Once you start getting into cooking—like actually cooking and not just throwing on an apron and heating things up in a pan and calling it cooking—you’ll start to see that there is an entire world of kitchen tools to aid in that cooking. You can essentially make your personal collection of tools bespoke to what you’re eating, how much room you have for single-use items, and your preferences on just about everything.
Good knives are one of the first items of a Food Assembler turned Home Cook. Here, we’re talking specifically about Japanese knives, which are their own subset of knife form and a world unto themselves. Japanese cuisine pays particularly close attention to the food preparation; there are no shortcuts. A Japanese knife, then, often follows suit. It’s generally super sharp, lightweight, and great for perfect cuts on softer foods. They’re known for being something you can move with easily—and aren’t bulky or cumbersome.
These knives perform so well because of their construction. They’re a form of craftsmanship, from how the blade tapers or doesn’t to how the ergonomic the handle feels in action. The materials are often high-quality, too, which makes the knives rather expensive. But because of that attention to detail in construction, they’re made to perform for a long time. They’re the kind of knife that, once it dulls, you’ll feel compelled to actually go get professionally sharpened—the key to any kitchen knife longevity. Here are 10 of the best Japanese knives to get you started.
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Gyuto Kitchen Knife
You will start to see the same names of knife brands pop up throughout your knife-acquiring journey, and we will begin with this one: Gyuto. A Gyuto knife is multipurpose (so, not just for slicing or more one-off uses, as you will see) and is a good place to start. This one is an easy-to-handle eight inches, made with high carbon stainless steel that is essentially rust-resistant.
Classic 8” Western Cook’s Knife
Shun is a popular knife brand, and this cook’s knife is another solid workhorse for most kitchens. It’s certainly on the heavier side—not as dainty as some of the other Japanese knives you might see—but it still feels light and easy to move around.
Hammered Pro 3-Piece Knife Set
A good option if you’re rethinking your knife collection: a set. Together, these three knives can tackle pretty much any prep task you need. In descending order, this set comes with a multipurpose 8-inch chef’s knife, a 6-inch utility knife, and a 3.5-inch paring knife.
Petty Swirl Damascus
Some Japanese knives look straight up like pieces of art and this Damascus blade pattern and octagonal, maple burl handle is as beautiful as it is functional. The blade length is a bit of a middle ground at 5.5 inches, which is good for more precise slicing or if you feel overwhelmed by a bigger knife.
Morado Kiritsuke Kuro-uchi
Many Japanese knives are good for softer, precise slicing, but this guy is made for heavier tasks like vegetable and meat chopping. The steel on this blade is hard hard and can withstand the force that comes with those heavier chops.
Tojiro DP Gyutou
For a starter workhorse knife, this $99 one is a customer favorite. It’s a little longer than the standard—8.2 inches rather than 8—and has a handle that’s made with both righties and lefties in mind. Try this one if you’re not sure how much use you’ll get out of an investment knife yet but want a bit of an upgrade.
Evolution Knife Collection
Alternatively, if you are absolutely sold on that kitchen upgrade, this Miyabi set is beautiful and efficient. You can get up to seven pieces in the set, but you can pick and choose the ones you want. Your options: paring, utility, Santoku, chef’s, bread, and slicing knives in a range of sizes.
10.5″ Yanagiba Knife
This knife is terrifying and beautiful and the key to cutting sushi and sashimi in your now-professional kitchen. It is very sharp and can’t do a lot beyond its perfect slicing but it does that perfect slicing in a way other knives can only dream of.
9 1/2″ Sushi Knife
This is also a sushi knife, but a majorly upgraded one. This knife is a thing of beauty. It’s handcrafted with 67 layers Damascus of VG10 steel, which is absurd and virtually indestructible, and the handle and cover are made with Japanese indigo-dyed Ho wood. Consider it a gift to yourself for life.
Japanese Butter Knife
OK, so, no, this is not usually the kind of knife people are talking about when they talk about Japanese knives. But for anyone who loves butter and efficiency—and that list better be everybody—a Japanese butter knife will absolutely elevate the joy that is spreading butter.
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