Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

A knife roll is often the purview of chefs (*cough* who want to show off their custom-made Gyuto at work *cough* ) or culinary students toting knives to class. But I use my knife roll in a much more plebian—and practical—way: to bring my sharp knives with me where dull knives await, whether it’s at my in-laws or an Airbnb. No one wants to cook dinner with a dull blade…trust me, I’ve tried. Enter the knife roll: the safe, secure (and less dangerous than just tossing them in your suitcase) way of packing up your knives.

I tested 11 of them to find ones that are a cinch to fill, wrap, and tote, and won’t have you worrying about knives slipping out or poking through the fabric. 

The Winners, at a Glance

If you’re looking for durability, lots of knife slots, and a handle and shoulder strap, this knife roll has it all. It also includes various zippered pockets and other small slots for other kitchen necessities (like a Sharpie—iykyk). 

Like the ChefSac, this is a heavy-duty roll replete with pockets, slots, and sturdy straps to hold it all together. 

Slim, simple, and rugged, this no-frills knife roll keeps knives secure. Its handle and strap made it easy to tote. 

This knife roll has four storage slots and a compact form, making it great for tossing into a backpack or tote bag. 

The Tests

The best knife rolls kept blades safe, sound, and secure.Serious Eats / Grace KellyKnife Fit Test: I fit as many knives as I could inside each knife roll, noting if it was easy to slot them in and if the knife roll packed up easily once full. Carrying Test: I used each knife roll to carry a variety of knives, noting how comfortable the handle or strap(s) were, and if the knives shifted during transport. Durability Test (Winners-Only): I unzipped and unbuckled various parts of the knife rolls 20 times to check for durability. 

What We Learned

Quality Craftsmanship and Materials Were Important 

Poor stitching, as seen here, means there is a higher chance of the fabric breaking.Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

Just like a quality item of clothing or backpack, a well-made knife roll will last you longer. Since you’re shoving sharp knives into these things (or, fine, maybe you’re covering them with knife guards like I should be doing), the inner material better be durable. Some knife rolls, like the Shun, suffered cuts from my knives—not a good sign in terms of longevity. Others, like the Sunday X Best, had synthetic leather straps and loose stitching. We showed this model to Hannah Stamp, a project engineer and textile specialist at Hasbro Inc., who said the uneven stitching speaks to poor thread tension, while the synthetic leather is flimsier and belies a cheaper product. While I’m not saying you need a $500 leather roll, like the Tom Beckbe (though it will probably last a lifetime, or longer), it is nice to have a sturdy canvas or tough polyester one that’ll stand up to sharp knives and last a long time. 

Carrying Comfort Was Key 

I really liked the idea of the Tilit backpack, which includes a front pocket for storing your knives (with tons of room for other kitchen essentials, like a solid Y-peeler, cookbook, or even your laptop). However, the backpack was way too big, and the straps dug uncomfortably into my neck when I carried it around. Instead, I preferred easy-to-use, comfortable straps and handles, like on the Messermeister and ChefSac, or rolls that were small enough to toss into a regular backpack, like the Hardmill knife roll.

The Number of Knife Slots Was a Personal Choice 

Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

I tested a variety of knife rolls, the largest of which could fit 18 knives, and the smallest of which fit four. In the end, I found knife rolls with lots of knife slots were tricky to jam-pack since larger blades take up more space (especially if you use a larger blade, like a Chinese cleaver). In the end, eight knife slots are ideal, though if you’re only using one or two knives, the petite Hardmill knife roll, which has four slots, is a great choice. In addition to slots, some knife roll brands will also note the length of knives you can place in them, and the top of that range is usually around 15 to 18 inches

There Wasn’t A Lot of Variation In Appearance 

This might be a petty complaint, but the knife rolls I tested all kind of looked the same; lots of brown leather and dark greens, greys, and blues. It would be nice to have something, I don’t know, a little more quirky. I’d love more fun patterns and colorful options. 

The Criteria: What to Look for in a Knife Roll

Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

I liked sturdy knife rolls—they should be tough enough to stand up against sharp blades and wear and tear over time. They should also be easy to open, close, and fill with knives; if the material is too stiff, it’s hard to slide knives into the slots. That said, the slots (and roll overall) should hold the knives in place; they shouldn’t shift or start to fall out in transit. Finally, a good knife roll should be easy to carry, whether with a handle or shoulder strap.

The Best Knife Rolls

What we liked: Big, durable, and easy to stuff with knives, pens, y-peelers, etc., this is a serious knife roll for serious cooks. With 13 knife pockets, six utensil slots, and four large pockets (along with a mesh sleeve for stashing your favorite wooden spoon) you could practically pack up your entire utensil drawer in this thing. It’s also super easy to tote, and sports durable leather straps for securing it. 

What we didn’t like: There wasn’t much not to like about it, other than it’s big and maybe overly capacious for most people’s needs. 

Key Specs

Style: Roll with shoulder strap and carrying handleMaterials: Waxed canvas, leatherOpen dimensions: 29 x 31 inchesClosed dimensions: 19.5 x 9 inchesWeight (empty): 2 pounds, 11.1 ouncesWhat it has: 13 knife pockets, 6 utensil slots, 4 large pocketsCare: Wipe with a damp sponge and water, drySerious Eats / Grace Kelly

What we liked: This thing is tough, with stiff canvas and thick leather straps that were surprisingly easy to open and cinch tight. It’s also packed with extra pockets for other doodads and even features an especially large exterior pocket, which could be good for your phone and wallet if you want to keep everything in one place. The handle and strap were large and comfortable.

