Best Cheap Kitchen Knives

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A great chef's knife can last a lifetime. Check out these other Everyday Items That Are Worth a Splurge.

Our Picks

Chicago Cutlery Elston 16-Piece
Ginsu Chikara Series 8-Piece
J.A. Henckels International Definition 12-Piece
Cuisinart Graphix Collection 15-Piece (C77SS-15P)
Sabatier Edgekeeper Pro 12-Piece
Pure Komachi 2 9-Piece
Farberware 15-Piece (5089000)
Oster Baldwyn 22-Piece (70562.22)
Calphalon Contemporary 17-Piece
Victorinox Swiss Army Classic 15-Piece
Wüsthof Gourmet 12-Piece
Cook N Home 9-Piece Ceramic
Old Hickory 705 5-Piece

Chicago Cutlery Elston 16-Piece Review

From $53 Best

Best Stainless Steel Kitchen Knives Under $100

Included: 8" chef's knife | two 3.25" paring knives | 4.75" utility knife | 6.75" bread knife | 8 steak knives | scissors | sharpening steel | natural wood block

Pros:

  • Users say these knives are very sharp and hold their edge for a long time.
  • High-carbon stainless steel blades are forged, not stamped -- difficult to find in this price range.
  • "Elegant" look, with stainless handles that are curved to fit the hand well.
  • Seamless handles keep water and dirt from collecting in nooks and crannies.
  • Knives are fairly lightweight but have a sturdy, "quality" feel, according to reviews.
  • Full lifetime warranty.

Cons:

  • Some mentions of occasional rust; hand wash only.
  • Steak knives don't have a serrated edge and don't stay sharp as long as serrated knives do.
  • A few owners wish there were more large knives included.

Takeaway: These knives have full-tang construction for stability and stainless handles that are ergonomically shaped to fit the hand and be well-balanced. The forged blades hold a sharp edge and take to sharpening well. Reviews from hundreds of happy owners say the Chicago Cutlery Elston 16-Piece set is an excellent purchase: The knives look great in any kitchen, perform better than expected for the price, and stand up well over time.

Ginsu Chikara Series 8-Piece (07108DS) Review

From $90 Best

Best Japanese Knife Set Under $100

Included: 7" santoku knife | 8" chef's knife | 3.5" paring knife | 5" utility knife | 5" serrated utility knife | scissors | sharpening steel | bamboo block

Pros:

  • Made from forged Japanese steel, the blades are extremely sharp and stay sharp for a long time; some people say they haven't had to sharpen them in over a year.
  • Knives slice easily through everything from tomatoes to bones on chicken wings.
  • Thin enough blade for precision cutting.
  • Polymer-covered, full-tang, rounded handles are very nicely weighted; most users find them comfortable to hold.
  • Nearly seamless, non-riveted design helps keep water and dirt out of crevices.
  • Limited lifetime warranty.

Cons:

  • Some mentions of knife tips breaking when dropped.
  • Users who've owned Ginsu knives before suggest these newer models are lower quality than previous versions.
  • Shears may be slightly disappointing; a few reports of breakage.
  • Reports of rusting; hand wash only.
  • No steak knives.

Takeaway: With stainless steel blades that are forged rather than stamped, these durable knives of '70s fame stay sharp for a long time, as long as they are frequently honed. Potential purchasers should be aware that, although they are "Japanese style," this collection is actually made in China and quality control may not be what it used to be. Nonetheless, thousands of purchasers say the Ginsu Chikara Series 8-Piece set is a great value for the price.

J.A. Henckels International Definition 12-Piece Review

From $99.95 Best

Best Kitchen Knife Set Under $100 Overall

Included: 5" santoku knife | 8" chef's knife | 3" paring knife | 5" serrated utility knife | 8" bread knife | 4 steak knives | scissors | sharpening steel | wood block

Pros:

  • Very good starter set from well-respected brand.
  • Knives have a nice weight and balance that feels good in the hand, users say, and the blades can cut through hard vegetables without a huge amount of pressure.
  • Stamped, high-carbon stainless steel blades have relatively thin edges.
  • Even the kitchen shears in this set are high-quality; they're very sharp and capable of cutting through bones, according to reviews.
  • Dishwasher-safe; owners don't complain of rusting.
  • Limited lifetime warranty.

Cons:

  • Made in China; some reviewers suggest that the knives are not as strong and durable as their German counterparts.
  • A handful of buyers say the blades were not sharp out of the box.

