Best High End Kitchen Knife Sets – 2021 Update

When Quality is All That Matters , These are The Best Premium Kitchen Cutlery Set Options in 2021 For Professional Chefs Or Home Cooks.

Advances in metallurgy and manufacturing in the last 50 years have led to an increase in quality and a decrease in price of the average kitchen cutlery set in 2021. That being said, the old adage “You get what you pay for” still rings true. There are a lot of elements that can separate a $50 chef’s knife from a $200 professional chef knife. Steel quality, handle material, balance and aesthetics are all factors that set the knives in these professional sets apart and justify their price. If you are done with low to mid range kitchen cutlery sets, and are ready to shell out $500 or more to have an elite level knife set that makes your kitchen counter look its best, here are some great options.

The price range of the cutlery sets highlighted in this article ranges from $500 to $2400. Due to price fluctuation there are sometimes a few sets in this article a little under $500. Obviously the term “high end” is subjective, but $500 seemed to be a good starting point for what most people would consider a premium level. If that range is a bit more than you want to throw down on a cutlery set, check out our post on the best kitchen knife sets under $300.

How We Test

Professional Knife Set Testing
we tested a lot of professional knife series and sets for this article. We also reached out to a variety of cooks, chefs and even food truck pros to get their opinion.

We spend a lot of time here at Nothing But Knives working with a large array of outdoor knives and kitchen cutlery. For this article we tested a variety of professional knife series and sets.. We also reached out to chefs, cooks and even a busy food truck owner to get their opinions on the best knife sets and chef knives. We continue to test new knife sets and series as they are released to ensure this article stays current.

Here are our top picks for the best high end kitchen knife set in 2021.

Wusthof Classic Ikon 7-piece Knife Set 

The Wusthof Classic Ikon seven piece knife set is a high end set. Shown here with the Acacia wood storage block on the right and the knives on the left.

Specifications

X50CrMoV15 High Carbon Steel Blades
Triple Riveted Polypropylene Handle
15 Slot Walnut Knife Block
Full Tang
Forged not Stamped
Wusthof’s Precision Edge Technology
Half Bolstered Blade Which Allows The Entire Blade To be Sharpened
Made in Germany

Set includes the following knives: 5 inch serrated utility/tomato, 3.5 inch paring,  8 inch bread, 5 inch santoku, 8 inch chef’s, one pair of come-apart shears and a 6 slot storage block.

Wusthof Classic Ikon chefs knife on a wood cutting board with a tomato.

Upon initial inspection of this set, it is pretty obvious that Wusthof plans on this being the last kitchen cutlery set you ever need to buy which is why the Classic Ikon series is popular with professional chefs. The knives look and feel tough enough to survive the apocalypse. That doesn’t mean they are heavy, just well built. Wusthof went to great pains to make sure the Ikon series is well balanced and easy to maintain. You won’t find the same out-of-box slicing prowess as the most of the Japanese knife sets, but the classic Ikon series knives are more durable and less likely to chip.

This seven piece set is a great starter set for anyone wanting get started with professional kitchen knives, because it offers excellent value compared to buying these premium knives separately. I do wish the storage block has some empty slots, so the set could be added to over time. Fortunately Wusthof does sell a variety of storage blocks separately, so upgrading to a bigger block down the road is an option.

The Classic Ikon 8 inch chef knife slicing through a tomato on a wood cutting board in front of a dark background.
It didn’t take us long to understand why the Classic Ikon 8 inch chef knife is so popular with professional chefs. It offers a great combination of performance and durability.

While these knives are superior in every way to most other knife sets on the market, the craftsmanship is not quite on the same level as the premium Karamer By Zwilling Euroline set or Zwilling J.A. Hickels 1731 Series sets listed later in this article. This set is still durable enough to be the last set you ever buy even if you are in your twenties, and they still very much offer you professional level performance.

In spite of it’s full the bolster the Professional S chef knife pictured above is fairly light for a German knife. It is also well balanced, and it’s 15° blade edge cuts easily through produce and meat.

Cutting the peel off an apple with the Wusthof Classic Ikon 3.5 inch paring knife.
The Classic Ikon 3.5 inch paring knife included in this set is one of our all-time favorite paring knives thanks to it’s super comfy handle and great blade geometry.

