Best High End Kitchen Knife Sets – 2018 Update

Best high end kitchen knife sets from Shun, Wusthof and Zwilling JA Henkels

When Quality is All That Matters , These are The Best Premium Kitchen Cutlery Set Options

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. 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 chef knife, from the type of metal used to its balance and the way the handle is attached to the steel to the overall aesthetics. If you are done with low to mid range kitchen knife sets, and are ready to shell out $500 or more to have an elite level knife set making 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 $2200. We start with the least expensive set and work our way up to the pricier options. 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.

Zwilling J. A. Henckels Twin Four Star ll 10 Piece Set

The Twin 4 Star Cutlery Set from Zwilling J.A. Henckels is a great comprimise between price and quality.

 Specifications

  • Set includes the following: 2.75″ paring knife, 4″ utility knife, 5″ serrated utility knife, 5.5″ boning knife, 5″ hollow edge santoku knife, 8″ chef knife, 8″ bread knife, kitchen shears, sharpening steel and a 16 slot bamboo block
  • Full Tang
  • High carbon stainless steel blade
  • Ergonomic polypropylene handles permanently bonded to the tang
  • Dishwasher safe, but hand washing is recommended
  • 6 Empty Knife Slots on the Block To Make Customization easier
  • Hand Crafted
  • Forged from a single piece of steel
  • Stainless steel end caps
  • Made in Germany

Zwilling J.A. Henckels utilized a lot of innovation when they designed their Twin Four Star ll line of cutlery. This is especially noticeable when you first handle the knives. They are incredibly well balanced and comfortable to use.  The polypropylene handles may not be as aesthetically pleasing as Zwilling’s pakkawood handles, but the fact that they are permanently bonded to the tang of the knife means they will last for many years.

Zwilling’s Sigmaforce one-piece precision-forged construction 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 Zwilling J.A. Henckel Chef's knife is well balanced and delivers great performance.

Ultimately the Twin Four Star ll 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 to be more modern, performance-driven knives that kept some of the great features that classic Zwilling knives offered, like the full bolster pictured above in the 8-inch chef knife that comes with this set. One downside of this set is that it does not ship with steak knives. However, this fact is what allows Zwilling to sell it at a $500 price point. A set of four Twin Four Star ll Steak Knives cost around $200, so many people buy the base set and add the steak knives at a later date.

 

Messermeister Meridian Elite 9-Piece Set

The Messermeir 9 Piece set is a quality high end cutlery set made in Germany.

Specifications

  • Set Includes: 8” chef knife, 7” Kullenschliff santoku knife, 6” utility knife, 5” scalloped utility knife, 3.5” paring knife, 9” bread knife, 10” honing rod, Take-Apart kitchen scissors, 16-slot wood block.
  • German 1.4116 high carbon steel stainless steel, Rocwell 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

This is one of Messermeister’s several forged kitchen knife sets. For the most part, all their Elite sets are differentiated by their handle materials. This set is made with a polyoxymethylene (you can just call it POM) material similar to what Wusthof uses on their Ikon series knives. In fact you could consider Messermeister as a sort of heavyweight alternative to Wusthof knives in general.

It might seem a little bare bones compared to other sets on this blog, but between the chef knife, santoku knife, two utility knives, and the paring knife there’s really no job you couldn’t manage with this set. The block also comes with 7 empty slots, so this is definitely a strong start to creating your own set down the road.

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.

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.

 

Cangshan TC Series 17 Piece Knife Set

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

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

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.

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 10-piece Knife Block Set

High End Knife Set From Shun

 Specifications

  • Set includes the following: 3.5 inch paring, 4.5 inch Honesuki, 5 inch Nakiri, 6 inch utility, 7 inch Santoku, 8 inch chef, 9 inch carving, 10 inch slicing and a honing steel
  • 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 Customization easier
  • Hand Crafted
  • Forged not Stamped
  • Made in Japan

 

The Shun Classic 10 Piece Set is a little more conventional than their top-of-the-line small sets like the Shun NDS0600 Reserve set. It ships with more knives, and the block that holds them is a more standard shape. The Shun Classic knives in this set are not quite on the same quality level as the Shun Reserve sets, but it is really close and it offers more knives. The most notable difference between Shun Classic and Shun Reserve knives is that the Classic knives have a VG-Max steel core rather than the slightly stronger SG2 steel used in the core of Shun’s Reserve knives. Both the Reserve and the Classic knives use Shun’s unique Damascus layering technique over the core, so the Classic knives have the distinctive wavy lines embedded in the blade that the Reserve knives do.

Shun Classic 8 inch Chef's Knife

The Classic Shun knives in this set have solid black D shaped pakkawood handles rather than the contoured handles of the the Reserve knives. 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.

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.

 

Wusthof Classic Ikon 14-piece Knife Set With Block

Wusthof Classic Ikon 14-piece Walnut Knife Block Se

Specifications

  • Set includes the following knives: 5 inch serrated utility, 6 inch plain edge utility, 3.5 inch paring, 7 inch Santoku, 8 inch bread, 8 inch chef’s, 8 inch carving, 10 inch slicing, come-apart shears, 10 inch sharpening steel and 4 steak knives.
  • 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

 

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. 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 easy to maintain and well balanced. You won’t find the same out-of-box sharpness as the Japanese sets, but with that you get some incredible edge retention. The Wusthof Classic Ikon 14 Piece Set is offered in a variety of blocks including walnut, acacia and cherry.

