A Rostfrei knife is a type of German knife that literally means ‘rust-free’. It is not a knife brand but instead refers to a German knife made with stainless steel. Most of these knives are made in Solingen, Germany.
When people hear ‘rostfrei knife’, they usually think of the small hunting knives that have wooden handles, which are sometimes fairly decorative. This isn’t necessarily the case, though – because ‘rostfrei’ simply refers to the stainless steel, many kitchen and culinary knives are also ‘rostfrei’ knives.
Read on to find out more about the history of the rostfrei knife, as well as the benefits of stainless steel knives for your kitchen.
Rostfrei Knife History
Stainless steel was discovered in the late 18th century, and widespread production began in the infamous factories of Sheffield, England, in the 1840s.
The Germans were, however, a little late to this party. ‘Rostfrei’ knives, which translates to mean ‘stainless steel’ knives, were first produced in 1912.
If you’ve ever heard the term ‘inox’ steel, especially in reference to knives, that’s because it means the same thing! ‘Inox’ means ‘stainless steel’ in French, named after the famous knife maker Victorinox.
Rostfrei knives began their production journey in Solingen, near Dusseldorf. If you’ve ever come across a rostfrei knife, besides seeing ‘rostfrei’ imprinted on the knife, you might also see ‘Solingen’.
This is especially true of vintage Rostfrei knives, as the original ones were pretty much always stamped before leaving the factory.
One of the original manufacturers of Rostfrei steel in Solingen was the Wusthof company, who later went on to form Wusthof-Trident, an American knife-making company now based in Connecticut.
Solingen has quite literally been the master of the sword for a long time – the city has held the nickname “City of Blades” for a while now due to the fact they made swords in the middle-ages and now make knives.
Rostfrei knives, like most stainless steel knives, are usually 440A and 440B type stainless steel. You may also come across some that are the 420 variant, though this is unusual in regular, day-to-day knives, given that the lower carbon content means it creates a softer blade.
How to Tell If It’s a Rostfrei Knife
It can be hard to spot an authentic rostfrei knife, in the same way it can be with a stainless steel knife.
If you bought it from a reputable seller in Europe, and the blade or handle says ‘rostfrei’ on them somewhere, then it’s highly likely to be a real rostfrei knife.
Again, as mentioned earlier, some may also say ‘Solingen’ on them, or even ‘inox’. While ‘inox’ might not strictly be a rostfrei knife as it may have been made in France and not Germany, they are both made from the exact same type of steel.
Alternatively, they might have the brand name printed or imprinted somewhere on the knife itself. Gude knives, for instance, print their brand name in the middle of the blade towards the flat edge of the knife.
In recent years, with the rise of online shopping and the outsourcing of manufacturing to places like China, some people have found that they have accidentally bought fake rostfrei knives.
In order to sell more, many of these companies which sell through Amazon or other online marketplaces falsely advertise themselves as ‘rostfrei’ even if they weren’t made in Germany.
While there are no strict laws, the general rule of thumb is that only those knives made in Germany ought to be labelled as ‘rostfrei’.
Rostfrei Knife Benefits
Authentic rostfrei knives can be a really good investment, especially if you’re a big foodie who’s into cooking.
So, what are the benefits of buying rostfrei knives instead of other regular knives?
It is difficult to separate out the benefits of a rostfrei knife specifically over any other type of stainless steel, as ‘rostfrei’ simply refers to stainless steel made in Germany.
While there are some debates over which country produces the best steel, overall, stainless steel is stainless steel. Meaning, it is the type of stainless steel that matters the most, not where it comes from.
There will be little difference in a stainless steel knife made of 440A type steel in England than one made in Germany, for instance.
So here are some benefits of buying stainless steel, or ‘rostfrei’ knives, especially if they’re for your kitchen:
Normally, when choosing kitchen knives, the choice is between a stainless steel knife and carbon steel. Carbon steel contains up to 1% carbon, while stainless steel has more elements added to it to guarantee it doesn’t tarnish or literally ‘stain’.
While carbon steel is often favoured by chefs due to its precision, stainless steel is a better option if you don’t enjoy keeping your knives maintained 24/7.
Carbon steel can’t tolerate dampness and water like stainless steel can. Stainless steel is fairly invincible and will survive being washed many times and left to dry on its own.
On the other hand, carbon steel requires being kept dry most of the time, as it will degrade otherwise. This can also cause unsightly marks on the blade, which many people don’t like, especially if they take pride in the look of their knives.
Stainless steel knives go duller a little bit quicker than carbon steel knives do. This is due to the lower carbon content, which is what makes carbon steel so sharp.
However, when they do lose their sharpness, stainless steel blades can easily be sharpened at home with a blade sharpening device or traditional steel rod.
Carbon steel knives will need taking to a professional to be sharpened due to their delicate nature. Carbon steel can be broken much easier than stainless steel as the metal is softer.
This means a lot of extra time and money is invested into having carbon steel, whereas stainless steel knives can be maintained from the comfort of your own home whenever you need it.
The point of stainless steel is that it doesn’t rust or stain in any way. These two factors mean that stainless steel is highly durable and will last years and years before needing to be replaced.
Carbon steel and other metals used for kitchen knives degrade at a much quicker rate than stainless steel due to their lack of added materials which give them the benefit of being stainless.
Because stainless or rostfrei knives are so durable, this makes them perfect for using on a variety of occasions.
They don’t have to be kept locked up in your precious kitchen – they’re highly versatile and can easily be taken on camping trips, cookouts, or even hunting.
Because of the lower carbon content and the mix of metals involved in stainless steel, you’ll usually find that rostfrei knives are on the cheaper side of home cooking knives in comparison to carbon steel.
While carbon steel can often look much more beautiful than stainless steel, rostfrei knives are more durable yet cost a lot less, making them a great choice if you’re looking for reliable yet cheap knives.
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Rostfrei Knives Vs Other Hunting Knives
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Many people like stainless steel or rostfrei knives for hunting with. Due to their German heritage, many of the rostfrei knives that you may come across will be short handled hunting knives.
Many hunting knife styles originate from the Germany and Switzerland area – which is where the Swiss army knife was born, after all!
In this sense, because Rostfrei knives are derived from the original birthplace of hunting knives, many people prefer them to other types of hunting knives, as they are made with a high level of expertise.
Many hunters also like to use rostfrei or stainless steel hunting knives, rather than carbon steel, for the same reasons outlined above in relation to kitchen knives.
Their durability, ease of sharpening, and versatile nature all make them a perfect candidate to be your new best friend on hunting trips.
Also, they can often be slightly cheaper than carbon steel hunting knives, due to the fact that the steel isn’t as ‘pure’ as that found in carbon steel.
This makes rostfrei hunting knives perfect for those looking for a quality knife on a budget!
So, to recap, rostfrei knives aren’t actually a brand of knife at all, but they simply refer to stainless steel knives that originate from Germany. ‘Rostfrei’ literally means ‘rust free’, which in English is usually expressed as ‘stainless’.
Rostfrei knives are highly versatile, incredibly durable, and don’t require a great deal of maintenance. They can also be easily sharpened and maintained at home without the help of a professional, making them budget and time friendly.
You’ll know if you’ve bought a real rostfrei knife if it has come from Germany or a surrounding European country and has an inscription somewhere on the knife. Double check the manufacturer or seller you have bought from to ensure that they are located in Europe, as many people have recently been duped by fake versions for sale online.