How to Choose the Right Sushi Knife (2023)

What Makes it a Sushi Knife?

Sushi and Sashimi knives are extremely sharp, hand-crafted for a specific task, and require very specific instructions to handle and maintain.

There are many steps to making a sushi roll: cutting vegetables, cutting fish, and then cutting the roll itself. A sushi knife is multifaceted for cutting during all three, but a sashimi knife is made specifically for cutting fish.

Most sushi knives are made of high-carbon steel (not stainless steel). This means that the steel rusts easily, but is capable of attaining a much sharper edge.

How to Choose the Right Sushi Knife (1)

One unique trait of sushi and sashimi knives is their single beveled edge. These knives are sharpened so that only one side holds the cutting edge and the other side remains flat. The flat edge is there so that food doesn’t stick to the knife.

It is rumored that most sushi knives are right-handed because it is better to cut fish with, whereas left-handed knives are better for cutting shellfish. Left-handed knives are usually custom-made and more expensive.

Another unique quality of the knives is the handle. Traditionally, the handle was shaped with a “D” cross-section. This was to make using the knife for long periods of time more comfortable. The handles are made with various types of wood and usually a bone cap towards the top.

The last unique trait of sushi and sashimi knives (which can also be seen in Japanese Katana) is the Tang. The tang refers to the metal portion of the handle that runs down the length. There are full tang knives and half tang knives. Full tang runs the entire length of the handle whereas half tang does not.

Types of Sushi Knives

(Video) How to Choose Your First Knife【Sushi Chef Eye View】

Here are some links to individual pages about the most commonly found sushi and sashimi knives

How to Choose the Right Sushi Knife (3)

The Deba is the sushi equivalent of a meat clever. It's good for cutting through bones, cartilage, and breaking down a fish into fillets.

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How to Choose the Right Sushi Knife (4)

The Usuba is the ideal vegetable knife, used more for fine cuts and peeling.

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(Video) Best Sushi Knife in 2021 – Top 10 Recommendation!
How to Choose the Right Sushi Knife (5)
Santoku (three virtues)

The Santoku is used for fish, meat, and vegetables. This is a western-style knife that was designed to be a "one size fits all." It is not a traditional knife, but it's used a lot in Japanese homes.

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While there are a few more types of knives used in the sushi industry, they are extremely rare and absolutely accessories to the essential knives. The above listed are considered the “essential” knives for sushi.

Knife Etiquette

Click on the button below to learn about the proper knife etiquette for sushi and sashimi knives. This page will go over the general use of knives, how to hold them, and a few interesting facts about Japanese etiquette vs. Western etiquette.

Knife Etiquette

(Video) Best Sushi Knife - Inside My Kitchen

Buying a Sushi Knife

In this section, I will go over the Do’s and Don’ts of buying knives. There are plenty of websites out there that will tell you that they sell “high quality, cheap knives.” But I assure you, the terms “high quality” and “cheap” don’t belong in the same sentence when it comes to sushi knives. You definitely get what you pay for.

There are two main groups of how a sushi knife is crafted:

  • Honyaki (true forged)- made from a single, high-grade steel
  • Kasumi (mist)- made from two types of high-grade metal (usually a hard, iron center and softer high carbon steel)

If money isn't an issue, buy a Honyaki.

A Honyaki knife is typically a higher-quality knife. Made by a single piece of steel and using a more traditional crafting/cooling process, a honyaki will have a higher carbon content without sacrificing its durability. Though, you should be careful of retailers that claim their knives are honyaki. Do a little research on the makers of the blades and always watch the price point. I would say that a good starting price for a true honyaki is about $500USD.

What about the Tang?

Previously I thought that a full tang was the only way to go. However, unless you are planning to go into combat or use your knife to pry open your car door (please don’t), you don’t need a “full tang.” In fact, there are some chefs that argue that a full tang knife has higher sanitation risks! There are several styles of knives that have a full tang with two pieces of the handle riveted onto it; these are typically seen in European knives.

Traditional Japanese knives use a partial tang or a “rat tail.” This means that the metal from the blade is tapered down and surrounded by the handle. The main reasoning for this is to secure the blade to the handle and add more balance to the weight of the blade.

