These Professional Knife Sets Offer Premium Quality And High End Performance For Pro Chefs or Busy Home Cooks.
Advances in metallurgy and manufacturing in the last 50 years have led to an increase in quality and a decrease in price of the average kitchen cutlery set in 2022. That being said, the old adage “You get what you pay for” still rings true.
There are a lot of elements that can separate a $50 chef’s knife from a $200 professional chef knife. Steel quality, handle material, balance and aesthetics are all factors that set the knives in these professional sets apart and justify their relatively expensive cost. If you are done with low to mid range kitchen cutlery sets, and are ready to shell out a bit more to have an elite level knife set that makes your kitchen counter look its best, here are some great options.
The price range of the cutlery sets in this article ranges from around $500 to $2400. Due to price fluctuation there are often a few sets in this article a little under $500. Obviously the term “high end” is subjective, but $500 seemed to be a good starting point for what most people would consider a premium level. If that range is a bit more than you want to throw down on a cutlery set, check out our post on the best kitchen knife sets under $300.
How We Test
We spend a lot of time here at Nothing But Knives working with a large array of outdoor knives and kitchen cutlery. For this article we tested a variety of professional knife series and sets. We also reached out to chefs, cooks, butchers, and even a busy food truck owner to get their opinions on the best professional knife sets and high end chef knives. We continue to test new knife sets and series as they are released to ensure this article stays current.
Here are our top picks for the best Professional and high end kitchen knife sets in 2022.
|Wusthof Classic Ikon 7-Piece Knife Set|
|Zwilling Professional S 16-Piece Set|
|Cangshan TC Series 17-Piece Knife Set|
|Shun Classic 10-piece Knife Block Set|
|Shun Premier 7-Piece Essential Knife Set|
|Buck Knives 13-Piece Cutlery Block Set|
|Kramer By Zwilling Euroline 7-Piece Knife Set|
|Hammer Stahl 21-Piece Classic Knife Set|
|Zwilling Pro 10-Piece Knife Set|
|Lamson Premier Forged 10-Piece Block Set|
|Enso SG2 7-Piece Knife Set|
|Miyabi Mizu SG2 7-Piece Knife Set|
|Wusthof Crafter 7-piece Knife Set|
Wusthof Classic Ikon 7-piece Knife Set
|X50CrMoV15 High Carbon Steel Blades|
|Triple Riveted Polypropylene Handle|
|15 Slot Walnut Knife Block|
|Forged not Stamped|
|Wusthof’s Precision Edge Technology|
|Half Bolstered Blade Which Allows The Entire Blade To be Sharpened|
|Made in Germany|
Set includes the following knives: 5 inch serrated utility/tomato, 3.5 inch paring, 8 inch bread, 5 inch santoku, 8 inch chef’s, one pair of come-apart shears and a 6 slot storage block.
It is pretty obvious that Wusthof plans on this being the last kitchen cutlery set you ever need to buy which is why the Classic Ikon series is popular with professional chefs. The knives look and feel tough enough to survive the apocalypse.
The stand out feature of the Ikon knives is that they are heavily weighted toward the butt of the handle, which makes rock chopping feel a lot more comfortable and natural (for most people). Wusthof went to great pains to make sure the Ikon series is well balanced and easy to maintain. You won’t find the same out-of-box slicing prowess as the most of the Japanese knife sets, but the classic Ikon series knives are more durable and less likely to chip.
This seven piece set is a great starter set for anyone wanting get started with professional kitchen knives, because it offers excellent value compared to buying these premium knives separately. I do wish the storage block has some empty slots, so the set could be added to over time. Fortunately Wusthof does sell a variety of storage blocks separately, so upgrading to a bigger block down the road is an option.
While these knives are superior in every way to most other knife sets on the market, the craftsmanship is not quite on the same level as the premium Karamer By Zwilling Euroline set or Zwilling J.A. Hickels 1731 Series sets listed later in this article. This set is still durable enough to be the last set you ever buy even if you are in your twenties, and they still very much offer you professional level performance.
