Best Cheap Kitchen Knives

From sleek, modern collections to traditional knife sets from renowned French and Swiss brands, we've chosen the best kitchen knives under $100. Our top picks feature sharp and durable stainless steel sets that cover most cooking needs. We've also got ceramic, carbon steel, and value options from the big names.

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.  

We Looked At

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.

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.

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.

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.

Our Top Pick

J.A. Henckels International Definition 12-Piece
Our Picks
J.A. Henckels International Definition 12-Piece

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

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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

Chicago Cutlery Elston 16-Piece

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

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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

Ginsu Chikara Series 8-Piece

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

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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

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)

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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

Pure Komachi 2 9-Piece

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)

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.)

  • 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.

  • 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.

Sabatier Edgekeeper Pro 12-Piece

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)

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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

Oster Baldwyn 22-Piece (70562.22)

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)

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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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)

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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

Other Products We Reviewed

Knives are only as good as the steel they're made with, and for under $35, knife sets reviewers say you won't find better quality steel than the commercial-grade Japanese 420J2 steel in the Ginsu International Traditions 14-Piece Knife Set (starting at $32, Amazon). More than 130 frugal cooks give this extra-sharp set five stars in Ginsu International Traditions reviews on Amazon for its precise cutting, durability, weight, look, and feel.

Ginsu International Traditions reviews on Bestcovery are equally enthusiastic, awarding this cutlery set best in class. The Ginsu 14-piece set receives an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 in cutlery sets reviews on Buzzillions, where more than a few reviewers comment on the outstanding sturdiness of these knives. One user even gives these knives points for cutting right through bone, and another user praises the strength of the kitchen shears that come with the set.

The Ginsu International Traditions set includes a 3.5" paring knife, 5" utility knife, 5.5" boning knife, 7" Santoku knife (sort of like a small, narrow cleaver), 8" chef's knife, 8" slicer, six 4.5" steak knives, and a pair of kitchen shears. The blades on these knives are full-tang (e.g., the metal extends into the handle, which adds strength and durability) and stamped. They are also serrated, and unlike other sets with serrated edges, the Ginsu International Traditions knives generally garner rave reviews for their ability to cut through everything from vegetables to steak with ease.

With minimal complaints and mostly glowing reviews, you'll definitely get plenty of bang for your buck with this set. Bottom line: The Ginsu International Traditions knives are the closest you'll get to professional quality for a budget price.

The Miracle Blade III 11-Piece Set (starting at $20, Amazon), often advertised on TV, is the best knife set for meat lovers on a small budget. The ergonomic design of these unique-looking knives makes them well suited for cutting through bone, cartilage, and grizzle. The stainless steel, rust-resistant blades extend full-tang into the handle, which enhances their strength. One feature that distinguishes the Miracle Blade III set from other low-cost knives is that the blades are not serrated. The set includes four steak knives, one filet knife, one paring knife, one chop n' scoop cleaver, one rock n' chop cleaver, two slicers, and a pair of kitchen shears. Handles are plastic and feature a patented grip to help keep the handle centered in your hand while cutting.

According to Miracle Blade III reviews on Amazon, this cutlery set scores big points for sharpness; one user reports that Miracle blades cut better than expensive, high-end knives that they own. These knives don't appeal only to carnivores. Reviews on Buzzillions and Target report they make quick work chopping up vegetables like potatoes and carrots, stay centered in your hand, and cut straight slices. More plaudits come from reviews on bestcovery.com, where this knife set wins "Best Knife Set under $40" and is touted for sharpness, versatility, and variety; some consumer reviews on the site, however, aren't less enthusiastic. Despite all the high praise these knives receive, some Miracle Blade III reviews complain about rusting, particularly if you put them in the dishwasher.

Take care of these knives -- hand wash and dry them immediately -- and they'll go a long way. This set is a lot of bang for not too many bucks.

