When it comes to cost effective knives, Zelite and Mercer do a fantastic job.
Zelite is a Chinese brand, offering knives using genuine Japanese and German materials but for a very low price.
Mercer knives are made in Taiwan but focus on low-cost western style knives.
In this article, I’m going to tell you the differences between these two brands. I’ll go in-depth into the details of each, talking about where they are made, what materials are used and the difference in price.
This should be all the information you need to select your perfect knife.
If your budget is over $100 and you’re looking for sharpness, the Zelite Executive Plus is the best option. With a budget under $100 then Mercer offers great value for money and a very durable knife.
|My recommendation||Current price|
|Zelite Executive Plus 8-Inch Chef’s Knife||View on Amazon (opens new tab)|
|Mercer Culinary Renaissance 8-Inch||View on Amazon (opens new tab)|
Zelite vs Mercer – Comparison Table
Here is my summary comparison table for each brand. This is mostly based on their main range of knives; the Zelite Executive Plus and the Mercer Renaissance.
For a more in-depth look at each category then check out the rest of the article below.
|Country of Manufacture||China||Taiwan|
|Steel type||AUS-10 (other ranges use VG10 and X50CrMoV15)||X50CrMoV15|
|Rockwell hardness||HRC 61||HRC 56-58|
|Factory edge||12 degrees (double bevel)||15 degrees (double bevel)|
|Handle material||G10 (fiberglass laminate)||POM (thermoplastic)|
|Price range||$130 – $140 (Executive Plus)||$50 – $60 (Renaissance)|
|Main benefit||Low price, very sharp||Low price and durable|
|My recommendation||Zelite Executive Plus (view on Amazon)||Mercer Renaissance Chef’s Knife 8-Inch (View on Amazon)|
Zelite vs Mercer – Where are they made
|Brand||Country of manufacture|
Zelite manufactures it’s knives in Yangjiang, China.
Zelite is a relatively small, family-owned business. On the face of it, the fact that Zelite knives are manufactured in China might be a little off-putting.
Let’s be honest, when we see the words ‘Made in China’ we usually think that the quality isn’t going to be great, but with Zelite I think there are some large benefits from having production based there.
They still use quality materials, but as the manufacturing costs are kept low these savings are passed onto the customer.
Zelite provides a range of both Japanese and German-influenced knives, in this article though I’m mainly focusing on their most popular Japanese style Executive Pro.
Mercer manufactures their knives in Taiwan, using imported German steel.
Mercer is part of a growing trend in the knife industry of using quality materials, like German or Japanese steel, but basing the manufacture in low-cost countries, like China or, in Mercer’s case, Taiwan.
In the past, these less authentic brands have been of noticeably lower quality, but more and more these brands are actually producing knives of a comparable standard to their German or Japanese counterparts, for a much lower price.
Zelite vs Mercer – What steel do they use
The steel used in knives will often change depending on which range you pick.
This is particularly true of Zelite. They use a number of different steels throughout their ranges as they have both German and Japanese influenced knives.
Their German series uses X50CrMoV15 (the same as Mercer) and their Japanese series use both AUS-10 and VG-10 depending on the range.
For a fair comparison, I’m going to focus on the most popular range for both Zelite and Mercer knives.
For Zelite it’s their Executive Plus range and for Mercer it’s their Renaissance range.
|Brand||Steel type||Rockwell hardness|
|Zelite Executive Pro||AUS-10||HRC 61|
|Mercer Renaissance||X50CrMoV15||HRC 56-58|
The Zelite Executive Plus range uses Japanese steel AUS-10. Other Zelite knives use X50CrMoV15 (for their German range) and VG-10 (another Japanese steel).
This is where we start to see the benefits of Zelite knives, the materials they use are very good quality, in this case, imported from Japan, but the Chinese manufacturing reduces the cost to the consumer.
AUS-10 is a Japanese steel with a great reputation. It’s a high carbon steel, with a Carbon content between 0.95% – 1.1%.
That means the steel is hard, allowing it to hold a sharper edge for longer.
The Chromium level is also high at 13% – 14.5%. It’s not as good as the Mercer but it’s still enough to make AUS-10 a quality stainless steel and therefore very rust-resistant.
The Mercer Renaissance range uses X50CrMoV15. This is a German steel that is used for the majority of Mercer knives.
It’s popular steel amongst producers of quality western-style knives. That’s because it has a particular focus on durability, whilst retaining enough strength for a sharp edge.
The main elements of interest within X50CrMoV15’s composition are Carbon, Vanadium and Chromium.
