Over the holiday season, we discovered German-made WÜSTHOF, top-of-the line precision-forged knives for chefs and foodies alike. Truth be told, this brand is far from new. They’ve been around since 1814 passing the business down from family generation to generation in Solingen Germany. Chefs I know love them and recommend them highly so we wanted to put them to the test. They didn’t arrive in time for our holiday products deadline, otherwise we would have surely included them in our Annual Holiday Gift Guide. That said, we were able to use them between Christmas and New Year to prepare a number of dishes, from Pecorino cheese and salami platters to baked ham and turkey.
All of their knives are made from full tang, high-carbon stainless steel with bolster to add balance and weight. The new Precision Edge Technology (PEtec) enhances the blades sharpness by 20%, so they’ll last twice as long. Each knife also features a computer controlled cutting edge to ensure the final edge of the blade is precise and uniform from the tip to the heel of the knife. And, each knife blade is completely buffed & polished by hand. What else is cool is that each knife is designed to meet a specific need in the kitchen, so you can custom your collection based on how you cook, what you cook and how often.
Form follows function with each blade designed with the proper shape for its intended purpose. We fell in love with the African Blackwood set which comes in 5, 7 and 9 pieces.
7 PIECE IKON SET in African Blackwood (Grenadill)
The jewel of the WÜSTHOF collection, IKON has beautifully designed handles made of African Blackwood (Grenadill), which is known for extreme density and has a distinctive wood grain. So many knife sets only come in the lighter wood grains and frankly, just don’t stand out from the crowd, visually that is. While the quality of your knives is paramount, you also want your knife collection to look fabulous on your kitchen counter or butcher block.
The IKON full-tang knives which come with this set, are precision-forged from a single piece of an exclusive high-carbon stain-free steel and feature a distinctive, double bolster. The double bolster design provides exceptional balance for effortless cutting. Worth noting if you’re used to dull knives, be careful when you first use the IKON knives, whether that be for cutting or simply handling when moving from sink to its holding spot in the wooden block. They include cardboard holders as well, which we used in the beginning until we got accustomed to the knives’ significant, acute sharpness. In fact they’re so sharp that I tend not to use them for hand cutting things that don’t require an extremely sharp knife although I suspect this will change over time as I learn how to use them more efficiently. What a difference they make when it comes to hard cheeses, hard vegetables like carrots, breads and meats – we’re impressed!
The 7 piece set that we tested includes a 3 1/2″ Paring Knife, 6″ Utility Knife, 8″ Bread Knife, 8″ Cook’s Knife, 10″ Double Bolster Steel, stain-free Steel Come-Apart Kitchen Shears, the 15-Slot Walnut Block, and an IKON Wood Care Kit. Another thing to note if you’re not used to wooden handle knives, they recommend you wash by hand only and try not to soak the wooden handle, focusing on the blade itself. The half bolster allows for the knife to be honed and sharpened the entire length of the blade and the heel bolster provides added balance.
THE IKON PAIRING KNIFE
The IKON 3 and a half inch Paring Knife tapers to a point at the tip and is easy to handle, making it the perfect knife to trim, slice and peel small produce such as garlic cloves and herbs. We used it for garlic, ginger, oregano, basil, small leeks, and scallions and it worked like a charm. While the block itself is made in a beautiful Walnut wood, bear in mind that the knives in this set also have African Blackwood handles.
THE IKON 8″ BREAD KNIFE
The IKON 8 inch Bread Knife slices through bread or baguettes with minimal crumbs. The serrations along the edge help guide the blade through tough crust without compressing the soft inside, one of the best features about this knife and I’d add, if you cut bread frequently, is reason alone to spend more on a high quality bread knife.
We’re not huge carb eaters anymore (read up on my protein/exercise regime and how I lost weight and regained energy after 6 weeks of restaurant reviews on the road), however when we entertain, bread is always part of it. Anthony is Italian so when we visit his family, bread is also an integral part of the dining room table as well. And, we have plenty of Dutch, French and German friends so baguettes are often part of the furniture when we’re around them, together with great cheese and fruit that is. Regardless of whether you’re gluten intolerant or stick to a low carb diet, chances are you’ll always be in need for a quality bread knife when you’re entertaining. The fact that its top notch sharpness with its extreme precision serrations alleviates a crumb mess is worth having in your collection alone.
