We may receive a commission on purchases made from links.
No cooking armament is complete without a knife set. Unless you eat pre-made frozen meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you'll find yourself oppressed in the kitchen without a range of knives at your disposal. However, the size and quality of the set will depend on how much you do — some sets will be overkill for some home chefs, and some won't be nearly enough for others.
Handle material, blade metal, and self-sharpening features are just a few of the factors to consider when shopping for a new knife set for your kitchen. There are several affordable brands that are available right off the shelves of your local big-box store, while other brands most known for their leading quality are only sold online.
Wading through all of the options can be overwhelming and expensive if you pick the wrong one — so we've done it for you. Here are the top knife brands, ranked for affordability, quality, longevity, and sharpness.
We will forever remember the Cutco name for its salesperson's in-home demonstration of using the brand's kitchen shears to cut a penny. This brand is a longstanding single-level direct sales company, meaning it's sold directly from sales representatives to consumers. Unfortunately for Cutco, as Statista reports, trust and interest in the direct sales business method isn't what it once was.
Some cooks may find appeal in the fact that Cutco is, according to Prudent Reviews, one of the few remaining domestic cutlery manufacturers. Just because the brand is produced on American soil doesn't mean it's readily available, though. The consequence of its sales model is that its knives aren't available on retail shelves and are only sold through third-party retailers online, which raises concerns of fair prices and seller legitimacy. If you need to replace a knife in your Cutco collection, you may be scouring the depths of eBay and Craigslist to do so — likely at a markup.
Cutco is restrictive in selection — it only offers one knife set — which would be okay if the knives were competitive in quality. The blades are high-carbon, but they're laser-stamped from sheets of steel, leading to a flimsier and duller blade over time. Through our firsthand experience with Cutco knives, we also found its smooth, molded plastic handles to be difficult to handle at times. With sets averaging a staggering $1,000+ online, we just don't find Cutco to be a justifiable brand and feel your money is better spent elsewhere.
Farberware is the novice chef's or cooking unenthusiast's special. If you are just starting out or are only in the kitchen because you have to and not because you want to, and don't want to invest half of your limbs in a new set of knives, Farberware is your number one contender. Farberware's made many an appearance in our kitchen, and this brand's blades will be sharp enough to handle your standard at-home tasks: dicing vegetables, cubing meat, slicing bread. A Farberware 15-piece stainless steel knife block set looks gorgeous on any kitchen counter and only costs around $50 from Target.
However, there are concerns surrounding these knives holding up to use over time. One Target reviewer complained of dullness and rust after having Farberware knives for just three months. Meanwhile, its "Never Needs Sharpening" line — which includes 22 pieces for just $20 on Amazon — claims to, obviously, never need sharpening due to "superior high-carbon stainless steel." At less than $1 per blade, we're not sure if this claim can possibly have much of a backbone — and with one Amazon user's complaint that these knives can't cut through warm butter, reviews may reflect this too. However, the set has over 20,000 reviews on the online retailer and 4.5 stars overall, with the majority of review issues being dullness, knife blades braking from the handle, rust, and general lamenting that, for $20, there certainly are no pleasant surprises in quality. Newlyweds, college students, and ultra-budgeters... this one's for you.
While affordability and quality are rare to intersect perfectly, we feel Cuisinart gets pretty darn close. One of its popular selections, the Classic 15-piece block set, comes in a vibrant white handle plating that alludes to luxury but only costs $100 through retailers like Crate and Barrel. The smaller 12-piece ColorPro set is $60 at Williams Sonoma, and the Cuisinart walnut-handled 14-piece set is less than $50 on Amazon.
Does this affordability raise concerns in quality? Cuisinart's reputation is typically stronger in small kitchen appliances and multiple brands with a stronger grip on the knife industry exist, but as Kitchen Ambition's review notes, as far as affordable cutlery goes, you can't go wrong with this brand. The reviewer adds that Cuisinart is likely to offer the highest-quality knives at this low price point, but even with its superior build to other budget brands, these knives won't suit experienced or serious cooks.
Cuisinart will shine in the majority of kitchens that see an average amount of use. Across its different series — Classic, Graphix, Nitrogen, Artisan, and Advantage — you'll find different handle and blade upgrades to suit different cooks. The Artisan series for example, incorporates Japanese techniques in blade finishing, while the nitrogen-infused knives in the Nitrogen set make for harder steel that stays sharper longer. The Graphix set is not much different than the Classic set other than its more textured metal handle (Classic uses a smooth molded plastic for the handles) for better grip.
