We Tested 9 Universal Knife Blocks to See If Any Were Worth the Countertop Space

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A rotating knife block on a marble surface with a hand spinning it
Serious Eats / Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

Serious Eats has historically been anti-knife blocks. They eat up countertop space. They have slots that are too small and don’t accommodate various knife types. And if you get a knife block set? Woof, you’ll probably buy a few blasé blades or ones you’ll never use. 

For all of these reasons, we typically recommend a magnetic knife strip. However, there are universal knife blocks out there: ones that, while still counter space hogs, can accommodate your own collection of knives and have (for the most part) open, magnetic sides that can handle blades of all sizes (from paring knives to cleavers).

We also acknowledge that, while we prefer knife strips, some home cooks might not have the option to screw one into their kitchen wall. Or perhaps they’re looking for additional storage because, you know, knives, the proverbial potato chip, you can’t have just one (or five), etc, etc.  

So, to find the best universal knife blocks, we tested nine models—priced from $25 to $350—and evaluated their magnetic strength, capacity, stability, and more. 

The Winners, at a Glance

With a heavy, flared base that keeps this knife block ultra-stable and the ability to rotate 360 degrees, this knife block also had one of the strongest magnets of the bunch. Its long sides accommodated a variety of sizes, and we didn’t find any significant magnetic dead zones (read: wherever you placed a knife, it stuck). 

For those with lower cabinets, this knife block’s nearly an inch shorter than the 360 Knife Block and also rotates 360 degrees, allowing you to easily access any knife. It lacks the flared base of our overall top pick, which means it can better accommodate longer blades, like a slicing knife. At over two-and-a-half pounds heavier, though, we did find it harder to maneuver. 

With two acrylic plates that sandwich an acacia knife block, this model fit a good amount of knives (11) and had a long, heavy stainless steel base that kept the whole thing sturdy. The acrylic panes kept your hands away from the blades, too, which made the whole thing feel safe to use.

The Tests

three knife blocks with knives on it on a marble surface
Serious Eats / Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm
  • Magnet Strength Test: We used a Gauss meter to measure the magnetic strength at various places on the knife block. 
  • Max Capacity Test: We loaded each knife block with as many knives as it could fit (using the same order and knives from block to block) and evaluated how easy it was to add and remove the blades.
  • Durability Tests: We put on and took off a chef’s knife from each block 25 times, seeing how easy it was to do so and if further use marked or scratched the block.
  • Cleanup Test: We cleaned each knife block per the manufacturer’s instructions.

What We Learned

The Best Knife Blocks Had the Strongest Magnets

To test the intensity of each block’s magnetic field, we used a Gauss meter. We’ll admit: the Gauss meter was tricky to operate and readings jumped around a good bit depending on location. However, one thing was clear: overwhelmingly, the best universal knife blocks had the strongest magnetic fields. For example, our favorite, the 360 Knife Block, clocked in at 23.5 mT (Tesla), whereas a poor performer measured 7.55 mT. 

a person using a guass meter to measure the magnetic field of a knife block
Serious Eats / Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

The magnetic field strength had a clear practical implication: the blocks with the strongest magnets kept knives in place even when the blocks spun around or were accidentally jostled or even just when we removed a knife, while the weaker magnets resulted in blades literally not adhering to the block—falling off, tilting, or knocking into one another. 

Lightweight Knife Blocks Were Problematic…and Dangerous 

knives askew on a wooden knife block
Serious Eats / Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

Our favorite knife blocks were the heaviest, with the biggest (the 360 KB) clocking in at 16.61 pounds and the lightest-of-the-heaviest (the Schmidt Bros) weighing nearly seven pounds. Quite the range! However, the Schmidt Bros was heavy enough and had a long, sturdy metal base, so it didn’t even shudder when we removed a cleaver. Lightweight knife blocks (weighing about three-and-a-half to five-and-a-half pounds) shook and even tipped over when we removed even just a standard 8-inch chef’s knife

