Are there many people that would argue out that Wusthof isn’t a great knife brand? I doubt. Their two bestselling product lines- the Wusthof classic and the Wusthof Ikon are proof that they make products we could rely on. In fact, these two product lines have more similarities than differences. Looking at their functionality (and performance); they’re virtually indistinguishable. They both have the same forged blade and their blades score the same in the Rockwell hardness test. If they’re the same, then why do most shoppers vouch for Wusthof ikon? Is it because of the lower price tag? In this Wusthof ikon vs classic battle; we’ll look at their similarities and differences. Hint: it’s in the handle design and on the price tag.
Wusthof ikon vs classic: What they have in common
- Three rivets on their handle. This feature isn’t unique to Wusthof knives alone. In fact, all major knife brands (think of Shun, Cutco, Henkel) design their knives with three rivets on the handle. Traditionally, knives (and swords) used to have three rivets. I guess this manufacturing technique works as it has barely evolved over the years. It’s a craftsman’s rule of thumb that you shouldn’t fix it if it’s not broken.
- They both have Polyoxymethylene handles. Often referred to as POM, Polyoxymethylene is industrial-grade composite finding practicability in the cutlery industry due to its resistance to fading, discoloration and general tear and wear.
- Both product lines have a full tang. A tang is the exposed part of the blade that extends to the handle.
- They have a full bolster. This is the thick metallic part joining the handle and the blade. Even though the bolster adds a great aesthetic finish to the knife, it’s primarily included in knife design to add weight; effectively creating balance.
- Both knife models have a curved handle. The handle is curved near the butt with the butt being considerably thicker than the neck. This serves two purposes. It gives the knife a great anti-slip grip while giving the pinkie finger a place to leverage for great balance.
- Their contoured handles are curved from African Wood. Marketed as Grenadil Wood, African Blackwood makes for a great knife handle material and it’s extremely durable and practically immune to tear and wear. This natural material is, of course, immune to expanding and contracting (unlike metal handles). Its only downside is that it’s prone to scratches. These scratches may be unsightly but you will, of course, agree with me that it’s a small sacrifice.
Wusthof ikon vs classic: How are these two knives different
- The Ikon product line makes use of smoother curves and their handles rarely have the sharp curve (next to the knife’s butt) that’s a characteristic of all Wusthof classic knives. Sharp curves give a great grip and perhaps this is why Wusthof ikon knives slip more often as they’re designed with a smooth curve handle instead.
- Wusthof ikon handles feature a fully exposed tang too. However, they make use of two half bolsters instead of one full-length one unlike in the classic product line. With one bolster at the butt and the other one joining the handle and the blade, ikon handles have a rather unusual design.
- The ikon line features a wooden handle and naturally, treated wooden handles are more expensive than Polyoxymethylene ones. This is why the manufacturer charges more for knives in the ikon line even though they have the same functionality.
Which Wusthof Kitchen knife should you buy?
Most people know Solingen, a metropolitan city in Germany, as the knife capital. With major brands like Wusthof and Henckels having their headquarters there, it’s only logical that this city has gained reputation from hosting knife makers. Wusthof, this family-owned knife brand has been making great kitchen knives from 1824. The only challenge is in choosing which product line you should settle for.
Does Wusthof make forged or stamped knives and how do they compare?
Forged knife models are cast from different, separate steel members heated and hammered repeatedly during the blade shaping process. How is this beneficial? In this repeated process, the molecular composition of the blade is altered for the better and the consumer benefits most by getting a strong and hard blade.
As implied by the procedure, stamped knife blades are literally stamped from a single sheet of stainless steel. Treatment and strengthening are then carried out thereafter. As you would imagine, this manufacturing process isn’t as labor-intensive and the blades tend to be considerably cheaper. The Wusthof Gourmet and the Wusthof pro are manufactured through the stamping technique. All the other product lines (classic, classic IKON, epicure and Grand Prix 2) are forged. This explains the price disparity across the various models. With the forged ones being costlier of course.
