The Damascus Knife has a long history that can be a little daunting.
But do I really need one in my kitchen?
Do you want a chef knife that stays razor sharp and resists damage? Do you want a Damascus blade with a cool wavy pattern on the blade?
You probably answered yes to stay sharp and resists damage but what’s the wavy pattern about?
My best Damascus chef knives are:
- Zelite Infinity Chef Knife 8 Inch (Best Overall)
- Shun Classic 8 inch Chef’s Knife (Best Made In Japan Damascus Knife)
- Kuma Professional Damascus Steel Knife
- Japanese Damascus Chef Knife
- Miyabu Fusion Morimoto Edition Chef’s knife
- Shun Classic 8-inch Kiritsuki Kitchen Knife
- Dalstrong Chef Knife – 6″ Shogun Series
- Shun Classic 10-piece Knife Block Set
- Levinchy Damascus Chef Knife
Read on to find out the best Damascus Chef Knife for you, as well as some nice alternatives.
What Is Damascus Steel?
If you know your geography, you know that Damascus is in Syria. So, why are all these Damascus steel chef knives coming out of Japan?
Long story short, Damascus Steel came from an ancient technique of making very durable steel tools and weapons in Damascus. The recipe for making this steel was lost over time, but Japanese craftspeople have done their best to recreate the method.
It’s anyone’s guess if these new Japanese knives are the same as the original Damascus steel knives. Hint: Almost certainly not. They do, however, have beautiful and distinctive patterns on the blades and extreme durability.
How Is Damascus Steel Made?
The process for making Damascus steel involves applying layers of iron and steel over the knife’s core. These are then forged together by hammering at a high temperature.
The result of this is a welded bond
When the multiple layers are welded together, it produces a unique, distinctive pattern.
Why Use Damascus Steel Chef Knives?
So what’s the deal with Japanese Damascus steel chef knives? Why do we want them and what advantages can you expect?
Even though they’re thin, you can expect great strength from Japanese Damascus kitchen knives. The layers of metal reinforce each other. If there is a weakness in one, it is supported by the others.
Japanese Damascus steel chef knives are known for being durable; they also resist stains, impacts, moisture, and extreme temperatures.
This also means that Damascus steel knives stay sharper for longer.
The process of making a Damascus steel chef’s knife removes many impurities and flaws by evening out the steel. In the end, you have a smooth, flawless, and strong knife.
The unique wave pattern on the blades of these chef knives is eye-catching. It will impress your guests and give you pleasure every time you use it.
Yet beware: those knives with the most attractive patterns are in face the ones that are most likely to have a purely decorative pattern
How Many Folds Should a Damascus Knife Have?
When making these knives, the craftsperson folds the steel while it’s still very hot. Folding the steel creates layers. Ten folds can create about 2000 layers.
But a super high number of layers really only affects the appearance of the knife. In fact, too many layers can result in a weaker blade.
So if you’re shopping for a Damascus kitchen knife that you’re actually going to use, you don’t need ridiculously high layer counts. Look for between 60 and 70.
How Do You Sharpen a Damascus Knife?
Damascus chef knives will stay sharper longer than other knives, but you still need to sharpen them.
Professional sharpening will get you the best results; this can be expensive and inconvenient.
Honing requires a ceramic rod; you pull the blade across the rod gently. It takes a bit of practice.
How Do You Clean and Store Damascus Knives?
Cleaning by hand is your best bet, never in the dishwasher.
More important than cleaning is drying.
A Damascus steel chef’s knife isn’t something you can leave soaking in water or even at the bottom of a drying rack. After you wash it, dry it right away.
Some Damascus chef knives come with a sheath or box for storage. Use it to keep moisture away from your Damascus chef’s knife.
If you’re considering purchasing a sheath, avoid leather, even if you think it looks kind of cool. Leather contains acid and chemicals that aren’t good for your Damascus knife, and it also holds moisture.
You also need to keep the handle of a Damascus chef knife dry. With a wood handle, this can be a bit tricky. Look for Pakkawood as it repels moisture.
I really like the magnetic rod knife storage method. For me, knife blocks are out of the question. The NSF says that knife blocks are one of the germiest kitchen items.
Believe it or not, there are fake Damascus knife sets out there. The process of making Damascus steel produces a wavy pattern; that’s a trademark of the knives.
However, some companies simply etch the design onto ordinary knives. The best way to tell if a knife is really made of Damascus steel is to look at the spine. It should show the layers as well.
