In the market for new kitchen knives and trying to decide between well-renowned German knife makers Wusthof and Zwilling J.A. Henckels?
In this article, I provide an in-depth comparison of Wusthof vs. Zwilling J.A. Henckels kitchen knives and dive deep into their differences, similarities, pros, cons and much more.
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Let’s get right into it:
- Wusthof vs. Zwilling: 30-Second Summary
- Side-By-Side Comparison Chart
- Companies’ Histories
- Forged vs. Stamped Knives
- Anatomy of a Forged Kitchen Knife
- Wusthof vs. Zwilling: Differences
- Wusthof vs. Zwilling: Similarities
- Overview of Wusthof Product Lines
- Overview of Zwilling J.A. Henckels Product Lines
- Bottom Line: Which Should You Choose?
Wusthof and Zwilling J.A. Henckels are two of the most popular knife makers in the world. They have both been in business for over 100 years and are used by millions of home cooks and professional chefs across the globe.
The fact is, you can’t go wrong with either but, before you decide which knives to buy, it’s important to understand exactly how they are similar and how they are different.
If you only have a minute, here’s what you need to know about Wusthof and Zwilling J.A. Henckels kitchen knives.
What Are Their Similarities?
- History: Both brands have been making knives in Solingen, Germany for over two centuries (literally).
- Blade Materials: Both brands use the same materials to make their blades; high carbon, rust-resistant steel.
- Warranty: They both guarantee their knives with a limited lifetime warranty. Their warranties cover defects in materials and/or craftsmanship.
- Bolster and Tang: Both brands design their knives with a bolster and full tang to improve balance and increase durability.
- Caring and Cleaning: Both brands recommend caring for their knives in the same manner; hand-wash only.
What Are Their Differences?
- Edge Angle: Wusthof cuts their edges at a 14-degree angle compared to Zwilling J.A. Henckels which are cut at a 15-degree angle. This means that Wusthof edges are slightly sharper than Zwilling J.A. Henckels.
- Blade Hardness: The steel blades of Wusthof knives are harder than Zwilling J.A. Henckels which helps keep the edge longer but makes Wusthof slightly less durable.
- Handle Design and Materials: The design and material of their handles are different which impacts how they feel in your hand. All Zwilling knives have a distinct curve near the butt end to rest your pinky finger and prevent your hand from slipping. Wusthof’s Classic line of knives shares that same distinct curve but their other knife lines have smoother contoured handles.
- Price: Lastly, pricing varies between the two brands and depends on which product line you buy. To get a quick comparison, you can check out their current prices on Amazon.
|Wusthof Kitchen Knives||Zwilling J.A. Henckels Kitchen Knives|
|Where They Are Made||Solingen, Germany (City of Blades)||Solingen, Germany (City of Blades)|
|Number Of Forged Knife Product Lines||5||6|
|Blade Material||High Carbon, Rust-Resistant Steel||High Carbon, Rust-Resistant Steel|
|Warranty||Lifetime Limited Warranty||Lifetime Limited Warranty|
|Designed With A Bolster And Tang||Yes||Yes|
|Cleaning||Hand Wash Only||Hand Wash Only|
|Edge Angle (lower angle = sharper)||14-Degree Angle Per Side||15-Degree Angle Per Side|
|Blade Hardness (higher=harder but less durable)||Rockwell Hardness of 58||Rockwell Hardness of 57|
|Handle Material||Wood or Synthetic Material||Wood or Synthetic Material|
|Price of 8-Inch Chef's Knife||Varies By Seller (Check Amazon)||Varies By Seller (Check Amazon)|
Since 1814, Wusthof has been making knives in the city of Solingen, Germany which is located about 215 kilometers northwest of Frankfurt. Solingen earned its nickname as the “City of Blades” by becoming home to several blade manufacturers besides Wusthof including Zwilling J.A. Henckels, DOVO, Dreiturm, and a few others.
Wusthof has been family owned its entire existence and is currently led by Harald Wusthof and Viola Wusthof. The fact that they’ve been in business and remained family owned for two centuries is a testament to the superior quality and performance that they’re able to produce.
If you’re impressed by Wusthof’s longevity, you’ll be even more impressed by Zwilling J.A. Henckels. All the way back in 1731 Peter Henckels registered the trademark for the “Zwilling” (Twin in German) logo. The company was later renamed Zwilling J.A. Henckels after Peter’s son, John Abraham Henckels. Like Wusthof, Zwilling J.A. Henckels was started in Solingen Germany. Their headquarters remains in Solingen today, however, they’ve expanded significantly over the years and now have operations all over the globe.