Contrary to popular belief, Wusthof knives are quite versatile. You could randomly pick a model form any of their product lines and it would serve you just as knife. Wusthof knives make a great starter knife as you could use them when chopping up small and large foods. Thanks to their curved handles, it’s often a breeze cutting through even the toughest of foods.
Should you use a finger guard when working with Wusthof knives?
The manufacturer recommends that you should always use a finger guard for added safety when working with these knives as they have extremely sharp blades. Quite frankly, I believe this is overkill. Of course, you should obviously be cautious when working with these knives unless you want to leave your finger on the chopping board.
Are Wusthof classic and ikon knives dishwasher safe?
Even though both brands are dishwasher safe, you’re better off handwashing them to prolong their utility. In the dishwasher’s cleaning cycle, the knife may be cracked effectively reducing its lifespan. I doubt if this is what you want.
The efficacy and effectiveness of a knife is found in its sharpness and a kitchen with a dull or blunt knife will frustrate anyone that wants to cook because there’s rarely any meal that you will prepare in the kitchen in which knife will not be required. Therefore, it’s important to have your knife sharpened but then the question is, how do you keep the knives sharp while using them on a regular basis? Without a doubt, the knife can be the most useful tool in your kitchen or the most dangerous and your worst enemy depending on how you handle and utilize it. Maintaining a knife turns out to not be a Herculean task and procuring the needed instruments to keep your knives in good shape is quite straightforward.
Two major techniques are involved when it comes to maintaining the sharpness of knives namely: Honing and sharpening a knife. There are different ways by which this can be done both professionally and personally; it’s all about choice and choosing a style that will suit you without the potential of causing you any harm. It’s not so difficult once you understand the process involved and without further ado, let’s elucidate.
THE PROCESS OF HONING AND SHARPENING
THE PROCESS OF HONING
Let’s start by highlighting and explaining the difference between honing and sharpening because as much as they appear to be similar, there’s a technical difference between them. Honing is basically something you can do at home while sharpening requires the need for professional expertise. To put it in perspective, honing keeps the knife blade straight so that the edge can be used smoothly without any complications while sharpening, on the other hand by normal standard, involves employing the help of a professional to actually sharpen the knife which will cost you a few dollars but relatively cheaper to the cost of buying a new knife. It’s possible that you have what is commonly referred to as a “honing steel” otherwise known as “butcher’s steel” in your kitchen; it usually comes with a new set of knives that you buy. It is a long metal rod that is meant to help sharpen your knives, though in reality, it hones them and helps to maintain their sharpness.
The more you use your knife, there’s bound to come a time when it will be bent such that it becomes difficult to get a solid blade-on cut at the very tip. The best that you can do for your knives at home is to hone them regularly in order to maintain the straightness of the cutting edge.
Let’s now examine some of the tools that you can use to hone your knife. The most common one is the butcher’s steel or honing steel as they are found in most knife sets. They help to keep the knives in proper shape and alignment on a regular basis so that they are effective when used for cutting. Apart from honing steel, there is sharpening stone which is also referred to as water stone that you can use to also maintain your knives for adequate use. The sharpening stone has a rectangular flat shape that can either have fine or coarse texture depending on your type of knife and level of desired sharpness. There are also honing kits which tend to comprise of multiple sharpening stones of various grades.
PROCESS OF SHARPENING
As earlier mentioned, honing knives is what you can do at home by yourself while actual knife sharpening should be left to the professionals. Here are the processes involved in honing your knife:
- Angle setting
Use a towel to support your honing steel on the countertop, and then hold the steel vertically such that the point is down towards the towel. You should then hold your knife in such a way that it is perpendicular to the center of the honing steel. The knife should then be titled halfway right in the middle of being perpendicular and parallel to the steel thus positioning the blade at a 45-degree angle. The handle can then be tilted halfway again between 45 degrees and parallel to the steel which will put the knife at about 22 degrees from the honing steel. The importance of the angle is in relation to the fact that most western knives are made of a blade that’s vertically 20 degrees off on both sides. If you happen to be making use of a sharpening stone, the same rule still holds in terms of the angle although the sharpening method will be different.
