The Japanese are known for many things, perhaps one of the best known products are their knives. After the Samurai ban, the demand of the swords start to decline. Having no where else to go, they started manufacturing knives. These knives carry the same craftsmanship as the master blade smith of the old. With some manufacturing dating back hundreds of years. Its no wonder, that Japanese Kitchen Knives are held in such high regards. The Best Japanese Kitchen Knives Set arent necessarily a set, but rather a collection of knives. Considering the options out there, finding a good one can be a bit of a challenge.
Japanese Knives vs Western Knives
Compared to a western chef knife, the profile or thickness of the blade is much thinner. As a result, it glides through food much easier. Some Japanese knives are made so thin that they are known as lasers. A popular laser knife is known as the Konosuke HD Laser. You can see it cut tomato to a paper thin thickness.
The weight of a Japanese knives is also noticeably lighter. This makes it much easier to manage and handle compared to a Western knife.
In terms of hardness, Japanese knives are made harder. They let it hold its edge better and stay sharper longer. Of course there are drawbacks to this. Knives that are very hard tend to chip. If you look closely at the sharp end, you will often find micro chips.
Different Japanese Kitchen Knives List
To fully list all the different Japanese Kitchen Knives can be a bit of a challenge. Most of which are not needed by the home cook. Below, you will find some of the most common and most useful for a home cook. We will start with the ever popular Gyuto.
Gyuto Chef Knife
The Gyuto is a hybrid chef knife with a profile of both a western blade and a Japanese Blade. Most Western knives have a belly to allow for a rocking motion. Where as a Japanese knife has a flat profile so that a tap chopping motion can be achieved. With a Gyuto, the belly has a slight curvature that allows you to both tap chop and rock chop. Although the bias is still towards a tap chop.
Nakiri the Vegetable Knife
A Nakiri is a shorter rectangular blade used to cut vegetable. The tip is squared off to make it seem less intimidating. The length of the blade is usually 6-7 inch with the majority falling on the shorter side. However, I find that the longer blade one to be more useful. These Nakiri are easier to handle than the longer gyuto. As a result, most Japanese home kitchen will have at least one. The Usuba is similar to the nakiri with the main difference is that its only sharpen on one side. Its a little more difficult to use than a Nakiri.
Kiritsuke are considered to be master knives used only by the Top Chef. Its a straight edge knife that allows you slice fish and cut vegetables. The resemble a bit like how Japanese swords use to be only at a much shorter length. Steel wise, you usually find then in a high carbon finish that rust more readily than your standard stainless steel. Nevertheless, its a pretty neat knife that rivals that of the Gyuto. Only that its not as popular.
Honesuki is a Japanese boning knife that is used specifically for Chicken. Its great for cutting tendon, joints and scraping meat off the bone. Its shorter blade helps you control the knife and cut chicken. While chef mostly use it for Chicken, you can use it for any type of small animal.
Santoku is a relatively new knife that came about around the 1940. Much like a Nakiri, the main difference is that the front is rounded. It gained in popularity since Rachel Ray claim how much she like these knives. Since then, its one of the most popular knife in the states. However, I still think the Gyuto is better. Its still a good general usage knife.
The Deba Knife are behemoth knives that are designed to slice knife. Its a single bevel knife that makes it easy to filet fish. While not as useful to the western kitchen, its great for those who cook fish frequently.
Are Japanese Kitchen Knife Worth It?
I’m a little bias, but yes, its worth it. In terms of performance, it slices through food much easier than Western knives. However, what I use it for is only delicate food like fruits and veggies. For tougher things like bones or root vegetable, I like to use German knives. They are softer and generally more durable.
The list above is some of the most popular Japanese knives. My recommendation is a Gyuto, Nakiri and a Honesuki. With these knives, you should be able to do most kitchen task.
Want to learn more about the Gyuto? Check out our article on the Best Gyuto Chef Knife.