Cutting to the chase in Solingen
The Local’s series Made in Germany presents the best the country has to offer, including the knives from Solingen’s Zwilling J.A. Henckels.
From luxury cars to precision machinery, “Made in Germany” still means quality craftsmanship around the world. But the Teutonic attention to detail goes far beyond engineering. This series will feature a diverse array of products from both well-known German brands and less famous firms. But no matter big or small, all of them are focused on being the best at what they do.
If you’ve ever wished you could carve a turkey or bone a ham with the ease of a professional, you probably didn’t have a Zwilling J.A. Henckels blade handy. This North Rhine-Westphalian company is renowned for their super sharp, easy-to-handle knives. Another favorite are their solid, well-crafted stainless steel flatware sets, whose simple, elegant designs can be passed from generation to generation – which makes perfect sense for a company nearing its own 300th anniversary.
One of the world’s oldest brands, the Zwilling trademark was registered with the Cutlers’ Guild in Solingen – known as the “City of Blades” – by knife maker Peter Henckels on June 13, 1731. The trademark was registered in mid-June under the zodiac sign Gemini – hence the name, Zwilling, which means ‘twin’ in German. Johann Abraham Henckels, grandson of the founder, took over in the early part of the 19th century and renamed the company Zwilling J.A. Henckels, the name by which it goes today. The knife makers expanded to Berlin, opening an office there in 1818, and won international recognition at the World Exhibit Fair in London in 1851. In 1883, they went global, opening a sales office in New York, followed by international offices in Paris and Vienna. More prizes followed at the San Francisco World’s Fair in 1915.
In 1938, the company introduced a new product: high quality kitchen shears. While knives remain a major part of the company’s offering, over the course of the 20th century other products were added to their lineup, including scissors, kitchen gadgets, cookware, flatware, and beauty products like tweezers and brow shapers.
Today, Zwilling J.A. Henckels is one of the best-known brands in the knife business for good reason.
The company that sets the standards in its field recommends that you look for certain things when trying to determine whether or not a knife is good. One thing to look for is precise workmanship: Is there a seam between the bolster and the handle? Burrs elsewhere? All parts of the knife should fit together perfectly smoothly, to prevent bacteria growth. The blade’s surface finish is something else to pay attention to, as a high-quality blade will have been ground down, then refined. Safety is another big factor: You don’t want a knife that will slip in your hand. Thus, the handle should sit well in your palm, be the right weight for you, and be carefully ergonomically constructed. A good knife will stay sharp for a long time, and should be finely ground or polished to resist rust.
One of the company’s latest designs is the TWIN Profection, designed by Matteo Thun and launched in 2009. Composed of a special high-quality steel that blends chromium and carbon content, these knives have a full edge that combines both the Japanese and European traditions. The “chef’s knife,” with a 200 mm blade, costs €99.50.