Should I get rid of knives with German steel?

Discussion in 'Cooking Knife Reviews' started by adamdaesen, Jun 22, 2018.

  1. adamdaesen

    adamdaesen

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    Hi all, new to the forums here, just been reading a bit about German steel, the apparent superiority of Japanese cutlery, &c. Have been working in a restaurant using super-dull house knives, and am moving into a more up-scale place and am interested in furthering my career cooking, so I thought it good to buy a few knives. I bought 3 Zwilling Henckels knives, an 8.5" chef's knife, a 6" utility knife, and a paring knife. It's sounding like I may have made a too hasty choice in purchasing. I figure I'll be using these on my station for the next year or so as I learn more in the kitchen, but is taking a water stone class (or simply practicing at home), and buying Japanese made knives really the best move here? I obviously want to use the best tools possible. Will continue to read and do my best to research on my own, but would be grateful for any direction and advice to make a more informed knife choice that will perform and last me the rest of my career. Also bought a Zwilling Henckels steel honing rod that I've been running my blades along at roughly 12-15 degree strokes, is this correct practice? Or are the knives in fact beveled at an angle closer to 20? I read somewhere that it doesn't particularly matter what exact angle the bevel is when honing, but am skeptical. Thanks for your advice, sorry for noobyness. :oops:
     
  2. sgsvirgil

    sgsvirgil

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    Hi and welcome to CT! :)

    I will try to address your concerns in the order they were presented.

    First, "Japanese" does not automatically equate to better quality. There are German made knives that are made with very high quality materials and craftsmanship that will rival any Japanese knife. However, the difference is Japanese style vs. Western style. It all boils down to two things: 1) What you are doing with the knives; 2) Your personal preferences. What is good for me is not necessarily going to be good for you. After all, you are going to be using this knife during your shift which means it must hold an edge and it should be comfortable in your hand. Both German and Japanese blades will fill those requirements very nicely.

    For the purpose of prepping veggies and protein, either style will do. However, the difference between Western and Japanese styles becomes apparent when you are performing specialty cuts. But, again, it distills into preference. For me, if I am going to filet a whole salmon, I am going to use my 10' Japanese laser that has an insanely sharp edge and a very flexible blade. I could use the German equivalent but, for me, I like the way the Japanese blade's handle feels in my hand as I work my way through the fish. On the other hand, if I am plowing through a couple hundred pounds of veggies, I prefer my German 8.5' chef's knife.

    As for the wet stone, save your money on the classes. Everything you need to know about how to use a wet stone can be found on YouTube. Practice on a few old knives until you get the hang of it. Like anything else, it takes practice. You will need a course stone for sharpening and a fine grit for polishing and finishing. Typically, both are sandwiched together into one stone. You don't really need to break the bank when buying stones, either. Start simple with one stone. As you become more knowledgeable and proficient, then, expand your collection.

    In terms of your honing rod, the angle you use depends on the bevel. Generally speaking, with most Western knives 15-20 degrees is the target. Knives with different bevels require different methods and angles. Try to avoid diamond rods. They tend to remove metal from your blades and can shorten the life of your knife.

    Remember, at the end of the day, your choice of knife is a personal choice. Experiment. Try different blades. After a while, you will develop your own preferences based on your style, purpose and skill level.

    I hope this helps. Good luck! :)
     
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2018
  3. foodpump

    foodpump

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    As Benuser noted, the German style knives are tough and can handle a lot of abuse. Use these knives for veg prep, especially tough vegetables like squash, breaking down chickens—nothing beats a 10” Henckels or Wusty for breaking down chickens, chopping block chocolate, nuts, and seeds. The other bonus with the German knives is that they are fairly cheap, and commercial kitchens are notorious for knife theft, abuse and loss.

    Use the expensive Japanese knives for portioning meats and delicate proteins, this where they really shine.

    In other words, horses for courses. There really is no “ perfect knife” that can tackle any job you throw at it and still retain its edge without chipping, or wear your arm muscles out.
     
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  4. rick alan

    rick alan

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    4 good affordable choices for work horse Japanese knives, outperform any Germans of comparable price:
    Mac Pro or Chef series
    https://www.japaneseknifeimports.com/collections/aus-10-series
    https://www.japaneseknifeimports.com/collections/gesshin-uraku

    For fine cutting, the Geshin stainless series. Thin behind the edge, good steel, not soft but not too hard.

    You don't want to use ribbed steels on any of these, ceramic steel is a good expedient, but stropping on a fine stone is better.

    Your Henkles will still come in handy, they are tough if not much else, and they work a lot better once they've been thinned.

    Some European makers are using nitrogen-rich steels that exhibit good toughness and decent edge retention. F. Dick makes some relatively expensive knives, around $500, but I wouldn't say they rival Japanese knives in that range, I wouldn't say they rival or equal a $300 Geshin Kagero, PM steel which has crazy edge retention, and not only gets crazy sharp but holds its initial sharp really well also.

    Sharpening next to consider.
     
  5. ditmaspork

    ditmaspork

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    I would passionately argue against such a broad generalization of "...superiority of Japanese cutlery" over German kitchen knives. Generally speaking, Japanese, German and French knives and materials have their own characteristics—upsides and downsides to each.

    The majority of the knives I own are Japanese made—I still have a few Sabs and Wustofs which are more than useful. I make an effort to keep them all sharp.

    By happy with your Zwillings, just keep them sharp, put them to work, you can always move on at some point.

     
  6. Alex88

    Alex88

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    As a beginner I would suggest using German steel knives as most of them are thicker and have a edge angle that is not as steep as the Japanese counterparts. Usually German knives have a edge angle of around 15 degrees which will take a lot of beating and wont chip that fast. On the other hand even though Japanese knives have a higher HRC you will usually find that they have a approximate edge angle between 9 to 12 making them prone to nicks when especially when used around hard bones. Zwilling is a great company. I have one 8 inch zwilling pro chef's knife and am very happy with it.

    Which Zwiling line of knives did you buy? I really like the Pro line because of the rounded bolster. I use the pinch grip a lot and sometimes get corns on my index finger but the Zwilling pro is pretty comfortable and also well balanced.
     
  7. Alex88

    Alex88

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    As I stated before, I think that these knives are very good for beginners, as in pretty easy to maintain and will do a good job in time. As for why I am "advertising" Zwilling I am sorry for that, I am a fan of Zwilling knives. I had a few by now and they never did me wrong. Actually worked better then a lot of knives. But probably I am a bit biased as these were my first good knives.
     
  8. rick alan

    rick alan

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    Alex88 you need to take into account the prices of both the Zwillings and Wusthof are outrageous when you consider what the same money will by you in a Japanese. And knives like the Geshin Stainless (a little cheaper even) are suitable for beginners, as are the much cheaper Tojiro DP and Fujiwara FKM. F+F on the Germans here is outstanding of course, FWIW.
     
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  9. Alex88

    Alex88

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    I have to be honest I did not know about the two Japanese knife brands. I checked them now and you are right the price is great for Japanese knives. I'd like to give them a try and see how they perform.