Takeaway: These are classic, full tang, triple-riveted knives (with black polymer handle) from a classic company. A majority of consumer reviews give this J.A. Henckels knife set high ratings, and most owners are more than pleased with the quality-to-price ratio. They get most of the basic pieces needed for everyday cooking tasks -- including a set of shears that some say are the star of the set -- in a brand-name block they feel proud to display on their countertops.

Cuisinart Graphix Collection 15-Piece (C77SS-15P) Review

From $50 Good

Good Stainless Steel Kitchen Knives Under $100

Included: 7" santoku knife | 8" chef's knife | 8" slicing knife | 3.5" paring knife | 2.75" bird's beak paring knife | 5.5" serrated utility knife | 6 steak knives | scissors | sharpening steel | wood block (black finish)

Pros:

  • High-carbon stainless steel blades start sharp and hold their edge well, according to reviews.
  • Stainless steel handles are lightweight, reducing fatigue; users say the ergonomic design feels good in the hand.
  • Textured handles to prevent slipping.
  • Lifetime limited warranty.

Cons:

  • Some owners report rusting, particularly on the handles.
  • Several reviewers say the steak knives feel chintzy and don't cut well; only part of the blade is serrated.

Takeaway: With lightweight, hollow stainless steel handles with a herringbone-textured grip surface, the Cuisinart Graphix Collection 15-Piece knife set is sleek and coordinates well with stainless appliances. The solid, one-piece construction is a boon to people who have had wooden or plastic handles crack or separate from the tang. While most of the knives are said to be quite good, users looking for premium steak knives might want to steer clear of this set. And be sure to follow the care instructions to help prevent rusting.

Sabatier Edgekeeper Pro 12-Piece Review

From $60 Good

Good Self-Sharpening Kitchen Knives Under $100

Included: 8" chef's knife | 5" chef's knife with kullens | 8" slicer knife | 3.5" paring knife | 4.5" fine-edge utility knife | 6 steak knives | wood block (black finish)

Pros:

  • Forged knives with full-tang blades made from high-carbon stainless steel.
  • Users say blades come very sharp out of the box, and the block has built-in (ceramic) sharpeners.
  • Knives have good heft and balance, according to reviews.
  • Lifetime limited warranty.

Cons:

  • No serrated knives.
  • Steak knife slots don't have sharpeners (but they can be sharpened in other slots).
  • A couple of reports of knives chipping; some mentions of rust (though relatively few).
  • Some owners posting on Amazon say a plastic storage block came with their sets.

Takeaway: An affordable offering from a renowned French brand, the Sabatier Edgekeeper Pro 12-Piece set has a look and feel that belies its low cost. These knives cut through meats and vegetables with ease, and would be a solid purchase even without the self-sharpening block (which gets mixed reviews for effectiveness). The biggest disappointment users seem to have is that this set doesn't feel quite complete: There's no serrated knife or shears.

Pure Komachi 2 9-Piece Review

From $99.99 Good

Good Colorful Knife Set Under $100

Included: 6.5" hollow ground santoku knife | 8" chef's knife | 3.5" paring knife | 4" tomato knife | 4" citrus knife | 6" multi-utility knife | 8" bread knife | 6" bagel/sandwich knife | acrylic block (clear)

Pros:

  • Stainless steel, high-carbon resin-coated blades stay sharp for a very long time.
  • Bright colors set in a clear block add personality to the kitchen counter.
  • Color coding helps prevent cross contamination.
  • Coating makes the knives easier to clean and virtually rust-proof.
  • Lightweight and comfortable to hold.

Cons:

  • Knife block is large and some say it looks cheap.
  • No steak knives.
  • Not dishwasher-safe; users warn that the color wears if the knives aren't hand washed.
  • 5-year warranty is relatively short.

Takeaway: The colorful Pure Komachi 2 9-Piece set is made from stainless steel with a resin coating to help knives glide through foods while repelling stains, water, and rust. These knives may look fun, but they're no joke: Many satisfied users say they boast seriously sharp blades and hold up very well over time. The manufacturer claims that the open design of the storage block is meant to allow greater air circulation and prevent bacteria growth, although many users complain that it takes up way too much counter space. Some suggest putting the knives on a magnetic strip instead. (For consumers disappointed by the lack of steak knives, a set that includes them can sometimes be found on Amazon; the set can also be purchased without the block.)

