July 5, 2023

Last Updated: July 28, 2023

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Mercer Knives: A Detailed Review of the Budget Brand

By trk

Last Updated: July 28, 2023

best cheap knives, budget knives, cheap knives, Mercer, Mercer knives

Mercer knives are popular because of their quality and affordability, but are they a good brand? We take an in-depth look at Mercer knives: the company, lines, features, performance, pros and cons, and more. If you've been thinking about Mercer for your next (or first) knife, we can help you decide.

Mercer Knives at a Glance

Mercer makes several lines of cutlery, offering something for just about everyone. Here are their lines, in alphabetical order.

All Mercer knives are made in Taiwan and come with a lifetime warranty (25 years for if you're buying for the food industry).

Mercer makes a few other knives not listed on their website, such as these Mercer Premium Grade Super Steel knives. We don't know if this is a discontinued line, or just out of stock on their website.

Mercer Line


Mercer Culinary Asian knife set 5pc

-Stamped high carbon German steel

-No bolster, partial tang

-HRC 55-57

-Cutting angle 16 degree double bevel (on most)

-Asian style knives only (santoku, nakiri, sashimi, etc.)

-Round handle, natural wood or santoprene

-7" santoku about $30.

Mercer Culinary BPX chef's knife

-Stamped ice-hardened high carbon German steel

-No bolster, partial tang

-HRC 57-58

-Cutting angle 15 degree double bevel

-Butcher style knives only, incl. chef's knife

-Textured, contoured glass-reinforced nylon handle

-NSF certified

-Sets come in rollable bags, black or camo

-8" chef's knife about $27.

Mercer Culinary short bolster chef's knife

-Forged high carbon German steel

-Full or partial bolster, full tang

-HRC 55-57

-Cutting angle 15 degree double bevel

-Several buying options, incl. sets

-Contoured neoprene handle

-NSF certified

-Largest selection of Mercer lines

-8" chef's knife (w/short bolster) about $50.

Mercer Culinary Millennia Black chef's knife
Mercer Culinary Millennia Colors chef's knife, purple

-Same lines with different handle designs; 7 colors are HACCP coded for safe food handling

-Stamped high carbon Japanese steel

-No bolster, partial tang

-HRC 53-54

-Cutting angle 15 degree double bevel

-Raised santoprene textured handle (great grip)

-8" chef's knife about $22.

Mercer Culinary MX3 santoku knife

-Forged VG10 super steel core (Japanese)

-Partial bolster, full tang

-HRC 60-62

-Cutting angle 14 degree double bevel (on most)

-Asian style knives only, no sets avail.

-Contoured Delrin handle (synthetic), triple riveted

-7" santoku about $135.

Mercer Culinary Praxis chef's knife

-Stamped high carbon Japanese steel

-No bolster, partial tang

-HRC 53-54

-Cutting angle 15 degree double bevel

-Contoured rosewood handles

-Buying options incl. several knife styles plus serving utensils; no sets

-8" chef's knife about $22.

Mercer Culinary Renaissance chef's knife

-Forged high carbon German steel

-Partial bolster, full tang

-HRC 55-57

-Cutting angle 15 degree double bevel

-NSF certified Delrin handle (synthetic)

-Several buying options, incl. individual knives and sets

-8" chef's knife about $56.

Mercer Culinary Ultimate White chef's knife

-Stamped high carbon Japanese steel

-No bolster, partial tang

-HRC 55-57

-Cutting angle 15 degree double bevel

-NSF certified contoured polypropylene handle

-Individual knives/utensils only (no sets)

-8" chef's knife about $16.

Mercer Culinary Zum chef's knife

-Forged high carbon German steel

-Partial bolster, full tang

-HRC 55-57

-Cutting angle 15 degree double bevel

-NSF certified Delrin handle (synthetic)

-Several buying options, incl. magnetic, glass, and polyester roll sets

-8" chef's knife about $64.

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About Mercer Culinary

Mercer Culinary was founded in 1968 in Ronkonkoma, New York, USA. Its official company name is Mercer Tool Corporation. Mercer makes a variety of culinary equipment, including cutlery, sharpening tools, kitchen utensils, storage solutions, chef apparel, and safety and sanitation equipment for professional kitchens (such as gloves, towels, and disposable wipes).

Mercer Culinary makes some of the highest rated, highest regarded, and affordable kitchen cutlery in the world. Many people think their knives are much better than Victorinox knives. Mercer has several partners in the food service industry and has supplied American culinary schools and other food industry businesses with knives for use and teaching.

All of Mercer's cutlery is made in Taiwan. This helps keep the prices down, yet still allows them to produce high quality products. 

