Wusthof Classic vs Gourmet Knives: Why the Classic is Still Number 1

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Spoiler alert: the Wusthof Classic line is A LOT better and it’s not really even close. The Wusthof Gourmet line is more of a diffusion brand than a serious knife contender. If you’re confused about the differences between the Wusthof Classic vs Gourmet set of knives, I’ve compiled a helpful guide to demystify the two.

wusthof classic knife on end grain cutting board

Not too long ago I was also in the market for a new knife when I came across a set of Wusthof Gourmet at (what seemed like) a really great price. I was a little suspicious about the anomalously low pricing and did a little digging. Well make that a lot of digging– Wusthof isn’t particularly forthright about the differences in quality between their various product lines. Below is everything I’ve learned to help you cut through the marketing jargon and make an informed purchase.

I’m going to try to convince you to splurge for the Wusthof Classic but if you were attracted to the Gourmet because of it’s more affordable price tag then I’ve also laid out some more budget-friendly options that I prefer like the Victorinox Fibrox or the Tojiro DP Gyutou.

Quick Comparison

 Wusthof ClassicWusthof Gourmet
Blade tangFull tangPartial tang
Manufacturing processForgedStamped
BolsterFullNone
MaterialX50CRMOV15 steel and Polyoxomethylene (POX) handleX50CRMOV15 steel and Polyoxomethylene (POX) handle
Manufacturing locationGermanyGermany
Factory edge14°14°

Wusthof Classic vs Gourmet: The differences

The Classic is forged, the Gourmet is stamped

The most important difference between these two knives is how they are manufactured. The Wusthof Classic line has a blade forged with Wusthof’s signature 40 step process. During the forging process, the blade is hit repeatedly with a hammer which causes the atoms within the steel (called the grain structure) to realign to the contours of the knife blade. This makes the steel substantially stronger and more durable and also avoids many common flaws like porosity, shrinkage, and cavities that are only possible with inferior manufacturing techniques. You’ll benefit by having a knife that will stay sharper longer and will be so resistant to chipping that it may last a lifetime.

The Gourmet line uses a laser-cut stamped blade. This process uses a laser to cut out a blade from a large piece of sheet metal. Wusthof tauts their 14 step process for this but it isn’t much different from the way any cheapo department store knife is made. 

Wusthof Classic has a full bolster, The Gourmet has none

Debates rage about the advantages and disadvantages of a bolster on a knife. I’ll stick to the facts: a bolster is a thick piece of metal between the blade and knife handle. A full bolster extends down the heel of a knife while a half bolster does not.

Only forged knives can have a bolster so it’s a good indicator of a knife’s quality. However, the reverse is not true. Many forged knives do not have a bolster so you shouldn’t assume that all knives without one are poorly constructed. Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference. I prefer the balance that a bolster gives the knife. It feels better in my hand but others would disagree.

Some argue that a full bolster knife is safer because the heel is thick and cannot cut you. I haven’t found this to be beneficial. If you’re regularly hitting your fingers off the back of a knife accidentally then you’re bound to end up hurting yourself with bolster or without. This shouldn’t be a serious consideration when considering a knife

A full bolster knife is much harder to sharpen. Over time as you sharpen your blade it will recede and leave the bolster sticking out. You’ll need something more powerful than a sharpening stone to take care of this. Either take it to a professional to perform “bolster reduction” or try your hand at doing it yourself with a belt sander. I haven’t had my knife long enough to require bolster reduction but I likely will not be up for doing this myself. It takes knife sharpening from a fun, straightforward skill to a serious endeavor with a real risk of permanently damaging your knife.

Wusthof Classic vs Gourmet: What they have in common

So these two lines are quite different but they are Wusthof after all right? The Gourmet must have something going for it. Let’s take a look.

Full tang blade

Diagram of three Wusthof knife silhouettes side by side. One full tang, one partial tang and one narrow tang

The tang of a blade is the metal part that extends into the knife’s handle. In a full tang blade, the silhouette matches the shape of the handle compared with other styles like stick tang where the blade narrows inside the handle. 

Of course, a full tang is more costly because of the extra metal used. A full tang blade is stronger than alternatives and allows for increased leverage and pressure. There’s a little “give” or shifting of the knife blade within the handle while cutting with most cheaper blades that is completely eliminated with the full tang. It’s not just a snobby thing, you can really feel the difference as you cut. A secondary benefit of the full tang is the extra weight it gives the handle. It moves the center of gravity into the handle which is more ergonomic than cheaper top heavy knives.

Stainless steel material

Both lines of knives use the same proprietary formula of stain-resistant high-carbon molybdenum-vanadium steel called “X50CRMOV15.” The steel is high in chromium which makes it especially rust resistant and the high-carbon promotes blade edge sharpness. Overall, the stainless steel in either product line is a significant step up from most budget knives.

Handle material

There is no difference in handle material between the Wusthof Classic vs. Gourmet lines. Both use Polyoxomethylene (POX) synthetic material which Wusthof claims has a tighter molecular structure to increase durability. Fading and discoloration are reduced compared to other handle materials.

The POX material looks and feels high end despite being a synthetic material. It could easily be mistaken for wood and is very different from the plastic knife handles most of us are familiar with.

Sharp factory edge

While you can sharpen your knife to any edge degree you desire, both the Classic and Gourmet lines of knives now come factory sharpened with a 14 degree edge on either side. Wusthof knives used to come sharpened with a 20 degree edge as is typical for German knives. The popularity of much sharper Japanese knives, with edges as sharp as 10 degrees have forced Wusthof to reduce their angle to compete. Out of the box you should expect either knife line to feel slightly sharper than competing German knife brands. It will produce more effortless cuts through tougher foods like meat. 

German made

All Wusthof knives are made in Solingen, Germany, by master craftspeople. So if you’re like me and you’re concerned about the working conditions of the manufacturers of the products you buy, then Wusthof is a great choice. I’m confident these knives are made with the highest ethical standards.

Wusthof Classic vs Gourmet: Verdict

The Wusthof Classic is an objectively superior line of knives primarily because of its forged steel construction and comes with a premium price tag. If quality is your top concern then the Classic is our unqualified recommendation.

If budget is a larger concern then the Gourmet isn’t a bad choice but be aware that you’re paying in part for the Wusthof brand. Other knives like the Victorinox Fibrox are more affordable for a similar level of quality. For a similar price to the Wusthof Gourmet you could get a Tojiro DP Gyutou which actually has a forged blade like the Classic. I’d recommend either of these knives before the Gourmet.

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06/08/2022 02:40 pm GMT
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06/08/2022 12:10 am GMT

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