Head to Head: BuyMeOnce puts the best knife brands to the test
A few months ago, we decided to finally take on what could be our toughest quest: to find the perfect kitchen knife. Many brands were considered, many were judged as unfit even for entry. The four brands on test here came out on top in online reviews, customer suggestions, solidity of guarantee and aftercare sharpening services. These knives now had a date with our test kitchen. They would be evaluated on specific criteria: strength and sharpness of the blade, durability and craftsmanship, balance from butt to point and the weight, size and comfort of the knife.
For equality purposes, we chose to compare each brand’s best selling chef’s knife using four physical tests:
- The finger balance test. This test evaluated the weight and balance of the knife from the point of the blade to the butt.
- The herb test. To compare the sharpness of the blade and the comfort, weight and size of the knives, we finely sliced a bunch of parsley and watched for bruising and crushing. A sharp knife should slice cleanly through the herbs without leaving residue on the cutting board.
- The diced onion and julienned carrot test. In addition to evaluating the sharpness, comfort, weight and size, this exercise also tested the balance and durability of the blade. A strong, safe knife should be able to easily dice and julienne medium strength veg without tipping to one side or exerting too much force on the blade.
- The winter squash test. The toughest test. If the knife could safely peel and chop a hard winter squash, with minimal resistance, it would be considered exceptional.
Judging by the sheer amount of positive customer suggestions we received about Wusthof, we knew they had to be considered. Wusthof have been crafting premium knives since their foundation in 1814. Their blades are forged from the strongest German steel available and are manufactured in Solingen, Germany – better known as the “City of Blades.” Quality and functionality are the names of the game for Wusthof, who employ strict quality control procedures and design their knives based on the mantra “form follows function.” Wusthof knives are full-tang, meaning the blade extends into the handle and is secured with stainless steel rivets. These blades are typically more durable than their half-tang competitors, which have been reported to detach from their handles.
But Wusthof aren’t only concerned about quality – they also hold sustainability and environmental responsibility as a top priority. Not only are their knives designed to last a lifetime or two of use, their production processes also reduce wastewater contamination and harmful gas emissions, preserve natural resources and increase the efficiency of energy and raw materials. They also guarantee their knives against manufacturing defects for the lifetime of the owner and offer a mail-in sharpening service for their customers.
Over the past year, we’ve had a boatload of people writing in to praise Global and their incredible stainless steel knives. Now we understand the enthusiasm! Global have designed and crafted revolutionary knives in Yoshikin, Japan since 1985. The original visionary Komin Yamada was commissioned to fashion a series of kitchen knives that would appeal to the professional and amateur chef. They would need to be comfortable and easy to handle while meeting demanding durability and technical requirements.
Yamada was inspired by the sword-smiths of the Japanese Samurai and the thousand-year-old craftsmanship of their warrior blades. Like Samurai swords, Global knives are each carefully weighted to ensure perfect balance. These knives are crafted for precision. Their exclusive Cromova 18 high carbon stainless steel aims for equilibrium; hard enough to hold their cutting edge, soft enough to easily sharpen. Global blades’ steep, acute angle edge is their signature. Unlike European knives that use a bevelled edge, the straight edge here means a dramatically sharper and workable blade. The company is so confident in their design that they offer a guarantee against manufacturing defects for the lifetime of the purchaser.
Though these knives are definitely on the expensive side, we had to include Shun in our testing due to their glowing reviews, lifetime manufacturer’s guarantee and free sharpening service. Shun, like Global, take their inspiration from Japanese culture and tradition. From their name – which means the moment when a particular food is at its perfection – to the spirit of the legendary Japanese samurai sword smiths imbued in their exquisite craftsmanship, Shun is a culinary brand that is admired worldwide.
Over 100 handcrafted steps take a Shun blade from inception to completion. Their incredibly sharp edges and unmatched aesthetics are what set Shun apart from their competitors. Each knife is a functional work of art. The knives are handmade by skilled specialists in Japan using the company’s 100-year-old tradition of blade-making excellence, the newest technology and the most advanced materials. Shun’s combination of their proprietary high-performance VG-MAX steel and overlay of Damascus stainless steel provides incredible edge retention and creates a line of knives that are sharp, durable, corrosion-resistant and beautiful.
An eye-catching and individualist company, MAC intrigued us with their hybrid edge and stellar reputation. Entirely manufactured in Seki City, Japan, MAC knives are precision tools and popular with professional chefs and cooking enthusiasts alike.
What sets MAC apart from the competition is their thin blades, premium quality steel alloy and their signature hybrid edge. The slimness of the blade means they stay sharp longer than other leading knife brands and the combination of Chrome Molybdenum Vanadium High-Carbon steel with Tungsten makes the blades rust-resistant and extra durable. The blade is finished in a 45.5-degree edge that combines the traditional Japanese single bevelled edge with the Western V-shaped edge. This edge makes a MAC knife extremely versatile with the ultimate combination of sharpness and control. MAC offers a 25-year guarantee against manufacturing defects as well as an Accidental Damage Replacement Policy where you can get 70% off the regular price of replacing a damaged knife.
Wusthof’s topline Classic Ikon range are some of the most popular knives on the market, so we chose to test out their 8-inch Cook’s Knife. This indispensable knife is a real workhorse – it features a double bolster design for balance and a heavier weight, perfect for cutting thicker vegetables and meat.