- Honing the edge
Once the right angle has been mastered down to a T, then it’s time for the knife honing to commence. Simply move the knife forward just until the heel of the knife is barely making contact with the honing steel. Maintain the position of the knife at a 22-degree angle, pull it towards you, all the way across the blade until you go beyond the tip. Move the knife to the other side of the steel, and replicate the process on the other side of the knife. This is recommended for a knife that is not severely out of alignment; the process can be carried out up to five times and the knife should be prepped for usage. It’s a good idea to do this each time you’re about to use one of your knives to keep the blade in alignment and to make sure it is safe to use.
Sometimes, it’s possible that the honing is not enough as there’s a chance that the blade of a knife might begin to dull over time rather than slipping out of alignment. This is where you will need to have it professionally sharpened. In fact, it is actually recommended that you get your knives sharpened professionally at least once a year especially the ones you use regularly. This way, you will be able to get the most out of your knives before needing to buy another set.
For anyone who spends ample time in the kitchen, honing knives should be part of your repertoire as it will enable you to care for and maintain your knives adequately. Though when it comes to knife sharpening, there’s no single or black and white way for it to be done. In fact, a lot of professionals spend years learning how to actually sharpen knives before they’re able to offer the service to people. It’s important to mention that necessary precautions should always be taken when honing your knives, and particularly if you are trying to learn the technique for sharpening them and applying a new edge. There’s nothing like using a knife that’s just been sharpened recently and when combined with proper care and honing, the knife can last for years.
Blade angles represent the measurements of the angle to which the sides of a knife blade are sharpened. For instance, a blade sharpened at a 20-degree angle most likely has a total angle of 40 degrees. 20 degrees is the most ubiquitous angle for kitchen knives but then there are some manufacturers that have their knives made with a 15-degree angle. Generally, the higher the blade angle, the more the strength and durability of the blade but that comes at of cost of reduced sharpness. Other knife blade angles are:
- 30 to 35-degree angles which are a common feature of cleavers or other blades utilized for chopping. Chopping generally needs a substantial amount of force and angles as large as 30 to 35 degrees supply the blade with the necessary resilience and strength to achieve the completion of this task on a constant basis.
- 25 to 30-degree angles which are majorly found on hunting, pocket, and other outdoor utility knives. Their large blade angle is necessary so that they are able to cut and slice in unfavorable conditions which kitchen knives rarely face. This makes them ideal for outdoor use.
- 18 to 25-degree angles are the angles that most kitchen knives are made of because these angles are designed in such a way that creates a fine balance between sharpness and durability. This makes such knives ideal in the kitchen for cutting vegetables, fruits, meats, and cheeses. And if you check well, these angles are found on Chef, boning, and carving knives which makes them efficient and effective in whatever they are used for.
- 12 to 18-degree angles are made especially for knives like fillet and paring knives which require to be extremely sharp in order for them to be effective. These angles tend to create a weak blade which is why they are mainly used on knives that are primarily utilized for fine slicing. Angles lower than this range of angles are set aside for razors.
It is important to point out that while it is possible for some angles and bevels to have a tendency to match up to each other in terms of sharpness and durability, it doesn’t necessarily indicate that they should be used together. Take, for instance, Western kitchen knives tend to feature a double bevel along with having a 20-degree angle; however, it might be a better alternative to utilize a low angle such as 15 degrees on chef knife that has a double bevel. That said, it might probably be almost impossible or impractical to put a large angle on a knife with a hollow ground blade. The most essential thing to bear in mind when deciding on the bevel type and blade angle is the purpose which the knife will be serving as this is what will allow you to find the perfect balance of sharpness and durability.
The Difference Between Sharpening and Honing
It’s possible you have seen where a honing rod has been used to “sharpen” a knife but it’s merely honing that is happening and not actual sharpening. What honing does is to straighten the cutting edge on the blade of your knife which ensures cuts are slicker and made safely. Sharpening is done using tools known as sharpeners and that keeps your knife sharp. So, both honing and sharpening are important as they both keep bluntness of knife at bay while ensuring that smooth cuts are made in the kitchen regularly and with relative ease. on the other hand, actually, well, sharpens it. Honing can be done weekly while sharpening can be done every few months; it now becomes a case of personal preference but both should be done regularly.
