There are plenty of kitchen tools that might make your cooking life easier. But, ultimately, the one indispensable piece of kitchen equipment for home cooks and professional chefs alike is a reliable knife.
While top-notch knives can be pricey, you don’t have to fork over the entirety of your next paycheck for a good one.
“I would argue it’s much more important to have sharp knives than ‘good’ knives,” says Robert Ramsey, a chef and culinary professor at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE).
Nathan Molina, executive chef at Genesee Store in Genesee Valley, CA, echoes a similar sentiment. “Most importantly, a quality chef’s knife will be sharp from the time of purchase and should feel comfortable and balanced in your hand,” he says.
Most chefs forego knife sets and pick out individuals instead. However, for beginner to intermediate home cooks, a set is a great place to start as they offer “an array of different knives, as well as a safe place to store them at home,” says Dissen.
How to Care for Your Knives
“Never, ever put your knives through the dishwasher—[you] might as well throw them in the garbage disposal,” says Chad Huff, executive chef at Marisi in La Jolla, CA. Instead, wash them by hand with a mild dish soap and dry them completely.
As for storage? It’s simple.
“Store in a place that will protect the blade from any unintentional dings or scrapes,” says Matthew Moore, chef and author of the forthcoming book Butcher on the Block. This can be in a knife block, a knife roll or a wall-mounted magnet.
And as previously mentioned, it’s important to keep your knives sharp.
“You’re more likely to cut yourself with a dull knife because you have to apply more pressure, whereas a sharp knife glides through product,” explains Huff. A whetstone is the best sharpening tool; use one at home or enlist the help of a professional cutler.
Finding that your knives quickly turn dull? Most knife sets come with a honing rod, which does not technically sharpen knives, but can extend time between sharpening.
With all this in mind, here are the best knife sets and individual knives as chosen by the above experts, as well as pro tips for how to keep them sharp.
The Best Knives
1. Best Overall Chef’s Knife
WÜSTHOF Classic 8 Inch Chef’s Knife
Wüsthof was the most recommended brand by our experts. Moore calls them “tried and true, affordable and built on a strong reputation of quality.”
This Wüsthof chef’s knife has a “full tang,” which Ramsey explains is “a continuation of the blade material all the way to the end of the handle.” Not only does this make the knife more durable, but it also makes it easier to use.$170 Amazon
2. Best Budget Chef’s Knife
3. Best Chef’s Knife for Bragging Rights
Shun Cutlery Premier Grey Chef's Knife 8”
Shun is another iconic knife brand, recommended by many of our experts for its craftsmanship, durability and aesthetic value.
Its contoured pakkawood handle offers precision and moisture resistance. Though it features the same full tang as the Wüsthof, it’s more lightweight and more eye catching with its hammered finish.
For function and beauty, it’s hard to beat a Shun.$199.95 Amazon
4. Best Knife Set
WÜSTHOF Gourmet 6-Piece Knife Block Set
“Knife sets often include a lot of things you don’t need,” says Molina. If you’re shopping for a set, feel free to skip the 16- and 20-piece options and instead spend your money on a few quality tools.
According to Molina, the essentials are a chef’s knife, a paring knife or two and a serrated bread knife, which this Wüsthof set includes. Inside you’ll also find a honing rod and kitchen shears.$195 Amazon
5. Best Budget Set
Victorinox Swiss Classic Kitchen Knife Set
Sneaking in at under $100, this Victorinox set includes a chef’s knife, a serrated knife, two paring knives and a carving knife. There’s no block or holder, which the price reflects, but for a set of reliable, versatile kitchen knives, this is a steal.
It’s also a great gift for college students.$98 Amazon
6. Best Paring Knife
Misono Handmade Molybdenum Paring Knife
For those who prefer to shop for individual knives, the Misono is thin, lightweight and built for precision.
“Produced in Seki City, Japan, their knives are made in a Western-style, using Swedish steel, and modern forging techniques,” says Molina, who names Misono as his favorite knife brand for longevity and craftsmanship.$50 Amazon
7. Best Serrated/Bread Knife
WÜSTHOF Gourmet 8" Offset Deli Knife
Serrated knives, of course, can be used to slice your favorite baguette, miche or bagel. But they have many other uses.
This 8-inch deli knife has a pointed tip, allowing it to gently and precisely slice through the juiciest summer tomatoes or the most delicate pieces of fish or meat.
Last Updated: May 22, 2023