If you're in search of a good knife that can cut, slice, or mince vegetables well, consider a Japanese vegetable knife. American knives tend to have a thicker blade suitable for chopping thick vegetables, but Japanese vegetable knives have a slimmer blade and will help you cut and slice through hard or soft vegetables like butter. However, there are different types of Japanese vegetable knives, and they can be made from stainless steel or carbon steel.
To help you with your search, we've carefully created a list of the 10 best Japanese vegetable knives available online. Shun's Nakiri Knife is one of our favorites, as it's durable, sharp, and comfortable to hold. Knowing how tough it is to choose a product, we also compiled a buying guide with many tips to help you pick the right Japanese vegetable knife for yourself!
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When choosing a Japanese vegetable knife, there are many points you have to take into consideration, including the material of the blade, its finish, and its hardness level.
There are two kinds of Japanese vegetable knives: nakiri and usuba. Both are used for different purposes, so choose the type that suits your needs the most!
Nakiri knives are double-beveled, meaning they have a slanted angle on both sides that goes down to the cutting edge. They allow you to slice through the vegetables without using a push or pull motion and are usually used for cutting, chopping, or mincing vegetables.
Nakiri knives can be sharpened just like American knives. Plus, nakiri knives can be used by both left-handed and right-handed people.
Usuba knives are single-beveled and sharper than nakiri knives. These knives are perfect for making extremely precise and thin cuts. They are also used for cutting decorative garnishes.
However, usuba knives are harder to use; they are typically used by professional chefs rather than home cooks. Since usuba knives are single-beveled, they do not work for both right- and left-handed people. You also have to be careful to sharpen the correct side of the blade!
Japanese blades can be made from carbon steel or stainless steel. Each type has its pros and cons, namely regarding sharpness and durability.
Carbon steel is an alloy of iron and carbon and contains more than one percent of carbon. It takes a sharper edge and can hold its edge longer than stainless steel. However, it is susceptible to rust and can break easily.
It's also not recommended to use a carbon steel blade to cut strong acidic foods like tomatoes, lemons, or oranges, as the acid from those foods might corrode the steel. Also, remember that carbon steel knives are not dishwasher-safe and should be hand-washed and dried immediately to preserve the quality.
Some common types of carbon steel include white steel (shirogami) and blue steel (aogami). White steel has 1.25 to 1.35 percent of carbon. It's highly refined and contains a very low amount of impurities like sulfur or phosphorous.
Due to the high carbon content, white steel is hard to forge and can rust easily. But it's very sharp and keeps its edge for a long time.
Blue steel is white steel with added chromium and tungsten. It contains from 1.05 to 1.5 percent carbon. Although it's more expensive than white steel, it's more durable, corrosion-resistant, and stays sharp for even longer. Most carbon steel vegetable knives are made from blue steel. If your budget allows, we recommend blue steel.
Stainless steel is an iron alloy with other elements like chromium and carbon. It contains a maximum of 1.2 percent carbon and at least 10.5 percent chromium. Stainless steel is not as strong or sharp as carbon steel. Plus, a stainless steel knife needs to be sharpened regularly to maintain its sharpness.
However, itdoesn'tt rust easily thanks to the addition of chromium, which has strong corrosion-resistant properties.
Overall, choose a stainless steel knife if you want something that can last a long time and doesn't rust easily. Most stainless steel knives are also dishwasher-safe and easy to clean, making them an excellent choice for home cooks.
There are many different types of stainless steel, and they differ in sharpness and edge retention. VG-MAX is one of the best steels and has 1.1 percent carbon and 16 percent chromium. It's tough, highly corrosion-resistant, and has great edge retention.
VG-10 is another excellent steel and has one percent carbon and 15 percent chromium. It isn't as sharp as VG-MAX but is very hard and can retain its edge well.
AUS-10 steel is another common material containing 1.1 percent carbon and 14.5 percent chromium. It isn't as hard or corrosion-resistant as VG-10 or VG-MAX, but it's more affordable and still a decent choice!
Another factor to consider is the hardness of the steel. One reliable way to know is to look at its Hardness Rockwell C (HRC) rating. As a rule of thumb, the higher the HRC number, the harder the steel. Typically, the HRC rating of Japanese vegetable knives ranges from 58 to 62.