Farberware 15-Piece (5089000) Review

From $35 Think Twice

Not the Best Buy From This Brand

Included: 7" santoku | 8" chef knife | 8" slicer knife | 3.5" paring knife | 5.5" serrated utility knife | 8" bread knife | 6 steak knives | scissors | sharpening steel | wood block (black finish)

Pros:

  • Very attractive, modern-looking set that owners say complements kitchens and appliances.
  • Stainless steel handle fits in the hand well, comfortable to use.
  • Knives are fairly sharp out of the box and sharpen easily.
  • Limited lifetime warranty.

Cons:

  • Handles are not bonded well to knives, so water can get in.
  • Tang does not run all the way through, black interior of handle is made of plastic.
  • Some users complain of broken knives.
  • Numerous reports of rusting after only minimal use, even with proper care.

Takeaway: The biggest issue consumers have with this Farberware 15-Piece stamped stainless steel set is that the tang is made of plastic, which causes several problems. Water ends up seeping into the handles, and the tang bends or breaks. Many also complain that it's nearly impossible to keep this set free from rust. While Farberware has been known for making some quality products, several users say this set does not reflect well on the brand.

Oster Baldwyn 22-Piece (70562.22) Review

From $36 Think Twice

Quantity Over Quality

Included: 6.5" santoku | 8" and 6" chef knives | 8" carving knife | 6" fork | 6" cleaver | 3.5" paring knife | 3" bird's beak paring knife | 6" utility knife | 8" bread knife | 6" boning knife | 8 steak knives | scissors | sharpening steel | wood block (black finish)

Pros:

  • Many really like the sleek, fully "stainless" look.
  • Lightweight with hollow handles, easy to hold.
  • Knives cut well, stainless steel blades are sharp and stay sharp for a few months.
  • Block swivels on rotating base for more convenient access.
  • Limited lifetime warranty.

Cons:

  • Have to be washed immediately or they rust.
  • Not one piece; some users complain of loose handles.
  • Hollow handles hold water.
  • Scissors are said to break easily; a few reports of the block cracking.

Takeaway: While it's nice to have so many items included in an inexpensive knife block set, quality is sometimes sacrificed in favor of quantity. Consumers who purchased the Oster Baldwyn 22-Piece cutlery set say it looks very stylish (at least at first) and the knives are plenty sharp (at least at first), but many were dismayed by the speed of rusting -- in part because the hollow handles are not thoroughly sealed so water gets trapped inside. Also, although the light weight of these knives was a plus for many, others say that they just feel cheaply made.

Buying Guide

Choosing Kitchen Knives

Professional chefs who need professional-grade kitchen knives rely on internationally acclaimed knives that cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. But if you're a regular home cook shopping for the best knives to use in your kitchen, there's no reason to spend big on a cutlery set. According to scores of reviews by consumers, the best cheap kitchen knives feel good in the hand and cut cleanly and easily.

One money-saving tip when shopping for kitchen knives: Don't sacrifice quality for quantity. Indeed, some cooking mavens argue that one top-quality 8-inch chef's knife is all you need for most tasks. Experts at Consumer Reports say four knives in particular -- a chef's knife, slicing knife, utility knife, and paring knife -- are necessary tools for a well-equipped kitchen.

The impact on your wallet will be about the same whether you opt for one high-quality chef's knife or a good cheap set containing a variety of knives. If you decide to spring for a cutlery set, choose one that includes knives you'll actually use. Don't assume a set is a good value simply because it comes with a ton of extra knives. The smarter approach is to buy fewer knives that will perform better over a longer stretch of time.

A knife is essentially an extension of a cook's hand, so experts recommend picking up and holding knives to see if they're a good fit for your hands before buying. A knife can be superbly crafted and receive rave reviews, but if it feels too small, too large, or in some way uncomfortable in your hand, it won't be very useful, regardless of other cooks' experience.

Knife Brands.

Many reviewers insist that the best knives are made by German and Japanese companies such as Wüsthof, Zwilling J. A. Henckels, and Shun. Generally speaking, German knives have thicker and slightly curved blades. They have greater flexibility than more rigid Japanese knives, which is welcome when cutting through hard vegetables or bones but doesn't offer the same degree of precision.

Henckels makes more affordable knives in addition to its high-end offerings. Frugal home cooks can also be assured of a good selection of cheap cutlery from well-known, well-regarded manufacturers such as Cuisinart, Farberware, Chicago Cutlery, and Ginsu, to name just a few.

Pricey vs. Cheap Kitchen Knives.

