When thinking about kitchen knives, many people may think that the blade is the only consideration.
However, when it comes to knife balance and ergonomics, the role of the handle becomes even more important than the blade.
After all, it’s the part of the knife that you are holding and will need to serve the purpose of a good grip and to help in your food preparation – while making sure that your hand does not feel any fatigue.
Why Handle Material is So Important?
Using a dull blade is a surefire way to feel fatigued when working with a knife. You may also feel fatigued if the handle is not a good choice for your hand. Both scenarios can lead to accidents or poorly cut food which leads to poorly cooked food.
Along with helping with grip, comfort, and preventing hand fatigue, the handle should also be durable, easily cleaned and water, heat, and slip-resistant.
That is why most high-quality kitchen knives or chef’s knives have only a handful of quality materials that are used for handles.
What Need to Consider When Selecting Handle Material?
Some people may buy the knife based on esthetics – and pick a handle that just looks nice. Careful consideration should be made not only to the blade type but the handle as well.
The material used to make a knife handle will dictate comfort, functionality, and how easy it is to use. In short, you need to consider five major points.
- Grip: The handle must have a good non-slip grip.
- Durability: Make sure that the handle is compatible with the kitchen environment.
- Weight: The weight of the handle should not be more or less than the blade, meaning that there should be a balance between them.
- Resistance: It will be best if the handle is resistant to water, stain, corrosion, moisture, heat, and impact.
- FDA Approved: If the is a composite element, it should be FDA approved.
Best Kitchen Knife Handle Materials
By considering the materials outlined below, a good choice can be made with long-lasting positive results for the home cook, as well as a chef.
Some of the materials below do lend themselves to increased esthetics and sometimes offered carved, and intricate designs.
- G-10 Garolite Handle
- Wood Handle
- Aluminum Handle
- Stainless Steel Handle
- Micarta Handle
- Plastic Handle
- Titanium Handle
- ZYTEL Handle
- Carbon Fiber Handle
- Bone Handle
- Stag Handle
1. G-10 Garolite Handle
Made of laminate fiberglass, this is the most likely sturdy knife handle material available. G-10 is made of many glass layers that are compressed together, forming a fiberglass laminate. They are very durable and strong.
They are resistant to moisture and temperature and are much easier to maintain than other materials. These types of handles are lightweight which makes them great to work within the kitchen.
- Made of fiberglass, they are resistant to corrosion or rust.
- The G-10 handles are comfortable to hold and a non-slip grip is available.
- The handles are durable enough that they do not deteriorate with prolonged use.
- Also due to lightweight, you will not feel any fatigue in your hands during a long time of use.
- The handles are good at shock-absorbing so there is no chance of breaking or brittle if they suddenly fall out of the hand.
- There are color limitations because most of the handles are black.
2. Wood Handle
Wood-handled knives have been around for a very long time. Since there are different types of trees in nature, the handles are also made of different types of wood which gives us a taste of aesthetics.
Also, these are obtained from nature which in many cases is somewhat cheaper than other materials.
Some woods are durable and last long. Less expensive wood handles will not last as long and may be made with composite wood materials.
They need to be well-dried when washed. They are also susceptible to scratches and dents.
- Fully natural element with beautiful aesthetic colors
- These are easy to hold and comfortable depending on the handle design
- Can be engraved or decorated as per choice
- It does not harm nature like composite material
- Being impact-resistant, wooden handles are much safer for yourself, your floor, and your knife
- These wood-based handles are most likely not 100% waterproof which can cause the handle to crack or warp.
- In many cases, the wooden handle is at risk of splitting, cracking, and rotting.
- There are some wooden handles which are very expensive.
3. Aluminum Handle
Aluminum is a silver-like substance that has a non-metallic property. Aluminum handles will last a long time and keep looking good.
Being affordable and luxurious to look at, most popular knife manufacturers use it as a material in making kitchen knife handles.
It offers limited grip but you can choose a textured handle to ensure that the handle is not too slippery.
- The Aluminum handles are lightweight and provide excellent grip and control over the knife.
- It is a rustproofing and corrosion-resistant material.
- This type of handle is also impact-resistant and will hold up well.
- Aluminum feels solid in the hand.
- The aluminum handle reacts so quickly with the outside temperature. When used outside in winter, it cools down very quickly.
- When wet, the grip is reduced and becomes slippery, but if there is texture or contour, it is greatly reduced.
4. Stainless Steel Handle
Steel with a chromium content of at least 10.5% is considered stainless steel. They are rust and corrosion-proof because they are made with Chromium.
These handles are resistant to dents and scratches. And, they appear to be a more affordable option.
When you hold the stainless steel handles, they feel solid, but most of the kitchen knife handles are hollow. This is actually done to reduce the overall weight of the knife.
They can be slippery which causes a risk on their own. However, manufacturers often use features like dots, stamping, rubber, engraving, or lines which are very important for grips.
- The handles are strong enough and durable.
- The stainless steel handle knives are shiny which is very nice to look at.
- Adequate balance is found in the knives that use stainless steel handles.
- Stainless steel handles are almost maintenance-free, much easier to clean than other handles.
- Stainless Steel handles are a bit heavy.
- If not textured, it can be slippery which will compromise the grip.
- They are not completely stain-proof and will rust if not properly cared for.