If you order a knife and you can see a gap between where the neck ends and the collar begins (this is the bone or horn cap on the handle), send it back. The blade needs to be completely seated within the handle when you purchase your knife. In my experience, seeing that gap leads to the blade becoming completely unseated over time.

History of Sushi Knives

The techniques of handcrafting sushi knives date back to the 14th century-with many of the techniques (from swordsmiths) going back as far as 1000 years ago. During the modernization of Japan (19th century), carrying Samurai swords became illegal. As such, the majority of sword craftsmen turned their business towards crafting sushi knife cutlery.

As with every art form in Japan, there are hundreds of years of accumulated knowledge and experience that are passed down from master to apprentice. Specific rules and procedures put into place and secrets of the trade passed on by personal exposure- Creating sushi knives is no exception.

In Japan, there is one region that is world-renowned for its metalwork- Sakai City. Sakai has been known for their metalwork since 500 A.D. after one of Japan’s emperors died and decreed that a temple be built in his name.

After the temple was complete (many years before his death), many of the blacksmiths settled around Sakai permanently. Having all of the best blacksmiths of Japan living in one place, it’s no wonder that Sakai became famous for their work.

Starting with swords, then rifles after the Portuguese introduced them, and then eventually sushi knives- Sakai, to this day, is known for their high-quality metalwork.

Sushi Knife FAQ

Honestly, I went through two years of working at different sushi bars before investing in one of my own. Owning your own knife isn’t necessary, but it is convenient.

This is entirely up to what you plan on doing with it. As a general rule of thumb, aYanagibawill be the only knife that you will need (other than the knives you already own). However, as you start to make sushi more often you might want to consider getting other sushi andsashimiknives, such as anUsubaorDeba.

Don’t buy stainless steel sushi knives! No questions asked. Stainless steel knives used for sushi are not as efficient, produce more mess than they are worth, and are not traditional. Don’t buy them.

Sashimi is traditionally cut using a yanagiba (also referred to as a yanagi or yanagiba-bocho)

Most sushi chefs in the United States start with a yangiba to slice sashimi and rolls. Chefs will then expand their knife set with a deba and usuba. If other knives are needed, they will usually come after the core 3 knives are purchased.

Most sashimi knives will be between 9 – 12 inches in blade length.

(Video) How To Use Every Japanese Knife | Method Mastery | Epicurious


What type of knife is best for cutting sushi? ›

The sword-like yanagiba knife is often the standard sushi and sashimi knife. It has a long and narrow blade with very acute edge angles that enable the chef to effortlessly slice through the fish and sushi rolls.

How do I pick a Japanese knife? ›

High quality, high cutting performance, durability, ease of maintenance and ease of re-sharpening, are all important factors to consider when choosing your first Japanese knife.

How do I choose a good knife? ›

Stainless steel resists rust and corrosion, while carbon steel can take a better edge. Look for a knife that offers "high-carbon stainless steel" if you want to blend the best of both metals. The best way to get a feel for a knife is to use it, or at the very least, grip the handle in the store.

What are three indicators of a good knife? ›

Since kitchen knives will be an investment that is used daily for all your cooking days, selecting good quality ones that have durability, strength, good handling, and endurance is a must.

What should you not cut with a Japanese knife? ›

Please refrain from cutting extremely hard and/or frozen items (i.e. bones, seeds, metal, etc.) with your knife. This may cause chipping or other damage to the edge.

What knife is best for slicing raw meat? ›

The best knife for cutting raw meat is a chef's knife, which is also the most useful knife in the kitchen in general, as it can handle a great variety of different tasks.

What should my first Japanese knife be? ›

At the end of the day it comes down to personal preference. If you're in doubt for your first knife or just a good all rounder, we recommend a middle ground of a 210mm or 240mm Chef's knife (a “Santoku” or a “Gyuto” typically) which will cover 90-95% of kitchen jobs.

What are the 3 main Japanese knives? ›

The great classic trio are Deba, Usuba and Yanagiba, which are especially useful for traditional Japanese cuisine. But, we will start with the knives that are most commonly used, and continue with more task-specific knives.