Most good knife sets contain pretty much the same basic items, no matter what the cost. Nevertheless, there's a pretty big difference between cheap knives and expensive ones. As consumers attest, even the cheapest knife is sharp when new. But it's not liable to stay that way for long. Knives that hold their edge over time are usually made from more solid metal and have been carefully honed to a precise bevel angle. For instance, the Shun 8" Classic Chef's Knife (starting at $150) is made from 68 layers of high carbon steel (34 layers on each side). The blade is extremely hard and honed to a razor-sharp 16-degree bevel. Cheaper knives are made of weaker metals and more prone to breakage. Regardless of brand, from French to American, they're frequently manufactured in China. As a rule, knives made with more expensive metal take an edge better and keep it longer. Pricier knives tend to be heavier and better balanced, so that the knife feels like an extension of the user's hand. That said, some people prefer a lighter knife.

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Features Comparison Buying Guide continues below table

(from $99.95)
Blades Stamped high-carbon stainless steel
Handles Polypropylene, full tang, triple riveted
Knives 5” santoku • 8” chef’s • 3” paring • 5” serrated utility • 8” bread
Steak Knives 4
Shears Yes
Sharpening Steel Yes
Block Wood
Dishwasher Safe Yes
(from $53.00)
Blades Forged high-carbon stainless steel
Handles Stainless steel, full tang
Knives 8” chef’s • 2x 3.25” paring • 4.75” utility • 6.75” bread
Steak Knives 8
Shears Yes
Sharpening Steel Yes
Block Wood
Dishwasher Safe No
(from $90.00)
Blades Forged Japanese steel
Handles Polyoxymethylene (POM), full tang
Knives 7” santoku • 8” chef’s • 3.5” paring • 5” utility • 5” serrated utility
Steak Knives None
Shears Yes
Sharpening Steel Yes
Block Bamboo
Dishwasher Safe No
(from $50.00)
Blades Stamped high-carbon stainless steel
Handles Hollow stainless steel
Knives 7” santoku • 8” chef’s • 8” slicing • 3.5” paring • 2.75” bird’s beak paring • 5.5” serrated utility
Steak Knives 6
Shears Yes
Sharpening Steel Yes
Block Wood (black finish)
Dishwasher Safe No
(from $99.99)
Blades Stamped high-carbon stainless steel with colored resin coating
Handles Resin
Knives 6.5” hollow ground santoku • 8” chef’s • 3.5” paring • 4” tomato • 4” citrus • 6” multi-utility • 8” bread • 6” bagel/sandwich
Steak Knives None
Shears No
Sharpening Steel No
Block Acrylic
Dishwasher Safe No
(from $60.00)
Blades Forged high-carbon stainless steel
Handles Polypropylene, full tang, triple riveted
Knives 8” chef’s • 5” chef’s with kullens • 8” slicer • 3.5” paring • 4.5” fine-edge utility
Steak Knives 6
Shears No
Sharpening Steel Ceramic sharpeners in slots
Block Wood (black finish)
Dishwasher Safe No
(from $35.00)
Blades Stamped high-carbon stainless steel
Handles Stainless steel, plastic tang
Knives 7” santoku • 8” chef’s • 8” slicer • 3.5” paring • 5.5” serrated utility • 8” bread
Steak Knives 6
Shears Yes
Sharpening Steel Yes
Block Wood (black finish)
Dishwasher Safe No
(from $36.00)
Blades Stamped stainless steel
Handles Hollow metal and polyoxymethylene (POM)
Knives 6.5” santoku • 8” and 6” chef’s • 8” carving • 6” fork • 6” cleaver • 3.5” paring • 3” bird’s beak paring • 6” utility • 8” bread • 6” boning
Steak Knives 8
Shears Yes
Sharpening Steel Yes
Block Wood (black finish)
Dishwasher Safe Yes
(from $20.00)
Blades Ceramic
Handles Plastic
Knives 6” santoku • 3” paring • 4” fruit • 5” utility • peeler
Steak Knives None
Shears No
Sharpening Steel No
Block Sheaths (4)
Dishwasher Safe No
(from $52.00)
Blades Carbon steel