The first thing we noticed was that this knife was considerably heavier than the other three contenders. The extra weight of the handle meant that the knife failed the finger balance test; however, its sturdiness proved useful during the chopping and julienning tests. The blade was easy to control – it did not tip to one side when slicing and the extra heft meant that we didn’t exert as much of our own strength. It cleanly sliced through the carrots, onions and fine herbs and easily peeled and chopped the butternut squash. While a couple of our testers found this knife a bit too heavy to wield, we all agreed that the weight of the handle and the thickness of the blade increased its durability.
Global’s best-selling knife is their classic Cook’s Knife, which features a long blade and weighted hollow handle. Their knives are designed from a single piece of their signature Cromova stainless steel so there’s no risk of breakage, rust, stains or corrosion.
Unlike the Wusthof, the Global knife was deceptively light due to its hollow handle. It was comfortable to hold, and despite its weight, the knife felt reassuringly durable. Though the blade proved a bit heavier in the finger balance test, it didn’t tip or angle during the slicing tests and our testers felt they had a lot of control over the knife. The Global knife was indisputably the sharpest of the bunch thanks to its acute edge; it peeled the squash well, sliced the carrot and herbs with little force and cut through the onion like it was a block of softened butter. The reduced weight would eventually come at a cost; it struggled to penetrate the tough squash innards.
Shun’s Classic line, featuring Damascus-clad blades and D-shaped ebony PakkaWood handles, is their most sought-after range. The line is much loved for their all-purpose, wide blades, which are ideal for preparing all different types of food and keep knuckles off the cutting board. We decided to test out their 8-inch Chef’s Knife.
The only knife to perfectly pass the finger balance test was this blade. Made from Japanese steel, this knife was exceptionally light; however, a couple of our testers felt the blade was on the thin side. The Shun blade was very sharp, dicing and julienning the vegetables effortlessly, but did not glide as smoothly when peeling the squash. We noticed a bit of residue left on the cutting board after the sliced herb test – a problem uncommon with Wusthof and Global. The knife didn’t seem quite as hardy as either the Wusthof or Global, while one tester noted that the slender handle had an impact on grip and control. All testers appreciated the easy-wash coating!
On test for Mac was an 8-inch Chef’s Knife from their Chef Series. The Chef line is slightly heavier than the other series, with a slightly thicker blade and larger handle. It’s ideal for prep work in a professional kitchen.
Easily heavier than the other Japanese knives, the MAC still didn’t approach the heft of Wusthof. While it performed poorly in the finger balance test – the handle was much heavier than the blade – it sliced through the vegetables with ease. None of our testers felt as if the knife would topple as they sliced, unlike with the Shun knife. Like the other Japanese made knives, the MAC’s strength buckled under the pressure of the winter squash. It’s just too thin for heavy duty slicing; on cutting into the fruit, the fruit fights back. In common with the Shun knife, the MAC’s longevity was questionable. While the wooden handle seemed strong, the blade felt a bit light and flimsy in comparison to the Wusthof and Global. Considering the Chef Series is their thickest blade, the signs aren’t good for other models. Most testers found this knife comfortable to hold and wield and all appreciated the easy-wash coating.
Who Belongs on BuyMeOnce?
In undertaking this review, we hope to provide our customers with the knowledge they need to make an informed decision about which kitchen knife brand is right for them. The brands have chosen were the most durable, with the best warranties, and covering degrees of weight and price range: Wusthof, Global and Shun.
Wusthof is the beast of the bunch. Thick, German steel and durable handles make this our top choice for durable kitchen knives. The 8-inch Cook’s Knife weighs in at approximately 270 grams, making this our heaviest knife and suitable for buyers who appreciate a bit of heft to their kitchen tools. Wusthof also offers a lifetime guarantee on all of their knives and a mail-in sharpening service. These knives are the least expensive of our top three choices.
Global is the sharpest tool in the box. Their signature acute edges and insanely light handles make these knives our favourites to hold and the easiest to wield. The Classic Cook’s Knife weighs in at approximately 220 grams, making this our midweight knife and suitable for buyers who will have people of varying strengths using them. Global offers a lifetime guarantee on all of their knives for the lifetime of the buyer. These knives sit between Wusthof and Shun on price.
Shun is the most beautiful of all. Perfect balance and delicate craftsmanship make these knives our top pick for lightweight kitchen knives. The Classic Chef’s Knife weighs in at approximately 210 grams, making this our lightest knife and suitable for buyers who prefer a lighter blade. Like Wusthof, Shun also offers a lifetime guarantee and a free sharpening service. These knives are the most expensive of our top three choices.
A NOTE ON BUYING KNIVES
Please be advised: this review is a guide only. BuyMeOnce cannot guarantee that our top choices will be right for everyone. It is very important to test your choice in-store to determine the correct size and weight for each individual as no kitchen knife is one-size-fits-all.
Amanda Saxby hails from the frozen tundra of British Columbia, Canada, and now works as Digital Marketing Manager for BuyMeOnce in London. When she’s not analysing the latest Twitter trends or decoding the optimal time to post an Instagram, she can be found with a whisk in her hand baking up refined sugar free desserts for her colleagues. So far, no complaints.