The Best Sushi Knife for a Western Sushi Enthusiast

Sushi is a delicacy that is typically made of rice seasoned with salt, vinegar, and sometimes sugar. In its most traditional form it is supposed to be eaten by hand even in the highest society, but there are many different form of sushi that are supposed to be eaten with chopsticks.

Sushi is enjoyed all over the world, particularly in Japan where it is a part of the Japanese culture. These days, you can find sushi rolls at restaurants that focus on Japanese or Asian cuisine, or if you want to be creative, you can make your own rolls at home. Preparing sushi rolls is relatively simple process but it is heavily dependent on perfectly cutting the vegetables, the fish and the roll. That is why today we are going to focus on the sushi knife, which is made with a specific slant in its edge and of a special type of metal. Sushi knives are designed and manufactured for a specific purpose: to help you slice raw fish with the still and expertise of a Japanese sushi chef.

ProductPictureBlade, inchMax. Hardness, Rockwell scaleWood handle, type of woodBlade material
Yoshihiro High Carbon Blue Steel 10,564RosewoodHigh carbon steel

Yoshihiro VGYA240SH Stainless Hongasumi
9,563RosewoodHigh carbon steel
Sushi Knife - Cut Perfect Japanese Sashimi855RosewoodStainless steel
Yoshihiro Shiroko High Carbon Steel9,563RosewoodHigh carbon steel
Yoshihiro Hammered Damascus NSW 9,560ShitanVG10 steel
Mercer Culinary Asian Collection1062Balsam WoodDamascus Steel
Shun Pro 8-1/4-Inch Yanagiba Knife8,2564PakkaVG10 steel
Sekizo Yanagiba Sashimi Knife 240mm963WoodMolybednum stainless steel
Kyocera Advanced Ceramic Kyotop Damascus 8,2660PakkaCeramic
Sekizo Yanagiba Sashimi Knife 210mm 862WoodMolybednum stainless steel

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There is a clear difference between using a conventional knife and a sushi knife during preparation; when you use a conventional knife, especially one with a thicker, shorter blade, you may find yourself with uneven fish slices and roughly chopped vegetables. Additionally, when you work with a conventional knife, the rice tends to stick to the edge of the blade and this can be quite bothersome while you are prepping your rolls. Using a sushi knife is important because it can guarantee sharp, even slices with each use. Sushi knives are designed with a single beveled edge which basically means one edge of the knife is primarily crafted for cutting while the other side remains flat. The flat side is deliberately crafted so as to prevent rice or vegetables from sticking to the knife. Sushi knives come with a number of distinctive features; for example, the handle of a sushi knife has a unique shape when compared to conventional knives. The reason behind the “D” shaped design is to make the preparation process more comfortable for chefs who use the knife for long periods of time to cut and slice raw fish and rolls.

Why You Should Trust Me

sushiA few months ago, I decided to try my hand at preparing my own sushi rolls. Making sushi started off as a small hobby, something to do in my free time, but it eventually grew into an enjoyable cooking experience. After a few months of using a conventional knife to slice my rolls, I began researching and looking into purchasing a proper sushi knife. For me, picking the right sushi knife would not only change the way I prepared my sushi, it would also be a worthwhile investment that would undoubtedly be a wonderful addition to my kitchen space. I was tired of dealing with uneven rolls, rice sticking to the knife edges and butchering my meat every time I used a conventional knife. I was thorough with my research, both online and offline, because I did not want to purchase an ordinary sushi knife – I wanted a spectacularly made knife that would do more for me than just slicing my fish into thin, perfect slices or cutting my rolls evenly. I wanted a knife that was handcrafted with the attention and ingenuity that is synonymous with the traditional Japanese culture. I wanted a knife with a razor sharp blade and a handle that would not cause me discomfort during long term use. I wanted a knife that was both elegant and powerful, because the right sushi knife should work both in your home and a professional kitchen. Even though I am not a professional sushi chef, I have spent a lot of happy hours immersed in the culture of sushi making, even going as far as watching: Jiro Dreams of Sushi, the 2011 documentary based on the life of sushi master Jiro Ono and his prominent and celebrated Tokyo restaurant.

