The best German kitchen knife brands are Wüsthof, Zwilling J.A. Henckels, Messermeister, GÜDE Alpha, and Mercer.
But what makes these brands so special? Why are they the best? Which brand should you buy?
In this guide, I answer these questions and provide an in-depth review of each brand.
- How the knives look, feel, and perform
- What makes them the best
- How much they cost
- And much more
If you’re shopping for high-quality, German-style kitchen knives, but aren’t sure which brand is right for you, keep reading.
Why German Kitchen Knives?
Germany has been a global hub of cutlery for centuries, and German-style knives are widely considered the best.
But, what makes German kitchen knives unique?
Thick Blades: German knives typically have a thick blade and a bolster. The bolster is the connection point between the blade and the handle where the steel widens. Bolsters add weight and balance and protect your hand from slipping onto the sharp edge.
High-Quality Steel: The stainless steel used to make German knife blades have high chromium content, which protects against chipping and rust.
Soft Steel: Relative to Japanese knives, German steel is soft, scoring between 56 and 58 on the Rockwell scale. Soft steel dulls faster than hard steel, but it’s much more durable and less likely to chip.
Wide Blade Profile: German knives have a wide blade profile that’s slightly rounded to support the rock chop cutting technique and make it easy to scoop and transport the ingredients.
Sturdy and Comfortable Handles: Handle materials vary from brand to brand. Some are synthetic, while others are made of real wood. Most German knives feature ergonomic handles contoured for comfort and safety. Overall, though, the handles are thick and hefty to support the heavier weight of German blades.
Razor Sharp: The edge angle is usually between 14 and 20 degrees per side, which is incredibly sharp.
Full Tang: German knives usually have full-tang construction, which means the steel runs from the blade’s tip through the butt end of the handle. In other words, the blade and handle are one piece, and will never detach. The full tang adds heft, balance, and durability.
As you can see, there’s a lot to love about German knives. Now, the question is, which German kitchen knives are the best?
Wüsthof is one of the best German knife brands and has been owned and operated by the Wüsthof family for seven generations.
Johann Abraham Wüsthof founded the company in 1814 in Solingen, Germany. Still made in the City of Blades, their trident logo represents the quality and durability of their knives.
Serving 80 countries worldwide, Wusthof combines the classic traditional appeal of German knives with innovative styles.
Wüsthof offers several knife collections, so there is a style for cooks of all skill levels. Their most popular collections include Classic, Ikon, Classic Ikon, Grand Prix II, Gourmet, and Epicure (pictured below).
Each collection is unique. Some have synthetic handles; others employ wooden. Some boast a full bolster, while others don’t. For more details, check out my in-depth comparison of the best Wusthof collections.
Wüsthof knives harness an impressive steel formula. It combines stainless steel, carbon, chrome, Molybdenum, vanadium, and chromium. Thus, the blades are corrosion resistant, hard, razor-sharp, and can be re-sharpened easily.
Wüsthof is true to themselves. They could have followed many other producers’ trends and manufactured their knives elsewhere, but they have committed to keeping their factories in Solingen, Germany.
Why? Because they believe this is the only place where high-precision and quality products can meet their heritage and identity as a German brand.
With their lengthy 40 steps to making each knife and their experienced team of master craftsmen, when you buy a Wüsthof knife, you know you’re buying quality.
Wüsthof Quick Facts:
|Where It’s Made||Solingen, Germany|
|How It’s Made||There are 40 steps in making Wüsthof knives. The blades are precision-forged. Then, a combination of robots, lasers, and skilled artisans sharpen and polish the steel. Craftspeople inspect the knives before packaging.|
|Blade Material||X50CRMOV15 — a stain-resistant, high-carbon steel|
|Blade Finish||Most are shiny and smooth, but some products (ex. Santoku knives) have hollowed edges|
|Handle Material||Varies by collection. The Epicure is made from natural fibers; the Classic Ikon, Classic, and Gourmet are made from polyoxymethylene; Ikon is made from African blackwood, and the Grand Prix II is made from polypropylene.|
|Handle Color||Varies by collection. Colors available include black, brown, and the Ikon Creme.|
|Handle Details||All collections have visible rivets, apart from Grand Prix II and Silverpoint.|
|Edge Angle||All Wüsthof knives have a 14-degree angle on each side, apart from Santoku knives, which are sharpened to 10 degrees per side.|
|Full Tang||Most Wüsthof knives have a full tang construction.|
|Caring and Cleaning||Hand washing is recommended though the knives are technically dishwasher safe.|
|Warranty||Limited lifetime warranty|
|Number of Collections||7 collections|
|Most Popular Collection||The Classic collection — you can find it on Amazon or read my in-depth review.|
|Price||$$$ (View on Amazon, and SurLaTable.com)|
Zwilling J.A. Henckels
If you don’t look close enough, you might confuse Zwilling J.A. Henckels and Wusthof.
