Messermeister is one of the major kitchen cutlery manufacturers from Germany, although I do have the feeling that it is less recognized, at least in US. May be I am wrong, but while most of the folks I know, and communicate with, as usual know who the Henckels and Wusthof are, never have a clue about Messermeister. That is rather sad observation, because out of all major mainstream kitchen cutlery makers, Messermeister does have the best fit and finish, or at least their build quality is just as good as the others are, but the edges they put on their knives are head and shoulders above compared to their competitors. This little knife had a lot better polished edge on it than the world famous(thanks to celebrity chefs) Nenohi Nenox S1 gyuto, and that knife is more than 10 times the price compared to Messermeister, ok it's a gyuto, but still, a very expensive one. Anyway, the edge alone doesn't define the knife, but it does show the attention to the detail, and frankly, the factory edge is the best edge what most of the people will ever see on their knives, granted most of the folks never bother sharpening their knives, and most of those who do, use electric or pull through sharpeners, most of which (sharpeners) in turn, should be called edge destroyers, but that part is outside of the scope of this review. The knife wasn't for me, but for a friend, it was a birthday present, along with two other knives, Mac Superior Serrated Bread knife and Tojiro 240mm DP Gyuto. Those three knives, small paring, large chef's, or a gyuto in this case, which is the same chef's knife, and a serrated bread knife make the gentleman's minimal set for the kitchen. They can handle most of the home cooking needs, at least for an average home cook :) You can read more detailed analysis of How to choose good kitchen knives.
General- Meridian Elite E3691-4 Paring knife came in a really nice package. I've seen a lot of German kitchen knives from several manufacturers and the package is the nice I have ever seen from most of the makers, German or not. Makes quite a nice gift by the way. Meridian Elite is one of the two western knives lines in Messermeister's assortment. The other line is San Moritz Elite. Overall, Messermeister is considered higher end knives in German kitchen cutlery, and definitely, their build quality and precision is worth commending. One other detail I've already mentioned above, is the out of the box edge sharpness and quality. Very nice. It's good to see the major maker paying attention to the sharpening to that level. As for the knife in general, it is a slim, medium size paring knife. 101mm(4") is borderline medium, almost large paring knife. Yet, for the paring knife Meridian Elite E3961-4 is quite light. It's just 56.50g(1.91oz), that's lighter anywhere from 30% to 50% compared to most of the other paring knives I have reviewed. It's relatively thin as well, and all that makes it a very efficient cutter. That part is important for the small knives. When you are holding such a small knife, most likely in a choke grip, you don't want to have a dull knife, well you never want a dull knife, but applying excessive force in that grip is more injury prone that during other types of cutting. So, what we have is a well made, slim paring knife. The blade is a bit over-decorated to my taste, the logo, which isn't small, there's a whole blacksmith on it after all and a huge writing describing steel, model etc. Well, that's fine, it's not gonna affect neither cutting ability, nor the taste of the food you cut with it ;) Just a design detail.
Blade- As I already wrote above, the blade is close to medium size in length, for paring knives. To be precise, Meridian Elite E3691-4 Paring knife has 101mm(4") long blade, which is 20mm at its widest and only 1.75mm thick at the bolster. From the last comment you can deduce, it has a bolster ;) Thanks got it isn't a full bolster for added safety, but more sharpening friendly type. The handle is rather slim and that along with 20mm wide blade creates small space which is enough to prevent your fingers slipping down to the blade. The blade geometry is quite typical, (for paring knives) drop point style. Given the slim and thin blade with that geometry, you can easily guess, it is a very pointy knife, which sure will come handy for all sorts of paring knife tasks. The steel used in this knife is the commonly used German X50CrMoV15 stainless steel. Highly stainless steel, high carbon steel technically, although by today's standard it's not that high. Also, word of caution, even though the steel is highly stainless, and modern dishwashers are more cutlery friendly than before, with dedicated trays and energy/detergent efficient cycles, it will still rust and discolor if put in a dishwasher regularly. That was very clearly demonstrated during the X50CrMoV15 vs. dishwasher testing. More detailed report in Stainless Steel Knives corrosion in a dishwasher. And finally, one more comment about the steel, before Messermeister used slightly higher on carbon X55CrMoV15 steel, I'm not so sure when did they switch to X50CrMoV15. The difference is not huge, rather subtle, but counting Carbon atoms and carbides forming from them, the difference is there, given ideal heat treatment for both. Hardly a case for mass production knives though. For those who lke precision data here it is - X50CrMoV15 vs. X55CrMoV15 steel composition comparison.
