How do you choose a sushi knife?
January 26, 2008 5:12 PM   Subscribe

Know anything about sushi knives? I need info and recommendations.

What makes a good sushi knife? What do you look for, and how do you know if you're getting a bargain if buying one? Can you recommend a brand that's available in the US?
posted by zennie to Food & Drink (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What exactly is a "sushi knife"? That is, what are you going to use it for? When my wife makes "sushi" (maki-zushi, to be specific), she uses a serrated bread knife dipped in water to prevent the nori from sticking to the blade...technically, sushi is raw fish (and other stuff) served on top of rice, and you use your hands to form the rice into nigiri.

I suspect you're actually asking about how to buy a good fish knife. Google has some suggestions.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:19 PM on January 26, 2008

This sushi knife is going to be used to make sushi. By someone who knows a lot about making several kinds of sushi. And who is not me.
posted by zennie at 5:22 PM on January 26, 2008

But like I said, you use your hands to make sushi. You need a knife to cut up fish.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:26 PM on January 26, 2008

Do you want a santoku? I'd just search that, and look at reviews and recommendations taking into account how much you're willing to spend. I find a quality european paring knife perfectly fine for preparing rolls, and fish when I used to eat fish.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 5:30 PM on January 26, 2008

what makes a good knife is the type of metal and to an extent the design and material of the handle. you look for names, well known names that are honestly making knives. there are no bargains, the value of knives is widely known and the people who are really serious about it will snap up any bargains. this would be a good starter knife. the site that is selling it, Korin, is the most reputable seller of japanese knives in the country. I said there are no bargains but there is a huge scale. In my opinion a $70 is exactly the same as a $1000 knife in terms of function. what it come down to is sharpening technique and experience. japanese knives need to be sharpened on a whetstone, hopefully your friend has one and knows how to use it.
posted by Infernarl at 5:45 PM on January 26, 2008

Unless you're spending $1000+, you're probably after a santoku or chef's knife.

MAC is a Japanese outfit that makes excellent santokus and chef's knives. They've gotten consistently good reviews, including top recommendations from Cook's Illustrated.

If you want to spend the money on a sushi knife, you'll need to know the handedness of its user, as sushi knives are handed: right or left. It's probably not worthwhile to consider the purchase of one, unless its future owner is a sushi chef.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:59 PM on January 26, 2008

Here's the thing. Sushi chefs have a lot of different knives, each of which has been exquisitely adapted to a narrow purpose. So they'll have one knife just for filleting tuna, another knife for paring away slivers of pickled ginger, and so on. I don't know how many different knives a decent sushi chef would have in his holster, but I'd guess off the top of my head it's more than 12.

The santoku suggestion is a good one—they're nice all-round knife ("santoku" means "three virtues," in other words, a good all-rounder).

One thing about most Japanese knives is that they're carbon steel instead of stainless. This means they take a really good edge, they're more prone to chipping, and you need to wash and dry them promptly—they're higher maintenance. There are also some really swank all-ceramic knives coming out of Japan, like Mac knives, though I've never used one. Some Japanese knives (for some specific chopping purposes) are only bevelled on one side, meaning that if you're a southpaw like me, they're completely useless.

Your profile marks you as being around DC. I'm sure there's a Japanese grocery somewhere around you. I'd suggest going to that, asking what they have in the way of knives, and picking out a good chef's knife or santoku.
posted by adamrice at 6:01 PM on January 26, 2008

Goshi says "sharp knife, clean taste, dull knife broken taste". Nogi uses a long slender knife with a wood handle that he paid over 700.USD. Ceramic knives won't need to be sharpened as often as a traditional carbon steel knife,
posted by hortense at 6:04 PM on January 26, 2008

they are the best I know and the prices are good
posted by caddis at 6:09 PM on January 26, 2008

Global is a japanese knife making company, although probably not as good as custom made santoku from a japanese artisan they probably hold their own against any mass produced cooking knife on the market.
They're kind of expensive and good looking too.
Japanese site
Uk Site
They also make sashimi knives, but those are pretty specialized, like any 30cm long blade would be in a kitchen.
posted by SageLeVoid at 6:27 PM on January 26, 2008

Actually, sushi is sour rice, and doesn't have to contain anything other than...well, rice.

