our place knives lead
CNN  — 

Our Place, the makers of that iconic, so-called kitchen magician Always Pan, recently launched three beautiful chef’s knives and a sturdy cutting board to go along with them. You can purchase each of the four products individually, or you can take advantage of the Fully Prepped Bundle, which will save you $35 total.

But before you do any of that, you probably want to know: How good are these knives? And do I really need this particular wooden cutting board?

Well, we took all four products — the Everyday Chef’s Knife, the Serrated Slicing Knife, the Precise Paring Knife and the Walnut Cutting Board — for a test drive to find out. We chopped, sliced and diced, we sliced soft bread, and we left dirtied knives to fend for themselves in the sink overnight, all of which brought us to a few conclusions. Read on to find out what we learned.

How we tested

As a regular person — as in, someone who doesn’t use knives for a living — how do you actually determine whether a knife set is “good”?

One way to tell is to use the set in your everyday life; integrate it into all aspects of your prepping and cooking, and if you never once think to yourself, “Ugh, I wish this knife was better, sharper, more ergonomic, etc.,” then something’s working.

Our Place broadcasts that its three-piece set can replace a bulky 10-piece set. So, in order to test the claim, and to hold myself accountable, I put away all of my knives for a few weeks. I pulled the same move with the cutting board, replacing the many plastic slabs I keep crammed in a cupboard with this single hunky Walnut Cutting Board.

First impressions

All three of the Our Place knives come with a black plastic storage sheath, a necessary accessory for when you’re storing sharp knives in a drawer. But because I have a knife block, I forwent the sheaths and instead housed the knives here. Trading 10 knives for three really cleaned up the look of my kitchen counter, though the near-empty block did look a little lonely.

The knives fit just fine into the individual slots of the knife block — not perfect, but since these products weren’t designed for one another, it wouldn’t be fair to deduct a point here. (Still, I want to highlight this in case the aesthetic of your knife block is important to you; my 10 other knives all fit snugly into the block, but for some reason the Our Place Everyday Chef’s Knife in particular put up a bit of resistance and sticks out above the block’s slot.)

All three of these knives, made from premium German stainless steel, feel really good to hold — not too heavy, not too light, but just right. Credit goes to the knives’ “full-tang blade design,” which means the steel extends all the way through the handle (with “partial-tang” blades, the steel ends before the handle does). According to Our Place, this feature gives the knives “perfect weight and balance,” and I’d have to agree.

The three knives I received had handles in the “spice” color, a pinkish, terracotta hue that really stands out from the black and brown handles of my collection. (The Always Pan also comes in spice, so if you feel joy when the items in your kitchen match, this might excite you.)

Color in the kitchen is fun, and certainly a trend that newer brands are embracing. The knives are also available with handles in a grayish black “char,” a country blue “blue salt,” and a creamy neutral “steam.” Whether you decide to buy the bundle set or each knife separately, you can choose to mix and match the handle colors.

But you can’t judge a knife by its handle color alone (if you could, however, Our Place would excel). Here’s a closer look at how the three knives performed on their own:

The Precise Paring Knife ($40; fromourplace.com)

The Precise Paring Knife

This knife, the smallest of the bunch, does everything you’d want a paring knife to do. It neatly slices through veggies and fruit without requiring much effort from its handler and is comfortable to grip and wield.

It’s an ideal size (a 4-inch blade and 4.31-inch handle) for coring and quartering an apple and for mincing a shallot with dexterity. While it doesn’t have “everyday” in its name, the Precise Paring Knife seems to be the most versatile of the tools, as it wonderfully serves a wide range of kitchen jobs. Consider this knife endorsed.

The Everyday Chef’s Knife ($70; fromourplace.com)

The Everyday Chef's Knife

I love cooking with buttercup and kabocha squash, but cutting them can be a real pain. These types of squash have an incredibly thick outer skin, and to halve the vegetable I often have to stand over it, pierce the skin with the sharp tip of a knife and then put my full weight on the knife to cut all the way through. A grunt is usually involved.