The Classic Ikon blades are made of a high carbon stainless steel that utilizes Wusthof’s precision edge technology which gives its blades a sharper edge and doubles the edge retention so these knives will require less sharpening. The precision edge technology is reserved for Wusthof’s premium knives that are designated with the Classic Ikon title.

The Classic Ikon handles are contoured for comfort and made of a sturdy polypropylene that is triple riveted to the tang, so it will not come loose after extensive use like cheaper knife handles have a tendency do. Wusthof also forges metal end caps at the butt of the handle to give the knives their impressive balance. While the Classic Ikon handles are not as visually appealing as some of the other high end knife sets, they are sturdy, secure and comfortable.

Zwilling Profesional S 18 Piece Knife Set

Zwilling Pro eighteen pice knife set showing the knives both in and out of the wood storage block.

 Specifications

Full Tang
High carbon no stain stainless steel blades
Forged not stamped
Ergonomic polypropylene handles
Full bolster
57 Rockwell Hardness
Made in Germany and Spain
Great Balance
Limited Lifetime Warranty

Set includes the following: one 2.75″ birds beak peeling knife, one 2.75″ trimming knife, one 4″ paring knife, one 5″ serrated utility knife, one 5″ hollow edge santoku, one 8″ bread knife,  one 8″ chef’s knife, eight 4.5″ steak knives, one 9″ sharpening steel, one pair of kitchen shears, and a bamboo storage block

The 8 inch Zwilling Professional S profile showing the full bolster.
The Professional S 8 inch chef knife has a full bolster which makes it heavier, but it is well balanced.

The Professional S knives are one of Zwilling Henckels premium series. They are similar to the Zwilling Pro series knives, but they have a more traditional blade profile compared to the Pro Series more curved blade. The Professional S series also has a full bolster while the Pro Series has a half bolster. The bolster is the section of the knife where the handle meets the blade. The bolsters gives the Professional S series knives better balance and act as a hand guard to protect the hand from slipping onto the blade. However, the bolster does make it a little more difficult to sharpen the back of the blade. My biggest complaint about the Professional S series is the name. It is so similar to the Pro series that it causes confusion.

A close up of the Zwilling Processional chef knife chopping onions on a wood cutting board.
We found the curved blade of the Professional S chef knife to be great for chopping onions.

The Profesional series knives are made in Solingen, Germany except for the steak knives which are made in Spain. Solingen is one of the two most famous knife making cities in the world. The other is Seki, Japan.

These knives are all made using Zwilling’s Sigmaforce one-piece precision-forged construction which is well respected, and it is impressive that they have managed to offer knives made with that technique at a relatively affordable price point. The remarkable durability of the steel used on this set is due in part to Zwilling’s Friodur ice hardening process which has proved to be more than marketing speak.

The versatile Professional S utility knife is great in the kitchen or on a road trip. It is shown here cutting meat.
The 5″ serrated utility knife included in this set is extremely versatile which makes it a good choice for the kitchen or outdoors on a camping trip or picnic.

This set contains all the knives most busy home cooks would need, but there are two empty slots in the storage block, so more knives can be added as needed. I do wish Zwiling would offer this set with storage block color and wood type options. Maybe that will happen eventually.

The Zwilling Professional S 4 inch paring knife peeling an apple in front of a dark background.
We did not like the Zwilling paring knife pictured here quite as much as the paring knife included in the Wusthof Classic Ikon set above, but it is still an excellent paring knife.

Ultimately the Zwilling Professional S line of knives are poorly named but well designed. They offer a professional level performance at a good price. The knives in this set were designed by Matteo Thun to be modern, performance-driven knives that don’t cost a fortune. Zwilling Professional S series knives are used by a lot of chefs around the world, but they are relatively affordable when compared to a lot of other premium knife sets.

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Cangshan TC Series 17 Piece Knife Set

This high end kitchen knife set from Canshan is an excellent set for a family.

Specifications

Full Tang
Swedish Sandvik 14C28N Steel
Great Edge Retention
Forged not Stamped
Made in Yangjiang, China
Extremely Sharp
Lifetime Warranty
Hand Crafted Walnut Block

Set includes the following: 8″ chef, 8″ bread, 7″ santoku, 6″ boning, 5″ serrated utility, 5″ tomato, 3.5″ paring, 2.75″ peeling, six 5″ steak knives, honing steel and kitchen shears

The 8 inch Cangshan TC chef knife leaning against a tomato in a wood cutting board.
The Cangshan TC chef knife looks good and performs well.