The Carbon content is 0.55%. That’s not particularly high when comparing it with other quality knives; however, it’s high enough to provide sufficient strength in the blade for a 15 – 20 degree angle on each side, which is standard for western knives.
The big benefit of not having a very high Carbon content is that higher Carbon steels are usually more brittle, therefore the 0.55% content keeps the blade durable.
That’s the same with the strong Vanadium of 0.4%, Vanadium improves the resistance to wear of the steel also adding to its durability.
The Chromium content is 15% is what the 15 in X50CrMoV15 represents. Chromium is vital for the durability of steel as it’s what makes stainless steel resistant to rust.
Steel need only be 10.5% to be considered stainless, so a 15% content is high and makes this a quality stainless steel, very unlikely to rust unless extremely mistreated by the owner.
Overall the main difference between the Zelite’s steel and Mercer’s X50CrMoV15 steel is that X50CrMoV15 has been made with a very strong focus on durability, with less regard for edge retention, whereas AUS-10 is much more focused on hardness, allowing for a finer, and therefore sharper edge.
This is reflected in their comparative Rockwell Hardness (HRC).
Zelite knives (from their Japanese ranges) have a much higher HRC than Mercer and thus the steel is a lot harder and able to hold a sharper edge.
Zelite vs Mercer – How sharp are they
Once again I’m going to focus on the most popular knives from each brand for this comparison.
You will experience a far sharper edge with the Japanese-style Zelite knives. However, there is little difference between the Zelite’s lower priced German range and Mercer.
|Brand||Factory edge||Rockwell hardness|
|Zelite Executive Pro||12 degrees (double bevel)||HRC 61|
|Mercer Renaissance||15 degrees (double bevel)||HRC 56-58|
When it comes to sharpness it’s often the angle of the blade that will be advertised, but actually, the hardness of the steel is probably more important.
Often people will look at the knife with the smallest angle and say that’s the sharpest, but in practicality, this isn’t quite true.
Harder knives will hold a sharper edge for longer. Often knives with a larger angle, but harder steel will actually perform better for sharpness than a softer steel with a more acute angle, as soft steel can’t retain an acute angle for long.
With that being said, Zelite offers the best of both worlds when it comes to sharpness.
The AUS-10 high Carbon steel has a Rockwell hardness of HRC 61, meaning it can retain a very sharp edge.
Combine that with the razor-sharp 12 degree out-of-the-factory angle on the blade and the Zeilte is by far the sharper knife of the two.
Zeilte uses Japanese steel and that tends to have a focus on hardness, in order to create a sharper edge.
Mercer knives will dull much more quickly than Zelite knives and to maintain even the 15-degree factory angle they would have to be sharpened very frequently.
However; the benefit of using softer steel is that Mercer knives will be much more durable. Since the Zelite uses a harder steel it will be more brittle.
Combine that with the very acute 12-degree angle and Zelite knives will be more prone to chipping along the edge if they are not looked after carefully.
Overall though, this is a clear win for Zelite and is probably its best feature.
Zelite vs Mercer – What are the handles made from
The material used for handles is a vital and often overlooked feature of any knife.
A quality handle is often the sign of a quality overall knife. Handles need to be made from a durable material that can withstand all the heat and moisture fluctuations knives can experience in the kitchen.
Once again we’ll focus on the two main ranges from each brand, the Zelite Executive Pro and Mercer Renaissance.
|Zelite Executive Pro||G10 (fiberglass laminate)|
|Mercer Renaissance||POM (thermoplastic)|
Zelite uses a fiberglass laminate called G10 for their Executive Plus knife handles. Not all Zelite knives use G10 but all Zelite ranges do use good quality materials for their handles such as Pakkawood.
G10 is a fiberglass laminate, making it a fantastic material for knife handles.
It has the perfect combination of being extremely lightweight and very tough. It will be able to withstand any of the standard pressure of a kitchen.
Zelite focuses quite heavily on making comfortable handles and their knife ranges do use a variety of materials for their handles, not just G10.
But they always use quality materials, such as Pakkawood for their Alpha-Royal Japanese Series, a quality wood/resin material commonly used as a material by traditional Japanese knife manufacturers.
So whichever range of Zelite knives you choose, you can be confident that the handle will be a quality, durable and comfortable one.
Mercer use a thermoplastic material called POM (Polyoxymethylene) for their knife handles.
Materials like these are ideal for knife handles due to their extreme durability.