A Short Digression in History

Millennia ago, in Japan, the quality of iron ore was quite poor, and, in order to create what was referred to as Tamahagane, or ‘jewel steel’, which was used to make swords, Japanese metal workers had to take parts of the iron and purify it, by flame, for over 48 hours. A special furnace, called the Tatara, was used during the purification process, but sometimes, the steel did not come out 100% pure so the Japanese sword smith was left to fold the steel in order to combine and balance out the carbon content. The steel is folded repeatedly to remove any impurities because if any element, that is not iron or carbon, remain in the finished sword, it will be weakened overtime. The folding process was an important part of sword making in medieval Japan; it guaranteed that the steel of the sword would be strong and sturdy and the blade would be sharp and light. Although a majority of smiths, outside of Japan, do not use the traditional folding method simply because the quality of modern steel has improved, it is still an important technique that Japanese sword makers are loyal to in their profession. The technology of metal folding has expanded far beyond sword making and is used to make surgical blades, scalpels and…, you’ve guessed it: sushi knives. The sushi knives that are handcrafted in Japan, in addition to being made with high quality steel, go through the traditional process of metal folding; this is an important fact because the forging and smelting that goes into each layer is the reason why the knives are so coveted by chefs around the word. Sushi knives are crafted with special care and meticulous attention; they are designed and built to last for a long time, even after they have been used multiple times.

What to Look for When Choosing a Sushi Knife

Now that you know the amount of work and time that goes into the making of sushi knives, the question still remains: what should you be looking for when you are choosing a sushi knife. You don’t want to buy a knife from a random websites that promises to sell cheap knives made of the highest quality. When it comes to sushi knives, you get what you pay for it. Before you choose a knife, you should have a budget that you intend to stick with after you’ve thoroughly looked through a range of options. The main point to remember is that you are not buying a sushi knife because it is convenient, but because it will make the preparation process go smoothly.

One Sided vs Two Sided Blades

ddasdasdaOnce you have a budget you are comfortable with, the next step is understanding why you need a sushi knife and why a conventional kitchen knife isn’t the best choice for cutting rolls and slicing meat. Western kitchen knives are known for being double edged, which means that they are honed from both sides. The best sushi knives are typically honed on the right side, which is great for right-handed chefs, and this allows for the honed side to have the sharpest possible edge. A great knife will help you do three things easily: cut the fish, prep the vegetables and cut the roll. Keep in mind that a traditional Japanese sushi knife, handcrafted and designed in Japan, is honed on the right side, while a Japanese western-inspired sushi knife is honed on both sides. If you want thin, precise slices and cuts, you’re better off with a traditional blade.

The Hilt

Another trait to consider before you purchase a knife is its hilt or handle. The handle of a knife might be viewed as a seemingly unimportant part, but in reality, it’s important to not overlook what type of material is used to make the handle. Wood handles are typically preferred by chefs and food lovers; handles made out of wood are softer to touch, aesthetically pleasing and more sanitary to use. It’s also important to keep the shape of the handle in mind before you spend any money on the knife; the handle should be sturdy but comfortable, made with high quality materials and easy to grasp while you prep your rolls. Some of the best traditional sushi knives feature wooden handles which are handcrafted with meticulous detail and attention. Some of the wood handle materials you may come across during your research include: Rosewood, Balsam wood, Pakka and Shitan.