Cangshan is a relatively new kitchenware company that has jumped into the cutlery game in a big way. Initially they made more budget-friendly knives that were well received and generally respected as a good value. Recently they released their high-end TC series of knives that are made with a great Swedish Sandvik steel that has excellent edge retention and is incredibly durable.

A tip forward shot of the Cangshan TC chef knife slicing through a tomato.

While the high quality steel is a big plus for this knife set, it is really the design of the knives that make them worthy of this list. Cangshan utilized a design that is a hybrid of Western style knives and Japanese style knives in a way that is reminiscent of Tojiro’s DP series. The TC knives perform very well, but it is hard to rank them from a durability standpoint since they are so new. However, based on the materials used and the feel of the knives I would guess that they will last for a very long time if they are cared for properly.

The Cangshan TC 14 piece set contains alot of knives.

One of the reasons this set made the list is because it maintains decent quality throughout the set which is rare for such a big set. Usually cutlery companies throw some low-quality steak knives or kitchen shears into a set this size to save money, but Cangshan maintained consistent quality on all the knives in this set.

Shun Classic 6-piece Knife Block Set

High end six piece knife Set from Shun.

 Specifications

D Shaped Ebony Pakkawood Handles
Full Tang
VG-MAX Stainless Steel Core With 34 Layers (Each Side) of Stainless Damascus Cladding
4 Empty Knife Slots on the Block To Make Set Customization Easier
Hand Crafted
Forged not Stamped
Made in Seki, Japan

Set includes the following: 3.5 inch paring, 7 inch Santoku, 8 inch chef, wood storage block, kitchen shears and a honing steel

The Shun Classic 7 inch santoku knife next to a tomato on an end grain cutting board.
The Shun Classic 7 inch santoku knife is a standout performer in this set.

The Shun Classic 6 Piece is a basic set that makes it possible for consumers to jump into the premium knife world for just under $500. It ships with the most essential knives, and their are two empty slots, so more can be added later. Tis set offers a lot of value from a cost vs performance standpoint. The Shun Classics have a VG-MAX steel that’s folded several times with a high carbon steel to make the blade a little tougher and maintain a cutting edge longer.

They also sport the traditional D-shaped handle in Pakkawood, which you don’t get in a lot of Shun’s other knife series. If you have never used a knife with a Japanese style D shaped handle you may want to try one out before buying a whole set. Most people find them to be comfortable, and many professional chefs and serious amateurs use them, but some people who are accustomed to western style contoured handles do not like using D shaped handles for extended periods of time.

A close up of a man's hand chopping onions with the Shun Classic 8 inch santoku knife.
We liked the Classic seven inch santoku knife so much we did a full review of it.

The Shun Classic 10 Piece set is an excellent option if you are looking for a happy medium between quality and quantity in a Japanese knife set. But if you’re curious about what else Shun makes, you’ll want to take a look at our Shun Knife set guide. We recently did an in depth review of the Shun Classic Santoku knife that is included in this set. Check it out to see how one of the Shun Classic knives performs in the kitchen.

Shun Classic 8 Piece Student Knife Set

Black handled Shun Classic 8 piece Student knife set with black carrying case.

 Specifications

Full Tang
VG-MAX steel
D-shaped Pakkawood handles
2 empty slots in roll for set customization
NSF certified
Made in Seki, Japan

Set includes the following: 8” Chef knife, 6” boning knife, 6” utility knife, 3.5” paring knife, 9” slicing knife, 9” bread knife, honing steel, 8-slot knife roll.

All the careful crafting and thin edges from Shun rolled up into a student set makes for an impressive start for anyone looking to carve their way into the professional arena. While it’s admittedly a lot more than a student might need when they’re first going into culinary school, it would certainly provide a big head start in handling high-quality tools. It provides a good mix of western and Japanese style knives, opening the beginning options of a few different culinary worlds.

Buck 13 Piece Rosewood Kitchen Cutlery Set

Buck Knives 13 piece cutlery set inside the storage block on a white background.

 Specifications

Full Tang
420HC steel with Paul Bos heat treat
58 Rockwell Hardness
Made in the USA
Handles available in Rosewood Dymalux, Slate Paperstone, and elk bone.
Triple Rivet Handles
Covered By Buck’s Forever Warranty

Set includes the following: 8″ chef knife, 8″ slicer, 2.75″ paring knife, 4.0″ paring knife, 4.785″ spreader, BBQ fork, 6 steak knives.

