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Which Knives Are Better: German or Japanese?

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Are you trying to decide between German and Japanese knives? You’ve probably heard of German knife brands like Wüsthof or Japanese Shun knives. 

But how can a person tell which is better: German or Japanese?

Which Knives Are Better- German or Japanese?

Comparing German and Japanese knives can be difficult, as both types offer quality products.

Ultimately, the choice of knife comes down to personal preference based on what kind of ingredients you cut most. 

German and Japanese knives share many similarities. The main variations are in the steel’s hardness and the edge’s angle (sharpness).

These two features affect each type of knife’s functionality and durability.

German knives are generally heavier and thicker, while Japanese knives are lighter and thinner. Japanese knives are usually made of harder steel, making them sharper and more durable. A German knife is considered heavy-duty and suitable for tough food prep tasks, whereas Japanese knives are best for precision cutting tasks. 

We’ve done the research and are here to help you decide which knives are better for your needs. 

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German vs Japanese: Which is Better?

German and Japanese knives both have their advantages and disadvantages.

While both knife types are quite similar, the main differences are the steel’s hardness and the blade’s sharpness, determined by different edge angles. 

It’s not necessarily true that one is better than the other – with proper care and maintenance, a high-quality German or Japanese knife can last you a lifetime. 

The brand, quality, and build are determining factors in whether a knife is good or not.

The real debate here is about what makes Japanese knives better than German knives or vice versa. 

A high-quality Japanese knife would be more suited for the job if you wanted to execute any delicate tasks, like slicing sushi, a tomato, or cucumber.

You’ll be able to cut more precisely, gracefully, and easily.

With German knives, you can anticipate bigger, more durable blades that can handle the most difficult tasks, such as slicing through thick chunks of meat like beef, watermelons, pumpkins, potatoes, and more. 

To maintain the edge of the blade sharp, you will need to regularly hone and sharpen them.

German knives are usually heavier and thicker than their Japanese counterparts.

These knives have a full bolster, which is a thick section that runs along the blade, providing balance and protection for the user. 

German knives also tend to have a curved edge, which makes them ideal for slicing and chopping.

Japanese knives are typically lighter than German knives and feature a thinner blade.

This makes them more maneuverable and suitable for precision cutting tasks like filleting fish or trimming vegetables. 

The blades of Japanese knives often have a straighter edge than German knives, but they can be sharpened to a greater degree.

Although both types of knives offer advantages and disadvantages, it is important to remember that the best knife for you is the one that fits your particular needs and budget. 

Whether you opt for a German or Japanese knife, make sure it meets your culinary requirements.

If you know that you need a heavy-duty knife that can be used to cut most ingredients, even tougher ones, a German knife might be the better option. 

However, if you’re a sushi chef, for example, a Japanese yanagiba fish knife is the best choice, not a German knife. 

It really depends on what you’re looking for in a knife. 

German knives tend to be heavier and thicker, making them great for tough tasks like cutting through bones.

They also tend to be more durable and have a longer lifespan. 

On the other hand, Japanese knives are usually lighter and thinner, making them great for precision tasks like slicing vegetables.

They also tend to be sharper, so they require less sharpening.

When it comes to price, Japanese knives tend to be more expensive than German knives.

But if you’re looking for a quality knife that will last for years, it may be worth the extra money.

In terms of design, German knives tend to have a more traditional look, while Japanese knives often have more modern designs.

So it really depends on what kind of aesthetic you prefer.

Another thing to consider is that there are so many types of Japanese knives available – there’s a special knife for any cutting, slicing, or dicing task you can imagine!

German knives are more all-purpose than Japanese specialty blades. 

Overall, it’s hard to say which knives are better, German or Japanese. It really depends on what you’re looking for in a knife.

If you’re looking for a heavy-duty knife that can handle tough tasks, then a German knife is your best bet. 

But if you’re looking for a precision knife that can handle delicate tasks, then a Japanese knife is probably the way to go.

Are German knives better than Japanese?

German knives are excellent for handling difficult tasks and are safe to use on both joints and bones.

