Calphalon is known for its cookware. But are its knives any good?
In this review, I break down the pros and cons of Calphalon kitchen knives.
- How the knives look, feel, and perform (with lots of pictures)
- How the knives are made
- What makes them stand out
- How much they cost
- And much more
After reading this review, you’ll be able to decide if Calphalon knives belong in your kitchen or not.
Use the links below to navigate the review:
- Knife Collections
- Materials and Construction
- What Others Are Saying
- Bottom Line: Are Calphalon Knives Any Good?
Calphalon has four knife collections, Classic being the most extensive. The following chart provides quick facts on each collection.
Swipe to view the entire chart on mobile.
|Collection||Price||Key Feature||Blade Material||Handle Material||Blade Construction||Blade Hardness (Rockwell)|
|Precision||$$||Bar-shaped rivet||High carbon, no-stain steel||Poly-resin||Fully-forged, stamped steak knives||56 to 58|
|Contemporary||$$||Non-stick coating on blades||High carbon, no-stain steel||Poly-resin||Fully-forged||54 to 56|
|Classic||$||Traditional German design||High carbon, no-stain steel||Poly-resin||Forged||48 to 52|
|Select by Calphalon||$||SilverShield antimicrobial coating||High carbon, no-stain steel||Poly-resin||Stamped||Not disclosed|
Let’s take an up-close look at the design features of the Classic collection (Calphalon’s most popular collection).
While the Classic collection features multiple knife designs, we’ll focus on the German-inspired knives with black poly-resin handles.
At first glance, these knives look much like Wusthof, Zwilling, or other high-quality German-style knives. But up close, and in the hand, it is clear that they are flawed.
The places where the plastic handle meets the steel tang (porion of the blade that extends through the handle) look misaligned and aren’t seamless.
However, the steel end cap is a helpful detail. It shows the name of each knife (for example, 8″ Chefs), so you can quickly grab the one you want from the knife block.
Calphalon Classic knives are full bolster and full-tang. But the bolster is unusually thick and can impact performance—more on that in the next section.
The face of the blade is stamped with the brand and the type of knife.
If you flip the knife over, you will see the country of origin on the other side (China).
The handles are larger than other knives of similar design and blade length. They might be too big for small hands, and overall, they feel uncomfortable. You may experience hand fatigue if you work with these knives for long periods.
Calphalon Classic collection knives are constructed by welding the blade to the bolster and tang. Although the brand calls this construction forged, it’s not a true forged blade, as mentioned earlier.
Because these pieces are welded instead of formed from one piece of steel, the blade can detach from the handle. This construction raises concerns about longevity and user safety. In fact, several of the brand’s knives were recalled in 2017 due to the blade detaching and causing lacerations.
The other collections, except for nuances in the handles, are similar. For example, the Contemporary collection features concealed rivets.
The Precision collection has a unique, rectangular-shaped rivet described as a bar rivet. It’s a departure from the traditional circular rivets that most knife brands use.
Calphalon Classic and Select by Calphalon prep knife blades are made from high carbon, no-stain steel. The high carbon content helps to retain sharpness and resist wear. Both collections also use Asian steel for their steak knives.
With Calphalon Contemporary and Precision knives, you’ll find that the blades are made from German high carbon, no-stain steel. The steak knives in these two collections are made from Asian steel.
There’s no mention of the specific type of steel used. Other high-quality knife brands make their chosen grade of steel clear. For example, Wusthof and Made In use X50CrMoV15 stainless steel to make their blades.
What’s also unclear is the sharpness level of the knives. Calphalon doesn’t state a specific edge angle in its product specs like most knife manufacturers. I called Calphalon’s customer support to clarify, but they didn’t know the angle of the edges.
In addition, it took some digging to find out about the handle construction. The black material used on the knife handles is a poly-resin.
Some details are easy to find. For example, the hardness of Calphalon knives ranges from 48-58 HRC on the Rockwell Scale.
The Classic collection scores a 48-52 on the Rockwell Scale, which means the steel is very soft. Softer knives don’t hold a sharp edge well. The blades are also more flexible. In short, it’s not ideal for kitchen knives — especially for everyday use.
The Precision Series has a more robust score of 56-58. It’s a harder steel that keeps its sharp edge longer. Calphalon points out that Precision knives stay sharper 20% longer than knives in the Contemporary collection, which score 54-56 HRC.