Buck 8 inch chef knife next to a tomato on an end grain cutting board.

Buck Knives is an odd name to show up in the kitchen cutlery, and they’ve entered this part of the knife industry in a very Buck Knives style.

On these knives you get the standard Buck 420HC steel with the Paul Bos heat treat, which is technically a lower grade material but I would be more than ready to put it up against 440C or any of the kitchen knives rolling out with the German 1.4116 steel. It’s a little soft, but it grinds super easy and takes a very thin edge so when it’s handled right it can produce some incredible, long-lasting blades. Buck has been working with this steel for decades, and famously have this stuff dialed in.

A close-up of the 8 inch Buck chef knife with rosewood handle slicing through a cucumber on a wood cutting board.
We found that the deep hollow grind on the Buck kitchen knives helped to keep food from sticking to the blade.

Buck’s kitchen knives, and especially their chef knife, are going to have a very different feel from most other knives because of the handle shape and the grind. One big difference is that the shallow hollow grid on the blade significantly reduces food stick, but will make long smooth cuts through a lot of material a little trickier. Basically that means these knives are great to use on vegetables and most cuts of meat, but could be a little tougher cut clean through a large slab of something because that grind is going to drag a little more than the full flat on other kitchen knives.

Close-up of the Buck 932 slicer knife with rosewood handle scales slicing through tri-tip.
The Buck 932 slicer is a standout performer in this set. We liked it for both indoor food prep and outdoor barbecue tasks.

The other stand-out element is the handle. Where most kitchen knives keep a fairly straight-lined profile, Buck has molded their handles with some pretty dramatic curves that provide a lot in terms of traction by virtue of increased surface area. In short, these are really easy to keep a grip on, but they are not optimized for a traditional pinch grip.

These are great knives for most home cooks. Professional cooks will probably find them a bit frustrating because the pinch grip and the grind are far outside standard chef knife shapes, but they’re otherwise incredible comfortable and have a great edge with an aggressive bite. Buck doesn’t say what they grind their knives to, but it looks (and feels) like it’s at least 15 degrees. When you top off the performance of these with Buck’s forever warranty, these knives become a really good option for the home kitchen.

Lamson Premier Forged 10-Piece Block Set

All three Premire Forged knife sets from Lamson Cutlery including, Fire, Silver and Rosewood.

 Specifications

One-piece, hot-drop hammer forged
Full Tang
Three different handle options
American made
Triple rivet handles
Hand Crafted
Great balance
Lifetime warranty

Set includes the following: 3″ paring knife, 3.5″ paring knife, 6″ utility knife, 6″ fillet knife, 7″ Kullenschliff santoku knife, 8″ bread knife, 8″ chef knife, 10″ slicing knife,  10″ honing steel, sharpening steel and a 9 slot wood storage block

Lamson is an American Cutlery company that has been producing quality knives for over 183 years. To their credit they have continued to update their manufacturing and heat treatment processes to ensure their knives are competitive with the big name brands from Germany and Japan. The combination of old school craftsmanship and modern production methods is evident in their Premiere Forged knife series. These well designed knives offer great performance and are incredibly durable. Lamson backs up their quality claims with a confidence boosting forever warranty.

The Lamson Premiere Fire 8 inch chef knife profile shot showing the full bolster and text on the blade.
The Fire version of the Premier series knives from Lamson has a unique looking handle.

The Premiere Forged Chef knife pictured above and the Kullenschliff Santoku knife are two of the standouts in this ten piece set.

The blades of the Premiere Forged series of knives are made of 4116 German steel which is a steel often found in budget hard use pocket knives. This is a tough steel, but it is a little softer than most of the steels used by other high end cutlery makers. However, Lamson’s heat treatment process seems to produce a harder version of 4116 steel than is found in most other knives made the same steel. The edge retention will still be a bit less than many of the other knife sets listed in this article.

The upside is that the blades of these knives will be more likely to roll or bend a bit rather chip. In short, these knives will need to be sharpened a little more regularly, but they are less likely to suffer permanent damage from hitting a hard bone or surface. Fortunately Lamson has a great sharpening program called Sharp for Life that will help make the sharpening process easier.

The American made Lamson 8 inch chef knife slicing through a white onion during our high end knife set test.
The Lamson Premier knives are little bit heavy due to their thick spine and full bolster, but they are extremely durable and perform well.