The Classic Ikon handles are contoured for comfort and made of a sturdy polypropylene that is triple riveted to the tang, so it will not come loose after extensive use like cheaper knife handles have a tendency do. Wusthof also forges metal end caps at the butt of the handle to give the knives their impressive balance. While the Classic Ikon handles are not as visually appealing as some of the other high end knife sets, they are sturdy, secure and comfortable.
Zwilling Profesional S 16 Piece Knife Set
|High carbon no stain stainless steel blades|
|Forged not stamped|
|Ergonomic polypropylene handles|
|57 Rockwell Hardness|
|Made in Germany and Spain|
|Limited Lifetime Warranty|
Set includes the following: one 4″ paring knife, one 3″ paring knife, one 5″ serrated utility knife, one 5.5″ fine edge prep knife, one 7″ santoku knife HE, one 8″ bread knife, one 8″ chef’s knife, six 4.5″ steak knives, one 9″ sharpening steel, one pair of kitchen shears, and a storage block
The Professional S knives are one of the more traditionally styled designs on here. They are similar to the Zwilling Pro series knives, but they have a more drop-point blade profile compared to the Pro Series’ more curved edge with a straight-edge spine.
The Professional S series also has a full bolster (the section where the handle meets the blade) while the Pro Series has a half bolster. The full bolsters gives the Professional S series knives better balance and act as a hand guard to protect the hand from slipping onto the blade. However, it also makes it a little more difficult to sharpen the the full edge.
The Professional series knives are made in Solingen, Germany except for the steak knives which are made in Spain. Solingen is one of the two most famous knife making cities in the world. The other is Seki, Japan.
These knives are all made using Zwilling’s Sigmaforce one-piece precision-forged construction which is well respected, and it is impressive that they have managed to offer knives made with that technique at a relatively affordable price point. The remarkable durability of the steel used on this set is due in part to Zwilling’s Friodur ice hardening process which has proved to be more than marketing speak.
This set contains all the knives most busy home cooks would need, but there are two empty slots in the storage block, so more knives can be added as needed. Zwilling also make a few different colors and sizes of knife blocks that can fit the Zwilling Pro knives.
Ultimately the Zwilling Professional S line of knives are poorly named but well designed. They offer a professional level of performance at a good price. The knives in this set were designed by Matteo Thun to be modern, performance-driven knives that don’t cost a fortune. Zwilling Professional S series knives are used by a lot of chefs around the world, but they are relatively affordable when compared to a lot of other premium knife sets.
You can learn more about Zwilling knives and the difference between the different knife series with the help of our handy Zwilling Knife Guide.
Cangshan TC Series 17 Piece Knife Set
|Swedish Sandvik 14C28N Steel|
|Great Edge Retention|
|Forged not Stamped|
|Made in Yangjiang, China|
|Hand Crafted Walnut Block|
Set includes the following: 8″ chef, 8″ bread, 7″ santoku, 6″ boning, 5″ serrated utility, 5″ tomato, 3.5″ paring, 2.75″ peeling, six 5″ steak knives, honing steel and kitchen shears
Cangshan is a relatively new kitchenware company that has jumped into the cutlery game in a big way. Initially they made more budget-friendly knives that were well received and generally respected as a good value. Recently they released their high-end TC series of knives that are made with a great Swedish Sandvik steel that has decent edge retention and is incredibly durable.
While the high quality steel is a big plus for this knife set, it is really the design of the knives that make them worthy of this list. Cangshan utilized a design that is a hybrid of Western and Japanese style knives in a way that is a little reminiscent of Dalstrong’s Shogun series or the Misen chef knife. It’s thick bladed like a western knife, but thin behind the edge with a 16 degree angle that’s similar to Japanese knives.
The TC knives perform very well, but it is hard to rank them from a durability standpoint since they are so new. What makes them interesting is the semi-octagonal handles that flare out toward the top. The shape creates a good spot for a secure pinch grip that seems to especially comfortable for people with smaller hands.
