Pros: Excellent ergonomics. Excellent profile and edge retention. Very easy to keep sharp
Cons: Highly reactive carbon steel.
Reviewed: Misono 270mm Swedish Carbon Steel gyuto
Blade length – 270mm
Overall length – 405mm
Weight – 276 grams
Steel – Swedish carbon, HRc ~ 60
Handle – Brass riveted resin wood laminations with full tang
Before getting down to the nitty gritty, lets get two popular points about this knife out of the way:
The Misono gyutos (270 & 240 mm) don a dragon engraving running along the length of the blade. Cool, that -- if you like dragons. The only thing cooler might be Godzilla himself. Lizardry notwithstanding, this is a sexy knife that will turn heads in the kitchen.
This is a carbon steel knife which means that it's subject to corrosion in the presence of moisture or acidic ingredients. Not only is it carbon steel but it's made from an especially reactive flavor of Swedish carbon steel. Once the oxidation is there it will accelerate if left unchecked. Cutting lemons, ripe tomatoes, onions and the like will require an immediate rinse down and wipe without a proper patina. It bears mentioning that if you cut acidic foods or leave this wet in the sink while tending to other things you will be scrubbing the knife down later with a polishing agent. If you do it repeatedly you'll be purchasing a new knife. Owning this knife means familiarity with carbon steel and/or good cleaning habits is a must.
With that out of the way, lets dig into some less obvious things:
Profile and Weight
Like most Japanese gyutos, this carries a French profile. It's a much straighter edge than its prototypical German counterpart and slightly straighter than most French ones. In terms of utility this lends itself better to drawing the knife as you cut rather than rocking from the tip down as you might with a heavily curved blade.
If you already favor French profiles then you'll probably find this a very pleasing shape. The taper of the edge runs up very gradually through the first 2/3rds of the knife with very little belly to speak of. The spine of the knife is not flat -- it tapers down almost unnoticeably from beginning to 1 1/2" of the tip. Taken together, this means that the tip of the knife sits a little low compared to most other gyutos, something that may matter to you depending on where you like to start your cut.
The spine measures exactly 2mm which is typical for a Japanese carbon and the weight of the 270mm Misono Sweden is officially listed at 275 grams. Mine own crude measurements come within a few grams of the listed weight. To put this in context, a 10" Wusthof Triden Cook's knife is about 300 grams despite being more than 1/2" shorter on the blade. When put to work, this knife is light enough to be used for an extended period of time without weight becoming a distraction but stout enough that you won't have to worry about flex if your technique is not perfect or you need to correct a cut mid way.
This knife will also typically ship with a crisp edge out of the box. The benefit is twofold. First, you can start using your knife minutes after unwrapping it. No assembly required. Secondly, when you do decide to sharpen it to it's full capacity, you won't have far to go. Most of the grinding has been done for you. Which leads us to....
Edge Characteristics and Alloy
Probably the most outstanding features of this knife are it's edge characteristics. Sharpening the blade is a breeze and it keeps a sharp edge with light steeling on a ceramic hone for quite some time. When it comes to performance, this knife simply delivers. And for it's price point, it occupies a value niche shared by few others.
Of the knives I own, none of them, Japanese or Western have attained extreme sharpness as easily as the Misono Sweden. One of the general benefits of carbon steel is it's sharpness and ability to take an edge but with a fairly stiff HRc 60 this was a pleasant surprise. And while it hasn't ever chipped on me, you'll want to make sure that you use a good board with this knife. The 270mm blade, when sharpened to it's potential, will grab a plastic board if your cuts have any torque on them. (note: all my cuts are perfect so I'm speaking hypothetically, ahem.)
But -- and you had to know this was coming -- what you get in edge performance you pay for in maintenance. There's no free lunch in the world of cutlery steel. As mentioned above, the Swedish carbon steel sacrifices durability of finish for excellent cutting performance. For the home kitchen this doesn't present a huge challenge provided you're attentive to the normal idiosyncrasies of carbon steel. For many commercial kitchens this will be difficult without forcing a patina first. For the line cook condemned to chop onions all day, this knife might be out of the question.
Fit & Finish
The Misono brand has a reputation for excellent fit and finish across all their lines and the knife I'm reviewing is no exception. Many of the details that Japanese makers often tend to dismiss for Western style knives are given consideration here. The spine at the handle is ground down just enough to offer some comfort to the index finger while the back of the blade, just above the heel, has a generous radius to provide comfort to the middle finger as it wraps between the bolster and handle.
The rivets are brass and it has an integrated bolster with the durable "pakka" wood handle. The gyuto I'm reviewing has a great handle -- no edges needed to be relieved out of the box. I wouldn't change a thing. Comparing it to a dozen other German and Japanese knives I would say it does runs fractionally on the small side (say, 5mm less than an average handle) but still in the range of what would be considered "medium". The width is about the same as most European knives -- about 3/4". If you have slightly large or small hands, no worries here. The handle isn't flashy but it does everything you'd want it to. That's another way of saying that it doesn't get in the way of you and the blade.
Putting it all together I would summarize this way:
You should consider this knife if:
- you want high end performance on the cutting board with a limited budget
- you value ease of sharpening and edge retention over ease of maintenance
- you want a high performance Japanese knife but are concerned about the fit & finish issues common to many lines of Japanese cutlery
- you think dragons are cool
You should NOT buy this knife if:
- you work in a harsh kitchen environment or need a knife that is largely maintenance free
- you think a knife should keep it's shine. This knife will patina whether you like it or not. And the blade won't be "safe" until it does.
- you're looking for a chef knife for heavy duty tasks. This is a fairly agile knife that should be kept sharp to appreciate it for what it is. While it's got some meat on it's bones the blade is very stiff so heavier tasks like splitting butternut squash, cutting through chicken or fish bones and chopping through coca-cola cans are better off done with a softer steel or a more durable (obtuse) edge.
An overall rating is difficult because a few of it's attributes are on different ends of the spectrum. It's going to boil down to what you want out of a knife. But breaking it down, I'd look at it this way:
Out of 5:
Fit and Finish: 4.5
Durability: 2.5. This point is a tough one to rate as it depends on the quality of patina and level of care. With the proper patina and care most of the issues raised above go away in short time and the knife starts to behave like any other carbon knife. Still, the fact that you have to take special care to get it there knocks it below average.
Intuitively, I'd rate this knife a solid 4 stars.