The Sheath

dsdasdIn addition to investing in a good knife with a solid handle, it’s also important to consider investing in a sheath, or making sure that the knife you are going to buy comes with a high quality sheath. Sheaths not only provide space for your knife to be stored, they also provide protection against oils, dust and a host of other natural and artificial elements. Sheaths made out of leather are widely popular amongst knife enthusiasts. Real leather feels amazing to the hands, it smells fantastic, and it could last for long periods of time, if it cared for properly, and is aesthetically pleasing. With a leather sheath, the blade of your knife will be protected against scratches and bruises when it is not in use. After the leather has been broken in, the sheath will create a custom fit for your knife; there won’t be an excess space to allow air into the sheath. Leather sheaths are also known to be quiet, which is an advantage because you don’t have to deal with a loud sound or click when you are placing your knife back into its protective case. Nylon sheaths are a cheaper, alternative option to leather ones. They work well with smaller sushi knives and are lightweight and easy to move around with, which is great if you are a chef on the go.

Our Top Choices

Given how much information I have already given you so far, you’re probably wondering how you can best go about finding and choosing the sushi knife that suits your needs and meets all those requirements. Before I made my list of high quality knives, I consider three important factors: the length and thinness of the blade, the cost of the knife, and the handle of the knife. Yoshihiro knives are highly recommended by new and seasoned chefs; the brand is known for their quality and craftsmanship. For that reason you will see that some of my top choices include the Yoshihiro brand.

1. The Yoshihiro Hammered Damascus Sujihiki Slicer knife. It features 9.5inch, doubled edged blade, a rosewood handle and a wooden sheath for protection. The knife has undergone the traditional folding process and has been forged with 46 layers of steel for unbeatable strength and precision. The knife is able to excel at any kitchen task, no matter how simple or difficult. With this knife you can do something as simple as slicing a cucumber or as challenging as carving a roast chicken. If you experience any dullness with the Sujihiki blade, you can sharpen it on a Japanese water stone but it’s important to preserve and maintain from the moment it’s purchased and put to work.sealed

2. The Yoshihiro Hongasumi Yanagi is next on my list. This is a handmade, stain resistant knife that has been skillfully crafted by qualified knife experts. The Yanagi steel has undergone the complex process of forging, layering and hammering so you are guaranteed a powerful knife. You can choose from four different blades: 9.5”, 10.5”, 11.8” and 13”. The knife features a D-shaped Rosewood handle and a wooden sheath that will protect against stains and odor.

3. The Yoshihiro Shiroko Kasumi knife is crafted out of Japanese White High Carbon Steel. This knife is perfect for beginners and novice chefs who are starting out in the sushi making profession. The knife comes with an elegant thin blade that can cut through any ingredient with precision and power. It comes with a Rosewood handle and a sheath made out of Magnolia wood. Since the knife is made out of stainless steel, it is prone to staining, which is natural and will not affect the performance of the knife, but if you would like to avoid premature staining, it’s best to keep the blade as dry as possible at all times. You can also use a rust eraser, which comes included with the Shiroko knife, to remove any stain.

4. The Mercer Culinary Yanagi knife is a beautifully handcrafted Japanese sushi knife that comes with different blade sizes. The knife is crafted with German stainless steel and guarantees even and precise slices and cuts with each use. If you’re serious about making authentic Japanese sushi, the Yanagi knife might be the best fit for you.

5. The Kyocera Advanced Ceramic Damascus knife is perfect for chefs who enjoy kitchen appliances with beautiful aesthetic designs. This knife features black, Damascus-inspired designs on its ceramic blade, a handle made out of moisture resistant Pakkawood and a razor sharp edge. Its ceramic blade is not only unique but advantageous because it will maintain its sharpness for far longer than metal-based based knives. The Kyocera is far more durable than most sushi knives and works well with hard or soft ingredients.

