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Best kitchen knives 2021: Stay sharp with the best knife sets, Santoku, vegetable and bread knives


Looking to sharpen up your kitchen skills? Check out our guide to buying the best kitchen knifes

If you're sick of flattening your fruit and veggies, our pick of the best kitchen knives are here to save you from the struggle. You know it’s time for new knives when, despite having sharpened them to death, you find yourself raggedly sawing your way through meat or nearly chopping your fingers off every time you try to tackle an onion. But with a myriad of styles and price tags, how do you know where to start in your quest for your new knife?

You may also be dogged by other predicaments. Should you buy your knives individually or as a set? Do you need to go for a well-known brand? What features should you consider?

Our guide will help you decipher these quandaries, so you can slice and dice effortlessly for years to come. If you already know what type of kitchen knife you need, skip past our buying guide to find verdicts on the best individual knives and kitchen knife sets you can buy.

How to choose the best kitchen knives for you

Should you buy kitchen knives individually or as a set?

There’s no need to splash out on a set if you only need to replace one or two of your knives – or if you’re the kind of cook who only winds up using a couple of knives anyway. Don’t automatically replace like for like, though, by, for example, swapping an old paring knife for a new one and so on. Check out our guide to knife types below to see if, say, a Santoku or chef’s knife may suit your needs better than what you’ve been used to in the past.

On the other hand, if all your knives have had it and/or you like a wide range of knives for different tasks, consider a set – many of which come with a handy block for storage.

What types of knives are there?

Kitchen knives are categorised according to their shape and size, with certain options suiting certain tasks best. These are the main types:

  • Vegetable knife: Also called a paring knife, this small knife is good for detailed jobs such as seeding chillies and trimming Brussels sprouts.
  • Paring Knife: Typically a smaller knife that can be used for everyday veggie peeling and paring fruit
  • Serrated knife: Also called a tomato knife, this small knife can assist you with are getting ultra-thin slices from a tomato, as well as peeling citrus fruit. The serrated edge means it grips as it slices through fruit or veg.
  • Bread knife: The long blade with a serrated edge is made to cut through loaves without tearing the bread or squashing it.
  • Chef’s knife: Also known as a cook’s knife, this all-purpose knife is made with a range of jobs in mind from dicing raw meat and hard vegetables to chopping herbs. They’re available with blades ranging from 15cm to 36cm.
  • Santoku knife: These Japanese-style knives – which are made for slicing, dicing and chopping – have become all the rage. They differ from the chef’s knife by having a blunt, rather than pointed, end and the dimples on the blade ensure that you can get thin slices without food sticking to it.
  • Carving knife: Back in the 1950s, no self-respecting household would have been without a carving knife and fork. While you can easily live without one, these long, sharp knives can still be useful if you eat lots of roasts.

READ NEXT: Our pick of the best chef knives

What other types of knife are there?

For the serious cook, there are a plethora of other knives available, including a boning knife (for butchery), filleting knife (for preparing fish), cleaver (for chopping meat) and utility knife (general purpose knife with a serrated edge for cutting and trimming meat and larger vegetables).

Other more specialist knives include Chinese cook’s knives, palette knives and mezzalunas (a two-handled knife with a curved edge for chopping herbs).

How important is the metal type?

At the cheaper end is stainless steel – these knives are nice and solid but can go blunt quickly and take a while to sharpen. Carbon steel is more expensive, but the metal is easier to keep sharp, although it can rust.

Other alternatives include ceramic blades – these are lovely and lightweight and much harder than carbon steel, with no need to sharpen and they don’t rust – although they can chip.

Then there’s Damascus – these pricey mottled knives have a carbon steel core, surrounded by layers of soft and hard stainless steel, the upshot of which is an extremely hard and sharp edge.

Are there any other features to consider?

Find out how the knife is constructed. A fully forged knife is best because it’s made from a single block of steel for both the blade and tang (the bit that attaches the blade to the handle). Too expensive? Consider a stamped knife, which is machine-cut from a continuous strip of stainless steel. While it’s not as durable as fully-forged, it’s not a bad compromise. If you are a regular knife user, you’ll need to think about the weight, although for more occasional knife users that won’t be an issue.

You should also test a knife for its balance. Some designs have the weight concentrated in the blade to help slice through hard foods while others will have heavier handles, making the lighter blade easier to manoeuvre. Ideally, look for a good balance between the blade and handle. If a knife comes with a bolster; the thick junction between the handle and the blade, this will also affect its balance.

Make sure the handle is ergonomically suited to you – and don’t forget the washing instructions. While most knives are dishwasher safe, washing them by hand will keep them sharper for longer. Then there’s storage to think about, with the best place being a knife block or magnetic wall rack.