The Premiere Forged series of knives are available with three different handle options: Fire, Silver and Rosewood.  The handles of the Fire knives are made of a purpose-made acrylic that seems to be tough and easy to grip. The handles of the Silver knives are made of Pakawood which is an engineered wood/resin composite that is commonly found in premium knife handles. The Rosewood knife handles are, of course, made of rosewood. The handles of the Premier Forged series knives are all really comfortable, but they do lack the ergonomic friendly handle swell of a lot of other kitchen knives. This is good news to some and bad news for others depending on the person’s preference.

This 10-piece set is definitely worthy of being listed with the premium German and Japanese sets listed in this article, and the company’s great customer service is another big plus.

Hammer Stahl 21-Piece Classic Knife Set

The Hammer Stahl 21 Piece Knife set in the rotating bamboo storage block on the left and the 8 inch chef knife on the right of the photo.

 Specifications

X50CrMoV15 High Carbon Steel Blades
Full Tang
Forged not Stamped
Quad tang Packwood handles
Sloped bolster
Lifetime warranty
Great storage block design
Sloped bolster makes sharpening easier

Set includes the following knives: 3.5″ paring, 7″ vegetable cleaver, 4.5″ santoku, 7.5″ santoku, 8″ carving knife, 6″ carving fork, 8″ bread knife, 10″ slicer, 5″ cheese knife, eight 4.5″ steak knives, 10″ sharpening steel, one rotating bamboo block and two removable steak knife blocks.

The Hammer Stahl 8 inch chef knife on a wood cutting board with a red cabbage.
Hammer Stahl knives have a quad tang handle that should help increase their durability.

I am always a little skeptical of large knife sets. All too often quantity comes at the cost of quality. However, every knife in this 21 piece set from Hammer Stahl is well built. Even the steak knives provide good bang for the buck from both a performance and durability standpoint.

The rotating bamboo storage block is unique and practical. It is designed to sit in the corner of a counter, so only two sides of the storage block contain knives. The backside is empty and a little wide, so if this block is not in a corner it sits out a ways from the wall or edge of the counter. If space is an issue and/or you don’t have a kitchen counter corner available this block may not be ideal. the size of the block can be decreased by removing the two steak knives sections  which is a feature I hope other companies adopt.

A close up of the 8 inch Hammer Stahl chef knife chopping a red cabbage.
We were initially pretty skeptical of the Hammer Stahl knives due to their unique design, but they performed well enough to win us over.

From a performance standpoint these knives all do well, especially the two santoku knives and the 8″ chef knife pictured above. It is no surprise  that Hammer Stahl makes a good carving knife, because they have been active in the barbecue world for many years. Hammer Stahl calls these knives quad tang, because the steel is exposed on all four sides. This design feature definitely makes the knives look great, and it should also make them more durable. Overall it is an impressive set for the money, and the storage block is really practical if you have the counter space. This set has been somewhat difficult to find for the last few months. I assume this has something to do with the supply chain problems a lot of companies have been experiencing over the course of the last year. Fortunately this set does seem to eventually show up on Amazon and the Hammer Stahl site every few weeks, so it looks like it is still in production.

Messermeister Meridian Elite 23-Piece Set

This premium 23 piece set is extremely durable and well worth it's relatively high price.

 Specifications

German 1.4116 high carbon steel stainless steel, Rockwell 57-58
Industrial-strength polymer handles
Bolsterless heels
One-piece, hot-drop hammer forged
Full tang
Sharpened to 15 degrees
Lifetime warranty
Made in Solingen, Germany

Set Includes the following: 8” chef knife, 7” Kullenschliff santoku knife, 9″ bread knife, 8″Kullenschliff carving knife, 7″ straight carving fork, 6″ Offset scalloped knife, 6” utility knife, 5” scalloped utility knife, 5″ boning knife, 4.5″ paring knife, 3.5” boning/paring knife, eight 4.5″ multi edge steak knives, 10” honing rod, Take-Apart kitchen scissors and a 22-slot wood block.

The 15° edge of the BD1N chef knife is part of what makes it a great slicer. It is shown here on an end grain cutting board next to a red onion.
The Messermeister Meridian Elite 8 inch chef knife on an end grain Walnut cutting board.

