Last Updated on January 3, 2022 by Editorial Team
As you know, every single industry offers its products under different umbrellas. At the moment, the entire world is captured by both Japanese, & German products in terms of quality, and deliverance.
The same goes for culinary products, and more specifically for knives. Currently, there is strong competition between Germans, & the Best Japanese Knives. You need to understand both knives if you want to differentiate between the German VS Japanese Knives.
Both of these knives are popular, productive, and also pretty practical in usage. With a lot of options in the market for chefs, it becomes hard for them to figure out which specific knife they should get.
When comparing the Japanese VS German Knives, you will find a lot of notable differences which might be helpful for you in making a perfect decision. Both knives are made for the same purposes, but your experience may vary from knife to knife. One might be good for you, while the other could be even better.
As you will not find any standard, or monitoring policies either in Japanese or German knives as Japanese knives mostly made through traditional processes. But these traditional or modern elements are so practical till today.
Also, the knife terminology can also vary both in the German VS Japanese Knives. For example, the bolster of a knife is known as Machi, & the spine could be a Mune. But you should not worry, as they are just the Japanese names of the parts of knives. Plus, these parts can vary from type to type of Japanese knives.
In this detailed guide to German VS Japanese Knives, we will specifically talk about chef knives for both versions. These knives are commonly used knives in both European, & American kitchens. However, you can still relate this to your choice.
The difference between German and Japanese Knives
As there are a lot of factors included that we should consider while differentiating these knives. To give you a better understanding of these elements, we have divided the list into some parts, so you can consume all of these things effectively.
One of the most basic differences is in their names. As we are mainly discussing the chef knives because these knives are the most commonly used blades in the western world. These knives are known as Guyto for Japanese knives, & they are simply called Chef knives. Just don’t forget their names, & you are all good to go.
Also see the detailed guide: Best Japanese Chef Knives
Blade of German VS Japanese Knives
Alright, so let’s break the deal with their blades, as this is the main course of every knife out there. When comparing a Japanese & a German knife, you will see some variations along with similarities in their blades.
Apparently, you can never differentiate between German, and Japanese knives, as most Japanese knives feature a western, and modern look to their blades to provide you some native feelings into that.
1. Blade Design & Profile
The blade of a German knife extensively features a bolster plate at the very top end of the spine, along with the handle support. This bolster keeps expanding towards the bottom of its edge.
This adds a practicality in gripping if you are a somewhat beginner player in cutting skills. You will only find this bolster in German knives and some entry-level Japanese knives. It also adds stability while cutting & drawing down the knife on the board.
Mainly, the Japanese knives are not so wide as a German knife’s spine. However, you can get a thick, & wide spine of blade in Deba, & slicer sort of knives, which you can prefer for cutting sushi, or while filleting a fish.
2. Steel type & Hardness:
Whatever knife you choose, you will have different steel options for that specific model at least Japanese brands are supposed to do so. Out of these knives, you can choose a steel type from Carbon, Stainless, or a lot of other Culinary steels.
Now depending upon the brands, both the steel & hardness can vary both on Japanese & German knives. Just for context, if you opt for Shun’s Japanese knives, you will get a hard steel with a Rockwell scale of up to 70 HRC, which makes it extensively durable, resilient, and unbreakable at the same time.
To make it a bit easier for you, if a knife has a Rockwell HRC of less than 60 HRC, that knife tends to be a flexible blade, & it can also bend down easily. Now, make a difference between chipping & bending. If a knife tends to bend, it won’t frequently chip. However, higher HRC knives are durable, & tough out of the box.
For the best Japanese knives, the brands like Yoshihiro, Dalstrong, Mercer, Shun, Global, and a lot of others as well use steels like VG-10, AUS-08, chromium, carbon, & stainless steels to deliver the best value to money knife, & cutting.
3. Sharpness & Blade Bevels
Next important thing for a knife’s Sharpness after a durable blade. How sharp the blade of the knife really depends on how it was made, what the procedure was, the steel composition, & most importantly its bevels.
Most Japanese knives use a layered, forged, & heat-treated microstructure in the blades, which reveals most of the stresses inside its steel. This helps the layerings of the steel to completely sit on top of one another by removing very tiny little gaps also.
The Japanese knives are sharper than a German knife due to so many reasons. These knives hold a smaller angle of less than 15° angles as compared to a German knife where the angle can go up to 20° per side.
German knives usually come in double bevel blades, & their collective angle could be up to 40° that makes them less sharp in front of Japanese blades. Though the traditional Japanese blades are single-bevel, modern Japanese knives that are meant for Western chefs come in double bevel blades out of the box.
