Last Updated Nov 2019 – You’re probably tired of hearing about the “world” of difference that a nice chef’s knife makes. People on the internet will try to sell you the idea that cooking isn’t the same without a $300 Damascus Shun. If you don’t have an expensive knife that cuts through overripe tomatoes like soft butter, they’ll say, you’re not getting the most out of your kitchen.
These people have the wrong idea, but they’re not completely off base. Having a high-quality knife (or set of knives) can actually make a really big difference when it comes to food prep. A nice knife is sharper, which enables you to use proper knife techniques, making prep faster and more fun. If it’s pretty to look at, you’ll enjoy getting it out each day, meaning you’ll actually look forward to the tedious action of chopping onions. These two factors combined mean that you actually will have a lot more fun in the kitchen when you have a nice, expensive chef’s knife.
But what if you don’t have a lot of money?
It turns out you’re not totally out of luck. Brands like Cangshan have you covered. Their knives might not be quite as fancy as my favorite Dalstrong blades, but they’re more than adequate for normal kitchen use.
Here’s a quick rundown of some of their top products so that you can learn more about what makes these knives so special.
This German steel chef’s knife occupies a very special place on the market. Instead of being an expensive, high-quality blade for home use, it’s a stripped down model with just the right set of features for the professional kitchen.
The unique blend of form, function, and price makes this a perfect pickup for someone who cooks professionally and needs a new knife, someone who wants to try a nice knife for the first time, or anyone in between.
To start things off, let’s examine the unique aesthetics of this knife. Cangshan has placed the standard chef’s knife blade on top of a stylish all-metal handle. The handle itself has a big cutout that lets you hang the knife from a hook easily. It helps to keep weight down while providing you a solid and surprisingly ergonomic grip on this kitchen tool.
Next, let’s talk about the “professional” features. The best part of this knife is the fact that it’s NSF-certified for use in commercial kitchens. This means it’s hygienic, easy to clean, and no bacteria will get trapped anywhere in the knife. The unique all-metal handle helps make this certification easy, of course, but the important fact remains: you can use this knife at work.
Okay, so what about the blade? This knife is made from X50CrMov15 steel that’s sourced from Germany. The important number you’re looking for is the Rockwell hardness of 58, which firmly places this knife in the middle when it comes to German-style blades. It’s soft enough to sharpen but more than hard enough to maintain the 16-degree edge that it comes with.
Of course, if you’re not a knife expert, the above paragraph may be Greek to you. The important thing to understand here is that all knives get dull over time. The harder a knife is, the longer it retains the edge. If a knife is too hard, however, it’s much more likely to get chipped or damaged. Some very hard knives can even be damaged if you try to cut through a bone. Softer knives are also easier to sharpen, meaning that they’re a great choice for people who don’t mind sharpening their own blades.
This particular knife offers a pretty forgiving mix of traits, meaning you don’t have to worry too much about either extreme. You’ll have to sharpen it every so often, but not too often. On the other hand, it’s soft enough that you don’t really have to worry about damaging it through normal kitchen use.
The best part, of course, is the cost. If you haven’t checked out the current price on this knife, do yourself a favor and do it now. The combination of aesthetics and quality that you get in this knife is practically unheard of at this price.
If you’re in the market for a cheap chef’s knife, whether you’re new to serious cooking, you want a cheap tool for work, or you just want to add to your collection, this Changshan is definitely one of my top two choices. The low cost means you don’t have to worry too much about the decision: just throw one in your cart and try it out!
In addition to the knife above, I’d like to call attention to the 7″ Santoku offered by Cangshan in the same style. It’s made from the same X50Cr15MoV steel, it’s also NSF approved, and it’s got the same fantastically low price. There are a few differences, however, which are worth understanding before you buy.
First of all, the handle on this knife is slightly different. Instead of being thick and hollow, it’s “solid” and tapered. It still offers a pretty good combination of ergonomics, comfort, and structure, but it’s definitely not as “unique” as the handle on the knife above.
Second, and probably most importantly, the edge on this knife is different. If you’re familiar with santoku-style blades this is no surprise: this knife features a hollow grind that makes it perfect for cutting vegetables and soft, boneless meat. It’s a fantastic chopping tool that’s a little bit more task-focused than the “all-purpose” chef’s knife above. You definitely don’t want to try to cut bones with this blade. Instead, you’ll enjoy the way the extra-sharp hollow edge slides through softer foods.
For those of you that prefer the santoku-style blade and those of you who want an extra knife, this Cangshan santoku is a brilliant option. Be sure to consider the multi-piece knife set below if you want to get both this and the chef’s knife above with some other utility knives and a wooden block.