- Both brands make their knives in Solingen, Germany.
- Both sport a red and white logo.
- Both have been in the knifemaking business for centuries.
- And, both earn a spot atop the list of the best German knives.
Despite their similarities, Zwilling J.A. Henckel’s knives stand out for several reasons.
With over 15 collections with varying features and designs, Zwilling J.A. Henckels offers something for everyone.
Some collections, such as the Four Star, are more faithful to the traditional German style, while others, such as the Kramer Meiji, are inspired by Japanese traditions.
Zwilling Pro (pictured below) is the most popular collection, and it’s easy to see why. It has all the elements of a great German kitchen knife: thick and wide blade, full tang, triple-riveted synthetic handle.
It closely resembles the Wusthof Classic collection, but it has a half-bolster rather than Wusthof’s full bolster.
If you prefer a more natural look, they offer a version called Pro Holm Oak that’s made with a gorgeous light-colored Mediterranean Holm Oak handle.
Regardless of collection, all Zwilling J.A. Henckels knives are ultra-durable. They score a 57 on the Rockwell scale, making them slightly softer than Wüsthof, therefore less likely to chip or break.
Zwilling J.A. Henckels knives have outstanding blades. While the general process differs slightly by collection, most use a proprietary forging technology called SIGMAFORGE.
During this process, craftspeople forge each knife from a single piece of solid steel. They use geometric precision to create a fine sharp edge with incredible cutting performance. The end result is a hard yet flexible blade that remains sharp, even after extended use.
Zwilling J.A. Henckels Quick Facts:
|Where It’s Made||Solingen, Germany, or Seki, Japan — it depends on the collection.|
|How It’s Made||Most collections are forged from a single piece of solid steel using a unique process called SIGMAFORGE. The blades are precision honed and laser-controlled for optimum sharpness and durability.|
|Blade Material||Most collections use a FRIODUR blade — it’s high carbon and rust-resistant. Other collections, such as Kramer, use FC61 fine carbide steel.|
|Blade Finish||It depends on the collection. Most collections have a smooth and shiny finish, but others, like the Kramer collection, have a Damascus pattern.|
|Handle Material||The handles vary by collection. The materials include wood, PakkaWood, ABS plastic, polypropylene, polyoxymethylene, stainless steel, polymer, black linen Micarta, and Grenadilla wood.|
|Handle Color||This ranges by collection, but the colors available are mostly black, brown, and if you shop in the Now S collection, you’ll find orange, green, and blue.|
|Handle Details||Every collection is different. Some have exposed tang and rivets; others don’t. Some wood handles are more detailed than others, and some collections, like the Now S, have an anti-slip feature for improved safety.|
|Edge Angle||All Zwilling knives have a 15-degree angle per side. Kramer knives, which are between 9 and 12, are an exception.|
|Rockwell Hardness||All knives score a 57, apart from the Kramer knives, which score a 61.|
|Full Tang||All forged collections have a full tang.|
|Caring and Cleaning||Dishwasher safe but not recommended.|
|Warranty||Limited lifetime warranty|
|Number of Collections||17 collections|
|Most Popular Collection||The Pro collection — you can find it on Amazon.|
|Price||$$$ (View on Amazon, and Zwilling.com)|
Messermeister, while slightly less known compared to Wüsthof or Zwilling, provides high-quality knives made in Solingen, Germany. In fact, their forging process might be more faithful to the traditional way of doing things than Wüsthof and Zwilling.
In 1981, married couple Bernd and Debbie Dressler launched the company. It started as a marketing and distribution company for both German and Japanese knives but quickly evolved into Messermeister, the German-style knife maker we know today.
Messermeister honors the founders’ German heritage by creating their knives the old-fashioned way. Their craftspeople hot-drop and hammer forge their knives. This unique process and their attention to detail are what make Messermeister stand out from the crowd.
With over a dozen knife collections, Messermeister offers something for everyone.
Meridian Elite (pictured below), one of the top-selling collections, has a classic German design with a triple-riveted black handle, full exposed tang, and thick, wide blade. It closely resembles the Wusthof Classic and Zwilling Pro collections.
The Adventure Chef collection is designed for camping, fishing, or traveling. The knives are compact and portable but still match the same quality as their standard collections.
When you choose Messermeister, you’re choosing a quality blade. Messermeister uses a fine German steel alloy with high carbon content, molybdenum vanadium, and stainless steel.