They are generally more durable in the long run and can be sharpened many times without getting damaged. 

But are they necessarily better? Not really, unless they’re still made by skilled artisans.

Many cheaper mass-produced German knives aren’t as good quality as they once were. 

On the other hand, Japanese knives are better suited for precise cutting or chopping tasks. Because of their thinner blades, they require greater care when being used.

If you need a heavier blade with better balance and stability, then German knives may be the better choice.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a knife with more control and precision, then a Japanese knife might be right for you. 

Ultimately, it all comes down to your individual needs and preferences when deciding which type of knife is best for you. 

Are Japanese knives actually better?

Yes, authentic Japanese knives are generally considered to be better than German knives because many are still hand-made by skilled artisans in Japan. 

Japanese knives are usually made from harder steel, which makes them sharper and more durable. 

They also have a thinner blade, which makes them easier to maneuver and control.

Additionally, Japanese knives are usually lighter than German knives, which makes them easier to handle.

Japanese knives are often seen as the top choice for professional chefs and home cooks, but there is no definitive answer to this question. 

Both types of knives offer advantages and disadvantages, so it really comes down to personal preference and the type of cooking you plan on doing.

Differences between German and Japanese knives

Japanese and German knives differ in several ways, but here are the main features to look for:

Construction

If you merely compare Japanese and German knives side by side, it could be difficult to see the tiny but important structural differences.

But you can feel the difference once you hold the knife in your hand.

German knives are almost always full-tang, meaning they have a single piece of steel stretching from the blade to the butt of the knife.

These blades are balanced and symmetrical, making them suitable for both right- and left-handed users.

Many Japanese knives have a partial tang. The wooden handle usually conceals a portion of the tang on Japanese knives. 

Many of the highly renowned Japanese professional knives have a partial tang.

Many Japanese half-tang knives also have a larger handle with a hexagonal form, which increases the knife’s handle weight.

On the other hand, Japanese knives are still lighter and front-weighted due to the slightly tapered construction of the blade inside the handle, which enables more precise movements. 

Japanese knives also have asymmetrical blades, with the cutting edge inclined around 70:30 toward a right-handed operator. 

If you’re left-handed, this contrast between Japanese and German knives is crucial since you’ll need to get a Japanese knife that is specifically built for left-handed use.

Japanese kitchen knives are significantly more lightweight, which makes them more suited for precise work, in contrast to German kitchen knives, which are frequently heavier and thicker, especially at the bolster.

Steel

Even though both Japanese and German kitchen knives are composed of steel, there are notable distinctions between the two types of steel. 

Most German knives are made from softer stainless steel, whereas Japanese knives are made from very hard carbon steel, such as VG-10 or AUS-8, which is more expensive but also more resistant to corrosion and wear.

Japanese steel knives typically range in hardness from 60 to 63 on the Rockwell scale, which rates the hardness of steel.

The steel used to make German steel knives, on the other hand, is often softer and rates between 56 and 58 on the Rockwell scale. 

The Japanese knives are constructed from tougher steel with a higher percentage of carbon (the higher the number, the harder the steel). 

Although they will maintain an edge a little bit better because of their tougher construction, they are also more fragile and prone to chipping or cracking if you hit them against hard surfaces or accidentally hit bone. 

The softer steel of German knives makes them more durable and less prone to break, even though they may require a little more sharpening than Japanese knife varieties. 

The type of steel does matter when comparing Japanese and German blades, especially in terms of durability.

Additionally, Japanese knives are usually lighter than German knives, which makes them easier to handle. 

German knives, on the other hand, are usually made from softer steel, which makes them less durable and more prone to wear and tear.

They also have a thicker blade, which makes them more difficult to maneuver and control.

The most important subjects when discussing which knives are better, German or Japanese, are the materials used, the design, and the sharpness.

Design

Good quality Japanese knives are lighter and thinner in design, emphasizing control and precision. 

In contrast to German knives, they frequently lack bolsters. The thick intersection between the handle and the blade of most German knives is known as the bolster.

It offers a seamless transition between the two, boosts durability, and includes a counterweight. 