One of the reasons this set made the list is because it maintains decent quality throughout the set which is rare for such a big set. Usually cutlery companies throw some low-quality steak knives or kitchen shears into a set this size to save money, but Cangshan maintained consistent quality on all the knives in this set.
We reviewed the Cangshan TC chef’s knife a while back if you interested in a little more detail.
Shun Classic 6-piece Knife Block Set
|D Shaped Ebony Pakkawood Handles|
|VG-MAX Stainless Steel Core With 34 Layers (Each Side) of Stainless Damascus Cladding|
|4 Empty Knife Slots on the Block To Make Set Customization Easier|
|Forged not Stamped|
|Made in Seki, Japan|
Set includes the following: 3.5 inch paring, 7 inch Santoku, 8 inch chef, wood storage block, kitchen shears and a honing steel
The Shun Classic 6 Piece is a basic set that makes it possible for consumers to jump into the premium knife world for just under $500. It ships with the most essential knives, leaving two empty slots in the block so more can be added later.
This set offers a lot of value from a cost vs. performance standpoint. The Shun Classics have a VG-MAX steel that’s folded several times with a high carbon steel to make the blade a little tougher and maintain a cutting edge longer.
They also sport the traditional D-shaped handle in Pakkawood, which you don’t get in a lot of Shun’s other knife series. If you have never used a knife with a Japanese style D-shaped handle you may want to try one out before buying a whole set. Most people find them to be comfortable, and many professional chefs and serious amateurs use them, but some people who are accustomed to western style contoured handles don’t like the feeling of that little bump on the side.
The Shun Classic 10 Piece set is an excellent option if you are looking for a happy medium between quality and quantity in a Japanese knife set. But if you’re curious about what else Shun makes, you’ll want to take a look at our Shun Knife set guide. We also did an in depth review of the Shun Classic Santoku knife that is included in this set. Check it out to see how one of the Shun Classic knives performs in the kitchen.
Shun Premier 7-Piece Essential Set
|Oval Shaped Walnut Pakkawood handles|
|3 empty slots in roll for set customization|
|Made in Seki, Japan|
Set includes the following: 8” Chef knife, 4” paring knife, 6.5” utility knife, 9” bread knife, herb shears, combination honing steel and an eleven slot bamboo knife storage block.
The Shun Premier series of knives has a lot of similarities to the Shun Classic line such as: VG-MAX steel blades, Packwood handles and similar bade geometry. However, there are a few upgrades that set the Premier line apart. The handles are oval rather than D-shaped, the Pakkawood handles have a Walnut finish, and the top of the blades are hammered to help prevent blade stick.
Another upside to the Premier line is that it is one of Shun’s largest series of knives, so there are more options if you want to fill the empty slots in the storage block down the road. The utility knife pictured above is one of the standout knives in this 7-piece set. The blade shape is similar to the Shun Classic utility knife, but I found the oval handles made the Premier utility knife easier to grip over a larger variety of tasks the D shaped handle of the Shun Classic utility knife. Obviously D shaped handle fans would disagree, but they can write their own article.
This set has been out of stock at most retailers for large parts of 2021 and 2022, but I personally think it is worth waiting for if you are in the market for a high performing Japanese knife set that looks like a piece of art on your kitchen counter. From a straight performance standpoint the Shun Premier series is tough to beat in the production knife world, but the thin edges, hard steel and hammered finish do make these knives a little more prone to chipping. You definitely want to avoid cutting through bones or frozen food when using Shun Premier knives. I like to keep a tough cleaver with soft steel on hand for those types of tasks.
Buck 13 Piece Rosewood Kitchen Cutlery Set
|420HC steel with Paul Bos heat treat|
|58 Rockwell Hardness|
|Made in the USA|
|Handles available in Rosewood Dymalux, Slate Paperstone, and elk bone.|
|Triple Rivet Handles|
|Covered By Buck’s Forever Warranty|
Set includes the following: 8″ chef knife, 8″ slicer, 2.75″ paring knife, 4.0″ paring knife, 4.785″ spreader, BBQ fork, 6 steak knives.