By all accounts, these are very sturdy knives. They’ll be heavier than most high-end knives you might pick up, but not too far into the unusual range for European style knives. They are still well balanced, and widely praised for being comfortable, so the weight really only becomes an issue if you’re using these knives professionally on long shifts.

The tall curved blade of the Messermeister Meridian Elite 8 inch chef knife help to make it a great chopper.
The tall curved Western style blade of the Meridian Elite 8 inch chef knife makes it a great chopper.

One unique thing about all of Messermeister’s blades is that they sharpen the edges to 15 degrees instead of the standard 20 degrees for most kitchen knives. They also make the spine of these knives thicker, which results in a wider shape near the edge. So while these knives are incredibly sharp, and will hold that edge for a long time, that wider mass of material will make fine cutting a little sloppier. The cutting action is still by far better than any mid-range blades, but it will feel different if you’re used to cutting thin with other high-end knives.

Messermeister offers this set in several sizes including an 11 piece set and a 17 piece set. All of the sets ship with a similar somewhat plain looking wood block. It would be nice if they would offer more options when it comes to the wood block knife holder like some of the other high end brands do, but Messermeister seems to be very focused on the knives themselves which is good.

Kramer By Zwilling Euroline Damascus Steel 7 Piece Knife Set

This knife set was designed for professional chefs.

 Specifications

101 layer Chevron Damascus pattern
Full Tang
Very ergonomic contoured handles
Amazing edge retention
The ultimate combination of quality and aesthetics.
Forged not Stamped
63 Rockwell hardeness
Made in Seki, Japan
SG2 (MC63) micro-carbide powder steel
Lifetime Warranty
Designed by Bob Kramer

Set includes the following: one 8″ chef knife, one 9″  slicer, one 9″ bread knife, one 5″ utility knife, one 3.5″ paring knife, one 12″ sharpening steel and a 14 slot storage block.

The Euroline Damascus Collection is a result of a partnership between master blade-smith Bob Kramer and Zwilling Henckles. Bob Kramer’s knives have been long time favorites of famous chefs around the world. Unfortunately they are difficult to buy and very expensive. Fortunately the partnership with Zwilling Henckles has made it possible for the rest of us to buy a Kramer designed knife or even a knife set.

The knives in the Zwilling Karmer Euroline Damascus Collection are works of art. They are definitely some of the most beautiful and unique knives on the market, but they are not another example of form over function. These knives are designed for hard working chefs who put in long hours. The comfortable micarta handles, great balance, excellent steel and outstanding blade geometry combine to make this set of knives one of the best performing sets manufactured today.

This 8 inch chef knife a great combination of looks and performance.

This Kramer Zwilling set ships with a rather ordinary looking wooden block which seems kinda weird considering the high quality and great looks of the knives in this set. Fortnatly the wood block does have empty slots in case you want to add one of the other knives from this set like the Santoku knife that I assume Zwilling left out to keep the set below $2,000.

The Kramer by Zwilling Euroline steak knife set is made to the same high quality standards as the rest of the collection.

No steak knives ship with this set, but Zwilling did make a set of matching steak knives that can be bought seperately. The steak knives are made of the same high quality raw materials by the same craftsmen as the other knives in this collection, but they are not cheap.

From a quality, performance and aesthetics standpoint there are very few premium knife sets that can compete with the Kramer Zwilling Euroline Damascus Collection.

Enso SG2 7 Piece Knife Set

Two part image showing the Enso SG2 7 Piece Knife Set with knives inside the dark Ash block on the left and outside the block on the right.

 Specifications

101 layers of stainless steel Damascus over an SG2 steel core
Canvas micarta handles with a Samurai Crest
Full Tang
Forged not Stamped
Lifetime warranty
63 Rockwell hardness
True Damascus pattern
Made in Seki, Japan

Set includes the following knives: 3.25 inch paring, 6 inch utility, 6.5 inch santoku, 8 inch chef’s, 9 inch bread knife stainless steel come-apart shears and a dark ash storage block.

The SG2 8 inch chef knife from Enso tilted at an angle on a white background.

The handles of the SG2 series knives are made of linen micarta which is by far my favorite handle material. It more commonly found on high end survival knives than kitchen knives. It is extremely durable and easy to grip. Even these knives are made in Japan they have a more western style handle which makes the knives a bit of a East/West hybrid.

The Damascus pattern on the blades is a result of steel actually being layered. It is not the fake etching found on so many of the budget knives on the market today.