Harder steel can take a sharper edge and retain it longer. However, it tends to be more brittle and gets chipped easily. On the other hand, softer steel is more durable and won't chip easily. But, softer options can't get sharp as steels with a high HRC rating.
If you tend to cut tough and big items like cabbage, choose a sharp knife as it will allow you to cut through tough vegetables without a lot of pressure. However, if you usually cut soft vegetables like tomatoes, a knife that's average in sharpness is probably enough.
Get a knife with an HRC over 60 if you're looking for the sharpest knives. Blades made from blue steel, white steel, VG-MAX, and VG-10 usually have a hardness of more than 60 HRC. But, they are more prone to chipping.
A Japanese knife with an HRC rating of 58 to 60 offers better durability. AUS-10 steel typically has an HRC of 58 to 60.
If you can't find the HRC information in the product's description, you can contact the manufacturer for more details. Reading through the reviews might also help you determine if the knife is durable.
Japanese vegetable knives usually have a finish for added strength, durability, and aesthetics. Finishes help reduce friction so that food easily releases from the blade.
Damascus is one of the most common finishes and is well-known for its beautiful wavy patterns. To create a Damascus blade, multiple layers of steels are pressed and welded together. The more layers of steel there are, the tougher the knife is.
Many blades have a tsuchime finish (hand-hammered finish), a traditional Japanese style of finish. After the blade has been formed, it undergoes a second hammering process that creates dimples and marks on the surface.
Kurouchi finish (blacksmith's finish) knives are technically not polished and still have scaly residue from the forging process. They look black and rustic and feel pretty rough. Kurouchi knives are not expensive and are rust-resistant, but the finish can wear off if you use an abrasive cleaning material.
You will also find knives with a migaki finish (polished finish). However, migaki blades do not look as shiny as those with a mirror finish. Plus, scratches show up quite clearly on migaki knives.
Japanese knife handles can be made from wood or plastic. Wooden handles are durable, heat-resistant, and decay-resistant. Some common woods used to make Japanese knives include pakkawood, rosewood, and magnolia wood.
However, keep in mind that wooden handles are a bit hard to care for. You have to wash them by hand and dry them immediately, or else they will rot or crack. It's important to apply wax to wooden handles a couple of times a year to seal them from water intrusion.
If you don't like wooden handles, there are Japanese knife handles made with G-10. This material is made of fiberglass and epoxy resin, making it more durable and lightweight than wood. It's also easier to clean as it's dishwasher-safe. There are other types of plastic handles, but we recommend G-10 or wood.
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Shun's vegetable knife is forged from VG-MAX Damascus steel comprised of 68 layers to ensure sharpness. On top of that, the handle is made from pakkawood, a water-resistant material that's resistant to bacteria. There's also a ridge on the right side of the handle for a more comfortable grip.
The majority of reviewers say that the knife is sharp and slices through vegetables easily, but a couple of buyers warn that the blade chips easily. To preserve the quality of the knife, many suggest using a wooden or bamboo cutting board instead of a plastic one. Most reviewers also confirm that it's comfortable to hold!
Sakai Takayuki's nakiri knife uses VG10 stainless steel and has a hardness of 60 to 62 HRC. It has a double-bevel blade that's perfect for dicing or chopping vegetables. The handle is made from mahogany pakkawood that withstands water well. However, it's recommended to wash this knife by hand.
Some buyers wished the handle was a bit longer. Nonetheless, many others are happy with how durable and sharp it is, saying that slicing through vegetables is a breeze with this knife. The beautiful design and nice weight are other plus points for buyers.
Kyoku's nakiri knife is forged from 440C stainless steel. It scores 59 to 60 on the Hardness Rockwell C and has a 13- to 15-degree edge for precise slicing. This knife also features an ergonomic rosewood handle, which is a highly durable wood. What's more, it comes with a protective sheath and a lifetime warranty.
A couple of buyers mention that it requires regular sharpening to maintain the quality. Even so, most buyers are happy with the sharp blade. Many also appreciate the beautiful design and durability of the rosewood handle. They say that this knife is excellent for slicing vegetables.
