Copyright and trademark law are complicated. They’re also fairly recent inventions. In fact, we had knives long before we had the idea to police the uniqueness of brand names. In Theirs, France, there were two families who made those knives. Both of these families were called Sabatier.
As you might imagine, locals called knives made by BOTH families by the name “Sabatier knives.” Since other knifemakers wanted to capitalize on the free press, they started calling their knives Sabatier as well. This lead to a multitude of distinct knifemakers all using the same name. Worse, they used the same mark as well.
Trademark law eventually caught up to this mess. The companies had all been established before the law was made, however. The French government ultimately ruled that all of the companies had to add a symbol, letter, or word after the Sabatier logo to distinguish themselves. As of this writing, there are over 31 companies that use the Sabatier logo with an additional identifier as their primary brand identity. This means that if you find a Deglon Sabatier knife, for example, you should specifically look up Deglon Sabatier knife reviews to find out more.
So how good are Sabatier knives? As you might imagine, the answer is “it depends.” While there are a handful of very good Sabatier brands (like K Sabatier and Four Star Elephant Theirs Issard), there are other brands that aren’t quite so good. Here are some of the best knives and knife sets you can get from Sabatier brands today.
To start things off, let’s check out a basic French chef’s knife from K Sabatier. This is a fairly affordable kitchen workhorse that’s different enough from a classic German or Japanese style knife that it may very well be worth adding to your kitchen.
First, let’s talk about the stylistic differences. French-style knives (like this one) are thinner, shorter, and pointier than their German counterparts. There’s less curve (or “belly”) in the blade, and there’s not very much metal in between your knuckles and the cutting board while you chop. On the other hand, the smaller, lighter blade makes for a very nimble, fast-feeling knife. The resulting sense of precision and speed has led many professional cooks to choose French knives like this one over German ones.
The next important thing to discuss is steel. This knife uses a high carbon stainless blend called Z50C13. It’s about 55 on the HRC scale, meaning that it’s somewhat soft and easy to sharpen. In other words, you’ll want to stick with a more conservative edge profile and use a honing steel often to keep this knife sharp. The upside is that you can use just about any tool to sharpen it and there’s very little risk of accidentally chipping your blade.
Additionally, the stainless used in this knife won’t tarnish or corrode easily. This is especially handy when you’re working with a lot of acidic foods. High carbon blades are incredible for chopping relatively inert foods, but when you’re working with something that’s very corrosive there’s a chance your blade can form something called a patina, or a nasty corroded spot that’ll make your knife look ugly. While you can often clean a patina off with the right tools and a lot of work, it’s not something that you want to deal with on a regular basis. In other words, choosing stainless instead of high-carbon steel in your high-end knives makes them a lot easier to work with on a regular basis.
Despite these features, it’s the balance and “feel” of this knife that you’ll really notice. I mentioned earlier that French knives feel especially nimble in your hand, and this knife is a perfect example of that. It’s one of the most comfortable feeling knives ever, hands down.
These features aren’t free. Luckily, they don’t cost a lot, either. While this 6″ knife is on the shorter end, it’s also on the cheaper end. In fact, it’s one of the cheapest high-end chef’s knives you can find. This means it gets my resounding endorsement. If you like using a rocking motion while you cut, you’ll want to use this in addition to a more traditional German chef’s knife. Otherwise, though, you should have no problems using this as your primary cutting tool, an extra knife for smaller food prep jobs, or anything in between.
If you want a great example of a Sabatier brand that’s not quite as good, look at this knife block. It’s a full set of “high-carbon stainless” steel knives in a wooden block that somehow manages to look cheap. While it’s not an awful buy for the price, it’s nowhere near as high-quality as the K Sabatier knife above.
So what’s wrong with this set? Honestly, the biggest issue is the presentation. This is a set of softer steel European knives, meaning that they’ll go “dull” really quickly. Because the metal is soft, however, it’s almost trivial to fix this issue with a honing steel or a sharpening kit. In other words, you have to maintain these knives a fair bit if you want to keep them sharp.
The other issue has to do with corrosion. This inexpensive knife set attracts buyers from all walks of life, including people who don’t know how to properly clean their knives. Stainless steel means stain “less,” not stain “never.” In other words, these blades will absolutely corrode, tarnish, and/or rust if you leave them sitting in a wet sink. If you want them to last you’ll have to dry them off promptly after washing them.
In fairness to Sabatier, these issues are hardly unique to this knife set. The problem, though, is how this set is designed, marketed, and presented. It’s not fancy or high-quality enough to appeal to serious kitchen people, while the burden of caring for these somehow too-fancy knives is too much for many casual chefs. Instead, Sabatier has managed to create a product for an awkward valley that exists between two potential audiences.