What Japanese knife to get first? ›

Start with a "Gyuto", "Santoku" or "Bunka" as a first purchase if you're looking for an all rounder. A gyuto, santoku or bunka is a great starting point because these are a multi-purpose chef knife.

What 2 things should you be looking for when purchasing a knife? ›

4 Things to Consider Before You Buy a New Chef's Knife
  • Durability. Carbon steel knives are noted for their exceptional hardness, an attribute measured on something called the Rockwell Scale. ...
  • Performance. ...
  • Maintenance. ...
  • Budget. ...
  • Verdict.
Jan 29, 2019

Why is it important to choose the right knife? ›

The wrong knife choice can cause unnecessary bruising, mess and damage to the food product. Just as you wouldn't use a rake for a delicate garden transplanting task, you shouldn't use a bread knife to carve a roast.

What makes a high quality knife? ›

When choosing your first western style chef's knife, we recommend one that is made from high-carbon stainless steel. Other materials can be used to make fine chef's knives, but most quality manufacturers prefer high-carbon stainless steel because it offers a good edge retention, toughness and ease of maintenance.

What are the 9 guidelines for knives? ›

Safety Guidelines
  • Keep knives sharp. ...
  • Wear a cutting glove. ...
  • Always cut away from yourself. ...
  • Use the right knife for the job. ...
  • Cut on a stable cutting board. ...
  • Never grab a falling knife. ...
  • Keep your eyes on the blade. ...
  • Carry the knife pointed down, or in a scabbard.
Sep 29, 2014

What are 5 important safety rules for using knives? ›

Kitchen Safety: Knife Safety
  • Always pick up knives by the handle. Never touch the blade, even when it is dull.
  • Choose the correct size knife for the task that you are doing. ...
  • Cut food items away from the body and always use a flat surface. ...
  • Wash knives immediately after use.
Feb 19, 2018

Can I bring home a knife from Japan? ›

Bringing a Japanese knife through airport security

Typically, the merchant will also affix a seal or sticker to the package identifying the store that sold the item. Pack knives in your checked baggage only. Never bring a Japanese kitchen knife in a carryon bag.

Can I bring a knife back from Japan? ›

Knives, etc.

Carrying knives or other restricted items into the cabin is a violation of Japan's Aviation Law and subject to a fine of up to JPY500,000.

Do you oil Japanese knives? ›

Tsubaki Oil (Japanese Tea Seed Oil) is a must have for high carbon steel knives. Apply a few drops after use to prevent rust, corrosion and discoloration. It will also help shine and condition your knives.

What knife is best for slicing fish for sashimi? ›

The Yanagiba knife is great for precision cuts for sashimi, the Deba is great for fish butchery and filleting, and the Nakiri is perfect for vegetables.

Which knife is easiest to slice food with? ›

Slicer or carving knife

“The thinner the blade, the easier it is to get thin slices,” Delidow says.

Is a serrated knife better for meat? ›

Serrated blades may slice meat much more quickly out of the box and can make tougher cuts easily, but they also can dull much more rapidly than smooth blades that are non serrated. A serrated steak knife might be the best choice if you are okay with constant maintenance and less edge retention.

What knife should everyone have? ›

There are only three knives that are crucial in a kitchen: a chef's knife, a paring knife and a serrated knife. Any other knives are a luxury--they can make cooking easier and more enjoyable, but are unnecessary. A chef's knife (sometimes called a cook's knife) is the most important knife to have in your kitchen.

What's the most versatile Japanese knife? ›

The Santoku knife, as a general-purpose chef's knife, is probably the best Japanese chef's knife in terms of versatility and all-round functionality. It's capable of a wide variety of cutting tasks and can be easily used on meat, fish, and vegetables making it an ideal all-purpose knife.

Do you sharpen both sides of a Japanese knife? ›

Traditional Japanese knives are ground 'single bevel' which means one side of the knife is flat. The edge angle on the flat side is zero. In fact, this side is often 'hollow ground' so that you don't have to sharpen the whole blade surface, just the spine and cutting edge.

Why is it called a Santoku knife? ›

The name Santoku, actually comes from Santoku bocho, translating literally to 'three uses', with mincing, dicing and slicing their main purpose due to the straight edge and narrow 'sheep's foot' blade.