cutitOver the years, I have worked with different sushi knives, from when I started as a beginner to the point where I became more adept with handling rolls and delicate vegetables. My favorite knife, so far, has to be the Yoshihiro High Carbon Blue Steel Hongasumi Yanagi Sushi knife. This is perhaps the most expensive knife I have worked with and, for that reason, I would only recommend it to seasoned chefs who have a solid budget and are looking for a quality knife, or for novices who can spend several hundreds of dollars without a second thought.
There are several reasons that explain why the knife costs an arm and leg; the blade is made with High Carbon Blue Steel which is known to be of far better quality when compared to knives forged from regular, white steel. The blade is very sharp out of the box and will be even sharper once it’s sharpened on a whetstone. The knife has been crafted to cut through fish with little to no effort on your part. You don’t have to apply too much pressure or use aggressive sawing motions while you cut; you simply need to let the blade glide across the roll or the fish, and the knife will do the rest on its own. The handle, a thing of beauty, is shaped like an octagon and is made out of handcrafted Japanese Rosewood for a unique and aesthetically pleasing look.

When you purchase the Yanagi knife, you will also get a sheath made out of Magnolia wood, a bottle of knife oil and a rust eraser included in the box. Although this knife caters to right-handed chefs, if you are left handed and you have a flexible budget, you can request a custom made Yanagi. This new left handed feature will add about 100 bucks on top of the original price, and it will take between two to three weeks to be made and delivered to your home or workplace. If you’re looking to purchase a sushi knife just for display purposes, this is not the knife for you. This knife is a great investment and should be put to use immediately if you want to experience how amazing it truly is. From the moment you unbox it, you will come face to face with its great form and finish. The thin blade is both elegant and strong and capable of slicing through any fish or meat while still maintaining the freshness and color of the food. The knife is available in 9.5” to 13.5” and comes with a limited lifetime warranty.

As much as I want every sushi enthusiast and cook to own several Yoshihiro knives in their workspaces, I know a good percentage of entry level sushi chefs will not be willing or even able to invest that much money into a knife. There are great sushi knives that cost less than a hundred dollars and will perform almost as well as their expensive counterparts. The fact remains that a person could buy an expensive knife and not know how to use it to its full potential, and another person could buy a cheaper knife and handle it with great skill and mastery.
The Sekizo Yanagiba Sashimi knife is a good knife for anyone working on a tight budget. It’s a lightweight knife that is perfect for cutting and slicing fish and rolls. If you’re used to heavier knives, you should know that the Sekizo will be considerably lighter than what you’re used to working with, but do not be too worried about its weight, the knife will still get the work done without any hassle. It features a single beveled edge and a long, slim, 8 inch blade which is very sharp right out of the box. The knife is designed to cut through soft flesh and vegetables so avoid using it to cut hard fruits or bony meat. The Sekizo is great for entry level chefs and beginners who are just learning the basics of sushi preparation. If you take care of it properly, it will hold up even after continuous use.

Some Interesting Alternatives

interestingThe Mercer Culinary Asian Collection Yanagi knife, which was part of my initial list of top knives, is another budget friendly option. This knife has been categorized as a multipurpose knife which means you can use it for other non-sushi related tasks. The blade of a sushi knife is designed to slice specific ingredients such as raw fish and seaweed, but with a multipurpose knife like the Mercer Yanagi, you can use it to prepare a sushi roll and also use it to dice carrots and lettuce for other meals. The blade is made from high carbon German steel and you can choose between a 10 inch or 12 inch knife. It features the famous “D” shaped wooden handle and comes with a limited lifetime warranty. It has a razor sharp blade that can cut through your choice of meat and vegetable with ease; you don’t have to exert too much force because the knife was designed to do most of the work for you. The Mercer Yanagi knife is simple, inexpensive, sharp and a great tool for both entry level and professional sushi chefs.

There are a wide variety of versatile sushi and sashimi knives on the market. You don’t have to purchase a knife because it has perfect reviews on Amazon or it is highly recommended by a chef, sometimes, it’s great to do your own research and find alternatives that may better suit your needs. For example, the Cut Perfect Japanese Sashimi Sagana knife is a great alternative for both beginners and professionals to have in their homes or work spaces. It has the same qualities of most sushi knife such as a sharp blade, a sturdy, luxurious Rosewood handle and a beautiful design, but the Sagana, which is made from high quality stainless steel, promises not to rust if not used for extended periods of time, like most sushi knives would. With its beveled 8 inch blade, you can always expect to have even slices and cuts every time you use the knife. You don’t have to do too much work as the knife will effortless cut through meat and rice rolls in one swift motion.