German knives are made to be thicker, heavier, and more functional all-purpose knives as a result.

German knives also tend to have a more traditional design, with a full tang and a bolster. This makes them heavier and more durable but also less maneuverable.

Japanese knives, on the other hand, have a lighter, more ergonomic design, with a partial tang and no bolster. This makes them more agile and easier to use.

Japanese knives tend to be thinner and have a straighter edge. 

Sharpness

German knives are usually sharpened to a lower angle, which makes them more durable but also less sharp. 

On the other hand, Japanese knives are sharpened to a higher angle, making them sharper but also more prone to dulling.

Japanese knives tend to be sharper and more agile, while German knives are more durable and heavier. It really comes down to personal preference and what you plan to use the knife for.

Japanese knives typically have a sharper edge, usually in the range of 15 to 16 degrees, as opposed to 20 degrees on Western-style knives. 

This is because Japanese knife blades are thinner than their German counterparts. 

Japanese blades are almost always hand-honed and hand-refined while German blades are often machine-finished. 

Most Western-style blades have curved edges to enable rocking cuts, but Japanese blades have straighter edges to enable clean, accurate slices.

Are Japanese knives sharper than German?

In most cases, Japanese knives are sharper than German knives.

A Japanese knife has a smaller angle of bevel than the average German knife.

This means a Japanese knife has a sharper edge. This is true for both single-bevel and double-bevel knives. 

Why do chefs prefer Japanese knives?

Chefs prefer Japanese knives because they are sharper, lighter, and more durable than German knives.

Japanese knives are also more precise and have a thinner blade, which makes them easier to maneuver and control. 

Also, Japanese knives require less frequent sharpening so the chef can do more work before the blade needs sharpening. 

Additionally, Japanese knives are usually made from harder steel so they’re sharper and less bulky.

Japanese knives and German knives are both popular among chefs, but which is better? It all depends on the individual’s preference and the type of knife they need.

Japanese knives are known for their sharpness and thin blades.

They are typically made from harder steel, which makes them more durable and able to hold an edge for longer. 

They are also lighter and more maneuverable, making them ideal for precision cutting.

Japanese knives are usually more expensive than German knives, but they are also more specialized.

There is a Japanese knife for every type of cutting task. For example, if you are making sushi, a yanagiba knife is the perfect tool for slicing raw fish.

Alternatively, if you are cutting vegetables or meats, then a santoku or nakiri knife could be the ideal choice.

These types of Japanese knives are unique and come with their own advantages for chefs who need specialized knives for precise tasks.

German knives, on the other hand, are known for their durability and strength.

They are usually made from softer steel, which makes them less prone to chipping and more able to handle tough tasks. 

German knives are usually heavier and thicker than Japanese knives, making them better for heavy-duty tasks. They are also usually less expensive than Japanese knives.

When it comes to knife brands, there are many to choose from. 

Japanese knife brands such as Shun, Global, and Tojiro are popular among chefs, while German knife brands such as Wusthof, Zwilling, and Victorinox are also popular. 

Here is a list of the most popular German knife brands:

  • Wüsthof
  • Zwilling
  • Messermeister
  • Mercer Culinary
  • Güde
  • Boker
  • Cangshan Cutlery
  • Hen & Rooster

Here is a list of the most popular Japanese knife brands:

  • Shun
  • Tojiro
  • Global
  • Kai
  • Miyabi
  • Yoshihiro
  • Sakai
  • Misono

Find all types and names of traditional Japanese knives explained in my full guide

Conclusion

In conclusion, both German and Japanese knives have their advantages and disadvantages. 

German knives are known for their durability and strength, while Japanese knives are known for their sharpness and precision.

Ultimately, the choice of which knife is better for you depends on your needs and preferences. 

No matter which one you choose, you can be sure that you’ll have a quality knife that will last you for years to come.

In conclusion, it’s impossible to say which type of knife is better – Japanese or German.

Both types of knives have their own advantages and disadvantages, and it ultimately comes down to the individual’s preference and the type of knife they need.

Also read: The Art of Japanese Knife Sharpening | A Full Guide

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.