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Best Japanese knives 2023: Slice, dice and cut your food effortlessly

Enjoy quality, sharpness and precision with the best Japanese knives for just about any culinary cutting task

When it comes to cooking, having tip-top utensils, such as one of the best Japanese knives, is an essential starting point. These strong and sophisticated knives are durable, functional and can slice through any type of food. So as long as you’re careful, you can make food preparation an easy and effortless task.

If you prefer using just one knife for all your food prep, a Japanese chef’s knife is the way to go. These knives are typically 20cm in length, and can glide through veggies just as well as chunks of meat. But if you intend to take your culinary skills up a notch or two, then investing in one or two smaller knives, such as a 9cm or 13cm blade, will help you make more precise cuts.

Whatever your skill level, adding a Japanese knife to your kitchen drawer is a smart move. Known for their quality, craft and ease of use, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without one. To discover everything you need to know about Japanese knives, including the best knives you can buy right now, check out our handy guide below.

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Best Japanese knives: At a glance

How to choose the best Japanese knives for you

What qualities do Japanese knives have?

Japanese knives are known for their sharpness and cutting performance. Many are crafted using traditional Japanese blacksmithing techniques that date back centuries, and this is just one of the reasons why these knives differ from their western counterparts. Japanese knives are generally handmade, and are also typically lighter in weight and made from harder – yet thinner – steel. The edge of the blade is more acute and therefore sharper than your average European knife, making them ideal for delicate cutting tasks such as slicing fish or finely dicing vegetables. Their delicate nature means they need to be sharpened more often, however.

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What should I look out for when choosing a Japanese knife?

Just like with any new kitchen utensil, the knife you choose will depend on what you intend to use it for. For example, do you cook a lot of fish? Are you looking to slice and dice your way through vegetables in super-fast time? Or do you intend on using your knife to create marvellous meat creations? The type of food you’ll be preparing will have an impact on what kind of knife or knives you choose.

A chef’s knife – more formally known as a Gyuto – is a brilliant all-rounder due to its typical 20cm blade and sharp edges, while a flat edge Santoku knife is crafted with dicing, mincing and fine slicing in mind. If you’re after a knife that can quickly peel vegetables, a paring or peeling knife is your best bet.

How much should I spend?

Japanese knives can be pricey, but it really is a case of money well spent. The best knives can set you back anywhere between £50 to £700, and how much you should spend on your knife will depend on a few factors. These include your budget, the size of knife you need and how often you will be using it. In our guide, we’ve taken all of these factors into consideration to ensure there’s plenty of choice, regardless of your preferences.

READ: NEXT: Our guide to buying the best chef’s knife for you

The best Japanese knives you can buy in 2023

1. Global GSGS-35 Santoku Knife 13cm Blade: The best Japanese knife for vegetables

Price: £112 | Buy now from Amazon

If you’re following a plant-based diet or just pack a lot of vegetables into your meals, Global’s GSGS-35 Santoku knife is your ideal match. The relatively flat blade, which has been ice-tempered for a sharper finish, allows you to slice, dice and mince your way through your five-a-day with ease.

We used this Santoku-style knife to julienne cucumber, carrots and onions to create fresh salads and the results spoke for themselves, as we were able to create precision cuts with no effort. Due to the small-sized blade, this isn’t as suitable for large chunks of meat, but it’s ideal for all things delicate. This smooth and seamless knife doesn’t pretend to do anything other than what it says on the tin. And that’s the kind of knife we can get behind.

Key details – Blade material: Stainless steel; Size: 13cm; Weight: 190g

2. Global GG-2 Cook’s Knife 20cm Blade: The best Japanese knife for everyday chopping

Price: £100 | Buy now from Amazon

You can’t beat a knife that does it all, especially when time is of the essence and you’re trying to keep the washing up to a minimum. When it comes to a brilliant all-rounder, Global’s GG-2 cook’s knife comes out on top.