The traditional, and modern Japanese knife manufacturers put a lot in making their knives durable, and the most sharp out of the box. On the other side, German knives are usually common knives that are less sharp but work a lot in robustness.
4. Spine of the Blade
The common German knife holds a higher spine than a Japanese knife, which makes them tall. Their tall blades provide them an edge over the Japanese knives in terms of cutting at the rocking motion. But, Japanese knives can never be beaten when it comes to precise, fast, responsive & smooth chopping experience.
Japanese Deba, & cleavers offer a thick spine that assists you collect some power for single stroke cuttings, mainly for chopping ribs, and to cut down deep veggies. However, the German spine stays thick till just above its cutting edge.
5. Edge Retention, & Sharpness
The edge is one of the most fragile, & sometimes the most dangerous part of any knife both for users, and the knife itself. If a knife is fragile, it will easily chip, and eventually breaks your knife by storing resilience in its structure.
If the edge is so durable, it won’t chip easily but it will easily break on some counter falls. The Japanese knives deliver a better edge retention than a German knife. This edge is easy to maintain and assists a lot in deep cuts, consistent slicing, and chopping. The core steel makes Japanese ones more fascinating.
This is the sharpest part of a knife, that you should never ignore while sharpening. It comes completely straight that transforms a tip, & you need to be careful while sharpening your knife through the machine, as a wrong feed can lose your edge.
If you want to get the most out of your knife’s edge, it’s better to not use them extensively if your Japanese blade is heat-treated for more than 65HRC on your cutting board. Otherwise, it will eventually chip, and you will lose your boy.
6. Weight & Versatility
When it comes to the versatility part, the Japanese knives are magically versatile. For a Japanese knife, if its blade is longer, it will be more versatile, & it stays well balanced out of the box.
However, this is completely the opposite for a German knife. If you want a versatile German knife, you should get a short to medium blade with a slightly thick spine as it will effectively distribute the weight.
There is nothing standard for the weight of the knives. Both the Japanese, and German knives could or couldn’t be lightweight. For a common conception, the Japanese knives feel to be lighter than German ones, as they are already versatile, & come with full-tang balanced angles.
Not just the Japanese knives are lightweight, they are also slim in thickness Their slim blades help you take deep, precise cuts more effectively than German knives. The German knives are slightly heavier without any doubt. These knives hold a thick blade, whereas Japanese Deba holds a thick spine on the blade.
Sharpening of Japanese VS German Knives
1. The ease of Sharpness
Depending upon the steel type, hardness level, and a lot of other factors a knife could be easier or difficult to sharpen. If you have a blade with soft steel or less than 60HRC of hardness, that knife will be considered as an easy to sharpen knife.
Though these knives will be easy to sharpen, the knives with soft blades need frequent sharpening as compared to a knife with hard steels. Usually, the Japanese knives come in hard steel, & this is one of the main reasons why they are hard to sharpen, as compared to the German knives.
If a knife is hard steel, it will eventually be a hard to sharp knife, but it is meant for long-lasting sharpness. Hard steel knives maintain their sharpness for a long time. Or in simple words, Japanese knives stay sharper than a German knife comparatively.
2. Sharpening Angles & Techniques:
The German knives usually sharpen at an angle of 18-20°, and the Japanese knife owns an angle of at least 12°, which expands to up to 15° for large blades. Stainless steel is usually hard to sharpen, but it can provide you with a long sharp session, then a Carbon steel knife blade.
Whatever knife you choose, the honbazuke method can never be underrated if you prefer manual sharpening. This three-stage sharpening technique features sharpening and polishing the knife at different stages effectively.
We will not dive deeper into how it performs, but both the German, and the Japanese knives are pretty easy to sharpen both on Whetstones, and through sharpening machines. Manual sharpening will take a lot of time, while the machine sharpeners will get it done in a matter of minutes.
For German knives, using ceramic or steel honing rods is still safe, as these knives are not so expensive, and hard. However, you should carefully use honing rods on your Japanese knives, only if you are a professional sharpener as well.
You should only hone your knives for on-the-spot cutting, and you should never by-pass whetstones, or electric sharpeners, as you will always require a true sharpening for them to get a decent longevity through your knives.
Handles of German and Japanese Knives
Right after the sharpness, and durability of any knife, the next main point of concern for a chef lies in its handle parts, which belongs to the personal choices of that chef for most times.
When it comes to the weight of the handle, German knives are handle-heavier knives, and they have an offset weight overall. Now, depending upon the material, this weight can vary, but they are still heavier than a true Japanese knife.