The Ronco Rocker Showtime Stainless Steel Stamped 20-Piece Knife Set (starting at $40, Amazon) may be best-known for its infomercial, but you can also find this set at Walmart. With 20 pieces to choose from, you'd be hard pressed to find a cutlery set for less than $50 with as much variety. No surprise, then, that Ronco Rocker Showtime reviews on the Walmart site comment positively and often about this feature. Durability is another factor that pops up in reviews on Buzzillions, where one consumer writes that these knives have held up for more than six years, even with dishwasher cleaning. But beware, if you're looking for knives that feel heavy in the hand, this inexpensive set is not for you. Some reviews on Walmart cite disappointment with their light weight, an assessment echoed by some consumers posting Ronco Rocker Showtime reviews on Amazon.

The set features a 9" Showtime knife, 9" saw knife, 8" bread/bagel knife, 8" chef's knife, 7" boning knife, 8.5" Ronco Rocker knife, 7" cleaver, 7" sportsman's knife, 6" cheese knife, 4.8" chop & serve knife, 4.8" utility knife, two 3.5" paring knives, six steak knives, kitchen shears, and a wood storage block. The blades are made of high carbon stainless steel and extend, full-tang, into the handles for added strength and durability. As is the case with most good knives, you should hand wash and dry these blades to minimize the chances of rusting.

For durability, sharpness, and versatility, the Ronco Rocker Showtime 20-piece set is a decent deal at a decent price.

Chicago Cutlery Cabrera

Chicago Cutlery usually makes high-priced knives and enjoys a solid reputation for producing sharp, good-looking knife sets. Chicago Cutlery Cabrera 12-Piece reviews say this low-cost knife set lives up to the Chicago Cutlery name but steers clear of the big price tag. It takes third place in the "under $40" category on Bestcovery, where it scores points for the sharpness of the blades. Many users posting reviews on Amazon< give this set a four- or five-star rating, and particularly praise the value for the price, the everyday practicality, and the handsome look. The handles on the Chicago Cutlery Cabrera set (starting at $37) are full-tang (the blade extends into the handle for better strength and durability) and made of white polymer, a feature that has numerous fans on Amazon and a couple of critics on Bestcovery who consider the handles tacky-looking and tough to keep clean.

This set includes a few unusual utensils aside from the more standard 3.5" paring knife, 5" utility knife, 8" bread knife, four (stamped) steak knives, kitchen shears, and increasingly common 7" santoku knife. There is also a 5" Partoku knife, which is a trademarked design that's part santoku knife (akin to a small narrow cleaverand part paring knife, although its size makes the Partoku knife better for chopping and slicing than for paring. These two knives get the most shout outs in Chicago Cutlery Cabrera reviews on Amazon by consumers who say these pieces are very sharp and well-designed. Which brings us to the included 8" sharpening steel, which you can use to keep the forged, high carbon stainless steel blades razor-edged sharp.

For home cooks concerned with the aesthetic quality of knives, this set is a smart budget buy made by a well-respected brand. And i f you follow Chicago Cutlery's advice and wash these knives by hand, they should serve you well a good long time.

Although J.A. Henckels makes some of the best knives in the high-priced end of the market, J.A. Henckels International Everedge reviews say this cutlery set falls far short of the brand's usual gold standard. One user posting a review on Amazon attributes the comparatively poor quality of this set's stamped blades to the fact that they're not made in Germany, where hand-forged and expensive Henckels knives originate. Frugal cooks posting reviews on Buzzillions and Amazon express disappointment with the flimsiness of the knives and the difficulty of cleaning the textured, micro-serrated blades. Reviews of J.A. Henckels International Everedge (starting at $45, Amazon) on the Macy's site say food gets trapped and the tiny little points snag sponges and wash cloths.

Another major complaint is the lack of variety in the blade edges. The set comes with a good assortment of knives, including a 2.5" paring knife, 6" utility knife, 8" chef's knife with curved blade, 5" tomato knife, 8" bread knife,6" boning knife, and six 5" steak knives, but all the edges are micro-serrated. Some J.A. Henckels International Everedge reviews on Amazon and Buzzillions say this makes tasks like mincing, peeling, and chopping difficult. Although some home cooks aren't deterred by the serrated edges, others point out that they force you to use a sawing motion, which doesn't work well on cheese, raw meat, or hard raw vegetables; these home cooks would prefer the set included some straight-edged blades, as well. According to reviews on the Macy's site, these knives are also prone to rusting and dull quickly; one consumer review notes that rust spots developed on all the steak knives within six months of use despite having been hand-washed.

