Updated on December 7th, 2018
We love working with Japanese knives in our kitchen. They provide some of the best quality and value of any knife of the market, and they come with a tradition of craftsmanship that is second to none. If you haven’t tried working with them yet, we want to introduce you to the best Japanese kitchen knives that you should absolutely be using at home.
We’ve previously written about the best Japanese chefs knives, so be sure to check out that article to learn specifically about chef’s knives. In this article, we’re going to introduce you to many more types of knives that are made in Japan, beyond the typical chef’s knife. There is an abundance of great knives that will make your job in the kitchen much easier, but you need to learn which ones to use and when.
One thing you should know is that the Japanese take great pride in the workmanship and quality of the products they manufacture. That is why Japanese knives are considered some of the best in the world. Of course, that level of quality often comes with a high price tag, but you can always be sure you’re getting the very best quality for the money.
Another thing to know about Japanese knives is that they are made with a very a high carbon VG-10 steel that is very hard. The blade is asymmetrical, meaning that the two sides of the blade are not the same, as they are in Western knives. Only side is sharp. Usually they have a 12-15 degree angle. You have to be especially careful with Japanese knives for these reasons. If you were to drop one, it could break because of the hardness. Additionally, it’s more difficult to sharpen the knife to the appropriate degree at home.
We are going to show you give different styles of Japanese kitchen knives. We’ll give you our top recommended knife, as well a few alternatives so you can choose the one that’s right for you.
Gyuto (Chef’s knife)
The most important Japanese knife to have in your kitchen is the gyuto, or chef’s knife. The Shun 8-inch classic chef’s knife is an all-purpose knife and it can be used for a wide range of cutting tasks. Due to the quality craftsmanship and extremely sharp edge, this knife is likely to exceed the cutting ability of any other chef’s knife you’ve used. You’ll love the way it glides through everything you cut with ease.
A gyuto blade is double-edged, unlike some of the other single-edged Japanese knives you’ll see below. The handle is almost always wooden and should be heavy in your hand, though well balanced with the rest of the knife. This allows for the smoothest, easiest cutting motion.
Santoku (Utility knife)
If you like using a utility knife for your cutting (this is my preferred knife in the kitchen), you will like the Santoku knife. It is shaped differently than the typical utility knife, but it will make your life even easier in the kitchen. Santuko means “three virtues” in Japanese. It is used for mincing, dicing and slicing.
The defining feature of a Santuko knife is the Tsuchime technique, which means “hammered”. It’s a special design reserved only for Santuko knives. it help by creating small pockets of air between the knife and the food, so there is less drag when cutting and food easily releases from it after slicing.
You may be wondering whether you should be looking for a sushi or a sashimi knife. Which one do you need to make sushi at home? There are many steps to making sushi, from cutting the vegetables and fish that you’ll put in the roll, to cutting the roll itself once you’re finished. A sushi knife is used for all three of these tasks, but a sashimi knife is used primarily for cutting fish. Since sashimi needs to be cut with only the most precise slices, you will need a special, ultra-sharp knife for cutting it. A standard sushi/sashimi knife that can do it all is called a Yanagi ba knife.
Sushi knife blades can be made with one pieces of steel, called Honyaki, or two pieces, called Kasumi. The Honyaki style is preferred, as the quality and refinement of the knife is incredible, but it can also be quite expensive. However, if you really want to improve your sushi skills at home, it’s important to use only the highest quality knife. You can rest assured that the knife will last you for a very long time.
From the looks of a Usuba knife, you wouldn’t know it was ideal for cutting vegetables and making garnishes, fine cuts and peeling. The blade is high-carbon VG10 steel and it has a single bevel edge with a hollow ground back that means only the cutting edge of the blade touches the food for superior stick resistance and clean cuts.
While the typical use of a Usuba knife is cutting vegetables, this knife can really be used for many other things. Once you get used to the feel of it in your hand, and the cutting technique, you may find that you want to use it for more things. The best part is that the blade stays extremely sharp so you won’t have to deal with resharpening it very often.
You may have seen a Deba knife in the past and wondered what you might use it for. It’s one of the best fish fillet knives you’ll ever use. The blade is single bevel and constructed to be able to slice through fish and other foods without pulling or tearing the flesh. The knife has a bit of weight to it, which will make it feel sturdy and easy to control while cutting.
When I was learning to spatchcock or butterfly a chicken, this knife definitely came in handy. There’s no other knife that works as well to debone and slice. If there’s anything you need to thinly slice this is your knife. It’s perfect for cutting gorgeous slices of sashimi.
Keep in mind when purchasing that you can get a Deba knife in many different lengths. If you’re uncomfortable handling the 8 1/2 inch knife, be sure you check out the 6 1/2 inch blade. For me, the smaller knife is easier to hold and balance for smaller hands.
Honesuki (Boning knife)
Boning knives are a must have in the kitchen if you like to make poultry. The honesuki is a poultry boning knife. The pointy sharp edge will help you make small and precise incisions. The knife makes it very easy to bone a chicken, duck, or other bird. I’ve also heard that the honesuki is great for peeling round fruits, but I haven’t tried that myself yet.
The Shun honesuki knife features a Japanese san mai construction. San Mai means “three layers”. It is carbon steel between two layers of stainless steel. This gives the knife a hardness and reliability that other knives won’t have. It also means you won’t have to put extra maintenance into the knife, which is always a good thing. The blade is just 4 1/5 inches long, which makes it very easy to use.
With just these 6 best Japanese kitchen knives, you will be able to do every type of cutting, chopping and slicing you need to do in the kitchen, with ease. The blades are extremely sharp and hard. We think you’ll find that they make working in the kitchen a breeze, and you won’t have to spend so much time worrying about how to keep your knives sharp.
If there’s a specific Japanese knife that you love, tell us about it in the comments.