Although Nakiri and butcher knives look similar, their purpose couldn’t be any more different. While butcher knives are designed to chop through bone – literally, to butcher proteins – Nakiri knives are made for preparing vegetables, making them a favorite among vegetarians.
While I strongly suggest going with one of the top shelf knives below, I’ve also included some budget picks of remarkably high quality. Regardless of your experience level, or simply what you’re looking to spend, this list of the 9 best Nakiri knives is sure to have something for you.
Mercer Culinary began making knives about thirty years ago when they recognized what they refer to as “the need for high-quality, value-driven cutlery for both professionals and food enthusiasts.” This Nakiri knife from their Genesis Series clearly responds to that need – it’s very well made and priced appropriately.
While it doesn’t have some of the bells and whistles of other knives on this list (no Damascus steel or extreme Rockwell Hardness ratings), it is still made from high carbon, forged German steel, and it’s tough, with a full tang. The taper-ground edge (meaning, it’s beveled in a V-shape at the cutting edge), angled to 15 degrees, makes for easy honing and sharpening at home.
The only real negative on this knife is the handle, but this is a matter of preference. I’ve always found santoprene handles to trap oil very easily, making them tough to clean and perpetually sticky. Other than this small issue, the Mercer Culinary Genesis Series Nakiri is a great option if you’re looking to spend less without sacrificing quality.
Shun is not just number one among Japanese knives, it’s also one of the best knife companies out there, period. I love their chef’s knives, their Santoku knives, and I especially love this Nakiri knife.
First, it looks incredible. I really like the walnut colored pakkawood handle, which is actually symmetrical (unlike other Shun knives with a more traditional, D-shaped handle). The hammered Damascus steel is perfectly “imperfect,” which is a small detail but noteworthy compared to some other imitation knives out there with perfectly homogenous, unrealistic – read, artificial – hammered dimples.
These knives are hand made in Japan with VG-MAX steel, ridiculously strong and incredibly sharp. The blades are sharpened to a steep angle and double-beveled at anywhere from 10 to 15 degrees, making them razor thin and consequently difficult to sharpen without experience. I don’t actually hone my Shun – never had to – but I do take it to be professionally sharpened about once every six to nine months.
Although the Shun Premier Nakiri will hold a very sharp edge for a very long time, improper use could lead to chips. I always use a knife holster, always wash by hand, and only use this on vegetables. If you treat this knife with love it will pay you back in dividends.
The Yoshihiro VG-10 is another top of the line Nakiri knife. It’s handcrafted in Japan and made from a solid, three layer Japanese stainless steel core, wrapped in 16 layers of hammered Damascus steel.
The handle is also designed in a Western style, rather than the cylindrical or D-shaped handles of more traditional Japanese knives. I don’t consider this to be a plus or minus, but rather a matter of user preference.
I can say however that the handle, and the knife as a whole in fact, is super tough – it’s triple riveted with a full tang, and the steel is hardened to be about a 60 on the Rockwell Hardness Scale. The steel hardness means you can hone the Yoshihiro to scalpel-like sharpness, but it also makes the blade relatively brittle, so please, handle with care and of course, hand wash only.
Wusthof is perhaps one of the best known knife companies in the world, and renowned for its high quality knives. Forged from a single piece of high-carbon stainless steel and triple riveted, this Nakiri knife is very durable.
Like other Wusthofs, the Legende Series Nakiri is made in Germany and backed up with a lifetime warranty. It has a moderately hard rating (58 on the Rockwell Hardness Scale) which is just hard enough to maintain the 14 degree blade angle. Actually, the relative “softness” of the steel makes it more resistant to chipping, but you still shouldn’t put it in the dishwasher or try to use it on anything but vegetables.
And of course, a little maintenance goes a long way. I’ll admit that I don’t love the handle – it’s made of a thermoplastic, and although it’s well designed in terms of ergonomics, I find it a bit lacking aesthetically, especially when compared to some of the other wooden handles out there.
