Breaking Down the Differences in Zwilling vs Henckels

Published on 01/29/2024 · 9 min readExplore the distinctions between Zwilling and Henckels, two renowned cutlery brands. Find the perfect knives for your kitchen and cooking needs!
Jacob Lewis, Kitchen Expert
By Kitchen Expert Jacob Lewis

Photo by Jason Briscoe

TL;DR: Zwilling and Henckels are both kitchen knife brands from Zwilling J.A. Henckels AG. Zwilling represents the premium segment, offering mid-range to high-end crafted knives with superior performance. Henckels, on the other hand, focuses on value and practicality, providing affordable, reliable knives for everyday use.

I’m Jake, a Kitchen Expert here on Curated with over 20 years of professional culinary experience. I was raised using both Zwilling Pro and Henckels knives, and I currently own a little bit of both, my most-used being the serrated utility that resides in my camp kitchen. I’m writing this article for anyone who’s looking to answer this simple question: what’s the difference between the two brands? It’s a great question, and even I didn’t fully know the answer before researching this article! Hopefully, I’ll lend you some clarity in the following paragraphs.

Who Are Zwilling and Henckels?

Photo courtesy of Henckels

Zwilling J.A. Henckels AG was originally founded in 1731 by Peter Henckels and is renowned in Germany, Spain, and worldwide as a company specializing in premium kitchenware and cutlery. Zwilling J.A. Henckels AG is the parent company of both Zwilling J.A. (“Zwilling”) and J.A. Henckels International (“Henckels”). Now, Henckels and Zwilling knives are recognized for their centuries-old tradition of craftsmanship and high quality.

The name Zwilling (meaning "twin" in German and represented in the logo) refers to its premium product line, known for exceptional quality, durability, and precision, made in Solingen, Germany. The Zwilling brand typically appeals to professional chefs and cooking enthusiasts who value top-tier materials and craftsmanship.

On the other hand, the Henckels brand manufactures more budget-friendly yet reliable kitchen tools at different factories around the world. The Henckels line is perfect for those seeking a balance between cost and performance, ideal for first-time cooks. Thus, Zwilling and Henckels manage to cater to a wide range of culinary needs with these two brands of knives.

What to Consider When Choosing Between Zwilling and Henckels Knives

1. What is your budget for kitchen knives?

Your budget plays a crucial role in choosing between Zwilling and Henckels, but the most important thing to consider is that knife companies charge more for an individual knife compared to buying that same knife when included in a set. With that in mind, Zwilling knives come at a higher price point (typically around six times more expensive than a comparable non-German-made Henckels knife.) and sit at an average price point that is competitive with other German-made knives like Wusthof. Henckels, on the other hand, tend to hold a more affordable price point that is accessible to a wider variety of budgets. While I like to recommend higher quality to everyone, it’s also true that most folks would be perfectly satisfied with a Henckels knife.

2. How often do you cook, and what type of cooking do you typically do?

Your cooking habits and personal preferences in cuisine are another factor. If you're an avid cook, a professional, or you frequently cook complex meals, Zwilling's quality can make your culinary experience more enjoyable with knives that stay sharp for longer and feel better to handle with more refined handles. However, if you cook less frequently or mainly prepare simple meals, Henckels might be perfectly good enough, but it really depends on which line you choose. Either way, both brands offer a limited lifetime warranty on all of their products.

3. Are you looking for a specific type of knife or a versatile range?

Zwilling focuses on a curated selection of essential kitchen knives with high-end specifications like ice-hardened steel (which I’ll go into later in this article). In contrast, Henckels offers a wider variety but tends to have less refined materials. So, if you want a wide range of options at an affordable price, Henckels might be your best bet.

4. How frequently are you willing to sharpen your knives?

Edge retention varies between the two brands. Zwilling knives, made with a higher-quality steel and forging process, generally stay razor-sharp for longer, reducing sharpening frequency. If you don't mind regular maintenance or even enjoy the process of sharpening, then this might be less of a factor, making Henckels a suitable choice. For either brand, a 15-degree angle is most common for the edges.

5. How much do aesthetics matter to you in your kitchen tools?

Finally, both companies have traditional knife design as a priority, like using triple riveted handles with German and western shaped blades, but Henckels tends to experiment a little more with full-stainless construction in their Modernist sets.

What Are the Major Differences Between Zwilling and Henckels Knives?

Photo courtesy od Henckels

Both Zwilling and Henckels have their benefits, but they’re actually more similar than they are different.

1. Product Variety

For Zwilling, their sets usually value quality over quantity, often focusing on the chef, utility, and paring knife like this Zwilling Pro Set. Conversely, Henckels sets tend to offer a wider variety of knife types in their sets, like this Modernist 6-piece Set.

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Zwilling Fourstar focuses on comfort and ergonomics

2. Materials Used

Zwilling knives generally feature high-carbon German stainless steel and are often forged, meaning they're made from a single piece of high-carbon stainless steel. They also feature ergonomic full-tang handles made from materials like synthetic resin or natural wood.

