A Guide to Selecting a Kitchen Knife Set
Food preparation requires quality tools—and you’ll be doing a lot of food preparation during the holiday season. You’ll find yourself severely handicapped when cutting, chopping, and dicing food if you don’t have a proper set of kitchen knives. A good set of knives that retain their sharpness will help you cut meat, poultry, and vegetables more efficiently. And there is actually a greater risk of injury when you cut with a dull blade since you have to apply more force to cut, and a slip can result in a nasty gash. So, it’s best to invest in a quality kitchen knife set.
We’ll go through some of the best kitchen knife sets available. Some are quite expensive, such as the offerings by Wüsthof, with the stainless steel knife blades forged at a special angle to maintain their sharpness. Other basic sets are more modestly priced, and will serve you well in the kitchen, but will require being sharpened more frequently. And many sets come in a convenient block with slots for each knife!
What are the types of knives I should expect to see in a kitchen knife set?
These are the main knives that you’ll see in a kitchen knife set:
Chef’s knife: This knife ranges from 6” to 14” in length, and is typically for chopping, mincing, slicing, and dicing on a cutting board. The blade of the knife is curved, to let you dice with a rocking motion as you push a vegetable under the blade. The blade is designed for cutting jobs that require strength and it will have a broad heel to cut harder foods, like raw potatoes. An example is the Wüsthof Classic 8 Inch Chef’s Knife.
Wüsthof Classic 8 Inch Chef’s Knife
Kitchen Utility Knife: This is usually smaller than a chef’s knife, ranging from 4”-9” in length, and weighs less as well. It’s the preferred tool for precise cuts. You’ll use it for chopping smaller vegetables, or for slicing thin cuts of meat. An example is the Tuo Kitchen Utility Knife. It’s 5” in length, and has a slim and narrow blade.
Tuo Kitchen Utility Knife
Paring knife: This is a very short knife to allow for maximum control. It’s primarily used for peeling fruit or vegetables or removing seeds. An example is the Victorinox 3.25” Paring Knife. It has a straight edge and spear point, but there also are paring knives with serrated edges.
Victorinox 3.25” Paring Knife
Bread knife: Bread knives are usually serrated, and are intended to cut bread in a back-and-forth motion, rather than by pressure. The teeth cut through the hard crust better than if the knife were smooth. An example is the Humbee Chef Serrated Bread Knife.
Humbee Chef Serrated Bread Knife
Santoku knife: You’ll also see Santoku knives included in kitchen knife sets. The name is derived from two words in Japanese: san (three) + toku (virtues), because the knife is suitable for cutting, slicing, and chopping. A Santoku knife will have a thinner and shorter blade than a typical chef’s knife, and what’s called a “sheep’s foot blade” at the end, meaning a curve at the tip. An example is the Mercer Culinary Genesis 7” Santoku Knife.
Mercer Culinary Genesis 7” Santoku Knife
Carving knife: These have a long, narrow blade to cut slices of meat off of a whole turkey. There are carving knives, with a pointed tip to cut around bones, and slicing knives, with a rounded tip. You’ll notice that they usually have a Granton blade, with ridges creating air pockets that reduce friction when cutting. An example is the Shun Cutlery Hollow Ground Cutting Knife.
Shun Cutlery Hollow Ground Cutting Knife
Steak knives: These are knives with a short blade, which were originally meant to be portable, so that a person could take them with them to an affair where meat was served. The cheaper ones have a serrated edge, and the better ones will have a straight or hollow edge (=a scalloped edge, as we saw with carving knives). An example is the Astercook Steak Knife, which comes with its own sheath to protect the blade.
Astercook Steak Knife
Types of Kitchen Knife Sets
Knife sets will come in different sizes, depending on the knives included.
Starter block set: There are small sets of kitchen knives, with just the essentials. An example is the Shun Cutlery Classic 5-piece Starter Block Set. It includes a chef’s knife, a utility knife, a paring knife, a honing steel, and a bamboo knife block.
Shun Cutlery Classic 5-piece Starter Block Set
With a set of steak knives: There are also kitchen knife sets with come with a full set of steak knives as well. An example is the Amazon Basics 18-Piece Premium Kitchen Knife Block Set. Besides 7 kitchen knives (chef’s knife, paring knife, Santoku knife, slicing knife, bread knife, utility knife, and boning knife), there are also 8 matching steak knives, which are ideal for an entire family, or when you have company.
Amazon Basics 18-Piece Premium Kitchen Knife Block Set
What reviewers say
We went over some customers’ impressions of the kitchen knife set that they bought:
Advised to wash by hand: Most manufacturers advise washing their knives by hand. Machine washing them can damage the handles, as well as the blades. The jets of water can tend to rattle the knife around inside the machine, which can damage the blade. The knife can also damage the dishwasher’s interior.
How each knife should perform: One customer who bought the Mercer Culinary Genesis 6-Piece Knife Block Set said that the chef’s knife could even cut through frozen pork shoulders, while the serrated bread knife could cut through soft bread without squishing it. The paring knife was adequate for peeling and cutting fruits and vegetables.
Here are some features that are worth looking for when selecting a kitchen knife set:
Tang: The tang of a knife is the part of the blade that extends into the handle. The better knives will have a “full tang”, meaning that the blade extends the full length of the handle. This is a more secure construction since there is less chance of the blade detaching from the handle. It also requires less effort to cut with such a knife, than with a knife with a partial tang. For example, the Wüsthof Classic Ikon 7-Piece Slim Knife Set has only full-tang carbon stainless steel blades, which are triple-riveting into a black synthetic handle.
Kitchen shears: Some kitchen sets include kitchen shears. They’re useful for cutting a chicken into quarters. There also are shears that include a jar opener, as well as a tool for opening a screw-cap bottle. Some shears are detachable, to allow you to properly clean the blades when necessary.
Knife sharpener and utensil holder: There are knife sets that have a separate honing steel, or knife sharpener device, which you can use to sharpen your carving knife. Other sets have a sharpening implement inside the wooden block where you store the knives. This is another way of ensuring that the knives remain sharp.
Weight and balance of the knife: The craftsmanship of the handles of the knives will differ greatly from one set to another. Some will have non-slip, cushion grip handles. Some, like the Global Takashi 7-Piece Knife Block Set, have sand in the handles to achieve the proper balance and control.
We went through some of the features of the best kitchen knife sets. We saw that there can be a huge discrepancy in prices between the professional sets and the Amazon Basics models. Consider the trade-off between price and quality: The cheaper sets will require more maintenance since the blades will dull more quickly. Look over the range of kitchen knife sets in the Best Reviews Guide list. You’ll undoubtedly get something that fits your budget and kitchen needs!