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Using Mercer Knives (How We Tested)

For this review we tested the Genesis and the Millennia 8-inch chef's knives. The first thing we did was measure the out-of-box sharpness with a professional edge tester. For reference, we're looking for a sharpness below 400 grams, per this table of sharpness standards (the lower the number, the sharper the blade):

Bess C knife sharpness scale

The results:

Genesis: 230g (new, high end cutlery edge)

Millennia: 265g (new, high end cutlery edge)

After sharpness testing, we put the knives to standard kitchen work, cutting different foods, just as a cook would typically use a chef's knife. Foods we cut included tomatoes, onions, carrots, potatoes, apples, pineapples, cheese, meats, hard squashes, and more. We also cut up whole chickens to test how the blades work with bones. 

Both the Genesis and the Millennia are excellent knives. They cut through vegetables with ease, and though the blade on the 8-inch knife was a bit wide for cutting up a chicken, it worked adequately (if you cut up a lot of whole chickens, we recommend investing in a good quality boning knife--this Mercer Millennia boning knife gets excellent reviews). 

And not so incidentally, the wideness of the blades provide plenty of knuckle clearance, which is a good feature.

The real test was pineapples and squash, and both of these knives were durable enough to handle these hard foods easily. 

Handles are comfortable and have excellent grip. The shape of the Millennia handle, in particular, is perfect for the pinch grip (note: it's nearly identical to the Victorinox Fibrox Pro handle).

Overall, we think Mercer knives will work for most cooks and are a good choice, especially for anyone on a budget. 

We do more thorough reviews below.

Why we picked Genesis and Millennia to test: For the forged lines, Renaissance and Züm are similar to the Genesis, with the same steel and hardness rating, but different handles. Thus, these lines will all perform the same, so no need to test them all. The MX3 line is a higher grade of steel that's significantly harder (and more expensive), but has only Asian style knives available: nice knives, but with such limited buying options, we couldn't recommend them for basic kitchen cutlery. 

For the stamped lines, the Praxis is closest to Millennia, with the same steel and hardness rating but wooden handles (so no reason to test both). The BPX line is affordable and the steel is harder, but it is butcher-style knives only. The Ultimate White line is also a harder steel than Millennia and extremely affordable, but has limited buying options (no sets, most likely geared to the food service industry, but excellent stamped blades--if you're looking for a butcher knife, the Ultimate White is a great option). The Asian Collection is Asian knives only, so (again) not a recommendation we'd make for basic cutlery (and interestingly, the Asian Collection is made from the same high carbon German stainless steel as Genesis and Renaissance--though stamped--so the performance will be about the same, although the cutting angles on the Asian knives are different).

Thus, we picked Genesis and Millennia as the two best lines to test. If you aren't interested in one of these lines, this review should have enough information for you to make another selection from Mercer.

Mercer Millennia slicing onions

Mercer Millennia chef's knife slicing onions.

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Features of Mercer Knives

Here are some of the interesting features of Mercer knives.


Mercer uses a few different steel types in their knives, including German and Japanese steels. Here are all the steels used in Mercer knives.

X50CRMoV15: A high carbon German steel, same as that used on more expensive Wusthof and Zwilling knives. Used on the Genesis, Renaissance, BPX, Asian stamped knives, and Züm lines. It's very durable, highly corrosion resistant, and great for all-purpose kitchen knives. Mercer knives aren't treated the same way as more expensive brands, so they're a little softer and will require more frequent sharpening. But the quality of this steel is very good.

X30Cr13: A high carbon Japanese steel of mid-range quality. Seen on their less expensive brands, including Millennia, Praxis, and Ultimate White. It's a good-but-not-high-end steel that's durable, corrosion resistant, and quite a bit softer than more expensive Japanese steels, while still providing excellent out-of-the-box sharpness.

VG10: VG10 is a high carbon Japanese super steel associated with expensive brands like Shun and Miyabi. Mercer uses it on their MX3 line (and it is priced accordingly).


Being an inexpensive brand, Mercer uses mostly inexpensive materials for their handles, but they are comfortable and durable.

Delrin: A high quality synthetic, Delrin is a brand name for polyoxymethylene ("POM"). This is a hard and durable synthetic seen on high end brands like Wusthof and Zwilling. It is used on the MX3, used on the MX3, Renaissance, and Züm lines (Mercer's most expensive lines).

Neoprene: A soft but fairly durable synthetic with excellent. Used on the Genesis line.

Santoprene: This is is anelastomer that exhibits the properties of rubber while providing the ease of synthetics. Softish, with excellent grip. Used on the Asian Collection and Millennia lines.

Nylon: Reinforced with glass threads, nylon is used on the BPX line (and very similar to the santoprene used on the Millennia line).

Polypropylene: Polypropylene is a thermoplastic elastomer (synthetic) used in a wide variety of applications. Used on the Ultimate White line (and very similar to the santoprene used on the Millennia line).

Wood: The Asian Collection is available with a "natural wood handle," and the Praxis collection has a natural rosewood handle. Wood feels great in your hand but typically doesn't have the durability of most synthetics.


Mercer knives are good quality, but they are probably best known for their affordability. Even most of the forged lines cost half (or less) of what other forged knives cost. 