POM is specifically designed for high stiffness and stability, and being a thermoplastic means it’s also extremely resistant to temperature and moisture changes.
Zelite vs Mercer – How much do they cost
Both these brands have wide ranges of knives all at differing price ranges.
To allow for a fairer comparison I’ve categorized three of their major ranges that represent their highest and lowest cost knives.
I’ve tried to compare similar knives, sticking to 8 Inch Chef’s knives or the closest equivalent.
In brackets next to the general price range you’ll see the name of the range.
These prices are rough estimates. Prices do change over time but this is intended as a rough guide.
|Premium||$140 – $150 (Executive-Plus Series Master)||Not Applicable|
|Standard||$130 – $140 (Executive-Plus Series)||$50 – $60 (Renaissance)|
|Value||$50 – $60 (Alpha-Royal German Series)||$15 – $25 (Millennia)|
Clearly these brands offer their knives at quite different price ranges.
Zelite’s prices are actually very low when compared to most knives using similar quality materials.
In particular with Zelite, If you found a genuine Japanese knife consisting of the same materials Zelite use, they would easily be 30%-50% more expensive.
But Mercer also offers incredible value for their knives. Their Renaissance range in particular is very close in terms of quality as some well known German brands which are two or three times more expensive.
Zelite vs Mercer – What is the difference
Now that we have looked at the design, materials, background and price of these brands we can fully understand the difference, and you should be able to make an informed decision on which knife is correct for you.
The main difference between Zelite and Mercer knives is that Zelite’s Japanese-influenced knives are far sharper than any Mercer knives, Mercer knives however will offer more durability due to their softer steel.
|Zelite||Low price, very sharp|
|Mercer||Low price, durable|
Both these brands offer very competitively priced knives. However, I think the Japanese-style knives you can get from Zelite at around $120 are extremely good value for money.
They will be far sharper than any knife Mercer offers.
The counter-argument to that is that Mercer’s softer steel will be more durable and less prone to chipping along the edge.
Zelite vs Mercer – Which is better for you
This is down to what you want from your kitchen knives.
For someone looking for an extremely sharp blade with a budget over $100, the Zelite is the obvious choice. For anyone interested in a, Japanese-influenced knife, who will be able to care for the knife properly, I would recommend the ZeliteExecutive-Plus Series.
Caring for a Zelite is not exactly hard, all you need to do is store it individually, such as in a knife block, using a blade sheath, or on a magnetic strip.
Essentially, you want to avoid knocking the blade edge against other hard objects when you’re not using it.
In busy family kitchens, where knives are likely to be thrown into the kitchen sink, cutlery drawer, or dishwasher without a second thought, this can be difficult.
But you’re aware of how to look after the blade, and just ensure it is properly stored after use, then the Zelite will provide a superior cutting edge.
If you have a budget under $100 for a busy family kitchen, where multiple people might be using the knife or it’s a risk of being damaged or left soaking in water, then I would recommend the Mercer Renaissance.
It’s more durable than knives using Japanese steel and will require less care and attention, and it’s inexpensive, so even if someone did manage to damage the knife, it’s not the end of the world!
The blade is still plenty sharp enough for a western knife and if you just want a reliable knife for really good value then the Mercer is the knife for you.
My Zelite Recommendation
If you’re after the razor-sharp edge offered by Japanese steel, but don’t want to pay the cost of a Japanese manufactured knife, then the Zelite Executive Plus is a great choice.
As a comparison, the Miyabi Kaizen II 8-inch Chef’s Knife, which is a quality, Japanese knife made in Japan, uses steel of the same hardness but costs around 50% more than the Zelite Executive Plus.
The Executive Plus series in particular also has a very ergonomically designed handle, using G10 to make it very lightweight and curved to perfectly fit into the palm of your hand.
It’s a great knife, for a great price. If you’re on a budget but still looking for quality, you can go far wrong with this.
In fact, you could get the Zelite Executive Plus and a Zelite Comfort-Plus Series and still pay less than you would for one Japanese-made knife.
That way you have the best of both worlds, one super sharp Japanese steel knife and one durable German steel knife.
My Mercer Recommendation
This is one of the most expensive knives from Mercer, and it’s still only at the price of most other brands’ value ranges!
What you get for around $50 is very good value. X50CrMoV15 forged german steel, half bolster with a thermoplastic, triple-riveted handle, and a classic western chef’s knife design.
It’s a knife you just can’t be disappointed with at that price.
It may not be the genuine article in that it’s manufactured in Taiwan instead of Germany, but it’s still a quality knife and an absolute bargain.