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Messermeister Knives: A Detailed Review

By trk

Last Updated: October 28, 2023

Messermeister knives, Messermeister review

Messermeister is an American knife brand made in Solingen, Germany, where all the top notch German knife brands are made. They aren't as well known as some other brands (like Wusthof and Zwilling), but they're worth a look if you want a powerful, durable German knife. We take a detailed look at all the Messermeister knives and discuss steel, handle material, cutting angle, pros and cons, comparisons to other brands, and more.

Messermeister Knives at a Glance

Here is the current Messermeister lineup for the kitchen (listed in alphabetical order). All Messermeister knives come with a lifetime warranty against manufacturer defects. Most lines are made in Solingen, Germany except where noted otherwise. 

Messermeister Knife

Features

Messermeister Avanta chef knife

-Drop forged X50 (1.4116) German steel

-15 degree double bevel grind

-Full tang, partial bolster

-3 step, hand finished cutting edge

-Hardness rating 56 HRC (on Rockwell scale)

-Pakkawood handle (wood/resin composite)

-Triple riveted

-3pc starter set (chef, utility, paring) about $100.

Messermeister Custom chef knife

-Cold-rolled X50 stamped German steel 

-15 degree double bevel grind

-2.2mm thick spine at heel

-Full tang, bolster is part of handle

-3 step, hand finished cutting edge

-Hardness rating 58 HRC

-Micarta handle (linen/non-phenolic resin)

-Removable triple rivets

-Interchangeable scales in 5 colors

-8" chef's knife about $95.

Messermeister Kawashima chef knife

-SG2 powdered Japanese steel

-Wide blade w/curved geometry

-2mm thick spine at heel

-15 degree double bevel grind

-Partial tang, brass bolster

-Hardness rating 64 HRC (hardest knife made by Messermeister)

-Curved pakkawood handle (wood/resin)

-8" chef's knife weighs 6.7oz.

-Made in Seki, Japan

-8" chef's knife about $200.

Messermeister Meridian Elite chef knife

-Drop forged X50 (1.4116) German steel

-3mm spine at heel

-15 degree double bevel grind

-Full tang, partial bolster

-3 step, hand finished cutting edge

-Hardness rating 57-58 HRC

-Contoured, triple-riveted POM handle

-8" chef's knife weighs 8.5oz

-8" chef's knife about $150/6" stealth chef's knife about $130 (stealth is lighter and narrower).

Messermeister Oliva Elite chef knife

-Messermeister's flagship collection

-Drop forged X50 (1.4116) German steel

-3mm spine at heel

-15 degree double bevel grind

-Partial tang, partial bolster

-3 step, hand finished cutting edge

-Hardness rating 57-58 HRC

-Contoured Italian olive wood handle

-8" chef's knife weighs 7.5oz.

-8" chef's knife about $190.

Messermeister Petite Messer 5 chef knife

-Small knives for small tasks

-Stamped, die-cut 1.4116 German steel

-15 degree double bevel grind

-Partial tang, no bolster

-Hardness rating 56-57 HRC

-Plastic handle (probably polypropylene)

-4 handle colors: red, blue, green, orange

-Made in Santa Catarina, Portugal

-5" chef's knife weighs 3.4oz.

-5" chef's knife about $20.

Messermeister Pro Series chef knife

-Stamped, die-cut 1.4116 German steel

-15 degree double bevel grind

-3mm spine at heel

-Partial tang, no bolster

-Hardness rating of 56-57 HRC

-Plastic handle (probably polypropylene)

-NSF certified

-Made in Santa Catarina, Portugal

-8" chef's knife weighs 7oz.

-8" chef's knife about $32.

Messermeister Royal Elite chef knife

-Drop forged 1.4116 German steel

-15 degree double bevel grind

-Full tang, partial bolster

-3 step, hand finished cutting edge

-Hardness rating 57-58 HRC

-American walnut burl handle (all wood)

-8" "stealth" chef's knife weighs 8.4oz.

-8" "stealth" chef's knife about $210.

Messermeister San Moritz Elite chef knife

-Discontinued but still available

-Drop forged 1.4116 German steel

-15 degree double bevel grind

-Full tang, partial bolster

-3 step, hand finished cutting edge

-Hardness rating 57-58 HRC

-Contoured POM handle

-8" chef's knife about $150.

Here are the Messermeister lines intended for outdoor use. We did not test these knives, so we are not reviewing them, but we provide the basic information.

Messermeister Knife

Features

Messermeister Adventure Chef folding chef knife

-1.4116 German steel

-Folding camping knives and utensils with liner lock 

-Come with cases

-Hollow handle for easy cleaning

-Folding cutting board available

-15 degree double bevel grind on knives

-Hardness rating 56-58 HRC

-Burlap micarta or carbonized maple handle

-Made in China

-6" chef's knife about $80; 6pc kit about $250.