What is a Santoku knife used for? ›

Santoku knives or to give them their full name Santoku bocho knives, which translates as 'three uses', are ideal for mincing, dicing and slicing, as they feature a straight edge with a narrow sheep's foot blade. These knives have evolved from the traditional Japanese vegetable knife which has a rectangular blade.

What knife do Navy Seals have? ›

Ontario MK 3 Navy Knife

The U.S. Navy Seals commonly deploy this knife. It features a stainless steel blade which is approximately 6 inches in length. The knife blade is about 7 inches long and resembles its predecessor, Buck 184.

What is the best Japanese knife length? ›

A blade size of 180 to 210mm (7 to 8 inches) is recommended for home cooks, while the 240mm- 270mm (9 to 11 inches) sizes are more suitable for serious amateurs and professionals. This knife is light in weight and excels at precision work such as mincing light proteins and vegetables.

What knives does a beginner need? ›

There are three primary knives that every home cook should have in their kitchen: a chef's knife, a serrated knife (also called a bread knife), and a paring knife.

Are Japanese knives worth the money? ›

Japanese chef knives are worth trying. They are lighter than western-style chef knives, reducing hand fatigue. They are extremely sharp and allow you to cut foods more effortlessly. They do not need frequent re-sharpening.

What makes an expensive knife better? ›

Blade Construction

High-quality steel is crucial for strength, toughness, hardness, resistance to corrosion, ability to resist wear and tear, and the ability to be sharpened. Cheap knives cannot withstand the honing and sharpening by a professional because the edge is shaped more like a rectangle than a triangle.

What is the most important thing about knives? ›

The answer is easy: the most important thing about knives is that they are sharp. This is because a sharp knife means more control and less slippage when you use it, leading to much safer work. A knife that isn't sharp can be dangerous since you have to apply much more pressure, a sharp one will do the job easily.

What knife is best for slicing onions? ›

Selecting the best knife for cutting an onion depends on its size, but generally a sharp chef knife or santoku knife work best for dicing medium to large onions. Their hollow ground blade design allows the knife to move smoothly through the onion when using a forward and down motion.

When purchasing a knife What is the most important thing to consider in regard to the handle? ›

Grip the handle before selecting a knife based simply on looks. While the material of the handle is important, we think the way it feels in your hand is just as important. A good grip will prevent cramping and fatigue. Wood: Wooden handles tend to repel oil and grease, making them better than plastic for gripping.

Why is it important to know how do you choose care for and use knives? ›

A good set of kitchen knives is important to have, and when they are properly taken care of, can last a long time. It's vital for any home chef to know about different types of knives and their functions. This ensures ease of cutting foods and knife longevity.

What are the 7 knife skills tips? ›

7 Tips to Show Your Knife Who's Boss
  • Start with a sharp knife. Sharp knives are pretty darn scary. ...
  • create a stable surface. ...
  • Get the right grip on your knife. ...
  • learn the most common chopping techniques. ...
  • protect your fingers while chopping. ...
  • create a flat surface. ...
  • practice, practice, practice!

What makes Japanese knives so good? ›

Generally, Japanese knives are lighter, feel more balanced in the hand and feature steel that is harder, thinner and able to hold an edge for a longer time. These are exactly the reasons they're so popular among professional chefs, and why they're perfect for the precision tasks chefs do all day every day.

Can you make cheap knives better? ›

While most cheap serrated knives can be sharpened and made to be as sharp as more expensive serrated knives, micro serrated knives cannot be sharpened. These are recognised by the sharp jagged cutting edge.

What's the difference between cheap and expensive knives? ›

Cheaper knives can be less comfortable and often require more sharpening, but more expensive knives require additional care. While there are always exceptions, cheaper knives generally don't hold their sharp edge as long as more expensive knives do, and they're usually less comfortable to use.

What is a 911 knife? ›

Description. AKT Gear Rescue Hook Knife/Seat Belt Cutter. Quickly and easily cut through nylon, woven and synthetic fabrics and belts in emergency situation. When seconds matter, you can only trust the official Rescue Hook by PSP Corp. under the AKT Brand.

