When it comes to knives, very few names are more resounding than Wusthof.
All Wusthofs work exceedingly well. But not all are made the same way.
That is precisely the case with the Gourmet and Classic series.
The main difference between Wusthof’s Gourmet and Classic is in the construction. The former is stamped which means that a machine cuts the shape of the blade from a thin sheet of metal while the latter is forged which is the more traditional method of making knives.
Other features are in connection with or directly influenced by the construction like the weight, balance, and even the price.
Some people would prefer one style over the other based on just one factor.
But if you want a clearer picture and a better understanding of these series, read on.
But First, A Short Account of Wusthof’s Very Long History
Johann Abraham Wusthof, with the help of just one apprentice, started making shears in 1814 in his small cellar in Solingen, Germany.
Thanks to sheer hard work peppered with optimism, this humble factory started to grow.
His children learned the trade which helped the family gain more recognition in the country.
Eduard, one of Johann’s sons, took over the business and expanded to knives.
With a bigger workforce and better technology, they have made over a thousand different kinds of blades for slicing, dicing, butchering, and so many more.
In 1881, the company’s wares made their way to the United States.
Robert, Johann’s other son, did odd jobs there while looking for a businessman willing to buy his pocket knives and scissors.
He was lucky to find one, effectively introducing their name in America.
Despite the difficulties two world wars posed, Johann’s descendants worked hard to overcome it all.
Today, they are one of the leaders in the industry.
Trident Works, the Wusthof factory, is still family-owned and run and is still headquartered in Solingen.
Now, let’s get back to the simple comparative analysis between the two series per feature.
Wusthof Gourmet Vs Classic: Stamping Vs Forging Construction
Wusthof has 11 main series.
Seven of these, including the three Classic variants, are forged. This means that a piece of steel has been heated and then repeatedly hammered to shape it and make it tougher and more durable.
The other four, Gourmet series included, are stamped. Here, a thin roll of steel runs under a laser stamping machine, cutting blade and tangs to the appropriate shape.
Automation makes the whole process quicker and more efficient but some still prefer the outcome of the traditional process.
The trouble with stamping is that the final product doesn’t have the resilience of the hammered version.
This is evidenced by professional chefs still going for forged ones because those last longer.
This highly respected company makes use of just one alloy for all their products: the topnotch X50CRMOV15.
Here’s the breakdown of the seemingly complicated designation:
- The X stands for Stainless steel
- 50 is the 0.5% carbon content which ensures sharpness
- CR means Chromium, a hard metal that is resistant to stain
- MO means Molybdenum, another metal that also works against staining
- V is for Vanadium, a malleable metal that is added for its ability to make alloys hard, resistant to corrosion, and holds its edge for a long time.
- 15 is the percentage of Chromium in this alloy
While the two are made of the very same stain-resistant high carbon steel, the HRC (Hardness Rockwell C) or the grading of the steel’s hardness varies slightly.
The higher the rating, the softer the alloy is.
Gourmet is rated at 56 while Classic is at 58. The slightly higher rating (ergo, softer steel) for the latter is necessary since it is forged.
Edge Angles and Finishing
The edge angle simply refers to the angle of the knife’s cutting edge. The lower the angle, the sharper the blade.
All Wusthof blades are sharpened to 14 degrees on each side (28 degrees total).
The only exception to this is their Japanese-style knives which showcase 10-degree angles on each side (20 degrees total).
Many commend the company for making use of PEtec or Precision Edge Technology.
This patented system employs lasers to measure the edge angles of the blades they have made, ensuring that it is consistent from the heel to the tip.
This renders their products 20% sharper and has longer edge retention.
Only the Classic series was made with this. Gourmet wasn’t.
However, both are buffed and polished by hand. So you really need not worry about the lack of incisiveness of the stamped variant because one of the four hundred or so employees in their Solingen factory made sure that the knife you’re getting can cut paper into thin slivers.
The bolster is that thick bit in between the blade and the handle.
This doesn’t just strengthen the construction, it is also responsible for the balance of the whole piece, so you can do your tough cutting board chores without straining your wrist.
This also acts as a finger guard, protecting your hands from accidental cuts from the blade’s heel.
Gourmet, like all stamped types, doesn’t have a bolster.
Forged ones, like Classic, have full bolsters.
There are some disadvantages to fully-bolstered kinds though: it is hard to sharpen the edge, especially the part near the heel. This also adds to the total weight of the piece so if you prefer light ones, this isn’t for you.
Tang Length and Composition
The tang is the part of the knife connected or wrapped inside the handle.
Some have full-length ones which are just as long as the handle while others have partial tangs which are half the size of the handle or even shorter.
Every single piece under the Classic line features a full tang. These are also exposed so you can see the whole length of it from the bolster to the butt.
On the other hand, only Gourmet knives with blades measuring 4.5 inches or more are given full tangs. The others have partial ones only. The latter’s tangs are also fully sheathed in the handle.