Handles Hardwood, full tang, dual brass rivets
Knives 7” butcher’s • 8” slicing • 3.25” and 4” paring • 6” boning
Steak Knives None
Shears No
Sharpening Steel No
Block No
Dishwasher Safe No
(from $122.00)
Blades Forged high-carbon German steel
Handles Polyresin, full tang
Knives 7” santoku • 8” chef’s • 8” slicing • 4.5” paring • 6” utility • 8” bread
Steak Knives 8 (Asian steel)
Shears Yes
Sharpening Steel Yes
Block Maple wood
Dishwasher Safe No
(from $186.00)
Blades Stamped high-carbon stainless steel
Handles Fibrox, full tang
Knives 7” santoku • 8” chef’s • 3.25” paring • 5” utility • 4.5” serrated utility • 8.25” serrated bread
Steak Knives 6
Shears Yes
Sharpening Steel Yes
Block Wood
Dishwasher Safe Yes
(from $219.00)
Blades Stamped (laser-cut) high-carbon German steel
Handles Polyoxymethylene (POM), full tang, triple riveted
Knives 8” chef’s • 3” spear point paring • 2.5” paring • 4.5” utility • 8” bread
Steak Knives 4
Shears Yes
Sharpening Steel Yes
Block Wood
Dishwasher Safe No
(from $99.95)
Blades Stamped high-carbon stainless steel
Handles Polypropylene, full tang, triple riveted
Knives 5” santoku • 8” chef’s • 3” paring • 5” serrated utility • 8” bread
Steak Knives 4
Shears Yes
Sharpening Steel Yes
Block Wood
Dishwasher Safe Yes
(from $53.00)
Blades Forged high-carbon stainless steel
Handles Stainless steel, full tang
Knives 8” chef’s • 2x 3.25” paring • 4.75” utility • 6.75” bread
Steak Knives 8
Shears Yes
Sharpening Steel Yes
Block Wood
Dishwasher Safe No
(from $90.00)
Blades Forged Japanese steel
Handles Polyoxymethylene (POM), full tang
Knives 7” santoku • 8” chef’s • 3.5” paring • 5” utility • 5” serrated utility
Steak Knives None
Shears Yes
Sharpening Steel Yes
Block Bamboo
Dishwasher Safe No
(from $50.00)
Blades Stamped high-carbon stainless steel
Handles Hollow stainless steel
Knives 7” santoku • 8” chef’s • 8” slicing • 3.5” paring • 2.75” bird’s beak paring • 5.5” serrated utility
Steak Knives 6
Shears Yes
Sharpening Steel Yes
Block Wood (black finish)
Dishwasher Safe No
(from $99.99)
Blades Stamped high-carbon stainless steel with colored resin coating
Handles Resin
Knives 6.5” hollow ground santoku • 8” chef’s • 3.5” paring • 4” tomato • 4” citrus • 6” multi-utility • 8” bread • 6” bagel/sandwich
Steak Knives None
Shears No
Sharpening Steel No
Block Acrylic
Dishwasher Safe No
(from $60.00)
Blades Forged high-carbon stainless steel
Handles Polypropylene, full tang, triple riveted
Knives 8” chef’s • 5” chef’s with kullens • 8” slicer • 3.5” paring • 4.5” fine-edge utility
Steak Knives 6
Shears No
Sharpening Steel Ceramic sharpeners in slots
Block Wood (black finish)
Dishwasher Safe No
(from $35.00)
Blades Stamped high-carbon stainless steel
Handles Stainless steel, plastic tang
Knives 7” santoku • 8” chef’s • 8” slicer • 3.5” paring • 5.5” serrated utility • 8” bread
Steak Knives 6
Shears Yes
Sharpening Steel Yes
Block Wood (black finish)
Dishwasher Safe No
(from $36.00)
Blades Stamped stainless steel
Handles Hollow metal and polyoxymethylene (POM)
Knives 6.5” santoku • 8” and 6” chef’s • 8” carving • 6” fork • 6” cleaver • 3.5” paring • 3” bird’s beak paring • 6” utility • 8” bread • 6” boning
Steak Knives 8
Shears Yes
Sharpening Steel Yes
Block Wood (black finish)
Dishwasher Safe Yes
(from $20.00)
Blades Ceramic
Handles Plastic
Knives 6” santoku • 3” paring • 4” fruit • 5” utility • peeler
Steak Knives None
Shears No
Sharpening Steel No
Block Sheaths (4)
Dishwasher Safe No
(from $52.00)
Blades Carbon steel
Handles Hardwood, full tang, dual brass rivets
Knives 7” butcher’s • 8” slicing • 3.25” and 4” paring • 6” boning
Steak Knives None
Shears No
Sharpening Steel No
Block No
Dishwasher Safe No