A Well-Made Knife Block? Shockingly Hard to Find

several knife blocks on a marble surface
Serious Eats / Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

All we wanted, truly, was a universal knife block that: 

  1. Fit a sizable amount of knives (at least 10)
  2. Didn’t tip over when we added or removed knives
  3. Had a strong all-over magnetic field (no magnetic dead zones where paring knives just lolled to the side)
  4. Was actually easy to clean

But, surprise, surprise: these four points eliminated five of the models we tested, and some had designs that promised to be better! And different! But, well, weren’t.

a closeup look at a knife block with lots of plastic needles holding knives
Serious Eats / Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

For example, the Zone Denmark block had hundreds of plastic straws that, according to the product listing, allowed you to drop a knife “right in, anywhere you please.” In reality, these needles scratched at our blades and swallowed small paring knives.

The Criteria: What to Look for in a Universal Knife Block

a knife block on a marble surface with text points around it
Serious Eats / Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

The best knife blocks have strong magnetic fields and hold a variety of knives of all lengths and widths (chef’s knives, paring knives, slicing knives, cleavers, etc). They’re ultra-stable, too: they don’t shift around when you add or remove blades. Plus, they should be easy enough to clean, requiring a quick swipe of a damp cloth. 

The Best Universal Knife Blocks

What we liked: With a design that rotates 360 degrees—allowing you to easily access any knife—and a super-heavy flared base, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more stable knife block. It had one of the strongest magnetic fields and knives felt secure wherever we put them.

What we didn’t like: The flared base means that longer blades, like a slicing knife, stick up a little more. They still fit, though. Of course, it’s expensive—but it’s also handmade and manufactured in America. 

Price at time of publish: $360.

Key Specs

  • Materials: Bamboo (available in other materials)
  • Dimensions: 11 x 7.25 inches
  • Weight: 14 pounds
  • Care instructions: Wipe clean with a damp cloth and dry; replenish as needed with food-grade mineral oil
a 360 knife block on a marble surface with several knives on it
Serious Eats / Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

What we liked: Similar to our overall top pick but with slightly wider sides, no flared base, and a shorter stature, this stable block had the second strongest magnetic field of the lot. It seamlessly rotated 360 degrees, too, and better accommodated longer knives. For those with lower cabinets that want a rotating knife block, this is a great option.

What we didn’t like: This was the heaviest knife block we tested and was harder to maneuver. It’s also expensive.

Price at time of publish: $289.

Key Specs

  • Materials: Bamboo (available in other materials)
  • Dimensions: 10.25 x 8.15 inches
  • Weight: 16.61 pounds
  • Care instructions: Wipe clean with a damp cloth and dry; replenish as needed with food-grade mineral oil
a wooden knife block on a marble surface
Serious Eats / Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

What we liked: With two acrylic panes that sandwich an acacia knife block, this model held 11 knives and did so well. It was stable, had a strong magnetic field (not as strong as the 360 models above, but close), and was a safe option. With the acrylic buffer, it never felt like a knife could be accidentally bumped and fall off the block. 

What we didn’t like: Because there’s a thin space between the panes and the block, you had to be precise about how you inserted knives. The block scratched a bit during our durability test and while you can unscrew and remove the panes to deep-clean things, this is tedious.

Price at time of publish: $125.

Key Specs

  • Materials: Acacia, acrylic, stainless steel
  • Dimensions: 9.25 x 3.5 x 13.5 inches
  • Weight: 6.87 pounds
  • Care instructions: Wipe down the exterior; remove acrylic panes to clean the block
a knife block with three knives affixed to it on a marble surface
Serious Eats / Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

The Competition 

FAQs

How do you clean a knife block? 

Most knife blocks only require you to wipe down their exteriors with a damp cloth. 

Are knife blocks sanitary? 

The knife blocks we recommend have open sides that can be wiped down, which makes them easy to clean (and keep sanitary).

Can you put a wooden knife block in the dishwasher? 

No, you shouldn’t put a wooden knife block (or anything wooden) in the dishwasher. This will cause it to warp and crack—no good.


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