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Few things are as important to the home cook, or the professional chef, as a good set of knives.
They’re an invaluable tool for the daily preparation of your meals, and decent ones are an investment that should last for years, with proper care and maintenance.
While many cooking websites will dismiss the idea of buying a set in favor of buying individual pieces, there’s nothing wrong with getting a good set. They make a great gift for anyone setting up their first kitchen, and can make an attractive addition to your home décor.
Or, if you’re just not interested in taking the time to research and buy each blade separately, a set is an easy and convenient option.
That is, provided you know what to look for.
When it comes to knife sets, a well-known brand name doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting the best quality. It’s not uncommon for companies is to sell their second or third line products in a high priced set, hoping the brand name alone will be enough to make a sale.
Another trick is to load the set with slight variations in size of the same style, making it seem like you’re getting lots of blades when what you’re really getting is a bunch of repeats. Or, they will often add novelty products that will rarely be used in your kitchen.
The good news is that you don’t have to make these mistakes.
In this guide we’ll cover the basics of how to choose a set that will provide good quality and value, and make your prep work easier and more enjoyable.
Let’s have a look at:
With primer points on:
And at the end of the post, we also have reviews of eight high quality sets that we feel are available at every price point in today’s marketplace. These include:
- Messermeister San Mortiz Elite
- Mercer Genesis
- Victorinox Fibrox
- Henckels Four Star
- Wusthof Classic
- Global G Series
- Shun Classic
- Shun Premier
Before making a decision, have a look at your cooking habits and practices, and consider the various pieces that come with the set you’re thinking of purchasing.
Do you really need 12 steak knives? Will you be filleting your own fish, or are you more apt to purchase them already prepped from the market? A fillet blade, or the steak knives, or maybe a cleaver will likely sit in the block and collect dust if you purchase a set that isn’t suited to your own cooking style and eating habits.
Go through all of the tools offered and determine if you’ll really use them, or if they’re just a bit of eye candy that will only be used on rare occasions – if at all.
For most home kitchens, three or four knives will be sufficient for the majority of the work performed. Look for a set that includes the basic pieces:
- A paring model – for peeling, trimming and cutting smaller pieces of food.
- A chef’s knife – a multi-purpose blade for all general cutting duties, such as chopping, dicing, mincing and slicing.
- A serrated blade – for cutting bread, tomatoes, delicate fruit and cakes.
Again, depending on your cooking style, some additional pieces could be:
- A utility blade – an all-purpose performer for handling smaller pieces.
- A meat cleaver – for cutting up chicken, ribs and larger pieces.
- A vegetable cleaver – for chopping up and dicing veggies and herbs (or substituting as a general chef’s knife).
- A fillet knife – for filleting fish.
- A boning knife – for removing meat from chicken, ham, or roasts.
- A carving blade – for slicing thin pieces from roasts, turkey, chicken, ham, etc.
- A honing steel – for keeping the edges of your blades true and sharp.
- Kitchen shears – handy for multiple uses in the kitchen, from breaking down a chicken to cutting herbs to opening plastic packaging.
- A bread knife – not just for breads but handy for cutting through cake and squish fruits such as tomatoes.
The Makings of a Good Knife
When buying kitchen cutters, the following points all contribute to the overall efficiency and enjoyment of a good knife:
When buying any kitchen tool for cutting, the best test is to handle it. It should have a comfortable grip to prevent fatigue, and a good “hand.” That is, it should feel as though you’ll be able to use it with dexterity, and without it feeling cumbersome, awkward or dangerous.
As with handling, weight is another point that’s very personal. With today’s sophisticated alloys, a lighter model can have all of the qualities and performance characteristics of the heavier blades from previous generations. Choose what feels best to you.
A well-made example will have the balance pretty evenly distributed between the blade and the handle. This will ensure that the cutting motion is smooth without requiring a lot of effort, and will reduce strain on the hand, wrist and forearm.
Blades can come in a variety of materials including carbon steel, stainless steel, high-carbon stainless alloys, and ceramic. And all have their good and bad points.
- Carbon steel blades – easy to sharpen and hold an edge longer than stainless, but prone to rusting.
- Stainless steel – good for stain and corrosion resistance, but they may dull quickly and can be harder to sharpen.
- Signature stainless steel alloys – often found in Japanese blades, these combine the best of carbon and stainless, but can be quite expensive.
- Ceramic – comes with a razor-sharp edge, but they may break and chip easily.
If you’re unsure of what type of blade you want, or would like more detail on each type of material, check out our post on Materials and Alloys.