READ NEXT: Our favourite kitchen bins

Best kitchen knives: At a glance

The best kitchen knife sets to buy from £15

1. Viners Assure Four Piece Knife Set: Best safety knives (that are also a steal)

Price: £15 | Buy now from Amazon

If you have young children or are simply tired of nipping yourself on knives that have been put in the drawer the wrong way round, Viners have come up with an ideal solution. Unlike classic blades, each knife in the Assure set has a completely flat tip. While this makes for a rather usual looking blade, it barely changes the way they work – you can still cut, slice and dice like you normally would. In the set you get a 6in chef's knife, 6in santoku knife, 5in utility knife and 3.5in paring knife. This is ideal for everyday tasks but if you like to experiment with a wide variety of ingredients then you’ll likely need to supplement this set with additional knives.

In the hand, these knives are lightweight and comfortable, and the non-slip coating on the handle is a nice addition both for practicality and looks. For the price, they did an excellent job of cutting through soft to medium foods, though struggled a little when it came to cutting up squash. Nonetheless, if you’re on a budget and want to keep sharp tips away from tiny hands, we’d highly recommend this set.

Key specsTypes included: 6in Chef’s Knife, 6in Santoku Knife, 5in Utility Knife 3.5in paring knife; Knife block dimensions: 3.1 x 21.5 x 33.5 cm (WDH); Warranty: 10 years

Buy now from Amazon

2. Zyliss Comfort 6-Piece Set: The best value kitchen knives

Price: £37 | Buy now from Lakeland

If you’re looking for a superb set of budget knives that won’t bend or break under pressure, this colourful set from Zyliss might just be your perfect match. With soft-touch comfort handles and individual protective sheaths, not only do these look fab but they’re safe to use and store too. The blades are made from japanese stainless steel and are taper-ground for a fine finish that should stay sharper for longer. We really like the size and shape of these blades; they’re ideal for both larger chopping jobs as well as precision dicing.

During testing they put up a bit of resistance against some firmer veggies and didn’t slice through tomatoes and grapes as easily as the more expensive knives on this list. However, at this price, that is somewhat to be expected. If you’re not looking to splash out on a super-expensive knife set or just need something quickly, this is a great set for everyday tasks.

Key specs – Types included: Peeling knife (6.5cm), two serrated paring knives (10.5cm), utility knife (13cm), santoku knife (18cm), chef’s knife (18.5cm); Knife block dimensions: N/A; Warranty: Five-year manufacturer guarantee

Buy now from Lakeland

3. Zwilling Full-Tang 5-Piece Set with self-sharpening block: The best self-sharpening knives

Price: £172 | Buy now from Amazon

This incredibly stylish offering from Zwilling is so much more than a quality, mid-price knife set. Hidden inside the blocks are v-shaped sharpening stones that gently sharpen your blades every time you remove or replace them. This gentle action is designed to keep the knives in tip top condition from day one of use. It’s an unusual yet fantastic feature to have, especially if you’re not a knife sharpening whizz but still appreciate the difference sharp, high-quality knives make during day-to-day cooking.

Build-wise these knives are just as exceptional as the block they come in. Unsurprisingly, they’re full tang and feel fantastic in the hand. The riveted synthetic handle makes them comfortable to use and the blades have no problem slicing through even the toughest veggies. The set includes five knives for different cutting jobs and a set of multi-purpose scissors; another medium-sized blade would make this the perfect kitchen set, but it's really not that far off.

Key specs – Types included: Paring knife (10cm), utility knife (13cm), slicing knife (15cm) veg knife (20cm), bread knife (20cm); Knife block dimensions: Not specified; Warranty: Lifetime

4. Tower Kitchen Knife Set: The best affordable non-stick knives

Price: £45 | Buy now from Amazon

If you want to be pleasantly surprised by cheaper knives this non-stick set from Tower is one to try. The Celestone coating used on the blades was incredibly effective and we experience no sticking at all, even when chopping potatoes, which are notoriously bad for clinging to knife blades.

The handles are soft-grip and also weighted, which we found to be both good and bad. We liked how they felt to use but they weren't the most well-balanced knives. They're also quite thin, which means they're very sharp but not particularly suited to tougher vegetables like swedes or butternut squash. However, for day to day tasks like cutting onions, bread, tomatoes and more, these are ideal.

Key specs – Types included: Chef knife, bread knife, carving knife, utility knife and paring knife; Knife block dimensions (WDH): Not stated Warranty: Five years

Buy now from Amazon

5. BergHOFF Leo 5 Piece Knife Block Set: Best cheap knife set for versatility

Price: £50 | Buy now from Argos

This set is a space savers dream. Not only is the block slimline, some of the knives double as other kitchen tools too, so you can avoid extra clutter in your cutlery drawer. The vegetable knife has a mini zester on top, while the small chef's knife has two cut-outs for herb stripping. The blocks storage insert is reversible, allowing you to either display a pink or grey top and because there are no set areas for each knife, they can be instered and rearranged any way you like.

Not only do these knives look the part, they're comfortable to use too. The soft, non-slip handles are comfortable to hold and the flat tang non-stick steel blades make chopping a breeze. While these aren't the most precise knives you can buy, they get the job done and look great in the kitchen. Better still, they come with a 15 year guarantee, so you can have peace of mind that they'll stay the course.