Handle- The handle on the Elite E3691-4 Paring knife is the same as the rest of the knife, slim. Made of POM, it does provide secure and comfortable grip, although that mainly applies to choke grip, which is the primary, or most used and useful grip for the paring knives. For the full grip it's not really that good, too slim, but the thing is it's a paring knife, not a broadsword. As the rules of knife marketing dictate, good kitchen knife must have full tang, a bolster and triple riveted handle slabs. And as a good kitchen knife, Messermeister Meridian elite knives and this particular parer satisfy all three conditions. It's all marketing hype of course, or pure BS in simple English. None of that is necessary, and you can read more about that in How To Choose Kitchen knives. Interestingly, other slim handled paring knives I have tested and used, I'm referring to Global GSF-15 Paring Knife and the Calphalon 4.5" Parer Knife, never felt as comfortable in choke grip as the Messermeister paring knife did. I'm not exactly sure why. Especially the Calphalon, which has similar dimensions. I am guessing, there's two factors influencing that, thickness of the handle and the handle to blade ratio. Calphalon has longer blade and slimmer handle. So, overall I've felt less comfortable using it. Well, that's my guess anyway. You'd have to try that yourself, since unless it's something really awkward, those subtle differences, whether they come out positive or negative will depend on your palm size, grip style, use style, etc.
Usage- I didn't get to use this little knife, very few basic cutting jobs to test the knife in various grips, small veggies, etc. The reason of course was that the knife wasn't mine, I bought it as a present for a friend. Since I had to inspect and sharpen all three knives before actually delivering the present, I got a chance to use them a bit. Although, there was no need to sharpen the Mac Superior Serrated Bread knife, and a very little need to tinker with the Messermeister parer, I knew I could improve the edge on it anyway, which was done mainly by stropping on 0.50µm and 0.25µm diamond loaded leather strops. So, I've proceeded with avocados. Peeling them isn't the cleanest work in the world, and eventually your hands will get oily. That itself is a good test of the grip security and Meridian Elite handle passed it pretty good. Cutting ability was really good, since the edge was good to begin with, and then I've sharpened it myself. After the avocados, I've peeled an apple, cut the ends of the radish and cleaned up a single potato. In the end, it is pretty good paring knife for its price. I still think it could've benefited from a thinner edge, yes I did gave fair share of compliments to the edge finish and sharpness out of the box, but it was still thicker than necessary. I don't really have to test edge holding ability of this knife, since I'm really familiar with X50CrMoV15 steel by now and I know what it can do and how long it can last at the typical hardness of 54-56HRC used in mainstream knives. Final advise, since the steel is rather soft, it really can benefit from steeling. Steel it every time, before you use it and if the use is prolonged and you feel the knife doesn't cut as well as in the beginning, steel it during the cutting process as well. Few strokes per side can make a huge difference when done properly and timely. Deformed edge dulls faster, remember that. Well, you can read in greater details about steeling in the Knife Steeling And Stropping article.
- Blade - 101.60mm(4")
- Thickness - 1.75mm
- Width - 20.00mm
- OAL - 209.60mm(8.25")
- Steel - X50CrMoV15 54-56HRC
- Handle - POM
- Weight - 56.50g(1.91oz)
- Acquired - 04/2010 Price - 40.00$
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Last updated - 09/01/11