We talk more about Mercer's affordability below.


Mercer Culinary began as a company that supplies cutlery to culinary schools and other food service specialists. Today, many young chefs still use Mercer knives because that's what they learned on in culinary school. Thus, Mercer gained a reputation as a a no-nonsense, utilitarian brand that's affordable and functional, but lacks the attributes of more expensive brands, such as fancier handle materials and elaborate hardening processes that make the steel stronger but also more expensive.

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Who Are Mercer Knives Best For?

Mercer knives are a great choice for anyone on a budget. In fact, many Mercer knives today cost less than the equivalent style Victorinox knife, and the steel is arguably of about the same quality (some sources say it's not as good, but it depends which line you're looking at: the high carbon German stainless steel used on many Mercer lines is excellent knife steel).

If you're a beginner, just starting out in the kitchen, you may want to go with Mercer. They're inexpensive, so you won't care if you somehow ruin the knife (such as by over-sharpening). In fact, if you want to learn how to use a whetstone, an inexpensive knife is a must: it's a skill that takes practice, and you don't want to practice on a $200 blade.

On the other hand, if you want a good quality forged knife without spending a lot of money, Mercer is an excellent choice: both their Genesis and Renaissance lines are forged, yet still quite affordable. 

Mercer knives are also a good choice for anyone who wants functional knives without any fancy finishes. The steel is a little softer than on more expensive German knives, so it will require more frequent sharpening, but that is to be expected at this price point.

They also offer a lot of rolled sets that are great for traveling. So if you want an extra knife set for camping, for your RV, or for other remote cooking conditions, Mercer is a great choice.

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Why Are Mercer Knives So Affordable?

There are a few reasons why most Mercer knives are so affordable:

  • They use fewer steps in hardening their steel, so it costs less to make the blades.
  • They use mostly inexpensive synthetics for handle materials.
  • Mercer knives are made in Taiwan, which keeps costs down.
  • Mercer knives don't have an elaborate finishing process like more expensive knives do.

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Mercer Vs. Victorinox

Mercer Culinary Millennia Black chef's knife

Mercer Millennia chef's knife.

Victorinox Fibrox Pro chef's knife

Victorinox Fibrox Pro chef's knife.

At one time, Mercer and Victorinox stamped lines were nearly identical in looks, performance, and price. Today, the two brands are still very similar, but Mercer almost always has the best price. 

Mercer also makes affordably priced forged knives (Genesis and Renaissance), which start at less than half the cost of Victorinox's forged line. 

And, Mercer has some high end Japanese-style cutlery, which is something Victorinox does not have.

So if you're on a tight budget, we recommend Mercer over Victorinox; if you're looking for affordable forged knives, we recommend Mercer over Victorinox; and if you're looking for something Japanese, then Mercer has lines that Victorinox doesn't.

Victorinox makes great, affordable knives, but Mercer knives are just as good, and maybe a little better, depending on who you ask.

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Sharpening Mercer Knives

Because most of the steel used in Mercer knives is on the soft side, they are easy to sharpen--which is a good thing, because you'll have to sharpen them regularly to keep them in good working order.

(The exception is the Mercer MX3 line, which is made from Japanese super steel VG10 and has a hardness rating of 60-62 HRC.)

You need two tools to keep knives sharp: a honing steel and a sharpener. The honing steel doesn't actually sharpen a blade, but rather, it re-aligns the steel that has rolled over from use (all knife blades do this, but softer blades do it faster). Steeling should be done frequently to keep your knives in good working order, at least every other time you use a knife. 

Sharpening is a different process that actually removes steel from the blade to expose new steel that must then be polished and refined to the desired sharpness.

You can use a whetstone or guided rod system to sharpen, but with most of Mercer blades having a pretty standard 15 degree double cutting angle, the easiest way to sharpen Mercer knives is with a pull-through sharpener. If you already own a pull-through sharpener, you're probably set (although some are 20 degrees, so double check--you really want that 15 degree angle for maximum sharpness).

If you don't already have a honing steel and sharpener, Mercer makes several honing steels and a few options for sharpening, which we discuss below.

For more information on sharpening your kitchen knives, see our article A Beginner's Guide to Kitchen Knife Sharpeners.

Honing Steels

Mercer ceramic honing steel

Mercer ceramic honing steel.

Mercer ceramic honing steel on Amazon (about $40)

First, you need a honing steel to align/smooth out the blade before (or after) almost every use; with soft steel, this is an absolutely essential step if you want to get the best performance from the knife.

Even with harder blades, you get the best performance if you steel the knife regularly before use. So a honing steel is a must-have item for every kitchen knife owner.

You don't need to buy the Mercer brand, and if you already own one, you don't need to buy one at all. But if you need one, we like the Mercer ceramic honing steel. Ceramic is harder than a metal steel and actually removes a small amount of steel, like a sharpener, which keeps them in great shape between sharpening. Ceramic is great for any type of steel, including very hard steel, and will last for many years. 

