Experts and amateurs alike claim a key to making great sushi is the sushi knife. Since tools and ingredients are now widely available for making sushi at home, we find out whether or not sushi knives really are the missing link to slicing the perfect sashimi.
Made from high-quality carbon steel (whereas average kitchen knives are made from lower-carbon stainless steel), a sushi knife is only sharpened on one side of the blade to allow for cleaner, more precise cuts.
Most sushi knives are sharpened on the right-side for right-handed users, though some brands have left-handed knives available. If you’re a south-paw, try searching online for left-handed brands before you head to the stores.
Traditional Japanese sushi knives are each designed for a highly specialized purpose, such as slicing beef, cutting vegetables, and filleting fish (with different knives available for various fish including tuna, eel, octopus, and the poisonous puffer fish).
In North America you can find all-purpose models that can accomplish nearly all of these tasks (except we recommend leaving the poisonous puffer fish to the professionals).
For maximum control and delicate manipulation, the handle should be thick, round, and slip-resistant.
Weighting is predominately at the end of the blade to allow the chef to make quick, single cuts so the food shows no marks and is appealing to the eye.
The knife blade should be long enough to make a single pass when filleting so that no sawing motion or messy repeated cuts are required.
Keep your knife extremely sharp so you can make single cuts and slice thin sashimi. Consider having it sharpened professionally as required. But check that the sharpener you take it has experience with Japanese knives.
Because raw fish can carry contaminants and bacteria, sushi knives should be cleaned thoroughly after each use. Wash sushi knives carefully by hand in warm, soapy water. Never put them in the dishwasher.
To find out if a sushi knife is really required, and to see which knife is “ichiban” (number one, in Japanese), we stopped by a sushi factory and invited staff members to help us slice up dozens of sushi rolls with these knives:
- Global 10” Yanagi Sushi Knife: $150
- Kasumi 8.5” Damascus Sushi Knife: $299
- Kershaw 9.5” Shun Pro Sushi Knife: $295
- Wüshthof 8” Chef’s Knife (a regular kitchen knife): $189
The Wüshthof chef’s knife (a non-sushi knife but our favourite kitchen workhorse knife) created too much drag, made messy cuts, required too much sawing, and caused ingredients to squish out of the sushi roll.
The Global knife, the least expensive, was the unanimous favourite.
The Kasumi was a close second for all our testers, but at double the price we felt Global was easily a better value.
The Kershaw performed moderately well, but was nearly as expensive as the Kasumi.
OUR TOP PICK
The Global 10” Yanagi Sushi Knife, our least expensive test product, won by a clean slice. We also learned in this test that it’s clearly worthwhile investing in a real sushi knife if you’re going to make sushi at home.