It boasts a razor-sharp 30-degree edge that is tough and sharp enough for any ingredients. The knives are corrosion-resistant and easy to re-sharpen.
Messermeister Quick Facts:
|Where It’s Made||Solingen, Germany|
|How It’s Made||Hot-dropped and hammer forged, using traditional German processes.|
|Blade Material||1.4116 steel alloy|
|Blade Finish||It depends on the collection. Most collections have a smooth and shiny finish, but others, like the Kawashima collection, include a subtle wave pattern.|
|Handle Material||The handles vary by collection. Options include Pakkawood, Walnut burl wood, olive wood, maple, burlap, polyoxymethylene, polypropylene, and bamboo.|
|Handle Color||If wood, multiple shades of brown. If synthetic materials, black. The Petite Messer collection includes options in red, orange, green, and blue.|
|Handle Details||Each collection differs. The Adventure Chef collection has compact handles that fold in on themselves. Other collections, such as the Kawashima, boast perfectly curved handles that fit beautifully in the user’s hand. The Park Plaza collection has fully exposed rivets, which are more traditionally German.|
|Edge Angle||15-degrees per side|
|Rockwell Hardness||This varies per collection. Kawashima knives score 65, but most collections score between 57 and 58.|
|Full Tang||All Messermeister knives, apart from the Adventure Chef Collection, have a full tang.|
|Caring and Cleaning||Hand-wash only with mild detergent and dry immediately.|
|Warranty||Knife for Life Guarantee|
|Number of Collections||13 collections|
|Most Popular Collection||The Meridian Elite collection — view on Amazon|
Güde is another leading brand of German knives. Since 1910, they have been using traditional processes to create quality knives in Solingen, Germany.
For four generations, the Güde family has made finely crafted, drop-forged knives. They’re hand ground and sharpened.
With Güde, you get your money’s worth. They never compromised their traditional method of making knives and still produce high-quality handcrafted, forged knives.
Güde craftspeople adhere to 55 manual steps to create each knife, beginning with the drop forge and ending with individual inspections, packaging, and labeling.
Across their eight collections, Güde offers a knife for every task in the kitchen. Whether you’re a professional, a beginner, a meat-eater, or a vegetarian, you will find a knife to aid your cooking endeavors.
There are over 40 products in the Alpha collection (pictured below), including a fillet knife, a chef’s paring knife, a tomato knife, a hard cheese knife, and many more.
Güde knives are sharp and durable. Each knife is ice-hardened, which means the blades are cooled to -80°C to improve the microstructure and tempered in separate stages to add strength.
Güde blades achieve a 56 on the Rockwell Scale, making them softer but more durable than most brands.
In other words, Güde knives are designed to be workhorses in the kitchen. You’ll never have to worry about edge chipping, even when handling firm vegetables or cutting through bones.
Güde Quick Facts:
|Where It’s Made||Solingen, Germany|
|How It’s Made||55 manual steps: they’re drop forged, and then the knife blank is punched out of the forging.|
|Blade Material||Most are made of specially alloyed Chrome-Vanadium-Moly cutlery steel. The Damascus Steel collection uses two types of carbon tool steel, one tough and elastic. The Delta collections feature chrome molybdenum vanadium knife steel.|
|Blade Finish||Most collections have a shiny, smooth, and plain finish. However, the Güde bread knife and the Damascus Steel collection have a Damascus finish. The Caminada collection blade has tiny vertical lines along the steel to create a unique pattern.|
|Handle Material||The handles vary by collection. The Alpha collection uses a highly durable Hostaform. The Alpha Pear-wood collection features pear wood. Other materials include wood, plum wood, Desert Ironwood, Italian briar wood, and sturdy plastic.|
|Handle Color||Black if made from Hostaform. Various shades of brown and red if made from a type of wood. The knives made from sturdy plastic include blue, orange, red, and green.|
|Handle Details||Each collection differs. All the Alpha collections have exposed rivets and tang, even if they’re made of wood. The Delta collections have a raised bed of wood within its stainless steel handle. The Damascus Steel and Bread Knife collections boast a natural wooden design.|
|Edge Angle||17-degrees per side|
|Full Tang||All collections have a full tang.|
|Caring and Cleaning||Hand wash recommended|
|Warranty||2-year warranty, according to distributors|
|Number of Collections||8 main collections, 10 exclusive collections|
|Most Popular Collection||The Güde Alpha collection, which you can shop on Amazon.|
|Price||$$$ (View on Amazon)|
If you’re looking for well-made German-style knives at an affordable price, Mercer is one of the best options.
Although Mercer is a U.S. company and manufactures its knives in Taiwan, they use German steel, designs, and knifemaking traditions.
