Help me buy a knife set

I’ve gotten to the point where I need a semi to professional knife set. I know that I will be spending $100-$200 per knife and that feel is as important as quality. With that in mind:

  1. What knives do I need in a set?
  2. What are the best brands for home use?
  3. Steel or ceramic?
  4. Anything else I should consider?
  1. Chef knife, paring knife, serrated blade are the essentials.

  2. CUTCO is one of the premier brands, and I believe they have lifetime warranties.

  3. I’ve never used ceramic knives, so I can’t help you there.

  4. Get a whetstone and learn how to use it properly. Expensive knives deserve to be treated nicely.

I’d recommend Henckels knives. They have several product lines; mine are from the Professional “S” line. Another good brand is Wusthof. But you can get perfectly good no-name knives from a restaurant supply house. And rather than buying a knife set, I’d recommend buying knives one at a time, as you need them.

I second this. The name doesn’t mean that much. If feel and balance are important to you, you’ll want to pick each knife on that basis.

I’ll third it. There’s no need to spend $100 on a knife.
Dexter Russel knives are found in professional kitchens across the country.
Most are NSF certified and perfectly good knives.

You can do just about anything with a chef’s knife, a paring knife and a serrated knife. The chef’s knife should be eight or ten inches, depending on what you’re comfortable with. The serrated knife is for slicing bread and other baked goods, so it should be long enough to do that job.

I agree with Dewey Finn that you can get good deals on knives at restaurant supply stores. I also agree with Johnny Bravo that it’s important to learn how to care for your knives - it would be a shame to buy a really good knife and then fail to keep a proper edge on it.

I’m going to view this thread with much anticipation from the gallery.

I freaking hated my kitchen knife…and so I happened to buy another that is just like it unknowingly.

I want heft, angle and balance for a main kitchen chopper/cutter.

I haven’t found one I can put my hands on and test before I buy yet. :mad:

Victorinox knives are good for their price, as are Henckels. Wusthof is a high-end brand but IMO they are overkill.

I really like my Cold Steel kitchen knives. Inexpensive, durable, easy to sharpen.

I’ve had a set of Henckel knives for going on 20 years now. I like the heft, balance and ability to keep an edge. That said, I really love the Shun that I bought last year: razor sharp, balanced and attractive. They also come in sets. Somebody mentioned CUTCO above: gotta say that I’m not a fan. They always seem flimsy to me and not worth the price. Avoid Chicago Cutlery, unless you’re a fan of constant sharpening.

I wouldn’t say Cutci even approaches premier status? Are they stainless steel? If so, then you’re really aren’t going to be able to sharpen them with a whetstone.

Try and find carbon steel knives. They’re readily available.

I own this set,

Forschner by Victorinox with black fibrox handles

They were highly recommended by Cook’s Illustrated and in my experience can’t be beat for quality and value. They take an edge quickly and easily, hold it and for my hands are quite comfortable and non-slip.

I have a CUTCO chopping knife. It’s not flimsy at all. But I think people who care about balance and feel wouldn’t like it. I also have their slicing knife. It’s normally serrated, but they ground off the serrations for me. It’s good and long, strong and flexible, just right for slicing roast beef. I have a couple of their paring knives too, but don’t use them. The handles are too small. They’re all stainless steel and you have to be good at sharpening to restore an edge. I prefer my carbon steel sushi knives for most purposes. None have big names or high prices, and the wooden handles won’t live as long as the blades, but they sharpen to the best edge for metal, and they’re thick and strong.

Something I see missing from a lot of knife sets and people’s collections are cleavers. I have several at different sizes. They have the weight to cut through bone, portion frozen items, they’re fun to chop with if you’re not going for uniformity.

Popular does not mean premier. Everything I’ve seen justifiably ranks CUTCO near the bottom and they’re the ones I’m replacing.


If you eat a lot of fish, or buy food in bulk and break it down (chickens, pork loins, etc.), I’d recommend a good filet knife too.

I usea set of Calphalon’s and I love 'em. Other than the steak knives. The first third of the blade is serrated and tears through rare steak more than cuts it.

Whatever you buy, I’d make sure that the knives have a full tang. It really doesn’t matter if the handle is riveted or of molded material. I’d avoid wooden handles if you plan on putting them in the dishwasher, as they will deteriorate more quickly. Get a decent knife block, if you don’t have one, and store the knives edge-up: they stay sharp longer that way. Get them honed once a year by somebody that knows what they’re doing, unless you know what you’re doing. A lot of markets with butcher counters provide free knife sharpening.

Since you ask about steel vs ceramic: I’m a big advocate of ceramic for home cooks. They require zero maintenance and are very sharp. Kyoceras in particular are also nice-looking and have a solid warranty.

Admittedly, I don’t actually OWN any. My knives are Shun, and I rather like 'em. If I was buying again, I’d buy Kyocera. I have recommended them to friends, and have heard very satisfied results.

I have a Forschner Victorinox Granton Edge Santoku as my chef’s knife, and absolutely love it. I also have a Global serrated knife, and a Cuisinart paring knife.

Personally, I’d look at multiple of the good brands and then, most importantly, try to hold the knives before buying them. If the knife doesn’t feel good in your hand, you won’t like it, and may have problems with it.

I once owned the Global GS-38 paring knife. See how it looks fairly symmetrical? I would constantly put it down on the cutting board and then pick it up the other way, with the blade facing upward. If you wrap a finger over the spine of your knife or occasionally steady the blade with your index fingertip, and have that problem with picking up a knife and not noticing which way is up, you will eventually cut yourself badly. I wised up and got rid of the knife, and picked up a paring knife with a much more obvious shaping to the blade and handle.

My husband has a set of ceramics - Kyoceras, and a couple larger ceramics from Ikea. He loves them.

Me, I drop knives. I’ll stick with metal.

Eight or ten inches is overkill for a chef’s knife, a six inch chef’s knife is much easier to use.

I’m a big fan of Shun knives.

You’ll want to go to a store that allows you to try them out. What feels good in one hand will be awkward in another.