If your knife set came with a honing steel, you don't need to buy another one, unless you really want something different than what you have (and yes, ceramic really is better).


Mercer Double Diamond pull-through knife sharpener

Mercer Double Diamond sharpener.

Mercer Pocket Sharpener

Mercer Pocket sharpener.

Mercer Double Diamond Pull-Through Knife Sharpener (about $63)

Mercer Pocket Sharpener (about $6)

Mercer 3 Stone Sharpening System (about $175)

Mercer has a few sharpening options for when steeling no longer brings a blade back to sharpness. We like the pull-through sharpener pictured above because it's easy to use, gets great reviews, and puts a good, sharp edge on a blade. 

If you want something small and easy to carry, Mercer makes a pocket sharpener (pictured above) that will put a decent edge on a blade. One side is tungsten for actual sharpening, while the other side is ceramic for steeling. It's a great little tool to have if you travel with your knives.

If you want to go the whole whetstone route, Mercer makes an excellent, high quality 3 Stone Sharpening System that will bring any blade back to like-new, razor sharpness. A whetstone will always result in the best edge, but they have a steep learning curve and can take awhile to sharpen a knife, even when you've learned how to use it.

So unless you're really serious about learning the art of knife sharpening, a pull-through sharpener is probably a better choice.

If you already own a sharpener, then you don't need to buy a new one for your Mercer knives, and you don't need to buy the Mercer brand at all. But again: Mercer makes some good options if you do need a sharpener.

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Mercer Genesis: A Great Forged Knife

Mercer Culinary Genesis 5 pc set

Genesis 5 pc board set (partial bolster).

Mercer Genesis 10pc set w:case

Genesis 10 pc set with case (full bolster).

Here are some of the best Genesis buying options:

See Mercer Genesis full bolster chef's knife on Amazon (about $50)

See Mercer Genesis short bolster chef's knife on Amazon (about $50, or with knife guard)

See Mercer Genesis 5 piece magnetic board set on Amazon (partial bolster, about $111)

See Mercer Genesis 10 piece set with case on Amazon (full bolster, about $250)

See Mercer Genesis 2 piece starter set (partial bolster, chef's and utility knives, about $60)

See Mercer Genesis 6 piece steak knife set (not serrated, about $80--see serrated set here, about $83)

See all Mercer Genesis knives and sets on Amazon

Steel: German forged high carbon stainless steel (X50CRMoV15), HRC 53-54

Weight: 7.6 ounces (8" chef's knife)

Out-of-Box Sharpness: 230g ("new high end cutlery")

Cutting Angle: 15 degree double bevel

Handle: Contoured neoprene handle (soft yet durable synthetic).

Fit and finish: Smooth, but the spine is not rounded as Mercer says it is, so it may dig into your hand a bit during use. However, it's better than you'd expect to see in a forged knife at this price point.

For a Mercer forged knife, we picked the Genesis because it has the most buying options at the best price. It is nearly identical to the Renaissance line, which is (slightly) more expensive. (It is also very similar to the Züm line, so you can't really go wrong with any of them--but Genesis has the best price and selection.) Mercer makes more expensive forged knives, such as the MX3, but MX3 is Asian knives only. 

For an affordable forged knife, it's hard to beat the Genesis.

However, if you want a hard handle (like a Wusthof Classic) rather than a soft one (like a Victorinox Fibrox Pro), go with the Renaissance; both are NSF certified and we can't see any other differences. 

Except this: Renaissance knives have partial bolsters, while Genesis knives can have partial or full bolsters. We prefer the partial bolster (Mercer calls it a "short" bolster) because it makes the knives easier to sharpen and are a little bit lighter. 

The Genesis 5 piece set (pictured above) has the essential knives--chef's, bread, utility, paring--but lacks a honing steel. It also has a great magnetic board for storage, available in bamboo, acacia, and rubberwood. 

The 10 piece set is probably more than you'll need unless you're a professional chef: chef's, bread, utility, paring, santoku, fillet, carving knife and fork, and honing steel. It comes in a roll which you can travel with easily. 

All Mercer Genesis knives get overwhelmingly positive reviews on Amazon (80%+ 4- and 5-stars). Many reviewers compare these knives favorably to German brands that cost many times more, such as Wusthof and Zwilling.

The few negative reviews said things like the knives arrived dull; the knives dulled quickly; the knives or handles were scratched when opened; the spine was not rounded, as Mercer says it is supposed to be (this was the case with our tester knife, unfortunately); and, that customer service was not good.

The Mercer Genesis chef knife that we tested was sharp out of the box and in completely new condition. It worked great, especially at the rocking chop cut (as a Western style chef's knife should). The handle was comfortable and the soft neoprene gave it fantastic grip. 

