The Japanese nakiri knife is unlike any other chef’s knife in the World. Its distinctive square shape is often confused with a meat cleaver. But this is no cleaver. In this post, we examine this artisan-designed specialty knife and why a Japanese nakiri knife is a must for any home cook. We recommend the best nakiri knife for cutting vegetables.
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What Is A Nakiri Knife
A nakiri knife is a Japanese vegetable knife. A wide, symmetrical, and straight flat-edged blade characterizes the nakiri vegetable knife. The knife is also thin and easy to use, making it the perfect Japanese vegetable cleaver.
The shape of the blade allows you to cut your vegetables in a straight up-and-down movement. The up-and-down motion will enable you to chop tender vegetables efficiently and quickly. Alternatively, you can use the forward and back motion without rocking the knife.
The flat edge lets the Japanese nakiri knives have complete contact with the cutting board, which results in cleaner cuts. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about your knife not cutting through the entire vegetable, which is common with curved blade carbon steel knives.
The blade of a nakiri knife has more steel at the front, which gives it heft and forward balance. You can also use the wide blade to pick up chopped vegetables and transfer them into a pan or bowl. Nakiri is definitely one of the most useful Japanese kitchen knives.
Best Nakiri Knives For Home Chefs
Nakiri Knives – Japanese Cutlery At Its Finest
If you have been to a sushi bar or even ordered omakase, then there is a higher chance you must have seen nakiri knives in action. The knife looks like a cleaver but is used precisely and delicately to dice root vegetables, onions, and eggplant. The small Nakiri knife is a must-have in your knife collection. So, what is a Nakiri knife, and what makes it so special?
Japanese knives are considered by many to be the best in the world. The Nakiri knife is a timeless knife that has a straight feature, and a symmetrical edge and is perfect for slicing, chopping, and dicing vegetables. Unlike a gyuto knife, the unique thing about these Japanese vegetable knives is the straight blade which makes a specific style of cutting easy.
Unlike the chef knife which employs a rocking notion, the Nakiri knives is ideal for an up-and-down motion, making it a perfect tool for also slicing carrots, leeks, and zucchini. Without mincing words, the knife is a perfect fit for any of your vegetable needs. This is why you’ll find these carbon steel knives in countless Japanese kitchens.
What Is Katsura-Muki
Katsura-muki is complex but one of the essential Japanese knife skills. Young chefs in Japan take a lot of time and practice to learn this technique. The technique requires a special thin and flat knife specifically made for this purpose.
Katsura-muki is the art of peeling daikon, also known as white radish, to make a garnish for sashimi dishes. The first step is to cut the tips and peel the outer skin. The daikon should be approximately five to six inches in length.
Then slice the daikon by holding the knife with the right hand and using the left hand to guide the daikon under the thumb. Make sure that the daikon’s sheet is so thin that you can see through it, but don’t break the sheet.
Best Nakiri Knives
The Shun Premier nakiri knife features layered Damascus steel with a hand-hammered finish known as tsuchime in Japanese. The Damascus steel type is stain resistant and highly durable.
If you are looking for a high quality nakiri knife, the Shun Premier might be it.
The hand-hammered finish prevents food from sticking to the blade. The blade eliminates drag when cutting, making these easy-to-use Japanese nakiri knives. This high end knife will never let you down.
A premium Pakkawood handle fits comfortably into the palm, allowing for a comfortable and secure grip. The blade is thin, thus perfect for cutting all vegetables including root vegetables. The blade is heat-treated and ensures that this Japanese knife is long-lasting.
Our personal preference of all these knives, the Shun is handcrafted in Japan, ensuring that it maintains its ancient tradition. Each piece of this nakiri knife undergoes at least 100 steps to complete.
Serious cooks are going to want this knife. The Yoshihiro features a 46-layer VG-10 hammered Damascus stainless steel blade. The blade is symmetrically double-edged and 6.3 inches in length. Both the outer Damascus steel and the VG-10 steel core are stain-resistant.
It has an HRC level, hardness level that exceeds that of most stainless steel knives. The hardness allows the blade to be thinner and sharper; hence chefs can subject it to any nakiri knife use.
This nakiri knife has a traditional Japanese octagonal handle with a double bolster. The handle is handmade from natural Shitan Rosewood. While the Yoshihiro comes across as a high knife to be used sparingly, it’s perfectly capable of everyday use.
This Japanese style knife is for those serious about cooking at home. The Wusthof nakiri knife is forged from high carbon stainless steel that is tempered to 58 degrees HRC. Furthermore, the knives’ blades are sharper with twice the edge retention of previous models.
The knife’s blade is thinner compared to the traditional Japanese vegetable cleaver. It also features a long and straight 10 degrees cutting edge. Artisans craft the edge with consistently spaced vertical indentions. The indentions prevent food from sticking onto the blade by creating tiny air pockets between the food and the blade.
The knife has a synthetic polypropylene handle that is resistant to heat, impact, discoloration, and fading. For home cooks just starting out, this is the knife you want to own.
The Kyoku has a VG-10 Japanese Damascus steel core with an HRC 58-60 hardness. Additionally, the cutting core is cryogenically treated, cobalt-infused, and razor sharp. The Kyoku nakiri knife boasts incredible edge retention and unrivaled performance.
The knife is well-balanced and ergonomic. The straight blade ensures that you cut with ease by relieving finger pains and fatigue from a long period of chopping or slicing. Ideal for home cooks, the Kyoku perfectly blends comfort with performance.
The knife features a durable, triple-riveted G10 handle that is meticulously constructed. In addition, the handle goes through a special treatment that makes it resistant to moisture, heat, and cold.
