Should you buy a Chinese Chef’s knife or any other VG10 Chinese-made knife? After my research, I have bought my first VG10 Damascus Chef’s knife from China. I have my doubts about the reliability and the information they gave me about their chef’s knife. I own 2 Shuns, one Santoku, and a Yanagiba, and I love to use them, but there are definitely better knives around. They used a lot of different knives when I was working in an Asian Fusion kitchen. Each chef has their own collection. I tried a few of their knives, too, since I asked to test them before buying one myself.
Japanese and German knives I have tried so far are:
- Shun (I own 2 of them myself, Santoku and a Yanagiba)
- Sakai Takayuki
- Zwilling knives by J.A. Henckels
- Unknown brand bought in Japan
- No brand Chinese Cleaver (Made in China)
Disclaimer: The above-mentioned knives were not all chef’s knives. But I will not compare the Yanagiba knives for this purpose.
Wich Knife is the best? A Japanese, German or a Chinese Chef’s knife?
Each knife had its pros and cons. The Global is absolutely fine. They have a wide range of different knives, and since I worked mostly in the Japanese kitchen than the Chinese kitchen, I have used a lot of different types of knives. When I first started working, my first knife was a Wusthof 20CM Classic Chef’s knife. I worked on their traineeship program since I had no professional kitchen experience and never went to culinary school. So there is no answer in which knives were the best. They all shined in their own field.
Should you buy a Japanese VG10 Damascus Chef’s Knife from China?
I did my research, and I finally have decided to buy a VG10 Damascus Chef’s Knife from and made in China. But before you buy one for yourself, you need to consider a few things. The price is what made me buy the complete collection. Right now, I can’t tell you if they are worth it or not. Most, if not all, the knives offered on AliExpress tell you in the title that they use Japanese VG10, but in the description, they list the material as 10Cr15CoMoV, a Chinese steel type claim that it is identical to Japanese VG10 steel.
After talking to multiple OEM’s and pretty much every single one of them told me that imported Japanese VG10 is not possible (anymore), but 10cr15comov is a Chinese equivalent to the Japanese VG10.
Some OEM’s told me that VG10 export is banned, so pretty much exclusive to Japan and the knife makers in Japan. (Imported Japanese AUS10 is possible for import, but not the Japanese VG10)
Like you all know, when you guys asked in the comment sections if it was the real Japanese VG10, I always said that I have my doubts or the heat treatment was not on par with Japanese-made VG10.
This pretty much confirms why and why I have pushed AUS10 over VG10 a lot more when it comes to knives made in China. 10cr15comov would not be bad steel if heat-treated correctly. It will indeed sit between VG10 and AUS10 if the heat treatment is good.
It may be possible to import VG10 again in the future since the Export ban will eventually hurt the steel manufacturer in the long run as competitors order from their competitor (AUS10, German Steel, Swedish Steel etc.).
Why is the Chinese VG10 Chef’s knife so cheap?
It is so cheap in China that of the labor cost and how they make the knife. Machines mostly make knives. I bought the collection since that gave me a 55% discount. So I bought each knife for 31 euro ($36). A normal discount for a chef’s knife is 47 euro ($50). If you buy the knives, not in discount, you pay full price at around 94 Euro ($100). If they can deliver what they promise, then I find the price of 47 euro ($50) a steal! And it will shake up the knives industry pricing model. And the number one secret is the Chinese steel type 10Cr15CoMoV, which is cheaper than a Japanese VG10.
Is the made in China knife really a VG10 Damascus steel from Japan?
Let me be clear Damascus is just naming for the finished layered look on the knife. Hammered Damascus will give you a hammered look with air pockets on the knife. Lasered (printed) Damascus is not Damascus. They only lasered the look on it so that the Damascus look will fade away after a longer period of use. Damascus is folded welded steel into a pattern. More layers do not make it any better, and it is only for the looks.
The core itself is where the magic is. The Chinese knives manufacturers are all claiming things in their title like ”73 layers Japanese VG10 Damascus steel chef knife” but beware that you absolutely need to read the description first before buying. Have you heard about Dalstrong? They started, like the others that are selling their knives in China or AliExpress. There is only one Chinese brand that sells their knives that they claimed to be imported VG10 steel from Japan but more about that later. So, in short, no, most of the knives advertised as Japanese VG10 knife are not the VG10 steel imported from Japan.
Japanese VG10 Steel made in China?
I already talked about hardness in this article ”What you need to know about kitchen knives”. But let’s summarize it to understand why the Chinese knife makers put the ”Japanese VG10 Damascus Steel” in their title or description. We look at the Rockwell Hardness (HRC).
- 52-54 HRC: Cheap chefs knives, mostly very cheap 8 euro (10 dollars) made in China. Needs to be sharpened every time we are done with a task. Suppose used in a professional kitchen.