Our only real complaint about this knife is that it's on the heavy side: the partial bolster 8-inch chef's knife weighed 7.625 ounces, which is almost as much as the Wusthof Classic chef's knife. Being heavy is not a flaw, especially for a German knife: it is actually one indication of durability. However, some of our testers found the knife to be a bit fatiguing after a long session (that is, about an hour of steady use). Perhaps this is more about balance than weight, but for whatever reason, the knife got a little hard to use after awhile. 

The spine was square rather than rounded, which was noticeable, but not really an issue unless you used the knife for more than about half an hour; after this time, it began to get uncomfortable in your hand. One of our testers called it "extremely uncomfortable," but the rest of them didn't comment on it.

One other complaint is that the steel isn't super hard, with a rating of 55-57 HRC. So while the knife was blisteringly sharp out of the box, it requires more frequent steeling (and sharpening) to keep it that way. You may think because it's made of the same steel as Wusthof knives that it will be of equal hardness, but Wusthofs are a bit harder (HRC 58). This is probably because the blades are finished differently, with Wusthof (the more expensive brand) having a more extensive hardening process. 

Still, the knife is a pleasure to use when sharp, and easy to steel when it needs it. A few swipes on a pull-through sharpener will restore the knife to near-original sharpness. 

Mercer Culinary Genesis short bolster chef's knife

buy mercer culinary genesis knives:

Amazon buy button

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Mercer Millennia: The Best Mercer Stamped Knife

Mercer Culinary Millennia Black chef's knife
Mercer Culinary Millennia Colors chef's knife, purple
Mercer Culinary Millennia 8pc knife roll set

See Mercer Millennia chef's knife on Amazon (black handle, about $24)

See Mercer Millennia knives on Amazon (colored handles, up to about $30)

See Mercer Millennia 8 piece knife roll set (black handles, about $125)

See Mercer Millennia 5 piece magnetic board set (black handles, about $90)

See Mercer Millennia 2 piece starter set (black handles, chef's/paring, about $35)

See all Mercer Millennia knives and sets on Amazon

NOTE: Many of these buying pages have several options to choose from: different colors as well as different knives and sets. There are a huge number of buying options, one of the reasons we like the Millennia line.

Steel: Stamped Japanese high carbon stainless steel (X30Cr13), HRC 55-57

Weight: 5.9 ounces (8" chef's knife)

Out-of-Box Sharpness: 265g ("new high end cutlery")

Cutting Angle: 15 degree double bevel

Handle: Raised santoprene textured handle (a combination of soft and hard synthetic).

Fit and finish: Mediocre; some rough edges and a rather uncomfortable spine.

At these prices, you shouldn't be looking for anything near perfection. But for an extremely affordable knife that's sharp and durable, the Millennia is better than you'd probably expect. 

With the colorful handle options that adhere to HACCP safe food handling, it's clear that these knives are primarily geared to users in the food service industry. However, if you're a home chef looking for affordable options, the Millennia line is worth consideration, and there are several sets that will work for home cooks.

If you just want one piece or a starter set, the chef's knife or chef's knife/paring knife combo are both great options (links above). If you want a full set, the 5 piece magnetic board is a nice set for under $100 (chef's knife, santoku, serrated bread knife, paring knife). 

Or, if you are a pro chef or want a set that comes in a roll for easy transport (such as for camping gear), there are a number of Millennia roll sets to choose from. We like the 8 piece set (picture and link above) that has a chef's, santoku, bread, slicer, boning, paring, and honing steel--everything a traveling chef could need.

The knives get hugely positive reviews on Amazon. In fact, we were surprised at the huge number of positive reviews (over 90% 4- and 5-star reviews). Because for the price, these are nice knives, but the steel is soft, and it needs frequent honing and sharpening to stay usable. 

Out of the box sharpness was excellent at 265g ("new high end cutlery"), but if you expect any knife made with this steel and at this price point to stay sharp, you're going to be disappointed. 

Our testers loved how light this knife was: at just under 6 ounces, it was easy to maneuver yet still strong enough to cut through hard foods (i.e., pineapples, potatoes, squash). The handle is soft and comfortable and very grippy. It has the square spine like the Genesis (above), but because of the angle where the handle meets the blade, there is very little contact of the spine with your hand, so it's less of an issue than on the Genesis.

The Japanese steel used for the Millennia line is not the same steel used in Shun or Miyabi knives--not even close. It is a grade of inexpensive Japanese steel that is perfectly adequate, but like all inexpensive steel, will require frequent sharpening to remain usable.

(If you want higher end steel, check out the MX3 line, which is made of VG10 super steel--but expect to pay several times more than you will for Millennia knives.)

But if you're on a budget, or just want a cheap blade or set to knock around with and not worry about when other people use it, the price on Millennia knives is really hard to beat. 

In fact, these knives are most often compared to the Victorinox Fibrox Pro, which now cost surprisingly more than the Millennia. The Victorinox is probably a slightly better knife, but not by a lot. See our Victorinox Knife Review for more information.

In fact, if you want a better knife at a similar price, we recommend the Mercer Genesis, above, which is forged from high carbon German stainless steel. It's about the same price as the stamped Victorinox Fibrox Pro.