We love Schmidt Brothers for its variety in sets and functions, hitting a wide window of price points. It's another brand that you'll find on big retailer shelves, but it seems the only set that you'll find for under $100 is its chef and paring knives two-pack, which Target offers for $40. There's one major complaint that cost SB some rank spots: because of how widely the Schmidt Bros' price ranges — this carving knife alone is $80 and only available through Williams Sonoma, according to Schmidt Bros — trying to stay on-budget may give you whiplash. Schmidt Bros' 15-piece block costs $370 for plastic handles and $400 for zebra wood handles, according to Target, a difficult investment to justify for casual or budget cooks.
Even with wildly variable pricing from one blade or set to the next, these knives are not lacking in bells and whistles. This brand offers multiple levels of features and finishes to appeal to luxury or simplicity. One of the most unique features of the Schmidt Brothers brand is its universal magnetic storage blocks, where the blades are smartly displayed flat side-out. The result is equal parts conversation piece and practical storage of your knives. These German stainless steel blades also hold a patented transitional bolster for more secure handling of the knives.
Reviews of this brand's most expensive set reveal quality issues: the knife block is reportedly actually veneer, the handles are rough and untreated, and there's an overall lack in craft for the price.
Keeping up with knife sharpening can be difficult if you're forgetful or just not a huge cooking enthusiast. Calphalon is a brand that's taken it upon themselves to solve that problem: their knife sets are famously self-sharpening, thanks to a ceramic insert that sharpens the blades every time they're taken out of and replaced in the block, referred to by the brand as SharpIN Technology.
What do the consumers say about Calphalon's most important standout feature? The reviews on Amazon are mixed, with some users gushing over the function and others complaining that it doesn't maintain blades nearly as well as manual sharpening would. Whether a true flaw of Calphalon's or a small price to pay for convenience, the self-sharpening function doesn't seem to please everyone. Most reviewers do agree that the blades arrive plenty sharp, however, although some have suggested a major shortcoming in the fact that replacing the ceramic once it's worn out is impossible.
Calphalon's knives are sleek and classic with all the desired high-quality knife features: full tang, forged steel for a thicker and sturdier blade, and high-carbon material. Another Calphalon feature enjoyed by its users is the conveniently labeled handles, so you don't have to rifle through the block for what you need. If you can't be convinced of this feature's effectiveness or prefer to do your own sharpening, there's not much else to justify Calphalon's fee, especially with even its smallest sets retailing for $180 on Amazon and flagship collections approaching $300.
Another sleek and timeless brand, JA Henckels is a German knife manufacturer that has been in business for centuries. Henckels is produced by Zwilling JA Henckels, which also produces the knife brand Zwilling. Does this mean that these two brands — with Zwilling often purported as higher-quality than Henckels — are the same, you ask? These two names have their own distinct knife collections and, rather than being two parallel brands, they're better considered to be tiers of the same manufacturer: Henckels is entry-level, and Zwilling is professional-grade.
Henckels falls in the middle of the quality-price spectrum. Its blades are stamped rather than forged, but you can secure an affordable 12-piece Henckels set for just $100 on Amazon. Reviewers on the online retailer praise Henckels for its value compared to price paid, but others say the blades are thin and flimsy, and oddly proportioned/designed.
Because Henckel's signature set — the 20-piece self-sharpening graphite collection — costs an incredible $280, we aren't sure the value for this brand is there considering the issues with blade quality unless you are only an occasional cook, or a beginner cook, and intend to stay that way. If your budget is there, we recommend upgrading to Zwilling.
If you're going for something sleek and eye-catching, go Global. These popular home kitchen knives, famous for their use on "MasterChef," are manufactured in Niigata, Japan. Without the wooden handles or trademark hammered Damascus steel, are Japanese-made knives but with an untraditional Japanese look.
It's hard to suspect that Global's price tag — which aligns with that of other Japanese manufacturers, with one chef's knife running at $160 on Amazon — pays for much more than its flashy image. Despite being from a nation known for its high-caliber blades, Global knives are stamped, not forged, and offer no customization in handles or steel. It seems the stainless steel handle was an attempt to create a vision of the knives that aligns with the sparkling steel kitchens of professional chefs, and would be easier to adjust to if the knives were full tang as a result of having a steel handle — instead, we've found the handles to a bit slippery and the knife prone to causing blisters after long periods of handling.
Through our own personal use, we also feel Global knives lose sharpness quickly. Without a full tang, bolster, or forged steel, we can't justify the $1,200 price tag for a 20-piece Global block. Whether Global is worth the hype or overrated is up to you, but we think your money can be better spent.
Five Two knives are relatively new to the cutlery market. Five Two is the kitchen essentials line of Food52, launched in 2018. According to the brand, Five Two focuses on innovation that solves common home chef complaints. However, investing $70 in a chef's knife in a virtually unheard of knife brand with so many tried-and-true classics on the shelves can be a tough ask, so we took to Five Two's knife reviews for some insight.
