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German vs Japanese Knives – Which Knife Is Right For You?

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When it comes to knives there are a lot of options on the market right now but there are two countries who have been the clear industry leaders for hundreds of years: Germany and Japan. Both countries have a rich history of high quality craftsmanship that makes their knives coveted all over the world. Crafted from strong forged or hammered steel these knives are strong, professional grade artisanal pieces that make cooking just that little bit easier.

German Vs Japanese Knives

But how do you know which to pick? What’s the difference? Is there a difference? Never fear, we are here with answers to all your questions so you’ll know exactly which knife will suit you and your needs for the best results.

German Knives

Germany has a variety of knife brands that have been around for generations from the 275 years of Zwilling JA Henckel to F. Dick to Wusthof, which was established in 1814 so clearly, they know what they’re doing when it comes to fabricating knives. They vary in price from a £160 Wusthof chef’s knife to a more affordable but still high quality £95 Gude de Messer chef’s knife.

There are many features that set these knives apart from the rest, the most significant of which being their versatility. No matter what you’re working with a German knife easily adapts to the ingredients you’re using, meaning you can achieve a great amount of utility with just one knife.

Main Features:

  • Large, heavier and wider than their Japanese counterparts
  • Distinctive rounded shape from bolster to tip
  • Full tang: the steel of the knife extends into the polypropylene handle for added stability and longevity.
  • 17-200 edge that stays sharp for a long time
  • Symmetrical grind for right- and left-handed users
  • Large handle

Japanese Knives

The art of knife making has been ingrained in Japanese culture for generations from the elite level of Shun (est. 1908), which go for £158 for a chef’s knife to the tried and true Global (est.1985) £50 chef’s knives; they really have an option for every price range. 

These knives are very commonly found in professional and chef school settings due to their emphasis on precision and outstanding quality. Each knife is designed with a specific use in mind so you can build a knife collection of specialized artisanal knives for every application.

Main Features:

  • Thinner, narrower blades for extra precision
  • A straight geometry from bolster to tip
  • Light
  • 12o edge that reduces bruising or damage to ingredients
  • Asymmetrical grind designed for right handed users
  • Edge that stays sharp for longer
  • Higher carbon content steel for harder finish
  • Thin wooden handles

How To Maintain Your Knives

Regardless of what style you choose you will need to maintain your knives. This is done in a few different ways.

  1. Always clean and dry your knife thoroughly after each use ideally by hand as many knives are not dishwasher safe
  2. Use a high quality whetstone to maintain the edge
  3. Store in a knife block, fabric knife roll or magnetic hanging strip to protect the edge and tip from breakage
  4. Apply mineral oil to a thoroughly dry knife every 2-3 months
  • German Knives

    Japanese Knives

  • History

    Since 1814

    Since 1908

  • Uses

    Versatile

    Each knife is designed with a specific use

  • Blade

    Large

    Thin, Narrow

  • Shape

    Distinctive rounded shape from bolster to tip

    A straight geometry from bolster to tip

  • Edge

    17-20 degree

    12 degree

  • Tang

    Full

    Partial

  • Handle

    Polypropylene

    Wooden

  • Weight

    Heavy

    Light


German Vs Japanese Knives – Summing Up

The type of knife that will suit you the most really depends on your usage and skill levels. Both of these styles are world renowned and high quality so its really hard to go wrong with either choice.

If you are an avid home cook that needs a lot of bang for your buck a German knife is the one for you. They require less maintenance as well as being capable of handling just about any ingredient and any style of slicing with ease. They will allow you to build up your skills with an easy to handle design that will last you years if you take care of it.

If you are a professional or a very detail orientated home cook a Japanese knife may be more your speed. With an incredibly sharp edge and a lightweight feel these knives will help you chop with great accuracy and impress everyone with your skills. If you are willing to put the work in to maintain these knives they will, literally, last you a lifetime.

Amy Hand
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