Whether you’re a trainee chef wanting a set of decent knives to practice and use at home or you’ve realised that your current kitchen tools aren’t up to much; owning a set of high-quality knives separates the professional/serious chef from the amateur cook.
For the UK market, there are specialist kitchen knife makers that have been producing them for decades; sometimes centuries. Most of the best manufacturers are international – mostly in Japan and Germany – rather than being British and homegrown. But don’t let this put you off. In fact, in many ways, that’s an advantage due to the long pedigree and determined focus behind producing the best quality knives.
In this article, we’re aiming to compare and provide some contrast between knife manufacturers: Global, Wusthof and Shun. Also, to make the article more helpful, we’ll be pointing out knife sets of interest from these three manufacturers along with less expensive, alternative ones by other brands for people on a tighter budget.
The Global 3 piece knife set includes 3 knives for different purposes. Each is made from CROMOVA 18, a proprietary high-carbon stainless steel in Japan by Yoshikin.
The hollow handles are filled with sand to get the proper balance. The 20cm long Chef’s knife is the everyday workhorse. The Cook’s knife is for more basic food prep tasks but holds its edge the longest. Also, a Paring knife is included for slicing vegetables and cubing meat more precisely. A fine collection.Check the price on Amazon
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Global vs Wusthof vs Shun: Which Knife Brand is For You?
Each of the best knife brands has a rich history which dates back decades or centuries. Also, there are certain things that separate them in terms of knife appearance, style and pricing too.
Let’s look at the Global, Wusthof and Shun brands in turn to provide some perspective on each brand and what they offer purchasers.
Global is one of the most popular knife brands in the UK presently. Indeed, it’s found in many commercial kitchens due to its long-lasting reputation for excellence.
Their knives were first developed by knife designer, Komin Yamada in 1985. His focus was on creating a knife that would be useful not only in a professional chef’s hands but also the food lover at home too. Whether exquisitely cutting fish to prepare sashimi, making light work of vegetables or other common tasks, the Global knives have come to represent a versatile brand of knives that are worth the money.
What you get with a single knife or a set from Global is the assurance that they’re made with CROMOVA 18. This is a tougher Stainless Steel that holds an edge for a longer duration. The 18 signifies that the blade is made from 18% chromium. The steel handles are hollow with dimples evident; filled with sufficient sand to counterbalance for the weight of the blade.
Who are Global knives best suited for?
Global is an upmarket knife brand. There’s no compromise on quality in the production process. You get what you pay for here. Any knife or knife set should be expected to last a good few years with care and attention paid to it.
It’s common to see Global used in UK residential and commercial kitchens without a distinction between the two. For cooks at home, choosing a Global knife is establishing that they’re serious about producing tasty food quickly and well without compromising on their tools.
It’s also worth pointing out that due to the sand filled steel handles instead of using a wooden handle, Global knives are noticeably lighter than other brands such as Shun or Wusthof. This will matter to chefs and cooks with smaller hands or perhaps those who find a heavier knife too cumbersome to use deftly and prefer something smaller.
Recommended Global Knife Sets
The Full range (best option) is the Global G-636 – 7B block set which comprises 6 separate knives, each made from the same CROMOVA 18 high carbon material one comes to expect from the Global team over in Niigata, Japan.
Within the standing block (ideal for handy storage and quick access) is a Cook’s knife (22cm), a Utility knife that’s 21cm for flexible use, a 11cm Peeling Knife for fish, fruits and vegetables, a Vegetable Chopper to make light work of prepping vegetables for cooking, and a long bread knife. All the knives are crafted to be lighter than most others, hold a sharp edge for a good duration and avoid having areas where food or dirt can accumulate.
The Recommended option for a lower budget is the Global 3-piece (G-2338) set from the G Series collection which includes 3 knives to get any cook or chef started. Whilst not sacrificing the quality that buyers come to expect from the Global brand, the smaller set is far more affordable for people starting out. It includes the GS-2 Chef’s knife, a more broadly used Cook’s Knife, and a Paring Knife (GS-38 ) for slicing and dicing vegetables.
The same CROMOVA 18 stainless steel used for the 7-piece full range set is used here too. Therefore, it should provide years of use in the same way that the dearer set will do.
Wusthof (or WÜSTHOF as it is correctly written) is a family-owned business based in Germany. There are now two state-of-the-art factories both based in Solingen, which have been dubbed “City of Blades” by the local community.
The business became wholly controlled by the family in 1814. Their recognisable Trident logo that’s seen on the side of the blade of all their knives has modernised over the years but is still very much their hallmark of quality.
Their modern manufacturing methods include handcrafted elements, quality checks at every stage of production and optical stations to correctly measure each blade down to a fraction of a millimetre. Their design for their complete range of knives is based around the idea that form should always follow function; nothing for its own sake.
Who are Wusthof knives best suited for?
The Wusthof knives are sold individually, in small sets and in more block sets.
Their typical design pairs Stainless Steel from Germany with a wooden or synthetic handle with multiple rivets. The use of a handle added to the steel instead of a hollow steel handle filled with sand-like with the Global knives adds to the overall weight and changes its appearance too.
While a Cook’s knife is still full tang (meaning a single piece of steel runs from the tip to the end of the handle at the other end of the knife), it’s a bit weightier. It weighs 226 grams vs 156 grams for the Global Cook’s knife. This means there’s a little extra hand and forearm strength required when using this type of knife all day in a work scenario.
For amateur chefs and cooks at home, this is less of a concern. If looking for absolute precision cuts each time, every time, then a lighter knife and a thinner blade at the cutting edge is preferable. Nonetheless, some cooks and chefs prefer something with a bit of heft to it and find lighting knives with sand-filled handles different to manage in other ways.
