In the world of kitchen knives, most brands focus on one of two things: Mass-producing inexpensive knives, or putting more time and effort into forging more expensive blades. This leaves home cooks who want a good knife in a tough spot. Should you shell out $100 or more for a top-quality knife, or compromise on quality for a fraction of the price?
Mercer Culinary is one of the few brands that falls right in the middle. Their high-quality forged knives are offered at reasonable prices that suit a wide range of budgets.
In this article, I’ll explain which of Mercer’s knife series is best suited for each cooking style. You’ll also find my criteria for knife buying, which I’ve crafted over a decade in professional kitchens and in my own. All that and more in my Mercer knives review. I hope you gain a lot of value by reading!
Mercer Knives Review (By Series)
Each of the five lines of Mercer knives is focused on a different aspect of the chef’s experience. From the most affordable to the most specialized, each series represents an excellent value for the price. Let’s take a closer look at each of them, with an eye towards what sort of chef might want each series.
The Renaissance series of blades was my first introduction to Mercer Culinary’s knives — and its chef knife, in particular, has made a lasting impression on me. Forged from a single piece of high carbon stainless steel, this knife is made with a durable full tang construction and a comfortable, ergonomic handle.
While there are dozens of knife lines with similar construction to the Renaissance series, most of them cost 2-3x more. That fact is what really blows me away, and sets the Mercer Renaissance apart – a top-notch construction for an excellent price!
In short: Mercer’s Renaissance series offers incredible bang for your buck.
Mercer Culinary Genesis
In almost every regard, the Mercer Culinary Genesis series is the same as the Renaissance series (above). But where the Renaissance series has a half-bolster design that’s great for experienced chefs, the Genesis series was designed with beginners in mind. Thanks to a beefy full bolster design, it offers serious protection for your lead finger while cutting — making it a favorite for beginners who are still practicing their knife skills.
In short: the full-bolster protects your finger and makes Culinary Genesis better for beginners.
The sleekest and most elegant of Mercer’s knife offerings, the Züm series focuses on a minimalist design and excellent ergonomics. That starts with the subtly molded Delrin handle — a synthetic material that gives excellent grip, even when wet. This complements and balances the blade, which is forged from a single piece of high carbon stainless steel. Add in a rounded spine that bends into a precise point, and you have a knife series that’s as versatile as it is pretty.
In short: Züm offers minimalist design and excellent ergonomics.
Just about every kitchen I’ve ever worked in had a Millennia series chef knife. They’re the most affordable of all Mercer Culinary knives, and a standby for outfitting kitchens on a tight budget. The handles are comfortable and slip-resistant, and the stainless steel blades are quite sharp for being stamped rather than forged. So while the Millennia series knives aren’t the best you’ll ever use, they’re extremely high quality compared to their low price.
In short: Millennia is Mercer’s most affordable series, and great if you’re on a budget.
The MX3 series is Mercer’s take on traditional Japanese-style knives, and also their most expensive knife line. But compared to the offerings from major Japanese knife brands, the MX3 series is an absolute bargain — without sacrificing the design quality that Japanese knives are known for.
That includes a thin and lightweight blade made of the highest quality VG10 steel, with a durable full tang construction and comfortable, well-balanced handle. If you’ve been wanting to try a Japanese knife but are skeptical of the cost, the MX3 series makes for a great entry into the category.
In short: while MX3 is Mercer’s most premium line, it’s still a bargain introduction to traditional Japanese-style knives.
Even though Mercer Culinary is uniquely positioned as a quality, affordable kitchen knife supplier, it doesn’t hurt to compare their knives to competitors. In this section, I’ll detail the qualities and characteristics I look for when deciding on which knife brand is best for particular needs.
Type of Knife
When I’m trying to decide between two different brands of knives — or two series of knives from the same brand — I always look towards their chef knife first. Why? Because the chef’s knife is the most commonly used knife in the kitchen and will handle around 80-90% of all your cutting jobs.
This means that brands will put the most work into making sure their chef’s knife is up to the task. So if the chef’s knife from a brand or series doesn’t live up to your expectations, you can be almost certain that the other types of knives offered there won’t be good for you, either.
Two things make the difference between cheap, flimsy blades and high-quality ones: The materials used, and whether they’re stamped or forged.
The gold standard for kitchen knives is high carbon stainless steel blades that are forged from a single piece of steel. This ensures that the knife will have a razor-sharp edge, with good edge retention and durability. Cheaper steels, or those that are stamped with a mold rather than heated and shaped, will be duller and have less longevity.
