The remarkable price difference between forged knives and stamped knives usually leads to the assumption that forged knives, the more expensive ones, are of superior quality.
And that can be true. Just not always.
The two types of knives are made in different ways, which results in the distinctions in their characteristics. While forged knives generally have a better reputation, both kinds are, per our observation, equally enjoyed by home cooks as well as professional chefs.
Let’s take a look at how the knives are made, and how they’re distinguished from each other. Then I will explain why I think the absolute superiority of forged knives is a myth.
|Forged knives||Stamped knives|
|More expensive||More affordable|
|Usually have bolster||Usually no bolster|
|Thick blade||Thin blade|
|More durable||Tend to bend when cutting firm materials|
|Less flexible||More flexible|
How forged knives and stamped knives are made
A forged knife is usually made from one single piece of steel. It is heat treated, and hammered/pound into its shape.
Traditionally, forged knives are made with a technique called hot drop forging. Basically, the maker puts a piece of steel into a furnace until it’s red hot, before pulling it out and beating it into a knife, all manually.
Nowadays, the forged knife starts as a steel blank. It is heat-treated and pound before being cut into its final shape.
To get an idea, take a look at this video of a Japanese blacksmith semi-manually forging a sashimi knife.
A stamped knife, meanwhile, is cut out from a large sheet of steel. It’s made in a same way a handmade cookie is cut using a cookie cutter. The blade is then tempered, hardened, and finished.
Here’s a video of how stamped knives are made:
The characteristic differences
Forged knives are typically thicker and heavier than stamped knives. Most of the time, they come with a full tang running all the way through the handle, and a bolster in the middle, which adds even more weight and more balance to the knife. (Don’t know what a tang or a bolster is? Learn the different parts of a knife!)
It is believed that the pounding/hammering helps to re-arrange the molecules in a forged knife, making it harder and stronger. Therefore, a forged knife tends to keep its edge for a longer time.
Stamped knives, meanwhile, due to their thinness, are more flexible. They’re also more lightweight, and usually come without a bolster. Stamped knives are usually more affordable than forged ones.
Which type of knives is better: forged or stamped?
If you are using an economy knife brand and want the best out of it, forged is the way to go.
With a thicker blade, forged knives are generally much much more durable. In addition, they usually come with a full tang. Cheap stamped knives, meanwhile typically only have a half or even a third of a tang, making them extremely prone to breaking where the blade and the handle meet.
In upscale brands, however, things can be a bit different. Stamped knives are also made of good materials, and with a long tang running all the way through their handles.
It’s then more a matter of your budget and preference rather than the quality of the knives.
Some people prefer forged knives because they like the weight in their hands, as well as the firm, sturdy feeling when doing heavy duty cuts. The heaviness also means you don’t have to apply so much force to cut something firm. The thickness and the weight of a forged knife also makes it easier to rock it on a cutting surface. That is why many prefer it for mincing job.
In addition, since they’re very sturdy, forged knives cut with better precision. Their blades don’t tend to bend or go to unintended directions when cutting firm objects, like a stamped knife may do sometimes when you’re cutting a squash.
Then again, most of us don’t cut pumpkins or squashes every day.
Many chefs and cooks find that the lightweightness of stamped knives can help reduce fatigue after long hours of kitchen work. As they’re generally thinner, they cut through things more easily. They’re particularly better for slicing than forged knives.
Since they usually don’t come with a bolster, stamped knives are easier to sharpen. (The bolster on a forged one sometimes acts as an obstacle, preventing you from sharpening all the way through the edge, from tip to heel).
While many claim that stamped knives don’t hold their edges as well as forged knives, it has more to do with the material (and the maintenance!) than how the knives are made. In upscale brands, sometimes forged knives are made of better materials, which put them at an advantage in terms of durability. Even so, the difference is not that obvious after long years of use.
The verdict? While I won’t go as far as stating forged knives are more expensive because you pay for the extra steel, if you’re a casual home cook, branded stamp knives should be good enough.
Which kind of knives do you have, stamped or forged? How is your experience with the knives? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section.