Whether you prefer your blades constructed with forging, stamping or stock removal techniques, how they’re assembled is also important.
Have a close look at the knife set you’re considering and check for any indication of piecemeal work.
Any joints or welds will be a natural weak spot, prone to bending or breaking. Single-piece construction with either a three-quarter or full tang will offer the greatest integrity and overall durability.
Bolsters are not a necessary component for quality, and will be found more often in Western style knives than those of Japanese design and origin.
And carefully check the hilt, the area where the blade and handle meet. This spot is essentially the fulcrum and takes the brunt of the stress exerted when cutting, so make sure the transition area is well-joined with no gaps. This is important not only for strength but also for hygiene as any nooks may trap food particles, encouraging the growth of bacteria.
Today, handles are usually made from composites of thermoplastics/resin/vulcanized rubber and stainless steel or wood. Occasionally bone or antler is still used but they aren’t nearly as durable or water resistant as the synthetics.
Composites and stainless steel offer the best qualities in terms of strength and longevity while wood can become soft and rot, and bone will dry out over time, becoming brittle.
Comfort and safety are also important in a good handle (and for preventing nasty accidents in your kitchen in general). Look for ones that have been ergonomically designed to reduce stress and fatigue, and that offer a non-slip or textured grip.
The cutting edge should run the full length of the blade, from the hilt or bolster right through to the tip. This gives a greater range of motion for different cutting techniques, and is essential for proper honing and sharpening.
And of course, the edge should be free of any nicks, dents or chips.
You can read more on Construction here.
Beware of any claims about blades that “never need sharpening.” They don’t exist. At some point, they’ll lose their edge and become dull. And if you can’t sharpen them, they’re basically a disposable item.
This claim usually comes from makers of ceramic models, which require specialized equipment to sharpen for massed produced models and the eyes of well trade Japanese knife maker for the better models (yes, they are hand sharpened at the factor).
All edges will become dull with use. They should be maintained with a honing steel or strop, and sharpened with a diamond steel, sharpening stones, or an electric sharpener.
For safety purposes, and to maintain a sharp edge, knives should never be stored loose in a cutlery drawer.
That’s another bonus with buying a set, as most will come with a storage block made of wood, stainless steel or tempered glass. They’ll help to keep a keen edge on your blades, and make a handsome addition to a countertop.
Other storage options are a magnetic bar mounted on the wall, or a cloth knife roll – similar to those used to store artists’ brushes or mechanics’ wrenches. This is how the pros do it, an option definitely worth considering. Find out more about knife storage.
Just as a brand name isn’t a guarantee of good quality, your decision also shouldn’t be based on price alone.
Prices for sets can range from under $100 to well over $1,000, with many very fine examples falling in the $300-$500 area.
And while there’s a market for the under $100 sets, construction and quality are likely to be questionable, and should be avoided when possible.
Look for a set that meets the standards outlined above, and that works with your budget.
Now, to help with your decision making, here are reviews of five different sets with varying price points that meet most, if not all, of the components needed for quality and value.
Kitchen Knife Set Reviews
Messermeister San Moritz Elite
From Messermeister, we have their superbly functional, efficient, and handsome 9-piece set in the San Moritz Elite line, complete with a wooden block.
Messermeister San Moritz Elite 9-Piece Knife Block Set available from Amazon
The set consists of an 8″ chefs’ knife (read more about this marquee beauty), a 7″ Kullenschliff santoku with granton edge, a 6″ utility knife, a 5″ scalloped utility cutter that’s perfect for tomatoes, a 3.5” paring knife, a 9″ bread knife, a 10″ steel, the take-apart kitchen scissors, and a 16 slot wood knife block, so you can add more pieces in the future.
This set will cover the full range of kitchen tasks on a day to day basis, but Messermeister also offers sets in the San Moritz Elite line that will suit any need.
You can find the basics in a two-piece set consisting of a chef and paring knife, a three-piece set that adds a utility blade, and a four-piece set that adds a scalloped-edge bread knife to the three-piece set.
Of course, if you’re looking for something more substantial than starter sets in this professional line, there’s the deluxe 23-piece set that includes boning and serrated-edge utility knives, a carving set as well as eight steak knives, all in a handsome 22-slot wooden block.
The San Moritz Elite blades are constructed from the traditional one-piece, hot-drop forging technique, and hammered from a single billet of high-carbon German steel.
Using the X50CRMOV15 stainless steel alloy, they provide top quality stain resistance as well outstanding sharpness, edge retention and ease of sharpening. And each one has been individually handcrafted by skilled cutlery artisans in Solingen, Germany.
