Ginsu is one of the best known manufacturers of cheap kitchen knives that actually work! Whether you’re wondering if they’re any good or you’re ready to give Ginsu knives a try, this Ginsu knives review will help you choose quality knives for your kitchen.
I recently finished Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, and I’d be lying if I didn’t do a double-take when he started talking about the best kitchen knives for home chefs.
You see, I had always kind of assumed European knives were the way to go.
Turns out? Not even Bourdain thought that to be the case.
While I’ve never been one to spend a ton on knives – after all, how much your knife costs has nothing to do with how good your food tastes – I am all about saving time. That’s why freezer meals are so big on this blog, after all!
If I can spend a hundred bucks on a well made stainless steel knife set that’s going to make food prep faster and easier, you better believe I’ll consider that money well spent.
And if I can get if for cheaper than that and do it on a budget? Heck yes!
Since Bourdain whole heartedly endorsed Japanese knives, I figured I should get with the program and see what’s available.
Introducing Ginsu Knives
During my research, I of course came across Ginsu Knives.
Ginsu knives are one of the best known brands of cheap stainless steel kitchen knives that are actually good.
You might remember them from their infomercials of yesteryear…
These days they have a serious reputation for making incredibly high quality knives at incredibly low prices.
But are they actually any good? Or is it all hype?
Join me on my mission to find out!
Ginsu Knives Review: The Bottom Line
Looking for a new knife set or a few individual knives, and don’t want to read my entire review? Wondering if Ginsu knives are any good?
Ginsu knives are great for home chefs who need a reliable knife set on a budget. If I had to guess, I’d wager that’s most of my readers!
Are they the first choice of professional chefs? No.
But will they get the job of cooking for your family done? Absolutely.
Of the three lines of Ginsu knives, and based on my research, I recommend the Kiso Essential Series and the Chikara Series.
Ginsu’s Kiso Essential Series are a good choice for busy home cooks who want to throw their knives in the dishwasher and don’t want to bother with sharpening their home knives. The Essential series uses serrated blades, which means they continue to work well, even without sharpening. You can purchase as a 14-piece set or 18-piece knife set (which includes a few cooking utensils), or as individual knives.
Ginsu’s Chikara Series offers a great entry-level knife for anyone who’s a bit more serious in the kitchen. These require a bit of maintenance and care, such as hand washing and using the honing rod occasionally. You can buy them as individual knives if you only need a few. The 8-piece and 12-piece knife set (which comes with steak knives) are a great bet for a full knife upgrade.
Ginsu Knives Review: Ginsu Chikara vs Ginsu Essentials (Kiso)
While Ginsu has 3 lines of high knife – the Chikara, the Kiso, and the Daku – I’m going to focus on the Chikara and the Kiso, because I feel they offer the best balance of offering a high quality product for a bargain price!
They also have a specialty sashimi knife, which I haven’t covered here since I just don’t think it’s as relevant to readers of this site.
The Ginsu Chikara series are excellent knives that are super affordable for what you get. That said, they do require some maintenance, such as occasional use of a honing rod to keep them sharp, and taking them in to be professionally sharpened once in a while. If you’re prepared to hand wash and use the rod, I think you’ll find these knives stay quite sharp and perform well. However, if you’re looking for a super easy care or dishwasher safe option, these won’t fit your needs.
The Ginsu Chikara series are full tang, forged knives made from premium 420J Japanese stainless steel. Chikara knives have fine-edged blades, rather than serrated like the Essentials Series. While I personally prefer fine edge blades, they do require a bit more work – they just won’t perform as well if they get dull!
As far as knives go, Ginsu has made the Chikara series to be fairly low maintenance. They are well balanced and strong, and come with Ginsu’s limited lifetime warranty. That said, they will require occasional maintenance using a honing rod to keep them sharp.
Ginsu Chikara Buying Options
You can buy the knives individually, or purchase them in bundles with a knife block. Options include:
- Individual pieces: The Chikara line includes 6” and 8″ Chef’s knives, a 7″ Santoku knife, a 6″ cleaver, an 8″ bread knife, and a 3.5” Paring knife. They also sell a 4-piece set of steak knives.
- 5-piece prep knife set: This set includes a 6” Chef’s knife, a 5” Santoku knife, a 5” Utility knife, and a 3.5” Paring knife, in a wood storage block. See more details.