Messermeister Overland Chef chef knife

-Nitro B steel (for higher hardness rating)

-60/40 bevel grind

-2.5mm spine at heel

-Hardness rating 62 HRC

-Canvas micarta handle

-Sheaths not included (go to Messermeister to buy)

-Made in Maniago, Italy

-Chef's knife weighs 9.4oz./11.4oz. w/sheath

-Chef's knife about $250.

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About Messermeister

Messermeister was founded in Germany in 1981 by Bernd and Debra Dressler, a husband and wife team that had a resale knife business and decided to create their own brand. In German, "messer" means knife and "meister" means master--so Messermeister means "knife master." 

The company headquarters relocated to Ojai, California, but most Messermeister knives are still made in Solingen, Germany, the knife capital of the world (exceptions are listed in the table above).

Messermeister is not as old as many other German knife brands such as Wusthof and Zwilling, but they are excellent quality nevertheless and are designed to compete with the top names in the business.

Messermeister is also not as well known at more popular knife brands, and are not quite as widely available. However, they are a fast-growing brand and are becoming better known by the day. This brand has enough interesting features to warrant your attention if you're looking for German knives.

You can read more about Messermeister (or watch a video) on the Messermeister website.

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Using Messermeister Knives (How We Tested)

For this review we tested the Messermeister Oliva Elite, Meridian Elite, Pro Series (stamped), and Kawashima 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

We tested each one three times and took the average. The results:

Oliva Elite: 160g (razor blade sharp)

Meridian Elite: 165g (razor blade sharp)

Pro Series: 245g (new high end cutlery)

Kawashima: 90g (holy crap!)

We probably didn't need to test all of these because the steel is identical on most of the Messermeister blades, but we definitely wanted to test a forged line, a stamped line, and their high-end Japanese line. We could have gone with either the Oliva Elite or the Meridian Elite, as they are essentially the same knife with different handles. 

After sharpness testing, we put the knives to work in the kitchen as you would use any chef's knife, cutting different foods, including onions, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, apples, cheeses, meats (cooked and raw), squashes, and more (although we did not use the Kawashima on any hard foods or bone). We also cut up whole chickens to test how the blades worked with bones. 

We used the knives for over a month each, with several users testing and comparing them. 

Overall, all the Messermeister knives were extremely sharp out of the box, heavy like German knives but not too heavy, and a pleasure to use. Our favorite was (unfortunately) the most expensive one, the Oliva Elite, which was the lightest and sharpest of all the forged blades and just a phenomenal all-purpose chef's knife.

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Interesting Features of Messermeister Knives

Though in many ways Messermeister knives are standard German blades (with one standard Japanese blade, the Kawashima), they have some interesting features that make them stand out a bit from the pack. 

Hand Finished

Most knives today are machine finished. This includes high-end brands like Wusthof and Zwilling. But most Messermeister knives are still finished by hand, in the traditional way (stamped lines excluded). This means that the final edge on the knives is hand-stropped on a cloth wheel. This is a three-step process that creates the sharpest possible cutting edge, which you can actually see on the blade:

Messermeister hand stropped edge

The forging is also done by hand, which typically results in a stronger blade with better balance. 

All Partial Bolster

Most German knife brands have a full bolster, and some offer lines with both a full bolster and a partial bolster. Messermeister makes only partial bolster knives: 

Full bolster knife diagram with callout
Messermeister knife with partial bolster callout

They call it a "no bolster" knife, but it is really a partial bolster. A full bolster is traditional German design. It is meant to add weight and balance to the knife, and to protect your fingers from the risk of injury.

Messermeister was the first German knife maker to produce a partial bolster knife, but other makers soon followed.

A partial bolster is a newer design, likely inspired by lighter, more nimble Japanese knives. A partial bolster may be slightly less safe to use, but that's doubtful. The advantages of the partial bolster, in our opinion, outweigh the disadvantages: it makes for a lighter, more agile knife, and also makes it easier to sharpen the entire blade. 

All the forged Messermeister knives have a partial bolster, making them lighter and easier to handle than full bolster German knives--yet they are still heavy and durable enough for all kitchen tasks (excluding the Kawashima, which is a Japanese design).

First to Use a 15 Degree Cutting Angle

Messermeister was the first German knife maker to make a 15 degree double bevel knife. They did this when the standard German knife was 20-25 degrees double bevel. Other German makers soon followed their lead, and today nearly all German knives have a standard 15 degree double bevel cutting angle (14 degrees for Wusthof). 

They Use Non-Phenolic Resin in their Synthetic Handles

In the Custom line, Messermeister uses non-phenolic resin for the handle material. This means that there are no petrochemicals or formaldehyde (a known carcinogen). This does not detract from the durability of the handle and makes them safer for humans and better for the environment.

They Make Folding Knives and Camping Knives

How many kitchen knife makers also make a line of folding knives and utensils, plus a non-folding knife designed for outdoor use? If you're looking for kitchen knives, this shouldn't affect your decision, but it's an interesting side note that Messermeister has some lines for outdoor cooking. 