It’s no coincidence, then, that forged blades made from high carbon stainless steel usually make for more expensive knives.
This is an area where Mercer Culinary shines: Four out of five of their knife lines are forged from high carbon steel, but they’re still quite affordable.
The tang of a knife describes an element of its construction: How far the metal of the blade extends into the handle.
Full tang knives are the most durable and well-balanced. They have one piece of steel that extends from the tip of the knife all the way through the butt of the handle. Semi tang knives only extend partway into the handle, making for less expensive but ultimately less durable knives. Knives without any appreciable tang are the least durable of all, and will need to be replaced fairly frequently, about once per year.
Finding the right type of kitchen knife handle is the trickiest thing to do without being able to use them in person. Until you can feel how a knife’s handle works with your hand size and grip, it’s hard to know whether it’s a good choice for long-term use.
My advice, though? Don’t be afraid of trying out a Mercer knife that you’ve ordered online.
Their customer support is top-notch, and if a knife’s handle doesn’t suit you well, they’ll gladly take a return on it — and try to find the knife that’s the right fit for you. It’s the next best thing to being able to try them all out in person at the same time.
Care and Maintenance
When I’m looking to buy a kitchen knife, I always pay close attention to how much care and maintenance it will require. There are a few general rules that apply to any knife of this style:
- Keep your knives dry.
- Store them safely.
- Sharpen every few months.
If a knife requires extra care and maintenance above the three points above — like oiling the blade and handle — that’s points against it in my book.
Basically, the best kitchen knives don’t require much special maintenance, and fortunately, Mercer knives fall in this category. They’re all made with stainless steels and hard synthetic polymer handles, and don’t have any exotic maintenance requirements.
Of course, you didn’t come here just to find out about the best Mercer Culinary knives, right? You wanted to know whether Mercer’s tools stack up well in comparison to other kitchen knives.
The thing of it is, though, Mercer doesn’t really have many direct competitors. They’re in a unique spot with their combination of forged, high carbon stainless steel blades offered at such reasonable prices.
Essentially, if you want a forged blade that will last for years without paying more than about $50, Mercer is the only way to go. For most chefs I’ve known though, a Mercer knife is a stepping stone to more expensive, sharper, and better-balanced knives from the likes of Wusthof, Shun, or Miyabi. That’s what makes them such an excellent option for home cooks: the combination of affordability and performance.
Frequently Asked Questions About Mercer Knives
Before we wrap things up with my recommendations, I’d like to say a few words in response to the most common questions about Mercer Culinary knives. This added context should help beginner-to-intermediate cooks determine which Mercer knife is right for their kitchens.
What Are the Best Mercer Knives?
Instead of asking what the best Mercer knives are overall, it’s more helpful to ask which are the best Mercer knives for your specific situation. That’s why the company has five different series of knives, after all: To do their best at making the perfect knife available for the widest variety of chefs.
My personal favorite series is the Renaissance knives, though beginners will appreciate the more protective nature of the Genesis series. The Züm knives are sleek and minimal, and the shape of their handles is generally better for cooks with smaller hands. The Millennia series is the most affordable of the bunch, while the MX3 knives offer Japanese-style blades at a fraction of the price you’d expect.
Where Is Mercer Manufactured?
All of Mercer’s knives are manufactured in Taiwan. They’re made from the same German steel used by major brands like Wusthof and Zwilling, though, and given the same final tests for quality as other name brand knives.
Which Knives Should I Have In My Kitchen?
As I wrote earlier, I always focus on the chef’s knife from each brand and knife series. That’s because it should be the first type of knife that anyone gets for their kitchen!
Past that, complementing a chef’s knife with a paring knife will allow you to work on more detailed, delicate cuts. For a fuller look at which knives you need, I’d encourage you to check out my guide to the essential kitchen knives every at-home cook should have.
To recap my opinions of each knife line from Mercer:
Both the Renaissance and Mercer Culinary Genesis series are nearly ideal knives for beginner and intermediate home chefs. They’re incredibly well-made for the cost, and will last for years if properly taken care of.
The same goes for the Züm line, though it has the advantage for commercial kitchens. That’s due to the handle being more non-slip, and slightly more comfortable to use for long periods of time.
The Millennia series is the starting point for many casual cooks, as it’s incredibly affordable but won’t have great longevity. On the opposite end, the MX3 line takes its cues from Japanese cutlery to create the sharpest and longest-lasting knives that Mercer has to offer.