flexible filleting knife, 17cm santoku, 20cm half-bolster cook's knife, sharpening steel
This dual-branded set is a collaboration between German knife manufacturer Wusthof and British food and wine school Leiths. Aimed at the serious cook, it was put together for Leiths' diploma students and the knives are designed to last a chef’s entire career.
But the knives can also be bought by home cooks who simply want an excellent quality set of knives. At just under £400, they are a serious investment.
There are five knives in the set plus a sharpening steel, and they come in a case with a padlock. There are spaces for up to 20 knives or other tools, so you can add any extra ones you want as well.
The knives are manufactured using laser and robot technology, with a 40-step manufacturing process. As you'd expect at this price point, they are full tang.
There's nothing flashy-looking about these excellent quality knives but they are extremely light and razor sharp, cutting effortlessly through a variety of vegetables and meat. They are well balanced and extremely comfortable to hold.
Unexpectedly for top-of-the-range knives, they can go in the dishwasher, though handwashing is advised.
ProCook Elite Ice X50 knife set
Best knife set for easy access
Pros: long guarantee
Cons: knives might be too accessible for some
Set contains: 9cm paring knife, 13cm utility knife, 15cm chef’s knife, 25cm bread knife, 25cm carving knife
The knives in this set have chunkier handles than most, and are very comfortable to hold.
The blades are made from German stainless steel which has been frozen to harden it and sharpen edges.
We put the knives through their paces on squishy tomatoes, leeks, carrots, peppers and potatoes as well as meat and stale crusty bread. They cut effectively and with ease.
The knives themselves are striking, especially with the brown wood resin handles, but it's the tilted American oak block that really gives this knife set the wow factor. The knives attach magnetically which means they are fully visible, so there's no hunting for the correct knife.
It all makes for a very modern and eye-catching look, though parents of young children might be nervous of the knives being so obviously on display. You do need to take a second or two to carefully place the knives on the block.
The block comes with a 25 year guarantee, but be aware, they aren't dishwasher-proof.
How we tested them
We tested a representative sample of knife sets and scored them against the following criteria.
Effective cutting. This is key – there’s no point having a beautiful set of knives if they’re ineffective. We wanted knives that cut cleanly and easily, and tested each set on crusty baguettes, tomatoes, peppers and carrots. We also used them for a variety of everyday kitchen tasks including cutting raw potatoes, slicing cucumber and leeks, and chopping onions, nuts and dried fruit.
Quality. We rated our knives for strength and balance. We also looked for knives that are comfortable to hold and use.
Range. Taking into account the number of knives in each set, we looked for a good variety
Aesthetics. Many knife sets are designed to be on display. We awarded marks for stylish knives and, if applicable, for the appearance of the knife block, too.
Storage. We looked at whether the knife block was thoughtfully designed to store knives safely and securely
Value. Our sample ranged from £8.99 to £399 and in each case, we looked at whether the knife set offered value for money.
This review was last updated in April 2020. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.