The contemporary handles are completely molded around the tang for ergonomic comfort and a secure grip, and are made from POM (polyoxymethylene); a thermoplastic with outstanding industrial strength and stability that won’t crack or break, even after extended use.
Messermeister San Moritz Elite 23-Piece Knife Block Set available on Amazon
Every knife has a hand-polished “Elite” edge that will slice through anything on your cutting board, thick or thin. Ground to a tight 15° angle, they provide the impressive cutting abilities of Japanese blades, but with robust German steel construction – the best of two worlds.
The spine is also hand-polished, providing a smooth and comfortable gripping surface that professional chefs demand.
With a three-quarter tang extension, the blades are bolstered to the handles for maximum balance and power – but the bolsters only travel halfway down the heel of the blade, providing a clean edge for sharpening and full use of the entire length of the blade.
A unique feature of this line is the thicker and more substantial blades than many of their competitors, and greater blade depth for the chef and santoku blades. This provides outstanding weight, balance, and torque for cutting through challenging pieces such as large winter squash, or sticky starches and proteins.
And the San Moritz Elite line comes with the distinctive name plate at the butt end of each handle so you can personalize your set with etched initials.
All Messermeister knives come with a limited lifetime warranty, as well as free lifetime sharpening and refurbishing – you only have to pay for the return shipping.
The set and block measures 19.5 x 10 x 4.5 inches, and weighs just over 9 pounds. Hand wash and dry promptly. Made in Germany.
What Others Are Saying
As there aren’t a lot of reviews for this particular set, the following comments are a compilation from a variety of reviews that cover the blades in this set, all from verified purchasers at Amazon.
Messermeister cutlery seems to be a bit of a dark horse when compared to other German brands, as it doesn’t have the same high-profile reputation. But for those who purchase them, the Messermeister blades always come out on top – and they haven’t sold out their soul to the big conglomerates.
They always receive high praise for their excellent sharpness, edge retention and the ease of honing with which the edge is restored.
The quality of construction and craftsmanship is another highlight, with the beautiful balance, control, and stability consistently getting top marks, as does the hand-finishing. There’s no need to sand off burrs on any of the spines as they come completely finished and ready to use.
The chef’s knife is truly a work of art, ideal for rock-chopping due to the angle of the blade, the large sweet spot, and the ultra-sharp edge.
The santoku is another favorite. While not quite as versatile as the chefs’ blade, the tip will quickly chop through large mounds of vegetables with a minimum of effort.
All of these pieces are comfortable to use with a natural-feeling “hand”, and the POM handles provide excellent comfort and security.
While not really a complaint, several users have commented on the weight of the Elite blades as being heftier than many other brands, and may not be appropriate for those who appreciate lighter-weight tools.
The San Moritz Elite knives in this set are built to professional standards that will please the most discerning of cooks.
With outstanding fit and finish, the quality is top notch, but it’s the edges that really elevate their value, placing them head and shoulders above competitors’ pieces in the same price range.
Expensive? Not if they last 100 years, and these knives are definitely of heirloom quality. Sturdy and durable, and with Messermeister’s awesome sharpening and refurbishing program, these knives will truly last a lifetime.
From Mercer Cutlery we have this striking 6-piece kitchen set, in a contemporary tempered glass block.
It consists of the glass block, and five of the most popular cutters in the Genesis line – a 3.5” paring knife, a 5” utility knife, an 8” chef’s knife, an 8” serrated bread knife, and a 6” boning knife, with no redundancies in style or size.
Every blade is constructed of high-carbon stainless German steel for superb rust and corrosion protection, and stain-free performance.
Precision forged for strength and durability, each piece has a full tang running the length of the handle for outstanding balance and resilience, with brawny bolsters for extra balance and protection.
Each taper-ground edge is hand polished and offers long-lasting sharpness and easy honing, as well as increased efficiency for all slicing, cutting and chopping functions.
The black Santoprene handles combine the characteristics of vulcanized rubber and thermoplastics, and are ergonomically designed for superior comfort and a secure non-slip grip, even when hands are wet.
The Santoprene will not break down from continued exposure to kitchen oils, and can withstand fluctuations between hot and cold temperatures, year after year.
The sleek glass block presents a beautiful and functional display for the knives, adding a unique, stylish touch to your kitchen.
Want a little more “warmth” than the simple glass block? Mercer also provides an option to have a bit of wood inserted.
Mercer has been the main supplier to cooking academies in the US for 30 years, and the Genesis line provides the same professional quality and value for home cooks.
Measurements are 10 x 4 x 15”, and the set weighs nine pounds.
