Japanese chef knives are renowned for combining an almost artistic touch of beauty with an unmatched usefulness in the kitchen. In fact, the type of metal used to craft Japanese chef knives was actually the same used to craft the swords used by Samurai soldiers hundreds of years ago. As planned obsolescence has gradually taken over the direction of our economy, finding high-quality durable goods is becoming close to impossible. While our grandparents might have used the same cast iron skillet their entire lives, modern day homeowners probably go through a whole set of kitchenware every couple of years.
Investing in a high quality set of authentic Japanese chef knives will obviously cost you significantly more than the $10 knife set on sale at Wal-Mart. With the right information and maintenance, however, a quality set of Japanese chef knives will last a lifetime and can even be handed down to your grandchildren.
Below, we offer a complete description of what to look for when shopping for the best Japanese chef knives and some of the benefits that come with owning this type of knife. We then go on to offer a complete review of the top 17 best Japanese Chef Knives on the market today.
What Makes Japanese Chef Knives so Special?
Authentic Japanese chef knives are made from a type of carbonized steel called hagane. Unlike other types of steel, hagane is relatively soft and needs to be maintained regularly if the knife is to maintain its usefulness. In famous Japanese restaurants, a special chef ends each work day sharpening the Japanese chef knives that are used by the kitchen crew.
While stainless steel knives can maintain their sharpness for a longer period of time, they also are much harder to sharpen correctly when the blade does go dull. Additionally, many professional chefs will swear that it simply isn’t possible to get as sharp a blade with stainless steel.
Some Things to Consider Before Buying Authentic Japanese Chef Knives
Before you make a significant investment in a quality set of Japanese chef knives, you need to ask yourself if you have the ability and discipline to maintain the knives. While it is relatively easy to learn how to sharpen these knives with a file and/or whetstone, you will need to make it a habit to dedicate a couple minutes of maintenance to your knives on a weekly basis (or even more frequently depending on the use).
Another consideration that arises in relation to Japanese chef knives is whether to opt for a single or double bevel blade. Most household kitchen knives have a relatively shallow double bevel on each side of the knife. Authentic Japanese chef knives, on the other hand, tend to have a long and wide single bevel on one side of the knife. While you can find commercialized Japanese chef knives with a double bevel, if you are looking for the real deal, you should probably opt for the single bevel products. However, it is worth mentioning that if you are left handed, you would do well to use a double bevel knife as the vast majority of single bevel Japanese chef knives can only be used with your right hand.
Lastly, you need to know some basic terminology when it comes to shopping for authentic Japanese chef knives. There are dozens of different types of knives for different purposes, and unless you are planning on opening up a Japanese steak house, the three knife types listed below should be more than enough to get you started.
- Gyūtō: This is also known as a cow knife and is a great all-purpose knife that can be used for everything from finely chopping onion and garlic to breaking up a cow bone for soup.
- Santoku bōchō: This is a much lighter knife that can be used for vegetables, fish and meat. Since this knife is considerably lighter and smaller, it is usually preferred for fine chopping.
- Nakiri: The Nakiri is strictly for cutting up vegetables becaue it has a thin double bevel blade.
With this basic knowledge, you should now be ready to start shopping for a quality, authentic, and truly useful set of Japanese chef knives that will transform your kitchen.
Top 17 Best Japanese Chef Knives
1. Shun Premier Chef Knife: This 8-inch beauty works great as an all-purpose knife for your kitchen. If you are just getting started learning about quality Japanese chef knives, this might be the best choice for you. It is crafted from Damascus steel and has a hand-hammered finish. You can also pay a bit more for a custom engraved handle.
2. Yoshihiro VG10: This knife can be purchased in an 8 or 9.5 inch presentation. Its three layer construction with a unique type of metal known as VG-10 Japanese stainless steel offers long lasting sharpness and edge retention. The western styled mahogany handle doesn’t look too shabby either.
3. KOTO Knives: The KOTO Japanese chef knife is an absolute must for people looking to add a touch of professionalism to their kitchen. The G-10 steel has an amazing 67 layers of high carbon steel that creates a unique and beautiful Damascus pattern on each blade. This creates a natural nonstick surface making for quick work of almost anything you cook up in your kitchen.