Right away from hearing from this brand's reviewers, it appears that the biggest appeal about these knives are, well, their curb appeal. If you're a home chef, you probably spend plenty of time in your kitchen, so it makes sense to want the space to be visually pleasing to the eye. Five Two knife reviews speak often of beautiful handle colors, putting the knives on display, and other aesthetics. The knives do come in a gorgeous array of handle colors: rhubarb, maple, Nordic sea, and smoked salt. Users also seem to appreciate the knives' heft and sharpness, which the brand claims to be credited to a carbon-infused Japanese steel.
Quality in these knives is evident in other features: a full tang, forged steel, and brass rivets. Unfortunately, this brand currently only offers three knives: chef's, serrated, or paring. All three can be purchased as a set for a bundle discount. Because the brand is so new, how well it stands up to years of use is unknown.
Shun is a popular Japanese knife brand often connected to celebrity chef Bobby Flay (although Flay told Men's Health back in 2010, "I'm not married to a particular brand"). This brand has been churning out knives in Seki City, Japan, for just about 20 years, but Seki has been known for forged knives for centuries. As Prudent Reviews notes, it's one of the first names to have emerged on the market of Japanese knives for Western countries.
One of Shun's selling points is its widely different collections, appealing to many different budgets and preferred features. Its blades are layered Damascus steel, and offers handles ranging from basic to artisan. Shun also offers both double- and single-bevel collections. Several Shun knives are only offered as individuals and not sets, which can be seen as an inconvenience or an opportunity to mix and match. We've handled Shun and found it to be incredibly sharp out of the box, but prone to bending, chipping, and dullness as use continues, especially when frequently used for meat cutting.
The best value in Shun for most home cooks is the Shun Sora 6-piece set, which at $350 on Amazon comes with a paring, utility, and chef's knife, plus kitchen shears and five additional slots for add-in knives. However, as some culinary tool enthusiasts have said on Reddit, many feel better-performing knives can be found for the same price range.
Sharp and durable, there's a reason Solingen, Germany, has been producing Zwilling knives since the 1700s. Most Zwilling collections are forged knives and some are full tang, but this brand has no shortage of knife collections. Among the most popular is the Zwilling Four Star. We love this series for its smooth but molded plastic handle and full bolster for finger protection, but the brand took the opportunity to release an improved, ice-hardened blade in a second version of the Four Star Collection — for a higher dollar. Neither levels of this series are the cream of the crop for Zwilling (see our ranking on Miyabi, and not listed in this knife lineup is Zwilling Diplôme, the brand's professional line made in collaboration with Le Cordon Bleu) nor are they the most entry-level or affordable (that would be Zwilling's sister brand, JA Henckels).
We haven't even mentioned several other Zwilling collections with slight variations. The options might overwhelm you, but we recommend entering Zwilling territory with the Four Star series. The blades are razor-sharp and hold their edge remarkably well, but we do find this high-carbon steel to be quite reactive, so avoid using this brand on citrus or acidic foods frequently and be sure to promptly clean the blade after use.
Zwilling ranks high on our list because of its ability to create something for everyone under the home cook umbrella. It's respectful to budgets and offers quality, long-lasting products.
Let's face it. Right now, price rules the world, and anyone that can offer a good deal is someone who deserves a space in the top five of knife brands in our eyes. A two-piece chef and paring knife essential duo from Chicago will cost just 17 smackers, and its flagship set, the Chicago Cutlery Malden — 16 pieces, stainless steel, built-in sharpener, blades forged instead of stamped with a full metal tang — is barely over $200 on Amazon.
Chicago Cutlery offers large sets, including 16-, 17-, and 18-piece options. You'll never be without the essential blades: chef, santoku, paring, serrated, shears, and plenty of steak knives for all of your dinner parties. However, with nearly a dozen different large collections, Chicago might be overwhelming its customers a bit with options. If price is not the determining factor in your knife purchase, look beyond the numbers at the collections' features: the Fusion series offers unique cushioned handles, the Metropolitan is affordable with stamped blades but a full tang, and the Essentials is a Wüsthof Classic lookalike but with a stamped blade and no bolster. The brand also offers a gorgeous walnut handle — just be sure to season the handles before using.
We've used Chicago blades and find them to be sharper and more agile than Cuisinart and Farberware, and even competitive with higher-ticket brands like Henckels and Schmidt Brothers, thanks to its 26-angle edge. Overall, Chicago's bang-to-buck ratio gets our approval, and found itself high in the ranking for the quality it brings to its price.
Yoshihiro is, in our opinion, one of the best choices for home chefs that don't want to pour hundreds if not thousands of dollars into their knives. Its entry-level blades range from mid-$100 to around $250, with more elevated options for more serious chefs. Yoshihiro boasts "modern stainless metallurgy" in the forging of its blades, leading to the traditional Japanese blade aesthetic without the high maintenance of reactive high-carbon steel.