This set is NSF certified and should be hand washed to ensure longevity. Made in Taiwan, it comes with Mercer’s limited lifetime warranty.
What Others Are Saying
The following comments are compiled from the most often repeated remarks from verified purchasers at Amazon.com.
At the time of writing, this set is ranking very favorably with purchasers for construction, quality of materials, ease of use, and their swanky appearance.
They have a well-balanced feel that covers all the basic cutting tasks, and are encouraging some to cook more often, just for the sheer pleasure of handling them.
The knives have a good heft with nice sized handles for easy and comfortable gripping, and they arrive with a very sharp edge that is easily maintained with regular honing.
The tempered glass block is easy to assemble, and comes apart quickly for a thorough cleaning when needed – and it displays the knives beautifully, adding aesthetics to function.
However, be aware that they draw from the block perpendicular to the counter – not diagonally as with most traditional blocks.
That means you’ll need adequate clearance under cupboards, if that’s where you plan to keep them. Most users feel this isn’t a big deal and they quickly got used to the design difference, but a few couldn’t adjust to it.
A professional and sturdy product, they offer very good value for the price – particularly when compared to other sets of similar materials and construction.
There are very few complaints to report on at this time. Some were disappointed that the edges didn’t stay sharp after a few months of use, but none of these mentioned honing their blades – and I suspect they were not aware that regular maintenance is required to keep a blade keen.
A few mentioned staining on the blades. But again, this seems to be more of a lack of understanding about how to care for the knives rather than a product flaw, as one person griped about discoloration after leaving one in a sink full of water overnight – a sure method for staining steel!
The Mercer Genesis 6-piece collection offers professional quality knives at a bargain price. And despite the Made in Taiwan tag, quality control seems to be top-notch, with users raving about how pleasurable these tools are to use.
Well made from quality materials by an established company, they offer at-home chefs a great alternative to higher priced tools.
From Victorinox, the makers of the original Swiss Army Knife, we have this functional and attractive eight-piece set of the most commonly used kitchen cutters.
Included in the set are a 4” parer, a 6” boning knife, an 8” chef’s knife, an 8” bread knife, a 10” slicing knife, a 10” sharpening steel, kitchen shears, and a nine-slot slanted beechwood block.
The star of this set is the 8” Fibrox chef’s knife, known as the “Swiss Classic” for its outstanding performance in consumer market testing.
Each blade is crafted from stamped high-carbon stainless steel and is hand finished by the skilled craftsmen at Victorinox in Switzerland. The formula for this alloy is x50CrMoV15, with 15% chromium (Cr) for high levels of stain resistance, plus molybdenum (Mo) and vanadium (V)for hardness.
The steel is also treated with a special multi-step tempering process, for durability and to ensure that he edge can be sharpened time after time.
Fitted with a full tang, these tools are lightweight yet tough and sturdy, with a fine balance.
The Fibrox handles are molded for ergonomic comfort and a positive grip to ease wrist tension, and they have a finger guard for safety where the blade and handle meet.
They also provide a low maintenance sanitary surface by minimizing crevices that may trap food particles and bacteria, and they are NSF certified.
The beechwood block has designated slots for all five knives plus the steel and shears, and an additional two slots for extra pieces.
The slots are angled for quick access and provide a safe environment to keep edges sharp.
Overall measurements are 14.5 x 9 x 6”, and it weighs six pounds.
Promoted as dishwasher safe, handwashing is recommended. Made in Switzerland, this set comes with a limited lifetime warranty.
What Others Are Saying
The following notes are a compilation of the most frequently repeated comments by verified purchasers at Amazon.
To date, this set receives top marks for versatility, comfortable use and superb sharpness.
All cutters in this set are useful with no redundancy in styles, but the chef’s knife is the marquee piece.
Light in weight, it’s strong with a nice bit of flex to the blade, and gives fatigue-free performance over long periods of prepping. The paring knife is the runner up in terms of frequent use.
Sharp right out of the box, they retain their sharpness well. A keen edge is easily and quickly restored with a bit of honing.
Having two extra slots in the block is a nice feature and they’ll hold longer blades with ease – and it doesn’t take up a lot of room on the counter.
Well made with a nice balance, the blades have a professional feel and are easy to use, maintain and clean.
The handles are quite comfortable, with a good shape and texture for a secure non-slip grip.
While these knives may not look ultra-expensive because of the resin handles, their quality and functionality is outstanding and they give a very high value for the price.
The main complaint is in regard to the kitchen shears. Of lower quality than the other pieces, they seem to be on the cheap side and don’t come apart for cleaning.