Buck Knives is an odd name to show up in kitchen cutlery, and they’ve entered this part of the knife industry in a very Buck Knives style.
These knives have the standard Buck 420HC steel with the Paul Bos heat treat, which is technically a lower grade material but I would be more than ready to put it up against 440C or any of the kitchen knives rolling out with the German 1.4116 steel. 420HC a little soft, but it grinds super easy and takes a very thin edge so when it’s handled right it can produce some incredible, long-lasting blades. Buck has been working with this steel for decades, and famously has this stuff dialed in.
Buck’s kitchen knives (especially their chef knife) are going to have a very different feel from most other knives because of the heavily curved handle shape and the grind. One big difference is that the shallow hollow grid on the blade significantly reduces food stick, but will make long smooth cuts through bigger foods feel kind of weird.
These knives are great to use on medium-sized vegetables and thinner cuts of meat, but could be a little tougher to cut clean through a large slab of something because that grind is going to drag a little more than the full flat on other kitchen knives.
The other stand-out element is the handle. Where most kitchen knives keep a fairly straight-lined profile, Buck has molded their handles with some pretty dramatic curves that provide a lot in terms of traction by virtue of increased surface area. But while these are really easy to keep a grip on, they are not optimized for a traditional pinch grip. It’s doable, but the dramatic flare out at the top of the handle feels a little intrusive.
These are great knives for most home cooks. Professional cooks will probably find them a bit frustrating because the pinch grip and the grind are far outside standard chef knife shapes, but they’re otherwise incredibly comfortable and have a great edge with an aggressive bite. Buck doesn’t say what angle they grind their knives to, but it looks (and feels) like it’s at least 15 degrees. When you top off the performance of these with Buck’s forever warranty, these knives become a really good option for the home kitchen.
Zwilling By Kramer Euroline Essential Collection 7-Piece Set
|Very ergonomic contoured handles|
|Amazing edge retention|
|Forged not Stamped|
|61 Rockwell hardness|
|Made in Seki, Japan|
|Designed by Bob Kramer|
Set includes the following: one 8″ chef knife, one 7″ santoku, one 10″ bread knife, one 5″ utility knife, one 4″ paring knife, one 12″ sharpening steel and a 14 slot storage block.
The Euroline Essential Collection is a result of a partnership between master bladesmith Bob Kramer and Zwilling Henckles. Bob Kramer’s knives have been long time favorites of famous chefs around the world. Unfortunately they are expensive and difficult to buy. Thankfully Zwilling Henkels made his work more accessible by licensing a few designs from Kramer.
The knives in the Zwilling Kramer Euroline Essential Collection are functional works of art made in Zwilling’s Japanese factory in Seki. They’re designed to be comfortable and well balanced with thick Micarta handles for hard working chefs who put in long hours, with big-bellied blades that allow for edge modification provide a good space for scooping food up. It’s easily one of the best performing production kitchen sets being manufactured today.
This Kramer Zwilling set ships with a rather ordinary looking wooden block which seems kinda weird considering the high quality and great looks of the knives in this set. Fortunately the wood block does have empty slots in case you want to add one of the other knives from this set like the 6 inch chef knife that I assume Zwilling left out to keep the set below $1,000. This set does not ship with steak knives, but there are 6 empty slots in the storage block, so steak knives can easily be added later.
From a quality, performance and aesthetics standpoint there are very few premium knife sets that can compete with the Kramer by Zwilling Euroline Collection except for maybe the Zwilling Kramer Meiji or Carbon 2.0 sets (but we haven’t had a chance to test those).
Check out our in-depth review of the Kramer By Zwilling Euroline Essential Collection 8 Inch Chef Knife Review to learn more about these knives.