Both Wusthof and Zwilling J.A. Henckels have been around forever and were founded in the same town in Germany that is home to some of the best knife and blade manufacturers in the world. Can you imagine the competition for talent and resources in that town? Fortunately for us, that competition results in superior products that we get to enjoy every day. We need more towns like Solingen!
Forged knives are manufactured from a single piece of steel which is heated and then pounded by either man or machine.
Stamped knives are cut out (or stamped) from a sheet of steel. There are some benefits to stamped knives but, in general, they are lighter, lower cost, and considered lower quality compared to forged knives.
Both Wusthof and Zwilling J.A. Henckels make stamped knives to give consumers a lower priced option but, for the purpose of this article, we are only comparing forged knives.
If you are interested in learning more about the differences between forged and stamped knives, check out this article comparing Wusthof’s most popular forged knife line, the Classic collection, versus it’s most popular stamped knife line, the Gourmet collection.
Before I break down the differences between Wusthof and Zwilling J.A. Henckels knives, it’s important to understand the anatomy of a forged knife. Knowing what each part is and does will help you understand the details that I’ll cover in a minute.
Blade – Forged from a single piece of steel, the blade is the most important part of a knife. Without a well-designed blade, the performance of the knife will suffer. The hardness of a blade is measured using the Rockwell Scale. The higher the number on the scale, the harder the steel. Wusthof tempers their blades to a 58 Rockwell, slightly harder than Henckels at 57.
Edge – The best edge is sharp and easy to maintain. The sharpness will depend on the degree angle the edge is cut.
Heel – The heel is the part of the blade closest to the handle and is typically used for cutting hard vegetables like carrots and parsnips.
Bolster – The bolster is the thick part of the knife located between the handle and the blade. Besides adding weight and balance, the bolster prevents your hand from slipping onto the blade during intense chopping.
Tang – Forged knives are made from a single piece of steel that runs from the tip of the blade all the way through the bottom of the handle. The part of steel that runs through the handle is called the tang. The tang provides balance and durability and prevents the blade from detaching from the handle since it is all one piece.
Rivets – Rivets are the studs that attach the handle to the tang. In addition to holding the knife together, rivets provide a classic design element to the handle.
Handle – Handles are made from many different materials including wood, plastic, and other composites such as polypropylene. Despite the pleasing aesthetic, wood handles are becoming less popular since wood is porous and can absorb bacteria from raw foods. Most wooden handles today are sealed with a coating protecting it and making it easier to maintain.
Both Wusthof and Zwilling J.A. Henckels offer a wide variety of styles and designs with nuances that make each appealing in a different way. When evaluating which brand to choose, it’s important to fully understand exactly what characteristics are the same and what are different.
There are several key differences between Wusthof and Zwilling J.A. Henckels knives including the angle that the edges are cut, the hardness of the blade, the design and material of the handle, how they feel in your hand, and their price. This section dives deeper into each of these differences.
Edge Angle – The lower the degree the sharper the edge. Wusthof knives are sharpened at a 14-degree angle per side while Zwilling J.A. Henckels are sharpened at 15 per side. This is a very minor difference but is worth noting that Wusthof knives are slightly sharper. So why not make the angle as sharp as possible? Well, if you do that, the edge becomes less durable and won’t be able to handle significant abuse from daily chopping. For everyday chef’s knives, 14-15 is ideal. For more details on edge sharpness, check out this post on shapeningsupplies.com.
Wusthof engineers recently developed a new sharpening technique that they call PEtec (Precise Edge Technology). In a nutshell, this technology uses a laser to precisely measure the blade. The technology then calculates the perfect angle based on each individual blade. Once that is determined, they use robots to sharpen the blade to the ideal angle with a whetstone. Finally, the blade is finished with a polish using a special disk. This unique process results in superior cutting performance, long edge retention, and consistent quality.
This unique technology and process give Wusthof blades a slight edge (get it?) over Zwilling J.A. Henckels.
Blade Hardness – While researching kitchen knives you will likely come across a reference to Rockwell Hardness or HCR. The Rockwell Scale is used by knife manufacturers to measure the hardness of a blade. The higher the number, the harder the steel. Similar to the angle of the edge, there is no perfect level of hardness, the ideal hardness is dependent on the intended use of the blade. Harder steel keeps its edge longer but is less durable than softer steel. Softer steel, while more durable, will lose its edge faster. For kitchen knives, anything from 55-60 works well.
