It doesn’t get any more patriotic than this, two superpower brands of German knives duking it out in this Wusthof vs Zwilling knives review. Of course, these two kitchen knife giants need no introduction for most kitchen enthusiasts, but here we go!
By the end of this article, you’ll understand the similarities, differences, and everything in between. You can see Wusthof and Zwilling as more than just kitchen knives made in Germany. They’re individual icons of the culinary world.
What is Wusthof?
Wusthof is a brand of German knives established over 200 years ago in Solingen, the German ‘city of blades (1).’ The company began as a steel manufacturing company that predominantly produced kitchen shears. It later expanded into all kinds of culinary tools for cooking.
Currently, Wusthof is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of German forged knives. It is loved by professional chefs and Michelin-star restaurants worldwide. You can learn all about them in our review of Wusthof Knives.
What is Zwilling?
Zwilling was established further back in history than Wusthof, when its founder Peter Henckels registered the company name “Zwilling” back in 1731. After the company was inherited by his son John Abraham Henckels, they renamed it Zwilling J.A. Henckels in his honor.
The brand specializes in manufacturing forged knives. However, like Wusthof, they offer stamped knives as a more affordable alternative. We cover their knife sets in our J. A. Henckels Knives Review.
How are they made?
Both Wusthof and Zwilling manufacture forged and stamped blades, using slightly different methods with each product line.
Wusthof makes its knives using X50CrMoV15 stainless steel, otherwise known as “German steel.” This material comprises molybdenum and vanadium. The combination of these results in rust-resistant steel blades that are strong and durable.
Wusthof’s forged knives range use a 40-step process that requires intricate coordination between man and machine in huge factories.
It begins with a large, thick piece of German steel that is heat treated at insanely high temperatures and rapidly cooled down. This process allows the steel to be shaped into a blade while tempering the molecules into patterns of intensity strength.
Zwilling knives undergo a similar process, beginning with a single bar of steel that is heated to extreme temperatures and molded into shape. Like Wusthof, they construct their steel blades as one full unit through the handle. This is known as full tang construction, a strong style of forging that reduces damage to the blade.
While Zwilling and Wusthof construct their blades similarly, there are slight differences in the tools and technologies used.
Wusthof typically crafts its knives to a Rockwell Hardness Rating of 58 HRC. This gives them a good balance between cutting power and resistance to damage.
Zwilling blades are made with a similar level of strength and durability, scoring a 57 HRC for a slightly softer steel blade than Wusthof. This is not necessarily bad, as a softer blade allows for more bending and twisting of the blade. This means it won’t break as easily as an ultra-hard blade, though its cutting power will be slightly reduced.
Wusthof sharpens its knives above the average measurement to a 14-degree blade angle per side to compensate for their more robust steel. Zwilling also uses a very sharp edge for its knives but caps at 15-degree blade angles per side, making them slightly less sharp than Wusthof’s.
These numbers typically refer to the chef’s knife blades of each brand. However, for their santoku knives, both Wusthof and Zwilling sharpen to an even steeper angle of 10 degrees per side.
Material differences (blade and handle)
The key differences between these two brands start manifesting when we look at the handle and blade design and the materials involved. Regarding the blade, we know that both Wusthof and Zwilling make their knives with high-carbon stainless steel. The handles, however, are significantly different and impact how it feels to use them.
In terms of material, both Zwilling and Wusthof offer a variety of textures and grip options out of synthetic material or traditional wood. In that regard, both brands offer the same types of material for their handles, but when it comes to the design of said handles, Wusthof offers more by a landslide.
Zwilling knives may appear to have a wide selection at first glance. However, you’ll notice all of their handles are constructed similarly. A prominent curve is at the end to lock in your pinky finger.
On the other hand, Wusthof provides this curved handle option, giving the customers plenty of variety that’s more likely to suit personal preferences.
For example, the Wusthof Classic Ikon knives are made with a dark brown smoothed wood handle that has a rounded tip. Another example is the Wusthof Epicure knife which has a slanted tip and double rivets bolstered onto a light brown wooden handle.
On that note, Zwilling handles have more variety than Wusthof in one way: their range of non-riveted knives. For instance, they offer the Professional “S” and the Four Star Twin series. These do not have rivets and offer a more aesthetic look.
Wusthof’s only non-riveted option is the Wusthof Grand Prix II. t features the iconic logo imprinted near the tip of the handle instead, making it one of Wusthof’s most stunning handles.
Wusthof and Zwilling offer a limited lifetime warranty with their product purchase. This includes everything from individual knives to bundled knife sets and extra accessories such as cutting boards, knife blocks, edge sharpeners, and honing steel rods.
The warranty covers any manufacturing or material quality defects. In addition, it allows you to have your product repaired or replaced at little to no cost (shipping fees may apply).