Mercer Culinary Millennia Colors chef's knife, purple

buy mercer millennia knives:

Amazon buy button

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What to Look For When Buying a Kitchen Knife (A Buying Guide)

Knife Parts Diagram

Parts of a knife.

Here are our pointers for buying kitchen knives.

Sets Vs. Individual Knives

You may think a big set is the best way to go, but before you buy, make sure you need all the pieces. Most cooks really only need three knives: a chef's knife, a paring knife, and a bread knife. Everything else is extra.

This is not to say you can't benefit from having more knives. Some people will prefer a santoku to a chef's knife for some tasks, and a utility knife to a paring knife, or a serrated utility knife to a non-serrated one. And you may want more than one chef's knife for different tasks, too.

Having a variety of knives to choose from can be a good thing, especially if you're new to cooking and are still exploring all the possibilities.

If you do go with a set, try to get one with a honing steel, as that will be used as frequently as the knives themselves.


Mercer Culinary Genesis 5 pc set

Magnetic blocks make for great storage.

Think about how you want to store your knives: do you want a block on your counter? A magnetic block or rack? Or do you want to leave them in a drawer--which, if you do, you need sheaths or another way to protect the blades from damaging each other.

Storage is particularly important if you have limited kitchen space, so give it some thought before you buy.

Overall Fit and Finish

Other things to look at are the overall fit and finish of the knives. Some inexpensive knives can have odd finishing or poor quality rivets, meaning the knife may be uncomfortable to use and probably won't last very long. Be sure to avoid such knives.

Look for things like:

  • Smoothness of handle: avoid protruding rivets or unfinished spots that dig into your hand.
  • Smoothness of spine: the highest quality knives have a rounded, filed-down spine that won't dig into your hand.
  • Smooth transition from handle to spine: no gapping or looseness where the blade meets the handle so the knife is solid and there are no crevices to collect gunk.
  • If you're buying forged knives, be sure to look for a full tang: the part of the blade that extends into the handle. A full tang usually means a knife is more well-balanced (though this is not always the case with high end Japanese knives).

Blade Considerations

For most buyers, the blade is probably the most important consideration. You want something sharp that will last and resist corrosion. Here are a few other things to look at when buying. 

Forged Vs. Stamped

Mercer Culinary Zum chef's knife

Mercer Züm chef's knife: forged (bolster).

Mercer Culinary Millennia Colors chef's knife, purple

Mercer Millennia chef's knife: stamped (no bolster).

forged blade is made from a piece of steel that's heated under pressure. The blade is thicker at the top and tapers to a thin edge down both the spine and the blade. Forged knives have a bolster which can be full or partial. This is an area of wider steel where the blade meets the handle; this increases weight, improves balance, and protects your fingers. (See the diagram above to see where the bolster is.)

Heat and pressure modify the metal, making it stronger and typically sharper. The process of forging is more much more intensive than stamping, which is why forged knives are usually more expensive.

Forged knives typically have a full tang, but not always. (Tang is the part of the blade that runs through the handle; a full tang improves balance and adds strength.) 

stamped knife blade is cut from a steel sheet. It has a uniform thickness throughout (except the cutting edge), and usually has no bolster or tang.

Stamped knives are almost always lighter than forged knives (which some people prefer), and have a different feel. They are less balanced, with the weight being mostly in the blade. This can cause hand fatigue, but only if you're using the knife for hours at a time; this isn't usually a problem for home cooks.

Though forged blades are considered stronger than stamped blades, technology has improved greatly, so today most stamped knives are more than strong enough for any kitchen use, and are also sharp and durable. There are many reasons to prefer a stamped blade, including lightness, comfort, and price. 

As long as you go with a reputable brand, you can't really go wrong with either option.

Steel Type and Hardness

Type: We discussed Mercer steel already, but here are some more details. The most desirable knife steel today, at least for most home cooks, is high carbon stainless steel. This is a hard, durable steel that resists corrosion and is fairly easy to keep sharp. 

There are many different types of high carbon stainless steel, and some are higher quality than others. Most Mercer knives are made from a high quality high carbon stainless steel that's used in other high-end Western knife brands (like Wusthof). It is durable and easy to sharpen. But it doesn't stay sharp as long as some other high carbon stainless knife steels do, which is to be expected at these prices: if you want a knife that holds an edge longer, you will have to pay quite a bit more for it (and unless you go with a Japanese super steel, it will still need to be steeled regularly and sharpened at least a few times a year).

Mercer also uses a lower grade Japanese high carbon stainless steel on their Millennia and Praxis knives that is soft, but quite durable. And, they use the Japanese super steel VG10--seen in Shun and other top Japanese brands--on their high end MX3 line (which is not an affordable line like most other Mercer knives).

Hardness: Knife steel hardness is measured with the  Rockwell Scale in HRC units. Kitchen knife hardness can vary widely, from about 50 HRC (very soft) up to 63 HRC (very hard), or even higher for some expensive Japanese brands.

