Behind every successful chef is a sturdy nakiri knife. Its returns go beyond the comfort of slicing convenience. It also allows for an exponential variety of amazing uses that make it a versatile knife and a great replacement for many kitchen knives.
That said, many invest enormous amounts of money to avail of a reliable Japanese knife. If you’re a beginner in the kitchen or are on a tight budget, it’s understandable to hesitate.
Fortunately, there are already many quality knives available that can allow you to enjoy the maximum benefits of nakiri knives and give huge value to your money.
Let’s take a closer look at the best nakiri knives that you can invest in to perfect your slicing skills while giving your kitchen a touch of Japanese style.
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Best overall Nakiri knife: Yoshihiro VG-10 Stainless Steel Nakiri Vegetable Knife
Best budget Nakiri knife: Kai 6716N Wasabi Black Nakiri Knife
What is a Nakiri Knife?
The Nakiri knife, or nakiri bocho, literally means ‘leaf cutter’ and is the Japanese version of a vegetable knife. Though it can also function as a utility knife, its main purpose is to provide comfort in slicing fruits and vegetables like herbs, plump fruits, and tough root crops. All ingredients require various slicing techniques. The Nakiri knife is designed to perform these different tasks perfectly.
What are the Features of a Nakiri Knife?
The Nakiri knife is very distinguishable to its wide width and long blade. Because fruits and vegetables come in various sizes and shapes, the design of the blade is needed to accommodate such a variety.
The width is what makes a certain knife different when slicing vegetables and other ingredients. The width of the blade adds to the safety features of the knife. The nakiri knife is made just for that. The blade does not reduce the speed and it functions as a safety barrier for your fingers especially when making speedy cuts and quick action slicing, mincing and dicing. The blade is a little wide to allow a more comfortable grip because it provides your fingers with more space for comfort.
The typical length of a Nakiri knife is 5 to 7” along the cutting edge which is an ideal size that fits most hand sizes for great maneuverability. From peeling to making huge and small equal sizes, you need a knife that can do the tasks needed with comfort. The nakiri knife is made for efficiency mostly due to the length of the knife. It is not too long that it becomes hard to control and not to short that it becomes hard to slice around with. Because it falls between the middle knife range, it can provide both functions of a long knife (for easy slicing) and a small knife (for small tasks like peeling). Every aspect of the knife is made to make cutting vegetables easier. The length also allows you to slice delicate fruits and vegetables of various shapes and sizes better than most paring knives.
The tip of the nakiri is flat like a meat cleaver; it is flat and blunt. This is a safety feature, especially to the user. It also adds control to the knife since the nakiri knife is meant for delicate slicing hence it doesn’t need a sharpened tip to dig into bones or push its way through tough meat like a boning knife.
How is Nakiri Bocho Different from other Knives?
Knives come in different shapes and sizes and though they all serve the same purpose which is to slice, they have different ways in helping us do so. They don’t all function the same way since some knives are made for slicing meat and others, for more delicate slicing needs. Whenever we come across buying a full set of knives, we happen to find them in different sizes, shapes, design, and even weight. However, not all of us know exactly what these knives are meant for and how different they are from the Nakiri knife. Below is a list of the most common Japanese knives and what their purposes are compared to the Nakiri knife.
This is also known as a vegetable knife. The difference is for whom the knives are intended to be used. The usuba is a lower version intended mostly for home use whereby the nakiri knife is a high-end knife intended for professionals. Usuba knives are less versatile because they are designed to be narrower than a nakiri knife.
They are also intended for more delicate veggies especially herbs and green leafy vegetables like:
- Romaine lettuce
- Or any leafy vegetables that easily gets oxidized and change color when sliced
The narrow blades provide ease in slicing herbs instead of crushing them. The usuba is single-beveled resulting in reduced versatility and it requires frequent maintenance. Though the blade is quite hard, it has moderate edge retention; and for that reason, you should try to avoid cutting hard vegetables like squash, and large root crops. You can learn more about Usuba and Nakiri knives in this japanese knives guide.
Santoku Bocho Knife
The Santoku knife is the all-around multipurpose knife in Japan. It is a comfortable knife that offers superb cutting prowess. The santoku knife is made to slice meat, veggies, and other types of food. It is characterized by its sheepsfoot tip and double bevel. Unlike the Nakiri, the blade is thicker with a wider spine to accommodate heavy cutting needs. See "Nakiri vs Santoku" for more details about the differences and their key aspects.
Deba Bocho Knife
The deba bocho is an entirely different knife from the nakiri mainly because it functions as a butcher’s knife or more closely related to the functions of a meat cleaver. It is perfect for filleting, cutting poultry, and slicing meat. The deba bocho is a much heavier knife with a thicker spine to handle heavier-duty slicing. The thicker spine of the blade prevents it from breaking or bending especially when dealing with tough meat. It is not recommended for slicing vegetables, especially herbs because the thick blade can damage the ingredients easily.
