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Japanese kitchen knives have become the standard against which all other kitchen knives are compared. The detail and focus on function that goes into the design and manufacture of these knives are part of what makes Japanese knives favorites in the kitchen for specific tasks. The Nakiri, or more accurately, the Nakiri bocho, is one such purpose-built knife in the Japanese kitchen knife style. So why would you need one of these knives in your kitchen?
10 reasons you need a Nakiri knife:
- The Nakiri is lightweight.
- They are versatile.
- Thin, sharp blade.
- Use it to slice meat.
- Rounded tip.
- A long handle.
- Use a rounded tip as a scraper
- Peel fruit.
- Easy to cut ripe fruit and vegetables.
- Lower cost than other Japanese knives.
True to the form of all Japanese-style kitchen knives, the Nakiri is designed and crafted for a specific purpose in the kitchen.
The features of this knife are specially formulated to make it a knife that is ideally suited to the duties it is intended to perform in the kitchen! The vegetables that you use this knife on won’t stand a chance! Let’s take a closer look at the Nakiri, what it’s good for, and why you need one in your kitchen!
If you are interested in checking out the best Nakiri knives (made by Hayate Yoshihiro) we recommend and use you can find them by clicking here (Amazon link).
What Is A Nakiri Knife?
As we have already mentioned, the more correct name for this knife is the Nakiri Bocho. As with all Japanese kitchen knives, the name of the knife hints at the original purpose of this style of the blade in the kitchen.
The earliest references to the Nakiri knife date as far back as the 17th century, which gives this knife design a +400-year history.
The design of the Nakiri is modeled on an older style vegetable knife whose design was improved upon to make the Nakiri that we know and appreciate today.
The name Nakiri bocho, when translated, means “knife for cutting greens,” but this is not all that this style of kitchen knife is good for.
You can look at the Nakiri as a vegetable cleaver because the design of the knife looks like a small cleaver, but the main purpose of the knife is to cut vegetables.
Let’s take a look at the features of a Nakiri to see why it is such a great knife to process vegetables in the kitchen and what else you can use the knife for.
Features Of A Nakiri
Each style of Japanese kitchen knife has a feature set that defines its looks and its function, so let’s take a look at the features that define a Nakiri knife and make it distinguishable from other styles of kitchen knives.
- Double bevels.
The Nakiri has bevels on both sides of the blade, and the sharp edge is sharpened from both sides, giving the cutting edge a V-shape. The Japanese term for this is “ryoba.”
Other vegetable processing knives, more often found in the professional kitchen, such as the Usuba bocho, are single bevel knives that are only sharpened on one side, giving their sharp edge a chisel appearance.
- Long handle.
The Nakiri has a long handle to promote good knife control for fine work.
- Thin steel.
The blade of a Nakiri is generally thinner than many other kitchen knives that are intended for more heavy-duty work.
- Straight edge.
The Nakiri has a straight cutting edge to the blade. There is no curve of the cutting edge towards the tip of the blade. The intention of the straight cutting edge is to promote a particular cutting action when using the knife.
- Very sharp.
The thin steel that the knife is made from allows for a very keen cutting edge on the knife, making then extremely sharp.
The thinness of the steel also makes this knife very lightweight. This makes the knife easy to use and very quick for processing vegetables.
- No sharp point.
The purpose of the knife does not require a sharp point to the blade of the knife, so the knife is characterized by a rounded point, similar to that of a cleaver.
Nakiri bocho knives are sometimes made with a black finish to the blade, which gives the blade some visual appeal as well. This black finish to the knife is called Kurouchi in Japanese.
BTW: If you want to know more about Japanese and other knives and their sharpening, check out the books listed above. These books are recommended by professional sharpeners and knife makers (Amazon links):
- Japanese Kitchen Knives: Essential Techniques and Recipes
- The Knifenerd Guide to Japanese Knives
- Knife: The Culture, Craft, and Cult of the Cook’s Knife
- Sharp: The Definitive Introduction to Knives, Sharpening, and Cutting Techniques, with Recipes from Great Chefs
The straight cutting edge of these knives allows them to rest flat on a chopping board, whereas knives that have curved blades and are intended to be used in a rocking motion don’t lay flat across a cutting board.
Because the edge of a Nakiri sits flat on a cutting board, the cutting action that it lends itself to is a straight up and down cutting motion.
This cutting action, combined with the extreme sharpness of the edge and the lightweight blade, makes this knife fast and accurate when chopping vegetables.
The blade slices through the vegetables rather than pushing forward through the vegetables, which allows for thin slices and does not damage the vegetables.
This means that this knife is good for cutting hard vegetables and well soft fruits and vegetables, and the slices will be thin and clean.
TIP: A broken knife blade is quite a common problem that happens to almost every knife user. If you want to know how to fix a broken knife blade check out the article below:
Step-by-Step: How To Fix A Broken Knife Blade In 5 Steps
Reasons That You Need A Nakiri Knife
The Nakiri knife is not only a must for a professional kitchen, but it is one of the most popular styles of Japanese knives that are most commonly found in home kitchens as well.