In general, Western knives are less sharp but more durable, while Japanese knives are more sharp but less durable (meaning: more brittle and prone to chipping). 

For most cooks and most cutting tasks, the best hardness is somewhere in the middle, from 53-58 HRC. This level of hardness provides a nice, sharp cutting edge, but is also durable and easy to maintain.

Inexpensive knives (like most Mercer lines) tend to have a hardness rating on the low end, usually somewhere around 55 HRC. This steel will be durable and provide excellent all-purpose service, but will need regular steeling (at least every other use) and fairly frequent sharpening--a pull-through sharpener is the easiest way to sharpen these knives, and most of them have a 15 degree double cutting angle that works with most pull-through sharpeners.


Sharpness when brand new should be a given. If a new knife is dull, return it immediately because it somehow got past the quality check. 

But do note that sharpness when new is not necessarily an indication of good quality. A good sharpening process can make any knife--or any piece of metal, for that matter--razor sharp. 

No knife stays sharp forever, and softer steel like the type Mercer uses on most of their knives is durable, but it dulls faster than harder steel will. Once again, you need to have a honing steel for regular blade maintenance and a sharpener to keep your knives sharp. 

Your sharpening tools don't need to be Mercer, but Mercer steels and sharpeners are a pretty good buy. You also don't have to worry about having the right cutting angle if you go with a Mercer sharpener (we talk more about the cutting angle below).

Shape, Size, Weight, and Balance

Knives can have the same name and same general purpose, yet look very different from each other. Chef's knives, for example, can vary greatly in length, width, shape, size, and balance. And paring knives come in several shapes and sizes, too.

The point is that you should try several different knives to learn which shape you prefer--and this is true whether you're a new cook just starting out or a more experienced cook who hasn't tried different types of blades.

Since chef's knives are the most important kitchen knife, we'll look at them. Most people prefer a chef's knife with these features:

  • Knuckle clearance: The blade should be tall enough to give you knuckle clearance (i.e., space between your knuckles and the cutting board). Thinner knives are good for boning and filleting, but don't allow you to use the rock chop because there's not enough knuckle clearance.
  • Rock chop: The belly of the knife, which is where it curves up to the tip, should provide a good rock chop motion; not all chef's knives have the right shape for this because the belly isn't curved properly for it (or not curved at all in the case of a santoku), so if you like this cutting style, test out the knife before committing to the purchase. 
  • On the other hand, if you prefer straight, slicing cuts, then you want the opposite of a curved belly. Look for santoku blades, which are flat across the bottom.
  • Spine thickness: you want a knife that's thin enough to be maneuverable, but thick enough to be durable. There's quite a range of spine thicknesses among chef's knives, so be sure you get the shape you want. (E.g., if you want an all purpose knife, avoid blades that are too thin, such as most high end Japanese blades.)
  • Length: Standard chef's knife length is 8 inches (or 7 inches for a santoku). But you can find chef's knives as short as 5 inches and as long as 14 inches. Try a few different lengths before you decide what's best for your cutting style. In general, unless you have extremely large or small hands, the standard lengths should work pretty well.
  • Balance: This is less important for home cooks who don't use their knives for hours on end, but good balance makes a knife comfortable and won't cause fatigue or hand strain when using for a long time. A knife's center of gravity should be right about where the blade meets the handle (or where you grip it). It's not a deal breaker if the balance is off, but if it's too off, it may make a knife harder to use.
  • Weight: This might be the biggest personal consideration, because some people love a heavy knife and feel it helps slice through food, while others prefer a light knife that they can control more easily. If you like a heavier knife, look for forged knives; if you like a lighter blade, you will probably prefer a stamped knife.

Cutting Angle

Cutting angles

There is a whole lot more to cutting angle than what we discuss here, but the main thing to know is that the cutting angle is the angle at which the blade is sharpened. The most common angle for kitchen knives today is 15 degrees each side, or 30 degrees total ("inclusive"). 

Most Mercer blades are sharpened to 15 degrees each side. Boning knives may be sharpened to 20 degrees each side. Japanese blades can be thinner, at 14 degrees each side, and can also have a single bevel (sushi knives, for example), or an offset bevel, with one side having a different angle than other side. 

(Many people have the mistaken belief that all Japanese knives have a single bevel, but this is only true for certain types of Japanese knives. In fact, most Japanese knives sold in the Western market have a double cutting angle quite similar to that seen on Western/German knives. Single bevel knives are designed for right-handed users, so shop accordingly if you're left-handed.)

You don't need to know the cutting angle of a knife before you buy, but if you want to keep the knife sharpened as the maker intended it to be, then the cutting angle is an important feature. 

Many people don't care, especially with inexpensive knives, and sharpen all their knives to 15 degrees, or to whatever the angle of their pull-through sharpener is (typically 15 or 20 degrees). But it's a good idea to know the cutting angle of your knives so you can make that choice.