Though literally translated as ‘beef knife’, the gyutou is a multipurpose slicer that functions more than just slicing beef. It is considered as the chef’s knife of Japan because of its design features and functions that's exactly the same as a chef’s knife. This multipurpose knife is perfect for home and professional use; and, for butchery and vegetables. The gyutou is just a little lighter and comes with a thinner and harder blade compared to the western version of the chef’s knife.
Popularly known as the knife for delicate slicing, the Yanagi-ba knife is the sushi master’s best friend. This is the knife that provides ease in making precision meat cuts. It has a long, thin, and light blade that is perfect for making special cuts for tender meat like a high quality carving knife. This is a traditional Japanese knife that also doubles as a garnishing knife because it allows you to produce beautiful cuts of vegetables for the garnishes.
The Kiritsuke is known as the executive chef’s knife. This traditional Japanese knife is very iconic because of its long thin blade with an angled tip. It is a high-end knife that is designed to perform all sorts of tasks. It is incredibly versatile to suit the demands of a busy professional kitchen by the head chef.
This is the only serrated knife in Japan and is purposely created to be a bread knife. It is a long lightweight knife perfect for slicing soft food with a hard crust without crushing it.
Advantages of Using a Nakiri Knife
With so many types of knives to consider, why should you own a nakiri knife in the first place? I’m pretty sure that many of you are asking this question because most would think that a good chef’s knife is enough to proxy the function of the different types of knives. So, let’s get to the gist and find out what benefits you can get from owning a nakiri knife.
Entry Level Type of Knife
Anyone can use it because it is very simple. Handling is easy, plus it offers a well-balanced feel and comfort to the user. It is a typical knife found in every Japanese home and it is also the type of knife that every vegan cook needs. This is the type of knife that doesn’t require any type of skill or technique to master.
Light with Generous Blade Length
The nakiri knife ranges from 5” to 7” in length. This length allows you to slice most vegetables of various shapes and sizes. It is surprisingly lightweight despite its length.
The nakiri offers the cleanest cuts you can get from a knife. Due to its really thin blade, it can help you make thin strips of vegetables and mince delicate herbs without damaging them. Other knives have a tendency to cut leafy vegetables, root crops, or fruits while crushing or damaging them which could be avoided by using a nakiri.
Even Slicing for Precise Cuts and Delicate Food
One of the hardest things to do in slicing food is making even strips or thin slices of food, especially vegetables. The nakiri knife offers steady control allowing you to speed cut and still produce evenly sliced food. This is one reason why chefs prefer the use of the nakiri when making garnishes or making extremely thin slices of vegetables perfect for most Asian cuisines that often come with fresh servings of neatly prepared vegetables.
The Best Nakiri Knife For The Money
Every Japanese home has a nakiri knife and a growing number of kitchens in the West are getting one. Be a trendsetter and choose among the best nakiri knives you can find in the market. I have prepared a list of the most recommended Nakiri knives to suit your needs.
Shun Premier Nakiri Knife
The Best Home Kitchen Vegetable Knife
Shun maintains its Japanese forging traditions producing only top-quality knives. The Shun Premier Nakiri knife is forged using the Tsuchime technique creating a stunning modern-looking knife.
Made of top quality Japanese steel, the Shun Premier Nakiri knife is forged out of a single type of white steel which is lightweight. Mixed white steel is among one of the favorites of chefs because it produces the cleanest cuts. This is also popular steel to use for Yanagi-ba knives because the white steel offers a smooth clean polish.
White steel may be one of the best metals that creates blades with clean cuts but it is not rust-resistant. Shun adds a little bit of Chromium to make the knife more resilient. However, the knife still needs proper care and maintenance to prevent it from rusting.
The knife has a beautiful hand-hammered finish. Most Nakiri knives are made with a hammered finish because it creates air pockets that prevent food from sticking to the blade and also reduce knife drag. Western knives have the Granton edge but traditional Japanese knives are polished to perfection with a hand-hammered design that also strengthens and hardens the blade. This creates a highly efficient knife with amazing control and clean-cut slices.
The handle is made with the Shun-specific Pakkawood. It is tinted and laminated in black to give the knife a streamlined modern look. A wooden handle is less slippery. The Pakkawood is also very porous and absorbs most of the moisture while you work which is great for those with sweaty hands. The handle is rounded for a comfortable hold, especially for those with small hands.
Since the knife is slightly rust-resistant, the Shun Premier Knife needs a lot of care. The best ways to care for this knife is through the following:
- Storing it in a cool, dry place
- Hand-wash the knife and let it dry completely by wiping it with a clean towel.
