If the kitchen knife is the most important tool in the kitchen, Japanese chef knives are the Holy Grail. Compared to their western counterparts, they are made from harder steel. Their blades are also lighter, thinner, and sharper. These features enable you to use less force since they can cut under their weight, allowing food to retain its natural flavors.
Additionally, you can make fine cuts and chops without damaging or tearing the ingredients. Therefore, the presentation of the food is better. It’s no wonder that they have become the knives of choice among professional chefs and amateurs alike.
However, Japanese knives come in many shapes and sizes and perform varying tasks in the kitchen. With so many options to choose from, it can be tricky to pick the right one.
If you’re wondering what knife to buy for your needs, we’ve got your back. We are going to review the ten best Japanese chef knives in this article. But before that, what should you consider before buying a Japanese knife?
Types of Japanese Chef Knives + How to Pick
While most European knives can handle whatever you throw at them, Japanese knives are forged to serve specific needs. So, before we look at the features to consider before buying, let’s examine the different types of Japanese knives.
The name Santoku means “three virtues” in Japanese. That is a reference to the three foods it can handle-meat, fish and vegetables. If you want to mince, dice, or slice any of the three, the Santoku Is the tool for you.
The knife resembles a cook’s knife but is shorter, coming with a blade length of 5-7 inches. Its spine curves downwards towards the cutting edge that is relatively straight. And it has a rounded tip.
The Gyuto is an all-purpose kitchen knife that closely resembles the traditional American chef knife. Its name translates to “cow knife” in Japanese. It has a cutting edge that is slightly curved towards the point, making rocking motions easier.
Consequently, it is a favorite choice for preparing fruits and vegetables. With a double-beveled blade of 7-8 inches, the knife is designed to ensure more contact with the board to prevent fatigue.
But you might still struggle when cutting through large materials owing to its light nature.
The Nakiri features a 5-7 inches wide blade with a squared-off tip and straight cutting edge, which makes it perfect for cutting vegetables and fruits.
Thanks to its height and shape, it is easy to scoop large quantities of food. Also, its double-beveled blade makes it a favorable choice for right-handed and left-handed cooks alike.
The petty features a 4-7 inches blade. Size-wise, it is stuck between a small chef’s knife and a paring knife. While it will fit into small spaces that the former won’t, it will cut larger materials than a paring knife.
This knife is unrivaled in sharpness, making it the perfect choice for performing high-precision tasks.
The curved spine and curved tip on this knife meet to form a sharp point hence the name Deba, which means pointed knife.
It is heavier than most Japanese knives and is ideal for cutting through or chopping bones. What’s more, it comes with a single-beveled 5-13 inches blade, allowing for easier filleting.
The Usuba resembles the Nakiri, but it has a much thinner blade edge. Its slim nature makes it more precise and thus a favorite among professionals. You can use it for making slim decorative cuts. But you may have a hard time sharpening it owing to its thin edge.
This knife is also referred to as Sashimi and is popular in the Kansai region. Its blade is long and slim and has a straight edge that curves close to the tip. It will come in handy when filleting, slicing, or portioning raw fish.
The single-beveled blade with a hollowed back offers support when cutting and allows for easy passage through the fish.
Best Japanese Chef Knives
We know how hectic it is to search for a knife that suits your needs. That’s why we went through the painstaking process on your behalf to bring you the best Japan has to offer. Dive in and take a look.
The Shun Classic 8′‘ may not cut through bones, but it can handle light to medium tasks. These include anything from slicing apples to, chopping, and cutting through vegetables, and meat. With the slightly curved 8 inches razor-sharp blade, you can tackle these and more kitchen chores in a breeze.
This knife can cut under its own weight and features proprietary VG-MAX steel. This means that you get a sharper edge that is incredibly strong and corrosion-resistant.
Shun also throws in an ergonomically designed handle made of hardwood that won’t give you wrist fatigue. And yes, the Shun Classic 8” is quite the looker.
The Global 8’’ Chef’s Knife is another creation of the renowned designer Komin Yamada. And true to the spirit of GLOBAL, this knife is a piece of excellent workmanship.
While its good looks will easily stand out, you will quickly notice its sturdy build. It is worth mentioning that you get high-grade vanadium stainless steel from the blade to the handle here. And the long taper on the blade ensures that the edge remains sharper for longer.
The handle is ergonomically designed and will fit comfortably even in small hands. Additionally, it includes dimples that provide a firm grip while you’re gliding through tough ingredients.
Like many of the company’s knives, the Global 8’’ won’t weigh you down with fatigue. Don’t worry about defects or breakage because you get a lifetime warranty from the manufacturer.
If you are looking for a practical knife, you will find it in the Yoshihiro Gyuto.
A Gyuto knife is one of the most formidable tools a chef can have in the kitchen. While not as long as the conventional chef’s knife, this is one of the most versatile knives you can lay your hands on.
From cutting through fresh produce to carving roast chicken, this will be a faithful partner.
The thin octagonal-shaped rosewood handle will give you ultimate control while working and prevent wrist fatigue. And the double-edged razor-sharp blade will give you the edge you need to prepare finger-licking meals.
The VG-10 stainless steel blade features 46 layers of softer Damascus layer for added durability and better edge retention. And its hammered texture reduces friction and prevents food from sticking to the blade.
The Miyabi Kaizen features an 8-inch VG10 super steel blade with a dazzling flower Damascus design. But what is more important is that the blade is subjected to an ice-hardening treatment for durability.
And it is hand-honed to a razor-sharp edge that will effortlessly slice through meat and vegetables. Plus, it won’t get blunt with use. So, you can rest assured that the edge will remain sharper for longer.
The comfortable D-shaped handle makes it easier to wield the knife and provides a firm grip that won’t slip even when handled with wet hands. It looks good too. There’s a beautiful black micarta lining complemented by red accent spacers and a silver-colored steel end.