Also, if the design on the Damascus knife is really obvious, then you may have a fake on your hands.
If you have the misfortune of buying a fake Damascus steel knife, the pattern will wear away fairly quickly.
What To Look for When Shopping for a Damascus Steel Knife
So, you’ve decided to go ahead and make a purchase of a Damascus chef knife, but what should you be looking for?
If it’s a real Damascus chef knife, the core metal will be stainless steel with a high carbon content. This makes the knife very durable and able to withstand wear, stains, impact, and high temperatures.
VG-10 Damascus steel is one of the more respected types of steel. VG Max is similar but with a slightly higher carbon count that makes it even more durable.
AUS 10 V is another similar and respected grade of Damascus steel; some say it’s even better than VG-10 steel.
I’d avoid knives that simply say they’re premium Damascus steel. If they’re premium quality, why not mention the grade?
Number of layers
There’s no best number of layers for a Damascus steel. What you should worry is having too many layers.
Once you get up into the thousands of layers, you’re talking about a purely decorative knife. It’s actually a weaker blade.
The best Damascus steel chef knife will have many layers, in the high 60s.
In my experience, an eight-inch (20-centimeter) kitchen knife is good for an all-around knife. A knife this size should be fine for cutting everything except perhaps large melons and pumpkins. A ten-inch (25-centimeter) blade is also handy.
Damascus steel knives are very durable. The core of the blade is the best determiner of durability.
Price is also a good indicator; it costs money to make quality products. Watch out for unbelievable prices on Damascus chef knives. If their steel is inferior, they won’t be durable. The best Damascus steel knife will usually be over a hundred dollars.
One thing to note: Damascus blades are generally not great at cutting through solid food. By that, I mean bone and frozen food—reviewers who mention knives that chip easily usually have tried to cut something very hard.
Because Damascus blades are mostly Japanese, they will come sharpened to Asian standards. This sharp edge is created with a more acute angle: about 15 degrees. Most western knives are sharpened to 20 to 22 degrees. The blade might seem very thin and razor sharp if you’re not used to these knives.
But don’t worry, because Damascus knives contain superior steel, they can be sharpened to a more acute angle.
Just don’t cut yourself! It’s a common mistake when people start using razor sharp quality knives for the first time. You need to get out of bad habits, such as using a hand as a backstop. Treat the knife blade with the caution it deserves.
The handle of any chef knife is a personal matter; it needs to feel good in your hand.
A common and respected handle is the G-10 military-grade handle. It’s a fiberglass laminate that boasts high strength and low moisture absorption.
Pakkawood is another common handle material. It’s a treated veneer wood that can withstand high temperatures, repel moisture, and is food-grade safe.
Some manufacturers don’t give a lot of information about the handle material; this makes me suspicious about the quality.
Storage and Packaging
As I mentioned above, you have to be careful about how you store your Damascus knife. Mainly it’s about keeping it dry.
Some Damascus knives come with either a storage box or a sheath. These are both great ways to keep your Damascus steel knife safe. Look for non-leather sheaths.
Also, some Damascus knives come with an elaborate box that will really wow friends and relatives if you’re giving the Damascus chef’s knife as a gift.
Best Damascus Chef Knife
Choosing the best Damascus Chef’s Knife is all about the materials. It’s also about what you want and how much you want to spend.
I’m going to pick my favorite, but please read all the reviews to make sure you get the ideal Damascus chef knife for you.
Zelite Infinity Chef Knife 8 Inch, Damascus Japanese AUS-10 Super Stainless Steel Blade
The Zelite Infinity Chef Knife 8 Inch, Damascus Japanese AUS-10 Super Stainless Steel Blade is a high quality 67 layer chef knife with a core made of high carbon AUS – 10 stainless steel.
The eight-inch (20-centimeter) blade is perfect for an all-around chef’s knife.
Some buyers of this kitchen knife felt that the pattern on the blade was more subtle than they’d expected.
This chef knife weighs 9.9 ounces (280 grams). It’s a little heavier than some of the other knives on the list, but some cooks like to feel that extra weight. Other users report that it’s too heavy.
Out of the box, you’ll get a knife sharpened to 12 degrees, making it one of the sharpest on the list.
The handle type is military-grade G-10; this means it’s a very high-grade fiberglass laminate that will be very durable. The center rivet in the handle is decorative.
You’ll also get an attractive box that makes for good gift giving and safe storage.