THE RIGHT WAY TO SHARPEN A WUSTHOF KNIFE
After purchasing your knife, over time, it’s possible that you observe it becomes difficult for it to produce perfectly thin slices and accurate dices. It might even be something that occurs every few months such that your knifework appears to be getting sloppy. Apart from that, it starts to get infuriating when you have to cut with a dull or blunt knife but even then, having a dull knife can be more dangerous than you envisage. Because you will have to exert more force while cutting which might change the trajectory of your hand causing you to cut yourself. so, in order to prevent that and keep your fingers safe as well as your meal in good condition, then it might be a good idea to learn how to sharpen a kitchen knife either through a whetstone or a sharpener, and knowing how to maintain the sharpened edge by utilizing a steel rod to hone it. Now let’s examine these ways of sharpening a knife in details:
Sharpening with a Whetstone
Knowing the appropriate way to make use of a whetstone might take a bit of practice, in fact, this is where practice indeed makes perfect and once you have mastered it, you’ll be able to keep your knives razor sharp while saving time and money. So, what exactly is a whetstone and what does it look like? Well, a whetstone is a rectangular block that functions almost like sandpaper, because it helps to straighten and fine-tune the cutting edge on the blade as you move the knife over it in a continuous motion. Most whetstones are designed in such a way that they need to be soaked in water every time they are about to be used, which is why it is important that you check the manufacturer’s instructions just to be sure.
To get started, get yourself a two-sided whetstone having coarse grit on one side and fine grit on the other and while different knives need their edges to be applied on the stone at different angles, the general angle is 22 degrees for most whetstones which should work for just about any knife. Once you read the manual and confirm that your whetstone needs to be soaked, engulf it in water until it’s completely saturated and there are no bubbles being produced from it, this should not take more than 5 to 10 minutes. Below is a breakdown of the actual steps involved in using a whetstone to sharpen your knives:
- Position the whetstone on a cutting board or countertop such that the coarse grit is facing up. Then put a wet paper towel underneath the stone so that it doesn’t slide as you’re trying to sharpen.
- Using one hand, hold the knife firmly by the handle and then press the edge of the knife against the stone, point-first, such that the cutting edge makes contact with the stone at around a 22-degree angle. Then use your other hand to balance the blade.
- Applying just about enough pressure, move the blade forward and across the whetstone in a way that the entire length of the blade is covered and the blade flush is maintained against the whetstone at a consistent angle of 22 degrees.
- This should be done for ten times or in ten strokes before flipping the knife to the other side and repeating the same sliding motion for another ten times.
- Next is to flip the whetstone over with the fine grit side facing upwards and then give both sides of the blade another ten strokes each. (If you are the type that sharpens your knife on a regular basis while honing it constantly, then there’s no need to use the coarse grit side. Simply position the whetstone in a such a way that the fine grit side faces up and just slide your knife on it.)
- Add the finishing by honing the blade with the aid of a sharpening steel, rinse well before wiping the blade dry to eliminate any leftover metal particles.
Sharpening with a knife sharpener
This tool is a quick-fix solution for a dull knife it’s usually easy to use and quite straightforward. Simply press the blade of the knife into the coarse side, pull it in towards you for a few times, before you move on to the fine side. Learning how to use a knife sharpener doesn’t take much time like the whetstone especially with the electric ones. They represent a great, easy and convenient way to get your knife sharpened in such a way that you can maximize their use and efficiency.
- Maintaining a knife edge with honing
Now that your knife is well-sharpened, next is utilizing a honing steel to maintain the straightness and sharpness of the knife’s edge. Also, it doesn’t wear out the knives but rather elongates their lifespan and usefulness.
To execute the honing, simply hold a honing steel in a vertical position, such that the tip rests on a work surface and the handle is firmly held with one hand. Then, press the base of the knife’s blade (the thickest part) against the honing steel and, working at an angle of 15-20 degrees, pull the knife down and towards you. Ensure to follow through to the tip of the blade. Repeat this movement on the other side of the steel while ensuring to reverse the angle of the blade against the honing steel.