The TUO Cutlery Fiery Phoenix Series Nakiri is the perfect option if you’re a little spooked by the prices of other knives on this list, but don’t want to sacrifice quality.
The Tuo Cutlery Fiery Phoenix Series Nakiri is a great budget option for home cooks looking to get serious about knife work, and with a taste for aesthetic flare. Let’s start with the handle, since it jumps out as the most striking feature of this knife. The handle is made from pakkawood and just kind of pops with a nice reddish-orange sheen. Unfortunately, the handle is made from a pakkawood composite rather than solid wood, and it’s actually hollow inside, making the handle feel a bit too light in your hands.
The blade itself is made from high quality German stainless steel, and although it’s another no frills, straight forward blade, I actually like the understated steel in contrast to the more textured handle. The blade is relatively “soft,” which may make holding an edge difficult, but it will also make sharpening at home a bit easier as well. Tuo Cutlery also provides a great guarantee and lifetime warranty, so you can buy this affordable Nakiri with confidence.
The Alpha-Royal Series Nakiri by Zelite Infinity is outrageously sharp. Made from Japanese stainless steel and hardened to 61 HRC, it sports a ridiculous 12 degree, double-beveled cutting edge.
The Zelite Infinity Alpha-Royal Series Nakiri knife is one of the sharpest knives out there. It’s made from imported, premium quality Japanese stainless steel, and layered with 67 sheets of hammered Damascus steel, hardened to a 61 on the Rockwell Hardness Scale.
In fact, it has to be extremely hard to support the ridiculously sharp 12 degree, double-beveled blade angle. The hardness means the Alpha-Royal Series holds a cutting edge very well, but I’d recommend getting this thing professionally sharpened rather than trying to hone or sharpen at home. I just wouldn’t risk messing this Nakiri blade up.
But the knife is solid – it’s got a great handle with a full tang, and I particularly like the slight curve of the handle butt, since it gives me a feeling of increased knife control. And Zelite Infinity really backs up their knives, offering both a 100% satisfaction or money back guarantee, and a lifetime warranty.
The Dalstrong Shogun Series is very, very cool. I’ve recommended the Santoku knife that comes in this series, and am just as confident in this 6 inch Nakiri. Like the Santoku, the Nakiri is precision forged from a single piece of AUS-10V Japanese steel, which is then repeatedly heated and nitrogen cooled to increase strength, leaving this blade at about a 62 on the Rockwell Hardness Scale.
Of course, the steel has to be very hard to maintain the 8 – 12 degree blade angle, which is absurdly sharp. Such a steep angle makes it a bit tough for home cooks to sharpen themselves, so I’d recommend taking this to a professional every 9 months or so, depending on use.
The 67 layers of Damascus steel are simply breathtaking, as is the triple riveted handle. Like the other Dalstrong knives in this series, the Nakiri comes with a really nice sheath that locks around the blade, holding it firm. Plus, Dalstrong also offers a 100% satisfaction or your money back guarantee.
The Brooklyn Knife Company’s Seigaiha Series Nakiri is a perfect gift for the cooking and/or Brooklyn aficionado, and one that won’t break the bank.
If I had to pick a Nakiri knife from this list to give as a gift, it may very well be this Seigaiha Series Nakiri from the Brooklyn Knife Company. Designed and tested right in Brooklyn, these knives come in a nice gift box with a magnetic closure, and best of all, a 100% lifetime warranty.
I really like the pakkawood handle, which looks a lot like the Shun pakkawoods, and I particularly like the staggered, black and marble white design of the bolster. The blade is made from high carbon stainless steel and very, very hard, which is great for holding a sharp edge.
That said, the “Damascus” design is clearly etched, which I personally find a little tacky. This is, of course, a matter of preference. My favorite design feature is actually the Brooklyn Knife Company logo, which is just an outline of the Brooklyn Bridge – it’s etched into the butt of the knife and is so subtle but so cool.
