Wusthof Classic vs Gourmet: Choosing The Best German Knife

Written by Peter Allen on . Posted in Cutlery

You know you want a Wusthof, but which one? Here are all of the important differences between the stamped Wusthof Gourmet line and the forged Wusthof Classic line.

There is far, far more to a knife than just the brand. Even among top knife brands like Shun and JA Henckels, there’s a world of difference in between the cheapest mass produced knife and a top product that receives lots of hands-on attention from skilled craftsmen. The best knives are sharp, well balanced, and durable, while the cheap ones are sometimes plagued by design problems, shoddy construction, and poor materials.

This means that purchasing a knife from a top brand like Wusthof can still be tricky. It’s important to actually understand what kind of knife you’re getting before you drop a big chunk of change on a fancy knife set or a new chef’s knife. In order to make your decision easier, here’s a thorough rundown on all of the differences between Wusthof’s Classic and Gourmet lines.

The Big Difference

The most important differences are that the Gourmet line is stamped and has a standard 36 degree factor edge, while the Classic line is forged and comes with a 14-degree per side double bevel out of the box.  Other features, like the handles, styling, and metal are all very similar.

Wusthof Knives Review

* Wusthof Classic Knife Block

The Wusthof Classic line is the result of literally hundreds of years of German expertise. It’s a no-frills set of polymer-handled knives that are forged from high-carbon stainless steel. This 7-piece set comes in an elegant wooden block of your choice, with finishes ranging from acacia to walnut to cherry.

Wusthof is no slouch when it comes to making top quality knives. The blades in this set are made from 58 HRC steel that combines excellent stain resistance with brilliant edge retention. The metal is hard enough to maintain a slightly sharper grind with very little maintenance while being soft enough for casual home kitchen use. These aren’t crazy Japanese knives that you have to baby. You don’t have to worry about a patina and you can get away with using a honing steel maybe once a week in a typical kitchen.

There are two big differences between this line and the Gourmet knives below. First, these knives are forged, not stamped. This is a term that refers to the way the metal in the knife is shaped during construction. Forged knives have thick tops and thin bottoms. They usually have a feature called a “bolster,” which is a raised piece of metal that protects your fingers from the blade while you work.

Some knife experts will point to a bolster as a sign of great construction and durability. Personally, I think stamped knives are quite comparable to their forged counterparts as far as these factors go. The big things that make forged knives better for me are the superior balance and the increased comfort. Having extra metal in the right place goes a long way when you’re trying to make a knife that can be deftly maneuvered around a cutting board. Additionally, I find that a bolster helps my fingers “remember” where they’re supposed to go when I use a pinch grip.

The other big difference has to do with initial grind. As I mentioned above, the Classic line has a slightly sharper 28 degree grind out of the box. This means that they’ll absolutely wreck any cutting test you throw at them.  After a year or so of kitchen use, however, the factory edge won’t be as big of a factor. Instead, your maintenance of the knives will be the primary factor that determines how sharp they remain.

This slim, tasteful block comes with a mere five knives. It’s got a paring knife, a serrated utility knife, a kiritsuke knife, a bread knife, a chef’s knife, and kitchen shears. This is a pretty good selection of tools for cooking.

Admittedly, this is a pricey knife block, especially when compared to budget brands like JA Henckels International. Be sure to compare the cost of this set to the cost of getting several Wusthof Classic knives individually. Top chef’s knives from top brands aren’t the cheapest things in the world, but they’re well worth the cost.

The premium Wusthof Classic line might not be the best choice for a casual cook. This elegant, no-frills knife block is perfect for someone who’s a bit more serious in the kitchen. The knives offer amazing performance and low maintenance requirements in a stylish package that’s backed by a lifetime warranty from one of the top knife brands on the market. What more could you ask for?

* Wusthof Gourmet Knife Block

Wusthof Gourmet seems to be Wusthof’s attempt at making a more affordable set of knives for the less serious chef. Despite some small concessions, the quality of the blades themselves is surprisingly similar to the Wusthof Classic knives above. If I was given one of the two sets for free, I’d choose the Classic block in a heartbeat. As soon as budget becomes a factor, however, the lower price of the Gourmet line starts to become incredibly appealing.

So what concessions have been made? Not many. These knives are made in Solignen, Germany, alongside Wusthof’s super premium lines. The metal in the blades is the same 58 HRC high-carbon stainless steel that performs so brilliantly in the Classic knives. The handles are made from the same material, the Wusthof logo on the side is the same, and the knives do a very, very similar job of sliding through meat and vegetables like hot butter.

The biggest difference is the construction of the blades themselves. These knives are made from blanks that are laser-cut from steel, placed into handles, and sharpened. There’s much less hammering and shaping of the steel involved when these stamped knives are made. As a result, the blades are a more uniform thickness throughout. This means there’s no bolster, the knives themselves are a bit thinner in some places and thicker in others, and the balance is definitely slightly worse.

The other difference, as I said above, is the factory edge. These knives come with a 36 degree grind out of the box (18 degrees per side). This isn’t quite as sharp as the Classic knives above. You can sharpen them to a 28 degree grind yourself with a bit of effort or take them to a local shop if you’d like in order to replicate the experience of a Wusthof Classic knife, but that’s honestly probably not necessary. A well maintained 36 degree grind is more than sharp enough for most home kitchen use.

This ten piece knife set comes with a few extra goodies when compared to the 7-piece set above. Notably, it comes with a honing steel, which is a vital tool when it comes to keeping your knives sharp. It’s a bit odd that Wusthof’s cheaper set comes with a steel and their more expensive one doesn’t. Perhaps they assume that their more serious customers will have a steel already.