Kitchen Knife Reviews: What We Considered

There aren't a lot of expert reviews of cheap knife sets, so it's important to understand the features that generally make for a decent set of knives. Feedback from owners on retail sites such as Amazon, Walmart, Target, Wayfair, and Bed Bath & Beyond is also helpful to get a sense of how particular knives actually perform -- and hold up -- if you don't have the option of testing them out in your own kitchen. Just take consumer reviews with a grain of salt. Although there's consensus among home cooks about the value and usefulness of the best cheap cutlery sets, there's also some divergence in kitchen knife reviews. For any given set of knives, a majority of consumers may rave about sharp edges and ease of cutting, while a few find the knives dull and hard to work with -- or the reverse. Likewise with other performance characteristics, such as durability and tendency to rust. Overall, users are satisfied with the variety offered in the best cheap knife sets and the high quality-to-price ratio.

Blade Material.

A knife is only as good as its blade. The blades on most cheaper kitchen knives are made of stainless steel. Stainless steel is a compound metal composed of elements including chromium, nickel, iron, and carbon. Chromium gives it the resistance to corrosion (rust) that most people want. Often a stainless steel knife will boast a high carbon content of at least 0.6 percent. Carbon gives the knife its hardness and ability to take an edge when sharpened. Stainless steel blades are tough and known for maintaining their shiny good looks and keeping their edge longer, but they're on the softer side and it's difficult to get them extremely sharp.

Some cooks, particularly more serious home chefs, prefer carbon steel to stainless steel. Carbon steel knives, which do not incorporate chromium, often proclaim to be made of 1095 carbon. This means the steel contains 0.95 percent carbon, making it harder and reducing wear over time. Carbon steel knives tend to be sharper than their stainless steel counterparts -- cutting paper-thin slices of onions, for example, with little effort -- and they're easier to hone. On the downside, high humidity and foods high in acid can cause carbon steel blades to rust and discolor, respectively. Also, carbon steel knives require more care. They need to be cleaned and sharpened frequently and oiled with some regularity, to form a moisture barrier.

A newer addition to the knife repertoire is ceramic blades. Ceramic kitchen knives do not replace steel knives, but they serve a purpose and certainly have their pros and cons. Ceramic blades are super-sharp and hardly ever need sharpening; when they do, they require a special sharpener. Ceramic knives are lightweight, thin, non-corrosive, and very hard. However, ceramic is also brittle, which makes it prone to chipping. Ceramic knives cannot be used to cut through bones or frozen foods. They are terrific for slicing vegetables, however, and generally quite inexpensive.

Forged vs. Stamped Knives.

Another distinction to consider among blades is whether they are "forged" or "stamped." Traditionally, forged knives have been considered higher quality, but one is not necessarily better than the other. Forged knives are molded by hand using intense heat. They are made from one piece of steel and usually have a "bolster" -- a thick piece of metal between the blade and the handle -- that helps balance the knife's weight. They tend to be hard, dense, heavy, and strong -- and also more expensive. Forged knives have a cutting edge that stays sharp a long time and takes an edge well. Because of their weight, not as much pressure needs to be applied when hacking through thicker foods like squashes with very tough skins.

Stamped knives are made by machine from a template cutter. They are cheaper to produce, lighter, and more flexible than forged knives. This can be an advantage in certain situations: Thinner knives are much better at slicing. Stamped knives need to be sharpened more often than forged ones, although sharpening may be a bit easier, because they don't have a bolster. The blades in cheap knives are usually stamped. Some sets contain forged knives, but one must assume that corners have been cut somewhere to keep costs low, as forging is a much more expensive process.

Handle.

Ideally, the knives you buy will be "full tang," which means the metal of the blade extends into the handle (this is typical with forged blades). This mode of construction prevents bending and breakage, makes the knife easier to work with, and is likely to lengthen the lifespan of a cheap knife. Some knife handles are made of Bakelite, a hard, heat-resistant, and electrically non-conductive plastic used in a lot of kitchenware.

Weight.

The weight of a kitchen knife affects its feel in your hand, how you work with it, and how it performs. You'll want a heavier knife for meats and thinner, lightweight knives for slicing and chopping vegetables. Experts say metal handles make knives significantly heavier, so if you're eyeing a knife with such a handle, make sure it won't place unnecessary strain on your wrist or impair your control as you whisk the blade across the cutting board. Excessive weight is rarely a concern with cheap cutlery sets; you may have to step up a few notches in price if you're partial to knives with some heft.

Knife Variety.