The Findking Dynasty Series Nakiri is a great mid-range option for someone looking to dip their toes into the world of Japanese cutlery. The knife blade is very hard (a 60 on the Rockwell Hardness Scale), and can easily support the 16 degree double-bevel blade angle.
I’m actually surprised that a knife of this hardness isn’t sharpened to a lower angle, since the blade hardness could support an even finer edge. That said, the higher angle cutting edge means it will be easier to hone and sharpen yourself, saving you a trip to the knife sharpener.
The Findking Dynasty Series Nakiri is also really well balanced, and of course, the handle is a stand out. Made from African rosewood, the unique handle is dark and subtle and has an octagonal, rather than rounded grip, with a slightly darker bolster. Holding this knife in your hands, you can tell it’s really well made – another excellent value for the price.
These knives of Japanese origin are beautiful, but handling a Nakiri knife is much different than your standard chef’s knife. Like the Santoku, a Nakiri knife has a relatively flat cutting edge and it’s used by slicing directly downward, maintaining the edge parallel to the cutting surface in order to make single, precise cuts. This may take some getting used to, but I find it to be a great knife skill to have.
Because most Nakiri knives are made from very hard stainless steel, they can retain a razor sharp cutting edge. But unfortunately, that hardness can also mean that Nakiri knives are relatively brittle, and can be easily damaged. Please treat these knives with care to avoid chipping. That means no cutting through bone or frozen meats, and please, please, hand wash only.
Finally, I have always advocated investing in good knives, and my opinions with respect to Nakiri knives are no different. When it comes to cost, these knives obviously range in price. I’ve listed some very high quality, professional grade knives on this list, and your pick from among the top contenders will ultimately come down to aesthetic preference.
Bolster – The bolster is what connects the blade to the handle of the knife. Usually made from material that transitions seamlessly into the blade, it also often extends down to the heel. The bolster is also used to adjust weight for appropriate knife balance.
Tang – The tang is like the “root” of the knife blade, and extends into the handle. Depending on handle design, you may see a strip of the tang on either the top or bottom of the handle, or it may be hidden entirely.
Heel – The heel is the section of the blade edge that comes closest to bolster and handle.
Handle – The handle is what wraps around the knife tang, and is used for grip.
Rivet – Rivets are often used to secure the handle on either side to the internal knife tang.
Butt – The butt of the knife is located at the extreme end of the handle, and may or may not be slightly larger than the rest of the grip.
(Cutting) edge – The edge is the sharpened part of the blade that does the actual cutting. Depending on your knife, the edge may be beveled on one or both sides, and at varying angles.
Tip – Despite being called the “tip,” the tip is not actually the end of the knife. Rather, the tip refers to the end portion of the cutting edge.
Point – The point is the true end of the knife.
Spine – The spine is the wider, back side of the blade, opposite the cutting edge.
HRC – HRC is shorthand for the Rockwell Hardness Scale, and refers to the hardness of steel or alloyed materials. It is measured by pressing a specially shaped indenter against a surface with a specific force.
It is important to note that a high HRC value does not always translate to actual strength, since harder steels can also be stiffer and thus more brittle. This accounts for the relative ease with which harder steel blades often chip.
Edge degree – Edge degree refers to the angle at which the blade is sharpened. Measured against the blade itself, the lower the degree often translates to sharpness. That said, lower degree blades may have difficulty holding an edge, so you’ll want to ensure that lower degree blades are composed of a very hard steel.
Full tang – “Full tang” means that the knife tang extends all the way into the handle, essentially that your knife has been made from a single piece of steel. Full tang knives are far more durable than knives composed of multiple pieces.
Stamped vs. forged – This refers to the method of manufacture. Forged knives are made from a single piece of steel which is typically heated and then pounded into shape. Heating and cooling during the forging process also enhance blade strength. Stamped knives, on the other hand, are usually cut out – think of a cookie cutter – from a larger sheet of style, before being sharpened and honed. You can usually tell a forged knife from the bolster, which will be wider and more substantial than is possible on stamped knives.