THE ANATOMY OF A Wusthof CHEF’S KNIFE
It’s safe to say that the chef’s knife is probably the most important kitchen utensil and considering it is used a lot by anyone who wants to cook in the kitchen, then it’s important that a very good one of solid quality is purchased.
The best knives are made from and consist of a single piece of steel that pervades the entire length of the knife. So, in other words, the quality of a knife is not in its cost but in its design and purpose of use. There are six basic parts of a chef’s knife and it’s time we examine each part:
- The Blade
The best chef’s knives are usually manufactured using high-carbon stainless steel, a very hard metal whose edge does not erode easily and neither does it rust nor lose its color like ordinary carbon steel. It’s not as if knives manufactured from ordinary carbon steel are particularly inferior. They are also effective with a relatively softer metal which makes them a whole lot easier to sharpen but it means they get dull more quickly.
Majority of chef’s knives have their length measured in inches, and the most common sizes are 8″ to 12″. A longer blade allows you to make elongated single-stroke cuts when slicing. In comparing different styles of knives, the often-referred-to “German” style of chef’s knife usually has a more curved section at the frontal part of the blade, which makes it excellent for use in chopping in a form of movement best described as the up-and-down “rocking” motion. The “French” style, on the other hand, is straighter, and more triangular, which makes it ideal for a “slicing” kind of motion in which the knife is drawn straight back toward the person using it.
- The Handle
Without much doubt, the singular part of a chef’s knife that you are bound to have the highest amount of contact with is the handle. Therefore, it’s important that you ensure that it is comfortable for you to use and it fits well in your hand. There should be no cause for you to have to hold it unduly hard which means it should not feel slippery or uncomfortable to hold. The handle should also be solid enough to allow you to generate the appropriate force needed to make the cuts you need on your cooking ingredients.
By standard, the handles of chef’s knives have mostly been made of wood, but this in itself poses some problems in its use. For starters, the porosity of wood means that knife handles made of wood are prone to entertaining bacteria that are responsible for food-related illnesses. This is why a lot of local health departments are against and ban the use of knives made with wooden handles in commercial foodservice.
Also, Bacteria can replicate themselves in the tiny openings where the wood and the steel are joined together or just around the rivets. Apart from that, wooden handles don’t do particularly well in the dishwasher, although in hindsight, you shouldn’t be using the dishwasher to actually take care of your knife. But even then, submerging a knife in water can bring about a crack in its wooden handle and this, amidst the other above reasons constitute why knives with plastic or rubber handles are becoming more and more popular. Another alternative is some handles that are made from a compound material that is composed of wood which has been treated with plastic resin. This gives such handles the orthodox outlook of wood, but then lacks the sanitation and possible health problems that actual wooden handles may pose to users. This makes it acceptable and appealing to a lot of people.
- The Heel
This is the widest part of the knife, situated at the bottom end of the blade where it is joined with the handle. This part of the cutting edge is reserved for chopping hard items like carrots, nuts and sometimes chicken bones. Knives with greater blade length tend to offer greater leverage, which helps to generate higher cutting force at the heel of the blade. A knife with a heavier size also enhances the cutting force, but at the same time, it’s more exhausting to use.
- The Tang
As pointed out earlier, the best knives are usually manufactured from one single portion of steel that pervades the entire length of the knife. In other words, the steel stretches all the way into the handle. That part of the steel that is ensconced inside the handle is known as the tang, and if it happens to stretch all the way to the where the handle ends, it is referred to as a full tang. Apart from the strength it offers, a full-tang design also ensures better balance, thus resulting in a knife that is easy and convenient to use.
- The Rivets
Rivets refer to the elevated, cylindrical studs which ensure the handle is well attached to the tang part of the knife. This is the type of design that is found in knives featuring wooden handles. Once a knife contains rivets, it is then important to ensure that they have smooth tops which will eliminate any chance of the rivets protruding from the handle.
- The Bolster
The bolster is defined as the thick shoulder of heavy steel that is situated at the frontal part of the handle where it joins the spine or the top (non-cutting) edge of the blade. Apart from helping to maintain the balance of the knife, the bolster also functions as a protector by precluding your fingers from slipping while you are using it to work in your kitchen. This way, the user experiences less hand fatigue and blisters.