But, I've used lots of knives, my current fave though is a cheap ass Wal-Mart fillet knife. It's sharp, flexible, and easy to keep moist.

$6, and it beats my $40 santoku to pieces. I also *certainly* wouldn't use anything serrated. *shudder*
posted by TomMelee at 6:56 PM on January 26, 2008

Ignore the above advice about santoku, Wal-Mart, and the requirement of $1000+ knives (although you could easily spend that much if you cared to).

Here's what you want from a good sushi knife:

1) Extremely sharp (not just "pretty sharp" or "really sharp").
2) Long enough to make a single pass when fileting.
3) Ground on one edge only for a square cut against the piece of fish (hence the "handedness").
4) Definitely not serrated.

Global knives, in my experience, are vastly overrated. Mac knives are not, and are some of the best values to be found anywhere. They have a line of sushi knives in their Japanese collection. That knife from Korin above is also probably a good choice. JB Prince has an excellent selection of Japanese knives of all flavors. Korin and JB Prince both have helpful staff who will help you pick the right knife if you call them. I agree with Caddis - I like a great deal. Don't be afraid to buy their less familiar brands if you like the specs.

Don't put it in the dishwasher.
posted by Caviar at 8:20 PM on January 26, 2008

Also, for the record, Mac knives are not ceramic. They're molybdenum steel alloy, and they're extremely sharp and require very little maintenance. My Mac Superior santoku has gone 5 years without needing to be sharpened, used regularly, well-cared for, and still sharper than anything I have in my kitchen.
posted by Caviar at 8:22 PM on January 26, 2008

I highly recommend Mac knives.
posted by caddis at 8:51 PM on January 26, 2008

awhile back on the blue there was a great knife post featuring knife-lust-inducing offerings from sushi knives come in different designs for different applications: santokus, debas, yanagibas, etc. they cost quite a bit more than target/walmart knives.
posted by bruce at 9:17 PM on January 26, 2008

zennie, the thing you may want to specify is if the knife will be used to make maki-sushi - ie, rolls - or nigiri-sushi - pieces of fish on beds of rice. My guess is that, in both cases, you want a really fucking sharp knife, but perhaps the tasks are different enough that different knives will apply.

/trying to be helpful
posted by fingers_of_fire at 9:52 PM on January 26, 2008

I lost the forest for the trees. What I should have said last time is that knives are terrible gifts. How a knife feels in your hand and how it fits into your current armament are critical factors which a third party can rarely if ever judge correctly. Similarly the sharpening instrument which you prefer, and how often you want to sharpen. Since you buy good knives once and they last many years, it's easy to leave as a personal exploration.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 3:28 PM on January 27, 2008

I don't know robot, I love knives as gifts. Just give me really good ones, preferably something I would be reluctant to buy myself, just like other nice gifts. I might not buy that $70 shirt, as it is a bit above my comfort level so if you buy it for me as a gift then that is perfect. Same with knives. Of course, even a knife I would be happy to buy, but do not already own, is a great gift. Going slightly above the comfort level is just a way of increasing the odds that your gift will be appreciated. If anyone who knows me is listening, I could use a really nice vegetable cleaver - the Shun would be nice but the Victorinox would also be great.
posted by caddis at 3:52 PM on January 27, 2008

I'm just throwing my viewpoint out there. When I started cooking all the time I got a couple of awkward and useless knives from people. They weren't cheap though, so I returned them and got something that I wanted.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 6:40 PM on January 27, 2008

Thanks, everyone. All this input helps interpret the information on the specialty sites.
posted by zennie at 7:30 PM on January 30, 2008

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