Despite what some experts say about the joy of cooking with only one all-purpose knife, having a choice of knives is an affordable luxury. Cheap cutlery sets typically come with a dozen or more different knives, ranging from a delicate boning knife to a hefty cleaver to steak knives intended for place settings. If you cut up lots of fruits and vegetables, you'll appreciate a paring knife, which is particularly useful for peeling skins. Some cheap cutlery sets include a santoku knife, which is a bit like a small, thin-bladed cleaver and has recently gained favor among home cooks for its usefulness in chopping, dicing, and mincing. For cooks whose recipe repertoire includes meat, steak knives as well as knives like a cleaver and boning knife are important. Soft foods, particularly breads and tomatoes, call out for serrated knives.

Extras.

It may be hard to believe, but even cheap knife sets often feature a few useful extras, such as a knife sharpener. High-end sets can be sent back to the manufacturer for sharpening, but with budget cutlery, you either sharpen the knives yourself, work with dull blades, or buy a new set. Be wary of claims in product descriptions boasting that knives "never need sharpening." Experts say all knives dull and need to be sharpened eventually (although serrated edges aren't cut out for this type of ongoing maintenance). Kitchen scissors/shears are another welcome component of some cheap cutlery sets. They're handy for quickly cutting open packaging and completing other tasks that aren't easily or safely handled with a knife. Most cheap knife sets come with a storage block that sits on the countertop.

Durability.

The longevity of kitchen knives largely depends on how you clean them. Most experts and many home cooks urge consumers to hand-wash knives and dry them right away rather than put them in the dishwasher. Almost every cheap cutlery set has at least one review complaining about rusting, often due to dishwasher cleaning, which can also leave unsightly splotching and dull the edges. It's probably a good idea to avoid the dishwasher altogether, no matter which knives you choose.

It's impossible to predict how long a cheap blade will hold its edge. Obviously the more you use it, the faster it will dull (although ceramic knives' claim to fame is that they retain their edge for years). The cutting surface also matters: Hard glass and granite, for example, quickly take their toll on knives while softer surfaces, such as bamboo and some of the newer synthetic and recycled materials, are more forgiving. We looked for cheap knife sets that are reported to be cutting cleanly and easily after years of usage.

Additional Products We Considered

Calphalon Contemporary 17-Piece Review

From $122

Bonus: Calphalon Knife Set

Included: 7" santoku knife | 8" chef's knife | 8" slicing knife | 4.5" paring knife | 6" utility knife | 8" bread knife | 8 steak knives | scissors | sharpening steel | maple wood block

Pros:

  • Forged, high-carbon blades are sharp, durable, and made from "no-stain" German steel.
  • Full-tang polyresin handles have good heft and balance, according to reviews.
  • Each knife has an identifying label on the top so it's easy to quickly find what's needed.
  • Relatively few reports of rusting.
  • Full lifetime warranty; reviews affirm that Calphalon honors the guarantee if anything breaks.

Cons:

  • Some mentions of knives breaking off at the handle.
  • Steak knives feel flimsy to some users; they're not made from the same German steel as the rest of the knives, and they're stamped as opposed to forged.

Takeaway: Although some reviews question whether this higher-end set stands up to the competition in terms of overall quality (the knives are forged from German steel but manufactured in China), many home chefs are more than impressed with the balance and weight of the attractive, easy-to-hold knives in the Calphalon Contemporary 17-Piece set (model 2023116). They can take and maintain a very sharp edge, too; using them is "like cutting through butter on sweet potatoes," says one reviewer on Amazon. The sticker price is over $200, but if you can pick them up for under $150, they may be worth the spend.

Victorinox Swiss Army Classic 15-Piece Review

From $186

Bonus: Victorinox Kitchen Knives Under $200

Included: 7" santoku knife | 8" chef's knife | 3.25" paring knife | 5" utility knife | 4.5" serrated utility | 8.25" serrated bread knife | 6 steak knives | scissors | sharpening steel | wood block

Pros:

  • Victorinox knives are very highly rated, good-quality knives with nice balance.
  • Fibrox textured handles are easy to hold, even with wet or slippery hands.
  • Wooden block is solid and sturdy.
  • Stamped, high-carbon stainless steel blades hold their edges and are very thin.
  • Consumers find most of the knives in the set useful.
  • Dishwasher-safe (hand washing recommended).
  • Lifetime warranty.

Cons:

  • Newer Fibrox handles are not as sturdy and hefty as old ones, according to some reviews.
  • Some say the "come-apart" shears separate too easily and don't work as well as the other items in the set.
  • A few users gripe that the steak knives are a bit flimsy, although they work well.

