Japanese Knives vs. German Knives: Who Has the Edge

Written by on February 17, 2014
Shun Classic 10 inch Cook's Knife

Shun Classic 10 inch Chef’s Knife

The Japanese have a long history of making blades and an honorable track record for their samurai sword making methods.  Today they are also known for their kitchen knives. In my opinion, their kitchen knives are like mini samurai swords. They are sharp.

The Germans are no slouches either when it comes to making knives.  Solingen, Germany is a German knife mecca and that is where you will find the history of the major and more popular German knives.

Let the battle begin.  We will look at the anatomy of the knives, hardness of the blades, and the blade angles.

Wusthof Classic 10 inch Chef's Knife

Wusthof Classic 10 inch Chef’s Knife

German knives usually have a full-tang and a bolster.  When a knife has a “full tang,” it means that the metal of the blade starts from the tip and continues to the end of the handle.  The bolster is the thick piece of steel that is located right before the handle.  The steel in German knives generally have a rating of 56 to 58 on the Rockwell hardness scale for metals.  The angles on the German knives are usually about 20 degrees per side.

Japanese knives for the most part have no bolster and the tangs vary based on the knife maker.  They are made using harder steel than their western counterparts and are rated around 60 to 61 on the Rockwell scale.  The angles on the Japanese knives float between 15 degrees per side.  Some are even less than 15.

So what does this mean?  For one thing, it comes down to your needs and preferences.  I prefer a Japanese knife.  Not having a bolster makes is easier for me to sharpen the knife.  A smaller degree blade angle, to put it in perspective, makes slicing a tomato effortless. Yes, I know it is not hard to slice a tomato, but you get the picture I hope. When slicing a much thicker food like a raw potato, you learn to really appreciate the sharpness.  Having a harder blade does make it a bit tougher to sharpen the knife, but it also holds its edge longer.  I do like some characteristics of the German knives.  Even though Japanese knives use harder steel, most seem to be thinner.  I am more comfortable going through a watermelon with a German knife because it feels more substantial for that type of heavy duty slicing.

So, which one has the edge?  I will leave that up to you.  Personally, for your kitchen, a little Japanese and a little German is my pick!

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