When cleaning your kitchen knives, it’s important to remember that handwashing is always highly recommended. Wusthof and Zwilling recommend using handwashing to clean and maintain your knives. With that said, select knives have a dishwasher option.
By nature, both brands’ high carbon stainless steel blades give them a high carbon content that allows them to resist rust and corrosion. This is especially true for forged knife collections. Stamped knives should be removed from the dishwasher option altogether.
As for the forged knife blades, the blade is fairly safe for dishwasher use as it can withstand large volumes of moisture exposure.
The key thing to look out for is the handles, as these can sustain damage beyond repair if you place the wrong knives in the dishwasher. So naturally, knives made of wooden handles such as the Wusthof Epicure or the Zwilling Pro Holm Oak series are at the top of this list.
Most of the synthetic-made handles are okay for dishwasher cleaning. However, confirm this using the instruction manual of the specific item or contact customer support to learning more.
For most people, handwashing is the preferred option to avoid potential risks. To wash your knives safely and effectively, rinse them under warm water and apply light detergent or soap to the blade and handle.
Scrub the face of the blade with a sponge and use a scrunched cloth or equivalent material to wipe down the edge. Take care not to hurt yourself in the process. Finish up by leaving your knives out to dry or using a dry cloth if you need to use the knife immediately.
In all steps of the cleaning process, be careful that the knife does not tear your utensil. Even more importantly, keep your exposed fingers away from direct contact with the blade’s sharp edge at all times.
How are they different?
The differences between Wusthof and Zwilling J.A. Henckels kitchen knives are minor, but they carry significant weight for some customers. Perhaps the most important difference is that the typical Wusthof knife is slightly sharper and stronger in cutting power than the Zwilling knife.
This is denoted by the differences in Rockwell Hardness Rating (Henckels at 57 HRC and Wusthof at 58 HRC). In addition, the difference in sharpness (Henckels at 15 degrees and Wusthof at 14 degrees).
This means Wusthof kitchen knives are sharper and stronger while retaining their edge longer than Zwilling. However, the slightly lower score on the HRC for Zwilling means the blades are less prone to damage by cutting through tough substances such as bones.
Wusthof’s blades are sharper and harder. However, they are more susceptible to chipping and cracking under high pressure. This is because its edge retention benefits revolve around longevity rather than explosive action.
Other key differences include the product offerings and handle designs, with Wusthof offering a greater variety of choices. For example, Wusthof and Zwilling offer thermo resin and wooden handles, but Zwilling limits itself to a specific design choice.
Wusthof offers more than just the standard curved handle with the pinky lock and slanted or rounded handle tips that can appeal to more customers.
How are they similar?
Unlike most other brands, Zwilling JA Henckels knives are very similar to Wusthof in terms of materials, design, and performance. For starters, both kitchen knife brands share a similar history in Germany. They each span hundreds of years and have their origins rooted in the ‘city of blades’: Solingen, Germany.
As such, Wusthof and Zwilling both manufacture high-quality German-style knives and offer forged knife lines and lower-cost, stamped knives.
Both brands use high carbon steel resistant to corrosion and rust with great edge retention properties. Furthermore, Wusthof and Zwilling Henckels sharpen their knives to about 15-degree angles.
Both brands also offer full knife sets incorporating chef’s, paring, steak, and bonus accessories combinations.
What’s better about Wusthof?
Wusthof is a little more extreme with some of its perks. This makes them the better choice for those wanting a little more “edge” (no pun intended) to their cutting task. In addition, the slightly thicker blades of Wusthof’s knives make them stronger than Zwilling by one point on the Rockwell Hardness Scale (2).
However, the blade’s edge is slightly thinner than Zwilling knives in some cases. Some Wüsthof knives reaching 14-degree blade angles for a razor-sharp edge.
Wusthof also provides a wider product selection than Zwilling, particularly in handle designs and materials.
Unlike Zwilling, which only offers triple-rive curved tip handles, Wusthof has many design choices. These include ones such as the Wusthof Crafter, the Wusthof Grand Prix II, and the Wusthof Ikon. All of these options come with unique handles, materials, and color options to choose from.
What’s better about Zwilling?
One of the advantages of Zwilling knives stems from its disadvantages, which is its fewer handle options compared to Wusthof. A blessing in disguise, Zwilling knives are more dishwasher-safe than Wusthof because of their greater abundance of synthetic handles.
Wusthof has a huge range of handle materials that create uncertainty among users about whether they are compatible with dishwashers.
In terms of performance, Zwilling knives have a slightly “softer steel” than Wusthof, scoring a 57 HRC compared to Wusthof’s 58 HRC. Yet another blessing in disguise is that the Zwilling knives can take on tougher tasks with a reduced risk of cracking or chipping.
Furthermore, Zwilling offers a greater range of affordable stamped knives in their Henckels knives collection, giving budget buyers more options.