This knife block includes a fairly unique (and nice looking) horizontal wooden block and a set of knives that include the santoku reviewed above and a blade that’s very similar (but not identical) to the chef’s knife above. The price is pretty great, too: it’s definitely a good way to save some money when compared to picking up the pieces individually.
I mentioned earlier that this knife block has the unique design feature of being horizontal. This means that your knives lie “flat” inside the block, with the blades more or less parallel to the kitchen counter. It’s a very interesting choice that definitely combines well with the patterned Acacia wood that’s used in this block. You get to check out a big slab of beautiful wood when you view this block from the side.
Despite this, it doesn’t take up too much space on your counter. It’s a great choice in terms of storing your knives.
I also said that the chef’s knife in this set isn’t exactly the same as the one I reviewed first. Just like the santoku above, the chef’s knife is NSF-certified with a solid composite and metal handle. There’s no wood, but there’s also no interesting hole in an all-steel handle. I still like this particular design, it’s just not quite as striking as the stripped-down steel handles from the Cangshan I reviewed first.
You get an 8″ chef’s knife, an 8″ bread knife, a 7″ santoku, a 5″ serrated utility knife, and a 3.5″ paring knife in this set. This gives you everything you need for normal kitchen use. It’s a perfect way to pick up everything you need to get started in the kitchen on a tight budget.
If you want something that’s a bit more traditional, this knife set offers “standard” composite handles that resemble traditional wooden ones. It’s still NSF certified and comes with an upright Acacia block that’s not quite as striking as the horizontal one in the set above. It’s still beautiful, however, and this knife set is still quite affordable.
Cangshan doesn’t just make cheap knives. If you’re after a more expensive Japanese-style chef’s knife, this VG-10 Kiritsuke knife is designed to compete with expensive options from brands like Dalstrong and Shun.
Visually striking, this knife embodies the traditional Japanese style. It’s got a round wooden handle, exquisite grain-like Damascus patterns in the blade, and a fairly hard metal that helps it keep the 16-degree double bevel that it comes with.
All of these features combine to make this a fairly good competitor if you’re looking for a less expensive Japanese chef’s knife. The VG-10 steel used is somewhere between 58 and 62 on the Rockwell scale, meaning it’s quite good at retaining an edge. While it’s a bit more brittle and difficult to care for than the Cangshan knives above, the extra edge retention will offset the disadvantages of this delicateness.
This knife tends to be pretty cheap. For me personally, it’s not quite cheap enough to justify picking it up over a Dalstrong knife. I’d rather spend a few extra dollars on a knife that’s made out of slightly better metal with better customer support, packaging, and a more ergonomic handle. That’s me, though. If you prefer the traditional Japanese round handle, you’re on a tighter budget, or this knife is on sale on Amazon, it’s still an amazing buy.
Are Cangshan Knives Good?
The reviews above have probably answered this question for you, but I think the answer is absolutely YES. Changshan blades are just as sharp and tough as the blades you’ll see on knives from Dalstrong, Zhen, and Schmidt Brothers. They’re carefully constructed with just the right blend of easy sharpening and edge durability to keep them going in your kitchen.
This doesn’t mean they’re perfect or maintenance free. Just like any knife (or knife set), the edges of these knives will wear down after lots of use. Be sure to pick up a knife sharpening kit or visit your local knife sharpening professional at least once a year. You’ll notice a really big difference each time you sharpen your blades!
So why are Dalstrong or Zhen knives better than Cangshan?
The answer is simple: they’re not ALWAYS better.
For everyday use, there’s nothing wrong with picking up the knife at the top of this page and nothing else. It’ll do a fantastic job of performing just about every task you can think of in the kitchen.
The issue arises when you start looking for something BETTER. While 58 hardness steel is pretty durable, it’s not great at holding super fine grinds for a long time. This means that you want a different type of blade if you want a grind that’s finer than the 16 degree double bevel on these blades. These harder knives (often 61 + on the Rockwell scale) start to get more expensive.
There’s also room for improvement in the other direction. If you want a more durable utility blade that’s even less likely to chip after lots of brushes with poultry bones, try getting a softer Zwilling. You’ll have to sharpen it more, sure, but the more expensive blade will probably last for many years.
Cangshan: A Budget Choice For Professional Chefs
Just like Victorinox, Cangshan offers brilliant knives that are catered towards the professional chef. These high-quality blades are NSF-certified for commercial use and have a perfect blend of sharpness, durability, and comfort. You’ll love just about everything about these knives, but you’ll love the low price most of all.