These days, any serious sushi chef will have a dedicated knife for sushi. These special blades are sharper and thinner than a normal knife, making it easier to slice through a sushi roll without it collapsing and losing its distinctive round shape. Sushi knives are expensive, however, so it can be a daunting task to select the appropriate tool for your budget, kitchen, and skill level. Here’s a handy guide that outlines everything I’ve learned about the best knives for cutting sushi.
Best Sushi & Sashimi Knife
As far as sushi chef knives go, you’ve got two primary options: use a sharp general purpose knife, and purchase a dedicated sushi knife. There are pros and cons to each, of course, and your decision should factor in your budget and how seriously you take sushi.
For casual home sushi prep, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a standard knife. Heck, I know lots of professional sushi chefs that cut their actual rolls with a German-style chef’s knife from a brand like Wusthof or Global. The trick here is to make sure your knife is sharp. This means honing it regularly and taking it to a knife shop to be professionally sharpened every once in a while. If you’re willing to do these two things you can definitely get away with cutting sushi with your normal chef’s knife. I’ll go over a few tricks you can use to help make up the thicker, duller knife in a bit.
Japanese Sushi Knife
If you’re trying to make a precise cut without applying any unnecessary pressure, you’ll want an extra sharp blade and a very thin knife. These are the exact properties that are valued in yanagiba or sujihiki Japanese-style sushi knives. You’ll find extremely thin blades and crazy sharp cutting edges, often with asymmetrical grinds and bevels as low as 9 degrees. This is incredibly sharp – a western-style knife with an 18 degree grind is already a fair bit sharper than the competition.
Of course, this style of knife comes with some downsides. For one, they’re harder to sharpen and maintain, especially because the kind of steel that can hold an edge that sharp tends to be brittle and delicate. They’re also expensive, due to the high-quality materials needed to produce a strong, sharp blade that also manages to be extremely thin.
Finally, using single-beveled knives actually requires a slightly different technique, meaning you’ll have to re-learn some things to get the most out of your knife. If you’re willing to put the time in, however, and you can keep up with the special care that your knife requires, a dedicated Japanese sushi knife will perform significantly better than a normal western-style chef’s knife.
Japanese Sushi Knife Reviews:
If you don’t want to spend a fortune on a sushi knife, this Dalstrong Yanagiba offers a great compromise between low cost and great performance. It’s got a 13 -15 degree single bevel that effortlessly slices through fish, seaweed, and rice alike, while the AUS-8 stainless steel used in the blade ensures that it’s not too tough to care for. You can certainly find a sharper, lighter, or prettier knife, but it’s very tough to find one that beats the Dalstrong Phantom in value.
Phantom is Dalstrong’s somewhat budget Japanese line. Unlike their more expensive Shogun line, the knives tend to be stamped, not forged, and they’re devoid of the fancy Damascus styling that makes many high-end Japanese knives look so special. Instead, each Phantom knife offers no-nonsense performance at a fairly affordable price. This makes them a perfect option for anyone who wants a great Japanese-style blade from a reputable brand without spending a fortune.
The most important part of any knife is the steel, and the AUS-8 Japanese steel used in this knife is pretty darn good. 58 HRC is pretty high for a normal knife, meaning this blade can hold the incredibly sharp grind without excessively harsh maintenance requirements. It’s also soft enough to survive a nick or two (although the thin blade and steep grind don’t help here), and the high chromium content ensures the blade won’t rust or discolor easily. It’s worth noting that the steel is stain “less,” not stain “never,” so it definitely CAN rust if you let it sit in a cup of water or something. With normal use, however, maintenance is an absolute breeze – just wipe the blade dry before you store it and use a honing steel once or twice a week.
The handles on most Japanese knives are pretty similar. This knife is no exception – it features a pakkawood handle in a traditional “D” shape and a fairly standard endcap. I don’t think this knife will astound you with its ergonomics, but you’ll find that it’s more than comfortable enough for extended use and that the balance makes the thin blade incredibly easy to maneuver.
Now, there are some downsides to this knife. One, it’s not particularly pretty. While I enjoy the aesthetics, you’ll earn MANY more compliments with a hammered knife or one with a Damascus finish. In my opinion, this is the worst looking knife on this list.
Two, 58 HRC is hard, but not THAT hard. Considering the incredibly steep single bevel, you might want to go a point or two harder in order to reduce the amount of time you spend honing or sharpening your knife. Fancy carbon steel knives will stay sharp for two or three times longer than this blade with an even sharper grind.
Despite these shortcomings, this is probably the knife you’ll want to choose if you’re trying to up your home sushi game. It’s priced very fairly for its quality, it’s backed by Dalstrong’s impressive customer support, and it’s very, very sharp. If you want a sushi cutting knife that will impress your family and friends without spending a fortune, choose this Dalstrong.
Available in multiple sizes, this simple Yoshihiro is a subtle upgrade to the Dalstrong above in many departments. It’s sharper, harder, prettier, and actually made in Japan. These features come at a somewhat steep cost, however: unlike the Dalstrong blade, this knife is made with high-carbon, low-chromium steel. This means you’ll have to be very careful with your use, cleaning, and storage habits in order to avoid rust.