This 6.3-inch vegetable knife is crafted with Japanese AUS-10 steel with 45 layers of Damascus steel and boasts a solid 59 to 60 HRC. The handle is made of durable pakkawood that can withstand moisture and heat. Plus, this knife has a mirror finish for a polished look.
There is one report saying that this knife developed rust spots. Nonetheless, most buyers verify that the knife is sharp and slices through vegetables easily. They also praise that this knife is nicely weighted and feels great to hold.
This nakiri knife boasts a 5.5-inch blade made from VG-MAX stainless steel, which is famous for its edge retention and durability. Each side of the blade has 34 layers of Damascus cladding for added rigidity and sharpness. The handle is made from pakkawood that fits comfortably in your hand.
A few buyers are disappointed that the blade chips quickly. Make sure you use a wooden cutting board and hone the knife once in a while to ensure its quality. Meanwhile, most buyers praise the sharp and thin blade, allowing them to slice vegetables thinly. They also confirm that it's comfortable to use.
Kikumori's usuba knife is made from VG-10 steel and has a mirrored finish. The blade is single-edged and has a thickness of just four millimeters. Therefore, this knife allows you to peel or thinly slice your vegetables.
If you're a professional chef, this knife may be a good option for you as it allows you to do delicate work on vegetables. Also, the handle is made of durable and water-resistant magnolia wood with a non-slip and comfortable grip.
This vegetable knife from Yu Kurosaki impresses us with its hardness of 62 to 63 on the Hardness Rockwell C scale. The blade is made from R2/SG2, a type of powdered stainless steel that's known for its durability. The hammered finish makes the blade look beautiful and also reduces friction so that vegetables don't stick to the blade.
Keep in mind that this knife can chip if used to cut hard objects like bones or frozen foods, so stick to cutting vegetables with this. Still, many reviewers comment that it's sharp, lightweight, and doesn't rust easily. They also say that the blade is thin and makes it easy to cut thin slices of vegetables.
The Kanetsune knife has a carbon-steel blade with a Hardness Rockwell C rating of 61 to 62. The thin and flat blade also makes chopping or slicing through vegetables easy. Also, the handle is made of magnolia wood, which is a lightweight, moderately durable material.
It's important to dry this knife thoroughly right after washing. One buyer forgot to dry it, and the blade ended up rusting. Still, most reviewers say that this knife is very sharp. They don't have any trouble using it to cut vegetables at all.
The six-inch knife has a Japanese AUS-10 steel core clad with 66 layers of high-carbon stainless steel. The flat squared blade is great for push cuts or transferring vegetables. The hammered finish is can help vegetables release from the blade easily, too. Plus, the handle is made from G-10, a water- and heat-resistant material.
Some buyers say this knife becomes dull quickly and requires sharpening. Nevertheless, most buyers say this knife is great for chopping and dicing. They note that the blade is sharp and slices through hard vegetables. According to many, it has a perfect balance and is easy to use.
This vegetable knife from Sakai Takayuki features a 6.7-inch blade with a high-carbon VG10 core. The blade is also layered with 33 layers of Damascus stainless steel for extra durability. The handle is made from Japanese elm and is resistant to moisture.
One disadvantage of this knife is that it isn't dishwasher-safe. Nevertheless, many buyers like that it's sharp and comfortable to hold. They further note that it's durable and holds its edge very well.
Now that you've gotten a fancy Japanese vegetable knife, you'll want to take care of it in order to keep it in good condition. Sharper knives are not only easier to cut with, but they're also safer since the blade won't get caught on your food.
Even the sharpest vegetable knives that can keep their edge forever eventually will require sharpening. On top of that, since many nakiri knives are double-beveled, they require sharpening on both sides in order to maintain a clean, sharp edge.
When sharpening a vegetable knife, it's crucial that you maintain the appropriate angle. It also requires some practice in terms of how much pressure you apply, as well as how you hold the knife itself.
If you're not so sure about how well you can sharpen a knife, you can find a local knife sharpener near you. If you think you can do it yourself, we've got an article on the best Japanese knife sharpeners, so it might be a good idea to pick one up as a set with your knife if you don't already have one.
Investing in the right knives is key for any home chef. To get started on rounding out your knife collection, take a look at our favorites below!
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