Anyone who loves cooking deserves to have fine tools to assist them in creating their mouth-watering masterpieces. Despite innovations in kitchen gadgets, largely unchanged since the evolution of mankind, there’s one tool which still wins first place: the kitchen knife. Not just any, chefs the world over say the best are Japanese kitchen knives.
A chef’s knife-set is their lifeblood; one for every occasion or that good all-rounder, never out of reach. Perhaps it’s their impressive, ornate detailing or centuries-old trusted design, but the best Japanese kitchen knives fit perfect in the hand; balances like an extension of you, works effortlessly. With such popularity came a hefty price tag. Fortunately, nowadays popularity spawns a competitive market.
What qualities to look for
- Material: Japanese kitchen knives traditionally feature a quality wooden handle. But paramount is its toughness, the blade should be a high-grade steel and, for extra strength, be full tang: one solid piece.
- Sharpness: a good blade (edge) should be sharp out of the box, but ease of sharpening and how long it stays sharp are vital factors.
- Balance: too heavy at the handle or not enough weight on the blade can make or break a knife’s effectiveness. You want a sword not a spade.
- Origin: it’s the methods used by traditional Japanese blacksmiths which makes the knives so world-renowned for their superiority. Various regions in Japan are famed for producing high-quality pieces, such as Sakai, home to the famous samurai sword.
- Purpose: do you want a go-to or do you need something that will cut through bone? Santokus are good multi-purpose knives, Gyutos are perfect for cutting meat, and the Nakiris make easy work of chopping vegetables, which the name translates to.
Here’s our top 5 Japanese kitchen knife reviews
Below are the best Japanese chef knives available today:
Made from a full tang carbon stainless steel blade, the 8-inch Zelite Infinity is a work of art. Dubbed the “Samurai Sword for the kitchen” by its new owners, it bears all the hallmarks which give Japanese knives their reputation. Its excellent blade and crafted handle make it a pleasure and a breeze to use, its higher price tag reflects its high-quality and there’s no lack of enthusiasm for it. It wouldn’t look out of place in a display cabinet and it won’t ever fail to wow. Of course, its value plays out best in the kitchen. Razor-sharp, perfect balance. This is why professional chefs swear by them.
Winner of the 2015 Red Dot Design Award, and guaranteed for two years, this Swiss-made chef’s nice features an impressive ornate etching of the Swiss Alps on its stainless steel blade. A good all-rounder, especially for its low price. Customers all agree that it sits nice in the hand and is extremely sharp; if it had a better handle it would be near-perfect, but then it would probably cost triple. Definitely one of the best value.
Hand crafted from the famed eye-catching Damascus Steel, the VG-10 has a Gyuto 7-Inch blade featuring the intricate detailing typical with a traditional design, just what you expect from “Handmade by skilled sword makers in Japan.” Customers comment how beautifully it balances, and there’s no end of praise for its infallible performance. However, with a higher price tag, you might expect a solid mahogany handle, not laminated. Still, it speaks for itself and remains a favourite amongst amateurs and professionals alike.
Well-known for their razor-sharp blades, SekiRyu’s all-purpose Santoku looks robust, yet is lightweight, as intended by this reputable designer. With a slim stainless steel blade, the solid poplar wood handle balances it well and completes the authentic look. Like many traditional Japanese knives, the wood comes untreated, the only grumble by a few customers. It does lack the trademark patterned detailing you might expect, but its ability to make easy work of its duties more than makes up for it. It doesn’t need to show off by appearance. Excellent value.
For less than £25, with an 18-inch German stainless steel blade, this Santoko knife rates as real value for money. Sharp out of the box and a treat to handle, customers say it’s worth double the price. It lacks the signature ornate detailing seen on more expensive designs, but it still looks like a serious kitchen knife. It would make a great purchase for anyone on a tight budget who wants a professional kitchen knife without spending a fortune.
Thanks to a global market, it’s now possible for everyday people to own an awesome tool that only professional chefs and collectors had access to. Some prefer the more traditional, solid-looking ones, others the ones which show off with their dazzling patterning. But as this review demonstrates, each Japanese kitchen knife is a thing of beauty in its own right. Lack of detailing doesn’t necessarily mean lack of authenticity or ability, nor does a stunning design mean blowing the budget. Which will you choose?