Messermeister Is a Woman-Owned Company

Although this also probably won't influence your purchasing decision, it's an interesting fact that Messermeister is a female-owned and operated company. It was founded by a husband and wife team, but today is run by the woman and her daughter. Though they didn't consciously set out to be a female-owned company, they have embraced it and are proud of it. 

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Steel Used in Messermeister Knives

Messermeister uses three different steels (listed in alphabetical order):

Nitro B: According to knifesteelnerds.com, Nitro B steel is X50CrMoV15 steel with a small amount of nitrogen added to it. It is manufactured by the Buderus company. Adding nitrogen allows the steel to be treated to a higher hardness rating. Messermeister uses Nitro B steel on their Overland Chef outdoor knife line, which is hardened to 62 HRC; this hardness would not be possible with standard X50 steel. 

We're not sure why an outdoor knife needs to be this hard (you'd think it would be too brittle for outdoor use), but most reviewers seem to really like this knife.

SG2: This is a high end Japanese steel that Messermeister used for their Kawashima line. Developed by Takefu Special Steel, Super Gold 2 is a high-end powdered steel alloy designed for blade making. It is a popular high-end powder steel that is extremely hard, yet fairly easy to sharpen. According to the Burrfection site, SG2 can be hardened to 64 HRC, but Messermeister claims the Kawashima has a hardness rating of 65 HRC (very close, and either way, very impressive).

Takefu no longer manufactures SG2 steel, but R2 steel, manufactured by Kobelco, is a popular substitute.

X50CrMoV15: Also called simply X50 or 1.4116 steel, this is standard German high carbon stainless steel. It is used by Wusthof, Zwilling, and most other German knife manufacturers. It is 0.5% carbon and also contains chromium, molybdenum, and vanadium, which improve corrosion resistance and durability. It is an excellent steel for knives because it's durable and easy to sharpen, yet holds an edge really well.

Messermeister uses this steel in all of their knives except for the Kawashima and the outdoor Overland Chef line. 

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Who Are Messermeister Knives Best For?

Since Messermeister makes a few different styles of knives, we'll look at each of them:

Forged: Messermeister forged knives are best for people who want a durable, heavy blade, steel that's easy to maintain and sharpen, and high quality knives that will last for many years. 

These knives compare favorably to other high-end forged German brands and cost about the same (or possibly slightly more, depending on the line you choose). 

Stamped: Messermeister stamped knives are comparable to Victorinox knives and typically cost less. They are a good choice for anyone who wants a dependable, durable blade at an affordable price. The Pro Series is NSF certified, so is also a good choice for restaurant kitchens. 

The Custom series is a sort of high-end stamped knife, perhaps comparable to the Mac TH-80. The blade is harder than their other stamped lines at 58 HRC and the blade is made in Germany, with the high-end finishing you see on forged Messermeisters. This knife has removable scales, so you can make the handle different colors (thus the Custom name). This line would be a good choice for anyone who wants a German-made knife but can't afford a forged line, or for people who want to change the handle color. (Note: We did not test this knife.)

The Petite Messer line is for people who want smaller knives, with just a 5-inch chef's knife. So these are an affordable option for anyone who prefers a smaller blade and a smaller handle.

Japanese: The Messermeister Kawashima line is best for people who want an extremely sharp, extremely hard blade and are willing to pay a premium price. These are really nice knives and are authentically Japanese, made from Japanese SG2 powdered steel and made in Japan. Because they are so hard, they aren't the best choice for an all-purpose kitchen knife, as the hard steel can chip if used on hard foods. But for veggie prep and most basic cutting tasks, they are phenomenal. 

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Messermeister Oliva Elite Vs. Wusthof Classic

Messermeister Oliva Elite chef knife

Messermeister Oliva Elite chef's knife.

Wusthof Classic Chef's Knife

Wusthof Classic chef's knife.

Both Messermeister and Wusthof are top quality German knives and most lines are similar in design. Here, we compare the chef's knives of the flagship lines of each brand, which are the Messermeister Oliva Elite and the Wusthof Classic. 

Note: All of these Messermeister stats also fit for the Meridian Elite except for the handle (POM) and the weight (about an ounce more than the Oliva Elite). Thus, the Meridian Elite is the same knife with a synthetic handle and a lower price tag.

Steel: Both are forged with X50 steel with similar heat treatment (although we don't know all the details of the finishing processes).

Sharpness: Both have a hardness rating of 57-58 HRC.

Edge Retention: Because the steel and hardness rating are identical, edge retention will be about the same.

Cutting Angle: The Messermeister has a cutting angle of 15 degree double bevel. The Wusthof has a cutting angle of 14 degrees double bevel.

Blade Design: The Wusthof Classic has a full bolster and a somewhat flatter blade. The Messermeister Oliva Elite has a partial bolster and slightly wider blade with a slightly more curved belly. Both are great for the rock chop cutting style.

Handle Material: The Oliva Elite has an Italian olive wood handle, which makes it lighter than the Wusthof Classic and slightly less durable. If you go with the Messermeister Meridian Elite, then the handle specs are nearly identical to the Wusthof Classic.