Zwilling J.A. Henckels Twin 1731 Series 7 Piece Knife Set with Block

high end kitchen cutlery from Zwilling Henckels shown in it's wooden storage block.

 Specifications

High-performance Cronidur 30 steel
Precision forged
Friodur ice-hardened
Untreated oily ebony handles
Full Tang
Forged not Stamped
Made in Germany
Designed by Matteo Thun

Set includes the following: paring knife, bread knife, Santoku knife, slicing knife, sharpening steel and a magnetic storage block

Set includes the following: paring knife, bread knife, Santoku knife, slicing knife, sharpening steel and a magnetic storage block

This elite level cutlery set was designed by architect and product designer Matteo Thun. He and his firm are responsible for some of the most functional and visually appealing products and buildings in the world. In order to match great design with top-of-the-line quality, J.A Henckels chose Cronidur 30 stainless steel for this set which is one of the highest quality knife steels, but it is rarely found in kitchen cutlery due to it’s high cost. However, J.A. Henckels pulled out all the stops when they designed the 1731 series and the $2400 price tag reflects that.

Zwilling J.A. Henkels Twin 1731 8 inch Chef's Knife

Not only are these knives made of a superior steel, they are tempered with J.A. Henckel’s proprietary process called Friodur ice hardening. This tempering method is reserved for their premium knives, because the process is relatively labor intensive. The combination of high end steel and an advanced tempering process has resulted in blades that set the standard for edge retention, corrosion resistance and flexibility.

The handles of the 1731 Series set are made with untreated ebony which is a feature that makes this set truly unique and will greatly contribute to the overall aesthetics of your kitchen. The handles are comfortable and very durable, but so are some knife handles on sets that cost a fraction of this one. It is the look and feel of the handles and the knives themselves that help justify the price tag. When you a hold a Twin 1731 knife in your hand you are holding what is quite possibly the most exceptional kitchen tool on the market, and its performance more than matches the hype and expectations.

Wusthof Crafter 7-Piece Knife Set

The Wusthof Crafter seven piece knife set shown with the knives to the right and the storage block on the left.

 Specifications

X50CrMoV15 High carbon steel blades
Full tang
Forged not stamped
Triple riveted Smoked Oak handles
Wusthof’s Precision Edge Technology
Half bolstered blade which allows the entire blade to be sharpened
PEtec blade edge
Made in Germany

Set includes the following knives: 3.5 paring, 5 inch serrated utility, 9 inch double serrated bread, 8 inch chef’s, come-apart shears, 9 inch honing steel and a 9 slot Oak wood storage block.

The 8 inch Wusthof Crafter chef knife offers a great combination of modern design combined with a classic aesthetic.

The Crafter series from Wusthof has been out for a few years now, and it seems to have been overlooked by most consumers. That is a shame, because the Crafter series knives combine modern manufacturing with a classic aesthetic that I think has resulted in a great looking and performing knife series. The water resistant Oak handles are comfortable and unique in a world full of fancy new synthetic knife handles. Obviously the rustic look of this set is not enough to justify it’s price. Fortunately these knives deliver from a performance standpoint. They hold their edge extremely well, the handles are comfortable and the overall design of the knives makes them a great upgrade for just about any busy home cook looking to improve their kitchen cutlery.

I do wish that Wusthof would offer a version of this set with steak knives, because the they do make some great Crafter steak knives. However these can be purchased separately if you decide you want matching steak knives down the road. There is also an excellent santoku knife in the Crafter series that is not included in this set. Fortunately there are empty slots in the storage block, so more knives can easily be added. The Oak handles on the knives in this set are water resistant, but they should not be put in the dishwasher.


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Ben started a twenty year commercial photography career after a blurry stint in the navy. He spent a lot of time losing and breaking knives and other EDC gear on location shoots before starting Nothing But Knives. He has reviewed and tested hundreds of both outdoor and kitchen knives over the course of the last six years, and he was mostly sober while testing and reviewing.

21 thoughts on “Best High End Kitchen Knife Sets – 2021 Update”

  1. This is a thorough list, but i feel it is missing one of the best companies out there. Meglio Knives from the US seems to outperform even the hardest of these heavy hitters. They simply use better materials and haven’t been able to find a knife that can compete with them. Just my experience.

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  2. You are right about Meglio Knives deserving a place on this list from a quality standpoint. However this list features knife sets, and unfortunately Meglio doesn’t offer sets yet.