- Don’t leave to air dry after washing
- Do not put it in the dishwasher
This knife is very comfortable and lightweight to give you great control over slicing your vegetables. However, the handle can pose problems for those with large hands. Nonetheless, the knife is amazing in creating smooth slices of delicate food. This is a great home kitchen knife that will surely last, with proper care and maintenance.
Shun Classic Nakiri Knife
Best for Speed Slicing
If you are looking for a perfectly balanced nakiri knife that lets you slice food quickly, then this is the knife for you.
Forged from VG-10 stainless steel clad, this knife is designed to be durable. Forged using 32-layers of high carbon stainless steel with a Damascus look, this knife is made for speed cutting. The knife is delicate and very light to the touch.
The knife is off-set to one side which can be the perfect knife for right-handed cooks. The knife is very thin to suit different slicing techniques. This is a knife that might requires some practice to get used to it. Since most Nakiri knives are centered, handling the knife is easier, in the case of the Shun Nakiri knife, the offset makes it quite difficult to adjust since the weight distribution leans on the right (mostly on relying on the pressure from the thumb and the wrist). But when you get used to this knife, it will feel like it is an extension of your arm.
The knife’s blade has Granton edges with Damascus layers that add gentle waves and creases on the surface of the blade. These spaces are effective air pockets that allow the food to easily slide off the blade of the knife. In addition to its function, the Damascus layer and the Granton edges add stunning aesthetic value to the knife.
Shun knives are known to have their handles made from Pakkawood which is a premium wood with beautiful rings that add a nice touch to the knife while offering great grip even in wet conditions. This knife has an ergonomic D-shaped handle. It is a little narrow but is well-balanced especially for those with small hands.
Because this is made of high carbon stainless steel, this knife has higher rust resistance. However, it has weaker edge retention than the Shun Premier Nakiri knife. The best way to help the knife retain its edges is by honing the knife frequently. On the plus side, it doesn’t have a problem in slicing harder vegetables and root crops which makes it more versatile.
This is a stronger Shun nakiri knife. Though it is a little heavier, it is well-balanced and easy to handle. It is also perfect for speed slicing due to the multiple air pockets on the surface of the knife. This is the best nakiri knife under 100 that can suit both home and professional kitchens.
Wusthof Classic Nakiri Knife
Best for Bulk and Heavy Slicing Needs
For cooks who have catering services or massive restaurants that require a strong knife, this is the perfect vegetable slicer for you. This is a sturdy knife with a softer blade and is very versatile.
A German knife is surely made of German steel. This Japanese style knife is made with the hardest yet malleable German steel available which makes the knife softer with better edge retention. Because it is more malleable, it can bend when you use it to peel vegetables for ease of use and it performs other tasks like removing seeds and cutting through bones a little better.
The knife has a very sharp edge and can be used the moment you get a hold of it. What is unique about this knife is that it has smooth Granton edges that make it virtually non-stick. This is a frictionless blade that easily aids you in slicing and chopping vegetables continuously without causing strain on the knife.
This is a reliable knife that helps you slice vegetables in bulk without worrying about the knife getting dull. However, it can warp after constant heavy use because of its soft blade.
The handle is made of high-grade polymer with a full tang that prevents the blade from slipping off. It is made to handle high impact tasks. Because the blade is heavier, the polymer is also heavier which adds to the maneuverability and balance of the knife. It has a curved handle that fits most hand sizes. Since the handle is made of plastic, it can sometimes give discomfort in wet conditions.
For softer metal blades, the best maintenance techniques are with the use of a hone. It is highly recommended to hone your knife to realign it and keep it straight before or after every use. Since the Wusthof Nakiri knife is a double-beveled German knife, you will need to follow a 15-17 degree angle in sharpening and honing the blade.
This wusthof nakiri knife is a powerhouse. It is designed for strength and heavy usage, a quality that most nakiri knives cannot fulfill. This vegetable cleaver has a sturdy disposition that allows you to perform heavy-duty and delicate slicing tasks.
Kai Wasabi Black Nakiri Knife
Most Affordable High End Nakiri Knife
Most Nakiri knives are high-end due to their special function, design, and manner of manufacturing. The Kai Wasabi Nakiri knife is a bang for your buck choice that allows you to own a high-end knife at a lower cost.
Most of the knives in my list are forged by hand but not this knife. Though this knife is made in Japan, it does not follow the traditional hand-forged blade. Instead, it is stamped out of Daido 1K6 high-carbon stainless steel. This metal is used for heavy function because this is the same type of metal used in making car parts. It has great strength and has impressive impact absorption that allows you to use various slicing techniques with your Nakiri.