And so, I was surprised by how swiftly the Everyday Chef’s Knife severed the squash, only requiring about 30% of the effort I usually put into the task. I wasn’t prepared to dominate the squash so easily, and so I sliced through a bit of my thumb and forefinger. It all happened so fast, but if I had to dissect the event, I’d say I didn’t move the hand that was stabilizing the squash out of the way as quickly as I needed to — I’m used to having more time, because I’m used to working with an underperforming knife.

And so, despite the bloodshed, this is a very good knife. Just be careful!

The squash test proved to me that this knife has muscle. That said, I might not turn to the Everyday Chef’s Knife every day. With an 8-inch blade and 5.27-inch handle, it’s longer than I’m used to — it felt like there was too much handle to hold on to. I’m sure this is something I could adapt to over time and with more use, and someone with bigger hands might prefer the extra room.

The Serrated Slicing Knife ($60; fromourplace.com)

The Serrated Slicing Knife

The Serrated Slicing Knife’s functionality is just as promised, and it tears through squishy bread and soft fruits (like tomatoes) with ease. Alas, this knife was the only one that gave me a moment of wishing for something different. The problem came for me, however, when I was slicing through some English muffins. The knife was enormous in comparison to the bread (it’s the longest of the bunch, with a 9-inch blade and 5.44-inch handle), and using it in this situation felt…incorrect.

Along with a standard serrated knife, I have a small, paring knife-sized serrated knife, and it’s perfect for smaller jobs like English muffins and personalized rolls and buns. This doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with Our Place’s serrated knife, I simply wouldn’t want it to be the only serrated knife in my collection.

If you’re like me and mostly cook for a family of two, or tend to buy smaller breads over luxuriously large loaves, you might feel similarly. Even so, it wouldn’t hurt to add this model to your knife set, as it’ll come in handy for special occasions (like when you’re slicing big bread).

The Walnut Cutting Board ($95; fromourplace.com)

The Walnut Cutting Board

There’s only one word that describes the look of this cutting board, and that word is “handsome.” The cutting board is meant to double as a serving platter, and sitting out on my kitchen countertop right now, it looks like a purposeful interior design decision, which couldn’t be said for the neon-colored plastic boards I use every day.

Thinking beyond its visual appeal? I don’t want this to be the only cutting board in my life. Maybe it’s the millennial in me, or maybe it’s just me, but I’d rather avoid hand-washing a wooden cutting board multiple times a day, and this one — at almost 6 pounds! — doesn’t match my chaotic, often careless cooking style.

I love my crappy plastic versions for their convenience and durability. They get messy, I rinse them briefly in the sink with soap or toss them in the dishwasher and move on with my life. When they get scratched up from my knife work, well, I don’t even care to notice.

The Walnut Cutting Board is beautiful, but it’s high maintenance. For instance, one clever feature is the “trench” carved on one side of the board, which can hold over ⅔ cup of liquid. This helps keep the areas beyond the board clean. It’s a great addition in theory, but because the board weighs more than 5 pounds, dumping the juice into the sink is equivalent to one rep in a strength-training workout.

As little as I found myself wanting to use the cutting board, I do think every kitchen could benefit from a big sturdy slab of wood — unless it’s a tiny kitchen. I could imagine taking the big board out when hosting a group and serving cheese and other hors d’oeuvres. It’s definitely built to impress, but in my everyday home cooking, the only thing I want to feel impressed by is the food I’m putting in my mouth.

The bottom line

Who knew there was so much to be said about three knives and a cutting board? If your current knives are mismatched and dull, this set could be a nice investment — you can buy each knife individually or bundle them together to save (the Knife Trio, which does not include the cutting board, goes for $145, a $25 discount).

Something you should know: Even the highest-quality knives need to be sharpened, and these also need to be hand-washed (unlike with the cutting board, however, washing the knives is a simple feat).

Ultimately, you will have no regrets if you decide to buy these knives. They’d make an especially nice housewarming gift, and if you decide to add the cutting board, an excessively nice one — if just for the presentation alone.