Hammer Stahl 21-Piece Classic Knife Set
|X50CrMoV15 High Carbon Steel Blades|
|Forged not Stamped|
|Quad tang Packwood handles|
|Great storage block design|
|20 degree edge grind|
Set includes the following knives: 3.5″ paring, 7″ vegetable cleaver, 4.5″ santoku, 7.5″ santoku, 8″ carving knife, 6″ carving fork, 8″ bread knife, 10″ slicer, 5″ cheese knife, eight 4.5″ steak knives, 10″ sharpening steel, one rotating bamboo block and two removable steak knife blocks.
I am always a little skeptical of large knife sets. All too often quantity comes at the cost of quality. However, every knife in this 21 piece set from Hammer Stahl is well built. Even the steak knives provide good bang for the buck from both a performance and durability standpoint.
The rotating bamboo storage block is unique and practical. It is designed to sit in the corner of a counter, so only two sides of the storage block contain knives. The backside is empty and a little wide, so if this block is not in a corner it sits out a ways from the wall or edge of the counter.
If space is an issue and/or you don’t have a kitchen counter corner available this block may not be ideal, the size of the block can be decreased by removing the two steak knife sections, which is a feature I hope other companies adopt.
From a performance standpoint these knives all do well, especially the two santoku knives and the 8″ chef knife pictured above. But for the most part, Hammer Stahl knives perform well for the price, which is quite abit lower than most other knives on this list. However, Hammer Stahl does make a pretty incredible carving knife, but that should be no surprise because they have been active in the barbecue world for many years.
Hammer Stahl calls these knives quad tang because the steel is exposed on all four sides. This design feature definitely makes the knives look great, and it should also make them more durable, but it also makes them feel a little more slippery and harsh in a full grip. It also puts the balance heavily toward the handle.
Overall it is an impressive set for the money, and the storage block is really practical if you have the counter space. This set has been somewhat difficult to find for the last few months. I assume this has something to do with the supply chain problems a lot of companies have been experiencing over the course of the last year. Fortunately this set does seem to eventually show up on Amazon and the Hammer Stahl site every few weeks, so it looks like it is still in production.
Zwilling Pro 10 Piece Knife Set
|Made in Solingen, Germany|
|Sigmaforged German steel with Friodur cryo treatment|
|Full Tang Construction|
|Polymer handles (available in black and white)|
|55 – 58 HRC|
Set Includes the following: 3” paring knife, 4″ paring knife, 5″ serrated utility knife, 5.5″prep knife, 7″ santoku knife, 8″ bread knife, 8” chef knife, Twin sharpening steel and and a 16-slot wood block.
This is one of the more accessible standards in the kitchen cutlery world. It’s very basic in the sense that when some uses the term Western or German chef knife, you can just picture the Zwilling Pro chef knife.
I should emphasize that this is called the Zwilling Pro set. Zwilling also makes the Pro S, which is roughly the same design, but it has a full bolster and a blade shape that’s a little closer to a gyuto because of the way the spine drops down and leaves less of a curve to the edge.
Both versions are made with the same Sigmaforge process out of a single piece of steel, and put through Zwilling’s own particular set of cryo treatments, but I prefer the bolsterless version because it’s easier to sharpen the whole edge, and a whole lot more comfortable in a pinch grip.
These knives are more tough than hard. Zwilling only takes these to 58 HRC at the most, so these will have a typically Western edge retention in that they will need to be at least honed after a day or week of heavy use, and sharpened one to two times a year (again, depending on how heavily you’re using it). But that use will feel great. The Pro knives have a nice balance and the curved bolster make for one of the most comfortable grips you’ll find on this list.
As for the 16 piece set itself, it’s likely more than most people need, but at least it will be too much of a good thing. With two paring knives and a utility knife you’ll be well covered for detail work. Between the Santoku and the standard 8-inch western chef’s knife, this set can handle basically every kind of food from fine vegetables to hardy cuts of meat.