If you are looking for a new knife in your kitchen that will be awesome for processing vegetables and be versatile enough for some other kitchen duties, then you should try out a Nakiri knife.
Nakiri knives are great because they have a double bevel blade that is perfect for chopping vegetables. They also have a longer, slender blade which makes it easy to cut through hard vegetables like carrots and potatoes and larger vegetables like squashes.
The shape of the blade and the cutting action means that there’s less contact with the food being chopped, so it doesn’t get stuck on the knife.
The double bevels work to push the chopped food away from the cutting edge. The Nakiri knives are made from high-quality steel and can be sharpened easily when this is required.
Now that you know what a Nakiri knife is intended for in the kitchen, let’s investigate some of the reasons why you need one in your kitchen.
- The Nakiri is lightweight.
This is a light knife for its size, which makes it quick and easy to use.
- Nakiri knives are versatile.
Even though the Nakiri is designed as a vegetable processing knife, it can be used for other cutting tasks in the kitchen.
- Thin, sharp blade.
The blade is thin and sharp. This makes this knife suitable for cutting vegetables and fruit, even ones with tough skins and soft flesh.
- Use a Nakiri to cut meat.
Because the Nakiri is extremely sharp, it can also be used to cube meat, slice chicken, and also cut up portions of fish. The steel is too thin to process heavier cuts of meat and will be damaged if you cut it into bone.
This means that it should only be used to cut meat into smaller portions or pieces after it has been processed by a heavier knife that is more suited to that purpose.
- Rounded tip.
It has a blunt edge that makes it easy to cut through tough foods like squash or cabbage without damaging the food itself.
- A long handle.
Nakiri knives have a long handle, which gives you more control over the knife when you’re using it to slice your ingredients into smaller pieces.
This is especially helpful if you have to spend a lot of time on a single task in the kitchen, such as chopping vegetable ingredients for a soup. With this knife, your hands won’t become fatigued.
- Use the rounded tip as a scraper.
The rounded profile of the tip of the knife is useful for scraping seeds out of vegetables or to easily scrape the chopped food off your chopping board and into a pot or a bowl without spilling it all over the countertop.
- Peel fruit.
The lightness and the sharpness of the blade allow them to be easily wielded to peel fruits and vegetables!
- Easy to cut ripe fruit and vegetables.
Because the knife is lightweight, thin, and very sharp, it makes the slicing of ripe fruits and vegetables a breeze. If your tomatoes are a little on the soft, ripe side, the Nakiri will slice them with ease. Need to slice a few grapes for a salad without squashing them? Then the Nakiri is the knife to use!
- Lower cost.
The Nakiri is usually less expensive than other Japanese-style knives on the market, which means they’re great if you want to try out Japanese kitchen knives and are not sure where to start.
Our choice: Are you interested in buying a Nakiri knife? Find below our recommendation for the Nakiri knives:
Budget option: Yoshihiro Damascus Stainless Steel Nakiri (Amazon link)
Pro option: Yoshihiro Nashiji High Carbon White Steel Nakiri (Amazon link)
Not only do these benefits make sense in the professional kitchen, but these reasons also make the knife a must-have in the home kitchen as well.
The lightweight feature of the blade and the thin, sharp edge, combined with the long handle, will give you superior control over the knife while cutting your vegetables.
Because the Nakiri is not a short-bladed knife but rather a medium-length knife, it can be used to cut larger vegetables such as heads of cabbage or lettuce as well as chopping up chives or spring onions.
You won’t find a better vegetable chopping tool than a Nakiri! It’s not just an amazing knife but also an incredibly satisfying experience to use in your kitchen.
Nakiris do come in different sizes, but traditionally, the blade is never shorter than 6-inches. This means that you will certainly be able to find a Nakiri that makes the most sense for what you need it for in your home kitchen!
TIP: We know Japanese knives can be really expensive. But they are worth their price. Find out the main reasons why buying a Japanese knife is a great choice for you:
9 Reasons Why Japanese Knives Are Worth Their Price
How To Use A Nakiri Knife
The most common way that people are used to using a knife is with a pull or push action through the food.
The Nakiri is not designed to be used with this type of cutting action. Although it can be used in a push or pull cut, for example, when slicing through chicken or fish, when it comes to vegetables, it does best with a downward cutting action.
Think of the action as slicing straight down through the ingredient rather than pushing forward through the ingredient.
The height of the blade also helps with the straight-down chopping action that the knife is designed for. The additional height of the blade will help to keep your knuckles higher and safe from coming into contact with the chopping board during the up and down cutting action.
Because the knife is light and very sharp, you can use the knife to make very thin, delicate cuts of vegetables for decorative purposes as well as process vegetables with speed.
The lightness of the blade and the sharpness allow you to have precise control of the knife as you are cutting, which allows you to do this delicate work with ease.