Handle Considerations

Here's what to look for in the handles of kitchen knives.

Shape and Size

Above all, a handle should fit your hand comfortably. Knife handles are made to be comfortable in most hands, but if you have very large or very small hands, you may have to try a few before you find one that works for you. 

If a handle doesn't fit your hand, a knife may be hard to use, causing strain and fatigue or even blisters. As we said above, look for a smooth handle without protruding rivets or rough edges--but also look for a shape and size that feels good in your hand.

Mercer handles are comfortable and liked by most cooks as well as professional chefs. Most Mercer handles are standard contoured Western handles, but they also offer a round "wa" Japanese handle on their Asian collection. 

As with blades, try a few different handle styles to see what you prefer.


Your main choices for handle material are wood and synthetic. Wood handles range from cheap to very expensive, with varying degrees of durability. But all wood handles have a warm, natural feel that most people like. 

Synthetics vary from soft and rubbery to rock hard. All are comfortable, and are really a personal preference.

Many Mercer synthetic handles are softish, which makes them comfortable and provides excellent grip. If you want durability, go for the harder synthetics like Delrin (POM). The Mercer Renaissance line has Delrin handles yet is still surprisingly affordable.

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Mercer Knives Pros and Cons

  • Affordable
  • Both forged and stamped knives of good quality
  • High carbon stainless steel for excellent corrosion resistance
  • Comfortable handles in a variety of materials
  • Wide range of lines, blades, and sets to choose from
  • Several lines are NSF certified.
  • Most lines are soft steels that will require frequent sharpening
  • No shears included in any sets
  • Some of the knives have rough edges/aren't finished very well
  • Made in Taiwan.

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Mercer Knives FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions about Mercer Culinary knives.

Are Mercer Knives Good Quality?

Yes: for the price, Mercer knives are very good quality. The affordable lines have softer steel so they'll need more frequent sharpening, and some of the handle materials are soft as well and may not be as durable as harder synthetics. But overall, Mercer provides excellent quality at a surprisingly affordable price point.

Where Are Mercer Knives Made?

All Mercer Culinary tools, including the knives, are made in Taiwan, and have been since the company's inception. Having a factory in Taiwan allows Mercer to keep prices low while not sacrificing quality.

What Is the Cutting Angle of Mercer Knives?

Most Mercer knives have a double cutting angle of 15 degrees each side, or 30 degrees total. The MX3 line (of Japanese style knives) has a cutting angle of 14 degrees (double), and the Asian Collection has a cutting angle of 16 degrees (double). 

Are Mercer Knives Forged or Stamped?

Mercer makes both forged and stamped knives. Their forged knives are some of the most affordable yet high quality forged knives on the market. Their Genesis line in particular has surprisingly affordable forged knives, with a standard chef's knife going for about $50--a great deal for a forged knife.

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Other Affordable Knife Brands

Chicago Cutlery--Now made in China, no longer in USA (despite the name), and the quality has suffered somewhat. But they are an affordable brand with a lot of options to choose from. See our Chicago Cutlery review for more information.

Dexter Knives--made in the USA and good quality for the price. Geared largely to the food service industry, but great options for home cooks as well. See our Dexter review for more information.

Misen Knives--Not as low priced as Chicago Cutlery, Victorinox, Dexter, or other Chinese brands, but affordable for high quality German steel knives. Misen knives get a lot of love from cooking sites and review sites.

Dalstrong Knives--Marketed as affordable, but you'll pay about $80 for their lowest priced chef's knife. They carry a huge variety of styles and shapes, including some unique blades. Made in China but decent quality. See our Dalstrong review for more information.

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Final Thoughts About Mercer Knives

Mercer Knife cutting an orange

Mercer is known for good quality knives at an affordable price point--but should you buy one?

If you're on a tight budget or just want knives that are sharp and durable, Mercer should be on your short list to look at (along with Dexter and Victorinox). If they have the style and/or set you want and you won't mind fairly frequent sharpening--a task essential for all lower priced kitchen cutlery--then Mercer is an excellent choice.

If you want something fancier, harder, or prettier, then you should keep looking. Mercer is above all a utilitarian brand, and excellent quality for the price, but they are not considered a high-end brand.

Our favorite Mercer knife is the Genesis: it's one of the most affordably priced forged knives on the market, and made well enough to last for decades. If you want something lighter, the stamped Millennia line is our pick.

Thanks for reading!

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About the Author

The Rational Kitchen (TRK) is a collaborative effort, but the founder, editor, and writer of most of our articles is Melanie Johnson, an avid cook, kitchenware expert, and technical communications specialist for more than 20 years. Her love of cooking and the frustrating lack of good information about kitchen products led her to create The Rational Kitchen. TRK's mission is to help people make the best decisions they can when buying kitchen gear. 

When not working on product reviews, Melanie enjoys reading, playing with her dog Ruby, vintage video games, and spending time outdoors and with her family.

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