Recommended Wusthof Knife Sets
The Full range (best option) is the Wusthof Classic, so you cannot go far wrong with that.
It’s got 7 pieces including the wooden knife block, a pair of kitchen shears and sharpening steel which is excellent inclusions here. There are 5 knives provided within the set. These are a Cook’s knife, a small Paring knife (8cm), one Utility knife (12cm), a long Carving knife (20cm) ideal for the Sunday roast, and a Bread knife too.
The set is very well thought out including extras that many other knife sets don’t think to include. There are even little feet for the knife block to avoid it sliding around or scratching the countertop surface too.
The Recommended option for a lower budget is the Wusthof Classic 3-knife set without a block. The set includes the essential Cook’s knife (8-inch), a useful Paring knife (3.5-inches) and a Utility knife (6-inches) to round out the small collection.
Each of the blades for the 3-knife set use high-quality carbon steel from Germany, provide razor sharpness and sport synthetic handles that are comfortable in the hand.
Shun (“shoon”) which in Japanese describes the short period when a fruit holds the sweetest taste, is the inspiration for the brand. Creating perfect moments in the culinary experience by providing excellent kitchen tools including knives and cutlery is how that manifests.
Originally based in Seki City which knife production has been a popular profession since the 13th century, the Kai Corporation has been a producer in this long tradition for over a century. Taking their inspiration from the swordsmiths of Seki, the century-old blade craftsmanship is evident in their approach to every knife produced in their modern factory.
Who is Shun knifes best suited for?
Shun knives are designed to cut at a different angle to their European counterparts. They also are usually lighter than German knives in a straight comparison. The steel tends to be a harder type too, meaning there’s less pressure required to successfully cut through produce. This allows chefs to move deftly through the prep stage before cooking.
Owning a Shun knife is often more about making a choice between different Japanese knife producers over a Western one like Wusthof. The design and feel of a Shun knife may be a personal choice for the chef who started off with them over one who began with a Global knife and never wanted to try another Japanese brand after that.
There’s no reason why a chef or home cook shouldn’t use a Shun knife in their kitchen. It is known that they might be less receptive to accidental drops from a height though, so be careful with their handling.
Also, it’s often been found that sets by Tojiro which use similar materials provide roughly the same results and are priced more competitively too. We look at a Tojiro set in the next section of this article but bear in mind that Tojiro branded knives are difficult to source in the UK market whereas Shun knives don’t have that problem.
Recommended Shun Knife Set
The 3 piece range from Shun comes nicely presented in a wooden box for safekeeping. This is a reasonable alternative to the typical knife block.
The knives include a Chef’s knife (8-inch), a durable Utility knife and a Paring knife for the delicate work that a chef performs.
The steel blades are much harder than European options. There’s a total of 32 complex layers on the Damask Stainless Steel for every knife. Each one feels light in the hand but due to the sharpness and toughness of the steel, cuts through meat or vegetables effortlessly every time.
Cheaper Kitchen Knife Sets (Alternative Options)
Another approach to take when wanting a new knife set is to look at alternative brands that offer functional knives. While they won’t reach the level of the top-tier producers in terms of appearance, blade technology or handling, these knives will still be reliable performers. They shouldn’t be expected to be used in a commercial environment, but for home kitchen use, they offer good value for money at their respective price points.
#1 – Tojiro Knife set
The Gyuto knife at 210mm is perhaps the best size for home cooks. It’s not oversized when working in a small kitchen. The general Utility knife (150mm) lets you peel or slice your way through good amounts of raw meats, root vegetables and tougher fruit easily. There’s also a smaller Paring knife (90mm) making quick work of intricate vegetable and fruit slicing into different shapes and sizes.
The VG10 stainless steel is used for the blades. Micarta black handles with triple rivets are used for the handles.
As mentioned earlier, the Tojiro knives and knife sets are less pricey than the equivalent Shun knives. However, they’re tough to obtain in the UK without importing them.
#2 – Sabatier Knife set
Sabatier knives have been produced for two centuries and began production in France originally. The Sabatier 5-piece knife set comes in an attractive knife block with a sturdy design and pronounced ball-shaped feet.
The collection is a little Asian inspired in the design. The blades are made from Chrome Molybdenum Vanadium Stainless Steel, which doesn’t compare to the premier knife brands reviewed above, but at the same time is perfectly fine. The set includes a Chef’s knife (20cm), a serrated general-purpose workhorse knife, a Paring knife for working with fruits, vegetables and meats, a Carving knife for the Sunday roast and a long Bread knife.
For amateur cooks and hobbyists, Sabatier knives make for an UK-accessible collection that is workable. They’re not of the quality necessary to enter a commercial kitchen but for home preparation uses, they’ll offer acceptable performance.
#3 – Hobo Knife set
The HOBO knife set wins considerable interest due to providing 14 pieces in a single block set.
They’re designed a little like Global knives in the sense that the handle is stainless steel rather than wood with rivets attaching the parts together. However, that’s where the similarities end.
When you’ve got a far smaller budget and the big names are too expensive, then the Hobo knife collection can get you out of a jam. Obviously, it has too many different knives to list them all – it’s easier to simply say that it doesn’t exclude any you might need! – but clearly, there’s a quality trade-off for that. Paying up a bit for a decent 3-knife set using better quality design and materials is a good alternative if your budget can stretch a bit beyond the basic level.
Founder of homeappliancegeek.com, avid cook, and lover of Asian food.
Signature dishes include Thai Red Curry, Chicken Saag, Bibimbap and Sushi.
Massive clean freak; a habit baked-in after spending 9 years in the catering industry.
The one appliance he couldn’t live without? Easily the dishwasher (total relationship saver!).