Weight: The Oliva Elite weighs in at 7.5 ounces; the Wusthof Classic weighs 8.5 ounces, which is not a lot more but is noticeable in use; the Meridian Elite weighs about the same as the Wusthof Classic.

Fit and Finish: Some of this is subjective, but we feel that the Oliva Elite has a better fit and finish than the Wusthof knives. For example, the rounded edges feel smoother and more polished than the Wusthof Classic. And the heel is less sharp on the Oliva Elite than on the Wusthof. We also prefer the partial bolster on the Messermeisters, but you can get that in a Wusthof Ikon (or Classic Ikon).

The differences are small, but we prefer the fit and finish of the Messermeister knives.

Price: Prices are comparable, and may matter on the day of the week or the time of year you compare them. In general, the Oliva Elite chef's knife typically costs about $20 more than the Wusthof Classic and the Meridian Elite costs about $20 less. 

...Finally, we're puzzled at some other review sites who found the Messermeister knives heavier, with a thicker spine than Wusthof knives, because our testing shows the opposite: the Messermeister Oliva Elite has a spine thickness at the heel of 3mm; the Wusthof Classic has a spine thickness at the heel of 3.5mm. And, it weighs about an ounce less (the Meridian Elite weighs about the same as the Wusthof Classic). So in general, the Messermeister knives are slightly thinner and more nimble than Wusthof.

Wusthof vs Messermeister spine thickness

Wusthof, left; Messermeister, right.

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Messermeister Vs. Victorinox

Messermeister Pro Series chef knife

Messermeister Pro Series chef's knife.

Victorinox Fibrox Pro chef's knife

Victorinox Fibrox Pro chef's knife.

Here, we will compare the Messermeister Pro Series to the Victorinox Fibrox Pro. Both are stamped, both have polypropylene handles, and both are meant to compete for the same buyers.

Steel: Messermeister uses X55 CrMoV15 steel, which is the most common steel used in German knives. Victorinox uses X50CrMo14, a proprietary steel used by Victorinox. The German steel is probably slightly higher quality.

Sharpness: The Pro Series has a hardness rating of 56-57 HRC; the Fibrox Pro has a hardness rating of 55-56. Thus, the Messermeister Pro Series is slightly harder than the Victorinox Fibrox Pro.

Edge Retention: The harder Pro Series is going to have better edge retention than the Fibrox Pro, though the difference isn't great.

Cutting Angle: Both knives have a 15 degree double bevel.

Blade Design: The blade design is quite similar, with the Pro Series having a slightly wider blade. This will provide a little bit more knuckle clearance, but the Fibrox Pro has plenty of knuckle clearance at its width.

Handle Material: Both handles are plastic, probably polypropylene. This is a mid-range handle material that has good grip and a nice feel in the hand, but is susceptible to melting and cracking at temp extremes.

Weight: The Messermeister Pro Series chef's knife weighs 7 ounces; the Fibrox Pro weighs 8 ounces.

Fit and Finish: Fit and finish on these knives is very similar, but we give this category to the Messermeister. For reasons we can't quite explain, it just feels like a more expensive knife than the Fibrox Pro.

Price: The Pro Series is usually about $10 less than the Fibrox Pro (about $30 vs. about $40).

Overall these are both good knives at an economical price, but we like the Pro Series more because it costs less and has a slightly more elegant fit and finish.

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Sharpening Messermeister Knives

Messermeister sells several sharpening stones, honing steels with different grits, a pull-through sharpener, and a pocket sharpener designed for use with their outdoor Overland Chef line.

You can see their full collection on the Messermeister website.

You can see some of these sharpening tools on Amazon, but they don't have all of them (this may change).

Which sharpening tools should you buy? Well, you need a honing steel for sure, and we would suggest the 1200 grit steel for knife maintenance (i.e., keeping the edge smooth in-between sharpening). 

If you want to use stones to sharpen your knives, that's a longer campaign, and we recommend doing more research before you decide on that. (For basic info, check out our Beginner's Guide to Knife Sharpeners.) The result will be razor-sharp blades, but it can take a lot of practice to get them that way (and you should practice on inexpensive knives before you attempt to sharpen your high end forged blades).

If you just want a quick and easy way to keep your knives acceptably sharp, then we recommend you go with a pull-through sharpener. With all Messermeister blades having 15 degree double bevels, most pull-through sharpeners will work. 

Finally, know that you don't need a Messermeister sharpener just because you have Messermeister knives. You can use any steel and any sharpener that has the right angle (i.e., 15 degrees). So if you already own sharpening tools, you don't need to invest in any more.

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Our Favorite Messermeister Knife: The Oliva Elite

Messermeister Oliva Elite chef knife

See the Oliva Elite Stealth chef's knife on Amazon

See all Oliva Elite buying options on Amazon

See Oliva Elite buying options at Wal-Mart

See the Oliva Elite full lineup at Messermeister

See Meridian Elite 6 piece magnetic block set on Amazon

See Meridian Elite buying options on Amazon

See San Moritz buying options on Amazon

8" Stealth chef's knife about $190 (Oliva Elite), $170 (Meridian Elite)

Sets about $500-$700

(This review also applies to the Meridian Elite, the Royal Elite, and the discontinued San Moritz, which have the same blade with different handles. The Avanta is hardened to just 56 HRC, so we prefer the other lines, which are a little harder.)