Their heavyweight makes the German handle more durable, & robust that doesn’t easily break but after some impacts. Japanese knives, on the other hand, come with a lightweight handle & the notable difference is removing the bolster in it.
Japanese knives own a bolster next to the blade spine, or they skip this part at all, by removing this entirely. This thing makes them slightly hybrid, & all-rounder Gyuto or Chef knives, as you may or may not get a bolstered handle.
Though the handles of the Japanese knives are not extremely long-lasting as compared to German knives due to the lack of a bolster. However, most brands like Shun, Dalstrong, Global, Yoshihiro, & Mercer offer a completely riveted solution that enhances the life of the handle without disturbing the gripping part.
Their riveted assembly and the full-tang body doesn’t leave the spots so easily. The Japanese handles usually feature wooden material, and more specifically Pakkawood, & rosewood.
The Pakkawood handles are considered in premium Japanese knives, as this makes the knife waterproof, & it doesn’t socks the wood in any way. Their handle shape could be octagonal, or D-shaped, and it delivers a better grip than a completely round and plastic handle of a German knife.
Maintenance of Japanese and German Knives
The metallic things eventually tend to lose their beauty, and the same goes for knives as well. Most of the knives that come with a carbon steel blade are likely to capture rust more easily, than a knife with a stainless steel blade.
The rusting or washing of a blade does not depend on a German Chef knife or a Japanese chef knife or any other knife. This totally depends on the steel composition. If a steel has high carbon, & ferrous content, it will eventually rust.
Both the German and Japanese knives could be rust-resistant if the blade is stainless, or if you properly maintain them by instantly dry with a dry cloth, right after manually washing them in the sink.
To add more protection to the blade, Japanese brands like Dalstrong, & Yoshihiro offer a rubber, leather, or wooden sheath to cover its blade. This sheath protects your knife both from oxidation, & breaking or chipping as well.
Skill level required for these
Both the German, and Japanese knives are easy to use, & user-friendly. Some Japanese knives, especially from Dalstrong, provide you with an incredible rocking motion cutting ability, that bypasses the need for German knives at all.
The Japanese knives are not neglectable at all. Even if you find a good element of it in German knives, for instance, the sharpness as a Japanese blade. Even if you get a sharp German knife, you will still be lacking in the versatility, grip, and true sharpness that you can never expect anywhere better than a Japanese knife.
Professional chefs use Japanese knives in most of the United States, especially in the coastal states. Due to their exclusive features from sharpness to versatility, edge retention to durable blade, and the slim blade for precise and fine cuts.
Both technically, and economically, Japanese knives have an edge over the German knives. As you can take them either for your home, your culinary school, or in your professional chef kitchen.
Which products does they cut better?
Every knife is best at cutting in its ideal materials, & ingredients. If you want to chop down bones effectively, German knives could be an ideal companion for you due to their robust, and wide, blades.
For cutting things on a precision, & on stable rhythm, both knives could perform. However, the Japanese knives are outstanding in such tasks. With the sharpest Japanese blade, you can tear down an entire animal, or a big vegetable on your fingertips without hustling or honing the blade after every cut.
German knives are not necessarily non-stick, but you can easily find a Non-Stick Japanese knife on our blog, and even outside of it. The Japanese knives hold a Tsuchime, or a Damascus pattern on its blade, which makes it a non-stick blade.
Western knives are mainly built to cut into bones and for common tasks. Whereas, you can find a dedicated Japanese knife whatever you want, depending on your ideal requirement.
With the Japanese knives, you can deal with Veggies, fruits, and herbs through Nakiri, Santoku, & Gyuto. The cleavers will provide you enough versatility to deal with big, and hard things like Pumpkins, Watermelons, and bones as well.
Summing up the Japanese VS German Knives
So, this was the detailed guide to your most common, and worthy query about Japanese VS German knives, & which one should you get. Depending upon your ideal use, habits, & skill levels, both sorts of knives are best at their spots.
Yes, it was a short, and diplomatic answer for you, but let us explain a little bit. The Japanese knives come with a blade that is razor-sharp, slim, straight, a bit flexible, & these knives are mostly lightweight out of the box.
Japanese knife brands feature detailed, & durable steel to provide a sharp, & longer edge at the end. The flexibility prevents it from chipping, & breaking out, however you can’t handle bones chopping except for the Japanese cleavers.
German knives, on the other hand, are one of the most robust knives, featuring a durable blade, that you can simply use for chopping bones as well. These knives offer decent longevity, & life along with sharpness, but they can never beat the sharpness of Japanese knives. Still, it is a good start for newbies, & casual ones.