One of the first things you learn about knives is that it’s not a good idea to use just one or two for every kitchen task.
Using a cumbersome 8” chef’s knife for delicate work is only going to end in tears (and mess), and likewise, using a small detail-focused blade for chopping large vegetables or cuts of meat is going to be a nightmare.
Worse still, when you use the wrong knife for a task, the chances of injuring yourself go up exponentially, as you end up deviating from safe protocol to get the job done to a half-decent standard.
The solution is simply to invest in a quality knife set that arrives with all the shapes and sizes of knife you’ll need to accomplish absolutely anything in your kitchen, and luckily for you, I spent the last few weeks testing knife sets to find the very best for under $100.
Table of Contents
- Best Knife Set Under $100 – Reviews
- Buyer’s Guide
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Final Thoughts
Best Knife Set Under $100 – Reviews
Editor’s Pick – Henckels Solution 7-pc Knife Set
Henckels is one of the biggest names in the knife industry, and they’ve earned their reputation by producing extremely high-quality products for over a century, a feat that has earned the custom of everyone’s favorite sweary chef, Gordon Ramsey.
Made with triple steel rivets, each of the 5 kitchen knives in this 7-pc set is durable enough to last indefinitely, and the balance of each blade is perfectly tailored to each of their specialist tasks, making food prep much easier and safer.
You get a chef’s knife, a versatile medium-sized knife, a paring knife, a serrated knife (for bread) and a steak knife, meaning you’re covered on all fronts, and as a nice little extra, you also get a set of kitchen shears that sit in their own discrete nook in the block.
And speaking of the block, it’s a nice natural wood finish that’ll suit any kitchen aesthetic, and as it’s quite a modest set, it’ll fit nicely in a small gap, saving your workspace for meal prep.
- Not too many pieces — Fewer pieces means more of the purchase cost goes towards the quality of each knife
- Henckels — Reputable brand
- Triple rivet — Safe, durable handles prevent accidents
- Extras — Kitchen shears for good measure
- Sharpness — Needed sharpening when they arrived
Best With Self Sharpening Block – Sabatier Self Sharpening 12-pc Knife Set
If you’re worried about knife edges going dull over time while stored, this Sabatier kit offers an ingenious solution by way of a block with edge-retention technology.
Essentially, what you’ve got here is a block that sharpens your knives for you, so you’ll always get a clean cut.
But you’re not only paying for the fancy block here.
The knives themselves are more than capable of keeping the average cook happy in the kitchen, and being that there are 11 knives in total, you’ll never be without the tool you need to get a job done.
I particularly enjoyed using the chef knife with cullens during my tests.
The balance is exquisite, and the hollows were very effective in stopping foods sticking to the sides of the blade after a cut.
My one caveat is that the multiple steak knives that arrive with this set are quite flimsy, so if you like your steak well done, it’s probably not a good choice for you.
- Self-sharpening block — Barely any maintenance required
- 11 knives — Set for most kitchen tasks
- Triple rivet — Secure handles for a safer knives
- Steak knives — Costs have been cut on the steak knives
Best No Serrated Blade Set — Henckels Forged Synergy Starter Knife Set
We’re back to Henckels at my third spot, and it’s really no surprise considering the quality of this 3-pc set.
These are by far the most impressive knives on the list, so if you’re a young chef looking to buy your own knives on a budget, I’d highly recommend something like this.
The triple rivets guarantee stability even after decades of use, and as the balance is pristine on all three knives, challenging kitchen tasks are far easier and safer, which is essential in a commercial kitchen.
The cullens in the 7” Santorum chef’s knife work like a charm, allowing you to work efficiently and with fewer vegetables rolling off the blade and onto the floor, and the paring knife arrives unbelievably sharp right out the box.
As for the downsides, there is no large serrated blade for quickly slicing bread, but quality isn’t as important for such a blade, so it might actually be worth your while to purchase an affordable one separately.
- No superfluous blades — You’ll get tons of use out of all three knives
- Henckels — Reputable brand
- Hollow edge chef’s knife — Meat, cheese, and veg doesn’t stick to the sides, meaning you can work more efficiently
- Sharpness — Ready for action right out the box
- No bread knife — You’ll need to buy a bread knife separately
Best On A Budget — Syvio 14-pc Knife Set
You don’t need to break the bank to bring home a perfectly usable, long-lasting knife set.