If you want J.A. Henckels knives that live up to the brand's high-quality reputation, you'll have to spring for a more expensive model; upmarket Henckels knife sets sell for $125, and counting.

The Sunbeam 13-Piece set (starting at $16, Amazon) is ultra-cheap, and in this case, Sunbeam 13-Piece reviews say you get what you pay for this set comes with a 3"paring knife, 5"utility knife, 5" fruit/vegetable knife, 8" chef's knife, 7.5" carving knife, kitchen shears, and six 8.5" steak knives. The blades are stamped stainless steel and serrated, and they do not extend full-tang into the handle. The Sunbeam 13-Piece set also comes with a pinewood block that has a non-slip base.

Sunbeam 13-Piece knife set reviews are scarce, but what we found was largely negative even though it scores as "Fifth Best Knife Set Under $40" on Bestcovery.com. Sunbeam describes these knives as "heavy-duty," but home cooks tend to disagree. Sunbeam 13-Piece reviews on Amazon pan the knives for being weak, poorly designed, and lacking in durability. One consumer review complains about the blades not extending into the handle, which may have caused one to break while cutting a piece of cheese and another gripes about knives beginning to rust after just a year of use. Although Sunbeam lists the set as "dishwasher safe," you're probably better off hand washing and immediately drying these knives. The pine block used for storing these knives earns mixed reviews - a few consumers like the look but a review on Buzzillions calls it "tacky looking." One Sunbeam 13-Piece knife set review on Amazon says she can't figure out which knife goes in which slot.

The Sunbeam 13-Piece Knife set may be one of the cheapest cutlery sets around, but consumers suggest it's not even worth its low price, though you might salvage some value if you need a cheap set for a short period of time. You can definitely find a better quality knife set for less than $45 that will last longer and perform better.

The Cook Neway 15-Piece Knife set (starting at $40) is not the best cheap cutlery set you can buy, but a few frugal cooks say this collection makes a great starter set. Among the few Cook Neway 15-Piece knife set reviews we could find, consumer postings on Amazon give these knives a high rating, and particularly note that they're a good value at an affordable price. A review on Amazon singles out the utility knife and kitchen shears for special praise and gripes about the small steak knives, partly because they can't go in the dishwasher and partly because the blades aren't sufficiently serrated.

This set includes a 6" boning knife, 8" slicer, 5" utility knife, 4/5" tomato knife, 3.5" paring knife, 6" carving fork, 7" santoku knife (a small, narrow cleaver), six steak knives, kitchen shears, and a pinewood storage block. A Cook Neway 15-Piece knife set review on Bestcovery.com says the high carbon stainless steel blades helped earn the set fourth best in the site's "under $40" category. The blades in this set are stamped and the edges are not serrated. The handles are full tang (the steel of the blades extends into the handles) and made of Bakelite, which is a type of hard plastic that's heat-resistant and doesn't conduct electricity.

Like most cheap knives, these should never see the inside of a dishwasher. Users warn they're sure to rust if you don't hand wash and dry them immediately. The Cook Neway set is a decent value, but there are better options out there for cooks on a budget.

Martha Stewart 20-piece Essential Cutlery set

Martha Stewart 20-piece Essential Cutlery set Review

The Martha Stewart 20-piece Essential Cutlery set (starting at $99) sits at the very top of the Cheapism range, but that doesn't mean it's better quality than our top picks. This set features a 3" paring knife, 5" and 7" santoku knives (like a short, narrow cleaver), 4.5" and 5.5" utility knives, 8" slicer, 6" and 8" chef's knives, 8" bread knife, eight 4.5" steak knives, and kitchen shears. All the blades are full-tang (extending into the handle), non-serrated, and made of stamped stainless steel. There's also a sharpening steel, although its usefulness is questionable given that one Martha Stewart 20-piece Essential Cutlery set review on Macy's notes that the handle broke while a knife was being sharpened.