Out-of-the-box sharpness: 145g (razor sharp)

NOTE: Messermeister makes standard chef's knives and "stealth" chef's knives, which are about 25% thinner and lighter than the standard. We love and recommend the Stealth versions of their chef's knives because they're lighter and thinner yet still heavy enough to perform like a durable German chef's knife.

At just 7.5 ounces with a blade thickness of 3mm, the Oliva Elite  is a perfect balance between nimbleness and durability. This knife gets pretty much universally positive reviews across the Internet (there may be some negative reviews, but we didn't find any). The blade is razor sharp (literally) and the handle is extremely comfortable. It is lighter than most other German chef's knives, and it performs beautifully. 

The fit and finish is incredibly smooth, polished, and beautiful.

The balance is just a little bit toward the blade, which most people like because it helps the blade slice through food. 

We really can't say enough good things about this knife. If you go with the Meridian Elite or San Moritz, it will have a slightly bulkier feel because the handles weigh about an ounce more. Otherwise, the lines are identical--so if you prefer a synthetic handle, you can get this superb performance in a less expensive package.

We had different testers use the knife in the kitchen for about a month, and everybody loved it. We didn't sharpen the knife during use at all, though we did use a steel after about the first week. Steeling kept the knife sharp enough to cut effortlessly through veggies, fruits, meats, even winter squash and chicken bones.

The Oliva Elite is one of the nicest knives we've ever used. The only possible negative is that the wood handle won't be as resilient as a POM handle (found on the Meridian Elite), but even so it's extremely hard and durable, and its exquisite beauty makes up for any drawbacks in utility (just our opinion, but the handle really is quite stunning).

These knives are available in all standard blades, including chef's, utility, santoku, boning, fillet, paring, carving, bread, and steak. There are also 5-piece and 6-piece sets available (including blocks). 

Messermeister Oliva Elite 6pc set w:magnetic block

buy Messermeister Oliva elite knives:

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Best Budget Messermeister Knife: Pro Series

Messermeister Pro Series chef knife

See the Pro Series chef's knife on Amazon

See all Pro Series buying options on Amazon

See the full Pro Series lineup at Messermeister

8-inch chef's knife about $30

Out-of-the-box sharpness: 290g

The Messermeister Pro Series is a direct competitor to the Victorinox Fibrox Pro (as mentioned above), and a nearly identical knife, but it has higher quality steel and a slightly higher hardness rating. That means that this knife is going to hold an edge a little bit better than the Victorinox.

For an affordable knife, we really like the Pro Series. It's light, sharp, and we liked that it held an edge pretty well compared to the Victorinox Fibrox Pro. The Fibrox Pro actually tested sharper out-of-the-box, but it didn't hold an edge as long as the Pro Series. The Pro Series cuts great, with a precision and nimbleness that you don't often find in knives at this price point. Its sharpness wasn't an issue for any of our testers, and it was universally loved for being light and durable. 

It sliced through everything we threw at it, including onions, carrots, potatoes, celery, garlic, tomatoes, apples, pineapples, squash, chicken, beef, and pork. It's a nicely balanced knife, with more weight towards the blade, and most users thought it cut like a much more expensive knife. 

It held an edge well too; better than the Victorinox. After the first several uses, we steeled the blade before use, but it didn't need sharpening for the month that we tested it. 

The handle is nothing fancy, which is to be expected at this price, but it's comfortable and worked with hands of all sizes; some of the testers with smaller hands had a little bit of fatigue after about a half hour of use, but otherwise there were no complaints about the handle. It has a nice, grippy feel that isn't too soft and isn't too hard.

Overall, a really nice, affordable knife.

The only set available is a 13 piece "college student" set that comes in a knife roll, but this is out of stock on the Messermeister site and not available on Amazon. This is probably because these knives are used by culinary students and are good for restaurant kitchens because they're NSF certified.

The single knives are available in a huge variety, including chef's (a few different sizes), paring, utility, bread, offset serrated, fillet, boning, slicer, and a few butcher specialties including a cleaver, scimitar, and breaking knife. There is also a Pro Series serving fork. 

Go to Messermeister to see the whole lineup, or go to Amazon to find the best prices.

Or, if you want smaller knives, with shorter blades and handles, check out the Petite Messer line; it's the same as the Pro Series but smaller, and the handles come in different colors.

