How to choose the right Japanese knife

A Japanese knife is an investment so at Cutting Edge Knives we do all we can to help you choose one that you'll love using for many years to come and join the thousands of happy customers we've served since 2011. You can read some of our customer reviews here.

When you buy a Japanese knife, you're buying something you will be able to use for the rest of your life if you look after it and everything we sell is beautifully made and of a quality we love so you can be assured that any knife you like the look is of an exceptional quality. Everything we sell is backed by our no-quibble 30 day money back promise so you don't have to worry.


How to choose the best kitchen knife for you

What style of kitchen knife do I need?

Start with a "Gyuto" or a "Santoku" as a first purchase if you're looking for an all rounder.

A gyuto or santoku is a great starting point because these are a multi-purpose chef knife. A santoku is often around 160-180mm and a gyuto typically ranges from around 180-300mm long with a sweet spot around 210mm that's both efficient on larger pieces of meat or vegetables but nimble enough for more intricate work. It's not too big or small and so is usually the knife you'll use daily and will do 99% of most jobs.

Once you've got a good all rounder, then look to expand your collection with a smaller petty (sometimes called a paring knife in the West) and if you're cooking a lot of vegetables, a nakiri is something to consider as it's specifically designed for veg prep despite it looking a bit like a cleaver. 

For most people a general use chef knife, petty and nakiri will be plenty. The Japanese have other different styles of knife for more specific jobs of course and if you need to work with meat and bones or want a carving knife then we have you covered and you can find out more about the other types of knife here.

The longer answer is "It depends".

It depends on lots of things like your budget, what sort of cooking you do, if you have a preference for steel types, blacksmith and blade size. View all our knives here and you can filter by blacksmith, knife type price and more. If you have more questions, please get in touch any time and we're here to help.

How sharp is Japanese knife steel?

Japanese knives are famed for their sharpness and edge retention thanks to the harder steels used and the smaller sharpening angle of around 15-16% which creates an incredible cutting edge. Most Japanese knives are also finished by hand on increasingly smooth whetstones to create an edge that's of a consistency and standard that is astonishing. If you want to see just how good an edge is possible, we compared a Japanese knife with a Global and Sheffield Steel knife underneath a microscope and the results are remarkable.

For a more in depth look at the differences between the steels used you can read our steel types guide.

Looks

How a knife looks should be the last thing you buy a knife for, but that being said, a good looking knife is a real treat. As we've picked only awesome knives feel free to pick a pretty one and buy it safe in the knowledge it will be a great performer.

Ease of care and protection

Let us make this easy. No kitchen knife should be put in the dish washer. Wipe them clean, dry and store them after each use. Simple.

When it comes to storing and protecting your knife, we suggest a magnetic wooden knife rack. We have a growing selection of handcrafted knife racks which are a perfect compliment to the knives in your kitchen.

If you're travelling or want to store your knife in a drawer - we'd recommend a wooden sayablade guard or knife roll to protect not only the blade but your fingers when you reach for it. 

Learn more about ease of care

Handles & Grip

There are two main styles to choose from. The traditional Western style we typically know or the Japanese "wa" handle.

The Japanese "wa" handle is light weight and as a result feels like it is barely there. This is a centuries old design and combined with a half tang makes the knife feel significantly lighter and more nimble in your hand.

Western handles are the style most of us will be familiar with, full tang (where the blade goes all the way through the handle), often riveted and pretty damn sturdy. You feel like you could fell a tree with one.


"What are your favourites at Cutting Edge Knives?"

We're often asked for a "if you had to recommend a knife, what would it be?" recommendation. The short answer right now is to take a look at the excellent Sakai Takayuki 45 layer damascus range. It's a great mix of sharpness, style, easy to care for damascus steel, value for money and made by a company with 600 years of knife making experience!

How about our personal favourites?

Ally's favourite - Yoshida Hamono ZDP-189 Bunka

Yoshida Hamono ZDP189 - Bunka

This an astonishing knife and range. The cutting edge is one of the sharpest we've ever tested and the extremely hard steel means it holds that edge exceptionally well. For the sharpness and edge retention we'd expect a knife like this to cost double what it actually does!

James's favouriteYu Kurosaki - Fujin Gyuto

Made by one of Japan's leading blacksmiths, the balance between performance and design is exceptional and it's one that just demands attention and use!


Can your current knife do this?

Here's a couple of fun little "tests" you can do with the knife in your kitchen drawer right now - if your knife can't do these, it might be time to treat yourself something new 👍