The Tests

  • Insert/attach our winning six-piece à la carte knife set

  • Insert/attach our Best Buy six-piece à la carte knife set

  • Insert/attach our winning cleaver, the Global 6-inch Meat Cleaver

  • Insert/attach and remove brand-new chef’s knife (Victorinox 8'' Swiss Army Fibrox Pro Chef’s Knife) 100 times, checking for block damage and loss of knife sharpness

  • Splatter with tomato sauce and clean by hand

  • Run through dishwasher five times (for dishwasher-safe models)

  • Use iron filings to determine number, size, arrangement, and strength of magnets

Knife blocks allow you to store your knives without mounting a magnetic strip on your kitchen wall or taking up valuable drawer space with an organizer. Because conventional blocks hold only knives of specific sizes (the small slot for the paring knife, the deep slot for the slicer, etc.), we prefer universal blocks, which are designed to accommodate knives of all sizes in any configuration. There are two types of universal knife blocks: those that use magnets to secure the knives and those that use a mass of bristles or folds or an open grid to hold them. To find the best universal knife block on the market, we tested 10 models priced from $24.99 to $248.64, using them to hold both our winning and Best Buy six-piece à la carte knife sets (which both include a pair of shears).

What did we find out? While nonmagnetic models were generally cheaper, they were less durable: Plastic bristles shed and bent out of shape, plastic folds got nicked easily, and the wooden grid chipped with extended use. Worse, nonmagnetic models were often smaller and less safe, crowding the knives together and/or leaving larger portions of their blades sticking out.

We preferred magnetic models, which generally exposed less of the blades and held the knives more securely—usually in a side-by-side configuration that made it less likely that the knives would scrape against each other and dull or scratch the blades. We liked blocks with magnets that were just strong enough to hold a heavy cleaver without letting it slip but not so strong that we struggled to remove it. To learn more about the magnets in each block, we used iron filings to locate and measure them. Magnet type, size, shape, or number didn’t seem to matter, but magnet coverage did: Blocks with large gaps between their magnets had less usable space overall and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives.

We wrapped each knife block in parchment paper and sprinkled iron filings onto it to reveal the size and placement of the magnets.

Stability was a final and important concern. We preferred heavier blocks with wide bases lined with rubbery nonslip material, features that helped keep the blocks from tipping over when we removed knives or bumped the blocks. Too light—or too narrow—and the blocks became dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.

Assistant editor Miye Bromberg uses our six-piece à la carte knife set to test the capacities of universal knife blocks.

At $248.64, our winning block, the 360 Knife Block by Design Trifecta, is a serious investment, but it will serve your knives well for years to come. It weighs almost 14 pounds, ensuring that it will never budge from your counter. It’s roomy, sturdy, and durable, surviving extensive testing with nary a scratch. With excellent magnet coverage, it was easy to attach and remove knives—a rotating, lazy Susan–esque base allowed for quick access to all six of its sides. It was also simple to clean. For a lower-priced alternative, we also recommend the Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block, $67.99. Because it has a plastic guard, it was a little less easy to use and clean, but it did a good job of holding all our favorite knives securely.

Winning Traits

  • Large capacity

  • Neatly and safely contains most or all of the knife blades

  • Good magnetic coverage and strength

  • Sturdy, nonslip base

  • Easy to clean