Some companies use a different steel alloy for the blade and the tang to cut costs. It is quite understandable since the latter is hidden anyway.
That isn’t the case with Wusthof, though. Whether you’re getting a forged variant or a stamped series, you will be treated to the first-rate X50CRMOV15 from tip to tang.
Handle Material and Form
Many tend to disregard the handle when they are out knife-shopping and focus only on the blade.
But doing this is a huge mistake because you will be gripping the handle and not the sharp part, right?
Some aficionados even go as far as saying that a comfortable grip is what makes a good knife.
There isn’t one material considered to be the best for knife handles. Some prefer plastic, others want natural materials. Some people want wood composites and others like metals.
If you haven’t decided yet, the following are certain attributes which you should be looking for:
- Can be gripped comfortably
- Won’t slip easily
- Has protective features
- Well-placed rivets
Let’s now get back to our Wusthofs.
Both Classic and Gourmet make use of Polyoxymethylene or POM for their handles.
This dense and durable plastic does not discolor or fade and is resistant to extreme temperatures. Although these do not have rubber-like thermoplastic elastomers, they won’t slip easily from your wet or oily hands.
The shapes of the handles and the basic construction are quite the same, too.
Both are triple-riveted and have the distinctive red square with the white trident logo in between the second and third studs.
The belly of the Gourmet’s handle is more pronounced than the Classic’s but both have a smooth slope at the butt and a tiny curl underneath.
The Classic’s handle spine is straighter, sleeker than its counterpart.
Taking the place of the bolster in Gourmet knives is a thicker finger guard that ends a few millimeters over the blade’s heel.
Overall Weight and Balance
Generally speaking, forged knives are heavier than stamped ones.
The same is true for the two featured Wusthof blades. Gourmets are lighter than the Classics.
But the knife’s weight is not that significant a feature in comparison to the balance.
Some people like lightweight blades, others prefer heftier ones.
But everyone should have a well-balanced knife so that it wouldn’t strain your hand and arm too much when you’re cutting and slicing a whole lot of ingredients.
One can test this by lifting a piece with a finger or two in the bolster. If it is level, you’ve got a nicely balanced piece. If it tilts to one side, that side is heavier than the other; ergo not balanced.
The good news is that both the Gourmet and the Classic are well-balanced knives.
Whether you’re using a cleaver or a salmon fillet-er, you can be sure that you will maneuver both with ease and control.
Forged blades are generally pricier than stamped ones so the Classic series are more expensive than the Gourmet.
The former’s 8-inch chef’s knife is over $150 while the latter is just under $100.
Popular Sets Available
Wusthof Classic series boasts a wide array of knives.
This variant has 70 different kinds including the basics like Chef’s (with different lengths and widths) and paring blades to more specialized kinds like salmon filleters and cheese knives.
One of the most popular sets under this variant is the 7-piece knife block set.
This includes a Chef’s, paring, utility, serrated for bread, honing steel, kitchen shears, and the wooden block with 13 slots. This is a bit pricey at over $300.
Gourmet’s 12-piece set is just under $300 and includes mostly the same items mentioned above (instead of a utility blade, there are two kinds of paring knives) plus four steak knives.
If you want their starter set, not inclusive of the steak knives, you’ll be spending just half.
Segue: Pro Tip for First-Time Buyers
When it comes to knives, it is very important to hold them in your hands.
This, to be honest, is the only way for you to know if you can handle it with ease over your chopping board.
While it is more convenient to buy a set online, try to go to a physical shop to check the products – hold it in your hand, feel its weight, check the balance, and take it for a test drive if you’re allowed.
While Wusthof has a very favorable policy on return or replacement (check this on their website to know the specifics), handing back a set just because it doesn’t feel good in your grip isn’t really admissible. That isn’t fair either.
If you want to be sure about your purchase, go and visit a shop so that you can properly inspect it.
As aforementioned, some people make their decisions based on just one feature which they perceive to be enough.
Heavier blades feel like they can cut through kilos of meat slabs without dulling.
Lighter ones seem more incisive and easier to maneuver.
Expensive means high standards.
Cheap is always a great buy.
But with more information about a particular series or a specific blade in the set – all described above – you can truly gauge which fits your budget and your needs. You will know which works best for you.
The great thing is that you won’t have to worry about quality at all.
Whichever you get in the end – whether it’s a single Classic Santoku or a whole set of the Gourmet variant – the good thing is that you’ve chosen Wusthof.
And that means you’re getting something incredible.
Last Updated on July 19, 2021 by Andy Wang
- But First, A Short Account of Wusthof’s Very Long History
- Wusthof Gourmet Vs Classic: Stamping Vs Forging Construction
- Steel Used
- Edge Angles and Finishing
- Bolster Style
- Tang Length and Composition
- Handle Material and Form
- Overall Weight and Balance
- Popular Sets Available
- Segue: Pro Tip for First-Time Buyers
- In Conclusion