If you’re in the market for new kitchen knives, you’ve probably been looking at what brand to buy and what type of knife you want to use in the kitchen. German kitchen knives have long been considered some of the best on the market. They offer top craftsmanship and value for the money.
But of the many brands available, there are only a few that exemplify the qualities of the best German knives. Below you will find an overview of the top German knife brands, as well as what to look for in a knife before you purchase it. We’ll also go over the differences between German and Japanese kitchen knives, so you can make a decision about which you prefer.
Top German Knife Brands
You’ve likely heard of the top two German knife brands already, even if you weren’t researching knives. They are Wusthof and Zwilling J.A. Henckels. Both have been manufacturing knives for XX years and are considered the best knife makers in Solingen, Germany, the epicenter of knife making.
Wustof has been a family-owned company for seven generations now. They have a reputation for making very high-quality, reliable knives since 1814. All of their knives are made in Germany and they are all precision forged. You can expect the best craftsmanship in these knives. The Wustof Classic set is one of the best kitchen knife sets you can buy.
Types of knives they produce:
- butcher knife
- paring knife
- chefs knife
- bread knife
- serrated deli knife
Zwilling J.A. Henckels
Zwilling has been around for a very long time. They are one of the oldest and most respected knife manufacturers in the world. It was trademarked by the founder, Peter Henkels, in 1731. Henckels produces multiple lines of kitchen cutlery under a few different, though similar, names. You can be assured you’re buying the highest quality with their premium lines, like the international-forged Premio line (image above).
Types of knives they produce:
- Chef’s knife
- Paring knife
- Serrated utility knife
- Bread knife
- Boning knife
- Santoku knife
- Steak knives
Specifications of German Kitchen Knives
You may be wondering what makes German knives unique, or at least different, from other knives. Japanese knives are their closest competitor though Japanese knives are quite different in design. There are other European-made brands that have similar features of German knives, but a distinction still remains between German and European, mostly in terms of quality and craftsmanship.
One of the main specifications of German knives is a 17–22 degree bevel, with the most common being 20 degrees. This is the angle at which the blade is sharpened. In contrast, Japanese knives typically have a 12-17 degree bevel.
German knives are cut on both sides of the knife blade, so the sharpest edge of the knife is in the middle. Many Japanese knives are sharpened only on one side.
Handle & Bolster
When you pick up a knife, you want there to be a good, weighty balance to it and be easy to hold and manipulate. The handle design makes a big difference. German handles are often contoured to fit the hand. This will give you a better grip on the knife, as opposed to the typical Japanese handle that is often round and smaller.
If you have small hands, you may find some German handles are too big for your hand. They can be bulky and difficult to handle. However, well-designed German knives, like the Wustof Classic Ikon chefs knife has an ergonomic and sleekly angled handle that is easy to grip.
Another aspect of the handle to be aware of with German knives is the bolster. This is the thick grip of steel between the handle and the blade. The bolster is there so you can gain a better grip on the knife and to help balance the weight of the blade when cutting. Most German knives have a bolster. In contrast, Japanese knives don’t often have a bolster. It can add considerable weight to the knife.
The tang refers to how much the blade extends into the handle of the knife. German knives tend to have a full tang. This gives additional durability and stability to the knife. In contrast, Japanese knives often have a partial tang.
There is a noticeable difference in weight between a German knife and Japanese knife. If you pick them both up in each hand, you’ll see that the German knife is much heavier and heftier than the Japanese version. The German knives are built for durability and for managing tough jobs. You don’t have to worry about breaking it if you drop it, or snapping it while performing more robust tasks. However, the weight might be too much for you to handle. You may prefer a lighter weight knife, in this case.
The type of steel that is used for the blade is a very important thing to consider. The hardness of steel is measured with the Rockwell scale. The higher up the scale, the harder the steel is, but the more susceptible it is to chipping. German knives tend to fall somewhere on the softer side of the scale, around 56-58, which Japanese knives tend to be 60-63. This is why German knives are less prone to chipping and breaking. They are more flexible, in a way, and can handle tougher projects. They will dull less often, and at a more gradual pace than Japanese knives.
Why Buy a German Kitchen Knife
We know that as a consumer you just want to know which knife you should buy. Of course you want the best, but you’re not quite sure which one is right for you. The first thing I always say is that it’s best to hold both types of knives in your hands and decide which you like the feel of more.
You really can’t go wrong with a German knife. If you own a whole German knife set – like a Wustof Classic or Zwilling Premio line, you can be assured that you’ve purchased some of the best knives on the market today. They will last for a very long time and suit most home cutting and chopping projects.
They are built to be sturdy work horses. Just remember that you get what you pay for. Spending a good amount on a quality knife set will get you a much higher value than paying little for a low-quality set. The benefits you’ll get from a quality German knife set will pay off many times over. And I don’t just mean in the cutting potential and longevity. They will also be much easier to keep sharpened. Learn all about sharpening your knives here.
Our Top Picks for German Knives
If you’re looking for a German chef’s knife or knife block, we have a few top recommendations for you.