Messermeister Pro Series Santoku

buy messermeister pro series knives:

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Messermeister Kawashima: A Great Japanese Blade

Messermeister Kawashima chef knife

See the Kawashima chef knife on Amazon

See all Kawashima buying options on Amazon

See the full Kawashima lineup at Messermeister

8-inch chef's knife about $200

5 piece set about $700

Out-of-the-box sharpness: 90g

With an out-of-the-box sharpness of 90g on our blade tester, this is the sharpest knife we've ever reviewed (and yes, we re-checked the sharpness a few times to make sure that was right). It's a beautiful, distinctive knife and it's a good choice for anyone who wants something really special and has the budget for it. 

Messermeister Kawashima knives are made in partnership with Japanese bladesmith Shoichi Kawashima and are made in Seki, Japan. The blade is made in the san mai Japanese style, which means the SG2 super steel cutting core is covered by a layer of softer steel; similar to a Damascus steel knife, but rather than several layers, it's just one layer over the core. This softer steel protects the super-hard, brittle core and can extend the longevity of the knife by protecting it from chipping.

This knife cuts through just about everything like butter. It's great for all veggie prep, and the pointed tip--called "kiritsuke style"--made it good for de-boning chicken and cutting other meat away from bones, even though the blade is pretty tall (but don't use it to cut through bone).

The handle is quite comfortable, and the pakkawood--a wood/resin composite found on many Japanese knives--is durable and great looking. It's a beautiful, functional knife that would be a great choice for advanced cooks who want something light and super sharp. 

As sharp and as impressive as this knife is, it isn't for everybody. The extremely hard SG2 steel (an astonishing 64 HRC!) is brittle, so it's not a great choice for an all-purpose chef's knife. The brittleness means you shouldn't use it for hard foods and bones, which could cause it to chip (true for all knives with a hardness rating above 60 HRC).

Also, the blade is rather flat, almost like a santoku, so it isn't the best choice if you like to use the rock-chop cut--though it's great for push cutting and up-and-down cutting. 

If you've been wanting a super-steel Japanese knife, then the Kawashima should definitely be on your list. But if you're just looking for a good, all-purpose chef's knife, this blade is a little too hard to be truly versatile. 

The Kawashima line is rather small, with a chef's knife, nakiri, slicer, utility, and paring knife, plus a 5 piece set (including the magnetic block). 

Messermeister Kawashima 5pc set

buy the messermeister kawashima line:

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A Buying Guide to Kitchen Knives

Parts of a Knife

This section is a basic guide to buying kitchen knives.

Sets or Individual Knives?

First, should you buy a set or individual knives?

You may think a set is the way to go, but do you really need--and will you use--all the knives in the set? 

You might rather spend your money on a few different chef's knives and/or utility knives, all of which will usually come in handy. For example, you can own a nice chef's knife for your personal use, plus another one that you don't mind letting others use. Or one for meat and one for veggie/fruit prep. Or a chef's knife for meat prep, and a santoku or Japanese chef's knife for veggie prep.

Or, if you've used one for chicken, you don't have to wash it again to prep the veg; you can just grab another knife.

Most cooks really only need three knives: a chef's knife, a paring knife, and a bread knife--but they might need more than one of each of these, depending on how they use their knives. At the very least, having another chef' knife is nice, so you may want to save your money and rather than buying a set, you can get another chef's knife, which you'll probably get more use out of than all the other knives in a set put together. 

This is not to say you can't benefit from having more knives. Some people will prefer a santoku to a chef's knife and a utility knife to a paring knife, or a serrated utility knife to a non-serrated one. 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 (which can take a lifetime!).

We think that, even though it's usually a little more expensive in the long haul, it's better to not buy a set, and to instead buy the individual knives that you know you'll use. But if you're sure you'll use all the knives in a set, then it can also be a good way to go (just know that there will probably be more knives you'll want in the future).

Storage

Perhaps another reason to not buy a set is storage space: if you're short on counter space, then don't buy a knife block. Rather, just buy the few knives you need. 

If storage is not an issue for you, then by all means, get the knife block you want. 

For more on knife storage, see our article The Best Way to Store Your Kitchen Knives.

Overall Fit and Finish

What is the overall look-and-feel of the knife? Is it well-proportioned? Well balanced? Comfortable in your hand? Smooth and polished?
Some inexpensive knives in particular 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: no protruding rivets or unfinished spots that dig into your hand.
  • Smoothness of spine: the best quality knives have a polished 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. 

In general, the forged Messermeister knives are excellently finished; they tangs are smoothly polished, and the transition from bolster to handle is seamless. The woods used on the handles are beautiful and polished to a shiny finish. 

In fact, the Messermeisters have a better finish than the Wusthofs; it's close, but you can see a difference in Messermeister's hand finishing.

Blade Considerations

The blade is the most important consideration when buying a knife. You want something sharp, that will last and resist corrosion (i.e., good quality metal). Here are a some other things to look at before buying. 

Forged Vs. Stamped

Messermeister Oliva Elite chef knife

Forged blade: Oliva Elite. Note the bolster, where the steel widens.

Messermeister Pro Series chef knife

Stamped blade: Pro Series. No bolster and the blade is just fitted to the handle.

forged blade is made from steel heated under pressure and hammered or pressed into shape. Forged knives have a bolster (full or partial)--an area of widened steel where the blade meets the handle. A bolster increases weight, improves balance, and protects fingers; a bolster is the mark of a forged knife.

