If you search through the archives of any online forum for serious cooks and chefs, you'll likely find ongoing debates regarding forged versus stamped kitchen knives. When it's all said and done, the debate often comes down to individual preferences, and this is turn, often hinges on the contrasting food preparation methods used by different chefs. However, having said the above there are key differences between forged knives and stamped knives. This article will take a close look at some of these differences so you can make a more informed choice when choosing which cutlery to buy.
Forged Knives versus Stamped Knives generally speaking, forged knives require a higher level of craftsmanship to make, although the technology has changed enough that the difference in this department is not as great anymore. To make a forged knife, the metal is heated to a very high temperature and then shaped into then blade and other parts of the knife. Traditionally, the hot metal was hammered into shape but this is not always the case anymore. The heat and shaping process aligns the steel molecules all in the same direction. As the metal cools, these molecules stay aligned in the same direction. This makes the cooled metal less flexible and stronger than before it was heated and shaped. On the other hand, blades of stamped knives are machine cut out of a single continuous sheet of stainless steel. The blade is then ground, polished, and heat treated to make the blade stronger. However, the temperature used to heat treat a stamped knife (400-700 degrees Fahrenheit) is much lower than the temperature used to shape a forged knife (1400-1900 degrees Fahrenheit).
When you start shopping for knives, the biggest difference you will notice right away is that forged knives cost considerably more than do stamped knives. Therefore, if you have a limited budget, you may decide to choose stamped knives over forged knives on this basis alone. You can often get a whole set of different styles of stamped knives for the same price as you pay for one forged chef knife. The blades on forged knives are stronger than the blade on stamped knives. For this reason, forged knives do not dull as fast as stamped knives. Therefore, if a really sharp blade is important to the food prep you do, you may want to opt for forged knives, especially if you like to slice your vegetables and meats in razor this slices. If you can't afford an entire set of forged knives, you may want to invest in a good electric knife sharpener so you can more easily keep a good set of stamped knives super sharp. Forged knives are usually much heavier than stamped knives since more metal is used in making them. For this reason, they are usually crafted so that they balance well in the hand. Some chefs prefer this extra weight because of how they prepare their food. For example, if you prefer to rock a rounded blade to chop vegetables or strips of meat, you may find it takes less effort to do so if you use a heavier knife, especially if you process a lot of food in this way. Another trick that some chefs like to do is to cut into a large vegetable such as a big yellow squash or a big carrot part way lengthwise with their blade and then bang the whole thing against the chopping board to split the vegetable completely. This is much easier if you are using a heavier blade. However, if you prefer to more simply slice your vegetables, you may not find much difference between a high end stamped knife and a forged knife. The blade on stamped knives are more flexible than the blade on forged knives. This makes certain food prep tasks easier to do with a stamped knife. For example, if you want to fillet a catfish, you will probably find it easier to do if you have a flexible blade. A flexible blade would also make cutting the meat from around a ham bone easier. Scraping the inner flesh from a mango would also be easier with a thin flexible knife blade.
Most forged knives have a thick "knob" of steel called a bolster that separates the blade from the top of the handle. However, it should be noted that most forged Asian knives lack this feature. Some chefs prefer to work with a knife that has a bolster. They see it as a safety precaution to prevent the fingers from slipping accidentally against the sharp blade. Some chefs also like to place one or more fingers on the bolster to provide added stability while cutting and chopping. Stamped knives never have a bolster. Therefore, if you do see a bolster on a knife, you can be sure it is a forged knife. Remember though that a forged knife does not necessarily have a bolster.
With modern knife manufacturing, stamped knives have improved a great deal in quality. Therefore, quality is no longer as big an issue when choosing between a forged knife and a stamped knife, assuming you are buying high end quality. Therefore, there are no longer many manufacturers who make forged knives. There are far more brands of high end stamped knives to choose from.
As you can see, the forged versus stamped kitchen knives debate is much more complicated than one being better than the other. It truly depends on your personal preferences, how you prep your food, and how both types of knives feel in your hand. However, if your knife budget is limited, and you can only afford to buy stamped knives, you should keep in mind that modern technology has advanced to the point that you can get very high quality stamped knives too. In fact, some chefs actually prefer them.