Kasumi knife review: Delightful Damascus Chef’s Knives?

Written by Peter Allen on . Posted in Cutlery

A Kasumi chef knife is a wonderfully crafted work of art. Each blade is made in Seki, Japan by skilled artisans who manipulate high-quality VG-10 steel into a wonderful package. A Kasumi-brand knife is a solid addition to virtually any home cupboard and would not be out of place in most restaurants. Despite this impressive pedigree, however, I think that buyers should approach the Kasumi brand with moderation.

Here’s a series of detailed reviews in which I’ll carefully go over why you might want to consider Dalstrong, Yoshihiro high-end knives, or Japanese brand Shun alongside Kasumi.

Product Reviews

* Kasumi 8-inch Chef’s Knife

First of all, before we get too deep into the specifics of this knife, let’s mention one of the key features of this particular product. This Kasumi chef’s knife is 10” long. This is a whole 2” longer than your typical longer chef’s knife. Many of the knives that I recommend and use are as short as 6.5”. Kasumi makes a variety of knives in smaller sizes for people with more reasonably sized cutting boards.

This particular knife, however, is one of the better 10” Japanese-style chefs knives on the market. If you’re actually looking for an extra-long chef’s knife, you’ll probably want to give this blade some strong consideration.

If you’re not specifically searching for a long knife, however, I think this knife drops from excellent to fairly average. It’s certainly not a bad knife – it’s got all of the standard features that you can expect to find in a high-quality Japanese chef’s knife – but the price, fit and finish, and even the balance all leave something to be desired. I think that this knife might beat out a Tojiro DP gyuto, for example, but I don’t think it’s necessarily worth the cost. Conversely, while it might be cheaper than a similarly sized Shun, I think I prefer Shun’s warranty options as well as the feel of a Shun in my hand. When it comes to all the little details that help make a knife wonderful to use, Kasumi seems more average than excellent.

So why consider this knife at all? For one, because it’s made with killer steel. VG-10 is some of the best stainless steel in the business, period. It’s an extra hard blend of metals that has pretty incredible corrosion resistance and very handy properties when it comes to holding an edge. This means that you can sharpen your VG-10 blades once every year (or two, if you’re a more casual home chef) and have sharp knives with virtually no other maintenance. Many experts will even suggest that you shouldn’t hone your blades with a honing steel at all. Instead, they’ll recommend that you simply polish them with a strop in order to keep the blade aligned and razor sharp.

The other big benefit to the metal in this knife has to do with how sharp the blade itself will get. Softer European steels are often four or more points lower on the Rockwell C scale. The mushy metal in their cutting cores simply can’t hold a 12-degree-per-side grind for more than a few hours of use. This blade can. Kasumi puts a pretty nutty edge on their knives right out of the box, giving you a double bevel with 15-degrees on each side. This is significantly sharper than “extra sharp” knives from brands like Wusthof or Henckels, which tend to top out at about 18 degrees per side.

You might have noticed that this knife has a pretty remarkable set of Damascus patterns on the side. The blade of this knife is made of a special blend of metal that’s folded over itself many times in order to create a sort of sandwich of alternating layers. It’s then carefully etched with a chemical that eats away at the outer layer just a little bit in order to expose the complex patterns within the blade. This style of blade is becoming more and more popular, especially with Japanese style knives. While this Kasumi isn’t the cheapest Damascus knife, it’s fairly affordable in this case given the sheer size of the blade and the high-quality steel.

Fit and finish is a term that knife experts use to refer to the construction quality of the knife’s handle and how “polished” it is both in a literal sense (does it shine?) and as a product (is it easy to use?). The fit and finish of this knife are both somewhat lacking. The handle is made from an industry-standard wood and resin blend and looks quite nice, sure, but users report that it’s not always made to the correct standard. A small quantity of knives escape the factory with uneven handles that simply seem unfinished. Additionally, the balance of the knife feels subjectively worse than industry leading knives from Shun or even Yoshihiro. In other words, this knife is very slightly worse in a number of difficult to quantify ways.

As far as the quality of the blade itself and the edge, it’s worth noting that this is simply an “average” VG-10 knife. As far as I can tell, there are no huge factors that propel this knife to greatness over something from Miyabi or Dalstrong that’s made of the same metal. Brands like Tojiro can even offer a slight improvement by virtue of a sharper factory edge, although home chefs might prefer the slight increase in durability afforded by a more reasonable grind.

When combined with the minor fit and finish issues above, I feel like I must recommend this knife with some reservations. It’s an excellent blade, with killer aesthetics, genuine Japanese construction, and a cutting core made from one of the best metals around. Unfortunately, however, these qualities are not enough to propel a knife to the very forefront of the market. Instead, they’re only enough to let it compete.

So what does this mean? Check this knife out. Take some time to look at its design and consider how the price matches up with the features. Then, check out some other knives, from brands like Yoshihiro, Miyabi, Dalstrong, Shun, and Tojiro. Online sales will make the prices of all of these knives relative to each other vary a lot. You’ll often find that you can choose cheaper options with similar cutting quality or more expensive options with better fit and finish. Some of you, however, will find that the combination of price and quality makes this Kasumi chef’s knife the best choice around.