There are more knives included in this set than the previous two, so this is technically a better value, but the fact that the block doesn’t have any empty slots means it’s kind of a pain to customize the set, and while these knives are superior in every way to most other knife sets, the craftsmanship is not on the same level as the Shun NDS0600 Reserve or Zwilling J.A. Hickels 1731 Series sets. 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.

Wusthof Classic Ikon 8 inch Chefs Knife

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.

 

Wusthof Classic Ikon Creme 16-piece Knife Set With Block

Best high end kitchen knife set from Wusthof

Specifications

  • Set includes the following knives: 4.5 utility, 5 inch serrated utility, 3 inch paring knife,  3.5 inch paring, 7 inch Santoku, 8 inch bread, 8 inch chef’s, 8 inch carving, 10 inch slicing, stainless steel come-apart shears, 9 inch sharpening steel and 6 steak knives.
  • X50CrMoV15 High Carbon Steel Blades
  • Triple Riveted Polypropylene Handle
  • 17 Slot  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

 

Wusthof Classic Ikon Creme Chef's Knife

From a quality and craftsmanship standpoint, the Classic Ikon Creme 16 Piece Set is identical to the 14 piece set discussed above. The most obvious difference is the creme colored handles of the 16 piece set that I think looks great, but that is certainly subjective. The 16 piece Creme set also includes two extra steak knives which is a plus if you are cooking for a larger group of people. The come-apart scissors in the 16 Piece Creme set are all stainless steel while the 14 piece set has a pair of come-apart scissors that have a TPE plastic cover over the handles.

 

Wusthof Classic Ikon 16 Piece Knife Block Options

Ultimately the choice between the 16 Piece Creme set and the 14 Piece set with a walnut block come down to aesthetics, because the two extra steak knives and a different type of scissors most likely are not a huge incentive one way or the other considering the $999 price. The 16 Piece Creme set includes a lot of different block options including Acacia, Bamboo, Cherry, Natural, Oak and Walnut. If you change your mind or kitchen and need to get a different type of block, it is pretty easy to find the Wusthof 17 slot knife block from a variety of online retailers.

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

high end kitchen cutlery from Zwilling Henckels

Specifications

  • Set includes the following: paring knife, bread knife, Santoku knife, slicing knife, sharpening steel and a magnetic storage block
  • High-performance Cronidur 30 steel
  • Precision forged
  • Friodur ice-hardened
  • Untreated oily ebony handles
  • Full Tang
  • Forged not Stamped
  • Half Bolstered Blade
  • Made in Germany

 

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 tempering 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.

Wusthoff Classic Ikon 26 Piece Ultimate Knife Set

The Ultimate kitchen knife set from Wusthof offers both quantity and quality.

 

Specifications

  • Set includes the following: one 2.75″ paring knife, one ” paring knife, one 3.5″ paring knife, one 4.5″ utility knife, one 5′ boning knife, one 5″ serrated utility knife, one 5″ hollow edge santoku knife, one 6″ chef knife, one 6″ flexible fillet knife, one 6″ straight carving fork, one 6″ utility knife, one 7″ hollow edge santoku knife, onw 8″ hollow edge wunder knife, one 8″ bread knife, one 8″ chef knife, eight 4.5″ steak knives, one 10″ premium sharpening steel, one set of kitchen shears and a 25 slot storage block.
  • High carbon stainless steel blades
  • Full Tang
  • Very ergonomic contoured handles even on the steak knives
  • Great edge retention
  • The ultimate combination of quality and quantity.
  • Forged not Stamped
  • Made in Solingen, Germany
  • Lifetime Warranty

 

Wusthof’s choice of the word Ultimate when naming this set was appropriate, because it really is quite possibly the best high end kitchen knife set on the market for anyone that wants both quality and quantity. This set includes just about every knife a home cook could use. It is one of the only sets that includes two different sized chef knives, which is something I wish other companies would offer.

Most cutlery sets that contain a lot of knives sacrifice quality for the sake of quantity. This is not one of those sets. Every knife in the 26 piece ultimate set is top of the line, and they feel like it. The contoured Polyoxymethylene handles are incredibly comfortable and durable. According to Wusthof, the tighter molecular structure of the Polyoxymethylene material they use to make the handles helps resist discoloration and fading. The handles are triple riveted and the blades they are attached to are all precision forged, and utilize Wusthof’s highly respected Precision Edge Technology (PETec) which results in incredible edge retention.

There are a lot of knives included in this top of the line set from Wusthof.

 

 

As you can see in the image above, Wusthof included just about every knife a home chef might ever need. If I was gonna nitpick I would say that Wusthof should have included their Classic Ikon 7″ hollow edge Nakari knife, because that is a handy knife that is fun to use. However they did include 26 high quality Classic Ikon knives, so I can’t really fault them for leaving out one of my personal favorites. There really is no knife in this set that doesn’t belong in a premium cutlery sets, and the quality definitely justifies the hefty price tag.

Wusthoff included eight Cassic Ikon steak knives in their 26 piece ultimate cutlery set.

Most knife sets include steak knives that are inferior from a quality standpoint to the rest of the set. This is not true of the Wusthof Classic Icon 26 Piece Ultimate Set. These are some of the best steak knives on the market, and they are a great asset to this top-of-the-line set.

 

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2018-10-23T02:10:46+00:00

About the Author:

Picture taker and occasional blog writer who spends his time outdoors trying to break tactical, bushcraft and hunting knives and his time indoors trying to break kitchen knives.
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