Knife sets seem like a good idea: For one price, you get an assortment of kitchen knives and a block to store them in. However, knowledgeable sources like the editors of Cook's Illustrated are skeptical about their value, saying many knife sets contain unnecessary pieces that just drive up the price. Likewise, the knives found in some sets are of lower quality than knives sold individually. In general, experts say, consumers are better off buying individual knives on an as-needed basis. Reviews for sets are also harder to find than those for individual kitchen knives, making it more difficult to find a consensus of opinion on the best knife sets.
The J.A. Henckels Four Star seven-piece set does very well in one professional test. It gets top marks for cutting performance and handle comfort, with very good marks for balance. Reviewers at Epinions.com and Amazon.com agree, awarding the set 4.5 stars out of 5 on average in about 60 reviews between the two sites. Most owners say these knives are very solidly built; one boasts that her set has lasted over 25 years. The grip is also described as comfortable for both large and small hands. Users do caution that it's important to care for these knives well: Wash them promptly, by hand, store them properly and sharpen them regularly.
The only other knife set we found that earns good reviews is the Shun Classic Chef's Set DMS300 (*Est. $280). This set includes only three knives (chef's, paring and utility), yet costs considerably more than the Henckels set. In professional tests, it gets generally good scores for performance, balance and comfort, but it can't top the performance of the Henckels knives. Many Amazon.com owners praise these knives for their superb edge and stylish looks. However, others complain they are hard to sharpen and their blades can chip or break. Owners describe the grip as very comfortable for small hands, but not for larger hands or left-handed users.