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Looking for a "Beginner" sushi knife for "home use."

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

Hello all!

This is my first post here, I hope to learn a lot, so thank you for having me.

I am on a search for a good quality sushi knife as a gift for a family member who loves to make sushi.  The sushi is always great, but we always end up having an issue "slicing" the rolls, and the rolls "falling apart."


I came into this basically being told by them that I needed a "single sided knife" as that's what allows the sushi to slice easier, without getting stuck/ripping apart.

Before coming here I spoke to 2 other people.  The first was with an older gentleman who is a sushi chef.  

He had first sent me to http://korin.com/Knives/Style-Sujihiki_2 specifically the Sujihaki section, and told me I needed a 270mm length knife.

After doing some research I found that there is a huge amount of information about knives, and each part of the knife has importance.

I found this guide http://www.allaboutsushiguide.com/sushi-knife.html 

and this information about Knife Steel http://www.midwayusa.com/technicalnotes/application_pages/knife_steel_and_handle_material_chart.htm


We then spoke again, and he found this knife for me http://www.ebay.com/itm/181760559451?autorefresh=true

I used the information in there to try and find similar knives.  I asked him why not a Yanagi, and he mentioned the "Experience," and said that I should get used to this knife first.  The Western-Japanese styles also seem to be cheaper than the Japanese equivalents.

I also found a few nice, cheap ones on Korin's site that were similar in specs to the ebay one.

I spoke to another person who said he liked Tagiharu knives, and liked the Western-Japanese Knife, with Traditional Handle that I picked out here http://korin.com/Togiharu-Wa-Sujihiki-with-Saya?sc=27&category=8549829 .  He also seemed to say that it didn't matter what knife I get, but made indications about "beating up the knife ""from a chef's point of view"""  Which i'm not sure means if I would cause issues like chipping, at home, or if he's speaking about the face paced work environment?  I don't know.


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So with the little background I provided, I want to now ask the forum for their opinions since I didn't get to ask all the questions I would have liked from the other guys, but I appreciate their input greatly.


I want to mention that I am coming to this now looking at spending around 300$ for a knife, as well as any accessories that I also seem to need i.e., oil for carbon steel, rags??, sharpening stones, etc, etc.



So here are my questions.



1.  For a beginner knife does the specs of a Sujihiki, dual sided 70/30, 270mm knife work out good, or is there something else someone would recommend?  It seems in general it's "personal preference" but for a beginner there is always a good starting point it seems.  Does the ebay (not sure if a good place to buy knives) link above look like a good choice, or should I start with something else?

2.a  Is there a big difference with "experience" as the first guy mentioned?  Does it matter if I get a Sujihiki or a Yanagi at first?  

2.b Seeing that it seems these knives can last a really long time if proper care is taken, would it be a better investment to get a really good knife to keep for a long time, or get a cheaper knife and upgrade later?

3.  Does anyone have brands they recommend more over the others?  The second guy said if he had to choose between the brands I was looking at, he would go with a Suisin.  Masamoto is one brand that is interesting to me though.

4.a  Does the handle matter i.e,. Western handle, vs Traditional round/octagon handle?  Does the round/octagon matter as well?  I really like the look of the traditional handle over the Western handle, so I really want to get that if possible, which is why I liked the Togiharu Wa that had the Traditional Handle that I posted abovfe.

4.b  Do we hold the knives differently with different handles?

5.  Is there a Steel that is recommended?  In the above ebay link there is a chart that outlines properties of a bunch of types of steel, which is helpful, but not too sure if it's accurate.  It seems like you have a trade off between corrosion resistance, sharpness, how long it's sharp, etc; however i am looking for a steel that would be resistant to the elements, but is overall a good sharp knife that we wont have to keep sharpening over and over again...  But if there are steels that are just much better, that do rust/corrode I would be interested at looking at those as well.

