Zwilling J.A. Henckels certainly has an impressive knife-making heritage. With a trademark dating back to 1731, they’re one of the oldest continuous producers of knives in Europe. With so much time to develop their craft, the company has an impressive range of knives to choose from!
In this JA Henckels review, I’ll be covering what I’ve found to be their most important and notable knife lines. And while I’ve not had the pleasure of trying every one of their knives myself, I reached out to 3 professional chefs to confirm my experiences and give their own expert opinions. With our powers combined, we’ll be able to give you an insider’s look at this venerable company’s offerings.
Zwilling J.A. Henckels Knives, Reviewed by Series
Tackling the specifics of the nearly two dozen knife lines offered by J.A. Henckels would be a monumental task — and one that we don’t have space for here. Instead, I’ve narrowed down their offerings to just five core series. Together, they represent a wide range of prices and styles that’s sure to satisfy both home and professional cooks.
The Henckels Classic series is perhaps the most cost effective way to get a forged, full tang chef’s knife for your kitchen. If you’ve been looking for an affordable way to get into well-made kitchen knives, Henckels Classic is a perfect entry.
Made from German stainless steel and fabricated in Spain, every knife in this line has a fine blend of sharpness and durability. This is further emphasized by a bolster-free design and triple-riveted handle. The chef’s knife is an inch shorter than I would consider ideal, but at this price, it’s hard to argue with the quality.
Henckels Classic is the best blend of performance and affordability for beginners.
If you’re working with a very tight kitchen budget, Henckels Solution is…well, the solution to your needs. And while they’re certainly not meant for professional use, these home model knives are a suitable substitute while you save up to invest in a higher-quality knife set.
The construction quality on these knives is surprisingly good, given that you can get a 3-piece starter set for under $30. That includes stainless steel blades, with a full tang construction and triple-riveted handles.
The Solution series knives don’t keep an edge particularly well, but that’s not as much of a problem. You can sharpen them as often as you’d like without worrying about damaging them. In fact, I often recommend knives like these to friends who are trying to learn how to sharpen for the first time. Once you’re comfortable with the process, you can move on to more expensive knives without fear of ruining their edges.
If attention to budget is your foremost priority, look no further than the Henckels Solution series.
The counterpart to the two Henckels lines listed above, Zwilling’s Gourmet series is meant for everyday use. They’ve become a regular feature in both home and professional kitchens, owing to their durable construction and comfortable handle design.
Each knife in the Gourmet series has a stamped steel blade and is made with a full tang construction. This is further reinforced by the triple-riveted synthetic handle.
And while stamped knives may not be able to take as sharp of an edge as forged knives, the Gourmet series has surprisingly good edge retention. Overall, they’re a good in-between option for someone who wants a rugged, everyday knife.
Zwilling Gourmet won’t get quite as sharp as other series, but it will hold its edge very well.
With the Pro series, we take a serious step up in price range for an exceptional improvement in performance. Forged from a single piece of high carbon stainless steel, each knife in this series is incredibly sharp, with long-lasting edge retention and unbeatable longevity. If you want a knife that you can pass down to your kids, the Pro series should be at the top of your list.
The Pro series chef’s knife has gained a legion of devoted fans thanks to its incredibly comfortable design. From the shape of the handle, through the sloped bolster, to the gently curving blade, every detail is in place. While they’re certainly more expensive than the other series we’ve looked at so far, these knives are far and away the best choice for professional use.
Zwilling Pro is a step up in price, but the details get better too with a special focus on comfortability.
Zwilling Kramer Euroline Damascus Series
Melding the best of Japanese and German knife-making techniques, the Zwilling Euroline Damascus series knives are truly impressive works of art. And with an equally impressive price tag, they’re the most expensive knives in the entire Zwilling Henckels catalog. But if you want the best knives money can buy, this line is a serious contender.
The secret to this knife’s incredible precision is in the combination of steel and process used to make its blade. A lightweight SG2 “super steel” core is covered with 100 layers of Damascus folded steel, making this one of the sharpest knives I’ve ever seen. It tops out the Rockwell hardness scale at 64 or more — a full 6 to 8 points higher than most German knives.
Are these knives worth their top-of-the-line price? Ultimately, yes. That may put them out of the budget for most home cooks, but it’s worth considering saving up for one of these masterful blades.
If you want the best knives money can buy, the Euroline Damascus series is a serious contender.
With the five series listed above, we’ve covered knives from $5 to almost $500 apiece. Even so, that’s only a fraction of all the knives that Henckels International makes!
I chose those lines carefully, though, to represent approximately what you can expect from Zwilling Henckels knives at each price range. Any other lines in their catalogs will fall somewhere between what’s been listed, but often have different handle styles. At that point, it’s more of a matter of personal preference to find the best knife for you.
Before you commit to a knife series from JA Henckels, it pays to get familiar with exactly what you’re looking for. In this section, I’ll break down the qualities and characteristics I look for in a kitchen knife. Then, I’ll give examples of the types of Henckels knives that best illustrate each category.
Type of Knife
Because of their huge range of knife styles, J.A. Henckels really does have something for everyone. They have so many knives, in fact, that finding the right type of knife for your kitchen can be a daunting task.
That’s why I always recommend looking at each line’s chef’s knife first. Because the chef’s knife is the centerpiece of a cutlery selection, it’s also the best example of what is similar and different from one knife set to the next. Once you find a chef knife that suits your tastes, you can branch out into other types of knives in that same series.