Because Mercer manufactures in Taiwan where the labor costs are much lower than in Germany, its knives are the most affordable out of these five brands.
Depending on the collection, you could buy three Mercer knives for the price of one Wusthof, Zwilling, Messermeister, or Güde knife.
Although you’re not buying a knife from a company with a long history and German heritage, they are still quality German-style knives, and the brand has been going strong for over 30 years.
Mercer makes a variety of both forged and stamped knives. Its most popular German-style collections include ZüM (forged), Renaissance (forged), Genesis (forged), and Millennia (stamped). Below is a look at the Chef’s knife in the Genesis collection.
Mercer makes its handles from Santoprene® and Delrin®. Both are high-performance, rubber-like thermoplastics that create the perfect ergonomic shape and a comfortable non-slip grip, even if your hands are wet.
Many Mercer knives, such as the Renaissance and ZüM collections, have a full tang to provide more balance and durability.
Mercer knives are also razor-sharp, no matter what collection you choose.
Take the Asian Collection, which is a perfect example of a Japanese-German hybrid knife. It’s made with soft German steel, and it’s sharpened to 10.5-degrees per side, which is much sharper than other German knife brands. But because it’s made with soft steel, it’s less likely to chip or break despite being super thin.
Other collections, such as the Genesis, are sharpened to 15 degrees per side (same angle as Zwilling knives), which is sharp enough to handle any ingredient.
Mercer Quick Facts:
|Where It’s Made||Taiwan|
|How It’s Made||Most collections are forged for superior balance and durability, but the Millennia, Praxis, and BPX collections are stamped.|
|Blade Material||High carbon stain-free steel. Some are made with German steel, others with Japanese. Find more information about each collection’s steel here.|
|Blade Finish||All collections have a shiny and smooth finish.|
|Handle Material||The handles vary by collection. Many collections have synthetic handles made from materials such as Delrin, Santoprene, ABS, glass-reinforced nylon, and polypropylene. Some knives have wood handles.|
|Handle Color||The top collections offer black handles, and the wooden collections offer light brown or dark brown. But other synthetic materials come in a range of colors, including white, blue, brown, green, purple, red, and yellow.|
|Handle Details||Many collections boast a non-slip grip. There are a few collections that have exposed tang and rivets. Others, such as the Genesis collection, have a sleek black handle where the only detail is the logo. The Asian collection has a rounded wooden handle with a black strip for extra elegance.|
|Edge Angle||Most are 14-15 degrees per side, but the Asian Collection is 6 degrees on one side and 15 on the other.|
|Full Tang||The MX3, ZüM, Renaissance, and Genesis collections have a full tang.|
|Caring and Cleaning||Hand wash only with mild soap and dry the knives immediately.|
|Warranty||Limited lifetime warranty|
|Number of Collections||11 collections|
|Most Popular Collection||The Millenia (stamped) and the Genesis (forged) collections. You can view both on Amazon.|
|Price||$ (View on Amazon)|
Bottom Line: Which German Knives Are the Best?
If you’re looking for the best German kitchen knives, you can’t go wrong with Wusthof, Zwilling J.A. Henckels, Messermeister, Güde, or Mercer.
All five brands offer sharp, durable, and elegantly-designed German-style knives.
Wüsthof has been committed to traditional craftsmanship since launching in 1814. They use an impressive steel formula that is corrosion resistant and tough, and it takes 40 steps to make each knife.
Zwilling J.A. Henckels has technically been in the business the longest and is continually innovating. Not only do they produce German-style knives, but they also make Japanese and hybrid-style knives. Regardless of which collection you choose, you’ll get ultra-durable knives with exceptional cutting performance.
Messermeister honors traditional manufacturing methods, but that doesn’t mean their knives are old-fashioned. Since the 1980s, Messermeister has been innovating and now offers over a dozen knife collections spanning from a classic style (triple-riveted, black handle with full tang and thick blade) to on-the-go knives to take with you camping.
Güde uses 55 manual steps to create their comfortable, quality knives. These soft-steel blades are ice-hardened, making them ultra-durable.
Lastly, Mercer is a U.S. company that produces German-style knives in Taiwan. Mercer can hold its own in terms of performance but is significantly cheaper than the other brands.
If you’re on the fence and can’t decide which brand to buy, I highly recommend Wüsthof.
Why? With a long and reliable history and traditional craftsmanship, these knives are exceptional.
Regardless of the collection, all Wüsthof blades are thick and balanced, the edges are razor-sharp, and the handles are comfortable, functional, durable, and elegant.
Bottom line—it’s not a matter of picking the “best” German kitchen knives. All five of the brands I covered are excellent. It’s a matter of finding the one that feels right to you.