Takeaway: Made in Switzerland by the company that brought you your favorite pocketknife, the Victorinox brand is acclaimed by many experts, including America's Test Kitchen. These Swiss Army kitchen knives get consistently high ratings from consumers, as well, and many owners say they're hands down the best kitchen knives for the money. Even better, and unlike most kitchen knives, the Victorinox Classic 15-Piece set is dishwasher-safe, and users confirm that rust is not a problem (just be careful with the shears, which may not be as resilient as the knives).

Wüsthof Gourmet 12-Piece Review

From $219

Bonus: German Kitchen Knives Under $300

Included: 8" chef's knife | 3" spear-point paring knife | 2.5" paring knife | 4.5" utility knife | 8" bread knife | scissors | sharpening steel | 4 steak knives | wood block

Pros:

  • Revered German manufacturer known for precision crafting and product longevity.
  • Knives are comfortable to hold and feel particularly well-balanced in the hand.
  • Very sharp, thin, high-carbon German steel blades hold an edge well.
  • Users say the knives sharpen easily and stand up to frequent honing.
  • Limited lifetime warranty.

Cons:

  • This is the low-end Wüsthof line; not the same quality as the forged Classic line.
  • A few owners gripe that the logo stickers on the handles seem cheaply made and don't hold up.
  • Some mentions of rust; hand wash only.

Takeaway: This Wüsthof Gourmet 12-Piece knife set is very popular on gift registries, and the recipients are very pleased with what they get, according to reviews. Although the lack of a santoku knife is a disappointment to some, this entry-level set provides most of the basics for everyday use, and many home cooks assert that these Wüsthof kitchen knives have improved their slicing, dicing, and mincing skills. Novice users are encouraged by some more experienced reviewers to sharpen this set with a stone, not a machine, for a better and longer-lasting edge.

Cook N Home 9-Piece Ceramic Review

From $20

Bonus: Ceramic Knife Set

Included: 6" santoku knife | 3" paring knife | 4" fruit knife | 5" utility knife | peeler | 4 sheaths

Pros:

  • Ceramic blades are extremely sharp and stay that way for a long time without sharpening.
  • Adept at prepping vegetables, they can slice tomatoes easily and produce paper-thin onions, according to reviews.
  • Very lightweight; most users find them they're comfortable to hold.
  • Easy to clean; no reports of rusting.
  • Attractive colors perk up the kitchen.
  • Although there's no block, each knife comes with a matching sheath.

Cons:

  • Blades chip quite easily.
  • Can't be used to cut anything hard or they will break.
  • White blades become tinged after a while.
  • Limited number of knives.

Takeaway: Ceramic knives are generally inexpensive, and buyers who understand that they're an adjunct to, not a replacement for, a steel knife set are very happy with the colorful Cook N Home 9-Piece collection. The downside of ceramic knives is they chip easily and require specific care, such as avoiding glass cutting boards, hard foods, and bones. For slicing vegetables, however, they are sublime.

Old Hickory 705 5-Piece Review

From $52

Bonus: Carbon Steel Kitchen Knives Under $100

Included: 7" butcher's knife | 8" slicing knife | 3.25" and 4" paring knives | 6" boning knife

Pros:

  • Blades made of 1095 carbon steel, which is much harder than stainless.
  • Blades sharpen easily with a stone and can be honed to a long-lasting razor-sharp edge.
  • Hardwood, full-tang handles with brass rivets are comfortable and well-balanced, according to reviews.
  • Extremely durable with proper care and made in the USA.
  • Limited lifetime warranty.

Cons:

  • Prone to rusting; need to be treated with mineral oil frequently.
  • Not sharp out of the box, and some may require a bevel, so they need to be sharpened immediately.
  • "Rustic" look might not appeal to all tastes.
  • Sharpener and block not included.

Takeaway: Cooks looking to tackle serious jobs in the kitchen (and even out hunting) will appreciate this low-cost, carbon steel, five-piece knife set from the Ontario Knife Company. First produced in 1924, Old Hickory knives are known for their craftsmanship and boast a super-sharp edge that lasts a long time -- the knives themselves are guaranteed for life. They're not for everyone, though, because they require a great deal of care. While there are some complaints of rusting, users can stave it off with meticulous upkeep, which is a point of pride among aficionados of carbon steel knives. These knives also stain, developing an individual patina and personality over time.