IKON 6″ UTILITY KNIFE
The IKON 6 inch Utility Knife is smaller than a cook’s knife but larger than a paring knife, making it the perfect knife for a wide variety of cutting tasks. A utility knife is much like a versatile paring knife and is perfect for mincing shallots, onions and herbs as well as cutting vegetables or cutting small meats. Quite simply put, it’s a perfect size, so we put it to the test on all kinds of things, from carrots and potatoes, to onions, apples and dicing up chicken prior to a stir fry. It’s an ideal knife to have in your collection regardless of the types of dishes you prepare on a regular basis – it’s versatility is second to none.
IKON 8″ COOK’S KNIFE
The IKON 8 inch Cook’s Knife is the workhorse of the kitchen, or what many chefs refer to as the essential kitchen knife. The cook’s knife is an indispensable all-purpose kitchen knife that can be used for chopping, mincing, slicing and dicing. Due to the weight and balance of the knife, it is also perfect for heavy duty work such as cutting thicker vegetables and meats. This was one of our favorites of the included knives in this collection, largely because of its versatility. If you had to start with two knives and move on, I’d suggest the Cook’s Knife and the Utility Knife above, although if you cook frequently, a sharp high quality pairing and carving knife is a godsend.
WÜSTHOF considers the IKON knives to be the cream of the crop of their collection — you can check out more of their individual knives sold separately or in a collection in the IKON section of their site. They offer different options including Classic IKON, Classic, Gourmet, Grand Prix II and Pro. WÜSTHOF also has a useful online Learning Techniques and Knife Skills Guide that is worth reading.
We also fell in love with their Kitchen Scissors – not only are they beautiful to look at, but functional and handy for a variety of common tasks in the kitchen and they fit neatly in the included wooden block.
IKON 10″ STEEL for SHARPENING
There’s also a spot for the 10 inch steel sharpener in the wooden block. To ensure that your knives stay beautifully sharp. the CLASSIC IKON 10 inch Double Bolster Steel should be used regularly. Over time, knives will deteriorate and lose their edge. Honing re-aligns the microscopic teeth in the blade that can’t be seen with the naked eye. By regularly honing your knives, you will maximize the time in between sharpening.
The difference between honing and sharpening your knife depends on whether your knife needs regular maintenance or if you need to reset a dull edge. A honing steel will re-align the microscopic teeth and can be used frequently, even after each use. A sharpening steel will actually take a small amount of steel off the blade, creating a new edge. When using a steel, you want to make sure the steel is at least as long as the blade you are either honing or sharpening. The difference between a diamond steel or ceramic steel and honing steel, is that a diamond steel and ceramic steel will actually grind away material from the knife, allowing it to reset the edge. Ceramic sharpening steels are slightly less abrasive and will gently sharpen knives in comparison to a diamond sharpening steel resulting in a finer edge.
Not only did we learn the difference between a proper chef’s cut during this process, but we learned a lot about sharpening and taking care of fine knives as well, which is a must read if you upgrade to the cream of the crop in knives. Is the upgrade from your regular kitchen knives worth it? Most definitely if you’re a foodie in any way and we know from our readership stats, that there are a bunch of you. After all, think about how much time we spend in the kitchen. While we’re learning more and more how important it is to choose high quality, organic food and ingredients, we know too that the quality of our utensils make a huge difference when preparing meals.
The IKON collection is our favorite although there are many options to choose from. While we recommend getting a block/kit to start and add to your collection from there, you can also purchase individual knives, which includes sandwich knives, fillet knives, peeling knives, steak knives, carving knives, sausage knives, oriental cook’s knives, salmon or ham slicers, cleavers, among others, in addition to the types of knives we mention above.
One knife that would have been particularly useful over the holidays is also available in the IKON collection – the Boning Knife. This is ideally intended for boning chickens or de-breasting turkeys. The Scalloped Paring knife is also great around party times of the year, as its short scalloped edge is great for lemons, limes and small vegetables. Also handy is the traditional cleaver, which is a heavy knife with a thicker edge for chopping through large cuts of meats and bones (pictured below).
For meat lovers, they have a stunning knife set collection, which includes four 4 1/2″ steak knives and a walnut chest — simply beautiful!
If you’re more into black or simply want to spend a little less, a great option is the WÜSTHOF Starter Knife Set. WÜSTHOF offers a wide range of options depending on your needs so be sure to check out their site http://www.wusthof.com/ for the particulars including how to sharpen, how to take care of your knives, how to choose which ones are right for you, how to order and more. We’re huge fans — two thumbs up!!