Nakiri Vs Chef Knife – Which Is The One For You?

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When it comes to versatility, nothing beats the standard Chef’s knife. It can slice, dice, julienne, chop, and even filet and butterfly a wide array of ingredients.

There is no doubt that that is the better choice. But if you already have one at home, treat yourself to a Nakiri. With a bit of practice, this thin vegetable cleaver can do a whole lot of things for you in the kitchen.

According to top chefs and connoisseurs, there are four or five basic knives which you should have in your kitchen. One of those is the incredibly multi-purpose Chef’s knife.

But if you are considering getting the sixth piece, you might want to go for a Nakiri.

Nakiri Chef’s Knife
Origin Japan Europe
Category Modern Japanese Basic

(one of the four must-haves)

Function Vegetable chopper, primarily All-rounder

Slicer, Chopper, Mincer, etc.

Kinds of Food to Cut Vegetables Meat, Fish, Fresh Produce
Blade Profile Wide and Rectangular Straight Spine

Curved Belly

Slanted Heel

High Pointy Tip

Handle Form Round, Octagonal, Flat/Straight Flat/Straight

What Is A Nakiri?

Nakiri knives came about during the Japanese Edo period.

During this time, Japanese citizens were not allowed to eat any four-legged animal.

Because of this, a normal Japanese diet at the time consisted mostly of fish, rice, and vegetables.

Since most chefs and cooks dealt with these ingredients, the Nakiri was born.

A Nakiri is a knife with a rectangular blade specifically designed for chopping and slicing vegetables.

And the design was so ergonomic and functional that it has remained roughly unchanged for over 400 years.

The blade has a rounded tip and a flat edge, which means that you can’t use the standard rocking-chop motion that is used for most Western knives.

Instead, users will have to lift the knife every time they cut.

Nakiri blades are very similar to Chinese cleavers and are thin and lightweight, making them easy to use.

With a Nakiri, you can slice ingredients with precision and with ease, making them a great fit for just about any kitchen out there.

And while this knife has spent most of its history in Japanese kitchens, they have recently begun to gain a lot of popularity in the Western market.

What Is A Chef’s Knife?

The chef knife is arguably one of the most popular types of knives out there.

When most people think of kitchen cutlery, this is usually the blade that comes to mind.

The knife is usually anywhere between 7 to 9 inches long, although some professional chefs can be seen using larger, 10 – 12 inch chef knives.

It is designed to be a chef’s go-to blade in the kitchen.

So, it can be used to slice meat, vegetables, fish, and just about any ingredient that needs to be sliced.

Typically, these knives have curved blade that allows you to utilize a rocking-chop motion, making it very easy for chefs to use.

However, there are two general types of Western chef knives out there: German and French ones.

A German blade will be curved throughout, while a French one will be straight and curve towards the tip.

The French design allows users to utilize a variety of cutting and slicing techniques, making this the preferred choice of many chefs.

Differences Between A Nakiri And Chef Knife

Now that you have a general idea of these knives, it’s time to get into the details.

In this section, we’ll be taking a close look at the differences between these two blades.

Usage

As we mentioned earlier, a Nakiri is designed to be used for vegetables.

The square blade and flat edge allow you to cut a wide variety of vegetables evenly and precisely.

The way the knife is designed allows the entire blade to come into contact with the chopping when cutting, making a lot of slicing tasks much easier.

The Nakiri will deliver clean, full, and straight cuts to make cutting vegetables very convenient.

And while they were designed for vegetables, you can also use a Nakiri for meat and other ingredients, as long as they aren’t too big.

On the other hand, a chef knife is a general-purpose blade that you can use for just about any prep job in the kitchen.

The long, sharp, and slightly curved knife can handle a wide variety of ingredients, from meat and fish, all the way to fruits and vegetables.

Size

A nakiri is smaller than a chef knife.

While chef knives will measure anywhere between 7-14 inches in length, a Nakiri is only around 5-7 inches in length.

Since chef knives are larger, they can handle a wider variety of ingredients and be useful for larger ingredients.

However, since a Nakiri is small and compact, it can be easier to use and ideal for making precise cuts.

Blade

It’s time to look at one of the most important aspects of these knives: the blade.

We already talked about the size, so we’ll be looking at the shape of the blades now.

A chef knife is a very common tool in the kitchen, so you’ve probably already seen one before.

It has a curved blade and a pointed tip.

This will allow for a rocking-chop motion and is significantly thicker than a Nakiri.

This allows it to handle heavier ingredients like meat with ease.

On the other hand, a Nakiri has a rectangular blade that is much thinner and has a slight curve towards the tip.

This straight design means that the entire knife comes into contact with the cutting board when in use, making it easier to make full, precise, and clean cuts.

Both of these blades can use different types of steel in their construction, depending on the brand and model.

However, good versions of these knives will usually be made of high-carbon steel, which can retain an edge for a long time and be sharpened down to an exact angle.

Sharpness

Now it’s time to look at the edge of these knives.

Generally, a Nakiri will be sharper than a chef’s knife, which is the case for most Japanese blades.

A well-made Nakiri will usually be sharpened down to an angle of 13-15 degrees on either side, while Western chef knives are usually sharpened down to a 15-18 degree angle on each side.

This difference isn’t too big, but it can make a huge difference when slicing certain ingredients.

Vegetables and fish, for example, will be much easier to slice through using a Nakiri.

But heavier ingredients like larger vegetables and meat are best sliced by a nice, heavy chef knife.

Additionally, many Nakiri knives have a single-beveled edge, which means that they aren’t ambidextrous.

Most standard chef knives have a double-beveled edge, so they are ambidextrous.

If you’re right-handed, this won’t be too big a deal since most single-beveled blades are right-handed.

However, if you’re a lefty, you might have difficulty finding the right Nakiri for you.

Weight

A Nakiri is lighter than a chef knife.

This is because it is designed to be a fast, precise, and sharp blade designed for vegetables.

This is another reason why a Nakiri has a hard time handling heavier ingredients.

Since chef knives are heftier and generally have more weight, they are ideal for slicing heavy ingredients like meat and hard vegetables.

Conclusion – Which Is The Best Pick For You?

Now that you’ve read up on both of these knives and understand their designs and uses, you probably know that both of them would be a great pick for the kitchen.

The right one for you will largely depend on what you need in your arsenal.

If you already have a general-purpose knife to handle heavier ingredients and you want something with more precision to handle vegetables, then a Nakiri might suit your needs better.

However, if you’re looking for a blade that can handle a wider variety of tasks and ingredients, then a chef knife would be your best bet.

Either way, as long as your knives can handle everything task you come across in your own kitchen, then you already have the right set of blades for you.

And no one can tell you otherwise.

Last Updated on September 2, 2021

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My name is Andy Wang, and I'm a retired chef. I used to work at the City Vineyard restaurant in NYC. I also had a culinary degree from the Institute of Culinary Education in New York. And this blog is where I share my love for knives and cooking with people like you.