6.a  For sharpening stones http://korin.com/Knives/Sharpening-Stones_2  there is a bunch of choices, but I'm not sure what's what?  It seems from reading the description that the rougher stones can produce a sharper knife, faster, but you can mess up easier so it's better for pros, or those who know what they are doing?  Is there a stone someone can recommend me for a beginner?  I did like the option of the dual sided ones, but not too sure if that's a good choice for me.

6.b  Do you buy a stone based on the knife you get, or are all knives similar?  I would assume the steel would play into it?  I also see something called HRc (Hardness Rockwell Scale) so from what I read up it seems the higher the number, the harder the steel?  Would that impact what stones we get, or is that just letting us know how tough our knives are?

7.  I was watching Korin's videos where one of the guy's mentioned to use  a cloth with some of this oil and then wipe it once (he does it twice, after saying once, so I'm not sure if he took a dry portion of his cloth to the knife afterwards, which seems to defeat the purpose of putting the oil on in the first place)?  It seems this special oil is used for carbon steel, or other corrosive steels that will help preserve the steel.  Should we buy this regardless of the steel, or is it only for select steel? http://korin.com/Tsubaki-Knife-Oil?sc=27&category=280115

8.  On the knives I noticed for the Western style they use "Dual sided" but are Labeled 50/50, 70/30, and 90/10.  I cannot find information on this, but this link is very informative about knife edges. http://kitchenknifeguru.com/knives/knife-edges-101/

  From the link it shows a Western knife with a "V" and then a Japanese knife with 1 side being flat.  I'm assuming that as we get further to the Traditional knife (50/50 -> 70/30 -> 90/10), it's going to get flatter on one side, and possibly sharper on the other?  So is Traditional 100/0?

9.a  I am curious about cloth usage.  Is there a specific cloth that we should use?  Korin has this one on their site, but I'm not sure if we need one exactly like this(material), or what?  http://korin.com/Cleaning-Cloth_2?sc=27&category=280115

9.b  I also have seen chefs do this, and read up a little about it, but I see them wipe their knives clean a lot.  One site mentioned you should wipe your knife dry whenever you can, so it doesn't leave moisture on it(to rust).  Is this something you do every time you cut into something, or when you take a "break" from cutting?

9.c  I also read, I think it was in this link http://www.allaboutsushiguide.com/sushi-knife.html but it mentioned that after each slice through fish, you should wet your knife with a damp cloth so that the food doesn't get stuck to the knife.  I read that higher quality Traditional Yanagi will have a concave edge on the flat side, which is supposed to prevent sticking.  Also, isn't wetting the knife a bad idea, and completely contradicting to what 9.b says about drying your knife?  Or do you have multiple cloths to wipe your knife at various situations???

10.a  Guy #2 mentioned about beating up the knife, but how delicate are the knives, and what are things that can go wrong that we should avoid?  I'm careful with my equipment no matter what I'm doing, so I want to be extra careful with this knife.  I read you can chip the knife, but I'm not sure if I read that happens whiling sharpening, or if you can do it while cutting or something.

10.b  This ties back to 2.b where I asked if the first knife should be basic, or if we should get a nice knife, that will last long.  Does the delicacy have to do with what quality of knife I should get at first also?  Are higher quality ones less delicate, more delicate, the same?

11. Looking at 2.b  and 10.b it comes to ask what is a good price point?  A lot of people say you want to spend at least 100$, but I see knives into the thousands.  I saw some on amazon for 10$, I saw some others for 50$ in other places, but they just seem like jokes knives.  I figured 300$ would be a good price to start with, but it seems I could get away with some of the cheaper ones?  What would you recommend?

12.  One of the knives I posted was from the "Tagiharu Wa" series.  It seems that there are a few companies that have a "Wa" series.  I also notice there are others like "Ao Ko" that are shared as well.  Does each represent something, and is it something we are supposed to look at, or is it just a name, and it doesn't matter when looking for a knife?

13.a  From what I read in the allaboutsushi link it said that the first knife we should get is a Yanagi, is this what is recommended?  It seems to be what I need.