- 8-piece cutlery set: In the 8-piece set, you get a 8” Chef’s knife, a 7” Santoku knife, a 5” Utility knife, a 5” Serrated utility knife, a 3.5” Paring knife, along with a Honing rod and Kitchen shears (scissors). You can choose between a Hardwood toffee-stained storage block or a bamboo storage block. See more details.
- 12-piece cutlery set: Basically the same as the 8-piece set, but with 4 steak knives. You also still get the choice between the toffee-stained storage block or bamboo. See more details.
- 19-piece cutlery set: 8″ Chef’s knife, 8″ Slicing and Carving knife, 8″ Bread knife, 7″ Santoku knife, 6″ Cleaver, 6″ Boning knife, 5″ Utility knife, (8) 4.5″ Stamped Steak knives, 3.5″ Paring knife, Kitchen shears, Honing rod, and Bamboo storage block. See more details.
I think the 8-piece and 12-piece knife set will work best for most families looking to upgrade or replace their knife set.
The Ginsu Kiso series of knives is Ginsu’s easy to own line of knives. You can put them in the dishwasher, and they don’t require use of a honing stick or sharpening. Seriously! The serrated edge design is ultra forgiving, meaning even if the edge gets a but dull over time, the serrated blade will keep on slicing. If you need something that works pretty well and aren’t willing to hand wash or use a honing stick, the Kiso Essential knife set is a great choice.
Kiso means “fundamental” in Japanese, and a lot of English websites this this as the Essential Series. This is Ginsu’s “easy to own” line of kitchen knives. They are all serrated, to make your job a bit easier in the kitchen. The big thing about Kiso is this line is dishwasher safe.
As with the Chikara series, these are all full tang knives, which means the blade runs all the way up the handle.
Unlike the Chikara series, the Kiso knives are stamped knives (rather than forged). Stamped knives aren’t as strong as forged knives, but are less labor intensive to make, which is reflected in the lower price.
The serrated blade basically makes up for the fact that you can’t sharpen these knives. Even when they dull over the years, the serrated edge ensures they can keep chopping.
You can buy the Essential knives individually. Personally, I think the 14-piece set is your best bet, as it offers pretty great value.
How to Choose a Good Knife for Your Home
If you’re new to the world of kitchen knives, it might surprise you there are a number of factors you should consider when purchasing a knife.
Stamped vs Forged
When it comes to kitchen knives, you can choose between stamped knives or forged knives.
Stamped knives tend to be the cheaper of the two. Without getting too technical, manufacturers basically cut stamped knives out of a big sheet of stainless steel. It’s cheaper to manufacture knives this way. However, the end result isn’t as strong. Further, stamped knives don’t typically doesn’t handle or perform as finely. Ginsu makes their Kiso line using this stamping process.
On the flip side, forged knives cost more to make (and therefore, cost more to buy). Manufacturers craft each forged individually to ensure best possible function and durability.
Forged knives are the way to go if you can afford it. The nice thing about Ginsu, is many families can afford a forged knife set, because they’re still very affordable.
A forged knife is stronger than a stamped knife, they are easier to sharpen, and they feel better.
Grade of Steel
A knife’s grade of steel impacts everything about it. It’s really important, and is worth considering when you’re ready to make a knife purchase.
Ginsu uses 420J stainless steel for both the Essential series and the Chikara knives. If I’m being honest, this isn’t really all that impressive, and is considered a bottom-end stainless steel that can lose its edge quickly.
This explains a bit why you need to use the honing rod on the Chikara knife sets!
It’s not needed with the Essential series because the serrated edge makes up for the quality of the steel to ensure they stay usable.
Full Tang Vs Partial Tang
Tang is the part of the steel blade that goes into the handle.
The best knives are full tang, which makes a lot of sense when you think about it. By using a single piece of metal that runs the entire length of the knife (and is essentially covered by the handle in parts), there aren’t any points of connection. And that means, there aren’t any obvious points of weakness, giving you a super strong knife.
In a partial tang knife, the blade only goes part of the way into the handle. As you constantly push down on the knife to chop, mince, slice, whatever…you are putting stress on where the tang ends, which might eventually lead the knife to fail.
If you need a cheap set of knives to last a few years, a partial tang knife will probably suit you. However, if you’re looking for “investment knives”, you definitely need full tang.
Good news? Chikara and Kiso lines are both full tang.
Final Thoughts on My Ginsu Knives Review
Thanks for making it this far, and I hope you found this article helpful.
If you cook a lot, and don’t mind a bit of care (using a honing rod, not throwing them in the dishwasher), the Chikara are a great choice.
However, if you an easier care set of knives, I recommend you consider the Kiso series.