On the other hand, Henckels knives, while still of good quality, often use less expensive materials like lower-grade stainless steel that, over time, might actually accrue some stains (you really don’t need to worry, though). Many of their knives are stamped instead of forged, which typically results in a lighter, more affordable knife that does not have much of a bolster (resulting in weaker, more flexible blades) — still great and reliable!

For a better idea of what this looks like, let’s compare a chef’s knife from each brand:

  • Zwilling Professional Chef's Knife: These knives are made in Germany from high-carbon, no-stain steel, created through Zwilling's proprietary Sigmaforge process and Friodur ice-hardening process, resulting in incredibly durable, corrosion-resistant, and sharp blades around 56-58 Rockwell hardness (“HRC”). Rockwell Hardness is a scientific measure of material hardness and indicates the expected durability of a blade. A knife with a 56-60 HRC is an acceptable average measurement.
  • Henckels Statement Chef's Knife: The blade is made from stamped stainless steel, has no stated Rockwell hardness, and is made in China.
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How Do Zwilling and Henckels Features Compare?

Zwilling knives are characterized by proprietary technologies and features that contribute to their premium status. Here are some of them: 1. Sigmaforge Technology: Many Zwilling knives are Sigmaforged, meaning they are precision-forged from a single piece of high-carbon stainless steel for exceptional strength, sharpness, and durability that’s reflected on the Rockwell scale around 56-58 HRC. 2. Friodur Ice-Hardening: Zwilling trademarks this unique ice-hardening process. This technique improves the steel's characteristics, resulting in improved edge retention, corrosion resistance, and overall durability. 3. Precision-Honed and Laser-Controlled Edge: These technologies ensure that Zwilling knives have a highly precise and consistent blade edge, enhancing their sharpness for slices and chopping performance.

While Henckels knives lack the premium technologies found in Zwilling knives, they’re still made well and do the job as long as they’re kept sharp:

Zwilling Pro Santoku is nearly perfect in simplicity

  1. Variety in Aesthetic Design and Materials: Henckels offers a wider range of handle materials in their line-up, including plastic, wood, and stainless steel, providing more options to match your kitchen aesthetics or personal preference. Both tend to lean more toward Western knife designs, but Japanese-style knives like Santoku and Nakiri occasionally appear in the sets.
  2. Low-Cost Comprehensive Knife Sets: Henckels tends to offer a more comprehensive knife set than Zwilling, and at much lower prices, making it affordable for folks with a lower budget to get their needs met in the kitchen.

Zwilling vs. Henckels: How to Choose the Best Knife

Here are examples of people I’ve chatted with in the past. They represent folks with common interests and needs, whether they’re an enthusiastic home cook or a professional chef.

Brittany

Brittany is looking for a new knife set for a professional farmstead kitchen. She wants to process loads of veggies and poultry and occasionally heavier meats as well.

Features to look for: Durability, ease of cleaning, and maintenance, and she would also like simple but noticeable aesthetics.

Products to consider:

  • Cangshan Signature Set: This set features Swedish steel blades with exceptional sharpness and balance, making it a perfect choice for professional chefs who need heavy-duty blades at an affordable price.
  • Zwilling Pro 9-Piece Set: A premium cutlery collection known for its German precision, durability, and versatility, makes it a top choice for high-traffic kitchens.
  • Wusthof Classic Ikon Set: The Wusthof Classic Ikon Set is high-quality and high-cost cutlery distinguished by elegant design, exceptional balance, and razor-sharp blades made in Solingen, Germany.
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Heath:

Health is looking for a replacement set of knives, enjoys cooking, and would like to do it more often, but doesn’t have a high budget. Features to look for: Affordable, durable, and offers steak knives. Products to consider:

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Colton:

Colton loves to cook and wants to upgrade to some nicer knives but isn’t sure how much to spend on good quality. Features to look for: Aesthetics. Products to consider:

  • Cangshan Helena 8-Piece Knife Set: A blend of elegant aesthetics and exceptional functionality, this set offers a versatile and high-quality collection at the best price.
  • Wusthof Classic 6-Piece Knife Set: A timeless collection of kitchen essentials renowned for precision craftsmanship, sharpness, and durability, making it an ideal choice for simple design and function.
  • Zwilling Pro 7-Piece Knife Set: Known for their refined German engineering, these knives set the bar for quality and classic aesthetics, but they aren’t my first choice.
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Find the Best Zwilling and Henckels Knives for You

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Hopefully, the big takeaway is clear: both knife brands offer great products from the same company. Whether you need prestige and high quality with simple aesthetics or a fully comprehensive set built tough for beginners, Zwilling and Henckels have a full spread of options for you to consider. In case you need some extra help figuring out for yourself which sets would best suit your needs, please know you’re always welcome to chat with one of our Kitchen Experts here on Curated for free, personalized advice.

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