Taking Care of Your Sushi Knife

Kitchen knives, whether they are made by Japanese sword smiths or forged in a machine, require care and maintenance on some level. It’s important to know what material your knife is made from (carbon or stainless steel) and then research the proper ways to care for them. There are some basic things every sushi knife owner should do before and after they use their knives:

1. Try to avoid using your sushi knife to cut frozen, hard and bony meat and chicken. You should also avoid using it to cut hard fruits such as carrots and kiwis. This will prevent the edge from getting damagedtakingcre

2. A sushi knife is designed to help you make smooth, effortless cuts so try to avoid using the knife to saw through an ingredient. Be gentle when you grasp the handle.

3. Avoid bending the blade. Bending can cause the blade to chip or crack.

4. Invest in a good cutting board, preferably a board made from end-grain wood. Avoid using your knife on metal and glass surfaces because they are too hard on the edge of your knife.

5. Do not put your wife into the dishwasher. Your knife should be hand washed with mild soapy water. It is imperative that your knife is thoroughly dried, with a cloth, before it is put away. If you put your knife in a dishwasher, you will cause damage to its blade, shape and handle.

6. Oil your knife from time to time, especially the blade. Polishing and lubricating your knife will help maintain its shine and longevity.

7. Be careful with knives made of Carbon steel. Carbon steel knives need more attention because they rust easily, especially if they haven’t be dried or cleaned properly. Ensure that you are paying close attention when you clean and put away your carbon steel knife.

8. Keep your knife sharp at all times. If you plan on using your sushi knife regularly, you should consider purchasing a Japanese whetstone so you can be prepared if your blade dulls.

In Conclusion

I highly recommend sushi knives to all professional chefs, food enthusiasts and budding cooks. A sushi knife is very important to the sushi preparation process and it will change the way you present and put your rolls together. When you choose to purchase a handmade Japanese sushi knife, you are choosing to pick quality over convenience. You are choosing to change the way you cut and slice your meat and vegetables. Dare I say your sushi can’t be deemed as authentic if you did not use a sushi knife? When it comes to cooking food the right way, it’s important to invest in quality cooking utensils so you can get the best out of your meals.sekizo

There are a range of knives to choose from and the more research you do into each individual knife, the more you will be successful at choosing the best knife for your kitchen. The Yoshihiro Hammered Damascus knife with its single edge blade and Rosewood handle is suitable for chefs with an expansive budget and who are looking to invest in a quality knife. The Cut Perfect Japanese Sashimi knife promises to perform just as well as its expensive counterparts. It’s a knife that I recommend for entry level chefs. The Yoshihiro Shiroko High Carbon Steel Kasumi knife is another option for entry level chefs. It features a single edged blade that can cut through meat with little or no pressure from your end. The knife is designed to look beautiful while it’s in use and after it has finished performing its duties. The Sekizo Yanagiba knife is the cheapest knife on our list and is therefore great for beginners who are just looking to try out sushi knives to improve their skills. The Sekizo is made in Japan and features an 8 inch blade. You can use it to slice raw fish, seafood and rolls with effortless skill and ease. It is also an all purpose knife that can be used to slice and cut produce that will not be used to prepare sushi: apples, watermelon, boneless chicken breasts, fillet, and salmon.
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Koromone Koroye

Koromone Koroye

Koromone is a writer, creative thinker, teacher and poet. She grew up in Lagos Nigeria where she finished her High School education before moving to New York to earn her B.A and M.F.A in English and Creative Writing. In addition to writing, she enjoys baking, performing spoken poetry, working out, buying a ton of lipsticks and watching reruns of The Office in bed. She currently teaches English language at a private school in Nigeria and freelances in her available time.
Koromone Koroye

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