5. Micarta Handle
The handle is manufactured from different types of fabrics, canvas, linen, and mixed with resins. These can be very stylish and can be texturized for good grip.
You will feel quite smooth and very comfortable when you hold the Micarta handle. Also, you will not feel any fatigue in your hands due to long time use in your cooking.
- This handle is strong, lightweight, and durable.
- Micarta does not contain any metallic material so there is no possibility of rust or corrosion.
- Also, the Micarta handle is stiff enough so there is no chance of crutches.
- If the texture is not added, the grip is less on the handles and feels slippery.
- Heavy impact or collision can shatter the handle.
- It costs a bit more than other handles due to the detailed production process and the high cost of the materials used.
6. Plastic Handle
Plastic is a common material. There are several different types of plastic available to make knife handles.
Polypropylene and ABS are two polymers that offer strength and ease of construction. The handles can be easily molded into a variety of shapes and colors.
Polyoxymethylene is another type of plastic that costs a bit more, but this type of plastic protects against discoloration or color fade.
Plastic could be a good choice because it can be combined with other materials.
Some home cooks use different colors of knives in their kitchen to avoid cross-contamination (i.e. green for vegetables, yellow for poultry, red for meat).
- Plastic is easy to get, affordable to buy, and offers easy maintenance.
- It can be easily shaped to provide for a good grip.
- For the most part, plastic handles are non-porous and will also resist water being trapped within the materials.
- Not good for the environment
- Some low quality plastic handles are not FDA approved
7. Titanium Handle
These types of handles are more expensive because they are the toughest metal alloy and are not available in large quantities. Besides, its production cost is also much higher.
Titanium handle must be dried very well when washed. The handles are lightweight and warm in the hand. They are less likely to dent or scratch compared to other metal alloys.
- Titanium is one of the toughest and most corrosion-resistant materials in the world that has super-strength.
- This metal is used to make knife handles for a more durable, light, and fatigue-free user experience.
- More expensive than any other metal alloy.
- Kitchen Knife handles made of this metal are rarely found in the market.
8. ZYTEL Handle
ZYTEL is a composite material that is made from fiberglass and rubberized resins. It is also known as FRN which means fiberglass reinforced nylon.
ZYTEL is Invented, patented, and industrialized by DuPont™ and its owner is DOW® that is a famous chemical company.
However, ZYTEL is famous for its durability as well as it can be shaped into an ergonomic handle design.
Moreover, it is one of the most popular handle materials that is being used by many famous cutlery brands.
- ZYTEL handles are very durable and feel comfortable in the hand.
- They resist scratches and are very strong.
- ZYTEL handles require very low maintenance.
- Inexpensive option in knife handles.
- Some may feel that the knife feels too lightweight, or cheap because of the weight and look.
9. Carbon Fiber Handle
It is a sophisticated composite material that is made from carbon fibers (also many people know it as graphite fiber) in a special process.
Carbon fibers are not metallic but they are 4 times stronger than steel and extremely lightweight. They have a good heat tolerance which is important while working with food and in a kitchen.
- These handles are durable, strong, and lightweight.
- They are non-metallic, so rusting is less of a concern.
- Very easy to clean and care for, almost no maintenance required.
- Because of their innovative production methods and expensive raw materials, they are usually more expensive.
- Carbon fiber handles can be brittle if there’s a heavy impact on the material.
10. Bone Handle
These types of handles are usually made from the bones of cows, buffalo horns, deer antlers, elephant tusks, as well as other animals’ bones too. Nowadays, cow bones are used for most handles.
You’ll find bone used in a lot of outdoor knives like hunting, survival, or collective knives.
Bone is not a typical choice for kitchen knife handles due to the fact that they use their knives daily and need to count on reliability and durability. However, some high-end Japanese knives, such as sushi knives, use bones to make handles.
They are harder to clean and maintain due to their more delicate nature. But if taken care of, bone handles can last a long time.
- Since the bones can be easily colored, the handles are available in different colors.
- They can be easily carved to look nice.
- These handles are quite beautiful to look at and have an ancient appearance.
- The handles are very smooth which is very comfortable to use.
- The bone handle is brittle and can crack easily.
- Bone handles are not durable because they are very sensitive to humidity and temperature.
- The bone is perforated and it allows water to enter and sometimes retains water which deforms the handle over time.
11. Stag Handle
This material comes from deer antlers. These antlers are naturally shed.
Antlers are often used due to esthetics and natural beauty. The handles will vary in striations, and no two will be alike.
Stag does not appear to be a popular choice in kitchen or chef’s knives, but the material is available.
Which is the Best Handle Material for Kitchen Knives?
Overall, it appears that the G-10 is among the best options for handles for your kitchen knife and a chef’s knife.
I feel that no matter what kind of cook you are – home cook, or chef in a restaurant, a good quality knife is important to safety and efficiency.
I would not necessarily separate the two needs – unless the chef has a better budget!
I do feel that the G-10 offers both kinds of knife-users a good value, durability, and safety with its design and lightweight handle.
Investing in a good knife with a great blade and handle is worth the investment.
Read More: Best Self-Sharpening Knife Set
Careful consideration should be made when choosing a full tang or half tang knife, and the handle as noted before is an integral and important part of choosing a good kitchen knife or chef’s knife.
Most likely, if you are a food preparer a good knife is something that you will use daily. So, it’s worth the investment that will last a very long time.