4. Miyabi 8-inch Chef Knife: This knife is crafted in Seki, Japan which is an increasing oddity as several companies have begun to take production to China. Furthermore, this blade uses the three-step Honbazuke process to sharpen to a 9.5 to 12 degree edge.
5. Imarku Chef Knife: This stainless steel option will be much easier to maintain though the knife still boasts of 0.6-0.75 carbon rating. This makes the knife at least two times as hard as other knives in its class as they contain only about 0.3% carbon. The blade also contains around 18% chrome which gives this Japanese chef knife a glossy finish that isn’t usually customary.
6. Soufull Chef Knife: Soufull offers both a chef knife, a gyutou knife, and a sashimi knife. All three of the types of knives offered by this company have a steel cutting core rated at 57+ Rockwell hardness. This offers extraordinary performance and perfect grain while the ergonomic pakkawood handle allows for hours of comfortable cutting in the kitchen.
7. Kingstar Japanese Chef Knife: This knife is made from corrosion resistant steel. Additionally, the handle on this knife is curved resulting in a super sharp edge. A limited lifetime guarantee goes to show that this company stands by the product they offer.
8. Augymer Chef Knife: If aesthetics outweight functionality in your own personal criteria, the Augymer Japanese chef knife should be first on your list. The beautiful brown-grained handle contrasts with the darker blade. While this knife certainly looks sharp, it cuts sharp as well. A combination of stainless steel and chromium add to the knife´s sharpness while also making for maximum durability.
9. Enso Prep Knife: This Japanese chef knife is 2.5 inches shorter than most of the other knives reviewed here which makes it a great choice for prep work in the kitchen, especially for fine chopping of vegetables or other foodstuffs. The blade is hammered Damascus stainless steel.
10. Dalstrong Kiritsuke Chef Knife: The kiritsuke knife is designed specifically as a slicing and push-cut specialist. The unforgivingly sharp edge has double bevel 8-12°degree angle per side The blade is also nitrogen cooled for enhanced harness, flexibility and corrosion resistance. The steel cutting core at 62+ Rockwell hardness includes 66 layers of premium high-carbon stainless steel.
11. Tuo Cutlery Chef Knife: The Tuo Japanese chef knife comes with and AUS-10 Damascus Steel blade and a unique ergonomic Pakkawood handle. While this knife is Chinese made, the Damascus steel is imported from Japan to assure premium quality.
12. Ross Henery Professional 9 Piece Set: Let´s face it: not everyone will be able to shell out $100 or so for one kitchen knife, even if the quality is notably superior. This nine piece collection by Ross Henery Professional might not have the same high standards as some of the Japanese chef knives reviewed above, but it is certainly leaps and bounds ahead of those on sale kitchen knives at Wal-Mart. This collection is made from high carbon stainless steel and includes a 10” carving knife, an 8” chef’s knife, an 8” filleting knife, an 8” bread knife, a 7” cleaver, a 6” boning knife, a 4” paring knife, a 10” meat fork, and a 12” sharpening steel.
13. S´Elite Japanese Chef Knife: This 8 inch knife comes with a stainless steel blade that also contains between 0.67 and 0.7 carbon. The addition of chromium and molybdenum to the blade make it one of the most rust-proof chef knives on the market.
14. Gossberg 8-inch Chef Knife: While this knife certainly does not have a Japanese sounding name, the quality is on par. It contains a 2.75 mm stainless steel blade and a pakkawood handle. Furthermore, it also has an optimum weight for best balance and control when cooking.
15. Dalstrong Phantom Series Chef Knife: At around $80 dollars, this is an average priced Japanese cooking knife that also delivers great performance. The blade has been carefully honed by expert craftsman to 13-15° and nitrogen cooled for enhanced hardness, flexibility and corrosion resistance. It is also carefully tapered for minimal drag when working with it.
16. Hanzo Japanese Chef Knife: This reputable knife making company also offers some great Japanese chef knives. This product is 9.5 inches long making it one of the longer Japanese blades on the market. Furthermore, this blade looks good as it performs as it comes with a storm wave pattern along the blade and a charcoal black handle inserted with a unique Samurai red star mosaic.
17. A. Henckels International CLASSIC 8″ Chef’s Knife: This Spanish made knife comes in 6-inch, 8-inch, and 10-inch presentations while the blade is sourced from Germany. The satin-finished blade boasts precision cutting and is finely honed for long-lasting sharpness.