Indeed, Martha Stewart 20-piece Essential Cutlery reviews on several sites are quite mixed. Another review on Macy's stacks the Martha Stewart set against $400 Cutco knives and concludes that the Martha Stewart set is sharper and does a top-notch job cutting through hard foods, like raw vegetables. Likewise, a review on Amazon compares this set to a high-end Henckels set and prefers the design and quality of this one. Other reviews on Macy's argue that buying the set is a waste of money because the blades dull and rust easily. Most complaints about these knives, according to reviews on Macy's and Amazon concern rust. In short, these knives definitely require tender loving care, which means hand washing and immediate drying.

Still, this is one attractive and affordable knife set. Martha Stewart Essential Cutlery reviews on Buzzillions gush about the styling of the knives and storage block; several reviews on Macy's mention they love the look of the Martha Stewart-labeled block on their countertop. This set may look like a million dollars, but appearance alone doesn't count for much in a moderately-priced knife set. These knives attract enough negative reviews for shoppers to be skeptical. With plenty of safer bets at cheaper prices, it might be smart to choose something else.

Calphalon Contemporary 17-Piece

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

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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

Victorinox Swiss Army Classic 15-Piece

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

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).

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

Old Hickory 705 5-Piece

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

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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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.

Features Comparison

Sort by:
Review Score:
Product Title
Blades
Handles
Knives
Steak Knives
Shears
Sharpening Steel
Block
Dishwasher Safe
Product Title
Blades
Handles
Knives
Steak Knives
Shears
Sharpening Steel
Block
Dishwasher Safe

J.A. Henckels...

$99.95
Stamped high-carbon stainless steel
Polypropylene, full tang, triple riveted
5” santoku • 8” chef’s • 3” paring • 5” serrated utility • 8” bread
4
Yes
Yes
Wood
Yes

Chicago Cutlery Elston...

$53
Forged high-carbon stainless steel
Stainless steel, full tang
8” chef’s • 2x 3.25” paring • 4.75” utility • 6.75” bread
8
Yes
Yes
Wood
No

Ginsu Chikara Series...

$90
Forged Japanese steel
Polyoxymethylene (POM), full tang
7” santoku • 8” chef’s • 3.5” paring • 5” utility • 5” serrated utility
None
Yes
Yes
Bamboo
No

Cuisinart Graphix...

$50
Stamped high-carbon stainless steel
Hollow stainless steel
7” santoku • 8” chef’s • 8” slicing • 3.5” paring • 2.75” bird’s beak...
6
Yes
Yes
Wood (black finish)
No

Pure Komachi 2 9-Piece

$99.99
Stamped high-carbon stainless steel with colored resin coating
Resin
6.5” hollow ground santoku • 8” chef’s • 3.5” paring • 4” tomato • 4”...
None
No
No
Acrylic
No

Sabatier Edgekeeper Pro...

$60
Forged high-carbon stainless steel
Polypropylene, full tang, triple riveted
8” chef’s • 5” chef’s with kullens • 8” slicer • 3.5” paring • 4.5”...
6
No
Ceramic sharpeners in slots
Wood (black finish)
No

Farberware 15-Piece...

$35
Stamped high-carbon stainless steel
Stainless steel, plastic tang
7” santoku • 8” chef’s • 8” slicer • 3.5” paring • 5.5” serrated...
6
Yes
Yes
Wood (black finish)
No

Oster Baldwyn 22-Piece...

$36
Stamped stainless steel
Hollow metal and polyoxymethylene (POM)
6.5” santoku • 8” and 6” chef’s • 8” carving • 6” fork • 6” cleaver •...
8
Yes
Yes
Wood (black finish)
Yes

Cook N Home 9-Piece Ceramic

$20
Ceramic
Plastic
6” santoku • 3” paring • 4” fruit • 5” utility • peeler
None
No
No
Sheaths (4)
No

Old Hickory 705 5-Piece

$52
Carbon steel
Hardwood, full tang, dual brass rivets
7” butcher’s • 8” slicing • 3.25” and 4” paring • 6” boning
None
No
No
No
No