Kitchen knives vary in design and purpose, but the handle plays a big role in the performance and the results obtained. The right knife handle is especially important when it comes to kitchen knife safety as it can help prevent slips and other accidents that lead to cuts or even the loss of a finger!
It’s All in the Grip: The Best Knife Handle Material for Your Kitchen
The handles on your kitchen knives plays a big role in food preparation and results, as well as other factors like the amount of fatigue you experience. The handle determines or contributes to:
- Cut performance
- Level of hand control
- Amount of grip
- Your level of fatigue based on each task
- Water and temperature resistance
- Durability and reliability
- And other related factors
Types of Handle Materials Used for Kitchen Knives
Knife handles can be made of wood, aluminum, titanium, bone, carbon fiber, stainless steel, Micarta®, Garolite (G-10 grade), FRN/ZYTEL®, and other similar variations. Knife handle designs also play a big role in performance and control, but this article discusses the various types of kitchen handle materials to help you level up your knife knowledge.
So with the above considerations in mind, let’s take a look at the most common kitchen knife handles available.
The Wooden Knife Handle
Wooden kitchen knife handles are one of the oldest and most original types of knife handles in existence. It is an inexpensive option that delivers highly fashionable looks through custom carvings and engravings that are designed to accent the knife. There are also many different types of wood used to make knife handles.
Hardwoods are the preferred choice amongst wooden handles because they are more durable and more impact-resistant than their softer counterparts. They do cost more money, yet they provide longer-lasting benefits.
Many cheaper wood-handled knives have featured stabilized wood, which is wood made out of plywood that is injected with polymer resin in between the layers. They can look just as nice (or even nicer) but may not last as long depending on how the wood is treated and the type of stabilized wood used as there are more higher grade options.
Wood-Handled Kitchen Knife Pros
- Etchable for fashionable designs and ergonomic grip points
- Easy to carve and form during the manufacturing process
- Plenty of wood choices/options
- Natural or semi-natural by design
- Potentially adds collectible value depending on wood and design
- Delivers a unique look
Wood-Handled Kitchen Knife Cons
- Not waterproof but can be water-resistant based on finish and construction
- Increased potential for warping, cracking, splitting, and rotting
- Capable of scratches and dents depending on wood species and the manufacturing process
- Limited surface grip, although the finish and contours play a key role
- Potential for splinters on cheaper, less-protected handles
The Titanium Knife Handle
Titanium kitchen knife handles are considered to be an upgrade from aluminum handles due to their stronger properties, but they also cost more. Titanium is a low-density, high-strength metal alloy with a luster to it.
Titanium knife handles deliver lightweight advantages and are more scratch and dent resistant than aluminum. This type of handle also carries the highest level of corrosion resistance of any metal on the market.
Unlike aluminum handles, titanium has a warm feel to it. The material can also be colored during the anodizing process. Ti6Al4V is the most common type of titanium used for knife handles and it is the strongest within the titanium alloy family.
Titanium Kitchen Knife Handle Pros
- Lightweight for reduced fatigue and better control
- Strong and durable for long-lasting performance
- Extremely high level of corrosion resistance, making it perfect for wet conditions
- Warm to the touch, making it more comfortable in colder conditions
- Unlimited color options
Titanium Kitchen Knife Handle Cons
- Prone to scratches and dents
- More expensive than aluminum
- Not indestructible, as many manufacturers and marketers claim
The Aluminum Knife Handle
Aluminum kitchen knife handles are an affordable option that is available in many colors. They contain rustproof advantages, making them perfect for long-term beauty and use. They are also corrosion-resistant. Aluminum is a silver-like substance that is lightweight and non-metallic.
During the anodizing process, the aluminum can be colored to enhance the look and style of the handle. The grip is limited but the contour and texture of the handle help improve control.
T6-6061 alloy is the most common type of aluminum used for kitchen knife handles where T6 is the type of tempering and 6061 is the type of aluminum (carries the highest aluminum tensile strength and has high-yield advantages).
Aluminum Kitchen Knife Handle Pros
- Lightweight for better handling
- Unlimited color options
Aluminum Kitchen Knife Handle Cons
- Prone to scratches and dents
- Temperature-sensitive (cold when exposed to cold conditions, hot when exposed to hot conditions)
- Reduced grip but improved by contour and texture
- Slippery when wet
The Dupont™ ZYTEL® Handle
ZYTEL® kitchen knife handles are practically indestructible and can be contoured and shaped to various ergonomic designs. ZYTEL is a material owned and developed by DuPont™ which is owned by DOW® Chemical Company. The material may also be called FRN which stands for fiberglass reinforced nylon, but it is actually an FRN made of ZYTEL.
ZYTEL is made with fiberglass and rubberized resins to give it strength and durability. ZYTEL kitchen knife handles deliver exceptional strength and durability and are very tough handles that are built to last.
ZYTEL Kitchen Knife Handle Pros
- Scratch and abrasion-resistant
- Tough, almost indestructible, and very durable
- Scattered fiber construction to deliver strength in all directions unlike other fiber kitchen handles like Micarta and G-10
- Low retail prices (mass-produced, injection-molded) without sacrificing quality and strength
ZYTEL Kitchen Knife Handle Cons
- Reduced grip compared to G-10 kitchen knife handles
- Feels and looks like cheap plastic (although that is not the case here)
The Bone Knife Handle
Although it’s most commonly used for hunting and survival knives, bone is also used to create kitchen knife handles. These handles are generally made from animal bones such as elephant tusks, buffalo horns, deer antlers, cow bone, and more. Most handles today are made from cow bone. Regardless of the material used, bone is brittle and prone to cracking and deformation. It is also a porous material.