What is knife etiquette? ›

Knife Etiquette

Hand a knife over handle first. When someone hands you a knife, return it how they gave it to you. If it was closed, return it closed. If it was open, return it open (handle first).

What are 15 and 20 degree knives? ›

If you are using a given knife for heavier cutting or chopping if probably is best sharpened at 20 degrees. If you use a small or medium size knife only for light work such as paring, peeling, or light slicing you may prefer to sharpen it at 15 degrees in order to take advantage of its increased sharpness.

What 3 most important things to remember using a knife? ›

The 5 Most Important Things to Know about Knife Safety
  • You likely already know how to sharpen your knife. ...
  • Big chopping blocks are key to safety and efficiency. ...
  • Use a bench scraper. ...
  • Keep your knife sharp after it is sharp. ...
  • Knives are like shoes - they must fit properly.
Apr 9, 2019

What are 3 main things to focus on when using a knife? ›

Use knives only for cutting food. Carry knives with the blade pointed downward. Keep knives sharp. Do not try to catch a falling knife.

What type of knife is a sushi knife? ›

Yanagiba Knives

The Yanagiba is a long, very thin, single beveled (usually on the right side) sushi knife used in preparing sashimi and sushi. Left hand versions can be obtained that are beveled on the left side, but they are very expensive.

What is a sushi knife called? ›

Sashimi bōchō, literally "sashimi knife" is a type of long, thin knife used in Japanese cuisine to prepare sashimi (sliced raw fish or other seafood). Types of sashimi bōchō include tako hiki (蛸引, lit. "octopus-puller"), yanagi ba (柳刃, lit. "willow blade"), and fugu hiki (ふぐ引き, lit.

What do you cut sushi with? ›

Get a fish knife with a sharp blade if you want to cut sushi with a knife. Fish knives that have long, slim, and very sharp blades are the best for cutting sushi. These can be purchased online or from homeware stores. If you are putting fish in your sushi, then you can use the same knife to slice the fish and the roll.

What is different about a sushi knife? ›

One unique trait of sushi and sashimi knives is their single beveled edge. These knives are sharpened so that only one side holds the cutting edge and the other side remains flat. The flat edge is there so that food doesn't stick to the knife.

Do you need a sharp knife for sushi? ›

Filleting, slicing and cutting delicate food products such as raw fish or sushi rolls, without crushing or tearing its structure, requires the use of a special super sharp knife.

Is Santoku a sushi knife? ›

The Santoku, or the three virtues, is not actually a knife used in many sushi bars. This blade is handcrafted with the intent to be a well-rounded, Eastern version of the standard chef's knife. The “three virtues” are slicing, mincing, and dicing.

What edge angle for sushi knife? ›

Sharpen vegetable knives, Chinese knives, sushi knives and other double-beveled-blade knives on the front and back bevels with the angle between the blade surface and the stone of about 10 degrees.

What is the best steel for sushi knife? ›

Carbon steel

And all the best sashimi knives are made from carbon steel, their just sharper than their stainless steel counterparts but don't hold their edge as well and need regular sharpening.

Why do sushi knives have holes? ›

Most knives have a smooth side, but there also are kitchen knives with clefts available. Wüsthof even has a chef's knife with holes in the blade. This not only looks nice, but also has a function. The air in the clefts and the holes act as an anti-stick coating between the knife and the food.

Why are Japanese knives so good? ›

Generally, Japanese knives are lighter, feel more balanced in the hand and feature steel that is harder, thinner and able to hold an edge for a longer time. These are exactly the reasons they're so popular among professional chefs, and why they're perfect for the precision tasks chefs do all day every day.

Why does my sushi roll fall apart when I cut it? ›

The most common reason most rolls fall apart is that they're overstuffed. Usually, the culprit is too much rice. The solution? Use a smaller amount of rice when creating your rolls.

Do u Peel cucumbers for sushi? ›

How do you make cucumber sushi rolls. Trims the ends off of the cucumbers and use a vegetable peeler to peel them into long strips. You can keep the peel on or remove it if you'd like. I prefer to keep it on since it adds a nice color and doesn't affect the taste.


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