So should you buy this set? Honestly, probably not. For the same price, you can pick up a Ginsu Chikara set that’s actually designed to be used by casual cooks. Alternately, you could spend a bit more and get a Cangshan or Dalstrong set with no steak knives. These fancier blades will hold their edges a little bit better and have better balance, aesthetics, and overall design.
The bottom line, however, is that this is a functional, serviceable knife block. If you’re willing to put the time into maintaining these knives they’ll perform quite well in your kitchen. As long as you understand how to clean and care for these blades they’ll stay sharp and clean. This isn’t my favorite knife set on the market, but it’s still an acceptable choice.
It should be no surprise to you that this Sabatier comes from a different brand than the subjects of our other Sabatier knife reviews. Like the K Sabatier at the top of the page, this paring knife has a high-carbon stainless steel blade (made from X50CrMoV15 this time, which is a couple points harder on the HRC scale). Unlike the other knife, the Sabatier logo has a different animal next to it.
The knife itself is made from a slightly harder metal, as previously mentioned. This is important because it changes how the knife sharpens and holds an edge. The specific steel used in this knife can get up to 58 HRC, which is the top end of what you can sharpen on some types of whetstone. Be sure that you understand the limitations of any maintenance equipment that you own or plan to buy.
To be clear, I tend to think that harder knives are generally better. Going up a single point of HRC means that you have to sharpen your knife something like half as often. This means that this paring knife requires a lot less attention from your honing steel than the soft French chef’s knife at the top of the page. It’ll also hold a sharper edge overall, meaning it’s a better choice if you know you want to reprofile your knife to a killer angle.
As far as construction goes, this knife has reasonably good balance and a classy, elegant wooden handle. It’s a great addition to just about any knife block on aesthetics alone.
If you want a lightweight paring knife from one of the many Sabatier brands, this olivewood knife is a great choice. Be sure to check out the other options available from this brand. You can get a 6″ fillet knife, for example, which is a bit narrower than the French K Sabatier chef’s knife but not entirely dissimilar. It’s an additional option if you know you prefer harder steel.
This full-sized French-style chef’s knife is made by the same Sabatier imprint as the knife above. It’s got the same X50CrMoV15 steel, the same olivewood handle, and the same generally high-quality construction. So why isn’t it at the top of the page?
The answer is simple: this knife is pretty pricey. Even on sale, it tends to be more expensive than the K Sabatier I recommended previously. While you get 2 more inches of knife, I’m not so sure that that’s a good thing. I personally tend to break out my French knives when I’m doing smaller tasks, not bigger ones. I’m going to go with a German or Japanese style knife if I need all 8 inches.
Still, this knife is an excellent buy overall. It’s certainly not overcosted for the quality it offers. Instead, the K Sabatier is astoundingly cheap. This Sabatier is an excellent buy if you prefer harder metal, longer knives, or fancier wooden handles. It’s a beautiful, effective knife that will perform very well in your kitchen.
Made by the same Sabatier as the knife block reviewed above, this set has the uncommon gimmick of including a knife sharpener in every hole in the knife block. Whenever you store a knife, ceramic rods automatically align the edge in order to keep these knives sharp forever.
Or so you might think, anyway. If you’re familiar with the way knife sharpening works you know that this isn’t a one-stop solution. In order to prevent overzealous owners from literally sharpening their knives away to nothingness, the ceramic rods are fairly high grit. This means that you’re honing or stropping the blades more than you are sharpening them.
So does this keep your knives sharp? Yes. It does an incredibly good job of keeping your knives sharp. The issue here is the word “keeping.” If you damage the edge (through either a small period of misuse or a long period of normal use), the fine grit ceramic rods won’t really do anything. You’ll have to repair the edge of your knife with a different tool.
For many users, this system is perfect. You hardly ever need to actually sharpen a good knife, anyway. Even with softer steel, the majority of work you do is with a honing steel or a strop. This knife block takes out the need for those weekly (or daily) honing sessions and does the grunt work for you. All that’s left is occasional (yearly at most) manual sharpening to keep everything in tip-top shape.
This knife set is not without flaws, however. The most important one is that the block itself is not aesthetically appealing. It’s a weird kind of matte painted wood that doesn’t really look nice on a counter at all. This is unfortunate, as knife blocks are usually a nice visual addition to a kitchen counter.
If you want a fairly affordable set of non-serrated European style knives, this isn’t the worst option you can choose. The built-in edge maintenance system makes it easier to keep this set of knives sharp. Most importantly, however, you’re not really paying a premium for the extra functionality. Instead, you simply have to tolerate an ugly knife block.
Sabatier: The Best French Knife Brand?
While some Sabatier imprints make excellent knives that you should be proud to show off, others make somewhat mediocre knife sets that are nonetheless pretty good value for money. No matter what you’re looking for, be sure to do a little bit of extra research and make sure that the flavor of Sabatier you’re looking at is the right brand. You’d hate to get the wrong kind of knives by mistake.