Two knives that Japanese cooks can’t live without are the Gyuto, the versatile kitchen tool similar to the Western chef’s knife, and the Nakiri which is a vegetable cleaver. If you were to pick just one between these two, it makes more sense to go for the multi-purpose tool.
Modern Japanese knives were patterned after Western-style blades like the Chef’s and the utility knife immediately after the country opened its borders to the rest of the world.
Two of these are the Nakiri and the Gyuto.
Slicer, Chopper, Mincer, etc.
|Chopper and Slicer|
|Kinds of Food to Cut||Meat, Fish, Fresh Produce||Vegetables|
|Blade Profile||Long and narrow:
Belly curves halfway up
Low Pointy Tip
|Wide and Rectangular
|Handle Form||Round, Octagonal, Flat/Straight||Round, Octagonal, Flat/Straight|
Get to know these two more with the detailed discussion below.
An Overview Of The Nakiri
A nakiri is one of the most recognizable Japanese kitchen knives out there.
It is known for its signature rectangular blade with a straight edge.
This is a knife specifically designed to slice vegetables and greens.
In fact, the word ‘nakiri‘ literally translates to ‘a knife used for greens’.
The design of the blade allows users to use a push and pull motion to slice through ingredients, specifically vegetables.
The blade measures in at around 6.5 to 7 inches, and would allow you to achieve very straight and uniform cuts.
Since you can’t use a rocking motion when slicing with a nakiri, you’ll slice through vegetables and fruits like tomatoes without crushing them.
The nakiri is also known for being very sharp and lightweight, which is why they are such a great fit in just about any kitchen.
An Overview Of The Gyuto
The Gyuto is probably the most well-known Japanese knife in the market.
This is mainly because it was made specifically for the Western market.
The Gyuto was directly inspired by Western-style chef knives and made as a Japanese version of the popular blade.
So, if you search the internet for pictures of a Gyuto, you’ll end up with a knife that’s almost identical to a chef’s knife.
The only significant differences between a gyuto and a chef’s knife are the handle and the curve of the blade.
Typically, a gyuto will have a straighter blade than most Western knives, but there are also models available with a larger curve.
This still allows you to use a rocking-chop motion while reaping all the benefits of a razor-sharp and lightweight Japanese knife.
The handle of a Gyuto will usually have the signature Japanese octagonal shape.
For those who aren’t used to it, the handle may feel awkward at first.
But after some practice, you’ll find that it allows for a very comfortable, functional, and ergonomic grip.
Related: Best gyuto knives
Nakiri Vs. Gyuto – Which Is The Right Pick For You?
In this section, we dive deep into the features of both of these knives to help you figure out which is the better fit for your kitchen.
Blade Shape & Edge
To start, let’s take a look at the most noticeable difference between these two blades: the shape.
A gyuto, since the design is based on a Western chef knife, will share a lot of qualities with it.
So, it has a pointed blade that will measure between 9” to 12” in length.
The main difference being that a Japanese gyuto will be flat towards the heel of the blade and curved toward the tip.
This will allow you to use an up-and-down chopping motion using the heel and a rocking-chop motion using the edge towards the tip.
The blade is very slim and sharp, usually sharpened down to an inch of 13-15 degrees on either side.
A nakiri is a knife that is very unique, wherein it will have bladed that’s around 5” to 7” in length and be completely squared off.
The design ensures that users will utilize a push and pull technique when slicing.
Since it’s made for vegetables, it also has a very straight and flat shape.
So, you won’t be able to use a rocking motion with this knife, but that’s not that it’s made for anyway.
Since it is a piece of Japanese cutlery, the edge on the nakiri is very sharp.
Out of the box, a nakiri will generally have an edge between 13 to 15 degrees on each side.
This makes for a very sharp blade, making it a favorite among chefs.
The construction of a blade varies greatly between the brand and model.
However, a traditional Japanese knife will be forged from a single piece of high-quality steel, which is how both nakiri and gyuto knives are made.
There are a lot of variations, though.
For example, don’t be surprised to find both nakiri and gyuto’s having a Damascus construction.
This is a type of knifemaking technique that involves hammering multiple thin layers of steel over a hard core.
The Damascus technique allows for a very durable and strong blade that also has a unique and beautiful pattern on it.
Other models of these knives all boast a hammered tsuchime finish.
This is another traditional Japanese technique that involves hammering the blade, allowing for dimples to form.
This gives the knife a unique, “wavy” aesthetic, while also ensuring food won’t stick to the side.
So, as long as you’re shopping from a reputable brand or seller, you can be ensured that a gyuto or nakiri will have top-quality construction.
A lot of these knives are full-tang, but again, depending on where you’re buying from, this might vary.
Just like with the construction, the knife steel used will vary greatly depending on the make, model, and brand of the blade.
Having said that, most Japanese kitchen cutlery on the market today will be made of high-carbon steel.
This makes for a very hard blade, so the edge will stay sharp for a very long time.
However, this also means it will be harder to sharpen and hone, as well as being more prone to chips.
So, if you decide to get a high-carbon steel knife, make sure to take care of it properly.
A lot of Japanese models use AUS-8 or VG10 steel.
These are both top-quality types of steel, and make excellent choices for knife blades.
As the gyuto is based on the Western chef knife, it’s pretty common to see Western-style handles on them.
This is something you would be more accustomed to if you’re new to the world of Japanese blades.
These are designed to fit very ergonomically in the hand and be very sturdy.
They can have rivets, or they can not, as that usually depends on the model you buy.
On the flip side, a nakiri usually has a Japanese-style handle.
This will have an octagonal shape and usually be made out of wood.
This is in contrast to Western handles, which are typically made of synthetic materials.
A Japanese handle will be much lighter and have a natural feel to it.
It might take some getting used to at first, but it can make a giant difference once you get the hang of it.
The right handle for you will all be up to your own preferences.
If you aren’t too familiar with Japanese knives, you might be better off with a Gyuto since it resembles a Western knife more.
But, if you’re looking for a task-specific, razor-sharp, ergonomic, and lightweight traditional Japanese knife, then the Nakiri would be the right pick for you.
Both of these knives would be a great choice for any kitchen.
Each has its own unique set of advantages and disadvantages, so the right pick would depend on your own needs.
A gyuto is an all-around knife that can be used just like a chef knife.
The only difference would be a lighter feel, sharper edge, and slightly flatter blade.
A nakiri is a more task-specific tool.
It is specifically designed to be used as a vegetable slicer and can be a fast and efficient way to slice vegetables consistently.
So, before you decide on buying one, make sure to ask yourself what YOU need in YOUR kitchen.
And from there, figuring out the right knife for you will be a breeze.
Last Updated on September 2, 2021