Japanese Knives Vs German Knives: Which Is Better And Why?

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In the world of kitchen cutlery, there are two general knife designs you have to choose from; German and Japanese knives.

There are chefs who prefer German blades to Japanese ones and vice versa.

Different knife types are designed for different uses.

But which one is the better option for your kitchen?

If you’re more used to Western knives, German knives are the best choice for you.

Because of their design, they are much easier to use in the kitchen, especially if you’ve never tried Japanese blades before.

However, many people find Japanese blades the more functional option once you get used to using one of these blades.

In this German vs Japanese knife comparison, we take a look at the pros and cons of each style, to help you choose the better one for you.

German Knives Japanese Knives
Sharpness 14-15 degrees per side 8-15 degrees per side
Construction Mostly forged Forged (Sometimes Damascus Steel)
Bevel Double-bevel Mostly single-bevel
Handle Heavy and riveted Octagonal, D-shaped, or Wa-style handle (depends on the knife)
Price Depends on the brand and model Depends on the brand and model

Related: Best Japanese knife sets

How do German knives compare to Japanese knives?

While both types of knives are seemingly similar and different in equal measure, both are unique in their own ways.

So, what’s sets these two models apart from each other:

Use

Due to their different designs, materials, and design concepts, the blades are intended for different purposes.

Japanese knives are ideal for delicate and fine cutting tasks such as slicing.

This is because the Japanese blades feature thinner blades and hence demand greater attention during usage.

German knives on the other hand are designed to handle tough and complex cutting jobs with great ease.

These knives are dubbed as kitchen workhorses and are ideal for use on bones and joints.

Additionally, these knives are heavier, bolder, and thicker.

They feature rounded belly designs with a fatter profile.

Blade angle

German knives feature a considerably wider blade angle compared to Japanese knives.

In most German knife sets, the blade angle averages around 17.5-20 degrees.

On the other hand, the blade angle on Japanese knives ranges between 10-15 degrees on either side of the blade.

The blade angle determines the degree of sharpness in the blade.

It is worth noting that the smaller the blade angel then the sharper the knife is.

Consequently, Japanese knives allow for cleaner and precise cuts while ensuring that they do not cause any damage to the food.

German blades compensate for their limited sharpness by being versatile, having better weight balance, and durability.

If you are looking for precision and accuracy in your cuts, it is recommendable that you opt for Japanese knives.

Blade profile

Japanese knives come with a straighter cutting edge that supports an up-down motion.

This, in turn, makes the blades ideal for slicing, chopping, and dicing.

This blade profile provides for clean and consistent slices.

Since these blades feature acute tips, they allow you to puncture ingredients effortlessly and easily so that you can cut through the food easily.

On the other hand, German knives feature a rounded blade profile.

This unique curvature of the blade profile allows chefs and cooks to use a rocking motion that makes food preparation a breeze.

These blades require less pressure and effort when cutting.

Blade thickness

German blades are thicker than Japanese knives.

German blades in addition to being thicker, also feature a bolster and are wider than Japanese blades.

The steel in German knives widens most at the bolster thereby adding balance and weight.

What is more unique about this design is that it provides a smooth from the blade to the handle.

The thickness in Japanese knives remains consistent along the entire blade as most of these knives do not have a bolster.

This design makes these blades lightweight and hence easy to control.

In addition to this, the design makes these blades perfect for vegetables, fish, and fruits among other delicate foods.

Steel

Both German and Japanese knives are made using stainless steel.

However, the steel in each of these blades differs from the other with respect to properties and proportions.

This translates to increased flexibility, sharpness, and durability.

Steel is a metal alloy composed of carbon and iron.

It is worth noting that the carbon proportion in steel determines its hardness and durability.

Japanese knives are made using stainless steel with a higher carbon content than German blades.

This makes Japanese blades are harder but also fragile.

The stainless steel used in Japanese blades has a Rockwell hardness of 60-63.

Consequently, the harder the steel is, the sharper its edge and the longer that the blade retains the edge.

Japanese blades tend to be more brittle, chip easily, and are likely to rust easily.

The steel used in making German knives has a Rockwell hardness of 56-58.

These knives are relatively softer compared to Japanese knives.

German blades come with a reputation for more durability but do not retain their edge sharpness for long.

Design and construction

Traditionally, German knives feature a full-tang construction.

In this construction, the blade runs all the way from the tip of the blade to the handle.

These blades also have a bolster, which is the joint steel part before the handle.

The bolster helps in enhancing the stability and sturdiness of the knife thereby making the blade less flimsy when you are cutting through tough meat and hard vegetables.

German blades are symmetrically designed and are thus ideal for both right and left-handed users.

On the other hand, Japanese blades do not feature a bolster but instead come with multiple tangs that make the blades uniquely lighter, sharper, harder, and easy to achieve controlled movements.

The straighter and thinner cutting edge of Japanese blades enables the knives to glide through food easily without having to apply excessive pressure.

These blades are not symmetrical and are mostly angled for use by right-handers.

It is worth noting that left-handers may be unable to properly use the blades.

Which type of knife is the best choice for you?

The choice of whether to buy a Japanese knife or a German one should be influenced by intended use.

Both knives are of superior quality and hence guarantee to give you the best performance.

If you are looking for a knife for making precise and accurate cuts, then you should opt for a Japanese knife.

The thin and narrow blade profile of this knife will make it easy for you to make precise cuts through soft and delicate foods.

On the other hand, if you are shopping for a more robust knife that is perfect for handling tough and hard cutting tasks, then a German knife is the best choice for you.

This knife is specially designed and built for tearing through meat and cracking bones.

Generally, both of these blades are solid, sturdy, and durable.

As such, they give the best value for your hard-earned cash.

The choice of either blade is also influenced by personal preference.

There are chefs who prefer German knives to Japanese ones.

Conclusion

When you invest in these knives, you can expect to get a blade that will perform beyond your expectations.

The quality craftsmanship, high-grade designs, and premium materials used in the construction of these knives are the best in the market.

To get the best performance, reliability, and durability from these blades, it is necessary that you accord them the best care and attention.

Hone the blades regularly and ensure that you only cut on the right surfaces such as chopping boards.

Avoid washing the blades in dishwashers and always rinse the knives dry before storing them.

Further reading:

How Japanese Knives Are Made

Last Updated on September 2, 2021

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My name is Andy Wang, and I'm a retired chef. I used to work at the City Vineyard restaurant in NYC. I also had a culinary degree from the Institute of Culinary Education in New York. And this blog is where I share my love for knives and cooking with people like you.