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      • That is the subject of an ever evolving discussion here at Nothing But Knives. We test new knives almost every day, so our answers change somewhat. If money were no object the Kramer by Zwilling series of knives is high on the list, but the price on those knives is a bit of a stretch for many. For more affordable knives I am a big fan of the Tojiro DP chef knife and the Wusthof Classic Ikon chef knife. For a Santoku knife the Enso SG2 is absolutly worth it’s high price tag, but the Enso HD Santoku is more affordable and also really impressive. From there it gets kinda murky. The Cangshan 6.5″ Nakiri is great and the Messermeister Kullenschliff carving knife definitely is high on my list. We are planning a custom knife set article sometime in early 2021.

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    • It totally depends on needs and budget. The Wusthof Classic Ikon set probably offers the most value from a performance and durability standpoint. For just straight slicing prowess the Enso and Shun sets are tough to beat, but their edges are a little more prone to chipping and rolling than Western style knife sets. For overall best of the best from a looks and performance standpoint the Kramer By Zwilling set would be my top choice, but it is not cheap.

      Reply
  3. This is my first set I am buying and want to have something that is not a joke in my kitchen. I dated a man who was pure Henckel which you list above as the overall best.

    It is so hard to choose which knife set is the most appropriate especially when each set evaluated seems to be of good quality. I was considering the Nexus but after reading the response to Joseph am reconsidering. How do you view the Nexus with the ones you listed above or within the article.

    Secondly, do you prefer forged or stamped and why.

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    • Hi Victoria,
      The Nexus is an excellent set that holds a great edge thanks to it’s high end steel. From a straight performance standpoint I think the Wusthof Classic Ikon set has a bit of an edge. (pun intended). Nexus is a good choice for people who hate sharpening. I also prefer the more rounded handle of the Wusthof Classic Ikon over the slightly blockier Nexus handles.

      The Nexus knives are pretty pretty durable, but hey do not slice as well as the Shun or Enso knives in this article, but the blades are a little more resilient. Still if I had to choose just one knife set, I would choose the Wusthof Classic Ikon set over the Nexus set.

      As far as stamped vs forged goes, I almost always prefer forged knives. However modern stamping methods have allowed some companies to make quality stamped knives. Global is an example of one of those companies. Victorinox is another. In general, though, forged knives are more durable and hold a better edge.

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  4. Can someone explain why I am coming up against OUT OF STOCK and CURRENTLY UNAVAILABLE when considering some of these kitchen sets? Thanks

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    • Hi Fred, it is a super frustrating result of the supply chain issues of this last year. Many factories were shut down, and wholesale orders to retailers are way behind. It is getting better, but it seems to be a slow process.

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  5. Hey Ben, I was curious as to whether you have a link to the Wusthof Classic Ikon 12- piece Knife Set from blade HQ or Amazon, I didn’t know if you got a commission. But you definitely deserve it if you do. I commented earlier on which larger set you preferred. Well I found that the Ikon comes in a 12 piece set that would be perfect. Pleas let me know or post a link to it on this article so I can give you some credit. Thank you again.

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    • Hi Justin. The Classic Ikon 12 piece is a great set. No worries about clicking on an affiliate link. It is nice when it happens, but ultimately it is traffic that helps the site, so I appreciate you taking the time to read the article.

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  6. Nexus set is not “made in germany, finished in switzerland.” Description states, “All Nexus products are handcrafted in our state of the art facility in YangJing, China.”

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  7. I know nothing about knives, so any feedback and opinions would be wonderful and greatly appreciated. I’m debating whether or not I should go with the Wusthof Classic Ikon Knives or Material Knife Set. Do you have any experience with Material Knives? Would you recommend them as a budget knife set? Which set would you recommend if I only want 3 basic knives – chef knife, pairing knife, & serrated knife? What about Misen Knives or Made-In Knives? Do you recommended any other knife brands which are superior to material or is Wusthof the best buy? Thank you for any help.

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    • Hi Ashleigh, I don’t have an experience with Material knives yet, and that is mostly due to the fact that I am skeptical of any knife company that does not give exact specifications on the steel they use. However, their knives seem to be pretty popular. I do have experience with Misen knives. They are tough, but the Wusthof Classic Ikon knives are better in every way from ergonomics to overall performance. If I was shopping for the 3 knives you mentioned, Classic Ikon would be a great way to go.

      Reply

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