13.b  Would people recommend a set over just 1 knife?

13.c  Are there other uses besides sushi that I can use this for?  Seems like the Yanagi is meant for slicing fish and meat, so I can see it as an every day knife if carefully maintained!

Those seem to be all of the questions I have now.  I'm not sure if I am missing anything, but I would appreciate any feedback, comments, or whatever from people about them.  I know I posted a lot of questions, but it seems that Sushi knives are really complicated, and there are so many different options it's driving me crazy haha.

Any help to clear up some of these questions is greatly appreciated.


Overall just looking to get a great starter knife that will do it's job, will last long, and be a great  gift.  Price doesn't matter, but like I said 300$ was my starting point, so not too sure if it's a good one or not.  If it comes down to it I might pay more if people say that knives under a certain price point aren't worth it, or that some knife at some price is a really good deal and would be an awesome knife to buy for me.

I guess that's it, hopefully the post isn't too long, thank you again for having me, have a good night.
 

post #2 of 9

Wow that's a long post!  I'll touch the important points here.

 

  1. Sujihiki vs Yanagiba - If ALL you are doing is slicing boneless fish, then yanagiba is the knife.  Sujihiki is just a western style slicer.  It's not as good at fish, but will do in a pinch.  I bought one for carving and portioning red meat basically.  Suji are double beveled, you sharpen them as any other double bevel knife.  Yanagiba, you need to learn to sharpen single bevel knives. Move up the shinogi line, sharpen the one side, then uraoshi sharpening on the backside. Watch the JKI video on youtube for starters.  Single beveled knives also need to be opened by someone who knows what they are doing, then you follow along with that sharpening.   If it is your first, then I recommend either the JKI's Gesshin Uraku white steel or the Korin white steel.  Both vendors do that opening of the single bevel for you.
  2. Carbon vs STainless - I think your wiping question is mostly this.  After every couple cuts, you wipe the knife on a damp towel, then dry it.  This is called working clean, and it should become habit on all knives, but is especially important on carbon steel.  There are some okay yanagiba that are stainless but for the most part they are carbon steel.  You see sushi chefs wet their knife before cutting too, that helps the knife not stick. 
  3. Price -  You get what you pay for but if it's your first single bevel, you might not know the difference.  I look for straightness, and delamination.  This might not be revealed until you sharpen though.  This is why I buy from trusted vendors and not off ebay.  Things go wrong, especially on the lower $.
  4. Asymmetry- read this http://www.kitchenknifeforums.com/showthread.php/5656-Asymmetry-%E2%80%93-The-REAL-DEAL
  5. Handles - Wa is the japanese handle, a solid block of wood.  Yo is a western handle with two scales around the tang.  THe don't matter so much except I don't see anything but wa handles on yanagiba unless it's a custom.  Your grip doesn't change with the handle.  For this type of slicing, I point my finger out.  Actually you keep your elbow still and rotate your whole arm down to get a smooth cut.
  6. Steel -My preference is white steel (carbon).  Easy to sharpen to a screaming edge.  There are other properties to consider like reactivity, edge retention, etc.  For a unitasking knife that you're using to slice fish... I want it to take a screaming edge easily and forget the rest.

 

Can you use yanagiba for other stuff? Not really.  Boneless raw beef sometimes.  That's about it.  If you use it on a crusty cooked brisket, the edge won't like you at all.

 

Yanagiba is very very specific, so unless you're doing sashimi, it's not necessary.  If all you're doing is maki, then any good thin knife will do.  Just wet it before you slice.  

post #3 of 9
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the post.  In reality we are just doing (I'm assuming) "Maki" (traditional rolls, right)?


He just wants a knife that will slice effortlessly and wont stick/ruin rolls.  

I don't know how far he will go with ingredients and prep, but I figured a really good knife is something he should have.