The Pro series has been around for a while, so you can find a lot of different variations of it in both size and color of handle. Just be sure you pay attention to the lack of an “S” in the name if you’re particular about full bolsters
LAMSON PREMIER FORGED 10-PIECE BLOCK SET
|One-piece, hot-drop hammer forged|
|Three different handle options|
|Triple rivet handles|
Set includes the following: 3″ paring knife, 3.5″ paring knife, 6″ utility knife, 6″ fillet knife, 7″ Kullenschliff santoku knife, 8″ bread knife, 8″ chef knife, 10″ slicing knife, 10″ honing steel, sharpening steel and a 9 slot wood storage block
The Premiere Forged Chef knife pictured above and the Kullenschliff Santoku knife are two of the standouts in this ten piece set.
Lamson is an American Cutlery company that has been producing quality knives for over 180 years. In terms of quality, they’ve done a pretty good job keeping up with big name brands from Germany and Japan. The combination of old school craftsmanship and modern production methods is evident in their Premiere Forged knife series. They are incredibly durable and comfortable, and Lamson backs up their quality claims with a pretty decent lifetime warranty.
The blades of the Premiere Forged series of knives are made of 4116 German steel which is pretty common to see in Western kitchen knives and budget folders. It’s a tough steel, but it is a little softer than something like the X50 in most Wusthof knives. However, Lamson’s heat treatment process seems to produce a harder version of 4116 steel than is found in most other knives made of the same steel.
The upside is that the blades of these knives will be more likely to roll or bend a bit rather chip (although the edge geomtry seems stout enough to keep that from happening eaasily). These knives will need to be sharpened a little more regularly, but they are less likely to suffer permanent damage from hitting a hard bone or surface. Fortunately Lamson has a great sharpening program called Sharp for Life that will help make the sharpening process easier.
The Premiere Forged series of knives are available with three different handle options: Fire, Silver and Rosewood. The handles of the Fire knives are made of a purpose-made acrylic that seems to be tough and easy to grip. The handles of the Silver knives are made of Pakawood which is an engineered wood/resin composite that is commonly found in premium knife handles. The Rosewood knife handles are, of course, made of rosewood.
The handles of the Premier Forged series knives are all really comfortable, The shape is similar to the Zwilling Pro S or the Wusthof Classic, but they’re quite a bit thicker and don’t have as much of a swell in the middle. It’s one of those things that tends to be more comfortable for some people and too much for others. Big hands seem to favor these knives, but it’s all about knowing your own preference.
Enso SG2 7 Piece Knife Set
|101 layers of stainless steel Damascus over an SG2 steel core|
|Canvas micarta handles with a Samurai Crest|
|Forged not Stamped|
|63 Rockwell hardness|
|True Damascus pattern|
|Made in Seki, Japan|
Set includes the following knives: 3.25 inch paring, 6 inch utility, 6.5 inch santoku, 8 inch chef’s, 9 inch bread knife stainless steel come-apart shears and a dark ash storage block.
The handles of the SG2 series knives are made of linen micarta which is by far my favorite handle material. It more commonly found on high end survival knives than kitchen knives. It is extremely durable and easy to grip. Even these knives are made in Japan they have a more western style handle which makes the knives a bit of a East/West hybrid.
The Damascus pattern on the blades is a result of steel actually being layered. It is not the fake etching found on so many of the budget knives on the market today.
Miyabi Mizu SG2 7-Piece Knife
|SG2 Super Steel Core With Layered Damascus Steel|
|Limited Lifetime Warranty|
|Made in Seki, Japan|
|9-12 Degree Blade Angle|
Set includes the following: one 3.5″paring knife, one 5.5″ utility knife, 9.5″ bread knife, 9″ tungsten sharpening steel, kitchen shears and a bamboo wood block.
The knives of the 7 piece Miyabi Mizu set checked so many boxes from and aesthetics and performance standpoint. These knives ship as sharp as any production knives we have ever tested. They require very little pressure to slice through tomatoes or even onions.