For the average cook, anything fancier than this Syvio set might be overkill, and being that it arrives with 12 knives in total, even this is likely over the top for most people.
Amongst those 12 knives are all the essentials, including an 8” chef’s knife, a serrated bread knife, a paring knife, and of course, everything in between, including a pretty handy pair of shears.
Understandably, the balance of these knives wasn’t quite as refined as the Henckels blades on this list, but none of them were poorly crafted.
During my tests, they all seemed suited to their various tasks, and they arrived pretty darn sharp too!
When they lost their edge, I gave the integrated sharpener a go on the block, and it worked far better than I thought it would, which saves you from buying a discrete sharpener at a high price point.
- Integrated sharpener — Not self-sharpening, but the block does make manual sharpening easy
- Basics covered — Arrives with all the essential blades for any kind of food prep
- Price — You really can’t go wrong at this price point
- Unused knives — Most won’t need as many knives as you get here
- General quality — Edge retention could be better, and the glued handles aren’t going to last forever
Best Ceramic Set — Kyocera Ceramic Revolution Series 3-pc Knife Set
These ceramic Kyocera knives are a must-have as a supplemental set you can use for jobs that your steel blades don’t enjoy, such as slicing acidic foods like lemons, limes, and tomatoes.
Produced using a proprietary augmented zirconia, the blades are ferociously sharp and insanely hard.
During my tests, they made short work of all the toughest vegetables and fruits, and thanks to the ergonomic handles, my hands were feeling fresh afterwards too.
I thought the rounded tips were a particularly thoughtful element of the designs, as sharp ceramic tips are particularly vulnerable to cracking.
So, with them out of the picture, your knives are safer, and you won’t risk losing a razor-sharp ceramic fragment in your food.
Ideally, I’d have liked the 5.5” chef’s knife to have been a little larger, but all in all, this is an exceedingly high quality knife set.
- Quality zirconia — Menacingly sharp edges make chopping a joy rather than a chore
- Super lightweight — Prevents fatigue during intensive meal prep
- Non-stick blades — Non-stick coating works even better than hollow-edge steel blades, thereby increasing productivity
- Chef’s knife size — 5.5” is a little on the small size for a chef’s knife, so larger vegetables are quite tricky to chop
Not everyone is a knife aficionado or culinary whiz, so there’s a chance you simply don’t know where to start when selecting a knife set, but fret not, friend!
The following buyer’s guide will get you through this confounding consumer conundrum.
For a knife set to be called “a set”, it really needs to include three knives at the very least.
Three knives promise you a broad application range that will see you through numerous different culinary jobs.
But it’s not just the knife count you should concern yourself with; the type of knives included is also of crucial importance.
The key to a good knife set is choosing one that offers you a decent amount of range in your knives, and by “range”, I mean that each knife brings something new to the table, and it does so by way of varying sizes and styles
The size of a knife is incredibly important, as, for the most part, the dimensions of a blade will determine how it should be used in the kitchen.
For instance, larger knives are typically designed for tackling larger food items, while smaller knives are for more articulate jobs with smaller food items.
A set of just large knives or just small knives can still be helpful, but you simply won’t get the range that you need from a whole set of knives.
Generally speaking, a useful knife set will run the gambit between 6 and 10”, although more fleshed-out sets may include knives as short as 4”.
There are more styles of knife in this world than you could probably ever imagine, but thankfully, for a basic residential kitchen, there are only three essentials, and anything on top of that is just a nice-to-have.
The three must-have knife types are as follows:
- Chef’s knife — This is the quintessential multipurpose medium-to-large-sized knife you’ll use to slice and dice most food items. It’s balanced with most of the weight on the side of the blade to get gravity working on your side when chopping challenging stuff. They tend to be between 6 and 8” in length.
- Paring knife — This is the smallest of the knives in a set. It’s primarily used for tasks such as preparing salad and chopping fruits. The balance leans slightly towards the handle to give you ultimate control. They’re typically 3 to 4” in length.