Who should get Wusthof and why?
Wusthof is the perfect brand for kitchen enthusiasts that want to take things to the next level to experience the life of a professional chef. On that note, the brand is also recommended for industrial-level chefs and Michelin-star restaurants.
I’d highly recommend Wusthof for their high-quality chef’s knife sets. They have a super sharp edge unmatched by other kitchen knife brands and an unbeatable level of edge retention.
In essence, Wusthof is an iconic brand that should be seriously considered for those wishing to take things to the next level. The entire blade is forged with a 40-step crafting process that ensures the optimal level of durability, strength, and sharp knife edges.
Furthermore, those looking for unique varieties of knife handles would benefit when they choose those manufactured by Wusthof.
Who should get Zwilling and why?
I may have mentioned Zwilling as being the brand with fewer options in terms of designs. However, that doesn’t mean they have fewer products to choose from. In fact, Zwilling’s sister brand Henckels International has an entire line of cheap stamped blades. These can typically be bought at the same retailers.
Their sets often include a chef’s knife, paring knife, utility knife, carving knife, and a knife block, available as forged or stamped blades.
Ultimately, Zwilling would suit anyone looking for the best quality at affordable prices. The brand offers knives priced at just about any price range imaginable, making it the perfect choice for people with fluctuating budgets.
With Zwilling, you will have no problem focusing more of your spending on a high-quality chef’s knife. You can then cut back on some affordable utility knives as needed.
Blade and Design
There’s no doubt that these German-style knives are exceptional. They deliver superior, cutting-edge performance and aesthetic designs that are impossible to beat. So naturally, forged knives are the winner in performance, and Wusthof has focused most of its efforts in this area.
Their full-tang durable German-style knife blades are made with a perfectly balanced 58 HRC and can be as sharp as 14 degrees per side.
Contrastingly, Zwilling has a slightly “softer” HRC score of 57. However, this allows the blade more leeway when dealing with tougher ingredients such as shells and bones. Still, this alone is not enough to compete with the better performance of Wusthof knives, which also offer more design choices with their products.
Wusthof is the clear winner when looking at blade performance and design choices.
Handle and Ergonomics
Wusthof provides a significantly greater number of design choices than Zwilling, which is particularly true for the knives’ handles. For example, Wusthof offers Pakkawood options and synthetic material options for the handles, though Zwilling does too. The key difference occurs when we look at the design of these handles, regardless of the material being used.
A classic example is Wusthof Ikon knives. These come with a slightly curved handle and a slanted tip for an aesthetic look and comfortable feel. Zwilling also offers these handles, but not necessarily on a chef’s knife as Wusthof does.
Also, Wusthof has a greater selection of non-riveted handles, whereas Zwilling only has one product line with this feature.
However, Zwilling knives go beyond providing an ergonomic handle. Since almost all of their knives come with a safety lock for the pinky, they are safer to use and arguably more comfortable than Wusthof’s knives.
Price and Warranty
Without sugar-coating any harsh truths, both Zwilling and Wusthof are by no means meant for the penny pinchers of society. On the contrary, they build these knives with the finest quality material and the utmost rigor and expertise.
Furthermore, both knife brands find use in Michelin-star restaurants. Both received positive testimonials from globally recognized professional chefs such as Gordon Ramsay.
As such, you should expect to pay significantly more for one of either brand’s knives than the average knife. However, you can buy with peace of mind knowing with Wusthof or Zwilling, a limited lifetime warranty backs you.
This means that if your knives are lacking in quality due to manufacturing or crafting, you can have them returned and replaced at little to no cost.
Despite this, there is a factor that gives Zwilling an advantage with price: their immense line of offerings under Henckels International. This sub-brand of Zwilling JA Henckels offers a huge variety of lower-priced stamped knives to give more options for those that don’t wish to spend too much.
Ultimately, this gives the Zwilling J.A. Henckels brand a better rep in terms of affordability on a global scale, making them the victor on this occasion.
Zwilling vs Wusthof FAQ
Is Zwilling the same as Wusthof?
Zwilling and Wusthof are both German kitchen knife manufacturers, but different brands. Both brands have plenty of similarities that confuse them, such as both being headquartered in Solingen and each offering both forged and stamped knife options.
What knives does Gordon Ramsey use?
Gordon Ramsay has testified to the excellence of German knives on multiple occasions. He uses Wusthof and Zwilling knives personally and on his shows such as Hell’s Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares.
Why is Zwilling expensive?
Zwilling primarily manufactures forged kitchen knives which, by nature, are more expensive than standard stamped knives. This is because of the intricate and rigorous crafting process involved in producing these knives and the superiority in performance and durability.
(1) – https://www.solingen.de/
(2) – https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/chemistry/rockwell-hardness