All Wusthof forged knives have a Rockwell Hardness of 58. Zwilling J.A. Henckels knives have a Rockwell Hardness of 57.
Handle design and material – Each knife has a different style handle that plays a major role in the look, feel and elegance. The Epicure and Ikon Wusthof lines have wood handles but the others are made out of polypropylene. Zwilling J.A. Henckels’ Pro Holm Oak and Twin 1731 lines feature wood handles while the others are made from synthetic materials. The best material completely depends on your personal preference.
Here is a look at Wusthof handles:
Here is a look at Zwilling handles:
As you can see in these pictures, Zwilling’s handles all have a sharp, distinct curve right before the butt end which allows you to rest your pinky finger and prevents your hand from slipping. It also adds a nice design element. Wusthof’s Classic line (top picture, second from the right) has a very similar curve but the rest of their lines have smoother curves. The handle on Wusthof’s Epicure line actual bends in the other direction which gives it a much different feel than the others.
Speaking of how these knives feel in your hand….
How the knife feels in your hand – One of the most important factors in deciding which knives to buy is how it feels in your hand. This is highly personal and subjective. Each product line from both Wusthof and Zwilling J.A. Henckels has a different handle, weight, bolster, tang etc. I highly recommend holding the knives before you buy because you might be surprised at which one you gravitate towards. At the very least, order a few different options and return them after testing out the grips. You might feel strongly about a particular design but after holding it, realize that using it every day would be a challenge.
Price – Last but certainly not least is the price. Wusthof and Zwilling J.A. Henckels both make high quality and high performing kitchen knives. Because of this, unfortunately, they are not cheap. The pricing varies by brand, product line, and whether you buy a set or individual knives. Check the links below to see the latest pricing on Amazon and read more reviews.
|Wusthof Knife Prices||Zwilling J.A. Henckels Knife Prices|
|Ikon||Pro Holm Oak|
|Classic Ikon||Professional “S”|
|Classic||★★★★ Four Star|
|Grand Prix II||Twin Four Star II|
Now that you understand the differences, let’s dive into how Wusthof and Zwilling J.A. Henckels knives are similar.
History – Both companies have been in business forever and both started and continue to operate out of the “City of Blades”, Solingen, Germany.
Blade material – Both make their blades out of high carbon, rust-resistant steel. When it comes to knives, it all begins with the materials and high carbon, rust-resistant steel it the optimal material for long-lasting performance and durability.
Bolster and tang – All forged lines from Wusthof and Zwilling J.A. Henckels include a bolster and full tang to protect your hand from slipping onto the blade, improved balance, and durability.
Hand-wash only – Both manufacturers highly recommend that you DO NOT wash them in a dishwasher.
Logos – Coincidentally (or not?) both companies have similar looking logos that are red and white. Make sure you don’t confuse the two!
Zwilling J.A. Henckels logo:
Wusthof has 5 forged knife product lines. The differences between Wusthof’s forged knife product lines (Epicure, Ikon, Classic Ikon, Classic, and Grand Prix II) are subtle but important to note when determining which one to buy. This breakdown will help you understand what exactly each line offers.
The Epicure product line (link to Amazon) features a wider blade for easy handling. It has a full bolster for superior balance, protection and grip, and a full tang attached to the handle with a double rivet. The handle is made out of Richlite which is a composite of recycled wood fibers. Its handle is elegant and more rounded than the other lines.
The Ikon line (link to Amazon) features a slightly less narrow blade and a half bolster which enables sharpening through the entire blade. Like the Epicure, it has a full tang but with a triple rivet and a bolster on the butt of the handle for added balance and elegance. The handle is made of sustainable “Grenadill” African Blackwood. Really gorgeous looking handle and knife. If you want to take a closer look, check out our recent in-depth comparison of Wusthof Ikon vs. Wusthof Classic knives.
Wusthof Classic Ikon
The only difference between the Classic Ikon (link to Amazon) and Ikon is the handle. The Classic Ikon handle is made out of a sleek synthetic material called polypropylene.
The Classic line (link to Amazon) features a full bolster for balance, protection, and comfort. The handle is made out of the same material as the Classic Ikon, polypropylene, but has a different design. Personally, I like the Classic product line the best because of how the handle feels in my hand. It has a lip at the butt of the handle that provides a secure grip and makes it easy to control.
Wusthof Grand Prix II
The Grand Prix II (link to Amazon) features a full bolster, triple-riveted full tang, and polypropylene handle. The rivets are encased with an outer layer which gives it a slightly different look compared to the other product lines.