The stamped knife has better edge retention than any of the knives on my list. However, it comes with a thicker blade than our higher-end choices. What is unique about this knife is that it is catered to fit various techniques in slicing. This means that no matter how you hold or use it, it can easily adapt to the user and not the other way around. This Japanese knife is double-beveled and centered which is a great knife for both right-handed and left-handed cooks.
In addition to its ergonomic design, you will love that this knife has a beautiful blade polish. The knife is bead-blasted for a very smooth edge to reduce the drag, although it is not entirely nonstick.
As an alternative to wooden handles, this knife has a polymer base handle made of a polypropylene blend. Though this does not effectively absorb moisture, it repels liquids very well and offers a great grip even in wet and slippery conditions.
The handle has a rounded design and a bigger diameter than most which suit all hand sizes. What’s great about the handle is that there is an extension of the metal base of the blade giving a wider wiggle room for your hand to better handle the knife.
Since it has a strong structure, you don’t have to constantly maintain your knife. But to retain better blade alignment, keeping the knife honed before and after every heavy usage is recommended. I also personally recommend sharpening the knife every three to four months even if the knife hasn’t gotten dull to keep it in tip-top shape.
Despite being a stamped knife, this functions as a high-end nakiri knife. In fact, it has great slicing versatility that small restaurants would usually prefer. It actually has the lowest cost of value out of all the knives on my list since the initial buying price and cost of maintenance are very low.
Yoshihiro VG-10 Stainless Steel Nakiri Knife
Best Westernized Japanese Nakiri Knife
Get the best of both worlds with this Western-inspired Japanese forged knife. Hand-crafted using the century-old traditional Japanese way of making knives, this comes with a twist of the Western world.
Made of VG-10 stainless steel core and 16 layers Damascus shell, this is a stunning knife that serves a purpose with a beautiful design. The Yoshihiro Nakiri Knife is hand-crafted following the true traditional Japanese method. Aside from the traditional hand-forged manufacturing, the Damascus layers are made by hand and finished with a custom hammered polish in order to carve air pockets on the blade.
The knife is double-beveled with amazing edge retention due to its stainless steel core and Damascus layers. The blade is very sharp and doesn’t easily dull even after long usage. It is designed to withstand pressure and heavy usage.
This is a knife following a hybrid design that combines Western and Japanese knife characteristics. The Damascus layer and the hammered finish give the knife a great frictionless edge and completely eliminates knife drag. It is also non-stick and prevents friction between the blade and the items it slices.
The knife itself is incredibly light and has a great balance. It is easy to maneuver and use for speed slicing. In addition to great hardness, the knife is also very versatile since it can handle bulks of vegetables to slice.
Instead of the all-Japanese knife design, the handle is made of wood and held together with a full tang. The handle is also curved to fit various hand types for great control, especially when slicing in wet conditions. The handle is porous to absorb fluids and reduce moisture on your hands. This is perfect for handling juicy fruits and vegetables cooks with sweaty hands.
Unlike most Japanese knives that are prone to rust, the VG-10 metal makes it both sturdy and rust-resistant to provide hassle-free maintenance. However, this is not a dishwasher safe knife due to the delicate condition of the Damascus layering. Also, the Damascus layer does not stand well against acidic food like citrus fruits so it is best to rinse immediately with water after slicing such types of food or ingredients.
The knife is best used for vegetables and can handle tough food like pumpkins and other root crops. However, it should not be used on frozen foods, nutshells, bones, and even cracking shellfish open to not compromise the sharpness of the edge of the blade.
This is by far one of the best (if not the best) Nakiri Knife out there. The mix of both traditional Japanese and selected Western features to make this knife twice as hard to beat when it comes to edge retention, strength, and versatility. This knife is technically a great pick. It can serve as the perfect companion for all types of kitchens – home kitchens, small restaurants, and even massive eateries that need a tough knife.
Comparison of The Best Nakiri Knives
Let’s take a closer look at our top 5 reviewed nakiri knives to own.
16-layered Damascus polish
Polished Granton Edge
Daido 1K6 High-carbon Stainless Steel
G10 Stainless steel core and Damascus layer
Wooden handle with full tang
The Final Verdict
Hands down, the Best Nakiri Knife in my list is the Yoshihiro VG-10 Stainless Steel Nakiri Knife. This knife is a mixture of Western and Japanese features which inherited all of the great aspects of both knife cultures. It has the edge retention and sturdiness of western knives while maintaining the high-end quality and superb slicing prowess of Japanese knives such as the Kamikoto knives. This is a real treat for both home and professional use.
My choice for the Cost for Value Knife would be the Kai 6716N Wasabi Black Nakiri Knife. It is affordable and has an extremely low maintenance cost. It has great quality for a stamped knife.