Shun knives are usually hand-crafted, and hand sharpened to a 16-degree cutting edge, and the Shun Premier Chef’s Knife is no different.
At first glance, you will notice the hammered finish plus mirror blade polish, giving it a sophisticated look. But its true beauty is its razor-sharp VG-MAX blade that features 34 layers of Damascus steel on either side for durability.
You can use this knife to cut, chop, and dice fruits, vegetables, and meat. And thanks to its contoured Pakka Wood handle that provides a firm grip, you can work without breaking a sweat.
Additionally, the wide blade will help you to scoop stuff from the board without any hassle.
Right off the box, the Zelite Infinity Santoku Knife has a look that will blow you away. The Tsunami Rose Damascus Pattern looks exquisite, but it’s the hammered tsuchime finishing that really kills it.
Luckily, the Infinity Sankotu goes beyond looks. The knife is perfectly balanced, giving you ultimate comfort and control.
The large rounded handle will ensure you never experience any wrist fatigue. And it is triple riveted for extra strength and durability.
Made of Japanese VG10 Super Steel, the blade doesn’t disappoint either. Its razor-sharp 12-degree edge will bone poultry and pork like butter. Moreover, the 67 layers of high carbon stainless steel guarantee its durability.
This extremely light Miyabi knife features the traditional thin blade profile synonymous with Japanese precision knives. But don’t let the small frame fool you; the knife is as sturdy as they come.
Its G2 micro carbide powder steel is covered with 100 layers of steel. And the brand’s ice-hardening process guarantees the blade’s long-lasting sharpness.
With little to no effort, you can cut slices so thin that you can almost see through them. Functionality aside, you will love the blade’s stunning Damascus patterning.
But it is the beautiful birch handle that helps complete the look. If you apply a little mineral oil, the raw wood will bring out a brilliant glow.
The words “razor-sharp” are often thrown around when talking about kitchen knives. But the statement couldn’t be more apt when describing the MTH-80.
In fact, if you’re careless when handling this knife from Mac Mighty, you could easily lose a finger.
Although it’s not exactly low maintenance, the 2.5mm high carbon blade will effortlessly cut through vegetables, fruits and meat. And with the added dimples, you will have no problem with sticky foods such as potatoes and apples.
The knife boasts a perfect weight distribution and a long lasting pakka wood handle.
If you’re not willing to pay top dollar for a kitchen knife, the Tojiro DP is a good bargain. But despite its low price, the blade does not disappoint.
It comes with a VG-10 Steel core clad with 13 layers of chrome stainless steel for added durability. And it is sharp right out of the box.
Don’t forget; it is double-beveled and thus suitable for right-handed and left-handed users alike.
Like a typical Japanese knife, the Tojiro Dp is lightweight. Weighing just 4.8 ounces, it is one of the lightest knives you will ever come across.
The Kyocera ceramic Revolution Series 7” is the perfect choice when cutting and chopping large fruits and vegetables. For starters, it is its ceramic blade that wins the prize.
For one, it is extremely lightweight and will come in handy, especially when performing repetitive tasks. Apart from saving you from wrist fatigue, it is also easy to clean.
Due to its non-porous nature, it is less likely to transfer odor across different ingredients. Moreover, its ultra-sharp edge far surpasses most steel models in edge retention. This is a knife that will serve you for a long time without giving in.
Before Buying a Japanese Chef Knife
All Japanese knives are not forged the same way. For instance, one Nakiri knife may cut, chop and slice vegetables better than another. Here is what you need to look out for when choosing the right one for your needs.
Type of Steel
The type of steel can make or break a knife. Japanese knives are famous for their fine grain structure and hard steel. The greater the hardness, the finer the bevel angle and the sharper the edge.
You have a choice between high-carbon steel and stainless steel. The latter is rust-resistant, easy-maintenance, and has excellent sharpness and edge retention.
However, it requires professional sharpening. On the other hand, high carbon steel combines the advantages of stainless steel and carbon steel to create a superior blade. It retains sharpness for longer and is easier to sharpen.
Type of Handle
A handle should not be heavier or lighter than required, and its shape should fit well in your hand.
If a knife feels uncomfortable, it will perform poorly regardless of the blade quality. Japanese knives will either come in the traditional Japanese style handle or a western-style handle.
The latter is heavier and sturdier and thus preferred for tougher tasks. On the other hand, Japanese-styled handles are usually made of wood, making them lighter and more nimble.
For what purpose do you intend to use the knife? The answer should determine what you go for. For instance, a curved edge will allow cutting with a rocking motion.
Therefore, it will come in handy when chopping and slicing vegetables. Likewise, a straight-edged blade will be useful for cutting raw fish or meat since it allows for pull and push strokes.
The length matters too. A shorter blade is easier to control when cutting small vegetables. However, you will need a longer one to slice open a whole fish.
Single or Double Bevel?
Western knives are double-beveled, while Japanese ones are traditionally single-beveled. However, you can get a high-quality Japanese knife in either style.
Single-beveled knives are preferred by professional chefs for their higher precision cutting. But they are not easy to handle. Furthermore, they are harder to sharpen. So, if you’re buying a knife for home use, a double bevel is more favorable.
Cooking is an art that requires the best tools, and a quality knife is one of the most important things you can have in your arsenal. Unfortunately, finding the right one is not easy as we would want.
But we hope you found something that tickles your fancy from our list of the best Japanese chef knives.
However, if you aren’t too sure, we recommend the Zelite Infinity Santoku. The knife is versatile and will handle any task you throw its way. Plus, you will also love its charming looks. But if you’re looking for a budget-friendly option, none will give you value for your money than the Tojiro DP Gyutou.