Similar to Wusthof, Zwilling J.A. Henckels offers a variety of options with 6 different forged knife product lines: Pro Holm Oak, Zwilling Pro, Professional “S”, ★★★★ ® Four Star, Twin(R) Four Star II, Twin® 1731.
Here is what each product line has to offer:
Henckels markets the Zwilling Pro (link to Amazon) line as the most user-friendly knife available. It features a smaller bolster which enables you to sharpen the entire blade while still providing balance and protection. It has a full tang with a triple-riveted handle made from synthetic materials. The handle features a lip towards the bottom for added grip similar to the Wusthof Classic.
Zwilling Pro Holm Oak
The Pro Holm Oak line (link to Amazon) is exactly the same as the Zwilling Pro except the handle is crafted from Mediterranean Holm Oak.
This video shows how they make these knives. The pride and passion they put into these knives are truly amazing.
Zwilling Professional “S”
The Profession “S” line (link to Amazon) is classic German design with a triple riveted handle, full bolster and fully exposed tang throughout the black, synthetic handle. For more detailed information on the Pro “S” collection, check out our recent in-depth comparison of Zwilling Pro vs. Pro “S”.
Zwilling ★★★★ Four Star
The Four Star (link to Amazon) is Zwilling J.A. Henckels’ top-selling knife featuring a full bolster, black handle with covered rivets for a sleek look.
Zwilling Twin Four Star II
Similar to the Four Star, the Twin Four Star II (link to Amazon) has the same features but also includes a bolster in the butt of the handled for added weight, balance, and performance.
Zwilling Twin 1731
The Twin 1731 line features a curved bolster that makes handling safe and easy while allowing you to use the entire blade. The handle is made out of untreated, oiled ebony wood giving it an elegant classic look. The Zwilling logo is engraved on the bolster for additional elegance.
I wish I could definitively recommend one brand over the other, but it is not that simple.
The fact that both Wusthof and Zwilling J.A. Henckels have been in business for over 200 years speaks volumes about the quality and consistency of both brands’ products.
Regardless of which brand you buy, you’ll get the high-quality, high-performing knives that are elegant and will last forever. There are pros and cons of each but it comes down to personal preference.
Stores like Williams Sonoma and Crate and Barrel carry both brands and will let you test them on fruits and vegetables in their stores. I highly recommend testing them out before you buy or, if you order from Amazon, order one knife from each brand to try out. You can check the latest prices and read hundreds of reviews for Wusthof Knives and Zwilling J.A. Henckels knives on Amazon at the links below.
- Check out Wusthof kitchen knives on Amazon
- Check out Zwilling J.A. Henckels kitchen knives on Amazon
I was in Williams Sonoma the other day and I passed by the knife section. Guess which brands were side-by-side in the case? That’s right, Wusthof and Zwilling J.A. Henckels (Wusthof on the left, Zwilling J.A. Henckels on the right). Talk about competitive!
After testing every product line from both brands out in-store, I decided to purchase the Wusthof Classic line. I decided to go with Wusthof because of how comfortable they felt in my hand. Beyond just comfort though, the Wusthof Classic knives felt durable and balanced. The contoured handle is comfortable and feels natural. Some of their other knife lines, like the Epicure and Ikon, have more elegant handle designs, but I personally value comfort and function over aesthetics.
You’ll likely use your kitchen knives every day so it’s important to conduct thorough research to find the brand and style that works best for you. If you’re not convinced German-style knives like Wusthof and Zwilling are right for you, check out our recent articles, Shun vs. Wusthof and Cutco vs. Wusthof, to get an in-depth look at how the top Japanese-style (Shun) and American (Cutco) knives compare to German knives.
Thank You for Reading Our Comparison of Wusthof vs. Zwilling J.A. Henckels Forged Kitchen Knives!
Have you had a different experience with Wusthof or Zwilling J.A. Henckels? Do you agree or disagree with our review? Are there any other kitchen knife brands that you think are better? Please let us know in the comments section or contact us directly, we would love to hear your feedback.
If you found this article helpful, you should also check out:
- Best Chef’s Knife Under $100: Top 5 Compared
- Wusthof Classic vs. Wusthof Ikon: What Are the Differences?
- Wusthof Classic vs. Gourmet: Kitchen Knife Comparison (With Pictures)
- Shun vs. Wusthof: In-Depth Kitchen Knife Comparison
- Cutco vs. Wusthof: How Do Their Kitchen Knives Compare?
- Zwilling J.A. Henckels Pro vs. Pro “S”: What’s the Difference?