While this set is not top of the line in terms of price or aesthetics, they offer well-crafted performance and very good quality for daily use.
If you don’t need a designer label (or price tag), then the Victorinox 8-piece knife block set will give years of reliable operation to beginners and advanced cooks alike.
Zwilling J.A. Henckels Four Star
From Zwilling J.A. Henckels we have this simple, efficient and handsome 3-piece essentials starter set, from their Four Star line.
With one of the oldest trademarks in the world (incorporated in 1793), Zwilling’s Four Star line celebrates its fortieth anniversary in 2016. And nothing has changed in terms of production values or construction since their inception in 1976.
This introductory set consists of an 8” chef’s knife, a 6” serrated utility knife and a 4” paring knife, packaged in a gift box. And while this set might be basic, the three pieces cover all of your necessary kitchen cutting tasks.
Precision forged in Germany using Zwilling’s Sigmaforge process, the blades are crafted from high-carbon stainless steel and ice-hardened, then tempered to 57 HRC on the Rockwell scale.
This produces a stain and corrosion resistant steel with exceptional hardness, flexibility and toughness, optimal sharpness, and blades that are virtually unbreakable.
The molded handle is constructed of polypropylene and permanently bonded to the three-quarter tang, and it has just the right amount of texture for a comfortable, non-slip grip.
And the finely balanced classic bolster/finger guard transitions seamlessly to the handle, easily accommodating all of your favorite cutting grips.
Precision lasering creates an edge with perfect geometry, ensuring each side is sharpened to the ideal cutting angle for maximum long-lasting sharpness, which also improves cutting edge retention.
Should you want a more fully featured set, the Four Star line is also offered as a 7-piece group complete with wooden block and includes the 8″ Chef’s, a 6″ non-serrated utility, a 5″ serrated utility, and a 3″ parer along with a sharpening steel.
Dishwasher safe, though handwashing is recommended. Made in Germany with a limited lifetime warranty.
What Others Are Saying
The following notes are taken from the most frequent comments from verified purchasers at Amazon.
At the time of writing, the Henckles Four Star essentials set has very good reviews for quality of craftsmanship, sharpness and versatility.
This Four Star line is mid-range for Henckles in terms of price, and they have the sturdy, well-crafted construction Zwilling Henckles is known for, making this a good investment.
They are very sharp, hold an edge well, and sharpen up quickly and easily with a few strokes on a honing steel.
The composite handles are well-shaped, comfortable, and hold up admirably to normal wear and tear.
This set covers the basic kitchen knives, and all three may be used daily for a wide variety of tasks.
They have good balance and a good feel in the hand, making cutting easy and effortless.
A bare bones set with no storage block, these three knives cover the essentials for most kitchen work.
The Four Star line brings quality, value and comfort to the table, at a very good price.
Overall a good option for a starter set, or to replace the three elementary pieces most commonly used for prep work.
Check prices and read all of the customer reviews at Amazon now. The three-piece starter set is also available direct from Zwilling.
From the iconic Wusthof manufacturers in Germany comes this 7-piece set from their Classic line, complete with a slim wooden storage block.
The set includes the slim design 6-slot block, a 3.5” paring knife, a 5” serrated utility knife, a 6” Kiritsuke utility knife, an 8” bread knife, an 8” chef’s knife, and come-apart kitchen shears, all of which offer good versatility without duplication of style.
With a slender footprint on the counter and measuring only 9.5 x 3.5”, the block is crafted from your choice of six different woods in a modern style which adds to the striking profile of the Wusthof blades.
Each knife is precision forged from a single piece of high-carbon stainless steel (X50 Cr MoV 15) to a Rockwell hardness of 58 and tempered in production to ensure sharpness, enduring toughness, and ease of sharpening.
This steel formula contains 15% chromium for superb stain resistance, plus molybdenum and vanadium to ensure hardness, corrosion resistance and durability.
The bolsters are perfectly weighted for optimal balance and performance, and the full tang provides extra stability and safety.
The cutting edges are sharpened using precision laser-edge technology (PEtec) for blades that are 20% sharper than standard edges.
This provides exceptionally keen initial cutting performance, longer edge retention, and the full usage of the blade from the point of the tip to the finger guard.
With a 14° edge on each side, the tight angle reduces friction and drag for smooth, undemanding cutting. And every blade is hand buffed and polished in the final process.
The handles are triple riveted through the tang and constructed of tough and long-lasting polyoxymethylene (POM), a thermoplastic polymer known for its strength and hardness that has excellent resistance to fading and discoloration.
