The Perfect Slice: Buying the Best Sushi Knife
Whether you are crafting your first sushi roll, preparing some Nigiri, or you are a long-time sushi and sashimi creator – you need the right knife to get the right slice. Even the amateur at home, recreating their favorite sushi and sashimi, needs a decent knife. The best sushi knife is key to creating a roll worthy of serving to friends and family.
The right blade guarantees clean, professional cuts on each sushi roll, slice of sashimi, or beautifully assembled nigiri. And, say goodbye to rolls sticking to your blade, mangled ingredients, and squashed rolls. Before we jump into three of our favorite sushi blades; there are a few things to cover about the qualities to look for in the best sushi knife!
Sushi vs. Sashimi Knives
If you are looking to purchase your first knife but keep getting lost in Japanese knife terminology we are going to break down some of the key features that differentiate sushi and sashimi knives.
When you are cutting through a sushi roll, you are not just slicing meat. You’ll also encounter delicious vegetables, fish, rice, and any combination of sauces and avocados. Therefore, any sushi knife is going to be made to cut all those different options. Creating sashimi is a different process and a good sashimi knife will be made specifically to cut fine pieces of fish.
Materials and Edges
So, what really separates a Japanese sushi knife from the others in your knife block? There are a few things; the edge of the sushi knife,the handle, and the materials comprising the blade.
A good, perhaps basic, sushi blade is going to be made out of high-carbon steel. High carbon steel will take a very, very sharp edge. Other blade materials, like VG-10, add qualities like corrosion resistance and increased edge retention. Finding the best sushi knife for your budget may require compromises, but remember that it all boils down to the blade… or more specifically its razor sharp edge.
The incredibly sharp edge of a Japanese knife is created through a beveled grind. The single edge is a unique characteristic of the knife, and the other edge will be a flat grind. The purpose of this design is actually quite simple, after the sharp edge has sliced through your freshly rolled sushi the finished product cleanly separates from the blade. You definitely don’t want ingredients sticking to your knife’s blade. No one wants deconstructed sushi.
While the blade is incredibly important; it’s not the only aspect to consider in your knife search. The handles are also unique. The handle comes in multiple types of wood, each with unique qualities and price points. Beneath the handle you’ll find the knife’s tang, a reinforcing length of metal (from the blade) inside the handle. You can choose between a full or a half tang in your knife. Full means that the metal extends all the way to the butt of the handle, while half tang means that only half of the handle is supported.
Types of Japanese Sushi and Sashimi Knives
There are a few different knives for you to consider. The best for both sushi rolls and sashimi cutting is the Yanagiba. We also recommend the Yanagiba for your first, or only, Japanese sushi knife. The Yanagiba will precisely slice through delicate sashimi and ingredient-packed rolls alike.
A slightly more robust Japanese blade you’ll find in your local sushi house is the Deba. If your goal is to focus on cutting fish and meat, then you will want to select the meat cleaver-like Deba. However, if you are a vegetarian, or just love adding extra veggies to your sushi, take a look at the Usuba knife which cuts thinly and can even be used when peeling. If you’re not keen to buy all three of these knives for each individual purpose the Western style Santoku does an adequate job on fish, meat, and veggies. However, the Santoku is much more similar to a chef’s knife that the highly-regarded Yanagiba.
Now that you know a little more about different types of Japanese knives, we have three great options for you to choose from. They cover a spectrum of materials, construction, and price but we think any will get your kitchen sushi ready.
The Budget-Friendly Happy Sales HSSR400
This long and slender Japanese made knife will slice through both sashimi and sushi rolls without breaking the bank. Like most traditional blades it has one beveled edge, that measures up to 8 inches long. There are 6 additional inches added onto the knife for the wooden handle and a plastic bolster. This is knife is specifically made for a right handed user. If you are looking for a left handed sushi knife, those are will cost quite a bit more.
So how is this knife priced so low when compared to some of the “nicer” sushi knives? The materials themselves are not in the same league. The handle isn’t a finished wood and the knife blade will need to be oiled after each use. Low maintenance stainless is expensive, so to ensure the blade is razor sharp a more corrosion-prone steel was selected. You’ll find another compromise in the hilt of the blade. There is a small opening that might allow food to find its way into the knife’s bolster.
If you are looking for a great entry-level sushi knife, then this might be the best sushi knife for you. Clean cuts are totally attainable and the knife will slice through a variety of ingredients without trouble. Plus, you can practice your knife skills and sharpening technique without worrying about damaging your very nice knives. Pro tip: make sure to have a wet cloth nearby, this knife will cut cleanly and keep your sushi intact, but may get a bit sticky after a few rolls.
Shun Pro 8-1/4-Inch Yanagiba Knife
The Shun Pro is a little more expensive but you are getting a higher quality blade constructed from VG-10 stainless steel. Unlike our last knife, you won’t need to sharpen as much, and it will be easier to sharpen when the time comes. This knife is a Yanagiba, which as we mentioned before is excellent for both sushi and sashimi cutting. The 8 ¼ inch blade is slim and the wooden handle is D-shaped for comfort. Like all good sushi knives, it is single beveled with a comprehensive 16-degree angle.
Aesthetically, this knife has some laser etching on the blade, and while some love the look, others complain that it makes it difficult to clean.
This is a fantastic knife to gift to yourself or your friend if they have some experience in using and caring for a quality knife. Your money is going towards excellent steel, a balanced knife, and a smaller grip for more precise cuts. If you find yourself preparing sashimi or sushi rolls more frequently, it is time to upgrade a blade like this Yanagiba from Shun. It is a high-quality knife you will be proud to own.
Yoshihiro Shiroko Kasumi Yanagi
If you have honed your sharpening skills and have a proper cutting board, you are ready to upgrade your knife and make delicious dishes for you and your friends. This awesome sushi knife will help take you to a new level of preparing sashimi and sushi. Think of it as the next step on your journey from amateur sushi fan to entry level sushi chef.
The knife features a beautiful 9.5-inch single-edged high carbon steel blade and handcrafted magnolia D-shaped handles. It also comes with an awesome sheath, knife oil and a rust eraser to care for its Japanese steel blade.
We adore this knife’s perfect balance and epic sushi knife appearance. Overall, it strikes a perfect balance between price, quality, and traditional styling. We truly believe it’s the best sushi knife in our list. That being said, don’t look for this knife if you do not have the skills to properly care for and use a quality sushi knife. Amateurs will end up with a chipped, rusty, formerly incredible knife after only a few uses.
Regardless of how often you prepare sushi and sashimi, having the proper knife to do so will not only create a delicious meal but will help you do so with ease. As you learn how to use a proper blade you will begin looking for nicer knives to compliment your collection. These knives need to be properly cared for, cleaned and sharpened, so if you are just starting out go with a good quality but less expensive option. With the right knife, you will get a perfect slice