Best Japanese knife sets

Katy Severson

Japanese knives are known for their quality craftsmanship, beautiful aesthetic, and razor-sharp edges.

What are Japanese knives?

Japanese knives are known among professional chefs for their supreme quality, beautiful design, razor-sharp edges, and functionality. A knife set is a great way to introduce yourself to the various styles of Japanese knives that are used for different tasks in the kitchen: from chopping chives to julienning carrots to filleting fresh fish.

Although they sometimes carry a higher price tag than Western knives, the quality is often worth the extra cost if you’re looking to invest in a set of knives that will last you a lifetime with proper care and maintenance. Plus, a few brands offer cost-effective sets that don’t sacrifice quality craftsmanship.

We’ve broken down the details on our top Japanese knife set picks to help you navigate the market.

Benefits of Japanese knives

Japanese knives are known across the board for their quality craftsmanship and precision. The blades are typically made with multiple layers of steel that surround a strong core. They are also beveled on one side and at a lower angle than Western knives, which results in a super-sharp edge and a smoother cut.

Because Japanese knives are typically made with stronger steel than Western knives, the blades are thinner while still durable — meaning the knives tend to be lighter and more comfortable to hold as well as gentler on delicate foods like fresh herbs and fish.

Features to consider in a Japanese knife set

Steel quality

One of the most important factors to consider when purchasing Japanese knives is the quality of the steel. Steel quality affects the sharpness, strength and durability of the knife — as well as its susceptibility to stains and rust marks.

The more expensive knives are often made with high-carbon steel which is a strong type that will keep the edge sharper longer. However, these knives tend to require more care and maintenance to avoid chips.

Forged vs. stamped steel

Most of the pricier Japanese knives are made with forged steel, which means that layers of steel are forged around a strong core. This makes for a stronger and less flexible blade that’s easier to sharpen and tends to stay sharper longer.

Stamped blades are made from a single piece of steel and are often less expensive than forged blades.

Type of knives in the set

Your ideal set of knives depends on which tasks you want to do in the kitchen. Most sets come with a good variety of longer chef’s knives and shorter blades like paring and utility knives for small tasks. Choose a set that includes knives you’ll actually use. If you don’t use a paring knife very often, for example, you might be better off with a smaller set with just a few knives.

Single bevel vs. double bevel blade style

Japanese blades come in two styles: single and double bevel.

Traditional Japanese knives are made with a single bevel, which allows the blade to be super sharp. However, single bevel knives can be more challenging to use and have to be custom-fitted for left-handed chefs.

It’s generally recommended that home cooks go for double bevel knives for comfort and ease.

Type of handle and bolster

Look for a handle that’s comfortable and provides a good grip, such as one made of high-quality wood or dimpled steel. A bolster (the thick edge between the handle and the knife) generally makes a knife easier to hold and can offer more control over the blade.

Best Japanese knife sets of 2021

Shun Kanso 6-Piece Block Set — available at Sur La Table This knife set is both fashionable and functional and the slim knife block design takes up less room on the counter than other similar sets. The knives are made from one solid piece of high-carbon steel for strength, balance, and precision and a razor-sharp edge that lasts a long time between sharpening. The handles are made from tagayasan wood that with age incredibly well.

This set includes:

  • 8-inch chef’s knife
  • 6-inch utility knife
  • 5.5-inch santoku
  • 3.5-inch paring knife
  • Honing steel
  • Tagayason wood storage block 

Global 6 Piece Knife Block Set available at Sur La TableGlobal is a trusted brand among professional chefs and is known for its sleek construction and durability. The knives are particularly lightweight compared to other brands and boast ergonomic handles that are easy on the wrists. Plus, the dimpled handle provides a strong grip. Unlike other brands at this price point, Global knives are stamped and not forged — but their supreme manufacturing standards mean the quality doesn’t suffer. This is a unique knife set that will last you a lifetime.

This set includes:

  • 8-inch chef’s knife
  • 5.5-inch vegetable knife
  • 4.25-inch utility knife
  • 6-inch serrated utility knife
  • 3-inch paring knife
  • Bamboo and stainless-steel knife block

Miyabi Evolution 7-Piece Knife Block Set available at Bed Bath & BeyondThis is a high-quality knife set from a reputable brand. Miyabi is known for its quality craftsmanship and classic Japanese styling. The knives are hand-crafted with high carbon forged steel in Seki, Japan, and deliver supreme sharpness and durability. Plus, the handles have an ergonomic design to support the hands and wrists and fight fatigue. 

This set includes:

  • 3.5-inch paring knife
  • 5.5-inch Santoku knife
  • 8-inch chef's knife
  • 9-inch bread knife
  • Kitchen shears
  • Honing steel
  • Bamboo knife block 

Enso 7-Piece Knife Set — available at Amazon Enso knives are crafted from premium Japanese forged steel and a VG10 core that supports and maintains a sharp edge. The knives also are equipped with a double bevel edge to accommodate both right-handed and left-handed cooks. And the black canvas micarta handle is both sleek and comfortable to use. A hammered finish keeps food from sticking to the blade. Plus, Enso offers a lifetime warranty.

This set includes:

  • 3.25-inch paring knife
  • 6-inch utility knife
  • 6.5-inch santoku knife
  • 8-inch chef’s knife
  • 9-inch bread knife
  • Kitchen shears
  • 6-slot block 

Ginsu Chikara Series 8 Piece Block Set — available at Wayfair and Bed Bath & BeyondGinsu is one of the most affordable Japanese knife brands on the market while maintaining quality craftsmanship. These knives are made from forged high-carbon stainless steel and are known to be sharp, durable and rust-resistant. The knives are made from one solid piece of stainless steel for extra durability.

This set includes:

  • Chef’s knife
  • Paring knife
  • Santoku knife
  • Utility knife
  • Kitchen shears
  • Honing steel 

Shun Premier 3-Piece Starter Set — available at Sur La TableShun Premier is the top-of-the-line set in their collection. Each knife has a beautiful hand-hammered finish, walnut wood handles, and a core made from VG-MAX “super steel” for a supremely sharp and strong edge. The knives are also thin and lightweight which makes them comfortable and easy to use while maintaining quality and durability. This set comes with only three knives compared to other sets in the same price range — but if you’re looking to invest, the quality is worth the cost.

This set includes:

  • 4-inch paring knife
  • 6.5-inch utility knife
  • 8-inch chef's knife 

Katy Severson is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

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