Hand wash only. Made in Germany, they come with Wusthof’s limited lifetime warranty.
What Others Are Saying
The following notes are compiled from the reviews of verified purchasers on Amazon.
At the time of writing, the knives have received rave reviews for quality construction, sharpness and a well-balanced feel.
The set covers all of the key pieces for daily use, without including duplicates or novelty blades that are rarely used.
The balance on each blade is finely tuned, and they have a nice weight for rhythmic dicing and chopping.
Out of the box, the edges are razor sharp and the finish is flawless – they look, and feel, like high-end professional tools.
The chef’s knife is the go-to workhorse, the utility knife has a lovely tapered blade that’s ideal for nimble work like deboning and filleting, and the bread knife works well on baguettes or large round loaves.
The kitchen shears also get some high-fives – strong enough to break down a chicken and fine enough to snip herbs. The pivot pin is sturdy and stays together under duress, but comes apart easily for thorough cleaning.
A relatively minor issue (not enough for demerit marks from purchasers) – the red and white trident logo on the knives is just a sticker and it comes off after some use.
The only other complaint is about the block. Some shoppers are very happy with it, complementing the compact size and attractive appearance. But others feel it lacks the quality of the knives, with an inferior finish.
The Wusthof Classic 7-piece set has all the individual elements that work well together to make up a useful, high-quality collection. And it easily handles all of your kitchen tasks – despite the somewhat chintzy logo sticker.
The compact size of the block works well for those concerned about a large footprint on the counter, and the entire set offers very good value for the mid-range price tag.
A nice set of well-made, durable knives that are good for daily use.
Global G Series
From Global, the well-known makers of fine Japanese knives, we have this exquisite 6-piece block set from their G Series featuring elegant design, excellent cutting performance and sleek one-piece construction.
The set is comprised of a 7” Oriental chef’s knife, an 8.25” carving knife, an 8.75” bread knife, a 5.25” utility (cook’s) knife and a 4” paring knife – plus a chic, contemporary stainless steel storage block for the countertop.
Like most Western-style knives, the edges are ground on both sides of the blade. But unlike Western knives, the edges are not gently beveled. Instead, the thin blades have been ground at a steep, acute angle for dramatic sharpnesss.
The large and prominent edge can be seen extending up the blade for a quarter of an inch or more, which allows for cleanly slicing through foods while maintaining the integrity of ingredients.
Manufactured with Global’s proprietary CROMOVA 18 stainless steel, every blade contains 18% chromium for superb stain resistance, as well as molybdenum and vanadium for outstanding edge retention and ease of sharpening.
During construction, the blades are rapidly quenched with a sub-zero treatment for excellent hardness, then tempered to add toughness – making them virtually unbreakable in daily use.
Unique in their construction, every knife is stamped from a single, seamless piece of steel without bolster or tang.
The textured stainless-steel handles with their distinctive dimples give a sure and comfortable grip, and they are actually hollow.
Filled with a precise amount of sand for exquisite balance, they still retain a light weight that provides comfort, and reduces hand fatigue during extended use.
And their smooth contours and seamless construction eliminate hiding spots for food and dirt, resulting in the highest levels of safety and hygiene.
The stylish stainless steel block has been designed with a diagonal profile to help protect the blades, as well as for ease of removal and storage. And the rubber base provides a secure anchor on the countertop.
The block and knives measure 14 x 2 x 1”, and weigh four pounds.
Hand wash and dry promptly, and sharpen the blades between 10-15°. Made in Japan, they come with Global’s limited lifetime warranty.
What Others Are Saying
The following notes are summarized from the reviews of verified purchasers on Amazon.
There aren’t a lot of reviews in for this set as of yet, but those customers who have written are head over heels in love with the high-caliber construction and performance of these blades.
The knives arrive with an incredibly sharp edge, and retain their sharpness even after extended use.
Beautiful to look at, the skillful construction also makes them inspiring to use – lightweight, super sharp, and very well-balanced.
The textured handles are ergonomic and comfortable, making long sessions of food prep virtually effortless and fatigue-free for fingers, hands, wrists and forearms.
The set covers all cooking tasks, and it’s designed to meet demanding professional standards – high quality all the way, and at an awesome price.
There’s no doubt that that if you can find this high-end set of Japanese knives for under $500, it’s a steal of a deal.
Crafted for the exacting expectations of professional chefs, Global’s 6-piece knife set with stainless block is a joy to use, and these will become your go-to pieces for a lifetime.
Shun brings us this elegant and contemporary 7-piece essentials set of cutlery from their Classic line, all set in an attractive 11-slot bamboo block.