Bone knife handles can be dyed and formed to create beautiful looking designs during the manufacturing process. They add a nice touch to any kitchen theme. The contoured capabilities of bone promote better grip, although this type of kitchen handle is slippery by nature.
Bone Kitchen Knife Handle Pros
- Carved into various ergonomic, grip-promoting shapes
- Many colors available since bone can be dyed
- Adds elegant appeal to the knife and the kitchen
Bone Kitchen Knife Handle Cons
- Harder to clean and maintain
- Brittle and capable of cracking
- Porous which leads to deformation over time
- Less long-term durability
- Sensitive to temperature and moisture
The Carbon Fiber Knife Handle
Carbon kitchen knife handles are made with carbon fibers (also known as graphite fibers) that feature strong, durable construction. Carbon fibers deliver stiffness, good strength, and great chemical resistance.
Carbon fiber also carries a high heat tolerance (especially when combined with a resin), making it a good choice for kitchen knives. The fibers get woven into various patterns and are combined with a plastic resin to develop a beautiful handle that is also durable. On the other hand, carbon knife handles are also brittle, especially when experiencing an impact.
Carbon Kitchen Knife Handle Pros
- Strong, durable construction
- Incorporates beautiful designs with great light-reflecting properties
- Resistant to heat
- Non-metallic (no rust or corrosion)
Carbon Kitchen Knife Handle Cons
- Higher price point
- Brittle when subjected to heavy impacts
- Limited grip and contour capabilities due to its woven construction
The Stainless Steel Knife Handle
Stainless steel kitchen knife handles feature strong dent and scratch resistance in addition to cheaper price points. However, they have some weight to them in comparison to aluminum and other types of kitchen knife handles. Stainless steel is a steel alloy made with Chromium for enhanced rust and corrosion resistance and carbon with Molybdenum for improved strength.
Stainless steel kitchen knife handles tend to produce a lustrous, reflective surface that represents purity and cleanliness, which is why you commonly find the material in silverware. These knife handles are durable and easily cleanable, especially since they are rust and corrosion-resistant. The higher the Chromium level in the steel, the more rust and more corrosion protection you get.
Stainless steel handles are slippery due to their smooth surface, but manufacturers often add grips such as rubber dots or lines, as well as steel engravings or stampings.
Stainless Steel Kitchen Knife Handle Pros
- Virtually maintenance-free
- Hard and durable
- Highly resistant to rust and corrosion
- Shiny, reflective appearance to enhance beauty for many years
- Delivers excellent hand balance for long-bladed knives
Stainless Steel Kitchen Knife Handle Cons
- Heavier weight properties
- Slippery by default (smooth) unless textured, but can still have limited grip
- More slippery when wet
The G10 Garolite Knife Handle
G10 kitchen knife handles are the toughest fiberglass laminate knife handles available. G10 is a type of garolite comprised of glass layers that are compressed together with epoxy. Together, they form a fiberglass laminate.
G10 handles are similar to Micarta and carbon fiber handles, but they increase durability due to the glass fiber structure. G10 is also chemical resistant and does not absorb as much moisture like other types of kitchen knife handles, making it perfect for certain kitchen applications.
G10 Kitchen Knife Handle Pros
- Does not corrode or rust (made of fiberglass)
- Excellent grip based on design and contours
- Strong and durable
- No rust or corrosion (made of fiberglass material)
G10 Kitchen Knife Handle Cons
- Brittle when experiencing high impacts
- Limited color choices
The Micarta® Knife Handle
Micarta® kitchen knife handles deliver lightweight, strong, and visually stunning properties due to their construction and design. Micarta is a brand name of Norplex, Inc. The handles are made from various fabrics like linen, fiberglass, canvas, and carbon fibers. Those and other fibers are used to form a thermoplastic design in combination with phenolic resins that are known as Phenol – and they are NOT epoxy resins.
The appearance of a Micarta handle can be stylish based on how it is formed, but the material has no texture capabilities during the manufacturing process. However, Micarta can have some sort of texture if a manufacturer spends a lot of time to manually texturize it. Many companies don’t spend the time or money to do such a task but for those that do, the consumer price is much higher. Micarta is slippery and smooth, so grip is definitely compromised.
Micarta Kitchen Knife Handle Pros
- Strong and durable
- No rust or corrosion (made of non-metallic fibers)
- Hard and highly scratch resistant after treatment
Micarta Kitchen Knife Handle Cons
- Higher price tag due to the detailed manufacturing process and the materials used
- Higher price tag for textured surfaces due to the amount of manual labor required
- Smooth and slippery unless textured
- Brittle when experiencing high-level impacts
Which is the Best Handle Material for Kitchen Knives?
With so many options in knife handles – and different types of kitchen knives – it can be hard to determine the best kitchen knife handle for your particular needs. While some people require lighter weight knives for repetitive use, others just need a knife that looks stylish and accents their kitchen. After all, they just use it occasionally for certain cutting needs.
Regardless, the handle plays a big part in the performance and results you receive for any culinary tasks. Some handles deliver more control and are ergonomically designed while others are lightweight yet have less of a grip.
If you have a difficult time deciding on the right kitchen knife handle for your needs or deciding on how much to spend, G-10 kitchen knife handles are a good choice. This particular type of handle offers some stunning appeal, as well as great durability and excellent grip at an affordable, middle-tiered price. It is a great, all-around kitchen handle that fits many uses and needs.