In testing, we used this blade for fish, meat and veggies and it effortlessly glided through them all. From the first slice to the last, this knife cut through food with ease. The long, 20cm blade also enabled us to coast through larger ingredients quickly, with a single action. Meanwhile, the slight 15-degree cutting edge allows you to tackle smaller foods. As with every knife on this list, just be sure to hand-wash this beauty – keeping it out of the dishwasher will ensure it stays looking and slicing its best.

Key details – Blade material: Stainless steel; Size: 20cm; Weight: 160g

3. Katana Elements 20 cm Gyuto Knife: The best-value Japanese knife

Price: £75 | Buy now from Amazon

If you’re after a knife that looks as good as it slices, the Katana Elements 20cm Gyuto knife is well worth your consideration. Crafted with an olive wood and resin handle, this beautiful blue creation is a pleasure to use every single time. If blue’s not your colour, there are two more hues to choose from – Volcanic (red) and Rainforest (green).

Looks aside, this knife comes with some serious chopping credentials. It’s masterfully constructed from VG-10 Damascus steel, which has 67 layers of high-carbon metal, all folded together. Meanwhile, its Gyuto-style curved blade helps you rock back and forth with ease, for seriously speedy chopping. You can cut vegetables, fish and meat with this beauty and, at £75, this knife is the most affordable offering when it comes to price and size.

Key details – Blade material: VG-10 Damascus steel; Size: 20cm; Weight: 230g

4. Global GSParing Knife 9cm Blade: The best Japanese knife for precision

Price: £95 | Buy now from Global

Sometimes, precision is key. Whether it’s a small piece of fruit or an intricate sushi slice, a smaller blade, such as Global’s 9cm GSParing Knife, helps you achieve perfect precision with ease.

This blade is heavy enough to help you carve and slice through meat, yet still lightweight enough to create intricate designs. What’s noticeable as soon as you pick up the blade is the ergonomic handle, which is grippy and very comfortable to use. Better still, the forged nature of the knife means this is a knife for life – or at least for much longer than its stamped knife counterparts – as long as you treat it with the respect it deserves.

Key details – Blade material: Stainless steel; Size: 9cm; Weight: 118g

Buy now from Global

5. Kai Shun Classic Chef’s Knife: The best Japanese knife for all-round quality

Price: £169 | Buy now from Borough Kitchen

Kai is well known for its quality and the Shun’s Classic Chef’s Knife has quality by the bucketload. The 20cm blade, which is also available in 15cm and 25cm sizes, has been crafted using centuries-old samurai blacksmithing techniques, with a 21st-century modern twist. The tapered blade is surrounded by 32 layers of Damascus steel, while the brand says its unique blade pattern helps to prevent food from sticking to the side – which is a pet peeve if ever there was one. As a right-handed chopper, this blade moulded into my palm. However, if you do happen to be a leftie, it’s also available in an ambidextrous style for improved comfort and support.

While this knife might be on the pricey side, you do get a lot of bang for your buck. As well as being able to use this blade for all manner of kitchen tasks, another brilliant add-on is Kai’s free annual sharpening service. This service lasts for ten years after the purchase of your knife and is an excellent way to keep your knife in tip-top condition, especially if you’re not confident sharpening it at home.

Key details – Blade material: Stainless steel; Size: 20cm; Weight: 244g

Buy now from Borough Kitchen

6. KUMA Professional Damascus Chef Knife 20cm: The best heavy-duty Japanese knife

Price: £101 | Buy now from KumaIn our opinion, having too many 20cm(8in) knives isn’t a thing. Helping you to slice veggies to perfection, make cuts through delicate meats and chop up fruit to hit your five-a-day, the KUMA Damascus Knife is worth adding to your kitchen drawer.

What’s particularly noticeable about this hand-finished knife is that it feels impressively sturdy while chopping. This could be the 67 micro-layers of high carbon steel, but the handle, which is full tang, plays a huge part too. If you’re looking for precision, sharpness, length and sturdiness in every slice, this has it.

Key details – Blade material: Japanese steel;Size: 20cm;Weight: 217g

Buy now from Kuma

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