This classic set is made up of an 8” chef’s knife, a 9” bread knife, a 6” utility knife, a 3.5” paring knife, a 9” combination honing steel, and multipurpose kitchen shears. The knives all feature gorgeous Damascus clad blades constructed of their proprietary, high-performance VG-Max steel.
The VG-Max is the core of each blade, providing superb sharpness and edge retention, then clad with Damascus stainless steel – which is ground and bead-blasted to reveal the flowing watermark pattern typical of this high-end layered alloy.
VG-Max is the latest in the line of “super steels” that have gained well-deserved recognition among the best cutlery steel available. Building on the highly successful VG10, VG-Max includes additional carbon for improved strength and durability, hardened to 60-61 on the Rockwell hardness scale.
The Damascus stainless steel not only protects and supports the extremely hard cutting core, it also improves stain resistance.
If you’re interested in larger set, a 10-Piece set is also available.
Lighter, thinner, and sharper than European blades, the 16° edge is exceptionally sharp and long lasting, making it more efficient at cutting and offering consistent, precision performance.
However, it should be pointed out that this thin and very sharp steel does not have the same impact resistance as thicker blades, or steel tempered to lower levels on the Rockwell scale. This makes chipping a very real possibility. So consider carefully how you plan to use these knives, as they’re not suited for cutting through dense materials.
The chef’s knife is the keystone piece to this set, and it is perfect for multi-tasking in the kitchen. It will slice, dice, and chop, plus much more. And the wide blade is perfect for scooping food off the cutting board when transferring it to a pan or dish.
Every handle (except the shears) is constructed of strong and durable pakkawood. Molded in a D-shape for optimal comfort, and a sure and steady grip, they’ve been fitted over a full composite tang for impressive balance and stability.
And with only a partial bolster, you can utilize the full length of each blade for slicing and chopping, as well as full-length honing.
The utility, paring, and bread knives fill out all the basic functions necessary for a well-equipped kitchen. And the set is rounded out by other key elements, the honing steel and multipurpose scissors.
The combination honing steel has two surfaces to smoothly realign the edges of your blades, prolonging the knife’s sharpness. Use the smooth surface for daily honing, and the micro-ribbed surface for a more coarse weekly honing.
The multipurpose shears are a versatile tool that’s ideal for kitchen use. Not only do they cut impressively with the superb Shun edge, they also have a built-in nutcracker, jar opener, and lid lifter, a bone notch, and two screwdriver tips.
And with one serrated edge, they’ll easily cut through tough, fibrous material. The blades separate easily for cleaning, but lock together securely when in use. Constructed of tough and durable stainless steel and a full tang, they’re fitted with molded handles that provide stability, comfort, and a secure, nonslip grip.
This essential set comes in its own laminated bamboo block, with a few extra slots so you can continue to expand your collection as desired. Bamboo provides easy-care performance that doesn’t shrink or swell like hardwoods, which makes it ideal for storing kitchen accessories.
The set measures 17x9x8” and weighs just over 11 pounds. With a limited lifetime warranty, all components are made in Japan. And Shun also has a free sharpening program for all their cutlery – the only cost to the customer is for shipping.
What Others Are Saying
The following notes are a compilation of the most frequent comments from verified purchasers at Amazon.
Once again, Shun gets top marks for the quality of their forged blades, creating tools that are a pleasure for home cooks to use.
And the outstanding sharpness of their knives, right out of the box, is a feature that really sets them apart from the competition.
A few reviewers have emphasized that learning how to use the included honing steel correctly will help to retain those super-sharp edges between actual sharpenings.
The D-shaped pakkawood handles are sturdy and comfortable, with a natural-feeling balance.
And the design aesthetics are another highlight, with the Damascus blades and composite wooden handles having a very attractive appearance that is retained even with repeated usage.
On the downside, a few customers have reported that the thin and hard steel does make them prone to chipping.
However, one customer pointed out that Shun replaced his knives that had been sent in for sharpening, without even asking for an inspection or replacements.
The Shun Classic 7-piece collection is a popular choice for high-end Japanese knives that have been crafted with quality and precision.
Beautifully designed, these knives also deliver precision cutting with exceptional performance.
Light and delicate, they do require a bit of getting used to if Western-style knives have been your standard issue. But when you do, they’ll be your go-to blades for a lifetime.
The Premier Gourmet Essential 7-Piece Block Set with block is another beautiful collection from Shun, makers of exquisite Japanese cutlery.