If you are going to be using the tip of the Nakiri for slicing, then shuffle your hand up on the handle so that your thumb and forefinger are pinching on the blade slightly ahead of the handle. This gives a good pivot point for moving the tip of the blade quicker.
If you are chopping with the middle of the blade, slide your hand back a little so that your hand encompasses the whole handle and you are not pinching up on the blade.
The blade of the Nakiri will often have texturing, which helps with preventing the sliced vegetables from sticking to the blade and getting in the way or flying all over the kitchen countertop as you chop.
Nakiri Vs. Usuba Knife
There are quite a lot of visual similarities between the Nakiri and the Usuba knives, but there are some important differences that make them quite different from each other.
The Usuba is essentially the professional chef’s version of the Nakiri. The overall shape of the blade is often similar to that of the Nakiri, but the most significant difference is in the bevel of the knives.
As we have already mentioned, the Nakiri is a blade that has a double bevel. In other words, the blade tapers to the sharp edge from both sides of the knife to meet at the sharp edge in the middle.
The Usuba does not have a double bevel but rather a single bevel. One side of the knife, usually the left side, is flat, while the other side is ground into a bevel that tapers toward the sharp edge.
This gives even greater precision over the cut and allows extremely thin, neat slices to be cut from the vegetables. This is mostly used where the fruit or vegetables will be placed on the plate in their raw form, and the thin slices are intended for additional visual appeal.
The flat side of the knife sometimes has a slight concave grind to it to help prevent food from sticking to the flat side of the knife as you slice or chop.
If you are a first-time Nakiri buyer, make sure the knife you are buying is a Nakiri and not an Usuba knife. The Nakiri is much easier to use, and it is easier to maintain the edge on these knives as well.
TIP: All Japanese knives are purpose-built. And that is why there are so many types of Japanese knives. Many people often confuse different types, so we have prepared articles comparing different types of Japanese knives. Check them out in the link below:
Comparisons of Different Types of Japanese Knives
Further Details On The Nakiri
We have included several additional topics around Nakiri knives that you may find interesting if you are a first-time buyer of a Nakiri knife.
1. What is a Nakiri knife? A Nakiri knife, also known as Nakiri Bocho, is a Japanese kitchen knife specifically designed for chopping vegetables. It’s characterized by its straight blade edge and squared-off tips.
2. How does a Nakiri knife differ from other Japanese knives? The Nakiri knife has a double bevel, meaning it’s sharpened from both sides, while some other Japanese knives, like the Usuba, have a single bevel. The Nakiri is also distinctively designed for vegetable chopping, with its straight edge and lightweight design.
3. Can I use a Nakiri knife for meats? While primarily designed for vegetables, the Nakiri’s sharpness allows it to cube meat, slice chicken, and cut fish portions. However, it’s not suitable for heavier cuts or bones.
4. How do I sharpen my Nakiri knife? Like other Japanese knives, the Nakiri should be sharpened using a whetstone. Ensure the blade’s entire length comes into contact with the stone with each pass over the stone.
5. Is a Nakiri knife expensive? Nakiri knives are generally more affordable than other Japanese-style knives. They offer a great entry point for those looking to try out Japanese kitchen knives without a significant investment.
6. How do I care for and maintain my Nakiri knife? Proper care includes regular sharpening, hand washing (avoiding dishwashers), and storing in a knife block or magnetic strip. Using a proper cutting board and avoiding hard surfaces will also prolong the blade’s life.
7. Can beginners use a Nakiri knife? Absolutely! The Nakiri knife’s design makes it user-friendly, and its lightweight nature allows for easy handling, making it suitable for both beginners and experienced cooks.
9. What size Nakiri knife should I choose? Nakiri knives typically have a blade length of at least 6 inches. Choosing the right size depends on your personal preference and the types of vegetables you commonly prepare.
10. Why is the Nakiri knife considered a must-have in the home kitchen? With its versatility, efficiency in chopping vegetables and affordability, the Nakiri knife is considered a valuable tool for home cooks. Its unique features make it a favorite for various kitchen tasks, enhancing the cooking experience.
Nakiri knives are made for chopping vegetables. They’re thin, lightweight, and easy to use. You can chop a whole head of cabbage in just seconds with one hand!
The blades are also sharp enough to slice through soft meats such as steak, chicken breasts, and fish, making clean, neat cuts without tearing the meat.
With the help of a Nakiri, you can chop tomatoes, grapes, or plums, which have dense skin and a very delicate pulp, as well as chop up firm or hard vegetables.
If you want to make cooking easier or more enjoyable, then a Nakiri is perfect for you! It will help you prepare your favorite dishes like never before. The Nakiri will quickly become your favorite knife in your home kitchen.
TIP: When you buy a Japanese knife, it is important to take care of it properly. Check out the ultimate guide on the care of Japanese knives in the article below:
How To Care For Japanese Knives: The Complete Guide