It’s also clear that the knives are full-tang and mainly forged. However, many of the collections offer stamped steak knives.
Some collections, like Contemporary and Precision, are described as fully-forged while Classic blades are listed as just forged.
While it’s clever wordplay, forged is forged. By definition, forged knives are made from a single piece of steel. But you’ll notice that some of Calphalon’s collections have a tang and bolster welded to the blade, yet the knives are marketed as forged.
This is deceptive marketing because the terms used by Calphalon directly contradict industry standards and are misleading.
The main takeaway here is that Calphalon is selective about how much detail it offers and not as transparent about its construction and materials as most knife brands. This leaves a lot of speculation about the quality of the product.
I’ve been testing Calphalon knives for several months. Overall, the performance is what you’d expect from low-cost knives.
The first thing you’ll notice when you hold a Calphalon knife is the blade is significantly heavier than the handle. When you loosen your grip, the blade tips forward. The unbalance puts extra stress on your wrist, especially if you’re working for long periods.
The next thing you’ll notice is the size and thickness of the handle. Compared to most brands, Calphalon handles are much larger. Some people prefer large handles, but these might be too big for you if you have smaller hands.
All Calphalon Chef’s knives have a full bolster. The bolster acts as a finger guard and adds weight to the center of the knife, making it more balanced. But, these knives are still blade heavy despite the bolster.
The downside of the bolster, especially one this thick, is that it prevents you from sharpening the entire edge. As you can see below, the heel of the edge is too thick to sharpen (similar to an ax).
Over time, the shape of the blade will deform as the upper edge gets sharpened down, but the heel and bolster remain intact.
Another downside to full bolster is that it gets in the way of a pinch grip. So, if you’re used to that technique, I wouldn’t recommend Calphalon.
On the upside, Calphalon knives are incredibly sharp right out of the box. I’ve read dozens of reviews where people complain that the knives are dull at first use, but that was not my experience.
As you can see below, the edges are so sharp that they can easily cut paper-thin slices of grapes.
After a couple of months, I noticed the edge start to dull. But that’s to be expected, especially since Calphalon uses relatively soft steel.
Overall, I’m not impressed with the performance of Calphalon knives. Although they’re as sharp as any knife I’ve tested initially, they dull quickly, feel unbalanced, the bolster is too thick, and the handles are too big.
Calphalon offers affordable knife collections at a range of prices. Precision and Contemporary, the fully-forged collections, are the most expensive. The welded (called forged) knives of the Classic collection are the mid-range offering, and stamped knives(Select by Calphalon) are the least costly.
High-end brands like Wusthof, Zwilling, Shun, Miyabi, and Global are much more expensive, but this is expected. These brands use high-quality steel and more intricate manufacturing processes. For example, it takes over 40 steps to make a forged Wusthof knife.
Calphalon isn’t transparent about the type of steel it uses, so based on pricing, I can only assume that it’s a cheaper grade.
But other factors contribute to lower costs, such as manufacturing the knives in China and the forging technique in the Classic collection (welding the tang and bolster to the blade).
To see current pricing for Calphalon knives, refer to the following chart:
|Calphalon Contemporary 13-Piece Set||Amazon|
|Calphalon Contemporary Steak Knives 8-Piece Set||Amazon|
|Calphalon Contemporary 20-Piece Set||Amazon|
|Calphalon Classic 15-Piece Set||Amazon|
|Calphalon Classic 15-Piece Set (Silver Handles)||Amazon|
|Calphalon Precision 13-Piece Set||Amazon|
|Calphalon Precision 15-Piece Set||Amazon|
Before you buy Calphalon knives, these are the downsides you should know.
Edges dull quickly
Even after calling Calphalon, I couldn’t find definitive information about its blades’ edge angle and sharpness. And while the knives I tested were razor-sharp initially, it didn’t take long for the edges to dull. Lack of edge retention is one of the most common complaints about Calphalon knives.
Calphalon’s knife blocks feature built-in ceramic sharpening slots. They are designed to sharpen the knives every time you pull them out of the block. However, the blocks don’t hold up well over time. Plus, Calphalon doesn’t sell any alternate sharpening tools.
Many high-quality knife brands, like Misen, offer sharpening services. Calphalon, however, does not. You’ll have to sharpen these knives on your own, and without knowledge of the brand’s edge angles, it could prove challenging to get the sharpness you want.