The heat and pressure temper the metal of a forged knife, making it stronger and typically sharper.

Forged knives typically have a full tang--the tang is the part of the metal that runs through the handle--but not always, particularly in Japanese knives, which tend to be lighter than German knives. But a full or even partial tang can add durability and improve balance; stamped knives typically to not have a tang (so they can be very light). 

All of Messermeister's forged blades are very high quality.

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

Stamped knives are usually lighter than forged knives (which some people prefer), and have a different feel when using. They are usually less well 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, which few home cooks do. 

And, because they're lighter, the lack of balance doesn't make that much difference in use: a stamped knife can feel different than a forged knife, but it may perform just as well (or better, in some opinions).

Forged blades are stronger than stamped blades because heating toughens the steel, and the bolster adds thickness and weight. However, technology has really improved, so today, most stamped knives are strong enough to stand up to kitchen use and are also very sharp and very durable. 

Thus, at one time forged knives were always a better choice, but that is not the case anymore. There are many reasons to go with a stamped blade, including lightness, comfort, and price. 

Since stamped knives are usually marketed to the affordable end of the market, they tend to have inexpensive plastic handles. These are perfectly fine for any kitchen, even though they're not fancy or pretty.

Messermeister stamped blades--the Custom, Pro Series, and Petite Messer lines--are really nice knives. They may not win any beauty contests, but they are affordable, durable, and sharp out of the box.

Steel Type and Hardness

Type: We discussed Messermeister steel already, but we revisit it here because it is an important aspect of choosing a knife. 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 easy to sharpen. 

There are many types of high carbon stainless steel, and some are higher quality than others. Messermeister knives are made from one of the most popular German steels, X50CrMoV15, used in Wusthof knives, Zwilling knives, and more. It's a top quality steel and it makes for hard blades that hold up well to kitchen use.

Hardness: Knife steel hardness is measured by the  Rockwell Scale in HRC units. Kitchen knife hardness can vary widely, from about 50 HRC seen in inexpensive blades, up to 65 HRC for high-end Japanese super steel. 

While 50 HRC is a little soft, most German knives have a hardness of about 55-58 HRC, which is a great range; it's hard enough to be durable and usable for anything, but soft enough to still be easy to sharpen.

Most Japanese knives are harder, ranging from about 59-65 HRC. The extreme hardness allows these blades to hold an edge longer, but as knives get harder, they get more brittle, so if you go much above 60 HRC, knives chip and crack more easily. They also get more expensive, so be very careful how you use such a sharp knife: avoid hard foods and bones, and be careful not to twist the knife too much or scrape it across the cutting board.

This is the tradeoff between softer and harder knives: softer and more durable, but more frequent sharpening; or harder and more brittle, but less frequent sharpening.

Most Messermeister knives are between 56-58 HRC, and their Kawashima Japanese knife has a hardness rating of 64 HRC, one of the highest we've seen. 

Sharpness

Sharpness out of the box should be a given, so if a new knife is dull, return it.

But remember that sharpness is not alone an indication of quality. A good sharpening process can make any knife--or any piece of metal, actually--razor sharp. 

Messermeister knives are some of the sharpest out-of-the-box we've seen. To keep them sharp, use a honing steel regularly and sharpen them as needed (when a honing steel quits working to make them feel sharp again). If you use a knife regularly, you should steel it for almost every use and sharpen it at least once a year.

Cutting Angle

The cutting angle is the angle to which the blade is sharpened. The most common angle for kitchen knives today is 15 degrees each side, or 30 degrees total. 

All Messermeister blades are sharpened to 15 degrees each side. This makes them good candidates for using a pull-through sharpener if you don't want to invest in the learning curve of using a whetstone or the expense of using a guided rod system.

You don't need to know a knife's cutting angle before you buy, and it won't matter all that much to daily use, but if you want to keep the knife sharpened as the manufacturer intended it to be, then the cutting angle is important to know.

Shape, Size, Weight, and Balance

Not all of same kind of knives are the same to use. Chef's knives, in particular, can vary in length, width, shape, weight, and balance. It's a good idea to try different knives to learn which shape and size you prefer.

Most people prefer a chef's knife with these traits:

  • Blade height: The blade should be tall enough to give you knuckle clearance (that is, the space between your knuckles and the cutting board). Thinner knives make good boning and fillet knives, but you can't use the rock chop with them because there's no knuckle clearance.
  • Belly: The belly of the knife--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. 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, or more Japanese-styled chef knives, which are a little flatter than German style knives.
  • Spine thickness: you want a knife that's thin enough to be maneuverable, but you also want durability. There's a wide range of spine thickness among chef's knives, so be sure you get the shape you want. Messermeister chef's knives are a little thinner than many other German knives, yet still quite durable, so they're a good choice if you want a lighter-yet-still-durable blade.
  • Length: The standard chef's knife length is 8 inches (or 7in. for a santoku). However, 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. 8 inches is by far the most common length and a good choice for most people, but if you have particularly large or small hands, you should definitely try other blades.
  • Balance: This is not as important for home cooks who don't use their knives for hours on end like pro chefs do, but good balance can make a knife feel more comfortable in your hand. 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.