- High-quality core
- Good all-round blade size
- Durable handle
- Attractive storage box
- Blade pattern too subtle
- A little heavy
- Made in China
Shun Classic 8” Chef’s Knife (Best Damascus Made In Japan Chef Knife)
The Shun Classic 8 inch Chef’s Knife is another eight-inch (20-centimeter) chef’s knife. The core steel is VG-Max, which is a bit tougher than the VG-10 steel you see in other knives.
There are 68 layers of Damascus steel, so it’s a quality product.
An ebony Pakkawood handle keeps water away from the blade.
The chef knife weighs in at 7.13 ounces (202 grams). A little light, but some may prefer this to heavier knives. Some customers complained that the blade was delicate.
From the factory, this blade is at a 16-degree sharpness. A little less sharp than some of the other blades.
Customers complain that it comes in a plain cardboard box with no sheath for protection.
- Quality core
- 68 layers
- Ebony Pakkawood handle
- Not heavy
- Comes in a plain box
- No sheath
- Blade is very delicate
This is a quality knife that isn’t always available or can come at a steep price. If you want to shop around then also check out a similar knife (with a different wood handle) on Sukalde. Or check out this smaller, 7-inch, version on Bed Bath and Beyond.
Kuma Professional Damascus Steel Knife
The Kuma Professional Damascus Steel Knife is made of premium Japanese Damascus Steel. But there are no specifics about the type of core steel.
There are 67 layers in this eight-inch (20-centimeter) blade, putting this in the quality category.
Some users complained that this chef knife wasn’t that sharp coming out of the box.
The handle type is made with premium materials, but again the manufacturer doesn’t list any specific material. They say that it’s ergonomically designed, ultra-comfortable, and lightweight. Customers call it exquisitely well balanced.
This kitchen knife comes in a five-piece Damascus kitchen knife set with storage boxes, sheaths, and knife guards.
- 67 layers
- Well balanced
- Storage box, sheath, and knife guard included
- No info about core steel
- Might not be sharp enough
- Not sure what the handle is made of
Japanese Damascus Chef Knife and Magnet Holder by GreaterGoods
This Japanese Damascus Chef Knife is another eight-inch (20-centimeter) blade; this one has a core made with VG-10 Japanese Steel.
The name of this product kind of stands out as inauthentic. It has the keywords you want to see: Japanese and Damascus, but I’d prefer to see a Japanese brand name.
They don’t mention how many layers there are, but we do know it’s sharpened to 15 degrees. Some users thought it dulled too quickly.
The chef knife weighs 8.2 ounces (232 grams), which is right in the center for most knives like this. Some users found it heavy.
It has an Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene handle; you might know it as ABS. I’m not thrilled with this choice of material. I don’t think it stacks up against the other chef knives.
I don’t see a knife box or sheath attached to this product, but it does come with a magnetic holder.
- Good-quality core
- Not too heavy or too light
- Comes with a magnetic holder
- No information about the number of layers
- ABS handle
- No box or sheath
Miyabi Fusion Morimoto Edition Chef’s Knife
The Miyabu Fusion Morimoto Edition Chef’s knife is a ten-inch (25-centimeter) model with a core in VG 1-super steel. It has 65 layers with an impressive flower design on the blade.
As far as sharpness goes, it’s honed from 9.5 to 12 degrees.
The fusion aspect of this chef knife means that it’s made in the Japanese style but with Western cooks and chefs in mind. It will feel more like a chef knife that you’re used to.
Its handle is ebony PakkaWood which is a good material. Some users report the handle is a little short for the blade. Others found that the handle didn’t quite fit properly.
Some purchasers of this product weren’t happy with the plain packaging.
- Good-quality core
- Impressive flower pattern
- A fusion between Asian and Western knives
- Ebony Pakkawood handle
- Handle too short for some users
- Some issues with the blade fitting the knife
- It comes in plain packaging
Shun Classic 8-Inch Kiritsuke Kitchen Knife
This Shun Classic 8-inch Kiritsuki Kitchen Knife is similar to the Shun Classic knife but has a rounded belly that makes rocking a little easier. Otherwise, it’s still a very versatile chef knife.
The manufacturers use the VG-Max steel for the core and have applied 68 layers of Damascus steel.
The handle is the classic Shun ebony PakkaWood. It’s a D shape, which many users find better for comfort and control.
At eight ounces (227 grams), I would consider this chef knife on the lighter side. Many customers say they like the weight of this chef knife.