This lovely line features Damascus cladding, and each blade bears the signature hand-hammered “tsuchine” finish. These dimples help to release food from the blades, and they have the distinctive feel of traditional sword-making blended with contemporary technology. Attractive and efficient, from start to finish.
This particular set includes a 4” paring knife, a 6.5” utility knife, an 8” chef’s knife, a 9” bread knife, a honing steel, take-apart kitchen shears and the 11-slot bamboo block.
Each blade is constructed by layering different metal alloys together, then forging them into a single piece. The Premier line is made with a 69-layer process, and a core of high-carbon VG-Max steel to improve strength and durability.
The proprietary VG-Max alloy has more chromium for wear and corrosion resistance, enhanced levels of cobalt for greater strength, and increased tungsten for a very fine-grained steel capable of achieving an extremely fine and sharp edge. Molybdenum improves corrosion resistance and strength, while vanadium improves impact resistance.
The blades are then hardened to 60-61 on the Rockwell hardness scale for superb sharpening abilities, and the edges on all of the Premier blades are ground to a tight 16° for superior cutting performance.
It should be pointed out that because of their high-carbon content, hardness, and thin blade construction, Shun knives can take an exceptionally sharp edge – and retain that edge for a very long time. However, these qualities also mean they have a more brittle nature, making them more prone to chipping.
Designed primarily for slicing, care needs to be taken in how they’re used in the kitchen, to avoid damage and disappointment.
Each knife has a full composite tang, and contoured ambidextrous pakkawood handles that nestle nicely into the palm. They provide comfort and security regardless of the type of grip (link to article) you use, or whether you’re right- or left-handed.
The combination honing steel has an angle guide built into the pakkawood handle, so you can hone to the correct 16° angle. It combines a smooth surface for daily honing and a micro-ribbed surface for weekly honing, so you can actually go longer between proper sharpenings.
The kitchen shears are made of durable stainless steel with a notch on the blade for cutting through thin poultry bones, and they fully separate for easy cleaning. The interlocking screw can easily be adjusted, to change the tension to suit your personal cutting preference.
The entire set of four cutters, plus the steel and shears, fits in the 11-slot bamboo block for easy-care storage. Bamboo is very easy to look after, and the block comes with rubber feet to protect your surfaces – and there are a few open slots for when you want to expand your collection, too.
This set measures approximately 13.5x5x11.5”, and weighs just over 10 pounds.
Hand wash and dry only, and never leave high-carbon blades sitting in water. Made in Japan with Shun’s limited lifetime warranty.
What Others Are Saying
The following is a compilation of the most frequent remarks from verified purchasers on Amazon.
Without question, the sharpness of these blades is their marquee feature. Every reviewer comments on their “scary sharpness,” comparing the edge to that of a scalpel. Clearly, the sharp edge exceeds expectations time after time.
Balance and design also get top marks. The knives are lightweight for dexterity, well-balanced, and they perform admirably, with a comfortable grip that makes maneuvering easy.
And their aesthetics are another highlight feature. The distinctive hammered finish provides less drag while cutting and provides a surface where moisture laden vegetables are less likely to stick.
However, these blades do possess some of the qualities of a “delicate flower.” Thin and fragile, they have received a number of complaints about the tips bending and breaking, as well as chips and breaks in the blade edge. Some of these complaints seem warranted, while others seem to be more the result of a lack of experience with Japanese knives.
Incredibly thin and sharp blades with stylized detailing, the Premier line of knives from Shun provides exceptional cutting performance, making them a joy to handle.
This particular set includes all of the basic knives required for day to day tasks, as well as a few specialty items that help to make cooking more enjoyable, ensuring you’ll always have the right tool for the job.
But again, just to be clear, these knives are not for everyone. They’re definitely not built for cutting through tough, dense material. And they will, if mishandled even a little bit, betray their delicate nature with chips, breaks, and bent tips.
At the higher end of the price scale, these are professional-grade blades that require a certain level of expertise to get the most out of them. So if you can bring a little skill to your cutting habits, then you should be fully satisfied with these handsome blades for a lifetime.
There you have it: some ideas for choosing a knife set that’s going to bring the best value for your cooking style and practices, plus our review of eight currently available sets that offer quality, reliability and value.
And if you already own a set, let us know of any recommendations you might have in the comments below – your insights are always appreciated!
First published June 19th, 2016. Last updated January 12th, 2020.
About Lorna Kring
Recently retired as a costume specialist in the TV and film industry, Lorna now enjoys blogging on contemporary lifestyle themes. A bit daft about the garden, she’s particularly obsessed with organic tomatoes and herbs, and delights in breaking bread with family and friends.