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What is the Difference Between German and French Knives?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 14 September 2016
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When it comes to cooking, one of the most important tools in a kitchen are the knives a cook uses to prepare foods. There are many different styles and types of knives, mostly situational in use and designed to perform one type of cutting or chopping very efficiently. Despite the style of knife, however, there are also some regional differences in how knives are made. The differences between German knives and French knives are primarily that German knives are heavier and begin to curve more toward the middle of the blade. French knives are typically a bit thinner and lighter, and the blade usually curves more toward the tip.

One important thing to note is that these are fairly general rules regarding German and French knives, and different manufacturers may certainly create alternative styles than would be suggested by the country of origin. The chef’s knife, sometimes also called a French knife, is arguably the most important knife in the kitchen and is likely to be used more than any other knife. It is typically fairly large and is designed for rapid and easy chopping of fruits, vegetables, and meat, allowing a user to prepare meals quickly and efficiently.

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A chef’s knife made by a German company will typically be heavier with a thicker blade and the curve of the blade will usually start toward the middle of the cutting edge. The back or spine of the blade should be sturdy, flat, and straight for greater balance and precision; the edge of the blade will have a slight curve to it. Unlike French knives, the edge of German chef’s knives will usually begin to curve toward the middle of the blade, which often allows more of the knife to be used during the typical rocking motion of proper chopping and dicing.

French knives, however, are often thinner than German knives and the curve of the blade’s edge will usually start closer toward the tip of the knife. This allows potentially greater control over the knife, and keeps the cutting area used in chopping a bit smaller. There is little difference, ultimately, in the usefulness of both knives and personal preference regarding the knives is typically aimed toward whatever type feels more comfortable and what type a user has more experience in handling.

In contrast to both German and French knives, Japanese knives are typically lighter in weight, with a narrower blade made of harder steel. This is because a Japanese chef’s knife is typically designed for use with precise cutting of meat and vegetable and the harder metal used keeps a sharper edge longer. The thinner design, however, makes these types of knives less suitable than German or French knives for cutting bone or harder materials. Softer metals used for European knives may lose an edge when used on bone, but can be sharpened or honed; while Japanese knives should be sharpened less often and the edge may be damaged when used on something like bone.

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