There are other considerations, too, but these are some of the most important (and the most objective).

Handle Considerations

The most important handle considerations are shape, size, and material.

Shape and Size

First and foremost, a handle should fit your hand well. Knife handles are made to be comfortable in most hands, but if you have particularly large or small hands, you may have to try a few before you find one that fits. 

If a handle doesn't fit your hand well, the knife will be hard to use, causing strain and fatigue or even blisters. It should be thick enough to wrap your hand around it comfortably (but not too thick) and long enough that your whole hand can fit around it.

As we said above in the Overall Fit and Finish section, look for a smooth handle without protruding rivets or rough edges--this is probably the most important thing.

Messermeister handles are excellent, even on their stamped lines. The handles have a nice shape and solid feel. And we love that they offer the Petite Messer line, which is designed for people with small hands who want smaller blades and smaller handles.

Material

Your two main options for handle material are wood or synthetic. Wood handles can be made from cheap woods or very expensive woods, but all wood handles have a warm, soft, organic feel that most people like. They are pretty durable, but can harbor bacteria more easily than synthetics (and are almost never NSF certified, though this only matters for restaurant kitchens).

Synthetics vary from soft and grippy to hard and smooth. Cheaper synthetics tend to be softer and not as durable, such as polypropylene, while higher end synthetics tend to be hard and quite durable, such as POM. All are comfortable, and which you prefer is up to you. Try a few before you decide which one you want to buy.

You can also go for a wood/synthetic composite such as pakkawood or micarta. These are excellent handles with an organic feel that are also very durable. 

Messermeister uses wood, pakkawood, and POM on their more expensive lines, and they use polypropylene on their affordable lines. These are all standard choices--but if you can afford it, try the Oliva Elite. This olive wood handle is absolutely exquisite, and one of the reasons this is our favorite Messermeister knife.

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Messermeister Knives Pros and Cons

Though it's hard to lump all Messermeister knives into the same group for pros and cons, here are the basic pros and cons of Messermeister knives.

Pros
  • Durable high carbon German steel (except for Kawashima)
  • Several lines from affordable to high end
  • Lots of buying options for single knives
  • Stealth chef knives are lighter and thinner, but still very durable, all-purpose knives.
Cons
  • Most lines are fairly expensive
  • Not a lot of sets to choose from.

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Messermeister Knives FAQs

Here are some commonly asked questions about Messermeister knives.

Is Messermeister a Good Brand?

Yes, Messermeister knives are high quality. Many people believe they are sharper and finished better than Wusthof knives.

Who Owns Messermeister?

Messermeister was founded in 1981 by husband and wife Bernd and Debra Dressler, and today are owned by Debra and her daughters, Kirsten and Chelcea. Thus, today Messermeister is a 100% female-owned company.

Are Messermeister Knives Forged or Stamped?

Messermeister makes both forged and stamped knives. Their Custom, Pro Series, and Petite Messer lines are stamped; all their other lines are forged.

Where Are Messermeister Knives Made?

Most of Messermeister's knives are made in Solingen, Germany (like Wusthof and Zwilling). Their stamped knives are made in Portugal (except for the Custom line, which is made in Germany), and their camping knives are made in China (Adventure Chef) and Italy (Overland Chef).

How Do Messermeister Knives Compare to Wusthof?

Messermeister forged knives are quite comparable to Wusthof forged knives. The quality is just as good, and some people believe them to be even better, with better finishes and balance. Price wise, the brands are similar, with some Messermeister lines costing more than Wusthof and some costing less.

What Is the Cutting Angle of Messermeister Knives?

All Messermeister knives have a cutting angle of 15 degrees double bevel (30 degrees inclusive).

Are Messermeister Knives Dishwasher Safe?

No! Messermeister knives are not dishwasher safe. You should wash all sharp knives by hand, even if the manufacturer says they are dishwasher safe. Dishwasher detergents have abrasives that can dull and discolor the blades and the handles. 

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Final Thoughts on Messermeister Knives

Messermeister Oliva Elite chef:paring knives

Messermeister is a top quality brand of German-style knives and are as worthy of considerations as Wusthof or Zwilling. The blades are made from the same steel, and the handles are beautifully finished and comfortable in most hands. 

Messermeister also make a Japanese line and two lines of outdoor cooking knives. The Japanese line, Kawashima, is beautiful and extremely sharp, with a hardness rating of 64 HRC, which is the hardest knife we've ever tested. It was amazing out of the box.

We did not test the outdoor knives.

Overall, we like and recommend Messermeister knives. The Oliva Elite stealth chef's knife was our favorite for its lightness, durability, and beauty--but you can get the same blade quality with a POM handle for less in the Meridian Elite line.

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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