So you think we shouldn't even get a slicer if all we are doing is maki rolls?

post #4 of 9
Yeah it's overkill. The benefit of suji/slicer over a gyuto is that it is narrower. The blade height is important in something like a roast beef when you slice because there's less surface area to drag through the meat. On something short like a sushi roll, this doesn't matter at all. The key to slicing is to slice with a pull cut. Don't chop straight down or even push cut. If that still squishes your roll, then the knife is too dull or too fat.

I'd say a good chef's knife/ gyuto that is well maintained would serve them better
post #5 of 9
Rinsing the rice enough to get excess starch out and seasoning it, and letting it chill a bit help too. I like rice at room temp. I can see working with extra warm or wet rice being a problem when cutting
post #6 of 9
Thread Starter 

Thanks...  So a Gyuto is what I should look for then?  From what I read on Korin's site it seems to be a multi-purpose knife so that seems cool...  I did like the long thin blade of the yanagi, but this looks nice.

Thanks for the tips about the rice, I'll let them know about it.

From what I remember it seemed like it just didn't cut well and would fall apart easily, even after trying to sharpen the knives a lot.  Granted the knives were crap.

He was originally looking at a sushi knife from "William Sanoma" around 50$, but I figured something better would be nicer.  You didn't really give a price, so is there one you recommend?

Ugh so many people giving me different answers, but you're the first who mentioned a different kind of blade.

I'm assuming from your name, that you have owned many of knives? :)

So what exactly would qualify for use of a Yanagi?  I don't think he would be slicing up his own fish, but who knows haha....

I figure once he gets this knife, it will make him really want to get into it.  I plan on buying a sharping stone (any recommendations for this)? and some other things as well to get him started!

I'm really excited about it so hopefully we can get something out really nice!

So do you have any recommendations for brands?  Have you bought from "Korin?"  It seems like a good site with a lot of choices.

 

http://korin.com/Knives/Style-Gyutou_2

http://korin.com/Togiharu-Wa-Gyutou-with-Saya?sc=27&category=8549827  This seems to be the same as the one for the sujihiki which is interesting. 

There is also

http://korin.com/Suisin-Honyaki-Wa-Gyutou?sc=27&category=8549827
http://korin.com/Masamoto-Shiro-ko-Hongasumi-Wa-Gyutou?sc=27&category=8549827
http://korin.com/Masamoto-Swedish-Stain-Resistant-Steel-Gyutou?sc=27&category=8549827
http://korin.com/Nenohi-Wa-Gyuto?sc=27&category=8549827

Masamoto seems like a great company, but not too sure on their "Western" line.  Is it made from Masamoto Japan?  I've also heard good things about Suisin.

Any others that you would recommend that don't have the "Wa" handle?  I would like to go with that if possible but I'll do what I must!

Thanks again for all your help!

post #7 of 9
Thread Starter 

Still looking.

post #8 of 9

I agree with MK that your friend probably doesn't "need" a slicer to get better rolls.

 

1) First, how is the roll falling apart?  Does the rice fall out after the cut? Does it retain it's rounded shape, but wrapping is broken? The answers to these questions would determine if its a rice composition or knife/technique issue.

 

2) Simple and effective technique is to dip the cutting knife tip in bowl of warm water and let the water drip down the cutting edge  before the cut. It will help with release.

 

3) A really sharp knife is more important than the type. Like MK says, for rolls a sharp gyuto would work.

 

4) If you still really want to try a Suji... CKTG has a Fujiwara FKM 270mm Suji for about $88. Not terribly expensive and they come OOTB very sharp. I wouldn't get anything more expensive unless he's making rolls or slicing fish/meat very often.

post #9 of 9
WOW. I guess I'm just a hack (again). I have no problemmo slicing sushi just fine with a sharp nakiri. I don't even think it's important that it's a nakiri, as much as it's very very sharp. Oh yeah ... and I just really like it.

Sushi slices best with just one(1) pull through, using a very sharp knife and good pressure.




I'm not a sushi chef, just a regular Chicago-American guy.
I'm not sayin' ... I'm just sayin.
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