The SG2 steel blades of the Miyabi Mizu SG2 knives are hardened to 63 HRC. This combination of high end steel and relatively extreme heat treatment means these knives hold their edge for longer than almost any other production knife set. However, this also means they need to be treated with care. These premium knives always need to be hand washed and dried immediately. They should also never be used to cut through bone or frozen meat.
The D shaped Micarta handles of these knives are are comfortable and resilient. The sloped bolster makes these knives a good option for fans of the pinch grip. All the knives in this set are well balanced and fun to use.
Miyabi is a Japanese company that is owned by a German knife company called Zwilling which is known for their excellent Friodur ice-hardening heat treatment. The result of these two companies merging is that it has allowed Miyabi to combine their highly respected Japanese craftsmanship with Zwilling’s proprietary heat treatment. The Mizu SG2 performs at a high level thanks to the combined knowledge of German and Japanese knife makers.
Check out our in-depth review of the Miyabi Mizu 8 inch chef knife to get a detailed breakdown of the Miyabi Mizu series performance and durability.
Wusthof Crafter 7-Piece Knife Set
|X50CrMoV15 High carbon steel blades|
|Forged not stamped|
|Triple riveted Smoked Oak handles|
|Wusthof’s Precision Edge Technology|
|Half bolstered blade which allows the entire blade to be sharpened|
|PEtec blade edge|
|Made in Germany|
Set includes the following knives: 3.5 paring, 5 inch serrated utility, 9 inch double serrated bread, 8 inch chef’s, come-apart shears, 9 inch honing steel and a 9 slot Oak wood storage block.
The Crafter series from Wusthof has been out for a few years now, and it seems to have been overlooked by most consumers. That is a shame, because the Crafter series knives combine modern manufacturing with a classic aesthetic that I think has resulted in a great looking and performing knife series. The water resistant Oak handles are comfortable and unique in a world full of fancy new synthetic knife handles. Obviously the rustic look of this set is not enough to justify it’s price. Fortunately these knives deliver from a performance standpoint. They hold their edge extremely well, the handles are comfortable and the overall design of the knives makes them a great upgrade for just about any busy home cook looking to improve their kitchen cutlery.
I do wish that Wusthof would offer a version of this set with steak knives, because the they do make some great Crafter steak knives. However these can be purchased separately if you decide you want matching steak knives down the road. There is also an excellent santoku knife in the Crafter series that is not included in this set. Fortunately there are empty slots in the storage block, so more knives can easily be added. The Oak handles on the knives in this set are water resistant, but they should not be put in the dishwasher.
Tips on Caring for Your Kitchen Knife
High end knives deserve high end care. Remember that just because something costs a lot of money, doesn’t mean it’s invincible. Here’s a quick guide on how to properly use and care for your knives.
- Don’t cut anything frozen
- Cut with a smooth, straight motion (Don’t twist the knife)
- Only cut on wooden cutting boards (Bamboo is fine too, but it will dull your knives quicker)
- Always hand wash your knife
- Wipe the blade right after you’re done cutting something (especially if you’re cutting acidic foods like citrus, and especially if you have a carbon blade)
- Always dry a knife completely after you’re done using it (even stainless knives rust if left wet)
- Never leave your knife in the sink
- Put a light coat of food grade mineral oil on carbon steel knives for long term storage
- Most knives will need to be honed after heavy use (a fine grooved steel or high grit ceramic rod are preferable)
- Find a professional sharpener you trust and take in your knife at least once a year
- Or sharpen them yourself when they no longer cut paper easily (it takes practice but anyone can do it)
Steel Guide to High End Kitchen Cutlery
Different kinds of knives call for different kinds of steels, and it’s worth knowing a bit about why as long as you’re planning on spending the equivalent of a tank of gas on the thing.
Stainless vs Carbon
The first and most important thing you should note about a knife steel is how stainless it is.
