The difference between German and Japanese knives is mostly in the manufacture and the angle to which they are sharpened. Simply put, German knives (Zwilling Henckels, Wusthof, WMF) are made of softer metal making them easier to sharpen but also easier to blunt. They are also, generally heavier, of thicker steel and sharpened to a 20 degree angle. Japanese knives by contrast are harder and can be sharpened to a 16 degree angle. They require sharpening less often but they can be less forgiving when dropped and more likely to chip when used as a cleaver (and who hasn’t done that!)
The most poplar knife in both ranges is the 20cm Chef’s. It suits most people size wise and can be used for almost any kitchen task. Gaining popularity though is the Japanese Santoku. At around 18cm, it’s a great all purpose kitchen workhorse, suits just about everyone (unless you’re really tall) – our favourite is the Shun Classic but most German brands now do a santoku so you’ll be able to find one to match your set.
At Milly’s, we recommend cleaning your knives by hand (not in the dishwasher which will blunt them and shorten their lives) with a sponge, hot water and dish liquid. If you have a carbon steel knife, make sure you dry it very well or it can rust.
Steel your knife every time you use it and every six months or so either get them professionally sharpened (at Milly’s) or use a pull-though or electric knife sharpener. We don’t recommend diamond steels at all as they really do shred your knives by removing too much metal.
Store your knives in bench top storage block (we have a fabulous wooden block with a nest of plastic rods in a frame which allows you to store a large number of knives in the catalogue: Universal Knife Block), on a magnetic rack on the wall or in a special draw dedicated to this purpose and where they are secure and won’t rattle around.
Keep your knives clean, sharp and stored correctly and they are investment that will keep paying you back for many years to come.