First off, let’s talk about the steel a little bit more. This blade is made with steel called White Steel #2. This special steel is universally praised for its ability to hold sharp edges with minimal sharpening and how easy it is to sharpen back into shape after you use it. It’s found in many premium, expensive knives. This particular yanagi is fairly affordable when compared to other white steel blades.
The two properties of this steel that you should care about the most are its hardness and its corrosion resistance. This particular blade has been treated to about 62 HRC, which is significantly harder than the Dalstrong above. You’ll find that this knife does not get dull very quickly at all. It’ll only need a light touch with a strop every so often in order to maintain a razor sharp edge.
I think most home chefs could easily get away with getting this knife professionally sharpened every two or three years and have no problems whatsoever with getting sashimi to part like the red sea at the slightest hint of pressure. This is no doubt helped by the sharp asymmetric grind of this knife that lets it compete with the very best when it comes to slicing through food (and hair!) without any resistance.
Corrosion resistance is a different beast. This knife has very little chromium and will rust quite quickly if you cut acidic foods or leave it wet. Professional chefs have a habit of wiping their knife clean and drying it off every few cuts. If you purchase this knife, you probably want to get into this habit as well. It’s a good way to minimize the chance that you’ll forget about your knife while it’s still moist from cutting into a freshly washed filet.
You can minimize the risk of your knife rusting if you let it form something called a patina, but that’s a topic for another day. The important takeaway here is that this knife is harder to care for than a “normal” stainless kitchen knife, so you’ll have to use some combination of care and special techniques if you want to use it in your kitchen.
As far as aesthetics go, I think this is one of the best looking knives on the market. Instead of a bold Damascus pattern, it features a subtle misty wave created where two types of metal meet in the blade. It’s a classy and elegant way to enhance the clean lines of the knife without being loud or gaudy.
While it’s more expensive and harder to care for than the Dalstrong above, this knife is absolutely a cut above when it comes to edge retention and aesthetics. I think it’s probably the better choice for professional chefs and hardcore knife enthusiasts. If you want a professional sushi knife, this is definitely an excellent choice.
This Yoshihiro sujihiki knife differs from the yanagiba above in quite a few respects. It’s a much more accessible knife in many ways, with stainless VG-10 steel, a thicker blade, and a more standard grind that’s less likely to chip if you drop your knife or accidentally cut into a bone.
On the other hand, it’s not quite as good at slicing sashimi or cutting sushi rolls. While I’d personally prefer a yanagiba knife for cutting fish, there’s certainly nothing wrong with this sujijiki if you prefer a more accessible general-purpose knife.
General Knife Options
Any sharp knife should be more than adequate for cutting sushi at home (or professionally), especially if you use the tips below. Ideally, you want something with a 36-degree total grind or sharper, but you can get away with a traditional 40-degree German grind in a pinch. Here’s one knife to consider if you’re after a sharper general-purpose knife that you can also use to cut sushi.
This is a 61 HRC high-carbon gyuto that’s handmade in Japan. Despite this, it’s INCREDIBLY affordable. It’s pretty tough to find a blade that offers this level of steel at this price.
Of course, this steel comes with the same set of downsides as the Yoshihiro yanagiba above. It’s tricky to care for, the blade is somewhat delicate, and it has the additional “downside” of being quite dull out of the box. For knife enthusiasts, however, that last one is more of a plus, since we can put whatever kind of a grind we want on the knife with no problems.
I think this is one of the best gyuto knives on the market right now for anyone who’s willing to care for a carbon steel blade. It’s cheap, it’s made from killer steel, and it’s hard to beat the no-frills Japanese aesthetic as far as looks are concerned. If you’re after an extra sharp general-purpose knife that you can also use to cut sushi, look no further.
Tricks for Cutting Sushi
If you’re having trouble keeping your sushi rolls from collapsing, here are some tricks you can try to help your knife slide through effortlessly.
1. Use A Pull Cut
Instead of pushing down with a lot of force or sawing through your roll, try using one continuous pull with just a hint of pressure. With a sharp knife, this will easily slice your roll in just one stroke.
2. Rinse Your Rice
Excess starch in your rice can cause it to stick to your knife and slow things down. Try rinsing it in order to help negate the glue-like starch so your knife slips through more easily.
3. Rinse Your Knife With Warm Water
Letting a few drops of warm water run down the tip of your knife just before you cut can make a world of difference when it comes to parting rice. Be sure to dry it off when you’re done if you’re using a high-carbon blade!
4. Practice Makes Perfect
Don’t stress out if your first few rolls don’t come out quite the way you want them. Sushi is very much an art and you’ll improve over time. As you get more comfortable with the basics, you’ll start to notice more and more little things you can do to improve your technique that will have big impacts on how your rolls turn out.
If you’d like to slice sushi rolls with ease and create incredibly delicate, delicious sashimi for you and your guests to enjoy, you can get by pretty okay with a normal chef’s knife that’s been sharpened recently. If you really want to up your game, however, consider one of the dedicated sushi knives above.
The budget-friendly Dalstrong and high-carbon Honmamon Gyoto will slice on a budget, while the beautiful Yoshihiro knives will impress your guests with their sharp edges and beautiful aesthetics. No matter which knife you choose, be sure to both polish and sharpen it regularly in order to keep the edge in tip-top shape. You’ll love how easily it cuts through fish, rice, and even the occasional vegetable.