- Serrated knife — These knives arrive with a toothy edge, making them the perfect tool for slicing through bread and other tough food items that don’t play nicely with a sharp, straight edge. They can be anywhere between 8 and 11” in length.
Even if you only have these three fundamental knives, you’ll get by just fine in your kitchen.
There are two main options when it comes to blade material… steel or ceramic. Both can be fantastic.
Steel blades can be formed by alloying a number of different kinds of metal, formulating a knife with unique properties.
With ceramics, there’s less variety involved in terms of materials, but there are still good and bad designs on the market.
For a quality steel bleed, look for a high alloy with plenty of carbides, and for ceramic, look for expertly augmented zirconia.
As for what these different blades are capable of, steel is more durable overall and can go toe to toe with all the harder foods out there like seeds, pits, frozen goods, and bones, while ceramic is corrosion resistant and super sharp, perfect for the use with acidic and softer food items.
The handle of a knife is equally important as the blade. It should be ergonomic, safe, and durable.
A secure fit with the blade is the most important aspect of any knife, as a loose fit can cause major accidents, not to mention make the knife impossible to use.
As for handle material, it’s all a matter of preference and budget really, but there are a few considerations to keep in mind.
- Wood is attractive but requires more care
- Steel is durable but quite heavy
- Aluminum is lighter but not quite as durable as steel
- Titanium can be seen as the middle ground between steel and aluminum
- Carbon fiber is super lightweight and super durable but can be quite expensive
- Plastic is, for the most part, absolutely fine, but it may be glued in place, which is a less reliable fitting method than rivets.
Another definitive feature of a good knife set is a quality storage unit to keep them in.
Some may only arrive with sheaths, which is certainly better than nothing, but ideally, you’ll want some sort of protective block that keeps the knives in tip-top condition when not in use and adds a little extra decorative element to your kitchen.
Some knife sets go above and beyond to equip you with everything you’ll ever need to rustle up a tasty meal, no matter what that meal is.
So, if you’re hoping for some nifty extras, you can certainly get them!
For example, many knife sets you can pick up for under $100 arrive with a dedicated space for scissors as well as the scissors themselves, while others will come with a number of steak knives.
Frequently Asked Questions
Whether you get a knife set or purchase knives individually comes down to what you want to achieve in your kitchen and the quality you expect from your knives.
While knife sets are fantastic for home cooks just looking to get their kitchens up and running in a fuss-free fashion, for those who demand excellence, picking out knives individually after lots of in-depth research is the only way to go!
You should also buy individually if you can’t find a knife set that caters to your needs.
For instance, if you’re just after the three essential knives detailed in the buyer’s guide, but you can only find 6 or 7-piece sets, you’ll be wasting money on extra knives that won’t get used if you buy it.
In this scenario, just pick up the knives individually, as it will be the more economical approach, even if it feels like you’re paying more for less.
Only you can decide how many knives you want or need in your kitchen.
In terms of function, you’ll be able to get by just fine with a chef’s knife, a paring knife, and a long serrated knife, but sometimes one of each isn’t enough, especially if you like to prepare food and cook with your partner, friends, or family.
In my experience, I’ve found it’s always good to have at least two of each type of knife, so you can delegate some tasks in time-sensitive situations and get food ready pronto.
Unfortunately, sets rarely provide duplicates, so it might be a good idea to pick up an extra of each of the three essential knives individually and keep them in storage until needed.
There are certain things you’re going to have to make peace with if you’re looking to pick up a whole set of knives for under $100.
For example, the knives will have been machine-ground and mass-produced. What’s more, there won’t be any fine attention to detail.
However, the materials used will still be high quality.
To get the most out of them, you just have to give them a sprucing up.
My advice would be to take the knives from your knife set and deliver them to a professional for sharpening by hand.
This will offset most of the affordable production processes used to keep the price tag low on the set.
Sure, you won’t have any fancy decorative elements like etched blades or fine wooden handles, but, practically speaking, they’ll be fantastic bits of gear.
There you have it — 5 knife sets that can really bring the heat in the kitchen.
There’s something for everyone on this list, but if you’re still unsure which is right for you, return to the buyer’s guide and do some more thinking.