We took a selection of sets and blocks into our testers’ kitchens (ranging from amateur chefs to first-time cooks) and asked them to spend a couple of weeks trying each set. There were surprises along the way, low-budget blades became essentials – for example the serrated ‘tomato and sausage’ knife from Victorinox’s block – and stylish knives like the Japanese trio made everyday prep just that little bit more enjoyable.
When choosing knives, you need to consider whether you’re willing to take the time to look after them properly. Are you willing to hand-wash them after use or do you want a more dishwasher-friendly set? If it’s the latter, you should avoid wooden handles if they want your set to last. The Von Shef set featured here may be of interest.
You’ll have to be aged 18+ to buy these knives. All the blades here are super-sharp, so it’s worth investing a little bit of time in going online and finding yourself a chopping tutorial before prep time. Learning how to position your hands and move each type of knife as you slice and dice can save lots of time (as well as your fingers).
Types of kitchen knives
Chef/cook’s/kitchen knife: Curved to the tip and on the larger side, this knife will tackle anything from meat joints to chunky veg and become your kitchen best friend in no time.
Paring/vegetable knife: A smaller and shorter version of the chef’s knife, use this for more tricky or intricate cuts like deveining prawns or preparing small veg.
Bread knife: Serrated and long with a flat blade, this will get through even the crustiest loaf with ease, if you use a sawing motion and let the blade do the work.
Boning knife: A sharp thin blade on this one, as it’s designed to get into small spaces and get every last piece of meat from the bone.
Utility knife: A smaller knife with a serrated edge, use this to slice through anything with a tougher outer layer without tearing. Sometimes called a tomato knife.
Carving/meat knife: With a large blade that’s thinner than a chef’s knife, this will help slice even cuts of meat
Santoku knife: With a blunt end and dimpled sides, this large knife is ideal for slicing and chopping without thin slices of veg, met and fish sticking to it.
Robert Welch Signature Q Knife Block Set
£199, Robert Welch
Best for: Precision chopping
Key specs – Number of pieces: 4; Blade: 18/10 steel; Handle: DuPont; Block included: Yes, Dishwasher safe: Yes
Robert Welch’s top-notch knives are made with a full tang – meaning the attachment that extends from the blade to the handle runs down its entire length. This is a sign of superior quality in a knife, making the two components far less likely to separate with long-term use.
Another classy touch: when slid into the block, magnets pull these knives upwards, avoiding damage to the blades. Apart from the technicalities, the walnut block is beautiful, too. Our tester was more than happy to have it on display in her open-plan kitchen and got lots of compliments.
Nicely weighted to use and in top-quality 18/10 steel (guaranteed for 25 years), these are really fantastic knives and suitable for the dishwasher, too. Bread, cook’s, kitchen and paring knives are included.
BuyWesco Classic Knife Block with 5 Piece Knife Set
Best for: Colour selection
Key specs – Number of pieces: 5; Blades: Stainless steel; Handle: Plastic; Block included: Yes; Dishwasher safe: No
For the cook who loves to colour co-ordinate the kitchen, this weighted block from Wesco fits the bill. Available in lime green, almond, grey, black, red and white, the chunky base has a shiny steel and lacquer finish for a retro look. Wesco also does everything from storage canisters to kitchen clocks in the same coordinating shades.
Now to the blades themselves – a good selection here, with our tester using the invaluable multi-purpose knife at some point during every single meal she prepped. The large meat knife was razor-sharp, with chicken breasts butterflied with a single clean swipe. With its additional cook’s, bread and vegetable knives, this block had all bases covered.
BuySous Chef Japanese Knife Trio
£99, Sous Chef
Best for: Sushi fans
Key specs – Number of pieces: 3; Blades: Stainless steel; Handle: Wood; Block included; No; Dishwasher safe: No
These Japanese knives are super-sharp and extra stylish, so it would have been nice to have been able to keep them safe while showing them off on a block or display. The presentation box has cardboard holders, so not practical for storage considering that you’ll use these a lot.
The hammered blades are unusual but practical, too, as food doesn’t stick to the dimpled sides as easily as some other models tested here. There’s a small version of a ‘deba’, which is perfect for delicate fish and veg, a ‘santoku’ for slicing meat and chopping chunkier items, and the squared ‘nakiri’ is ideal for slicing effortlessly through veg.
Part of a really great range of Japanese blades and accessories available from Sous Chef, out of all the knives we looked at these were the most unusual and a real talking point.
BuyViners Titan Gold 6 Piece Knife Block
Best for: Style
Key specs – Number of pieces: 5; Blades: Titanium-coated stainless steel; Handle: Soft-touch coated steel; Block included: Yes; Dishwasher safe: No
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Viners has brought us a stylish-looking set of five knives, all with a 10-year guarantee. A brand to be trusted, it first started in the cutlery business in 1908 in Sheffield. But things have certainly moved on since then. Why have plain old stainless steel when you can have it titanium coated in a gold, black or copper colour?