* Kasumi Damascus Knife + Paring Knife

If you’re trying to save money with a Kasumi knife set, you might wind up unhappy. It’s pretty darn hard to find a full-sized set of knives from Kasumi, let alone an attractively priced block. The best thing seems to be one of these two piece sets that comes with a chef’s knife and a utility blade of some sort, in this case a paring knife. These sets aren’t priced significantly lower than the price of the two knives individually, so be sure to do a little bit of math and make sure that the set is actually cheaper before you buy.

As far as quality, aesthetics, sharpness, and durability go, this knife set is effectively identical to the individual chef’s knife above. It’s also got a longer bladed knife, making it ideal for people who have a larger cutting board and want to take full advantage of it. The paring knife serves as an excellent companion for all sorts of detailed cutting work, meaning you’ll never feel trapped by your behemoth 10” chef’s knife.

It’s worth noting that a set of VG-10 knives like these will last for many years. The blades are rust-resistant, meaning you don’t have to worry too much about accidental corrosion, although it’s worth noting that they’re not rust PROOF. This means you should dry them after you clean them, for example, and make sure that you don’t leave a wet knife out on the counter for a couple days. As long as you make a reasonable effort to keep your knife clean and store it properly, however, the metal will often last for many decades.

Since we’re on the subject, it’s worth noting that the other major thing that forces people to replace their Japanese style knives is edge damage. Sharper edges are more fragile, and the harder metal in this knife is more brittle. This is a double-whammy of risk factors when it comes to damaging the edge of your knife. If you drop the knife onto a tile floor, accidentally chop into a hard bone, or come home to find out that the babysitter put the knife in the dishwasher, there’s a chance that the blade will get damaged. In some cases you can fix this through sharpening, but you’ll sometimes find that your knife is irreparable and you’ll be forced to replace this set.

These risk factors are not specific to Kasumi knives. Instead, they’re pretty common across most Japanese-style blades from all brands, including Shun, Miyabi, Yoshihiro, and the rest. They’re definitely worth talking about, however. If you want a worry-free set of knives for your kitchen, there’s nothing wrong with choosing a duller European-style set from a brand like Wusthof or Dalstrong. It won’t be as sharp, sure, and you’ll have to sharpen it more, but the softer blades will be much more resistant to accidental damage in a home kitchen.

As far as this particular knife set goes, I can’t help but echo my statement from above. Don’t blindly rush into buying this two-piece knife set. Instead, do some research and look at both the prices on the individual knives and the prices of full knife sets from competing brands. Tojiro, notably, has full VG-10 knife blocks that lack the Damascus pattern on these blades and tend to be priced extremely reasonably. Your research might indicate that this set is an excellent buy – and it is, sometimes – but online sales mean that that’s not always going to be the case.

Is Kasumi a Knife Brand or a Style of Knife?

Kasumi is a Japanese word that translates to something like “mist.” While it’s a popular brand of Japanese knives, it’s also a term that refers to a style of knife construction that produces a wave-like pattern along the blade of the knife. This design is brought about by the intersection of two different types of metal (somewhat like a Damascus pattern), but it’s much more subtle than Damascus patterns and tends to be associated with high-quality carbon steel blades.

* Yoshihiro Shiroko Kasumi Usuba Knife

This beautiful Yoshihiro shiroko knife is a brilliant example of this style of construction. It’s made from ultra-hard high-carbon white steel with a HRC rating of upwards of 62.

This is even harder than the VG-10 blades above. Instead of distinctive Damascus styling, the sides of the blade are smooth and even, showcasing a subtle wave-like pattern of lighter metal near the cutting edge.  It’s a pretty impressive knife from any perspective: visual, performance, or fit and finish.

This knife (and many Kasumi-style knives) is pretty different from a Damascus VG-10 in one important way: it’s not particularly stain resistant. Instead, it’ll rust pretty darn fast if you leave it out for even a few minutes after cutting certain foods. Experienced chefs often deal with this by deliberately creating a layer of discoloration called a patina on the surface of the knife.

A patina will help slow rust and further discoloration and can even be customized and applied in a pattern that’s not unlike Damascus, allowing you to customize the finish of your knife. This process is much more time consuming and difficult than simply using a stain-resistant VG-10 knife, however, so it’s not something you need to worry about for your first Japanese-style knife.

If you’re after a specialty Japanese vegetable cleaver (either a shiroko like this or a santoku) or any sort of sushi knife, consider looking for a Kasumi-style blade. You’ll often find yourself looking at an incredible selection of high-quality Japanese-made high-carbon blades that will all offer incredible performance in your home or professional kitchen.

Kasumi Knives: Mid-Market Performance at Mid-Market Prices

Honestly, it’s tough to make a recommendation about Kasumi (brand) knives either way. While their knives might not outperform knives from other major brands, they’re certainly not a whole lot worse.

Consider Kasumi as a top choice if you can pick up their knives on sale or if you simply happen to prefer their aesthetic. Otherwise, be sure to research the competition to make sure you’re not missing out.

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Peter Allen

Peter Allen

Peter's path through the culinary world has taken a number of unexpected turns. After starting out as a waiter at the age of 16, he was inspired to go to culinary school and learn the tricks of the trade. As he delved deeper, however, his career took a sudden turn when a family friend needed someone to help manage his business. Peter now scratches his culinary itch on the internet by blogging, sharing recipes, and socializing with food enthusiasts worldwide.

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