What To Consider When Buying A Nakiri Knife
Here are a few factors that will help you choose the ideal nakiri knife.
One essential factor to consider when choosing a nakiri knife is the material used to construct the blade. Artisans use stainless steel to make most modern knives. However, there are two stainless steel types:
- Low carbon steel, which is softer and needs frequent sharpening. In addition, low carbon dulls the blade quicker.
- High carbon steel holds its edge longer, is easy to sharpen, and requires less maintenance.
A good handle should be not only durable but also comfortable and easy to use. A knife with an ergonomic handle that fits the curves of your palm is ideal. The handle should also allow for a firm grip. A slippery grip could lead to injuries.
High end Japanese nakiri knives will not be cheap as the price is always an indication of quality. However, price is always a consideration when purchasing any item. You should always find the perfect balance between price and quality.
The blade finish is also an essential factor, especially when choosing a nakiri. Vegetables tend to stick to the blade. However, many nakiri knives have a hammered finish, known as tsuchime in Japanese. The hammered finish reduces the drug and prevents food from sticking to the blade.
When it comes to chopping vegetables for Japanese recipes, a nakiri knife is the ultimate chopping machine. You should therefore pay close consideration when it comes to choosing this essential knife.
Why A Nakiri Knife Is Good For Cutting Vegetables
The Japanese word for leaf cutter is “Nakiri”, this should give you a proper insight as to why the knife is perfect for cutting vegetables. Nakiri knives are good for slicing vegetables and are termed as the best Japanese knife due to their much thinner blade that gives a smooth and clean cut.
Regular knives slice vegetables neatly at first but tear them at the latter stage and give an uneven size, but the Nakiri knife gives a perfect finish. So if you need a chopping knife perfect for a slicing job, the Nakiri knife is strongly recommended.
How Do You Use A Nakiri Knife
It is without a doubt that a knife of this magnitude will differ in operation from other knives. The main trick is to take advantage of the knife’s flatness and slice with precision and steadiness. This Japanese vegetable knife has a curved edge which is what touches the cutting board first before your vegetable.
Hold the knife firmly and grab the near end of the handle with your pointer finger and thumb then slice through food, meat, and vegetables. Holding the knife this way enables home cooks to maneuver the knife better rather than holding the handle.
It is a razor sharp knife so speed should not be your major aim as a starter. It is best you tuck in the thumb and fingers of the other hand you are not holding the knife with to form a claw so as to be safe from any mishap.
Tips For Maintenance And Cleaning A Nakiri Knife
To make the Nakiri knife clean at all times, the knife should be cleaned and dried properly after each use. Since the blade of the knife isn’t made from stainless steel, water residue, and food debris could make it rust. This may sound obvious but always use a cutting board. Never chop on a kitchen counter or other surface.
It’s important to hand wash only using soap and water to clean the knife. It’s best to avoid washing the blade with your fingers to avoid getting cut. Once you are done washing the knife, wipe it with a clean and dry towel. Our personal preference is to leave the knife out after hand drying before putting it away.
How To Sharpen A Nakiri Knife
Keeping your nakiri knife sharp is very important. It makes cutting vegetables, especially tougher root vegetables much easier. How to sharpen your nakiri knife is easier than you think. For many, their personal preference is to use an electric sharpener. For us, we prefer a Japanese whetstone.
A Japanese whetstone is a flat carbide stone with a large sharpening area. These sharpening stones are highly durable and preferred by professional chefs around the world. Here are a few recommended sharpening stones.
Japanese Knife Sets
Individual knives are great. But, owning a set of Japanese knives, is better. With a knife set, you have a wide array of knives at your disposal. After all, cutting a steak isn’t the same as cutting a tomato.
It wasn’t until Amber and I really got into cooking at home, that we realized the value of having great knives. In our travels, we’ve stayed (unfortunately) in many Airbnb’s with knives that couldn’t cut water. Thankfully, we’ve recently started using Hexclad knives.
Not only does Hexclad make some of the best cookware money can buy, but they also have knives. We have the Hexclad “The Essential 6pc Japanese Damascus Steel Knife Set.”
The Hexclad knife set includes an 8” Chef’s Knife, a Serrated Bread Knife, a 7” Santoku Knife, a 5” Utility Knife, a 3.5” Paring Knife, and a 9” Honing Steel. My personal favorite is the 7” Santoku Knife. It’s well-balanced in my hand and cuts smoothly and easily. Amber has been enjoying the 3.5” Paring Knife. She uses it for fruits and vegetables as well as prawns and herbs.
The knives in the Essential 6pc Japanese Damascus Steel Knife Set are made from 67 layers of Japanese Damascus steel. This makes them highly durable and long-lasting. Amber and I have been wondering if this is going to be the last knife set we own.
You can buy this set direct from Hexclad here.
FAQs – Best Nakiri Knife
A nakiri knife is a specialty knife designed primarily to slice vegetables. While it can be used to cut other ingredients including garlic, its main purpose is to evenly slice vegetables.
Japanese knives are made with specific tasks in mind. While technically it can slice meat, a nakiri knife is not meant to be used for cutting meat, chicken, or even fish.
This is entirely a personal preference. A good nakiri knife can be expensive. That said, the quality and durability of a good nakiri knife make it worth it. You don’t have to be cooking Japanese simply to use a nakiri knife. Its use as a vegetable knife makes it ideal for any recipe.
Neither. Both knives are highly dependable and useful around the kitchen. That said, each knife is designed with a specific task in mind. Nakiri knives are specifically designed for slicing vegetables. Santoku knives offer more versatility and flexibility in the kitchen.