How to Build the Best Knife Set

Knife blocks may be convenient, but they're not always equipped with the best (or most useful) knives. We decided to build our own knife set.

Published Oct. 21, 2016.

We’re skeptical about knife block sets in the test kitchen. They can be rather expensive—some come with price tags of $700!—and they’re often filled with several knives you won’t ever use in your home kitchen. We believe there are only three knives you truly need: a chef’s knife, a paring knife, and a serrated bread knife. Beyond that, a boning knife, a slicing knife (for carving), and kitchen shears (for cutting the backbone out of a chicken, for example) will help make certain tasks easier.

Here’s a list of our favorite knives (and our favorite universal knife block), what we call the America’s Test Kitchen à la carte Knife Set. It’s less expensive than the higher end sets, and made up of knives you’ll actually use.

Victorinox 8" Swiss Army Fibrox Pro Chef’s Knife

Still the best—and a bargain—after 20 years, this knife’s “super-sharp” blade was “silent” and “smooth,” even as it cut through tough squash, and it retained its edge after weeks of testing. Its textured grip felt secure for a wide range of hand sizes, and thanks to its gently rounded edges and the soft, hand-polished top spine, we could comfortably choke up on the knife for “precise,” “effortless” cuts. [Buy Now on Amazon | Read Our Full Review]

Victorinox Swiss Army Fibrox Pro 3 1/4" Spear Point Paring Knife

This knife was “superadept”; its sharp, flexible blade nimbly hugged curves, so we could surgically remove peels or cores without plunging too deeply. [Buy Now on Amazon | Read Our Full Review]

Victorinox 12" Fibrox Pro Granton Edge Slicing/Carving Knife

If you’re spending time and money on a special meal—a roast, let's say—it’s worth getting the right tool to serve it. Unlike shorter chef’s knives and pointed, flexible carving knives, slicing knives are long and straight for smooth, even slicing. They have rounded tips so as to be less threatening for tableside serving. This slicing knife from Victorinox is our all-time favorite. “Every slice is perfect,” said one tester. It was comfortable and sharp, with a long, tall blade that was “just flexible enough so you feel like it’s doing what you tell it to.” [Buy Now on Amazon | Read Our Full Review]

Victorinox 6-inch Fibrox Pro Flexible Boning Knife

Zwilling Pro 5.5 inch Flexible Boning Knife

This knife won us over with its ultrasharp, moderately flexible blade, which made every task seem nearly effortless. It kept its edge throughout testing, even after deboning an additional 10 chicken breasts.          [Buy Now on Amazon | Read Our Full Review]

Our Other Favorites

Mercer Culinary Millennia 10" Wide Bread Knife

With the fewest, widest, and deepest serrations, this knife was a “standout.” Its sharp points bit into everything from the crustiest bread to the squishiest tomato, producing crisp, clean slices. “Perfect, no crumbs, really easy,” said one tester. A stellar blade coupled with a grippy, comfortable handle earned this knife the top spot. [Buy Now on Amazon]

Kershaw Taskmaster Shears/Shun Multi-Purpose Shears

Thanks to 9-inch, very sharp blades (one with fine micro-serrations; the other deeply grooved ones), breaking down a chicken felt effortless. Large, rubbery handles were comfy, and blades were symmetrical for right- and left-handed use. They come with a lifetime guarantee. [Buy Now on Amazon | Read Our Full Review]

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little. [Buy Now on Amazon | Read Our Full Review]

All products reviewed by America's Test Kitchen are independently chosen, researched, and reviewed by our editors. We buy products for testing at retail locations and do not accept unsolicited samples for testing. We list suggested sources for recommended products as a convenience to our readers but do not endorse specific retailers. When you choose to purchase our editorial recommendations from the links we provide, we may earn an affiliate commission. Prices are subject to change.

This is a members' feature.