Anyone who knows their way around a kitchen knows this: You can’t overestimate the importance of knives.
Knives are one of the most useful tools in the kitchen and, while they might seem similar to the untrained eye, there are several varieties. Each one created with a specific goal in mind.
Knowing your knives can make a big difference not only in the final outcome of a dish but also in the preparation time and even your own well-being, as certain knives are better suited for a task than others, which minimizes the strain on your wrist and even the possible risks that might arise.
Just like the type of knife you use can be of crucial importance, the same can be said about the brand. Some brands are simply better than others, and while affordability plays a big part in any chef’s choice, sometimes it pays to bite the bullet and purchase name brands.
After all, you’ll be using your knives constantly.
- Related article: Best butcher knives
There are several knife brands out them, each offering something different to the public. However, we want to focus on two well-known brands: Wusthof vs Henckels.
Let’s get started!
As far as knives brands go, Wusthof is one of the most popular and trusted brands out there.
It’s readily available, it’s reliable and it’s been around for over 200 years.
No brand lives nearly as long without quality and compromise to delivering the best knives out there and Wusthof takes such commitment quite seriously, creating successful quality knife lines to satisfy every need.
While there are many products, you can divide Wusthof knives in two broad categories: Forged and Stamped.
- Stamped knives are stamped out of a roll of steel, which means they can be mass produced at a much lower price.
Because they’ve been stamped, they’re not reinforced and while they’re still of great quality they’re not as sturdy as they could be and should be used for casual purposes only.
- Forged knives on the other hand, are made using the old school technique of heating, hammering, heating, hammering over and over again, molding the knives down to their molecular structure to guarantee the sturdiest, most long lasting knives out there.
Because more work goes to creating these knives, they’re more expensive and harder to find but they make for a wonderful investment as they’ll stay with you for a long, long time.
Regardless of the line, all Wusthof knives use the same kind of stainless steel, which has been reinforced to extend their durability. In short, the steel used for all Wusthof knives is made to last and withstand corrosion.
While Wusthof knives are German and, indeed they follow a number of German knives characteristics (such as being heat-treated to rock hardness) they’ve been sharpened at 14 degrees, which is considerably sharper than German standards and resembles more closely Japanese knives, which are known for their exquisite sharpness.
This mixture of Japanese and German craft results in a knife that’s durable, capable of enduring considerable amount of stress without damage or edge, all while needing minimum maintenance and care.
That said, there is a Japanese hybrid line made by Wusthof, so while there’s some undeniably Japanese inspiration in the way the knives are make, it wouldn’t do to call Wusthof knives ‘hybrids’ unless you’re referring to that specific line.
Wusthof Classic Line
One of the best ways of analyzing a brand is to look at their most straightforward products and, for Wusthof, that’s their classic line.
With 70 different knives that go from narrow filleting knives to paring knives, this is a very complete line that can satisfy your every need. Whether you’re cooking small and delicate entrees or you’re cooking for an entire army, your back will be covered by these reliable and resistant knives.
Zwilling J.A. Henckels, or Henckels for short, is one of the world’s most popular brand of knives out there.
It was founded in Germany, circa 1731 and through the years they’ve only improved their quality and commitment to their customers.
They offer several different knives that range from a sturdy and reliable cleaver to a beautifully designed stiletto utility knife, all while covering the basics with their chef knives, santoku knives and more.
Though the sheer number of knives they offer is awe worthy, perhaps one of Henckels’ most well-known products is their knife block sets.
There are several, and they range from a simple 5-piece set to a tremendous 19-piece set that will help you slice through absolutely anything. All encased in an elegant bamboo block, which will keep your knives sharp and in charge, all while minimizing the risk of bacterial growth.
While Henckels and Wusthof are both German brands, they approach knife making in a completely different way.
For starters, Henckels knives use a stainless steel with high carbon content. This means that Henckels knives are both sharp and light, allowing you light-speed movements when chopping, all while giving you a lot more precision.
Of course, the high carbon content does mean the blades are slightly less durable than others, but they’re not, by any mean, weak.
Henckels treats all their knives with a patented ice-hardening technique, which leads to a strengthened blade with both elastic and resistant properties.
What does this mean?
That while Henckels blades aren’t the sturdiest out there, they still can take a lot of punishment without losing its edge.
This unique blade gives Henckels users a lot of versatility in what they can do, allowing them to chop, slice, fillet, and more even with knives that weren’t specifically created with that in mind.
Henckels also comes with forged and stamped lines, out of which we enthusiastically recommend the forged lines.
They’re both good, don’t get us wrong, but when spending a few more bucks gives you not only a longer lasting knife but also a lifetime guarantee, going for the highest quality knives is just common sense.
However, keep in mind that getting your hands on a forged Henckel knife might be complicated, particularly if you’re buying internationally.
Wusthof vs Henckels - Which One is Better?
In the end, it all boils down to personal preference.
Wusthof knives are harder and sturdier, but they’re also less flexible and sharp. Which one works best for you depends not only on what you want but also on what you’re going to use the knives for so it’s impossible to give the award to one brand.
Of course, blade sharpness and composition is hardly the only thing you should judge a knife on, but both brands are so reliable and experienced that when you compare the knives in other areas, such as structure and blade, you usually end up in a tie.
So what can you do?
As we mentioned before, both Henckels and Wusthof are easy to find and they both have stamped lines.
Stamped lines, as you already know, are more affordable so why not try purchasing one knife of each to see which one fits you better? We recommend this starter set from Wusthof and this one from Henckels.
That way, once you’ve decided what brand works best for you, you can invest in one of the knives of the forged line and, at the end of the day, you’ll end up with at least two excellent quality knives.