While Yoshihiro is not as sharp out of the gate as other brands like Shun and Miyabi, we've found that it holds up to dullness, chips, or dents remarkably well compared to its competitors. This brand is unique in that you can purchase cutlery directly from its site, but one of our chief complaints is its lack of option for knife sets or discounts on essential duos. We appreciate how customizable Yoshirio has made its brand. You can get handles in three different shapes — D, octagonal, or round — and made of magnolia, rosewood, enju, hiba, yew, or ebony. Yoshihiro has double- and single-beveled blades, and forges out of black, white, Damascus, or blue steel.
Yoshihiro has seen some criticism on Reddit. Users laud the brand for value-to-price ratio and its light handling, but say it just doesn't hold up when other top-of-the-line contenders are brought into play. For those of us that won't be purchasing from multiple Japanese knife brands just to compare and contrast them, however, Yoshihiro will do the trick.
If you're serious about cooking, it's time to enter the world of Japanese knives. Famous for craftsmanship and traditional forging techniques, quality Japanese knives are sturdy, lightweight and wicked sharp. Miyabi is the third tier of knives by the Zwilling J.A. Henckels company. Its blades are made with over 100 layers of steel over a powder steel core, hardened with a special ice-hardening process, and given a gorgeous Damascus pattern.
We've always loved Miyabi for its lightness and easy-to-hold handles, made of solid woods like birch, black ash, or pakka. We appreciate the spacious bolster on the neck of these knives, and we think Miyabi varies slightly from Japanese knife tradition in the best way: where most of those traditional blades are single-beveled (meaning only sharp on one side), Miyabi made their blades double-beveled. The brand's triple-step sharpening process, known as honbazuke, also means that you'll be slicing vegetables razor-thin with the Miyabi santoku.
While still an expensive line of knives, Miyabi is one of the most affordable, but quality, entry points into the incredibly cost-inhibitive realm of Japanese-style knives, and we believe it provides stiff competition to Shun. You can test the waters of Japanese knives with the Miyabi Mizu SG2 8-inch chef's knife, a micarta-handled hammer-finished blade that only runs $180 on Amazon. Miyabi is rated incredibly well online, with the vast majority of low-star reviews being complaints of their knives arriving bent or dented.
It's difficult to take rating spots away from a brand that offers a Japanese-made 16-piece Damascus knife set for only $1,000 (or the same set sans steak knives for half the price, both on Amazon), which is why Enso is safe in the top five. Large knife sets are either nonexistent or unattainable because of price from other brands. Knife enthusiasts give the brand some flack on Reddit, but a brand that makes Japanese cutlery accessible is worth acknowledging.
Hammered Damascus steel is one traditional feature of Japanese blades included by Enso, but where other brands like Shun and Miyabi will layer their knives with close to or over 100 coats of stainless steel, Enso uses only 37 in most of its knives, leading to a thinner and overall less durable blade. This does not lead to any sacrifice in sharpness, however — Enso will still blow other brands out of the water there. Like in many other brands, upgrades are possible with Enso, and its 101-layer SG2 chef's knife will only cost you $300 on Amazon (Miyabi's three-layer SG2 chef's knife is $180).
Ergonomic and sharp, Enso is great for cooks that need quality knives to stand up to daily use.
Closing up the rankings is the German workhorse knife itself: Wüsthof. Because of how well-established this Western manufacturer's brand is, having been in production for centuries, you'll never have to be uncertain about the customer service or warranty. (Which is lifetime for manufacturer defects, by the way. Your children can probably inherit your Wüsthofs.) Whether Japanese or German knife-making approaches are better is a constant and unanswerable debate among the culinary community, and some brands claim to combine the best of both.
Japanese knives are gorgeous and artistic, while German knives are solid and all business. The blades of these knives aren't eye-catching with dressy Damascus or hammered steel like some of our beloved Japanese brands, but they make up for it in their hardiness. We love this brand for its capability to stand up to a variety of uses, from rough chopping, to fine dicing to even carving on-the-bone meats. Wüsthof's proprietary carbon blades sharpen easily and the half-bolster allows for both finger protection and easier sharpening. Wüsthof is also produced to be sharper than Zwilling (14 angles vs. 16, per House of Knives).
These full-tang blades are sleek, sturdy, and impervious to chips, stains, and bends. You can start your Wüsthof collection with an 8-inch chef's knife for $200, thanks to Amazon, or even a slightly smaller santoku for $100. An added plus of Wüsthof? You'll know that you're wielding the same blades as Gordon Ramsay, Ree Drummond, and Ina Garten. "Hell's Kitchen," here we come.