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The best chef's knives and knife sets for those on a budget

A great knife can mean the difference between a joyful 10-minute prep time and something much longer.
by Vidya Rao /  / Updated  / Source: TODAY

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A good knife can mean the difference between a 10-minute prep time that’s a joy and a 30-minute prep time that’s a major chore — with a side of unwanted nicks and cuts. When it comes to knives, you don’t need a million different shapes and sizes. The typical home cook just needs a high-quality, sharp chef’s knife and a few other options like a serrated knife and a smaller paring knife.

Chef with chopped vegetables in bowls
Chef with chopped vegetables in bowlsGetty Images

If you’re holding on to old, dull knives because they feel safer, get rid of them immediately and upgrade! Dull knives are actually more dangerous because food can roll around awkwardly under the blade and you have to exert a lot of energy just to do simple slicing and dicing.

The “best” knife is different for everyone — even celebrity chefs! It should feel comfortable in your hand and it should feel like an extension of you.

Here are some of our favorites. Some may be a little pricey but they're well worth the investment. Always hand-wash knives (do NOT put them in the dishwasher), make sure to hone them every few uses and make sure to periodically sharpen them before they become too dull. Love them, and they can love you back — for decades!

Best budget chef’s knives

TODAY editors, writers and experts take care to recommend items we really like and hope you’ll enjoy! Just so you know, TODAY does have affiliate relationships. So, while every product is independently selected, if you buy something through our links, we may get a small share of the revenue.

Imarku Pro Kitchen 8' Chef's Knife, $30, Amazon

Amazon best-selling knife

This Amazon best seller is loved by reviewers for it's size (not too big, not too small) and it's durability. The handle is designed to minimize any fatigue or finger aches, while the blade is made of chrome, making it anit-corrosion and anti-tarnish.

Wusthof Pro Cook's Knife, 8-Inch, $30 (normally $45), Amazon

Wusthof Pro Chef's Knife

This is a great value knife, as you get all-around good quality. The shape of the blade allows for an easy rocking motion when you’re mincing vegetables. The blade may dull a little sooner than more expensive options but if you stay on top of sharpening it regularly, that shouldn’t be an issue.

Victorinox 8 Inch Fibrox Pro Chef’s Knife, $44 (normally $50), Amazon

Victorinox chef's knife

If there’s only one knife you can get, and you don’t want to empty your wallet for it, the Victorinox 8-inch chef’s knife is it. It slices and dices, handling tougher jobs as well as jobs that require a little finesse, like chiffonading basil. All the while, it stays sharp and is comfortable to grip, thanks to the contoured handle. Even Cook’s Illustrated recommends this knife, which works as well as a knife that costs three times as much.

J.A. Henckels International CLASSIC 8" Chef's Knife, $44 (normally $92), Amazon

JA Henckels Chef's Knife
JA Henckel's

Need to break down a chicken? Chop up large cuts of meat? Cut through tough squashes? This is the knife that will get you through the harder cutting tasks without breaking a sweat.

Best budget knife sets

Cuisinart 12-Piece Advantage Color Collection, $17, Amazon

Knife Sets

Yes, these knives are very, very bright. But they are also an Amazon No. 1 best seller in the knife set category. Users love them because they are affordable and the color coding makes it easy to find the exact knife you need - limiting cross-contamination of food preparation.

Calphalon Classic Self-sharpening 6-piece Knife Block Set, $88 (normally $108), Amazon

Caphalon self-sharpening knife set

These knives are not only well-balanced and comfortable to use, but they stay super sharp thanks to the fact that there’s a sharpener in the block itself. Every time you remove a knife for use, it gets sharpened. Boom! One less thing to worry about.

Mercer Culinary Genesis 6-Piece Forged Knife Block Set, $139, Amazon

Mercer 6-piece knife block set

We love the design of this transparent knife block — say goodbye to the days of pulling out a knife you don’t need. It also comes apart for easy cleaning. The professional-quality set includes a 3 ½-inch paring, 5-inch utility, 8-inch chef's, 8-inch bread and 6-inch boning knife. The set basically has everything the home cook needs. The knives stay sharp for flawless cutting and they have no-slip grip handles.

Best splurge chef's knife

MAC Knife Professional Hollow Edge Chef's Knife, $95 (normally $145), Amazon

MAC chef's knife

This knife is great for novices and experts alike and is a cut above the more modestly priced models. In fact, it was recently rated No. 1 by Food and Wine magazine. It stays sharp and the dimples prevent food from sticking to the blade. It has nice heft without feeling too heavy and the handle is comfortable for both big and small hands.

Best splurge knife set

Wusthof 8347 Classic Ikon 7 piece Knife Block Set, $340 (normally $685), Amazon

Wusthof Ikon Classic knife set

Get this set and you’ll never need to buy another! This set includes the chef’s knife, a bread knife, a 6-inch utility, a paring knife, a honing steel and shears. The knives come razor sharp and hold their edge for a long time. Wusthof is known among chefs as the gold standard and the Ikon line is beloved by chefs like Gordon Ramsay. The ergonomic handle makes it super comfortable to hold, too.

For more kitchen favorites, read about Anthony Bourdain's favorite knife, the gadgets Andrew Zimmern can't cook without and the $13 garlic press that will make cooking with garlic a whole lot easier.

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