What we didn’t like: The knife roll features a bulky extra zippered pocket on the exterior, which stuck out quite a bit. The pointed zipper on it was quite sharp, and I actually stabbed my palm with it. It’s also a pricier pick, at around $150 at time of testing.

Key Specs

Style: Roll with shoulder strap and carrying handleMaterials: Waxed canvas, leatherOpen dimensions: 28.5 x 28.25 inches Closed dimensions: 16.25 x 7.25 inchesWeight (empty): 2 pounds, 9.9 ouncesWhat it has: 10 knife pockets, 1 quick access zip closure rear pocket, one business card pocket, 1 interior zip closure pocket, and 3 interior utility pocketsCare: Wipe with a damp sponge and water, drySerious Eats / Grace Kelly

What we liked: Sure, this isn’t a blue waxed canvas knife roll with bridle leather straps, but it’s sturdy, practical, and easy to tote. I really liked the zippered interior part, which ensured knives stayed in their slots, and it was easy to fit knife handles into the stretchy pockets, something that couldn’t be said of stiffer canvas offerings. 

What we didn’t like: I didn’t love the velcro used to secure the roll when it was folded up. However, there is a zippered sleeve that keeps knives inside, which gave me more peace of mind. 

Key Specs

Style: Roll with shoulder strap and carrying handleMaterials: Nylon, padded foam core Open dimensions: 17 x 32 inchesClosed dimensions: 20 x 6 inchesWeight (empty): 1 pound, 9.3 ouncesWhat it has: 8 knife pockets, 4 business card pockets, 1 large pocket, 3 pencil/pen pockets, and a zippered mesh interiorCare: Spot clean with a damp towel, drySerious Eats / Grace Kelly

What we liked: If you’re looking for a knife roll to hold a few essential knives, this one’s got you covered. I liked how slim it was (it fit easily into my tote purse), and my knives tucked readily into the slots and stayed there. It’s also made of rugged waxed canvas with cotton canvas backing, a durable combo. It also comes in a variety of colors, something that wasn’t true for many other knife rolls. 

What we didn’t like: There are no handles, so this is more of a knife roll that you’d pack up in a backpack or tote bag. It’s also quite pricey for a petite offering (it was $100 when I tested it). 

Key Specs

Style: Roll, no strap or handleMaterials: Waxed canvas, cotton canvas backing, full-grain bridle leather strapOpen dimensions: 13.5 x 17 inchesClosed dimensions: 17 x 4.75 inches Weight (empty): 10.6 ouncesWhat it has: 4 knife pockets, 1 interior zippered pocket  Care: Spot clean, drySerious Eats / Grace Kelly

The Competition

Tom Beckbe Chef’s Knife Roll: I have to preface this by saying this is a gorgeous, durable knife roll that anyone would be lucky to have; because it’s made of leather, it will likely last a lifetime (probably longer). That said, it was $500 when I tested it, which isn’t exactly chump change. And while it will soften with time, right off the bat it’s quite large; carrying it, I felt like an architect walking around with one of those large tubes they keep their blueprints in. Tilit Chef Backpack: I really wanted to like this backpack, since it’s a great idea, especially for folks who work in the restaurant industry and commute to work. But it was just way too big, and the straps were stiff and uncomfortable and chafed my neck. Hudson Durable Goods 8 Pocket Knife Roll: This knife roll had its merits: it’s made of durable canvas and had lots of knife slots, but the skimpy string used to secure it didn’t feel sturdy enough. It was also hard to fold when full of knives and ended up big and bulky. Since it doesn’t have a handle or straps, you’d have to find a way to fit it into a backpack, which might be difficult.Wusthof Roll Knife Storage: This was a decent offering that looked eerily similar to the Messermeister knife roll—save for one thing: the inner lining. While the Messermeister’s materials proved to be sturdy against accidental knife blade scrapes, this knife roll’s fabric sliced and frayed. Boldric Cotton Canvas DD Hook Tie Chef Knife Bag: I liked the sturdy but pliable material of this roll and how sleek it looked when rolled up. However, the strap, which requires threading through two metal loops, wasn’t as secure as the more belt-like ones on other models, and knives shifted around a bit during carrying. Sunday X Best Premium Chef Knife Bag: While this bag was made of durable canvas, the stitching was loose in some spots and the straps were made of flimsy feeling faux leather. Knives shifted a little bit during carrying. Shun Knife Roll: Like the Mercer, this knife roll sustained small cuts inside when I slid knives into the slots. 

FAQs

What is a knife roll?

A knife roll is a bag used by chefs and cooks (and home cooks who are passionate about knives!) to tote their cutlery. 

How many knives can you fit in a knife roll?

It depends on the knife roll! We tested knife rolls that fit between four and 13 knives, though it depends on the size of your knives—for example, the blade of a Chinese cleaver will take up more space than a traditional 8-inch chef’s knife

Why We’re the Experts

Grace Kelly is Serious Eats’ associate commerce editor and has been reviewing gear and ingredients here for nearly two years.She’s worked as a bartender and as a prep cook, and frequently toted her knives with her.For this review, she tested 11 knife rolls by filling them with knives, toting them around, and examining their construction and durability. She also had Hannah Stamp, a project manager and textile specialist at Hasbro, examine a few of the knife rolls.

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