There is one other downside to this set, at least for me. When it comes to the aesthetics of the block itself, the pale wood of this standard knife block hardly compares to the vibrant finishes available from the Classic block. Knife blocks aren’t just about tools – they’re also great opportunities to make bold artistic statements on your kitchen countertop. If you care about looks at all, I strongly suggest that you carefully consider each block side-by-side. You may decide that the increased cost of the Classic set isn’t worth it, but you’ll have at least made an informed decision.

Overall, there’s no denying that the Wusthof Gourmet knives set is inferior to the Classic line. The knives feel cheaper in your hand, with lighter handles and worse balance. They’ve got a slightly worse factory edge and come in a less attractive knife block. They are, however, considerably cheaper, and you’d be hard pressed to find a chef who would tell you that they don’t cut things just as well. If you’re after a set of durable, sharp knives that are backed by a legendary German brand, the Gourmet line is a brilliant way to save a bit of money.

Wusthof Classic Chef’s Knife vs Gourmet Chef’s Knife

But what about the individual knives themselves? When you disregard the rest of the set, how does the most important piece compare? Here’s a quick rundown to help you find the best Wusthof knife.

* Wusthof Classic Chef’s Knife

For me, one of the big advantages of choosing an old, established brand like Wusthof is the little details. Your Wusthof knife might not have Dalstrong’s fancy packaging or Shun’s killer looks. Instead, it’ll be solid, incredibly well designed, and have absolutely amazing balance. I challenge you to find a friend, lay out a forged Wusthof next to a cheaper Victorinox or any knife from another brand, and take turns comparing the balance with your eyes closed (safely, of course). You’ll definitely notice a big difference.

Wusthof’s Classic chef’s knife exemplifies this idea. It doesn’t have Damascus patterns or a crazy single bevel or any other gimmick. Instead, it’s simply a well-made knife with terrific fit and finish. The materials, design, and workmanship that go into this knife are all world-class. The result is a cutting tool that will form a safe, stable backbone to your knife collection as you grow as a chef. It might not be exciting, but it’ll be incredibly functional, fun to use, and very, very durable. You can count on this knife lasting for years.

As far as specifics go, the individually sold Classic chef’s knives have the same specs as the ones in the knife block above. You get 58 HRC steel that’s quite easy to maintain as a beginner while still having excellent edge retention. The NSF-certified polymer handle isn’t the most stylish thing in the world, but it’s functional and fairly comfortable in your hand. A generous bolster and full tang provide the perfect counterbalance to the long, sharp blade, enabling you to effortlessly dart around your cutting board as you prepare your favorite recipes.

In my eyes, the Wusthof Classic chef’s knife is an incredibly safe and stable purchase. No matter where your culinary journey takes you, you’ll fondly look back on this solid, dependable knife. It’s a professional-quality tool that can form the backbone of your cutlery collection for decades.

* Wusthof Gourmet Chef’s Knife

Just like the Gourmet knife block above, this knife is very slightly worse than the Classic knife in several measurable ways. The metal is the same, the handle is made from the same materials, and the knife is visually quite similar aside from the lack of a bolster. The biggest difference is the balance and heft of the knife itself. To me, the excellent balance of a forged Wusthof is one of the brand’s major selling points, meaning I would think twice before downgrading to this knife.

Again, though, the cutting edge of this knife is in no way inferior to the Classic chef’s knife above. You can very easily take a set of whetstones to the blade to even out any difference in the factory edges. If you don’t have a set of whetstones yourself, most cutlery stores can do this for you for a very low price. Since this knife is made from the same 58 HRC steel as the Classic line, it’ll offer nearly identical cutting performance when compared with the Wusthof Classic chef’s knife.

The difference you’ll notice is in between each cut. When you’re moving the knife back and forth, rocking it up and down, or making any other motion above your cutting board, the slightly inferior balance of this knife rears its head. This isn’t to say that the balance isn’t good – without a forged Wusthof to compare to, you might not notice a thing. Instead, it’s to say that the knife above is simply better.

Overall, the lower cost of the Gourmet knife makes it much easier for aspiring chefs and less serious kitchen enthusiasts to afford. While it’s a clear downgrade, it’s not a downgrade in a lot of important ways. Just like the Gourmet knife block above, I still think it’s an excellent choice for anyone who wants a budget knife that’s backed by a killer warranty from a legendary brand. If you spend serious time using your chef’s knife, however, I think you’d do well to spend a bit more money and upgrade to the forged Classic blade.

Wusthof Classic vs Gourmet: How To Choose The Best Wusthof Knife

If you’re after a genuine German knife with many centuries of expertise behind its design and construction, Wusthof is the way to go. Their Classic line exemplifies excellence in virtually every aspect of its design and construction, while their less expensive Gourmet line sacrifices a bit of balance and heft for a fairly significant reduction in cost.

Both lines of knives are made from the same high-carbon stainless steel, have the same polymer handles, and are backed by the same incredible Wusthof warranty. While you can’t go wrong with either brand, I think the Classic line has some big advantages if you’re in the kitchen a lot. You’ll definitely appreciate the superior balance afforded by the forged construction.

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Peter Allen

Peter Allen

Peter's path through the culinary world has taken a number of unexpected turns. After starting out as a waiter at the age of 16, he was inspired to go to culinary school and learn the tricks of the trade. As he delved deeper, however, his career took a sudden turn when a family friend needed someone to help manage his business. Peter now scratches his culinary itch on the internet by blogging, sharing recipes, and socializing with food enthusiasts worldwide.

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