The majority of a knife’s cost comes from two things:
- The materials used to make the blade.
- The hours that the craftsman spends making it.
And that means that any knife will only be as good as the quality of its steel and the process used to make it.
At lower price ranges, this takes the form of stamped blades made from generic stainless steel. They’ll get the job done without hurting your wallet, but ultimately are less sharp and durable than forged blades.
And while forged blades are more expensive, they’re also the tool of choice for professional chefs. That’s because they can take a sharper edge and hold it longer, and are much more durable and long-lasting to boot.
The durability of a knife is determined in large part by its tang, or how far the metal of the blade extends into the handle.
Full tang knives, with a single piece of metal that extends from the tip of the blade through the butt of the knife, are the gold standard of durability. Semi tang knives are cheaper, but more prone to damage over time. If a knife doesn’t advertise itself as full tang, you can be sure that it has only a partial tang.
Choosing a type of handle might be the most personal part of finding a knife. With so many different shapes and sizes of hands, what suits one chef might be a terrible fit for another.
That said, there are two things that all good handles have in common:
- They’re ergonomically designed, making them comfortable for a wider range of hands.
- They’re made of stiff, durable materials that can stand up to extended use.
All of Henckels’ handles are well-made and durable, so you won’t have to worry about them wearing out. Keep that in mind if you’re comparing their knives to a similarly-priced competitor.
Care and Maintenance
For your knives to last as long as possible, you’ll need to pay attention to three things:
- Hand wash your knives. Even if a knife is advertised as dishwasher safe, washing it by hand will extend the life of the blade and the handle.
- Dry your knives promptly after use, and always store them away completely dry. Even a small amount of moisture can begin to corrode a knife’s blade.
- Store your knives safely. This can be in a knife block, on a magnetic strip, or in a bag or sheath.
And of course, you’ll want to keep your knives sharp! Many home chefs learn how to sharpen their own knives on whetstones. If you’d like to do that, I’d recommend starting to practice with a less expensive knife before moving onto your highest quality blades. And if you’re not comfortable sharpening them yourself, take your knives to a professional sharpener every 6 months to a year.
Given their wide range of knives, JA Henckels competes with just about every name-brand knife company out there. And dollar for dollar, their knives stack up well against the competition.
When you’re looking at buying a knife, I’d suggest finding the JA Henckels knife series that’s offered at the same price, and using that as your basis for comparison. Most often, you’ll find that the Henckels knives differ in their attention to detail, with features like full tang construction and riveted handles even in their lower price range.
Frequently Asked Questions About Zwilling Henckels Knives
Before I wrap up this guide with final recommendations, I’d like to take a quick look at the most common questions about J.A. Henckels International. If this brand is totally new to you, this section should help clear up any confusion about their kitchen knife offerings.
Why Are German Knives Expensive? Are They Worth it?
When a knife gets into the $100+ price range, you can be sure of two things: It’s made with high quality steel, and an expert craftsman made it.
The time and materials necessary to forge a top-quality knife are why they can be so expensive. But as a result, you’ll end up with a knife that is sharper, keeps an edge longer, and is made to last. In short: Yes, expensive German knives are definitely worth investing in.
What is the Best German Knife Brand?
Of the half dozen or so major German knife brands, no one is truly better than another. Why?
Because each brand, and each series from that brand, caters to a slightly different demographic.
So instead of looking for one “best” knife brand, I’d encourage you to look for the knife brand that best suits your cooking style, budget, and needs. That way, you’ll end up with the best knife for your unique situation.
Are German or Japanese Knives Better?
The designs of both German and Japanese knives have evolved alongside their native cuisines. This means that both styles of knives have their own specialty, and their own pros and cons.
For Example: German knives usually have heavier handles and thicker blades, making them great for chopping through red meat and pork.
Japanese knives, on the other hand, have lightweight handles and thin blades that make them excellent for cutting fish and vegetables. So in the end, once again your choice of knife will depend on your style of cooking.
Is Zwilling the Same As Henckels?
Yes! The full name of the company is “Zwilling J.A. Henckels International”. All of the Zwilling and Henckels knife series are manufactured and offered by the same company, as well as their Japanese imprint, Miyabi.
Which Knives Should I Have In My Kitchen?
A good quality chef’s knife should be every home cook’s starting point. After that, a paring knife will make it easier to take care of small, detailed work that a chef knife struggles with. And while you could get by for a very long time with just those two knives, I’d recommend taking a look at my guide to essential kitchen knives for at-home use to pick the next additions to your collection.
Well, that brings us to our conclusion for this Zwilling JA Henckels knife review. Which Henckels knife set do you think deserves a place in your kitchen? To recap, here are my two favorite knife series from the company:
Henckels’ Classic Series knives are the most affordable way to outfit your kitchen with forged, full tang knives. They’re extremely cost-effective, and a fantastic way for beginning and intermediate home chefs to work on their knife skills.
The Zwilling Pro Series knives are a significant upgrade, and represent a great value for their price. Their high carbon stainless steel blades are incredibly sharp and durable, and the ergonomic design has made them the knives of choice for many professional chefs.
Thanks for taking the time to do your research before buying a new knife for your kitchen! If there’s any way I can help you make that choice, please don’t hesitate to reach out with your questions.