It’s important to note that not every chef’s knife will feature a bolster. A bolster simply points to the fact that a knife has been forged from one single piece of steel, as against being forged (stamped) from a roll of sheet metal. These stamped knives are usually of low quality compared to forged knives. The thickness of a bolster indicates the thickness of the original piece of steel that was used to forge the knife in the first place, and the thicker, the better.
TIPS FOR CARING FOR KITCHEN KNIVES
Cooking in the kitchen is an interesting activity and it does not require a lot of various knives for solid meals to be prepared compared to cooks that work in a restaurant or other commercial foodservice centers. However, it is important that adequate care is shown for the knives you have, so that they can have a long lifespan, optimize their use and efficiency, and also reduce the possibilities of injuries or accidents. Below are important tips on how to care for your knives:
- Sharpening your knives
This is the most important aspect of caring for your kitchen knives as it keeps them sharp without which their usefulness will become eroded. This is because failing to keep your knives sharp means they will become dull which will make your cooking activities in the kitchen really difficult; not to mention the fact that a dull knife poses more danger than a sharp one. This is because a dull knife requires the application of a larger amount of pressure, which increases the chances of your knife slipping and cutting you in the process.
- Choosing (and using) a cutting board
Now that you have taken care of the sharpening aspect of your knife and edge has been perfectly honed for the proper alignment, it’s time to put it to work! The only question is, what is the most appropriate surface to cut things on that will not blunt my knife easily or erode its usefulness? Well, the answer is a cutting board; you should make your cuttings on it and you can choose from any cutting board made from wood, plastic or bamboo.
For the benefit and optimization of your knife, your cutting board should not be manufactured from any material that is much harder than the knife itself. Invariably, this means that you should not make use of cutting boards that are made from glass and neither should you carry out your cuttings on your granite or marble countertop directly or even any countertop for that matter. Don’t be too stingy to get a cutting board; they are cheap.
Bamboo is the hardest of the three types of materials mentioned, which probably makes it your third choice, particularly when it comes to what is best for your knife. The plastic ones represent a better alternative to the bamboo ones as they are easier to keep clean because they can be easily washed with a dishwasher, and can also be thrown out when they get old. But the best among them is the softwood cutting board made from trees like larch, teak or Japanese cypress; these are very ideal for your knife.
- Cleaning your knives
Cleaning is another important area where one needs to watch out for in caring for your kitchen knives because, in this area, they tend to be subjected to serious abuse. This is because they are usually washed in the dishwasher which is the most heinous thing that you can do to your knife. This stems from the fact that a large level of rattling that goes on in the dishwasher, which means the blade is most likely going to bang against another knife, the edge of a plate, or even the rack itself, which will cause the knife to dull and possibly damage the blade (not to mention the damage caused by water and heat to the grip). If you really want to clean your knife in such a way that its lifespan will be elongated, then handwashing it is the best way to do that. Soap and warm water are enough to get the cleaning done and it should be followed up with immediate drying rather than allowing it to air dry.
A special case though is carbon steel knives which are not really common compared to stainless steel knives. Without a doubt, carbon steel is an excellent material for forging knives due to its capacity to retain its edge for a long time. However, on the other hand, it is susceptible to corrosion and rust. This is why it is apt to slightly rub oil your carbon steel knife immediately after drying it.
- Storing Your Knives
Now that your knife is clean and dry, the next thing is storage. How then do you store your knife to elongate and optimize its lifespan? Storing an exposed knife blade in a drawer that contains other kitchen utensils is not the best for both the blade and for you, because you stand the risk of cutting yourself while searching around for things.
One option to consider is getting wooden knife blocks, but it’s important to ensure that the knives are slid upside down into the slots so that they’re not resting on the sharp edge of the blades. However, if you don’t have that many knives, getting wooden knife blocks might not be astute. Instead, plastic knife guards might just do the trick as you only need to slide them over the blades of your knives. You can then store such in the drawer afterward with the assurance that you’re not going to cut yourself and neither is any utensil going to get damaged including the knife itself.