Unfortunately, some users said they thought this chef knife dulled too quickly.
The fact that the chef knife didn’t come with a case or sheath disappointed several customers.
- Good quality core
- 68 layers
- Good for rocking motion chopping
- Ebony Pakkawood handle
- Might dull quickly
- Does not come with a sheath
DALSTRONG Chef Knife – 6″ Shogun Series
The Dalstrong Chef Knife – 6″ Shogun Series ticks off many of the boxes the other Damascus knives on this list do. Its core is made of Japanese AUS-10V Super Steel, and it has a G-10 military-grade handle.
They list the sharpness at 8-12 degrees per side.
It comes with a BPA free polymer sheath to keep your blade safe.
Regarding the look of the chef knife, many users complain that the photos they saw before buying exaggerated the pattern on the blade. In real life, it wasn’t that defined.
In terms of functionality, this isn’t a bad thing. The Dalstrong has 66 layers of Damascus steel, and has prioritized performance over aesthetics. I’m OK with that.
I’m not excited about the blade size. If this is your main chef’s knife in your kitchen, I think six inches (15 centimeters) is a little short for many cutting tasks.
As far as authenticity goes, this company is in Toronto, and the knives are made in China. So there’s not a big Japanese connection here.
Customers praised the packaging, calling it flawless.
- Good quality core
- Comes with a sheath
- Beautiful packaging
- Blade pattern is hard to see
- Short blade
- Not Japanese
Shun Classic 10-piece Knife Block Set
Here we have a Shun Classic 10-piece Knife Block Set for those wanting to invest in a full set of kitchen knives.
Like other Shun knives, these are made of a VG-MAX core and 68 layers of stainless Damascus cladding.
The blade is double-beveled and angled at 16 degrees. Customers say they’re very sharp; other users said the knives weren’t sharpened evenly.
The D-shaped PakkaWood ebony handle is durable, strong, and resists moisture. Users of this product say that the handle provides good balance.
Included in the price is a woodblock storage unit; make sure your knives are completely dry before storing them in this block. Some users say that the block cracks easily.
- Good quality core
- 68 layers
- Very sharp
- Pakkawood handle
- Knives not always evenly sharpened
- Block might crack
Sets of quality knives can be quite expensive. One option is to see if you need all the knives on offer, and check for smaller sets if not. Another is to shop around. Here are a couple of options around this set:
Levinchy Damascus Chef’s Knife
There’s some controversy around the Levinchy Damascus Chef Knife. Many customers claim that the pattern on the blade is laser etched and not the result of folding steel. So there’s a chance this isn’t “true” Damascus steel.
Even users who said that this Damascus knife wasn’t authentic still found it to be sharp and very useful.
There’s not much info about the core steel, but the knife does have 67 layers of Damascus Steel.
Your eight-inch (20-centimeter) chef knife will come sharpened to 8-12 degrees.
The handle is G-10 military grade; this is great for durability and keeping the blade dry.
At 9.2 ounces (260 grams), this is one of the heavier knives on the list. Some cooks like the extra weight, and others will find it cumbersome.
You can expect a high-quality black gift box to accompany your chef knife.
- Sharp and useful
- Handle is military-grade
- High-quality gift box
- Might not be authentic Damascus
- Pattern may fade over time
- Heavier than others
Can you make Damascus with stainless steel?
Yes. Stainless steel is made by adding chromium which inhibits rusting. This doesn’t “contradict” the Damascus process so it absolutely can be done. In fact the best Damascus chef knives are made with stainless steel.
Obviously this isn’t the traditional way of making Damascus steel but at this point–who cares?
Can Damascus be sharpened?
Yes, you can sharpen your Damascus blade, just as you would any other kitchen knife.
However be aware that kitchen knives are sharpened at specific angles. If you aren’t sure what you are doing it might be worth considering having your kitchen knives professionally sharpened.
I would choose the Zelite Infinity Chef Knife 8 Inch, Damascus Japanese AUS-10 Super Stainless Steel Blade. It’s got two things going for it: the high grade AUS-10 super stainless steel and a military-grade handle. I prefer the fiberglass resin handle to wood because it’s easier to maintain.
This chef knife is a little heavy, but I guess I’ve built up my strength over the years. I like a heavier chef knife.
I also really like the Shun Classic 8 inch Chef’s Knife, but the lower price of the Zelite infinity chef knife and its attractive gift box sold me.