- 54-56 HRC: Better than cheap knives. Mostly for home cooks and not for the professional kitchen. Most cheap Chinese bone cleavers use this kind of hardness. Needs to sharpen a few times a day if used in a professional kitchen.
- 56-58 HRC: Easy to sharpen and used in a professional kitchen. Most german knives or better quality Chinese vegetable/bone cleavers use this kind of hardness.
- 58-60 HRC: Better quality kitchen knives like the Japanese knives from Global. They stay longer sharp but are harder to sharpen.
- 60-62 HRC: The knives remain sharp for a long time but have more risk of becoming brittle and chipping. Harder to sharpen, and quality depends on the production. Mostly used in Japanese knives. Mostly VG10, VG Max, or AUS10 steel from Japan with his HRC.
- 63-66 HRC: Needs cleaning after each use and more prone to chipping and becoming brittle.
Of course, these are just guidelines. The manufacturer and where the knives are made has a huge role in the quality.
Now let’s look at the steel from China
In Japan, they call their special steel VG10 or VG Max. They can reach 60 to 61 HRC for all Japanese knife manufacturers. They don’t reach under 60 or above 61HRC. That is how good the quality control and how good their knife forging is in Japan. In China, they have imported Japanese VG10 steel or use Chinese steel that is pretty much the same as VG10 steel in terms of Hardness.
The Chinese version VG10 steel is called 10Cr15C or 10Cr15CoMoV. It can reach an HRC of 62, but this all depends on the manufacturer and the forging progress. That is why they put 62 in the title and their advertisement in the description. But once you read the small details, you pretty much know that that is a lie, and they put in 58 to 62 in the small detail section. And let’s be honest if they sell an HRC of 58 for $50, it is a pretty good deal. When they claim to have the imported VG10 steel from Japan, it can still go to 58HRC when manufactured in China.
Steel from China
If you are going to buy a Chinese knife, compare it with the following, and avoid strange claims or false advertising. You will notice that we can put some Chinese steel types in a wider HRC range, which is why they all put +/- 2HRC behind the claimed HRC since it depends on the quality control. It is a gamble in which quality you get. Chinese manufacturers use CrMo/CrMoV Steel Series, so the manufacturers are unknown. A Claimed 60HRC can be 58 to 62 HRC so take that in mind while looking at the list below.
- 3Cr13 = 52 HRC: cheaply made in China knives
- 4Cr13 (Stainless Steel) = 55 to 57 HRC Mostly used for Chinese Bone Cleavers
- 4Cr14MoV = 55 to 57 HRC good enough to make kitchen knives, claimed to be 55 HRC
- 7Cr17MoV = 55 to 57 HRC. Increases strength, wear resistance, and increased toughness claimed to be 55HRC
- 8Cr13MoV & 8Cr14MoV = 58HRC Similar to AUS 8 Japanese Steel. This has wear resistance, toughness, and easy to sharpen if it is similar to AUS 8.
- 9Cr18MoV = Low-cost, high corrosion resistance stainless steel should be 58 HRC
- 10Cr15CoMoV Also called the Chinese VG10 = 60-62 HRC: Claimed to be 60HRC. This steel type is still unknown, and only China uses it, and they claim that it is the same as VG10 Takefu stainless steel, which has good wear resistance and rust resistance.
When you search on AliExpress, you will see that the above list is the most used Chinese knives material.
Chinese branded VG10 Japanese Chef’s knives made in China
Let’s take a deeper look at the Chinese branded VG10 knives. On AliExpress, you will find the most common brand if you type ”Japanese VG10 knife”. They are
What do they all have in common
If you look closely, you can see that the design is pretty much the same for all the brands, and the only difference is the logo. That is why you must look at the description and what they claim. They are all made by the same manufacturer, but they only put their brand on the knives. So I will suggest that you look at the design and buy the cheapest one without looking at the brand.
Sunlon or Yousunglon VG10 Imported Japanese steel made in China
In Japan, they will not go below 60 or above 61HRC. And since
Disclaimer: They still offer 10Cr15CoMoV Chinese VG10 on most of their knives, so make sure to read the details and descriptions. And the price is $160, so you are better with another brand that offers the same for $50. You will only find this brand if you type ”Yousunlong” for some reason, AliExpress deleted the search term Sunlong for this seller.
Edit: They replaced all the older knives that they sold with the new design and handle. According to the new description, they are all imported Japanese VG10 steel, so no more 10Cr15CoMoV. They also added a 50% discount on their complete collection, making the knives around $20 to 30 dollars more expensive (total around $70 to $80), but they claim that they imported the VG-10 steel from Japan.
Yarenh Japanese VG10 Damascus Chef’s knife made in China
The knife set is from Yarenh, which is not listed as a brand on AliExpress. All knives look the same as all the others, and they are one of the select few that is honest about the material they use
”10Cr15CoMoV” Chinese version of VG10 steel. Or at least they are not trying to hide it in their description. They are also the cheapest during my order. There will be a review once my Yarehn knife set is delivered.
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