The thick, full bolster on the knives prevents you from using a pinch grip. Knives with slimmer bolsters, such as Made In or Zwilling, make performing that technique much easier. The bolster also diminishes the cutting edge and makes it more difficult to sharpen over time.
Overall these knives feel fragile. There are multiple reports of blade tips bending or breaking.
China does not have the same history of knife-making as Japan or Germany. Chinese-manufactured knives tend to be less expensive and lower in quality, as is the case with Calphalon.
Besides the unbalanced feel of the knives and bulky handles, the missteps in craftsmanship are noticeable. A quick glance at the handles on the Classic collection revealed a jagged connection between the handle and the tang.
Between the durability issues, imperfections, and the fact that these are made in China, Calphalon knives have a discount feel. You can tell the materials and quality control is a significant step down from Made In and other higher-end brands. This is somewhat surprising since many of its cookware collections, including Signature and Premier, are well-built.
Calphalon has a good reputation, especially when it comes to its primary offering: cookware. Still, even with the missteps with design and construction, Calphalon knives are deemed worthy enough to make a few best-of lists.
In a Forbes list of the 9 Chef-Recommended Knife Sets, the Calphalon Classic 6-Piece Knife Block Set was named the best self-sharpening knife block set. That’s a high honor, considering other top brands like Wusthof and Zwilling also feature self-sharpening knife block technology. The set was called durable and ideal for people who don’t like sharpening kitchen knives.
Calphalon’s Precision knives received a positive review from Food & Wine for offering a non-stick knife that made the reviewer feel like a professional chef. The reviewer pointed out how the non-stick coating and longitudinal ridges repelled food expertly. The knives were also praised for being sharp and easy to identify from the end cap labels.
The Spruce Eats reviewed a knife set from the Calphalon Contemporary knife collection and rated it excellent. Reviewers liked the included self-sharpening knife block. They also called out how you can quickly identify the knives by the labels on the butt end. Yet, they thought the steak knives were too lightweight and didn’t like that they couldn’t sharpen the serrated knives. Overall, they called the knives elegant with good performance.
Well + Good polled professional chefs to form a list of the only knife sets worth buying, and Calphalon made the cut. The Calphalon Classic 12-Piece Set was named the best knife set with a block. The wellness brand pointed out that the knives were easy to grab because of the labeled handles.
Calphalon is a well-known and reliable brand. It has decades of experience manufacturing products that millions of home cooks use every day.
Cookware is the brand’s bread and butter. Knives are a secondary product.
Before deciding if Calphalon knives are right for you, let’s recap the pros and cons.
- Long history: Calphalon was established in 1963 and is a trusted brand.
- Variety: Calphalon offers four different knife collections with unique designs and prices.
- Affordable: Calphalon knives are very affordable, and most knife sets include a knife block and additional tools like kitchen shears.
- Full-tang: All knives are full-tang, lending to their durability and sturdiness.
- Sharp: Out of the box, these knives are incredibly sharp.
- Uncomfortable: The handles are oversized and bulky. It makes the grip unpleasant to hold for any length of time.
- Thick bolster: The extra thick bolster makes it difficult to use a pinch grip or sharpen the entire edge.
- Unbalanced: The blade is heavier than the handle. It causes the knife to tip forward as you cut.
- Lack of information available: Calphalon doesn’t provide as many details as other knifemakers. You are left wondering about the exact type of steel it uses, edge angles, and its manufacturing process.
- Inconsistent sharpness: While I found the knives to be sharp, others have not had the same experience right out of the box.
- Forging process: Calphalon Classic knives are advertised as forged but are welded together from two parts. A proper forged knife is made from one piece of steel.
- Durability and safety issues: The blades feel fragile, and there are reports of them bending. There was a major recall on Calphalon knives in 2017 due to the blades breaking.
- Made in China: Knives made in China are usually less expensive but lower in quality. Calphalon is not transparent about its manufacturing, so you are left questioning the quality control process.
Bottom line — Calphalon is best known for its hard-anodized cookware. The knives are an add-on for customers looking for an affordable option.
I wouldn’t recommend Calphalon knives due to the durability issues, imperfections, and the fact that they are made in China with little visibility into the quality control process. If you want an affordable German-style knife, go with a trusted brand like Henckels (check out my full review).
If you’re still interested in Calphalon knives, they’re available on Amazon, Walmart.com, and Calphalon.com.
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