Key specs – Types included: Small chef knife, bread knife, vegetable knife, utility knife and paring knife; Knife block dimensions (WDH): Not stated Warranty: 15 years

Buy now from Argos

6. Lakeland Fully Forged Stainless Steel Five Piece Block: Best budget full tang knife set

Price: £80 | Buy now from Lakeland

Cheap knives are typically flimsy, uncomfortable and not up to even the most basic of jobs. Lakeland’s fully forged block, however, is not your typical knife set. For under £100, you get five sturdy, dishwasher safe kitchen knives that are ideal for everyday tasks. Each knife is made using one piece of forged stainless steel, meaning there are no weak points that could compromise the strength of the blade.

We’ve been using these knives for weeks now and think they’re ideal for everyday kitchen tasks, such as chopping veggies, carving meat and slicing bread – though if you’re looking for a specialist blade, you’ll need to shell out a bit more or consider buying them individually. While we think it would benefit from one more medium-sized all purpose knife, this is still a well-rounded set that’s certainly worth your money.

Key specsTypes included: Paring knife (9cm) bread knife (22cm), carving knife (22cm), cooks knife (20cm), all-purpose knife (10.5cm) Knife block dimensions: Not specified; Warranty: Three years

Buy now from Lakeland

7. Robert Welch Signature Knife Block Set with Sharpener: The best all-round kitchen knife set

Price: £299 | Buy now from Lakeland

While not cheap, you get a lot of bang for your buck with these six award-winning, dishwasher-safe knives. The handles are ergonomically shaped with good balance in the hand, while the fully forged German stainless steel blades, with a 15-degree angle, are super-strong.

Even the block stands out, notably for the integrated knife sharpener that helps keep knives honed and sharp and the magnetic locator within each slot that helps to protect the cutting edge. But they’re not for those who like really thin blades.

Key specs – Types included: Bread knife (22cm), carving knife (23cm), cooks knife (14cm), kitchen knife (14cm), serrated utility knife (12cm), vegetable knife (8cm); Knife block dimensions (WDH): 23 x 20 x 32cm; Warranty: 25 years

The best bread, vegetable, Santoku and chef’s knives to buy

1. Le Creuset Vegetable Knife with Stainless Steel Handle: The best vegetable knife

Price: £75 | Buy now from Harts of Stur

Le Creuset is a brand better known for its cooking pots than its blades, but this is the sharpest, most precise and easy-to-use paring knife we could find for chopping or slicing everything from onions and garlic to potatoes and beans.

In fact, even after preparing a roast dinner for 16 people, our hands didn’t show signs of soreness and, as the blade is made from Damascus steel, it will see you through year after year of vegetable prep work. It’s hand-wash only, though, and not one to use with wet hands.

Key specs – Type: 9cm stainless steel; Warranty: Two years

Buy now from Harts of Stur

2. Victorinox Santoku Knife 17cm: Best mid-price Santoku knife

Price: £45 | Buy now from Amazon

We rate quite a few Victorinox knives but this small, lightweight Santoku is a particularly good option for budding cooks. It's not the absolute best knife Santoku knife you can buy but for the price, it performs well and allows you to chop things like onions, carrots and tomatoes at speed. It does all this without being too big and bulky too.

The fluted blade means difficult foods are less likely to stick to it while chopping and while the rosewood handle wouldn't be our first choice for handle material, it's fairly studry and looks the part too. The handle has been treated to minimise water damage but you'll still need to take extra care when cleaning it and even though the listing may say otherwise, it's definitely not suitable for the dishwasher.

Key specs – Type: 17cm stainless steel; Warranty: Not stated

Buy now from Amazon

3. Zwilling fully forgred paring knife 10cm: Best paring knife

Price: £40 | Buy now from Amazon

This dinky little paring knife is a kitchen must have for all those fifly tasks. From peeling veggies to chopping tomatoes, garlic and ginger, it's the ideal size for a multitude of kitchen tasks. It's super sharp and will last you for years and years if you treat it right and sharpen regularly.

The blade is fully forged and ice-hardended for additional durability and corrosion resistance. The handle is made from a comfortable synthetic material designed to keep the average sized hand comfortable for a long time, so whehter you're peel and chopping a clove or an entire bulb of garlic, you should never have to worry about fatigue.

Key specs – Type: 10cm alloy steel; Warranty: Not stated

Buy now from Amazon

4. Lakeland Stainless Steel Fully Forged Bread Knife: Best bread knife

Price: £20 | Buy now from Lakeland

This is a great price for a strong and well-balanced bread knife. The good grip ensures that it cuts straight, which makes it easy to produce everything from thin and delicate slices right through to chunky doorsteps.

We found it slices through loaf after loaf without getting blunt – and that even goes for crusty white loaves with soft and airy middles. The serrated edge, which is made from stainless steel, is sharp and long-lasting and you can bung it in the dishwasher after use.

Key specs – Type: 22cm stainless steel blade; Warranty: Three years

Buy now from Lakeland

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