Here’s the egregiously oversimplified summary for the general consumer:
Stainless steel takes a lot more exposure to rust. It’s also typically harder, which can make the edge retention better but they’ll be harder to sharpen.
Carbon steel is a lot tougher and easier to sharpen (and can usually take a much thinner edge) but it will form rust spots very quickly if left damp for very long.
If we really wanted to get into the weeds, we would break this down to carbon, low alloy, high alloy, and stainless steels, but we really don’t want to get into the weeds. That’s a job for more competent people than us.
Carbon Steels Will Form a Patina
It’s a slight discoloration of the blade due to surface oxidation. For collectors and fans of carbon steel knives in general, this is a good thing. It means the knife has been used, and every knife tends to discolor differently so it makes it a little more unique to the owner.
Some people find it unsightly, though. If you want a blade to stay looking basically the same color as when you bought it, stainless steel is the way to go.
Steels From Around the World
It goes far beyond steels just being stainless or not. There are hundreds of types of steels in each category, and different styles of knives tend to do better with certain kinds of steel. Conveniently, different styles tend to correlate with different countries and the steels made in those countries.
So here it goes.
This is typically going to be hard but comparatively fragile stuff. Japanese knife designs are usually made with the assumption that you’re going to be doing very careful, precise cuts on fine vegetables and fish, and doing very specific cuts on meat.
The short version is that Japanese knives are generally made thinner and harder for doing much more precise cuts, so they’re usually made with steels that can take very thin edges and can be tempered to a high hardness (generally in the 60 – 64 HRc range). That includes stainless steels like VG-10 and Shun’s VG-MAX, and (dipping into the more traditional side) highly pure carbon steels like White and Blue.
German or western-style knives are made thicker and tougher so they can handle things like breaking down whole chickens without chipping an edge on bone. They tend to use stainless steels tempered to a softer range, generally 56 – 58 HRc.
A lot of German companies use the same steel. They might use different words for it, but almost every western-style kitchen knife is going to be made of some variation of 1.4116 steel, which is close enough in composition to be basically the same thing as X50CrMoV15 (they’re made by different companies, though). In fact, any time you see a company pushing a knife with “high quality German stainless steel” or something equally vague, there’s a very good chance it’s some form of 1.4116.
On paper, it’s not very impressive compared to other things, but it’s a very tough steel that German companies have been working with for a long time. Wusthof has it dialed in very well and Zwilling has played with it so much they started making up names like “Friodur hardening” to describe their processes. Both of those companies have been making knives that last decades for a long time, so it’s really all about how the steel is handled.
Other European Steels
You aren’t likely to see anything out there called a “Swedish chef’s knife”, but more and more companies are starting to incorporate Swedish and Austrian steels into designs.
Most often I see it being used in Western style knives because companies like Bohler and Sandvik are very good at making tough, grindable steels. AEB-L is a favorite for a lot of custom makers, and a form of it is used in Zwilling’s stainless Kramer line.
14C28N and 13C26 are also pretty similar to AEB-L, although apparently tougher with better edge stability, and a manufacturing dream in terms of helping to churn out consistent, mass produced quality.
Hey, You Forgot American Steels
Almost. The thing is, most production kitchen cutlery makers don’t use American steels very often. Even companies like Lamson who are based in the US still prefer the tried and true durability of 1.4116.
Kitchen knives with American steel aren’t unheard of, though, especially in the custom knife world. Bob Kramer is a huge fan of 52100 for example. That’s what Zwilling puts in their Kramer Carbon 2.0 line. And a lot of the time when an EDC-centric company like Benchmade or Spyderco makes kitchen knives they use Crucible’s S45V, Carpenter’s CTS-BD1N, or even 440C, if they really want to cut costs.
Most of those steels are high priced and difficult to work with, though. Established kitchen knife makers usually don’t want to change up their manufacturing process to deal with them, so it’s highly unlikely to see Wusthof or Messermeister popping out a CPM 154 blade any time soon.