German knives have quite a lengthy history. The brands MetroKitchen has selected, Henckels and Wusthof, have been making fine kitchen knives for centuries! Many people like to compare Wusthof vs. Henckels. No matter which you chose you’ll have a superb quality knife that has a lifetime guarantee.
Zwilling JA Henckels and Wusthof Trident craft the majority of their knifes in Solingen, Germany. One can only imagine the inter-town rivalry between employees of these two companies! Zwilling JA Henckels began in 1731. Wusthof followed suit in 1814. Both companies were founded before Germany was even a country. At the time of their founding, Solingen was located in the Duchy of Berg.
When contrasting and comparing different knife brands, it is important to compare apples to apples and in this case it means comparing forged to forged and stamped to stamped knives. The forged knife styles from JA Henckels are: Pro, Pro S, and Four Star. The forged styles made by Wusthof include: Wusthof Classic, Wusthof Grand Prix II, Wusthof Classic Ikon.
The two main differences in these two German forged knife brands are handles and blades.
The knife handle is the most expensive component of a forged knife. Usually, aesthetics and ergonomics drive handle choice. You may select a handle that visually appeals to you while someone else chooses by how the handle feels in their hand. Both Wusthof and Henckels make knives with a wide variety of handles, all are top quality.
While most of the blades from Henckels and Wusthof look fairly similar to each other there are some important differences. The first is in the hardness of the steel. Henckels has a hardness rating of 56-57 Rockwell. Wusthof is rated at 58 Rockwell. The higher the number the harder the steel. So, Wusthof is likely to hold its sharpness longer, while Henckels knives will be a little easier to sharpen.
The other significant difference is the angle to which the blade is sharpened. Henckels sharpens their knives to a 40 degree angle. Wusthof sharpens its knives to a narrower 32 degree angle using a new technology, called PEtec. Consequently, Wusthof knives have a sharper edge, similar to Japanese knives.
There are a few other differences in these forged German knives. Henckels International Forged knives are made in Spain. They’re made with a softer steel than other Henckels forged styles that are made in Germany.
The Henckels Pro style and the Wusthof Ikon lines (Classic Ikon, Classic Ikon Creme, Ikon Blackwood) have a different blade design. These lines have a “half bolster” design. The bolster is the part of the knife that gets thick just before the blade meets the handle. Most bolsters for German knives look like the one seen here (show image of HK-31021-203). As you can see, the bolster has a thick area that extends from the top of the blade to the cutting edge. With the Pro style, the bolster is abbreviated and only gets thick where the metal meets the handle. The bolster does not extend down to the heel or bottom of the blade.
The Wusthof Ikon lines also have the same half bolster design. The reason you’d want this type of knife is so you have a full blade to use when cutting. In other words, with Wusthof Ikon knives and Henckels Pro knives you are getting the maximum cutting area from the blade.
Both Wusthof and Henckels make stamped knives as well. These are value-priced because they’re cut from a sheet of metal but are still sharp. We have a great article explaining the differences between stamped and forged knives.