The block is magnetic and knives attach to it with a satisfying pull. Knives include chefs, carving, utility, bread and paring, meaning there’s something suitable for every food prep requirement. The quality blades taper from handle to tip and from top to cutting edge for smooth slicing.
BuyVonShef 15 Piece Stainless Steel Knife Block
Best for: Quantity for the price
Key specs – Number of pieces: 15, Blades: Japanese steel; Handle: Synthetic; Block included: Yes; Dishwasher safe: Yes
Not only does this knife block house all the essential knives for the family chef, it also has a pair of kitchen scissors, a sharpening steel and six steak knives to make short work of your Saturday night sirloins. So, whether you want to tackle a chicken or the packaging it came in, there’s the appropriate tool to hand.
Our tester appreciated the variety of blades on offer and as a result their value for money. It was easy to keep knives organised and sharp too, thanks to the on-hand steel. The family testers disagreed about the comfort of handles; those with smaller fingers found them more comfortable to use, as the angled end of the handle didn’t irritate. Everyone agreed the dedicated steak knives were game changers, though – our testers loved each having their own personal blade.
BuySwan 5-Piece Knife Block
Best for: Cooks on a budget
Key specs – Number of pieces: 5; Blades: Stainless steel; Handle: Satin steel; Block included: Yes; Dishwasher safe: No
Our tester was a beginner in the kitchen looking for an easy-to-use set to experiment with. Having only ever used a one-blunt-knife-for-everything method, he was impressed with how easily the serrated edges on the bread knife made cutting his morning sourdough. Bless.
These were impressively sharp for a budget buy and the dock was nicely weighted to stop counter tumbles. We left a chef in the making, who’s realised what a pleasure cooking can be when you have the right tools for the job.
BuyDexam Forest and Forge Knife Collection
Best for: A gift
Key specs – Number of pieces: 5; Blades: Chrome steel; Handle: English hardwood; Block included: No; Dishwasher safe: No
About as far away from a plastic supermarket chopper as you could find, weighty Forest and Forge knives are crafted from up-cycled English wood and Sheffield steel, and will appeal to the foodie purist who appreciates the provenance of their food as well as the tools used to prepare it.
The wooden handles could be beech, ash, olive ash, cherry or horse chestnut, sourced from Yorkshire estates; they’re smooth and lovely to handle. The blades are high-quality chrome steel and there’s the option to have each blade personally engraved, making it a fabulous (and generous) gift. These blades are incredibly sharp and precise, the wooden handles beautiful to hold. Real quality here.
BuyStellar Sabatier 5 Piece Knife Block Set
£55.60 (price correct at time of publishing), Amazon
Best for: Dishwasher dinners
Key specs – Number of pieces: 5; Blades: Stainless steel; Handle: Pom-C; Block included: Yes; Dishwasher safe: Yes
The name Sabatier has long been associated with high-end knives from Thiers, France, beloved by chefs. It’s worth noting, however, that the name was in multiple commercial usage before copyright laws came into being, so choose those knives wisely, as you can’t always rely on it as a guaranteed sign of quality.
That said, this value set from Stellar is the real deal and comes with Stellar’s lifetime guarantee. It’s worth considering for a first dip into a more chef-style cutting kit. Chunky handles and nicely balanced, full-tang blades, this set has the bonus of being dishwasher-friendly, which is a rarity.
There’s also a blade here for every job; paring, utility, vegetable, bread and a 20cm carving knife, which our tester particularly enjoyed trying out at Sunday lunch. It cut effortlessly through a leg of lamb, slicing cleanly and evenly at every angle.
BuyVictorinox Swiss Classic Utility Block 6 Pieces
Best for: Useful design
Key specs – Number of pieces: 6; Blades: Steel; Handle: Polypropylene; Block included: Yes; Dishwasher safe: No
Victorinox has thought outside the box with this set, the most contemporary collection of knives we tested. The minimalist styling fits right into the modern kitchen and the colour-coded handles mean you can instantly grab the right knife.
An angled holder is stuffed full of tiny movable rods, so when you replace a blade into the block you can choose where to place it – a tactile pleasure. Some of the knives have useful serrated edges – great for pizza, tomatoes, sausages, or anything with a tough outer. The bonus veg peeler also performs incredibly well, swishing through spuds with ease.
There’s an unusual selection of blades here – a steak and pizza knife, tomato and sausage knife, three different paring knives and a universal peeler. With nothing longer than 12cm, the set is best suited to slicing smaller food items, rather than tacking a joint of meat or loaf of bread.
This article has been updated. It was originally published in December 2018.
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